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What is the UN doing with your data?

2011

France24: UN among victims of massive cyber-spying campaign

“Cyber-security experts have unveiled one of the biggest computer hacking campaigns to date, releasing a list of 72 organisations whose networks were attacked over a five-year period. Victims include the UN and several governments.

REUTERS – Security experts have discovered the biggest series of cyber attacks to date, involving the infiltration of the networks of 72 organizations including the United Nations, governments and companies around the world. … 

In the case of the United Nations, the hackers broke into the computer system of its secretariat in Geneva in 2008, hid there for nearly two years, and quietly combed through reams of secret data, according to McAfee.”

2019

June

Xinhua: China, UN to build big data research institute in Hangzhou

2020

January

The New Humanitarian: EXCLUSIVE: The cyber attack the UN tried to keep under wraps

“If there are no consequences for the [UN] agencies for failures like these … there will be more breaches.”

About this investigation:
While researching cybersecurity last November, we came across a confidential report about the UN. Networks and databases had been severely compromised – and almost no one we spoke to had heard about it. This article about that attack adds to The New Humanitarian’s previous coverage on humanitarian data. We look at how the UN got hacked and how it handled this breach, raising questions about the UN’s responsibilities in data protection and its diplomatic privileges.

April

Quartz: The UN is partnering with China’s biggest surveillance software company

Foreign Policy: EXCLUSIVE U.N.: Backs Down on Partnership With Chinese Firm for 75th Anniversary: The decision comes after U.S. officials and human rights advocates complained that Tencent aids Beijing in surveillance.

October

WSJ Opinion: China Uses the U.N. to Expand Its Surveillance Reach | In the name of ‘sustainable development,’ Beijing takes the lead in data collection efforts.

December

United Nations: Inauguration Ceremony Regional Hub for Big Data in China in support of the United Nations Global Platform

“I am very honoured to join you today in this inauguration ceremony of the Regional Hub for Big Data in China, in support of the United Nations Global Platform. The inauguration of this Regional Hub is most important, and timely. 

The demand for data, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is greater than ever.  Governments are in need of detailed data on the spread of the virus and its impacts on society. Under these challenging circumstances, statistical institutes have had to respond urgently to the demand for data, and to present innovative solutions. Consequently, in these times of need, the statistical community is now able to effectively use Big Data and advanced technologies. 

For example, census data – together with detailed geospatial information – can help identify the most vulnerable populations during the pandemic. And, real-time data on the position and movement of ships, for example, can estimate the volume of cargo being transported, and thus help produce estimates on the state of the economy. These real-time shipping data are available as a global data set on the United Nations Global Platform, and can be accessed by the whole statistical community.”

2021

March

Financial Times: Opinion Technology sector: As digital trade grows, so does western distrust of Beijing: China is moving to the forefront of global innovation but governments fear privacy breaches

April

Nikkei Asia: Comment: Data suspicions threaten to tear China and west apart: Applications by Chinese companies see 200-fold increase since 1999

“Unique Identity for All”: Biometric identity is being rolled out across the planet. HSB is one of the many players in this fast-growing data collection sector. Companies such as HSB collect data on behalf of international organisations.
This story is from 1992 and is a rare glimpse into Canada’s data sharing agreements with the US and other countries.

Data integrity and cross-border data sharing have been concerns for a very long time. False Data Makes Border Screening Corruptible

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Changing Health Care Careers A Sign Of The Times

By David South

Hospital News (Canada), June 1992

Ontario’s health care system is in the midst of a big change. But where are the new jobs going to be and how can health care workers prepare for the coming crunch?

“Anybody who thought they could progress through the health care system until retirement is in for a shock,” said Ruth Robinson, a national health care consultant for Peat Marwick Stevenson and Kellogg management consultants. 

Radical changes are taking place in the health care system and it looks like traditionally safe occupations are in for a shake-up. 

“Hospitals are being pressured to change fundamentally,” said Ms. Robinson. “The net effect is fewer jobs. A lot of people will have to think about new careers.”

In the Ministry of Health working document entitled Goals and Strategic Priorities, released in January, the fundamental shift from treatment to disease prevention and health promotion is laid out in generalities. 

The goals range from health equity for aboriginals, women, children and AIDS patients to better management of costs to development of a stronger health care industry that will jump start the economy. And they range from the reorganization of professional responsibilities to promotion of services outside institutions with the goal of keeping people out of hospitals. 

One thing is clear, the talk is about big changes. But talk is cheap to laid-off health care workers looking for new jobs. 

The provincial government’s recently passed, but yet to be proclaimed, Regulated Health Professions Act will have serious repercusions for all health care providers. 

“Traditionally, doctors have an exclusive domain over a wide area,” said Charlie Bigenwald, executive director of health human resources planning at the Ministry of Health. “Even though other people could do things, they had to be delegated by a doctor. With the legislation, we have pushed back what doctors can do. This means there will be more opportunity for a wider variety of health care workers to get into those areas.”

Midwifery is one of the benefactors of changes in regulations. The Ministry of Health is looking into having a university-based program for midwives. 

Ms. Robinson predicted nurses and middle management will suffer the most in the change to community-based health care. 

“Nurses will need to get a bachelor degree if they hope to compete for jobs,” she said. 

As for middle managers, who often have clinical skills, they will have to reconsider staying in health care, she said. “They will disappear significantly. They can advance themselves by getting back to clinical skills or consider management positions in non-health care areas.

“There is nothing to be ashamed of about career changes these days,” she added. 

In the shift towards community-based care, opportunities will arise for health care workers who can offer creative solutions to improve service delivery. 

“For nurses, we currently have something called the Nursing Innovation Fund where individuals can apply for a wide variety of developmental things like attending workshops, conferences and training programs. We process 2,500 applications a year,” said Mr. Bigenwald. 

The Ministry of Health hopes the future sees a health care system that adds to the province’s economy rather than drains it. 

“We spend $17 billion a year on health care. We never looked at the health care system as an economic motor in the past. The question we are asking right now is ‘why can’t an Ontario firm make the carpets, beds, sutures etc?’, said Mr. Bigenwald. 

Ms. Robinson said “Governments are running out of money and can’t increase funding. They will be looking for more partnerships in the private sector. In this climate, creative solutions to health care delivery have a great opportunity.” 

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Critics Blast Government Long-Term Care Reforms

“They cut hospital beds and lay off staff without having community health care services ready…”

“When the elderly… decide that facility-based care is the best option, they can’t get it…”

By David South

Today’s Seniors (Canada), October 1992

Seniors should keep a close eye on the Ontario government’s proposed long-term care reforms. According to critics, the plan has more than a few bugs. 

The term long-term care encompasses an often confusing web of services, from home-provided community services like meals on wheels to institutional care including homes for the aged, seniors’ apartments and chronic care hospitals. 

Like other provincial governments, the Rae government is trying to rein in escalating health care costs – and long-term care services aren’t immune. They hope that emphasizing prevention and healthy lifestyles, plus providing more services in the home and community, will reduce reliance and expensive health care services like high-cost drugs, surgery and high-tech equipment. According to health minister Frances Lankin, this will preserve medicare in the age of fiscal restraint. 

The government has outlined seven goals for its long-term care reforms: prepare for the coming surge in the over-65 population; cater services to better reflect the cultural, racial and linguistic make-up of Ontario; eliminate confusion over what services are available; involve the community in planning so that services reflect community needs; lessen reliance on institutions; provide support to family caregivers; tighten regulations governing government-run and private facilities; and improve working conditions for the largely female caregiving workforce. 

But many people are wary of the proposed reforms and worry that if they aren’t managed properly, some seniors will fall through the cracks. 

A report released in July by the Senior Citizens’ Consumer Alliance for Long-Term Care Reform blasts the government for being simplistic in its plans. The report compares the present reforms to the failed attempt in the 1970s to move psychiatric care out of the institutions and into communities by closing 1,000 beds. The tragic result in that case was homelessness for many psychiatric patients who found community services unable to help, or, more often than not, non-existent. The Alliance fears seniors – the biggest users of health services – could fall victim to reforms in a similar way. 

Emily Phillips, president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, is blunt: “The NDP’s plans sound good on paper, but they can’t give a budget or direct plan on how they hope to carry out reforms. They are going about things backwards. They cut hospital beds and lay off staff without having community health care services ready.”

The Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS) – which operates charitable and municipal homes for the aged, non-profit seniors’ apartments. chronic care hospitals and community services serving over 100,000 seniors – says 4,300 seniors are on waiting lists for their member facilities right now, and things won’t improve if the government continues to reduce the number of long-term care beds. 

But Lankin insists that beds are available in homes and hospitals and it is funding formulas that prevent them from being filled. 

To help carry out its reforms, the NDP will reallocate $647 million by 1996-97. In bureaucratese, this funding is said to be “back-end loaded”, or mostly spent close to 1996-97. 

The problem with this, according to the Alliance, is that the government has already embarked on a radical “downsizing” of hospitals, closing beds and laying off health care workers. Lankin claims the worst case scenario for layoffs this year won’t exceed 2,000, but the Ontario Hospital Association claims 14,000 jobs are in jeopardy. Because of this, the Alliance wants money to be spent earlier to avoid gaps in services. 

Phillips believes it will be hard to pin down the extent of job losses. “For every full-time job cut many part-time and relief positions go with it,” she says. 

Dr. Rosanna Pellizzari, a member of the Medical Reform Group and chair of the Ontario Association of Health Centres, wants better community accountability for hospitals before they lay off staff and cut services. “Sometimes it makes sense to bring people to hospitals,” she says. “Planning must be at the community level, open and democractic. Health care workers, who are mostly women, should not be scapegoated for financial problems. Doctors and management should go first. Physicians experience very little unemployment.” 

Many nursing and charitable homes for the aged are facing financial crisis. According to OANHSS, six charitable homes for the aged have closed since 1987 due to deficits. In 30 homes, the total annual deficit has increased 125 per cent since 1987. The Ministry of Health recently allocated special funds of $8.1 million to ensure these facilities survive until January, when a new, needs-based funding formula will be introduced. It is intended to better match the actual care requirements of the 59,000 consumers living in long-term care facilities. 

Michael Klejman, executive director of OANHSS, agrees with helping seniors to stay in their homes. “But when the elderly and their care-givers in Ontario decide that facility-based care is the best option, they simply can’t get it,” he notes. “We know from experience that many of them remain in acute care hospital beds with a cost to the province of about four times what it would cost them to fund a long-term care bed. And many, unfortunately, remain in their own flats or apartments at considerable risk to themselves, isolated and dependent on a patchwork of services.” 

Beatrix Robinow, who worked on the Alliance’s report, was not impressed with the government’s initial plans, especially the proposed creation of 40 service coordination agencies whose mandate would be to control the delivery of home care services to seniors. Robinow thinks this would add to the confusion and just be another layer of bureaucracy. Many people who appeared at the Alliance’s public hearings expressed confusion over how the long-term care system worked. 

Robinow says that the government could save money by trimming the bureaucracy and using present organizations like the little-known District Health Councils. 

“District Health Councils have nothing to do with social services,” says Robinow. “But we want them to be expanded to include long-term care and general supervision of community services. We are waiting to hear if they are interested. I would urge the government to make sure that services are in place before pushing people out of institutions.” 

The health minister is cautious about the government’s next steps. “The Alliance’s report has been very helpful,” she says. “We are in the process of developing options. Two other ministers are involved and we also need to take this through Cabinet.

“Ontario is much larger and more complex (than other provinces). The range of services is more developed. We also have a mess in jurisdictions between municipalities and the province. And in Ontario there isn’t a concensus that this is the way to go. 

“We have been doing a lot of rationalization and streamlining for longer than other provinces. Most thinking people looking at the situation agree that doing nothing would hurt the system. It is not sustainable at present. You hear a lot of things about user fees. That would be the slippery slope for medicare. That would make people think they could buy better services.”

Ironically, user fees were recently endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, suggesting the minister will have a fight on her hands with angry doctors. 

Amidst all the confusion, Dr. Perry Kendall was appointed on Aug. 24 as the provincial government’s special advisor on long-term care and population health. This veteran of both the City of Toronto as Medical Officer of Health – and the groundbreaking Victoria Health Project in British Columbia (often seen as the model for community services to seniors) seems well qualified. “One problem in the past has been the creation of smaller and smaller organizations every time somebody felt the system was not responsive to their needs,” he says. “This created organizational chaos. The challenge  now is to get all the organizations back together to share their expertise.”

Lankin says she hopes to have a conference on the reforms in the fall. 

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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New Student Group Seeks 30 Percent Tuition Hike

Coalition hoping to be the “responsible” campus alternative

By David South

Now Magazine (Toronto, Canada), December 17-23, 1992

While the provincial government’s decision to eliminate most student grants has many students worrying about meeting the increasing costs of higher education, a new student group is lobbying the province to hike tuition.

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is a coalition of executives from student councils at the University of Toronto – the biggest in Canada – as well as Queen’s, Brock, the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier.

Those councils used to be members of the Ontario Federation of Students (OFS), the province’s major student organization, representing more than 200,000 students at 31 colleges and universities.

But there have been disagreements within the OFS over its policy that tuition fees be abolished. The five dissident student councils got together last month and launched OUSA to address what they say is “the worst underfunding crisis in recent memory.”

The group calls for a 30-per-cent increase in tuition over the next three years, an about-face from the stance of most mainstream student organizations, which call for, at the very least, a tuition freeze. Both the OFS and the Canadian Federation of Students have a zero-tuition policy.

“Until now, student groups have been whining, but our approach is reasonable,” says Farrah Jinha, president of U of T’s Students’ Administrative Council, which left OFS a decade ago. “OUSA is setting a limit on how much tuition can increase and with very specific conditions.”

OUSA’s plan calls for the provincial government to match, dollar-for-dollar, any increase in student fees. In conjunction with a 5-per-cent increase in private sector contributions, this would infuse an expected $360 million into higher education, says OUSA.

Political lobbyist Titch Dharamsi – a former vice-president of SAC and high-profile organizer for the Liberal party – has carried over his lobbying duties to OUSA.

Gimme gimme

Dharamsi says OUSA isn’t out to rival OFA and is just being “realistic.” “The public likes our ideas. They are real, workable solutions. We recognize the province’s fiscal problems. It’s not just ‘gimme, gimme’ anymore.”

Jinha says the policy positions of the OFS don’t have much in common with everyday student concerns.

“People felt it wasn’t worth the money,” she says. “Many students across the province were frustrated with OFS taking stands on non-student issues like abortion, decriminalizing marijuana or the Gulf war. We wanted a group which would focus more on issues like teaching quality and accessibility to funding.”

OUSA claims to represent 85,000 students. Staff have been hired and equipment purchased for the group’s unmarked office in the suites of a University Avenue law firm. “We are in this for the long haul,” Dharamsi says.

OUSA has caught the eye of colleges and universities minister Richard Allen, whose party shares a zero-tuition policy with the OFS. But now that the NDP finds itself governing during a recession, Allen’s views sound more like OUSA’s.

“The party policy on tuition is symbolic,” he says. “It says we want to address barriers to post-secondary education.”

Student quits

One student representative on U of T’s Students’ Administrative Council, Jason Zeidenberg, resigned when SAC decided to join OUSA.

“The process hasn’t involved students,” says Zeidenberg. “It is a policy for student politicians, not students. OUSA has no constitution, no financial structure, no mechanism for individual students to bring questions forward. It is an undemocratic, fly-by-night institution.

“Until they justify their expenditures, they are under suspicion of being a front group to legitimize policies like raising tuition.”

OUSA isn’t legally obliged to incorporate itself or provide a constitution or accountable executive. The group operates much like a club, with member council executives making decisions collectively, and funds coming out of member unions’ budgets.

Joining OFS requires a student referendum, but because of OUSA’s quasi-ad-hoc status, no such vote is needed to join the new group.

Dharamsi says this approach is cost-effective and flexible. He says OUSA has spent around $10,000 to date, but can’t offer a fixed budget.

Zeidenberg hs organized several college and faculty student unions at U of T to demand that SAC hold a referendum about membership in OUSA.

Craft doesn’t feel that OUSA is a threat. “I’m not losing sleep over it,” he says. “We’re considered the representatives of students in Ontario.”

Recently, however, the University of Western Ontario pulled out of OFS and is currently negotiating with OUSA about joining. Western’s departure takes another 20,000 students and precious dollars with them, and funding cuts have led OFS to lay off staff.

This cover is by great Canadian political cartoonist and illustrator Jack Lefcourt. Always funny, Jack captures well the corporate take-over of the country’s universities and the introduction of the catastrophic debt culture that leaves so many students in a financial pickle. It was also Id’s first student issue. Id Magazine: Student Issue, “The guide to the zeitgeist”, Ontario, 1996, Features Editor: David South.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021