Bio & Life Sciences

DNA Diagnosis Works, But It’s Not Likely to Cure You Soon

(Photo courtesy of UC San Francisco)

At a recent scientific meeting for researchers working with DNA sequencing tools, Joe DeRisi from the University of California, San Francisco, gave a riveting presentation about the medical case of a young boy with acute encephalitis. The talk offered a glimpse into the tremendous clinical potential for DNA sequencing—and simultaneously highlighted just how far this technology still is from the mainstream. DeRisi is known for a major coup in 2003 when he led the first American team to identify SARS. At the time, the coronavirus was still an unknown terror sweeping across Asia. His lab focuses on identifying pathogens, which is how DeRisi got involved in the case of the young boy with encephalitis.   More

Learning

Will Bringing Big Data into the Classroom Help Students Learn Better?

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Brad McIlquham was tutoring at-risk youth in Durham, N.C., when a former co-worker gave him the educator’s equivalent of the Social Network pitch. What if, instead of teaching at most 50 kids a year, you could help bring personalized tutoring to 100,000, or a million kids? McIlquham’s co-worker, Jose Ferreira—who had taught SAT and GMAT prep with McIlquham at Kaplan—was proposing an upending of the traditional “teach to the middle” classroom model. When teachers instruct students of varying ability in the same class, some students get bored, while others struggle. And often, teachers don’t discover which students have failed to understand key concepts until their tests get graded. But by then, they’ve already fallen behind.   More

Learning Partner Insights

Can Higher Ed Survive the Threat of MOOCs?

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Massively open online courses are bringing creative destruction to the higher education industry, and incumbents must reconfigure their value chains to survive. MOOCs, as they’re known, are free online courses that use pre-recorded, asynchronous lectures, discussion boards, and peer-grading to reach hundreds of thousands of concurrent students. Among the non-profit MOOC platforms is the edX platform, which includes courses from MIT, Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley. It is funded by the Gates Foundation and Google, among others.   More

Business

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at Mobile World Congress

It is an exciting time, it is a disruptive time. So says the CEO of IBM, who believes “everyone in every industry” will be affected by today’s changing tech industry. Ginni Rometty appeared onstage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Wednesday, marking the first time for a CEO of IBM to attend the world’s largest mobile exhibition and conference. In her keynote, hosted by Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, Rometty discussed the main shifts taking place in today’s enterprise ecosystem, identifying three important trends: data, cloud, and engagement.   More

Security & Privacy

A Privacy Bill Should Impose Consequences

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Lamenting a fast-approaching privacy crisis in the U.S., New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera this week reports what experts say should be included in a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, should Congress be so inclined to draft and pass one. Nocera suggests that not just consumers, but also companies in the business of collecting their data—including Google, Facebook, and Acxiom—stand to benefit from regulation; after all, he writes, credit card companies objected to the 1967 Truth in Lending Act that turned out to be to their advantage because it "showed consumers, for the first time, that they had some protection from fraud or shady practices." Nocera's conclusion: "Sometimes, government has to save business from itself."   More

Global Tech

How WhatsApp Can Succeed in China

Will WeChat remain the dominant messaging service in China? (Image via  Shutterstock)

I haven’t written about Facebook in a while, mostly because the company hasn’t made any concrete moves into China lately despite previous assertions that it would like to enter the market. But the company’s purchase of the popular WhatsApp mobile messaging service for up to $19 billion looks like a good opportunity to revisit the topic, and what this deal might mean for Facebook in China. Facebook’s own site has been blocked in China since 2009, making it inaccessible to the vast majority of more than 600 million Chinese Web surfers. But WhatsApp is widely available, even though it competes with the wildly popular rival WeChat service from local Internet giant Tencent.   More

Business

Kirkpatrick: Zuckerberg’s Plan for Global Connectivity “Impressive and Amazing”

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It may be the tech acquisition everyone's talking about, but Facebook's $19 billion buyout of WhatsApp is just one step along the way of Mark Zuckerberg's larger-than-life quest: to connect every single person on the planet. Zuckerberg joined Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick onstage at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress Monday to talk WhatsApp, the future of communications, and, most salient in Zuckerberg's mind, his global connectivity initiative Internet.org. Launched in August 2013, Internet.org is a global partnership between Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, and Qualcomm, which positions Internet access as a human right.   More

Business

Zuckerberg’s Vision for Building a Benevolent Internet

Once your Internet company has amassed over 1 billion subscribers around the world, what’s your next move? The most obvious answer is to figure out how to leverage your extraordinary user base to generate revenue. But Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions for Facebook have always been more complex than simple profit motive. For starters, he’s not content connecting just 1 billion people. As he told Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick this Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, “Our vision isn’t to try to connect one-seventh of the world; it’s to try to connect everyone.” In order to do that, Facebook has to rally other billion-user companies to its cause. “We have to form these partnerships because no one company can change the way that the Internet works by itself,” said Zuckerberg.   More

Cities Startup Culture

Techonomic Top 5: Startup Slowdown, Euro Urban Innovation, Prescribing Addictive Games, and More

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Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention. A new report from entrepreneurship advocacy organization the Kauffman Foundation indicates the number high-tech startups—defined as young companies with a high proportion of STEM workers—has been in decline since 2000. The study concludes that the slowdown in tech entrepreneurship “might have disproportionate effects on long-term economic growth,” noting that while tech startups often fail, they help to sustain a vigorous rate of net new job creation.   More

Analytics & Data

Tableau Applies Gaming Power to Big Data

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Tableau Software might be the biggest big data company you’ve never heard of. The lovechild of a Pixar founder and a Stanford University-Department of Defense project, the 10-year-old Seattle-based company applies the computational tools of the gaming and movie industries to presenting business analytics in beautiful, accessible graphic images. Now worth more than $6 billion in market capitalization, Tableau competes with the likes of Oracle and IBM, serves a hefty share of Fortune 500s, and nearly doubled sales in 2013, the year it went public.   More

Finance

Lenddo’s Borrowers in Mexico and The Philippines Get Credit Via Facebook

Lenddo helped Luivin Ortiz of Columbia secure an educational loan.

Jeff Stewart believes he can figure out if you will repay your debts by studying who you know and what they say about you. For him, it's better than a credit score. Stewart is CEO and co-founder of Lenddo, which gives small loans to borrowers in developing countries based on information it gleans from their accounts on Facebook and other social networks. Stewart was running two earlier companies when he and his New York-based partners noticed something odd: their hardworking and educated employees in other parts of the world were often unable to secure loans. Why, he wondered, would local lenders ignore such eligible, middle-class consumers in emerging economies? Finding out proved an irresistible challenge.   More

Business

Could WhatsApp Possibly Be Worth $19 Billion?

The past year or so have seen a headlong rush around the world towards simple messaging applications. Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp shows it cannot ignore the rise not only of that service but also of others including WeChat, Line, Viber, and Kik. These services are beginning to play the role that Facebook has mostly played around the world--default mobile app for communication. Their simplicity is their strength. While Facebook is not as existentially threatened as this excellent Buzzfeed article suggests, it's a worthy read if you want to understand the macro context in which Mark Zuckerberg felt he had no choice but to act.   More

Business

Kirkpatrick: $19 Billion WhatsApp Deal Keeps Facebook on Cutting Edge

Facebook stunned the tech world Wednesday, announcing its biggest acquisition yet—a $19 billion deal to buy messaging application WhatsApp. Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick appeared on Bloomberg West Wednesday and on Bloomberg Surveillance Thursday to talk about Mark Zuckerberg’s big move. “I think this shows that he’s willing to pay whatever it takes to keep on the cutting edge of what is going to be important down the road,” Kirkpatrick, who is also a Bloomberg contributing editor, told Surveillance’s Tom Keene on Thursday.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Will Doctors Finally Accept Technology? Yes. Here’s How.

In 1968, the American health economist Victor R. Fuchs wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Medical tradition emphasizes giving the best care that is technically possible; the only legitimate and explicitly recognized constraint is the state of the art.” Nearly half a century later his words still ring true. But the medical profession is often slow to adopt the state of the art. Witness the industry’s slow uptake of innovations such as telemedicine and electronic medical records. The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act created financial incentives and penalties to encourage health care providers to implement electronic records by 2015. Still, providers are lagging.   More

Analytics & Data Cities

“Blexts” Enable a Quantified Blight Movement in Detroit

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When Dan Gilbert told the Techonomy Detroit audience last September that the wrecking ball was the next step to reviving the Motor City, we quipped that demolition didn't seem like such a techonomic concept. It turns out technology will even expedite the process of razing some 80,000 dilapidated buildings. NPR reports this week that an army of "blexters," enabled by tablet computers and "blight texting" tools, is creating digital maps and a database of every structure across Detroit's 139 square miles.   More

Learning Video

This Company Wants Teachers To Make Money on YouTube

Chris Pedregal (far left) and the Socratic team.

As the cost of education skyrockets in the U.S., online education is an increasingly appealing alternative to the traditional classroom. Everything from standardized test prep to undergraduate classes is being offered online. While some bemoan the fate of scholarly pursuit, the entrepreneur behind one education startup believes this is the shake-up academia needs. Socratic co-founder Chris Pedregal says the educational system wasn’t designed with its end-users in mind. “Very little in the educational space is impacted by the questions students have,” he says, pointing out that this is the approach behind many tools students already use to find information, such as Google.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

WeChat Wrings Money From Unicom, Wangfujing

(Image via Shutterstock)

Much has been written about the meteoric rise of Tencent’s WeChat mobile instant messaging service, with many drawing parallels to the equally rapid ascent of Sina’s Weibo microblogging service starting in 2010. But while Sina has struggled to wring money out of Weibo, Tencent is having much more success with WeChat, as evidenced by news of its latest commercial tie-ups with retailer Wangfujing Department Store and mobile carrier China Unicom. I have a lot of respect for Sina, which has emerged as a leading information provider in China since it first went public in 2000. But the company has shown itself less adept at earning money, unlike Tencent, which has proven much more skillful at milking cash from its innovative core social networking service (SNS) products.   More

Global Tech Startup Culture

You Don’t Have to Live in Silicon Valley to Start a Company

Berlin has emerged as one of Europe's startup magnets. (Image via Shutterstock)

Just about every city in the world is now teaming with young people (and some older ones) who are starting companies with ambitious and tech-savvy aims. This good essay by a former Facebook European executive underscores how pointless it is for everyone to compare their own region or city with Silicon Valley. Yes that hub will remain potent, but with tech transforming the entire planet there is ample reason for confidence that numerous other places can become vibrant hubs. The bigger challenge for Europe is the continuing prejudice in many countries against entrepreneurship and risk, and labor laws that frequently become punitive.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Gadgets for Surviving Six More Weeks of Winter

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Here at Techonomy’s home in New York City, we, like so many across the United States, are enduring one of the snowiest winters on record. Being snowbound at home, the office, and on mass transit has given us plenty of time to think about tools and technologies that could help us make this season a bit less unpleasant. Since the groundhogs agree that we’re facing six more weeks of cold, here’s a list of gadgets you’ll need to get by. We've grouped them by cold-weather personality type.   More

Cities Security & Privacy

Techonomic Top 5: Web Fightback, #BangkokShutdown, Sochi Tech, and More

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Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention. The Day We Fight Back, Tuesday’s anti-spying Web protest, rallied more than 6,000 websites against government surveillance—among them, Internet heavyweights Google, Mozilla, Reddit, and Tumblr. Protest participants hosted a banner on their sites, linking visitors to legislators to encourage them to take action. “Dear internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA,” the banner read. “We want new laws that curtail online surveillance.”   More