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- Contact tracing privacy
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic led to misery for many millions of people and the tragedy of countless untimely deaths. In the midst of the pandemic, communications technology came to the fore as people were forced to work and learn from home, were isolated from friends, family, and colleagues, and often wholly restricted in their movements with respect to shopping, entertainment, and other activities. Tools that allowed us to access information and engage with other people became more popular than ever before and widespread at least in those parts of the world with the requisite infrastructure.
One particular type of tool was more about controlling the disease than allowing us to cope with the "new normal" and that was the contact-tracing application. Writing in the International Journal of Public Sector Performance Management, a team from Slovenia discusses how these applications allowed the health authorities and governments to alert individuals to disease risk if they had been in contact with other people known to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2. The alert would then allow the at-risk individuals to test and isolate as appropriate.
There were various contact-tracing apps that used different approaches to determine how close and for how long a person had been near an infected individual and in what setting. They all had their pros and cons, as with every kind of software. There were also concerns regarding privacy and the sharing of data that were considered in more detail in the development of some of these applications and perhaps not others.
Boštjan Koritnik of the University of Ljubljana and Peter Merc Lemur Legal point out that many of the issues that arose did so because the adoption of technological advances in the public sector usually takes a lot longer than in the private sector because there are checks and balances to be considered in the assessment of new technologies. However, the sudden and acute demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, meant that the public sector, particularly with regard to healthcare and our coping with the pandemic, had to work that much faster than usual so that more timely interventions could be put in place.
The different approaches to contact privacy in contact tracing apps were meant to balance individual privacy with the requirements of public healthcare requirements. There were many legal and ethical considerations to be made, whether or not these were fully considered and addressed is a moot point. Ultimately, the team suggests that the design of such applications in the future or the development of current software should put privacy at the centre of the design process. Indeed, privacy by design, they assert, should be applied as a minimum standard for government-approved tracking apps. The future might be to exploit the distributed and immutable blockchain technology to ensure privacy and data security by design is embedded from the start in such apps.
Koritnik, B. and Merc, P. (2022) 'New digital public health tools: privacy by design in contact tracing mobile apps for COVID-19', Int. J. Public Sector Performance Management, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.399–410.
- Stitching up the modern Silk Road
China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is to be a modern-silk road that hooks together around 70 countries and international organizations in Africa, Asia, and Europe, to improve global infrastructure and trade between China and the rest of the world. It was initiated in 2013 as a major part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's foreign policy. However, the enormous capital investment needed and low profitability so far, mean its potential is yet to be fulfilled. Part of that potential is to contribute to the economic development of nations that have so far been marginalised by globalisation.
The emergence of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in China at the end of 2019, led to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted global value chains and has also had a major impact on the development of the BRI. Writing in the International Journal of Shipping and Transport Logistics, a team from China, South Korea, and the USA has looked in detail at the impact of COVID-19 on the BRI. They point out how the British withdrawal from the European Union, Brexit, and the US-China hegemonic conflict have also been working against the BRI.
The team explains that the pandemic has led to unprecedented economic damage and disruption to supply chains across the globe because of the need for entry bans, quarantines, and trade blockades as well as the ensuing and global protectionism that has emerged. These, the team writes are all barriers to international trade and have worked against the development of the global value chain. As it stands, COVID-19 has led to the delay of 40 percent of BRI projects with another 20 percent in serious financial strife. The researchers estimate that ultimately the impact may be between about 5 and 20 percent shrinkage of the global value chain.
In order to support the BRI and the long-term plans for the modern-day Silk Road, China must invest in marginalised nations and connectivity between markets despite international suspicions. It must also secure a strong supply chain in order to implement its "double cycle" economic policy to ensure its recovery in the wake of financial downturn and COVID-19.
Cheong, I., Yoo, J.H., Hong, K. and Lee, P.T-W. (2022) 'Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global value chain and implications for the belt and road initiative', Int. J. Shipping and Transport Logistics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.371–394.
- Racing through English
Researchers writing in the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, have demonstrated how a gamified social visualisation tool might be used to boost motivation and improve performance among English learners.
Wala Bagunaid, Maram Meccawy, Zilal Meccawy, and Arwa A. Allinjawi of both the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology and King Abdulaziz University and the English Language Institute at King Abdulaziz University, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, point out that it is not only educators who need to be able to monitor student progress but the students themselves.
Given that university classes can be very large, especially when online teaching is also taken into consideration, instructors are not necessarily able to provide individual students with progress reports other than on separate assignments and exam results. Also, given that current e-learning tools often mask student data to protect privacy, for example, students therefore only have limited access to their progress aside from their own subjective opinions of how well they are proceeding through a course.
The team presents a novel tool based on a racing car game that allows the students to glean information about their progress without compromising privacy. The approach offers a useful tool for monitoring student progress especially for those studying through distance learning through choice and for those pushed into the online learning environment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and any future crises.
The team demonstrated that in the English as a foreign language (EFL) education environment, the gamification tool showed that revealed EFL students were more motivated to catch up with their peers and win the race. Moreover, the tool showed where individuals might be lagging behind so that they could focus on particular areas and accelerate their performance in those areas. The team also found that students were happy to use the tool and would continue to use it throughout their education if they were to be given that option.
Bagunaid, W., Meccawy, M., Meccawy, Z. and Allinjawi, A.A. (2022) 'Tracking English language learners' progress through a gamified social visualisation tool to increase motivation and performance', Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp.286–306.
- Learning to combat DDOS attacks
Denial of service (DOS) and distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on computer systems are a major concern to those charged with keeping online services running and protecting systems and those who use them. Such intrusions are difficult to thwart although their effects are often obvious. As the names suggested they commonly overwhelm a system so that services cannot be provided to legitimate users.
Denial of service attacks are often carried out for malicious purposes or as part of a protest against a particular service or company. It might also be done so that loopholes in the system security might be opened up allowing a third party to extract information, such as user details and passwords, while the attack is underway. Such attacks may also be random, run by botnets and the like or even purely for the entertainment of the perpetrator without any malign intent.
Writing in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, a team from India, review the state of the art in how machine learning might be used to combat DOS and DDOS attacks.
Shweta Paliwal, Vishal Bharti, and Amit Kumar Mishra of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at DIT University in Uttarakhand, point out that the advent of the so-called Internet of Things means that there are many more unattended and unmonitored devices connected continuously to the internet that can be recruited to mount DDOS attacks. Fundamentally, a malicious third party can exploit vulnerabilities in the protocols, such as HTTP that serves web pages to legitimate users to overwhelm a system. The distributed nature of such attacks means that focusing on a single source for the attack and blocking it is not possible without blocking legitimate users. Machine learning tools, however, might make transparent those devices addressing the system through HTTP that are not legitimate and allow a security layer to block the attack.
Paliwal, S., Bharti, V. and Mishra, A.K. (2022) 'Machine learning combating DOS and DDOS attacks', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp.177–191.DDOS
- Neural network diagnoses heart disease
A deep neural network can be used to classify coronary artery disease from clinical heart disease features, according to new work published in the International Journal of Dynamical Systems and Differential Equations.
D. Rajeswari and K. Thangavel of the Department of Computer Science at Periyar University in Salem, India, explain that coronary artery disease is a major cause of death across the globe. Early detection of the disease,however, can allow timely interventions that can lower the patient's risk of heart failure. To this end, the team has developed a prediction model that uses a neural network to process non-invasive clinical data.
The network trained on many known cases can then identify the pertinent characteristics when presented with data from a new patient and offer a prognosis that would otherwise remain hidden without major invasive, investigative work. Patients with coronary artery disease present with various symptoms including the expectedchest pain, but also fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pain in the shoulders. A definitive clinical diagnosis is complicated and usually requires electrocardiography, biomedical lab tests, patient stress and treadmill tests. A simpler approach that could be used to assess patients quickly is warranted.
The researchers have tested their system against the Z-Alizadeh Sani data set held in a repository at the University of California Irvine. The results show that their classifier improves prediction accuracy significantly and is at almost 76 per cent when compared to a well-known classifier method K-nearest neighbour. The result combined with other readily available clinical data or follow-up for a patient could be used to obtain an early diagnosis and so potentially save many lives.
Rajeswari, D. and Thangavel, K. (2022) 'Coronary artery disease classification from clinical heart disease features using deep neural network', Int. J. Dynamical Systems and Differential Equations, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp.200–214.
- Financial intelligence
The transition of many aspects of human activity into the digital realm is taking place rapidly. This is apparent perhaps nowhere more so than in financial services. Research in the International Journal of Services Operations and Informatics reports on how one particular aspect of "digital" is evolving rapidly in this realm – artificial intelligence, AI.
Renato Lopes da Costa, Miguel Cruz, Álvaro Dias, Rui Vinhas da Silva, and Leandro Pereira of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa in Lisbon and Rui Gonçalves of PIAGET Almada in Almada, Portugal, have looked at the perceptions of those in the financial services industry and AI experts on the role and potential of AI in the sector.
The team suggests that as technology evolves so rapidly there is now pressure on traditionally conservative industries to reconfigure their business models to take advantage of innovations as never before. Indeed, one of the greatest pressures is on companies to find ways to handle vast amounts of data in smart ways. AI could be a significant part of the answer to this problem.
The team points out that so far the financial services industry may well have lagged behind in adopting and adapting to algorithms and AI, whereas the transportation, cybersecurity, and entertainment industries have been early adopters where solutions to their problems almost presented themselves in navigating logistics detecting fraud and intruders, and in developing recommendation systems and the like.
As with any paradigm shift in practices in an industry, there will be winners and losers, at the present time executives of traditional corporations are perhaps anxious of the competition from new companies with AI expertise. Those older companies may well not be ready to adapt to the new landscape, but they ought to heed the warnings of other staid industries where the old, analog business models failed in the face of digitalisation. The transition to AI systems is still in the early stages even among the most innovative of companies but it will happen whether some choose to ignore it or not.
da Costa, R.L., Cruz, M., Gonçalves, R., Dias, Á., da Silva, R.V. and Pereira, L. (2022) 'Artificial intelligence and its adoption in financial services', Int. J. Services Operations and Informatics, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.70–86.
- Mindful healthworkers in a pandemic
A study in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion, has looked at the psychological health benefits of adopting "mindfulness" as an intervention to help healthcare workers reduce their personal stress levels during a medical crisis, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mental health issues have risen to the top of the healthcare agenda in recent years and were perhaps brought even closer to the fore as COVID-19 spread around the world. Those challenged with looking after the sick and dying often had little opportunity to look after themselves in between highly stressful and demanding shifts caring for critically ill patients. A diverse and international research team from centres in China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Thailand has looked at how mindfulness as a mental health intervention affected 600 physicians and nurses working on COVID-19 wards during 2021.
Mindfulness has its roots in various cultural traditions found in religions and holistic health practices with their roots in Asia but also emerges from cultures and practices elsewhere in the world. It might be succinctly defined as "living in the moment". This pithy state belies a much broader concept of being focused on the present, one's current environment, and the task or recreation in hand. It is generally thought of as being a tool to allow one to detach oneself from problems and worries while they are not in one's immediate periphery so that rather than dwelling on past happenings or future worries one is "mindful" of only those things that are immediate and require one's attention at the present moment.
Being mindful is not to forget or ignore any aspects of one's life, relationships, and commitments, but to find a way to not be distracted by those issues that are beyond one's control or observations at a given time. As an intervention, is thought to reduce undue anxiety, stress, and tension so that the mind and body can recover from the acutely stressful times. Both mental and physical stress involve raised levels of stress hormones in the body, often raised blood pressure, and other physiological changes that can be harmful if held at high levels over prolonged periods leading to chronic depression, constant anxiety, and physical harms such as heart problems.
The team found that those healthcare workers who were able to follow the practice of mindfulness saw greatly reduced anxiety levels, less depression, and an improvement in what is known as self-efficacy, which is the belief in one's ability to carry out a required task to the best of one's ability and to achieve particular goals.
Jaenudin, J., Komariah, A., Chupradit, S., Chupradit, P.W., Kurniady, D.A., Singh, K., Ahmed, A.A.A., Mustafa, Y.F. and Alkhayyat, A. (2022) 'Study of the role of mindfulness intervention based on stress reduction in psychological distress and self-efficacy among the health industry staff during COVID-19 pandemic', Int. J. Work Organisation and Emotion, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp.172–185.
- Predicting pandemic progression
A new predictive model described in the International Journal of Critical Infrastructures suggests that we need to be conscientious in our decision-making with regard to the spread of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this infectious agent has caused.
Sunil Gupta and Durgansh Sharma of the Department of Cybernetics in the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun, India, point out that others have used various mathematical models to help them track the spread of COVID-19 with a view to predicting the next wave in the pandemic cycle. The team has used the auto ARIMA (auto-regressive integrated moving average method) model to give them an accurate picture of the evolving pandemic as it might unfold in a future 100-day period. This could be useful for policymakers and healthcare leaders hoping to get ahead of any major outbreaks based on emerging data from the pandemic.
The model is built on data from December 2019 to August 2020 from Johns Hopkins University, the first few months of the pandemic, but can be adapted to new data now that proof of principle has been demonstrated. It can offer insight into the way the disease might continue to spread or not during the next three months from when the model is run on recent data.
Gupta, S. and Sharma, D. (2022) 'Prediction of COVID-19 spread in world using pandemic dataset with application of auto ARIMA and SIR models', Int. J. Critical Infrastructures, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp.148–158.
- Remote learning prep
Remote learning has been a growing area of education for many years, but in the early part of 2020 with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sudden new pressure as schools and other educational establishments were forced to close their doors to pupils and students in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. This emergency situation taught us many lessons about how remote learning might be made more effective and how assessment of a student's progress through the curriculum might be made.
Writing in the International Journal of Learning and Change, Anžela Jurane-Bremane Vidzeme of the University of Applied Sciences in Valmiera, Latvia, has considered the perceptions of educators on how assessment has changed in the wake of remote learning. At the time, the acute problem was to cancel face-to-face classes and ensure that students studied from home. Video conferencing, email, and social media replaced the conventional teaching tools and the student's own home became their ad hoc classroom. It was recognized at the time, that little preparation had been made for such a scenario, despite decades of warnings about a coming pandemic, and educators and students alike had to learn to cope with the new situation rapidly. Many perhaps did not and with hindsight, it is obvious that the system could have and should have been more prepared for such a crisis.
Jurane-Bremane describes the situation that arose in education across the globe in the wake of the pandemic as "chaotic". There were obvious gaps in the knowledge and skills of educators plucked from the classroom and lecture theatre and plunged into this new online realm. While youngsters may well have been very familiar with the digital world, often described as they are, as digital natives, many were ill-prepared for the inversion of the conventional educational system. At this point in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we fully learn the lessons from the obvious failures of government and educational systems to ensure that we are much better prepared for a similar eventuality when it arises.
The work of Jurane-Bremane sought the opinions of Latvian educators and offers some conclusions from that survey that may well help when the next crisis forces students out of the classroom and back online. Specifically, the guidance offered points to how best to approach assessment of student progress on their course given that the traditional methods, such as practical work and examinations might again become inaccessible. A key finding is that there is a need to emphasise the understanding of feedback in the training and professional development of educators.
Jurane-Bremane, A. (2022) 'Changes of assessment in remote learning: educators' perceptions and findings', Int. J. Learning and Change.
- Green performance and education
A surprising discovery about a company's green credentials and performance is published in the European Journal of International Management. An international team from Japan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand has found that the educational level of female company directors correlates with positive environmental activity in that company in companies with their headquarters in Asia but not those based in Western nations. The findings could have implications for the greening of many industries across the globe.
Gayani M. Ranasinghe of the Department of Industrial Management at Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, in Kuliyapitiya, Yuosre F. Badir of the Asian Institute of Technology in Pathum Thani, Thailand, and Björn Frank of Waseda University, in Tokyo, Japan, point out that companies are under increasing pressure to improve their green credentials. This pressure is not simply for the purposes of marketing, strategic performance, and profits, of course, but because our environment is under incredible stress from pollution, waste, and climate change. So-called "green" practices and performance are high on the agenda, the term umbrella term "green" alluding whimsically to plant life as a proxy for a healthy planet.
In addition to the discovery that superior green performance among Asian companies correlated with having well-educated female directors, the team also found that financial "slack" and the intensity of research & development (R&D) exert a non-linear effect on a company's green performance. The new work solidifies diffuse findings from the research literature regarding the various financial and non-financial factors that affect a company's green performance, the team suggests. The findings were based on the green revenue scores recorded in the international publication Newsweek's green rankings survey. Additionally, the team applied cross-classified hierarchical linear modelling of multi-source data from 156 companies included in that survey.
Ultimately, the team suggests, having more female directors and better-educated directors on the company board can help a firm to achieve "a superior green performance by altering its environment-related decision outcomes".
"We stress the importance of having a strategic configuration of organisational resources that supports the firm in developing a unique set of human, relational and technical capital and of other capabilities that drives green performance as a key basis of competition in today's corporate world," the team concludes.
Ranasinghe, G.M., Badir, Y.F. and Frank, B. (2022) 'Organisational resources as facilitators and inhibitors of green performance: non-linearities, interactions and international differences', European J. International Management.
Improved impact factors for Inderscience journals
Inderscience's Editorial Office is pleased to report that the following journals have improved the impact factor allocated to them by Clarivate' Science Citation Index Expanded:
International Journal of Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing
International Journal of Environment and Pollution
International Journal of Exergy
International Journal of Materials and Product Technology
International Journal of Vehicle Design
New Editor for International Journal of the Digital Human
Prof. Marina L. Gavrilova from the University of Calgary in Canada has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of the Digital Human.
New Editor for International Journal of Internet of Things and Cyber-Assurance
Prof. Shingo Yamaguchi from Yamaguchi University in Japan has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Internet of Things and Cyber-Assurance.
New Editor for International Journal of Information Quality
Prof. Barbara Klein from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the USA has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Information Quality.
New Editor for International Journal of Applied Cryptography
Associate Prof. Weizhi Meng from the Technical University of Denmark has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Applied Cryptography.