The U.S. today maintains a large lead in R&D spending over China, with federal and private sector investment expected to reach $424 billion next year, a 1.2% increase.
By contrast, China’s overall R&D spending is $220 billion next year, an increase of 11.6% over 2012, a rate similar to previous years, according to the 2013 Global R&D Funding Forecast prepared by Battelle, a research and technology development organization, and R&D Magazine. “The U.S. still has a significant lead and advantage in R&D over all of these countries,” said Martin Grueber, one of the authors of the report and a lead researcher at Battelle, “but the concern is R&D is a long-term investment, and as these other countries continue to grow their R&D capabilities … how long can we maintain that advantage?”
A major share of R&D research in the U.S. is funded by the federal government, which is expected to budget $129 billion for R&D next year, a decline of 1.4%. This figure could decrease even further if Congress does not resolve its budget impasse.
Government R&D spending is seen as particularly important because, unlike the private sector, it funds basic research. This is research that often takes years or decades to yield results, but it can also lead to new industries and jobs.
Other emerging economies, besides China, are also spending more on R&D. India, for instance, will invest about $45 billion next year in R&D, an increase of just over 12%.
“The fiscal climate right now is just not conducive to growth in federal research investments,” said Peter Harsha, director of government affairs of the Computing Research Association. “That’s a disturbing trend, especially given the growing research capacity of our global economic competitors. The U.S. leadership role isn’t a birthright.”
President Barack Obama, hoping to spur U.S. innovation in the burgeoning field of mobile communications, on Wednesday ordered all major federal agencies to make many more of their services available on mobile phones within the next year.
“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device,” Obama said in a statement.
His administration is eager to hasten government adoption of new technology since showing itself to be highly tech-savvy after running a 2008 election campaign that was widely praised for the innovative way it used the Internet and social media.
Analysts welcomed the move, but voiced skepticism it could be effective unless Obama also freed up more government broadband spectrum to the private sector.
“American citizens won’t be better served by government technology and digital services unless more government spectrum is made available to enable these technologies and services,” said Mobile Future Chairman Jonathan Spalter.
His coalition includes AT&T Inc, Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile, Cisco Systems Inc and Qualcomm Inc.
The presidential order tells each agency to make at least two services relied upon by the public available on mobile phones within 12 months.
The Ponemon Institute’s annual study of data loss costs this year looked at 51 organizations who agreed to discuss the impact of losing anywhere between 4,000 to 105,000 customer records. The private-sector companies participating in the Ponemon Institute’s “2010 Annual Study: U.S. Cost of a Data Breach” are from various industries, including financial services, retail, pharmaceutical technology and transportation.
While “negligence” remains the primary cause of a data breach (in 41% of cases), for the first time the explanation of “malicious or criminal attacks” (in 31% of cases) came in ahead of the third leading cause, “system failure.”
It turns out “malicious or criminal attacks” are the most expensive type of data breach to uncover and respond to, costing on average $318 per customer record, $151 more than non-malicious breaches that stem from negligence of system failure.
“It’s harder to detect and do investigations,” says Dr. Larry Ponemon, about cases involving malware and botnets or social engineering. He notes just two years ago, only 12% of data breaches were assigned to malicious and criminal activity.
Negligence is still the leading cause of a data breach, however, and last year there were a couple of instances of data breaches that companies confided to Ponemon were due to mistakes made by their cloud-service providers. One financial-services company found itself having to report a data breach because its records were exposed on a shared virtual-machine server in a way that others using the cloud-based service could see, Ponemon notes. The financial-services firm found out about it because some of the other firms in the cloud environment directly told them.
Some industries last year saw higher costs per customer record in a data breach than others, with upward spikes. For instance, financial services jumped from $353 per customer record in 2010, up from $249 in 2009, and healthcare jumped from $345 last year from $301 in 2009. The communications sector had the highest cost of all, at $380 per customer record. Media, at $131, education at $112 and the public sector at $81, stood at the lowest.
Ponemon acknowledges it’s hard to determine exactly why these sector cost differences exist. Trends show organizations with chief information security officers incur less costs when a data breach occurs. And companies coping with their first data breach — which were 20% of the study’s participants — had the highest costs of anyone on average in the 2010 study, averaging $326 per compromised customer record, up 48%.
The House of Representatives Thursday passed a bill giving federal employees more flexibility to telecommute and mandating the agencies set up frameworks and policies to do so. Lawmakers have been considering the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 for some time, with many believing its passage to be a virtual guarantee.
The bill — which the Senate passed unanimously in September — officially gives federal employees the eligibility to telework and requires agencies to establish telework policies. It also mandates that each agency designate a telework managing officer to oversee its telework program.
The House vote passed with a bipartisan vote of 254-152. The bill now moves on to President Obama for his approval, which he is expected to give.
While businesses have embraced telecommuting for some time, the public sector has been slower to adopt the policy. However, the federal government has been warming up to the idea under the Obama administration, making telework a more viable option for employees.
Federal employees at times have even been encouraged to do so from the administration. For instance, for two days in April during the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, federal workers were urged to work from home to avoid traffic snarls from high-security measures. President Obama met with top leaders of more than 40 nations during the summit, one of the largest gatherings of heads of state.
Telecommuting also kept the government up and running for several days in February, when a series of snowstorms shut down federal offices for consecutive days.
Those instances were somewhat random, but the Telework Enhancement Act now puts structure around federal teleworking policy. To some, the bill, first introduced in March 2009, was a long time coming.
“Telework is an invaluable asset to the Federal government,” said Cindy Auten, General Manager of Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership that supports the federal teleworker community, in a press statement. “It is a readily available productivity tool for employees, it saves agencies money, and finally, it helps to protect the environment.”
The mobile industry has joined forces with the World Bank’s Lighting Africa initiative to help share excess power from off-grid base stations with people living nearby, industry organization GSM Association (GSMA) announced on today.
The project is called Community Power from Mobile, and will help mobile operators and tower-sharing companies in developing countries to pass on excess power generated by their off-grid base stations — which aren’t connected to an electrical grid and instead use diesel or increasingly cleaner alternatives such as solar and wind power — to local communities, according to the GSMA.
Today, about 1.6 billion people in the developing world live without access to electricity and 485 million of them have access to mobile phone services, the GSMA estimates. At the same time off-grid base stations typically have 5 kilowatts of excess power each, it said.
The extra power will initially be used to charge devices such as phones, lanterns and batteries, according to David Taverner, Senior Program Manager for Green Power for Mobile at the GSMA. But ultimately the goal is to power hospitals, schools and homes, as well. Five kilowatts can, for example, power 30 homes, Taverner said.
Four trials, two each in India and East Africa, are scheduled to start during the first quarter of next year and will last for about six months. The details of another four trials are still being worked out, Taverner said.
The mobile operators aren’t doing this for purely altruistic reasons. Besides making money from providing the power, previous experiences show that the theft of diesel goes down when the people living near base stations can use power from them. Also, if it becomes easier for people to charge their phones, the amount they spend on mobile services goes up, according to the GSMA.
The World Bank’s Lighting Africa initiative works with the private sector to develop and sustain the market for modern off-grid lighting technologies tailored to the needs of African consumers, according to its website.