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Fresh-water scarcity prompts hunt for more from the air and sea – Modern Diplomacy

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Carlos Garcia foresees a world in which many millions of homes will get water out of thin air – literally.
Garcia is general manager of GENAQ, a Spanish company that makes devices known as atmospheric water generators. By condensing humidity in the air into usable water, such generators can help create much-needed supplies.
Supply crunch
Water, the source of life, is becoming increasingly scarce as the world’s population grows and climate change intensifies.
‘This is a problem we really need to tackle,’ said Garcia, whose company led the Horizon-funded STRATUS project to expand the market for atmospheric water generators.
According to the United Nations, 2.3 billion people – more than one in four – live in a ‘water-stressed’ country, which is defined as one that removes at least 25% of its fresh water every year to meet demand. And 4 billion people face severe water scarcity for at least one month a year.
In Europe, where global warming is already causing more frequent and severe droughts, scientists and businesses are developing new methods to generate fresh water from the air as well as the sea. The push is also driven by pollutants in underground water and the environmental cost of bottled water.
While GENAQ has been developing atmospheric water generators since 2008 and has customers in 60 countries, so far it has served mainly emergency services and industrial users.
Home use
Through STRATUS, the company developed a version designed for people at home. These new generators can be attached to houses and create fresh water for their inhabitants.
GENAQ wants to sell three versions of the product, ranging in amount from 20 litres a day to 200 litres and in size from a small kitchen appliance to a version that looks like an office water cooler. Anticipated prices range from €2 500 for the smallest version to €14 500 for the biggest.
‘The device takes air and filters it, ensuring there are no contaminants going into the condensation chamber,’ said Garcia.
First air is cooled to a point where water condenses. Then the water is filtered, minerals are added and it gets zapped with ultraviolet light to prevent bacteria forming.
GENAQ found a way to cut drastically the amount of energy used in the process – 150% less – and the average cost of portable water fell by more than 80%.
‘We have dedicated most of our efforts to efficiency,’ said Garcia.
But atmospheric water generators depend on something beyond GENAQ’s control: weather.
‘The best performance is in hot and humid climates,’ said Garcia. ‘Cold and dry environments don’t perform very well, but indoor conditions of houses are well suited for this solution.’
GENAQ is now aiming to supply everyday families with atmospheric water generators.
In the coming months, it plans to expand in European countries such as Spain, France and Germany where bottled-water consumption is high. A subsequent step is to break into the worldwide consumer market.   
Sea source
In Belgium, a company called HydroVolta is improving ways to take salty or brackish water and convert it into fresh water under the Horizon-funded SonixED project.
The vast majority of the earth’s water is saltwater. Only 3% is fresh water and less than one third of that is accessible, the rest being locked away in glaciers and groundwater.
‘We will need to treat saline water so people can drink it and industry can use it,’ said George Brik, chief executive officer of HydroVolta. ‘But with the current technologies, desalination requires high investments and high operational costs. On top of that, existing technology uses high amounts of energy and chemicals.’
Although desalination has taken place for years and usually features in countries with dry climates, increases in water scarcity are fuelling interest in the activity in other parts of the world including northern Europe. 
The basic technique to turn saltwater into fresh water is electrodialysis, where ions are transported through membranes to separate the salt from the water.
But the method has a weak point: the membrane, which gets dirty easily and requires chemicals and high pressure to clean. That in turn involves large amounts of energy.
Under SonixED, HydroVolta developed ultrasound technology that keeps the membrane clean in a much more efficient way.
Less pressure, more water
Energy use in this field depends on pressure, which is measured in a metric unit known as bar. Existing technologies to desalinate seawater take around 50 to 80 bar, according to Brik, who said the new HydroVolta technology uses just one to three bar.
Even better is that a greater amount of fresh water can now be generated, he said.
‘Existing technologies waste around 60 to 65% of the seawater that’s taken in,’ said Brik. ‘Our new technology inverts that percentage. If we take in 100 litres of seawater, we can produce 65 litres of drinkable water.’
HydroVolta wants to supply this technology to larger companies to generate drinkable water as well as to industrial players that need water to fuel their operations. The company is carrying out tests with several Belgian businesses to generate drinkable water from the North Sea.
Meanwhile, Brik says new desalination technologies may need a push from governments to spur broader demand.
‘They can be the first customers,’ he said. ‘This will help companies show the world what they have and scale up.’
Research in this article was funded by the EU. This material was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.   
Proposed Law Enforcement Principles on the Responsible Use of Facial Recognition Technology

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Today, the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), and the Netherlands police, published A Policy Framework for Responsible Limits on Facial Recognition Technology, Use Case: Law Enforcement Investigations.
While the adoption of facial recognition technology (FRT) has many socially beneficial uses in various industries, it also creates a unique set of challenges that require an appropriate governance process to ensure its ethical and human rights compliant use. To address these challenges, the World Economic Forum and project community published its initial vision for a policy framework for the responsible use of FRT in law enforcement investigations in 2021.
Following its launch, six law enforcement agencies undertook an exercise to pilot the policy framework in order to review and validate its utility and completeness. Drawing from the feedback and learnings of the pilots, the new insight report highlights key principles such as respect for human and fundamental rights, necessary and proportional use, mitigation of error and bias, and transparency. It also includes a self-assessment questionnaire used to support law enforcement agencies in effectively implementing these the proposed principles for responsible facial recognition use. Through a series of questions, it prompts agencies to reflect on their governance systems and their use of FRT in terms of the stated principles.
“This report shows the depth and breadth of how the Forum is able to bring multiple stakeholders together to find solutions to the most difficult technological challenges of our time. We are delighted to have created a document which is already being adopted by others for their governance regimes and by our Partners in the work,” said Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum. “Now we encourage others around the world to adopt regulations or best practices reflecting this work.”
The International Organization for Standardization – ISO/IEC JTC1 SC37 – is currently developing a standard titled “Biometric identification systems involving passive capture subjects.” The endeavour is intended to support the implementation of the proposed European Union (EU) AI Act. The standard will provide guidance and requirements for providers of biometric systems labelled as “high risks: in the draft EU AI Act and will include some of the recommendations from the framework on the responsible use of facial recognition technology for law enforcement investigations developed by the World Economic Forum, INTERPOL, UNICRI and the Netherlands Police.
“We have co-designed this framework to serve as a unique reference to law enforcement in our 195 member countries on the responsible and transparent use of facial recognition”, said Cyril Gout, Director of Operational Support and Analysis, INTERPOL. “We will support its implementation through our global police network to increase awareness of this important biometric technology. More than 2,000 terrorists, criminals, fugitives, persons of interest or missing persons have been identified since the launch of INTERPOL’s facial recognition system in 2016.”
A total of six law enforcement agencies from five countries participated in the piloting the framework: the Brazilian Federal Police, the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police in France, the National Gendarmerie in France, the Netherlands Police, the New Zealand Police, and the Swedish Police Authority. These agencies deliberated upon the policy framework for four months before completing the self-assessment questionnaire and providing their feedback of its utility and completeness.
“We are particularly proud of the policy framework for the use of facial recognition technology and are confident it will help law enforcement agencies to ensure their use of this technology respects fundamental and human rights. As it now goes out into the world, we and our partners in the Forum, INTERPOL and the Netherlands Police stand ready to support law enforcement agencies to implement its principles. This can also be a valuable resource for the general public and we encourage all those interested in, or concerned by, this technology to reflect on it.” said Irakli Beridze, Head, UNICRI Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
As the framework now enters the next phase of its lifecycle, the project team encourages those engaged in the global policy debate about the governance of facial recognition technology to join in these efforts and to promote the adoption and deployment of governance frameworks such as this.
At a glance, you might mistake the three-stall, white and green EV Plugin station in downtown Kigali for a collection of petrol pumps. This, however, is a charging station for electric vehicles (EVs), one of nearly 200 in the Rwandan capital.
Capable of charging both cars and motorcycles, the station in many ways symbolizes Rwanda’s hopes of becoming an electric vehicle powerhouse.
The country of 13 million has in recent years introduced tax breaks for EV buyers, cultivated local electric vehicle makers and unveiled ambitious plans to electrify public buses. The changes are part of the country’s efforts to curb rising air pollution and cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change. 
“E-mobility is one of the transport decarbonization initiatives the government has undertaken,” says François Zirikana, an e-mobility specialist with the City of Kigali. “Other initiatives include Kigali bike share scheme as well as car-free zones and car-free days.”
Close to 900 locally made electric vehicles now ply Rwanda’s roads, including motorbikes from startup Ampersand. Major global manufacturers have also targeted the country, which was home to the first electric Volkswagen in Africa. As well, electric trucks  have been used to deliver essentials in rural areas.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has supported Rwanda’s shift to electric vehicles, working with government officials to speed the rollout of electric motorbikes and three-wheelers. The work in Rwanda is part of a broader UNEP effort to limit air pollution, which kills an estimated 7 million people a year, many in developing countries.
UNEP’s Electric Mobility Programme supports more than 50 low-and-middle-income countries with the shift from fossil fuel to electric vehicles through projects such as the SOLUTIONS+ project implemented by the Urban Electric Mobility Initiative.
“To meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement and to reduce increasing air pollution, it is essential that low- and middle-income countries are part of a global shift to zero emissions electric mobility,” says Rob de Jong, the head of the sustainable mobility unit at UNEP.
In order to accelerate the e-mobility uptake, the Government of Rwanda has put in place several strategies to serve as incentives. These include the introduction of lower electricity tariffs for electric vehicle charging as well as the exemption of duties for electric vehicles and their accessories.
“The government also plans to introduce a carbon tax to discourage polluting vehicles, impose a five-year age limit for imported second-hand cars and enforce existing emission measures to discourage the purchase of polluting vehicles,” says Zirikana. 
According to the Rwandan government, the cost of transitioning to e-mobility and the adoption of electric vehicles will be US $900 million. However, ​​transitioning to electric motorcycles alone, which is an important mode of transport, would save the Rwandan economy US $22 million in fuel imports every year.
It would also take a sizeable bite out of the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving the climate crisis. According to the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, road transport contributes to 13 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
By 2030, Rwanda is aiming to have 20 per cent of buses, 30 per cent of motorcycles and 8 per cent of cars electrified.
Globally, the transport industry is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to produce more than 30 per cent of those gases in the future. It is also a leading emitter of short-lived climate pollutants and it contributes greatly to air pollution.
In collaboration with partners, UNEP is supporting African countries including Rwanda, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa, adopt soot-free public transportation through the introduction of electric buses as well as two- and three-wheelers.
Building upon its successful campaign to eliminate leaded petrol and reduce sulfur levels in diesel fuels, UNEP is supporting countries in developing strategic roadmaps and conducting feasibility assessments to establish the groundwork for a low-carbon future for public transportation.
While Rwanda is among the first African countries to embrace e-mobility, Zirikana explains that the country is still facing challenges with uptake due to issues, such as the relatively high cost of new e-vehicles, inadequate public charging infrastructure and a technical skills gap.
“The government is, however, endeavouring to address these challenges through various incentives, such as tax exemptions, as well as working with local e-mobility operators to provide training to the youth,” he says.
Have you considered using a cloud-based learning management system (LMS) to host your e-learning programs? Cloud-based LMSs like Cloud Academy enable you to provide your faculty and employees with flexible, cost-effective, and productive eLearning with minimal start-up expenses, regular upgrades, quick installation capabilities, and better security. In essence, they satisfy the needs of today’s organizations while saving money and time.
So, here are some ways a cloud-based learning management system might assist your organization:
It is simple to install and maintain
Cloud-based LMSs are simple to set up and manage. This will help you get rid of a dedicated team of IT specialists installing, administering, and updating heavy software that earlier used to be present. With cloud-based LMSs, your provider may administer the platform quickly and remotely, add new features, and integrate and adapt it to meet your needs.
It leads to improved data security
Any user’s main goal is to keep confidential data secure while providing training or acquiring new skills. However, connecting with partners via social networking sites does not provide security because they lack the necessary instruments. But, users can share crucial information and knowledge safely using a Cloud LMS. It is safer to use as it is hosted on secure servers.
It is expandable.
A cloud-based LMS is a smart long-term investment for any organization, large or small because it is easily expandable to meet an increasing number of learners. They also allow you to manage and push certain users to ensure that everyone receives the online training they require when they need it.
It can change with changing needs
Whether you are a huge corporation or a budding startup, investing in a cloud-based LMS might be a wise long-term move. Cloud-based learning management systems are simply scalable and can support an increasing number of students. Your LMS supplier can assist you in meeting rising demand without the inconvenience of purchasing and installing new software.
It is easy to maintain.
In general, IT professionals use the Cloud LMS. It implies you don’t have to worry about normal technological problems or other operational issues that might come with new technologies. It also accommodates ongoing modifications and new features to ensure that the training remains effective. Users will receive all essential notifications, updates, and additional features on time, making it easier for businesses to administer LMS and devote IT resources to other critical aspects.
It aids in the streamlining of training.
Your whole training program, including course distribution, enrollment, projects, course completions, and more, maybe automated with a cloud-based solution. Cloud-based LMSs that are user-friendly encourage learning by providing learners with quick access to training materials from anywhere at any time.
It enables learning through collaboration
A cloud-based LMS is ideal for a geographically distributed workforce. Employees from all locations can access learning programs from a centralized pool online, maintaining consistency and easy content distribution and analysis across geographies. With a cloud-based LMS, you can also explore providing free localized learning solutions for employees who speak a different language(s).
It provides more storage space.
Owing to a cloud-based LMS, there is no need to save information on PCs or other devices because any data, including images and content, may be uploaded immediately to the LMS. The data can be easily shared remotely. Furthermore, it will not be lost due to faulty hard drives or permanently removed computer information.
Its operation does not necessitate management.
A cloud-based Learning Management System eliminates the need for software installation on your firm’s hardware system. Instead, the Learning Management System provider manages the software, so you just have to log in, produce your course material, and manage course distribution.
Cloud-based Learning Management Systems can improve your eLearning program by allowing you to administer your training and development from anywhere in the globe using only an internet-connected device, putting your firm ahead of the competition.
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