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Global Statement identifies, analyses and reports on global trends in higher education, research and innovation. It is based on the expertise of the Swiss network of scientific counselors and swissnex, located in 19 countries all over the world. 2015 topic is “Big Data”.

A Big Data Primer

Written by Prof. Dr. Philippe Cudre-Mauroux, University of Fribourg

Far from today’s buzz, Big Data emerged as a new topic a decade ago as a result of two conflicting developments: the explosion of available data on one hand, and new hurdles hampering the evolution of database management systems on the other hand. As data was rapidly growing through the wider deployment of sensing and Web technologies, data management was facing unprecedented issues: limited progress on the hardware front (with stagnating CPU frequencies and inefficient storage media), as well as the appearance of new data types and query workloads (sensor data, social Web data, analytics).

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“Telecom Paristech’s “Big Data” Post-Master’s is the First Program of This Kind to Have Been Created in France.”

Written by Maxime Goin and Le Thy Nguyen, Embassy of Switzerland in France

Data scientists are a scarce and valuable commodity. A study made by Gartner three years ago was already putting up the warning sign: if the public and private education systems would not adapt quickly, there would not be enough talent in the industry and only one-third of the IT jobs would be filled. In Europe, French schools were in the front line to provide a new education frame for “data scientists”.  In September 2013, Telecom ParisTech was the first institution in France to launch a “Big Data” Post-Master’s Degree program. Stéphan Clémençon, teacher – researcher at Telecom ParisTech and holder of the “Machine Learning for Big Data” Chair, tells us more about the development of this program and the new challenges ahead.

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A Big Bang in the French Big Data Policy

Written by Maxime Goin and Le Thy Nguyen, Embassy of Switzerland in France

Big data as a growth driver

Since his first day in office, French President Hollande has considered “big data” as one of the key elements of the national strategy to foster innovation and the competitiveness of the country. The French ambition in that field manifested itself through the creation of a Ministry for Digital Affairs, held by Axelle Lemaire since 2014. The fact that she reports directly to the Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, confirms that the big data policy is considered as a potential direct growth driver.

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Until Data Do Us Part: Controversy and Progress in U.S. Big Data Policy

Written by Katia Grütter, Embassy of Switzerland in the United States

Big Data is controversial – and that might be one of its few known components in the midst of its ever-changing vastness. Only recently, the European Court of Justice ruled that the “Safe Harbor” data-sharing pact between the European Union and the United States is invalid – the agreement and framework that previously allowed more than 4,000 companies to transfer data from the EU to their servers in the United States. The main reason underlying the court’s decision was that the agreement did not completely safeguard the EU’s fundamental rights to privacy with regard to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The argument revolving around the transfer, storage, and protection of Big Data is an ongoing one in the United States and an indicator of the sensitivity of the subject as well as its political importance. After whistleblower Edward Snowden had revealed in June 2013 that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had secretly worked on a worldwide espionage network that targeted electronic communication from citizens to high-ranking government officials all over the world, the connotations of Big Data suddenly took on a rather negative turn. Especially the European public heavily criticized the U.S. government for allowing such an infringement on private data for the sake of national security, and the fact that President Barack Obama defended the program further reinforced mistrust.

Illustration by Sarah A. King

Illustration by Sarah A. King

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#Big Data in #Austria

Written by Fenja Läser, Embassy of Switzerland in Austria

In 2014, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (Österreichische Forschungsgesellschaft FFG) and the Austrian Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) commissioned a study entitled “#Big Data in #Austria – Austria’s Potential and Best Practices for Big Data”. The study analyses the potential of Big Data technologies for the Austrian market, ranging from managing the data deluge to semantic and cognitive systems. Moreover, the study identifies emerging opportunities arising from the utilization of publicly available data, such as Open Government Data, and company internal data by covering multiple domains. If you would like to know more about this study, this articles offers a summary of #Big Data in #Austria.

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Datacenters and new generation Telescope, Big Data development in Chile

Written by Frank Schürch, Embassy of Switzerland in Chile

According to Prof. Marcos Sepulveda, from the School of Engineering at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, “Chile has not yet adopted Big Data in a significant manner. Data from the ENTI 2014 (National Study on Information Technology), shows that out of 142 CIO (Chief Information Officer) surveyed, only 4.2% said this technology was in use in their organization. Interest in Big Data is nevertheless confirmed, since 21.8% of respondents revealed they had plans to implement it in the short term.” In this article, two exemples of chilean initiative in Big Data, namely datacenters and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be discussed.

 

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Measuring Impact over Size: Introducing The Open Data Institute

Written by Philippe Roesle, Embassy of Switzerland in the United Kingdom

The availability and accessibility of data is by no means an end-point; in fact, it is only the beginning. If data strives to offer an added value to prospective end-users, it must be sorted, analysed, visualised and fully interpreted. The availability of various types of data constitutes a very fertile playing field for nascent startup companies. In order to support the exploitation of big and open data, the UK’s national innovation agency, Innovate UK (together with the Omidyar Network), has invested in an interesting non-profit organisation: the Open Data Institute (ODI). Unique in many ways, the ODI not only advocates the release of more public and private sector data as open datasets, it also actively supports the creation of value with a view to achieve social, environmental, and economic impact. For this, the ODI has built a centre of excellence for open data in the fields of research, learning, advocacy, consulting, and startup incubation.

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Italy: Big Data and Science Networks Interview with Dr. Claudio Grandi INFN

Written by Ruth Theus Baldassarre, Embassy of Switzerland in Italy

On October 1st 2015, the NRP 75 “Big data” was launced by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), it focuses on the technical and societal issues raised by big data. The five-year programme, funded with 25 Million CHF, will undertake research on computing (data analysis, algorithm, cryptology), data management/security and infrastructure. In this context it appears interesting to highlight the experience of the Italian Academic & Research Network GARR[1].

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Massachusetts’ Big Data Ecosystem – A Success Story

Written by Simone Schmieder,  swissnex Boston

Success stories often begin with collaborations of different partners. This is also the case for the Massachusetts Big Data ecosystem. A main pillar for the success of the state’s big data ecosystem was the Massachusetts Big Data Initiative launched by then-Governor Deval Patrick in 2012. The initiative engages collaboratively with industry, academia, government, and nonprofit partners.

The Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative directs the Mass Big Data Initiative to expand, leverage, and deploy regional big data assets and resources, supporting strategic development of new opportunities that will boost Massachusetts’ comparative advantages, and addressing the ecosystem’s unmet needs and barriers.

Massachusetts Technology Collaborative http://masstech.org/

Massachusetts Technology Collaborative http://masstech.org/

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Human Capital Development for Big Data in South Africa

written by Jacquelene Friedenthal, Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa

Even though South Africa used to lag a little behind other countries in developing new technologies, it is now fully committed to catching up in certain areas. As described in this article, the progress in research linked to Big Data has been tremendous thanks to the implementation of appropriate measures. For instance, the government is creating new higher education and training institutions to overcome the lack of qualified personnel for the development of Big Data. Furthermore, the authorities also support the implementation of real policy for opening data gathered by the government. The private sectors has picked up on these trends and has also begun to invest in new tools using big data to develop predictive models. However, the government is making sure that privacy is preserved thanks to the Protection of the Personal Information Act. Read more about these subjects in this article.

Courtesy of ATA, a SETI Institute. Photos taken by Seth Shostak

Courtesy of ATA, a SETI Institute. Photos taken by Seth Shostak

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