Big data

From the Communications and Society Program
of the Aspen Institute comes The Promise and Peril of Big Data, on the challenges posed by large databases. The Internet is presently estimated to hold five hundred billion gigabytes of data, and even larger measures of terabytes or petabytes are being used.
The explosion of mobile networks, cloud computing and new technologies has given rise to incomprehensibly large worlds of information, often described as "Big Data."
Big Data's massive analytical ability raises such issues as:
(W)hat are the ethical considerations of governments or businesses using Big Data to target people without their knowledge? Does the ability to analyze massive amounts of data change the nature of scientific methodology? Does Big Data represent an evolution of knowledge, or is more actually less when it comes to information on such scales?
The report covers "making sense" of Big Data, the business and social implications, its relation to health care, and addressing abuses. It is a product of the 18th Annual Aspen Institute Roundtable on Information Technology, held Aug. 4-7, 2009.

The Promise and Peril of Big Data (pdf, 66pp/356kB), Jan. 2010



Just in ... Environmental review in Hawaii

Report to the Legislature on Hawaii's Environmental Review System, by Karl Kim, Denise Antolini, and Peter Rappa, was prepared in response to the passage of Act 1 by the Legislature in 2008. Section 10 therein required the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to contract with the University of Hawaii (UH) to study the State's environmental review process, specifically:
  1. Examine the effectiveness of the current environmental review system created by chapters 341, 343, and 344, Hawaii Revised Statutes;
  2. Assess the unique environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues in Hawaii that should be incorporated into an environmental review system;
  3. Address larger concerns and interests related to sustainable development, global environmental change, and disaster-risk reduction; and
  4. Develop a strategy, including legislative recommendations, for modernizing Hawaii's environmental review system so that it meets international and national best-practices standards.
From the report's executive summary:
Hawaii’s "trigger" and "exempt" approach is now archaic compared to the more efficient "discretionary approval" approach used in many other states and the focus on "major" actions under well-accepted federal law. The diverse group of stakeholders of the current system, of whom over 100 participated in this study, has different views about the specific problem and solutions, yet there is a shared sense that the system is in need of change.

The report proposes that Hawaii update, refocus, and streamline its environmental review system by replacing the current "project trigger" screen, which encourages late review and 11th hour public participation, with a new "earliest discretionary approval" screen to encourage early review and public participation.
An omnibus bill to amend chapters 341 and 343 is included.

Report to the Legislature on Hawaii's Environmental Review System (pdf, 180pp/1.6MB), Jan. 2010
KFH354 K55 2010

The UH Study Team has a blog on this project.

Labels: ,


Historic Hawaii newspapers online

The University of Hawaii at Manoa Library announced that three Hawaii newspapers are now available online at the Library of Congress's Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers website. The Library is a participant in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Library of Congress, and state projects to provide access to U.S. newspapers published between 1836 and 1922.

The Hawaii papers are:
  • The Daily Herald (Honolulu, 1886-1887)
  • The Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu, 1865-1916; online: 1877-1913)
  • The Independent (Honolulu, 1895-1905)
According to the Library, The Daily Herald and The Hawaiian Gazette had "a conservative pro-American editorial viewpoint" and The Independent had "a strongly nationalistic Hawaiian viewpoint."

Chronicling America currently provides newspapers from 1880 to 1922 from the District of Columbia and 15 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. It aims to eventually have every state and U.S. territory represented.

Labels: ,


Google snafu

So what happens when Google snafus? Seems Google insists on publishing the phone number to the smaller, special Legislative Reference Bureau Library (808-587-0690), which serves the Hawaii legislative community, as the number for the main Hawaii State Library. The methods Google has in place to correct inaccurate information seemingly do not work (at least for several months in this case), whether directly from the web search results page or from the map page. Phone call queries to Google by both libraries have also not resulted in correction of information.

Recently it has been noticed how Google is beginning to presume the user's actual wants. As a Google member, one may choose for Google to save all of one's web searches to build upon subsequent searches, no matter how seemingly irrelevant the later search might appear. However, when search history is not to be saved nor the user signed in as a member, even the most general of search queries usually lists the inquirer's IP location specific results high on the returned page, flavoring it with many local commercial sites not usually expected to rank so high.

The volume of indexed information on the Internet is too massive to imagine. How to manage the data or how to access the information without presuming too much knowledge would seem to be still in the future...and sometimes the data is just plain wrong.

Labels: , ,


Health reform and retiree benefits

In its January Issue Brief, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) examines the impact of healthcare legislation now in Congress on retiree health benefits. The paper covers:
  • Reinsurance program for early retirees
  • Medicare drug benefits
  • Tax treatment of employer subsidies under MMA
  • Postretirement benefit changes
EBRI's summation:
Since the mid-1990s, there has been erosion in retiree health benefits. This has been driven by the excessive cost of offering this benefit due to new accounting rules and the increasing cost associated with providing the benefit. Fewer private-sector employers offer the benefits, both private- and public-sector employers have been increasing retiree premiums and cost sharing, and workers are finding it harder to qualify for a subsidized benefit....

However, current legislative proposals will increase the cost to employers of offering retiree health benefits. If these proposals pass...private-sector employment-based retiree health benefits are practically certain to decline: They will be less valuable to retirees in the future, and employers will find they are not as necessary to offer in the future, dramatically reducing the number of retirees enrolled in employment-based plans.

Implications of Health Reform for Retiree Health Benefits< jan. 2010
      Issue Brief (pdf, 20pp/428kB)
      Executive Summary

Labels: ,