Big Data Improves Education Around the World

A recent article by the head of the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the World Bank Group, urged the responsible use of big data analytics to improve student learning around the world. IFC works in more than 100 developing countries supporting companies and financial institutions to create jobs and contribute to economic growth.  Supporting improved education is one of their strategic priority programs.

The IFC article highlighted several initiatives that they are supporting:

  • Bridge International Academies in Kenya uses adaptive learning on a large scale in its 259 nursery and primary schools, with monthly tuition averaging $6. By deploying two versions of a lesson at the same time in a large number of classrooms, Bridge can determine which lesson is most effective and then distributes that lesson throughout the rest of its network.
  • SABIS provides K-12 education in 15 countries including in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. It mines large data sets for more than 63,000 students, collecting more than 14 million data points on annual student academic performance that are used to shape instruction and achieve learning objectives.
  • Knewton is an adaptive learning platform that partners with companies like Pearson, Cengage, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Wiley to personalize digital courses using predictive analytics.

These uses of big data analytics will improve learning in developing countries and the IFC should take pride in its leadership role in spreading these techniques around the globe.

Some are concerned that the new use of data for improved learning threatens student privacy. As a recent Wall Street article says:

“Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to using data in schools isn’t technological, though. Rather, it’s the fear that doing so will invade the privacy of students.”

The IFC recognizes the concern and urges policymakers to get out in front of the issue and to design privacy protections into big data projects from the ground up to make sure that the information is used appropriately to support learning:

“To realize those benefits – and to do so responsibly – we must ensure that data collection is neither excessive nor inappropriate, and that it supports learning. The private sector, governments, and institutions such as the World Bank Group need to formulate rules for how critical information on student performance is gathered, shared, and used. Parents and students deserve no less.”

SIIA agrees.  As part of our effort to encourage privacy by design in the educational context, we recently published our recommended best practices for providers of educational services to schools, focusing on the need for an educational purpose, transparency, proper authorization and security in the use of student information.

The Administration’s review of privacy and big data is examining this issue in general and as it applies to student privacy.  We look forward to working with them to make sure that the promise of better learning for the world’s students is fulfilled through the responsible use of big data analytics.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology. Follow Mark on Twitter at @Mark_MacCarthy

New Revenue Ideas Align Well With SIPA 2014 Sessions

Here are 4 successful ideas I’ve come across lately.

1. Humor and video. “Hi, I’m Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France,” says Armstrong in a new Outside video, echoing the words we see on the screen. Then we hear a ding and an asterisk pops up after “Tour de France.” “Hey, I didn’t write the script,” he says. The video has him showing us how to fix a flat so he’s dressed like a bike mechanic. He finishes the relatively easy job and says with a little frustration, “Broke a sweat doing that.” Very clever.

The takeaway. Video can move mountains, or at least cyclists who had help getting up them. This would not have worked in any other medium. Also, humor is tough but when you can pull it off, the rewards are ample. Check out the session Leveraging Video at the SIPA 2014 Conference.

2. Sponsorships. The Chattanooga Times Free Press brought McDonald’s on board as a sponsor through their Kid’s Expo, and that “opened up other doors to new marketing budget revenue from McDonald’s,” according to an article on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. The Expo proved so successful that the paper launched a new kids magazine, with a 45,000 monthly press run, leveraging new readership and advertisers. Another side benefit Chattanooga is learning: “strengthen underperforming audiences.”

The takeaway. Be open and flexible for sponsorships. Mike Grebb of CableFax told me that they will accept a sponsorship for a special section or report—and even a suggestion from that sponsor for the topic—as long as that sponsor has no say in editorial. Donna Jefferson of Jefferson Communications and Cindy Mironovich of Family Magazine will present Finding and Expanding Your Ad and Sponsorships Program at SIPA 2014.

3. Free to build paid. Digiday recently reported on The New Yorker magazine’s strategy to sell more print subscriptions by bringing more people to the website. Said editor Nicholas Thompson: “What makes us money is taking someone who’s never read The New Yorker, showing them what it is, and convincing them that it’s such a great thing that they have to subscribe and read everything” The site now features the “Daily Cartoon,” a fun blog called “Page-Turner,” a more serious “Daily Comment” by a top staff writer, and a business column called “Currency.” The strategy has worked. “Unique visitors to averaged 3 million in 2013, thanks in large part to the site’s increased metabolism.”

The takeaway. Free content can lead to increased sales if it’s good and timely. Test with original snippets—on a daily basis—of what you do best. Season Crawford of Modern Markets Intelligence told me that their free strategy—informative headlines and well-written opening sentences leading to a paywall—has been quite successful. SIPA 2014 has a great speaker for From Free to Paid and Everything in Between: Helmut Graf, CEO of one of Germany’s largest publishing companies.

4. Data and digital. Rafat Ali, founder of Paid Content and more recently SIIA member Skift—a pioneering site for travel industry news—was recently featured in the popular Reflections of a Newsosaur blog. At SIIA’s Breakthrough, he showed his propensity to think big. By not using industry jargon, they “can syndicate for larger audiences” and speak “in a larger voice.” He spoke of new “mega trends” that have helped guide Skift. One is the blurring of our personal and professional lives. Ali called it the rise of “bleasure” travel—adding time to a business trip. A second is millennials being raised on open web services. They are demanding better usability for their business travel. And a third is the rise of the “prosumer” or “fan boy,” consumers who come to a vertical quite well-informed. “We speak to them in the lingo they know,” he said.

The takaeaway: Think 2014 and beyond. Skift has a data product they sell for $99 a month called SkiftIQ. They grade travel companies on their social marketing. They publish two premium research reports each month in a $99 package. And they sell high-CPM advertising. Two great data sessions are set for SIPA 2014—Informing Decisions With Data and Strategies to Grow Your Data Business.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009

SIIA in Comments to the FTC Urges Focus in Consumer Score Regulation on Prevention of Actual Harm

SIIA today submitted comments in response to the FTC’s Workshop on Alternative Scoring Products in conjunction with a press statement. The FTC’s March seminar focused on unpacking what’s going on in alternative scoring, the implications for privacy and consumer rights, and what – if anything – needs to be done. For a transcript of the proceedings, click here.

SIIA summarized its main comment on the proceedings as follows:

“The current statutory and regulatory framework seems to be adequate for addressing the issues raised by the use of predictive analytics in general and the use of consumer scores as described in the Commission’s March 19 workshop.”

It is SIIA’s view that the workshop did not reveal evidence of significant unregulated harmful acts or practices that could result from the use of consumer scores. Thus, in the absence of such evidence, the FTC should not contemplate additional privacy requirements for consumer scores.

That is not to say that the FTC should nothing. SIIA advocates monitoring the marketplace to ensure that,

  1. Strong and effective enforcement measures are taken against firms that violate current statutory or regulatory constraints, and
  2. To ascertain whether there are business practices that could lead to consumer harm, but are not addressed adequately within the current framework

SIIA is of the opinion that if the need for additional consumer protections is substantiated by compelling evidence, these protections should be undertaken at the stage of usage or implementation, rather than at the stages of data collection or analysis.

As an alternative to increased government regulation, companies need to take on a greater role in consumer protection. Such an accountability framework would shift the burden of responsibility for protecting consumers from harm, from the data subject to those entities that engage in collection, analysis and use of such data.

To read SIIA’s comments in full, click here.

Sabrina Eyob is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.

New Member Spotlight:

The diversity of SIIA’s members reflects the diverse nature of the industry. As new members join, a company profile is an excellent way of of introducing and giving potential candidates more information about their company. In January of this year, joined SIIA as a member and Founder, Mike Kratz, provided us with a look into the company.

Tell me about your company, what you do? is a privately held technology and information company that targets service provider costs for consumer services. Lowerfees provides cost analysis and comparative shopping around many components of localized consumer services.

Our database system and products operate as an end-to-end B2B2C marketplace for localized consumer related services. The approximately 30 different service types or categories within the Lowerfees platform include accounting, dry cleaning, senior care, veterinarians, real estate, hair salons, storage, electricians, plumbing, moving companies, etc. Our goal is to provide consumers with the most accurate cost data information for localized services within their local neighborhood service area.

Who does your company sell to?

LowerFees uses its technology to help consumers gain control of local pricing and data for consumer services. Lowerfees has a series of web-based analytic and information tools. These tools help consumers  identify specific, appropriate local service providers in order to compare the fees and pricing in their local marketplace. In addition to its database, Lowerfees provides:

1) A web portal designed to allow consumers to search the database for service providers of various types within a specific zip code based on distance and price.

2) Lead-generation tools allowing service providers to identify and contact prospective consumers wanting specific services in both the Lowerfees lead forum and the “Name Your Fees” tool.

3) Highly targeted web-advertising tools that allow service providers to place themselves in front of prospective consumers. Featured member ads that can be based upon geo-targeting or specific services offered.

What is unique about what you do?

Lowerfees has a robust proprietary database of local service providers. These service providers provide their individual pricing for specific services allowing consumers to shop and compare. This allows consumers to make smarter financial decisions. Lowerfees understands that reviews and star ratings are important but Lowerfees strongly believes consumers ultimately want to know price. The aspect of providing a cost lowest to highest based upon distance or geo-targeting is what differentiates Lowerfees.

Tell me about some unique challenges you have in your business and how you go about solving them.

One of the main challenges to our business is maintaining accurate and pertinent data. The small to medium size business represents a large portion of the economy. Lowerfees provides a solution for those businesses to grow and expand their market share. Our services help get in front of their local customers through the Lowerfees database. Maintaining and updating our database is a key factor to overcoming any obstacles that Lowerfees may encounter.

Any new or recent news you would like to announce?

We will be announcing some upcoming national media reports and interviews about the company and the data we provide. Lowerfees will be comparing the cost for consumer services for California and New York that will provide some unique data metrics.   I will provide those dates and media outlets once they are finalized.

What do you hope to get out of your SIIA membership?

SIIA has been very good for me. I was able to participate and present Lowerfees in 2007 and the company was acquired shortly after presenting to SIIA members and companies attending the 2007 conference. I use SIIA as a great resource for myself. SIIA affords entrepreneur’s a great opportunity and resource to get their company’s launched and exposed to multiple industries and recognizable strategic partners. SIIA provides amazing tools and information to assist anyone in an array of industries.

One thing the industry doesn’t know about you?

I try to do my part in making the world a better place. Entrepreneurs can always provide a positive impact.

Company URL?

Ways to contact you?

Iyana Moore is the Marketing and Membership Content Intern at SIIA. She is a recent graduate of Stevenson University, where she studied Business Communication.

Keys to Managing New Product Development and Fragmentation

SIIA’s Information Industry Network (IIN)—its European publishers division—recently put on the Digital Media Innovation Conference in London. Video interviews were conducted of some speakers and posted to the excellent and diverse SIIA blog. Here are summaries of three of those short interviews:

On managing fragmentation.
Cory Polonetsky, marketing director, Elsevier Science & Technology Books, presented a session titled Marketing to a Fragmented Audience, using as a reference module a product that his company just launched. Here are 3 ways they try to manage fragmentation:

1. “Customer segmentation. What are the problems our customers have? We’re making our customers’ problems our problems in order to better solve them.”
2. “Great storytelling. We’re all in the media industry telling lots of stories, on websites, on blogs, through our email, social media, events, the press. A lot of storytelling isn’t very good.”
3. “Customer-focused pricing. Customers want to buy in a certain way, and very often companies don’t give customers what they want. They price in a way that aligns to their processes, their sales team. We want to give customers what they want so we can overcome that fragmentation.”

Launching new products in a small-company setting.
Marc Hartog, CEO of Apptitude Media, shared his recent experiences developing smartphone-only publications and experimenting with multiple editions of the British Journal of Photography.

“Working for a small company, you wear lots of hats and have a lot of plates spinning, and obviously if it goes completely pear-shaped…[Let’s just say that possible scenario] focuses the mind, and everything feels a lot more personal. Getting new products to market, launching new things, trying new things and not being afraid to fail—having the mindset that actually failure’s fine, as long as you do it quickly and infrequently and inexpensively as possible.

“And you learn from it as well, and we have. We launched three new digital magazine products in the last 14 months, and in each of those there’s been an absolutely massive learning curve, and things have improved along the way. It’s not perfect yet; the most recent one was FLTR smartphone magazine that we launched in December, and we’ve learned a whole lot of lessons that we’ll fit into the next launch that we’re already working on. That ability to innovate and move quickly and shut things down if they’re not working is really, really key.”

Involving customers in new-product development.
Rebecca Clayton, CMO at EMAP, spoke about the process behind their recent launch of HSJ Intelligence. EMAP invited eight customers into their NPD process as build partners and co-creators, and they had a strong influence on the final product.

“There are two main lessons that we’ve learned. First, you have to get the research right before you embark on the innovation, and to do that, the second is to get your customers involved early on. We were able to convince some customers to join us in the build program. And that allowed us to improve the quality of the content of the data, the positioning of the product, and over time the launch of the product—which has enabled us to get significantly about 10 times value per subscriber of the core brand of HSJ itself.

“We actually secured [the customers] in September and launched in March of this year. We asked them to do an hour each every two weeks. There were eight partners so that added up to about 50 hours of collaborative time. {After their initial participation,] the product wasn’t unrecognizable but it was certainly significantly better in quality, content and deliverability. Also the usability of the product for the business development directors it was targeted to was significantly improved…[This was] better than any process I’ve been involved with in other organizations.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009

Intellectual Property Roundup

D.C. Court Decision is an Important Victory for Whistleblowers Who Report Piracy

SIIA announced that it has prevailed in its nine-year battle to protect the identity of an anonymous informant who reported an alleged copyright infringement to SIIA. This case is a critical victory for SIIA and its anti-piracy efforts for corporate whistleblowers generally. The nine-year battle, and eventual win, demonstrates the lengths SIIA will go to protect against the disclosure of the identity of those who allege piracy. Read the full announcement here.

Enforcement News 

Apple Declines to Fund Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures (GigaOM)
Intellectual Ventures is seeking a major new investment to expand its controversial patent trolling operations, but Apple has turned down an invitation to join Microsoft and Sony in backing a new IV patent acquisition fund.

RIAA Sues Megaupload Over Copyright Infringement (Ars Technica)
Just three days after the Motion Picture Association brought a civil lawsuit against Megaupload, the Recording Industry Association jumped in with its own case, bringing the number of lawsuits filed against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues to three.

Media, Rights Groups Urge Court to Revisit Takedown of Anti-Muslim YouTube Video(Ars Technica)
Several media groups and rights organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, have rallied behind Google to urge a federal appeals court to revisit its takedown order of an inflammatory anti-Muslim video on YouTube, saying the decision allows subjects of news events to control coverage.

Broadcasters Seek an Aereo ‘Plan B’ (The Wall Street Journal)
The nation’s largest television broadcasters are considering contingency plans in case they lose a high-stakes Supreme Court battle against online video startup Aereo Inc.

IP Policy News

Leahy Walks Tightrope on Senate Patent Bill (The Hill)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is hoping to advance a complex patent reform bill when the Senate returns from its two-week recess, but will have to balance the competing interests of Republicans and Democrats to get his bill across the finish line.

Keeping the Internet Free – For Now (The Wall Street Journal)
Less than a month after announcing its plan to relinquish control of ICANN, the White House is having second thoughts about surrendering America’s online oversight, following objections by Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican Senators, and critical congressional hearings.

Pirated Downloads Now Prohibited in the Netherlands (PC World)
The Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice has banned downloading pirated content following a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, finally making this illegal for people in the Netherlands.
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Digital Media Innovation Conference keynotes: the challenge of innovation in media

DMIC14 Colin Morrison

The environment for media businesses is now moving so fast that without innovating, we will quickly be left behind. The keynote speakers at the Digital Media Innovation Conference in London, organised by the Information Industry Network, explored why innovation is mandatory, and how to encourage and manage innovation in publishing and media businesses. Read on for some smart insights on nurturing innovation…

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