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Living Standard Measurement Study: When Data Collection is Intrepid

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  • Living Standard Measurement Study (LSMS) team plays vital role and travels many back roads.
  • Eighty-eight surveys of very poor households spanning 26 years, 90% of them open to the public.
  • Firsthand microdata helps people understand living standards, poverty and inequality

For two to three weeks at a time, Kathleen Beegle disappears into the wide open spaces of rural Africa. She often lands in a plane on a dirt runway, rents a pick-up truck and drives with a colleague for four to six hours to her destinations.

That is, if they are lucky. Sometimes, they are foiled by a washed-out bridge or impassibly muddy roads. Then, it’s more hours of bone-jarring driving. A handful of religious music stations on the car radio, along with old 1980s cassettes of Dolly Parton and Julio Iglesias, help pass the time. At night, Beegle often sleeps in the car or under a mosquito net. Most villages don’t yet have electricity, she says. “It’s so dark you see every star.”

Beegle isn’t an explorer for the National Geographic. She is an economist and one of nine members of the household survey program, the Living Standard Measurement Study, in the World Bank’s Development Research Group. Team members travel far to collect data about the world’s poorest households, analyze them and conduct research on survey methods.

LSMS data play a critical role in helping policy makers, the development community and others understand living standards, poverty and inequality in a particular country, region or the world. Over the past 26 years, the team has helped conduct 88 surveys, from Nicaragua to Timor Leste to Iraq.

The LSMS surveys are done at the request of governments, donors or World Bank country teams. As part of an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, new surveys are under way in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa to improve agricultural data in the region, which are currently unreliable or completely lacking. As with other LSMS surveys, the money is funneled through the World Bank to those countries – mostly to national statistical offices – to collect data with the LSMS team’s technical assistance.

For 30 years, the LSMS team has been working with individual governments to ensure open access to LSMS data, which is owned by individual governments, says LSMS manager Kinnon Scott. For example, as a condition to participate in LSMS programs in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, governments agreed in advance to make their LSMS data public. So far, results for 90% of all LSMS surveys are accessible to the public. Most can be downloaded from the World Bank’s LSMS website, www.worldbank.org/lsms, but some are also distributed on CDs by mail or directly from national statistical offices, says Diane Steele, LSMS household survey coordinator.

From start to finish, the LSMS team works with government institutions – especially their national statistical offices – to design, implement and analyze the surveys. The team focuses on teaching the know-how, the skills needed to build and sustain a data-collection system unique to a particular country, to staff and field workers. They also engage policy makers, research communities and local counterparts.

The approach has paid off. For example, Peru, where the first LSMS survey was conducted in 1985, has included the survey in the government’s regular data-collection effort – without any additional technical advice from the LSMS team. Nepal, Albania and other countries also have conducted surveys on their own. Many more surveys around the world have adopted LSMS methodologies and practices.

LSMS survey questionnaires cover a range of topics, from demographics, to education, health, labor, consumption, finance, farm production, and non-farm activities. Each questionnaire addresses context-specific policy questions, reflecting data demand from across the government. For example, migration is important to Albania, fertilizer use matters in Malawi and conditional cash transfers are of interest in Panama. The questionnaires are compatible enough to allow many comparisons between surveys.

Some questions are trickier than others: how do you convert “four buckets of corn,” “a heap of tomatoes” or “three plates of cereal” into measurable units of quantities or calories? A plateful of cashews with a flat surface may be 300 grams, but a full plate could double that calorie count. In addition, some questions are difficult to translate into local languages, and the team conducts extensive pilot testing and fieldwork in advance to make the questionnaires work in each specific context.

“A survey is just as much an art as it is a science,” says Gero Carletto, manager of the project on agricultural data in Africa. “Correcting small mistakes in survey design and implementation, and catching them early on, can have huge payoffs in terms of data quality.”

The LSMS staff spends several months to a year on the road, meeting with officials and development partners, but mostly working closely with national statistical offices and local teams to help ensure the best possible data quality. Indeed, the team is known for the development and adoption of strict data-quality control protocols.

Beegle and the other members of the team value their time traveling with local interview teams. The entourage, which usually includes a supervisor and three or four interviewers, often pack measuring equipment, luggage, cooking pots, and water jugs onto the roof of their sports-utility vehicle. Their trips can last three or four months – or sometimes a year. An LSMS team member might join them for a few days or a few weeks.

Finding a representative, random sample of households and individuals can be a challenge in rural Africa or South Asia, where streets often aren’t marked. And, to talk to working members of the family, interviewers often have to visit the house very early in the morning or late at night.
Some surveys are especially challenging. The Gates-funded project in rural Africa, for example, involves panel data for as many as 5,000 households per country, which will allow comparisons of the same people over time. But in between surveys, people die, marry, move hundreds of miles away, wind up in jail, or even go into hiding from creditors and others.

But once they find the household to interview, people are often quite happy to open up. And overtime, Beegle says, you know so much about a family that you almost feel like part of their lives. “They are often so nice. They offer you tea, give you bags of ground nuts. They are really poor people and they are so generous and offer me what they have,” she says.

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Investing into a more sustainable future: changing businesses from the inside out

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Investing into a more sustainable future: changing businesses from the inside out 1

By Shawn Welch, Vice President and General Manager of Hi-Cone Worldwide

As industries across the world are facing unprecedented uncertainty and anticipating the economic implications of the current health crisis, business leaders have the unique opportunity to seize the chance to make lasting, positive changes and re-interpret the business challenges in a positive way – without forgetting or minimising the toll the pandemic has taken. When trying to identify a way forward, the future must be sustainable. We must take this opportunity to find a more sustainable way for businesses and manufacturers to survive.

Environmental and economic concern have only increased the gap on what consumers want – more sustainability – and how much progress businesses can make without risking their viability. However, rather than giving up on ambitious goals, maybe we need to reframe the way we look at sustainability. So far, businesses have tended to react to consumer demands, often without looking into the long-term implications and research-based due diligence one would expect. Therefore, now is the right time to be more deliberate: to continue on the path towards a truly sustainable ‘new normal’, businesses need to consider the bottom line impact more than ever before and truly invest in changing their business models to become more sustainable.

Shawn Welch

Shawn Welch

To meet the UN’s ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, businesses ultimately must thrive – working towards establishing a circular economy remains crucial. Instead of a linear ‘extract, use, dispose’ approach, materials need to be respected and re-used as many times as possible, which is only possible if products are designed for re-use, re-manufacturing, repair or restarting. After all, any and all consumption comes at a price. In manufacturing, processes draw on resources to produce items that, once they have served their purpose, become surplus to requirements. Yet, to ignore this is to take an incomplete view of sustainability: instead, materials are extracted from waste to re-enter production processes. Reuse and recycling initiatives are central to this and great strides have been made in raising awareness of this need. The full environmental cost of production and consumption includes the choice of materials themselves but also the level of carbon emissions generated, and energy consumed.

Once products and processes have redesigned for a circular approach, this initial investment will often easily be recouped, especially if we start with looking at the facts when starting this crucial process. To make the Circular Economy a focus for any business very often means changing the business model. Here, investing in research and development is vital. In the packaging industry, for example, we are seeing that customers and consumers are increasingly more focused on sustainability, and that surprising changes can unlock societal and business value. Through minimising a product’s carbon footprint or making recycling easier for consumers, lifecycle-assessment-based product redesigns or using recycled plastics instead of larger quantities of cardboard, companies are identifying these more creative options and enjoying the long-lasting benefits that come with implementing them. In any case, leadership is key. A research-driven approach gets everyone on-board and seeing management committing to these goals as part of business plans helps cement these. At a recent Reuters Responsible Business Summit virtual panel, I was part of an interesting conversation. Here, Yolanda Malone, Vice President Global R&D Snacks PKG, PepsiCo, discussed how leaders have to drive the behaviours within the organisation and the tone for the culture. She explained that her sustainable plastics vision is a world where plastics never become waste. Only through putting the mantra of “reduce, recycle, rethink and reinvent” can we bring circular products to consumer. She stressed that, if we don’t reinvent, we will fall back into old habits.

Of course, consumer behaviours play a part and the easier the solution, the more likely consumers will get behind it. End consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of packaging. So, to be truly circular, we need to take into account the entire lifecycle. Mindset change needs to continue to happen. Consumers need to be clear about what their choices are. To achieve this, we must change our businesses from the inside out, allowing for close collaboration inside and outside of our organisations. Other organisations – such as governments and recycling organisations – will need to be involved in businesses’ efforts, multiplying the impact our investments will have. We must address all aspects of sustainability and, for example, have better recycling, a focus on infrastructure and emphasis on consumer education. To recover, reuse and recycle, the R&D must be in place and dedicated to sustainability. Partnerships are important as we, as other leading global companies realise, cannot do this alone. Collaboration is key when investing in a more sustainable, more Circular, future.

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Securing Information Throughout the Supply Chain – Preventing Supplier Vulnerabilities 

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By Adam Strange, Data Classification Specialist, HelpSystems 

The financial services sector is experiencing extreme disruption coupled with rapid innovation as established institutions strive to become more agile and meet evolving customer demand. At the same time, new market entrants compete fiercely for customers. Increasing operational flexibility, through the deployment of cloud infrastructure or via digital transformation initiatives, is critical for future competitiveness but it has also driven regulatory and security challenges, particularly around working with suppliers.

That said, the benefits of a diverse, interconnected supply chain are compelling: agility, speed, and cost reduction all weigh on the positive side of the equation, prompting financial institutions to pursue close, collaborative relationships with suppliers, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands.

Weakness in the supply chain

On the negative side is the increased cyber threat when enterprises expose their networks to their supply chain. In our modern interconnected digital ecosystems, most financial organisations have many supply chain dependencies and it only takes one of these to have cybersecurity vulnerabilities to bring a business to its knees.

As a result, breaches originating in third parties are common and costly – a Ponemon Institute/IBM study found that breaches being caused by a third party was the top factor that amplified the cost of a breach, adding an average of $370,000 to the breach cost.

Concern around the supply chain was also evidenced in a recent report we have just issued, whereby we interviewed 250 CISOs and CIOs from financial institutions about the cybersecurity challenges they face and nearly half (46%) said that cybersecurity weaknesses in the supply chain had the biggest potential to cause the most damage in the next 12 months.

But sharing information with suppliers is essential for the supply chain to function. Most financial services organisations go to great lengths to secure intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data internally, yet when this information is shared across the supply chain, does it get the same robust attention?

Further amplified by COVID-19

Financial service organisations have always been a key target for cyber attacks.  Our research showed that since COVID-19 hit, the risk has elevated further, with 45% of the respondents seeing increased cybersecurity attacks during this period. Likewise, hackers are rejecting frontal assaults on well-defended walls in favour of infiltrating networks via vulnerabilities in suppliers.

But financial services organisations must maintain reputations and ensure customer trust. Firms are keen to demonstrate that they are protecting customer assets, providing an ultra-reliable service and working with trustworthy partners. So, what can they do to better protect their supplier ecosystem?

At the very least, they need to ensure basic controls are implemented around their suppliers’ IT infrastructure.  For example, they must ensure suppliers maintain a secure infrastructure with a minimum of Cyber Essentials or the equivalent US CIS certification controls. Cyber Essentials defines a set of controls which, when implemented, provide organisations with basic protection from the most prevalent forms of threats, focusing on threats which require low levels of attacker skill, and which are widely available online.

Likewise, they need to ensure good information management controls are in place and this begins with accurate information/data classification. After all, how can you apply appropriate controls to your information unless you know what it is and where it is?

How ISO27001 helps organisations put in place a data classification process

The international standard on information security, ISO27001, describes the basic ingredients for data classification to ensure the data receives the appropriate level of protection in accordance with its importance to the organisation. It comprises three basic elements:

  • Classification of data – in terms of legal requirements, value, criticality and sensitivity to unauthorised disclosure or modification.
  • Labelling of data – an appropriate set of procedures for information labelling should be developed and implemented in accordance with the organisation’s information classification scheme.
  • Handling of assets – procedures for the handling of assets developed and implemented in accordance with the organisation’s information classification scheme.

Adoption of this methodology will help financial services organisations and their supply chain take a more data-centric information security approach. However, there are essentially four key stages for implementing a data risk assurance supply chain approach and these are:

 1. Approval – in organisations with complex supply chains senior management, vendor management, procurement and information security will all need to support a robust risk-based information management approach. Details of previous incidents and their impact alongside the business benefits will be essential to gain stakeholder buy in.

 2. Preparation – Organisations should start with Tier 1 suppliers and initially identify the contracts with the highest business impact/risk. They should identify and record information repositories and the data that they contain together with the responsible business owners. Define a business taxonomy based on information categories of that data and include supply chain factors such as what information categories are shared.

For example, they need to understand the business impact of compromise against each of the information categories. Have any suppliers suffered security incidents? What assurance mechanisms are in place? Once all this information is collated the organisation can create a data classification policy and define a set of controls for each data category.

 3. Discovery – Select each data category and identify the associated contracts. Then prioritise the data category based on the risk assessment and verify that the data security controls and arrangements for each data category and contract meet the overall requirements. Once complete, hand over the contract for inclusion in the vendor management cycle.

4. Embed process – the overall objective is to embed information risk management into the procurement lifecycle from start to finish. Therefore, whenever a new contract is created there are a number of actions required which embed data risk at each stage of the bid, tender, procurement, evaluation, implementation and termination phases of the contract.

To summarise, organisations should start by researching the information risk and security frameworks such as ISO27001 and others. They should then focus on defining their business taxonomy and data categories together with the business impact of compromise to help develop a data classification scheme. Finally, they should implement the data classification scheme and embed data risk management into the procurement lifecycle processes from start to finish. By effectively embedding data risk management and categorisation into their procurement and vendor management processes, they are preventing their suppliers’ vulnerabilities becoming their own and are more effectively securing data in the supply chain.

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19 3

Organizations in the Middle East have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementing new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. According to Deloitte’s 10th annual 2020 Middle East Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” organizations now need to think about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture.

“COVID-19 has created a clarifying moment for work and the workforce. Organizations that expand their focus on worker well-being, from programs adjacent to work to designing well-being into the work itself, will help their workers not only feel their best but perform at their best. Doing so will strengthen the tie between well-being and organizational outcomes, drive meaningful work, and foster a greater sense of belonging overall,” said Ghassan Turqieh, Consulting Partner, Human Capital, Deloitte Middle East.

According to the Deloitte report, many organizations in the Middle East made quick arrangements to engage with employees in the wake of the pandemic through frequent communications, multiple webinars where senior leaders addressed employee concerns, virtual employee events, manager check-ins, periodic calls and other targeted interactions with the workforce.

The report also discussed how UAE and KSA governments have reexamined work policies and practices, amended regulations and introduced COVID-19 initiatives to support companies and the workforce in the public and private sectors. Flexible and remote working, team-building and engagement activities, well-ness programs, recognition awards and modern workspaces are among the many things that are now adding to the employee experience.

Key findings from the Deloitte global report include:

  • Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;
  • 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;
  • Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and
  • Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Worker well-being is a top priority today, and similarly to the rest of the world, companies in the Middle East are focusing their efforts to redesign work around well-being by understanding workforce well-being needs,” said Rania Abu Shukur, Director, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East.

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