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Cybersecurity has always been a concern for every type of organization. Even in normal times, a major breach is more than just the data economy’s equivalent of a ram-raid on Fort Knox; it has knock-on effects on trust, reputation, confidence, and the viability of some technologies. This is what IBM calls the “haunting effect”.

A successful attack breeds more, of course, both on the same organization again, and on others in similar businesses, or in those that use the same compromised systems. The unspoken effect of this is rising costs for everyone, as all enterprises are forced to spend money and time on checking if they have been affected too.

But in our new world of COVID-19, disrupted economies, climate change, remote working, soaring inflation, and looming recession, all such effects are all amplified. Throw in a war that’s hammering on Europe’s door (with political echoes across the Middle East and Asia) and it’s a wonder any of us can get out of bed in the morning.

So, what are the real costs of a successful cyberattack – not just hacks, viruses, and Trojans, but also phishing, ransomware, and concerted campaigns against supply chains and code repositories?

According to IBM’s latest annual survey, breach costs have risen by an unlucky 13% over the past two years, as attackers, which include hostile states, have probed the systemic and operational weaknesses exposed by the pandemic.

The global average cost of a data breach has reached an all-time high of $4.35 million – at least, among the 550 organizations surveyed by the Ponemon Institute for IBM Security (over a year from March 2021). Indeed, IBM goes so far as to claim that breaches may be contributing to the rising costs of goods and services. The survey states:

Sixty percent of studied organizations raised their product or services prices due to the breach, when the cost of goods is already soaring worldwide amid inflation and supply chain issues.

Incidents are also “haunting” organizations, says the company, with 83% having experienced more than one data breach, and with 50% of costs occurring more than a year after the successful attack.

Cloud maturity is a key factor, adds the report:

Forty-three percent of studied organizations are in the early stages [of cloud adoption] or have not started applying security practices across their cloud environments, observing over $660,000 in higher breach costs, on average, than studied organizations with mature security across their cloud environments.

Forty-five percent of respondents run a hybrid cloud infrastructure. This leads to lower average breach costs than among those operating a public- or private-cloud model: $3.8 million versus $5.02 million (public) and $4.24 million (private).

That said, those are still significant costs, and may suggest that complexity is what deters attackers, rather than having a single target to hit. Nonetheless, hybrid cloud adopters are able to identify and contain data breaches 15 days faster on average, says the report.

However, with 277 days being the average time lag – an extraordinary figure – the real lesson may be that today’s enterprise systems are adept at hiding security breaches, which may appear as normal network traffic. Forty-five percent of breaches occurred in the cloud, says the report, so it is clearly imperative to get on top of security in that domain.

IBM then makes the following bold claim :

Participating organizations fully deploying security AI and automation incurred $3.05 million less on average in breach costs compared to studied organizations that have not deployed the technology – the biggest cost saver observed in the study.

Whether this finding will stand for long as attackers explore new ways to breach automated and/or AI-based systems – and perhaps automate attacks of their own invisibly – remains to be seen. Compromised digital employee, anyone?

Global systems at risk

But perhaps the most telling finding is that cybersecurity has a political dimension – beyond the obvious one of Russian, Chinese, North Korean, or Iranian state incursions, of course.

Concerns over critical infrastructure and global supply chains are rising, with threat actors seeking to disrupt global systems that include financial services, industrial, transportation, and healthcare companies, among others.

A year ago in the US, the Biden administration issued an Executive Order on cybersecurity that focused on the urgent need for zero-trust systems. Despite this, only 21% of critical infrastructure organizations have so far adopted a zero-trust security model, according to the report. It states:

Almost 80% of the critical infrastructure organizations studied don’t adopt zero-trust strategies, seeing average breach costs rise to $5.4 million – a $1.17 million increase compared to those that do. All while 28% of breaches among these organizations were ransomware or destructive attacks.

Add to that, 17% of breaches at critical infrastructure organizations were caused due to a business partner being initially compromised, highlighting the security risks that over-trusting environments pose.

That aside, one of the big stories over the past couple of years has been the rise of ransomware: malicious code that locks up data, enterprise systems, or individual computers, forcing users to pay a ransom to (they hope) retrieve their systems or data.

But according to IBM, there are no obvious winners or losers in this insidious practice. The report adds:

Businesses that paid threat actors’ ransom demands saw $610,000 less in average breach costs compared to those that chose not to pay – not including the ransom amount paid.

However, when accounting for the average ransom payment – which according to Sophos reached $812,000 in 2021 – businesses that opt to pay the ransom could net higher total costs, all while inadvertently funding future ransomware attacks.”

The persistence of ransomware is fuelled by what IBM calls the “industrialization of cybercrime”.

The risk profile is also changing. Ransomware attack times show a massive drop of 94% over the past three years, from over two months to just under four days. Good news? Not at all, says the report, as the attacks may be higher impact, with more immediate consequences (such as destroyed data, or private data being made public on hacker forums).

My take

The key lesson in cybersecurity today is that all of us are both upstream and downstream from partners, suppliers, and customers in today’s extended enterprises. We are also at the mercy of reused but compromised code from trusted repositories, and even sometimes from hardware that has been compromised at source.

So, what is the answer? Businesses should ensure that their incident responses are tested rigorously and frequently in advance – along with using red-, blue-, or purple-team approaches (thinking like a hacker, a defender, or both).

Regrettably, IBM says that 37% of organizations that have IR plans in place fail to test them regularly. To paraphrase Spinal Tap, you can’t code for stupid.

Wed, 27 Jul 2022 20:21:00 -0500 BRAINSUM en text/html https://diginomica.com/cybersecurity-whats-real-cost-ask-ibm
Killexams : Biden wants an industrial renaissance. He can’t do it without immigration reform.

JOHNSTOWN, Ohio — Just 15 minutes outside of downtown Columbus, the suburbs abruptly evaporate. Past a bizarre mix of soybean fields, sprawling office parks and lonely clapboard churches is a field where the Biden administration — with help from one of the world’s largest tech companies — hopes to turn the U.S. into a hub of microchip manufacturing.

In his State of the Union address in March, President Joe Biden called this 1,000-acre spread of corn stalks and farmhouses a “field of dreams.” Within three years, it will house two Intel-operated chip facilities together worth $20 billion — and Intel is promising to invest $80 billion more now that Washington has sweetened the deal with subsidies. It’s all part of a nationwide effort to head off another microchip shortage, shore up the free world’s advanced industrial base in the face of a rising China and claw back thousands of high-end manufacturing jobs from Asia.

But even as Biden signs into law more than $52 billion in “incentives” designed to lure chipmakers to the U.S., an unusual alliance of industry lobbyists, hard-core China hawks and science advocates says the president’s dream lacks a key ingredient — a small yet critical core of high-skilled workers. It’s a politically troubling irony: To achieve the long-sought goal of returning high-end manufacturing to the United States, the country must, paradoxically, attract more foreign workers.

“For high-tech industry in general — which of course, includes the chip industry — the workforce is a huge problem,” said Julia Phillips, a member of the National Science Board. “It’s almost a perfect storm.”

From electrical engineering to computer science, the U.S. currently does not produce enough doctorates and master’s degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math fields who can go on to work in U.S.-based microchip plants. Decades of declining investments in STEM education means the U.S. now produces fewer native-born recipients of advanced STEM degrees than most of its international rivals.

Foreign nationals, including many educated in the U.S., have traditionally filled that gap. But a bewildering and anachronistic immigration system, historic backlogs in visa processing and rising anti-immigrant sentiment have combined to choke off the flow of foreign STEM talent precisely when a fresh surge is needed.

Powerful members of both parties have diagnosed the problem and floated potential fixes. But they have so far been stymied by the politics of immigration, where a handful of lawmakers stand in the way of reforms few are willing to risk their careers to achieve. With a short window to attract global chip companies already starting to close, a growing chorus is warning Congress they’re running out of time.

“These semiconductor investments won’t pay off if Congress doesn’t fix the talent bottleneck,” said Jeremy Neufeld, a senior immigration fellow at the Institute for Progress think tank.

Given the hot-button nature of immigration fights, the chip industry has typically been hesitant to advocate directly for reform. But as they pump billions of dollars into U.S. projects and contemplate far more expensive plans, a sense of urgency is starting to outweigh that reluctance.

“We are seeing greater and greater numbers of our employees waiting longer and longer for green cards,” said David Shahoulian, Intel’s head of workforce policy. “At some point it will become even more difficult to attract and retain folks. That will be a problem for us; it will be a problem for the rest of the tech industry.”

“At some point, you’ll just see more offshoring of these types of positions,” Shahoulian said.

A Booming Technology

Microchips (often called “semiconductors” by wonkier types) aren’t anything new. Since the 1960s, scientists — working first for the U.S. government and later for private industry — have tacked transistors onto wafers of silicon or other semiconducting materials to produce computer circuits. What has changed is the power and ubiquity of these chips.

The number of transistors researchers can fit on a chip roughly doubles every two years, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law. In latest years, that has led to absurdly powerful chips bristling with transistors — IBM’s latest chip packs them at two-nanometer intervals into a space roughly the size of a fingernail. Two nanometers is thinner than a strand of human DNA, or about how long a fingernail grows in two seconds.

A rapid boost in processing power stuffed into ever-smaller packages led to the information technology boom of the 1990s. And things have only accelerated since — microchips remain the primary driver of advances in smartphones and missiles, but they’re also increasingly integrated into household appliances like toaster ovens, thermostats and toilets. Even the most inexpensive cars on the market now contain hundreds of microchips, and electric or luxury vehicles are loaded with thousands.

It all adds up to a commodity widely viewed as the bedrock of the new digital economy. Like fossil fuels before them, any country that controls the production of chips possesses key advantages on the global stage.

Until fairly recently, the U.S. was one of those countries. But while chips are still largely designed in America, its capacity to produce them has declined precipitously. Only 12 percent of the world’s microchip production takes place in the U.S., down from 37 percent in 1990. That percentage declines further when you exclude “legacy” chips with wider spaces between transistors — the vast majority of bleeding-edge chips are manufactured in Taiwan, and most factories not found on that island reside in Asian nations like South Korea, China and Japan.

For a long time, few in Washington worried about America’s flagging chip production. Manufacturing in the U.S. is expensive, and offshoring production to Asia while keeping R&D stateside was a good way to cut costs.

Two things changed that calculus: the Covid-19 pandemic and rising tensions between the U.S. and China.

Abrupt work stoppages sparked by viral spread in Asia sent shockwaves through finely tuned global supply chains. The flow of microchips ceased almost overnight, and then struggled to restart under new Covid surges and ill-timed extreme weather events. Combined with a spike in demand for microelectronics (sparked by generous government payouts to citizens stuck at home), the manufacturing stutter kicked off a chip shortage from which the world is still recovering.

Even before the pandemic, growing animosity between Washington and Beijing caused officials to question the wisdom of ceding chip production to Asia. China’s increasingly bellicose threats against Taiwan caused some to conjure up nightmare scenarios of an invasion or blockade that would sever the West from its supply of chips. The Chinese government was also pouring billions of dollars into a crash program to boost its own lackluster chip industry, prompting fears that America’s top foreign adversary could one day corner the market.

By 2020 the wheels had begun to turn on Capitol Hill. In January 2021, lawmakers passed as part of their annual defense bill the CHIPS for America Act, legislation authorizing federal payouts for chip manufacturers. But they then struggled to finance those subsidies. Although they quickly settled on more than $52 billion for chip manufacturing and research, lawmakers had trouble decoupling those sweeteners from sprawling anti-China “competitiveness” bills that stalled for over a year.

But those subsidies, as well as new tax credits for the chip industry, were finally sent to Biden’s desk in late July. Intel isn’t the only company that’s promised to supercharge U.S. projects once that money comes through — Samsung, for example, is suggesting it will expand its new $17 billion chip plant outside of Austin, Texas, to a nearly $200 billion investment. Lawmakers are already touting the subsidies as a key step toward an American renaissance in high-tech manufacturing.

Quietly, however, many of those same lawmakers — along with industry lobbyists and national security experts — fear all the chip subsidies in the world will fall flat without enough high-skilled STEM workers. And they accuse Congress of failing to seize multiple opportunities to address the problem.

STEM help wanted

In Columbus, just miles from the Johnstown field where Intel is breaking ground, most officials don’t mince words: The tech workers needed to staff two microchip factories, let alone eight, don’t exist in the region at the levels needed.

“We’re going to need a STEM workforce,” admitted Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican lieutenant governor.

But Husted and others say they’re optimistic the network of higher ed institutions spread across Columbus — including Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College — can beef up the region’s workforce fast.

“I feel like we’re built for this,” said David Harrison, president of Columbus State Community College. He highlighted the repeated refrain from Intel officials that 70 percent of the 3,000 jobs needed to fill the first two factories will be “technician-level” jobs requiring two-year associate degrees. “These are our jobs,” Harrison said.

Harrison is anxious, however, over how quickly he and other leaders in higher ed are expected to convince thousands of students to sign up for the required STEM courses and join Intel after graduation. The first two factories are slated to be fully operational within three years, and will need significant numbers of workers well before then. He said his university still lacks the requisite infrastructure for instruction on chip manufacturing — “we’re missing some wafer processing, clean rooms, those kinds of things” — and explained that funding recently provided by Intel and the National Science Foundation won’t be enough. Columbus State will need more support from Washington.

“I don’t know that there’s a great Plan B right now,” said Harrison, adding that the new facilities will run into “the tens of millions.”

A lack of native STEM talent isn’t unique to the Columbus area. Across the country, particularly in regions where the chip industry is planning to relocate, officials are fretting over a perceived lack of skilled technicians. In February, the Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation cited a shortage of skilled workers when announcing a six-month delay in the move-in date for their new plant in Arizona.

“Whether it’s a licensure program, a two-year program or a Ph.D., at all levels, there is a shortfall in high-tech STEM talent,” said Phillips. The NSB member highlighted the “missing millions of people that are not going into STEM fields — that basically are shut out, even beginning in K-12, because they’re not exposed in a way that attracts them to the field.”

Industry groups, like the National Association of Manufacturers, have long argued a two-pronged approach is necessary when it comes to staffing the high-tech sector: Reevaluating immigration policy while also investing heavily in workforce development

The abandoned House and Senate competitiveness bills both included provisions that would have enhanced federal support for STEM education and training. Among other things, the House bill would have expanded Pell Grant eligibility to students pursuing career-training programs.

“We have for decades incentivized degree attainment and not necessarily skills attainment,” said Robyn Boerstling, NAM’s vice president of infrastructure, innovation and human resources policy. “There are manufacturing jobs today that could be filled with six weeks of training, or six months, or six years; we need all of the above.”

But those provisions were scrapped, after Senate leadership decided a conference between the two chambers on the bills was too unwieldy to reach agreement before the August recess.

Katie Spiker, managing director of government affairs at National Skills Coalition, said the abandoned Pell Grant expansion shows Congress “has not responded to worker needs in the way that we need them to.” Amid criticisms that the existing workforce development system is unwieldy and ineffective, the decision to scrap new upgrades is a continuation of a trend of disinvesting in workers who hope to obtain the skills they need to meet employer demand.

“And it becomes an issue that only compounds itself over time,” Spiker said. “As technology changes, people need to change and evolve their skills.”

“If we’re not getting people skilled up now, then we won’t have people that are going to be able to evolve and skill up into the next generation of manufacturing that we’ll do five years from now.”

Congress finally sent the smaller Chips and Science Act — which includes the chip subsidies and tax credits, $200 million to develop a microchip workforce and a slate of R&D provisions — to the president’s desk in late July. The bill is expected to enhance the domestic STEM pool (at least on the margins). But it likely falls short of the generational investments many believe are needed.

“You could make some dent in it in six years,” said Phillips. “But if you really want to solve the problem, it’s closer to a 20-year investment. And the ability of this country to invest in anything for 20 years is not phenomenal.”

Immigration Arms Race

The microchip industry is in the midst of a global reshuffling that’s expected to last a better part of the decade — and the U.S. isn’t the only country rolling out the red carpet. Europe, Canada, Japan and other regions are also worried about their security, and preparing sweeteners for microchip firms to set up shop in their borders. Cobbling together an effective STEM workforce in a short time frame will be key to persuading companies to choose America instead.

That will be challenging at the technician level, which represents around 70 percent of workers in most microchip factories. But those jobs require only two-year degrees — and over a six-year period, it’s possible a sustained education and recruitment effort can produce enough STEM workers to at least keep the lights on.

It’s a different story entirely for Ph.D.s and master’s degrees, which take much longer to earn and which industry reps say make up a smaller but crucial component of a factory’s workforce.

Gabriela González, Intel’s head of global STEM research, policy and initiatives, said about 15 percent of factory workers must have doctorates or master’s degrees in fields such as material and electrical engineering, computer science, physics and chemistry. Students coming out of American universities with those degrees are largely foreign nationals — and increasingly, they’re graduating without an immigration status that lets them work in the U.S., and with no clear pathway to achieving that status.

A National Science Board estimate from earlier this year shows a steadily rising proportion of foreign-born students with advanced STEM skills. That’s especially true for degrees crucial to the chip industry — nearly 60 percent of computer science Ph.D.s are foreign born, as are more than 50 percent of engineering doctorates.

“We are absolutely reliant on being able to hire foreign nationals to fill those needs,” said Intel’s Shahoulian. Like many in the chip industry, Shaoulian contends there simply aren’t enough high-skilled STEM professionals with legal status to simultaneously serve America’s existing tech giants and an influx of microchip firms.

Some academics, such as Howard University’s Ron Hira, suggest the shortage of workers with STEM degrees is overblown, and industry simply seeks to import cheaper, foreign-born labor. But that view contrasts with those held by policymakers on Capitol Hill or people in the scientific and research communities. In a report published in late July by the Government Accountability Office, all 17 of the experts surveyed agreed the lack of a high-skilled STEM workforce was a barrier to new microchip projects in the U.S. — and most said some type of immigration reform would be needed.

Many, if not most, of the foreign nationals earning advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities would prefer to stay and work in the country. But America’s immigration system is turning away these workers in record numbers — and at the worst possible time.

Ravi (not his real name, given his tenuous immigration status) is an Indian national. Nearly three years ago, he graduated from a STEM master’s program at a prestigious eastern university before moving to California to work as a design verification lead at an international chip company. He’s applied three times for an H-1B visa, a high-skilled immigration program used extensively by U.S. tech companies. But those visas are apportioned via a lottery, and Ravi lost each time. His current visa only allows him to work through the end of year — so Ravi is giving up and moving to Canada, where he’s agreed to take a job with another chip company. Given his skill set, he expects to quickly receive permanent legal status.

“The application process is incredibly simple there,” said Ravi, noting that Canadian officials were apologetic over their brief 12-week processing time (they’re swamped by refugee applications, he said).

If given the choice, Ravi said he would’ve probably stayed in California. But his story now serves as a cautionary tale for his younger brother back home. “Once he sort of completed his undergrad back in India, he did mention that he is looking at more immigration-friendly countries,” Ravi said. “He’s giving Canada more thought, at this point, than the United States.”

Ravi’s story is far from unique, particularly for Indian nationals. The U.S. imposes annual per-country caps on green cards — and between a yearly crush of applicants and a persistent processing backlog, Indians (regardless of their education or skill level) can expect to wait as long as 80 years for permanent legal status. A report released earlier this year by the libertarian Cato Institute found more than 1.4 million skilled immigrants are now stuck in green card backlogs, just a slight drop from 2020’s all-time high of more than 1.5 million.

The third rail of U.S. politics

The chip industry has shared its anxiety over America’s slipping STEM workforce with Washington, repeatedly asking Congress to make it easier for high-skilled talent to stay. But unlike their lobbying for subsidies and tax breaks — which has gotten downright pushy at times — they’ve done so very quietly. While chip lobbyists have spent months telling anyone who will listen why the $52 billion in financial incentives are a “strategic imperative,” they’ve only recently been willing to discuss their immigration concerns on the record.

In late July, nine major chip companies planned to send an open letter to congressional leadership warning that the shortage of high-skilled STEM workers “has truly never been more acute” and urging lawmakers to “enact much-needed green card reforms.” But the letter was pulled at the last minute, after some companies worried about wading into a tense immigration debate at the wrong time.

Leaders in the national security community have been less shy. In May, more than four dozen former officials sent a leader to congressional leadership urging them to shore up America’s slipping immigration edge before Chinese technology leapfrogs ours. “With the world’s best STEM talent on its side, it will be very hard for America to lose,” they wrote. “Without it, it will be very hard for America to win.”

The former officials exhorted lawmakers to take up and pass provisions in the House competitiveness bill that would’ve lifted green card caps for foreign nationals with STEM Ph.D.s or master’s degrees. It’d be a relatively small number of people — a February study from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology suggested the chip industry would only need around 3,500 foreign-born workers to effectively staff new U.S.-based factories.

“This is such a small pool of people that there’s already an artificial cap on it,” said Klon Kitchen, a senior fellow focused on technology and national security at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Kitchen suggested the Republican Party’s wariness toward immigration shouldn’t apply to these high-skilled workers, and some elected Republicans agree. Sen. John Cornyn, whose state of Texas is poised to gain from the expansion of chip plants outside Austin, took up the torch — and almost immediately got burned.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s senior Republican senator, blocked repeated attempts by Cornyn, Democrats and others to include the green card provision in the final competitiveness package. Finding relief for a small slice of the immigrant community, Grassley reasoned, “weakens the possibility to get comprehensive immigration reform down the road.” He refused to budge even after Biden administration officials warned him of the national security consequences in a classified June 16 briefing, which was convened specifically for him. The effort has been left for dead (though a push to shoehorn a related provision into the year-end defense bill is ongoing).

Many of Grassley’s erstwhile allies are frustrated with his approach. “We’ve been talking about comprehensive immigration reform for how many decades?” asked Kitchen, who said he’s “not inclined” to let America’s security concerns “tread water in the background” while Congress does nothing to advance broader immigration bills.

Most Republicans in Congress agree with Kitchen. But so far it’s Cornyn, not Grassley, who’s paid a price. After helping broker a deal on gun control legislation in June, Cornyn was attacked by Breitbart and others on his party’s right flank for telling a Democratic colleague immigration would be next.

“Immigration is one of the most contentious issues here in Congress, and we’ve shown ourselves completely incapable of dealing with it on a rational basis,” Cornyn said in July. The senator said he’d largely given up on persuading Grassley to abandon his opposition to new STEM immigration provisions. “I would love to have a conversation about merit-based immigration,” Cornyn said. “But I don’t think, under the current circumstances, that’s possible.”

Cornyn blamed that in part on the far right’s reflexive outrage to any easing of immigration restrictions. “Just about anything you say or do will get you in trouble around here these days,” he said.

Given that reality, few Republicans are willing to stick their necks out on the issue.

“If you look at the messaging coming out of [the National Republican Senatorial Committee] or [the Republican Attorneys General Association], it’s all ‘border, border, border,’” said Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition. Shi said even moderate Republicans hesitate to publicly advance arguments “championing these sensible visas for Ph.D. STEM talents for integrated circuits for semiconductors.”

“They’re like … ‘I can’t say those phrases until after the elections,’” Shi said.

That skittishness extends to state-level officials — Ohio’s Husted spent some time expounding on the benefits of “bringing talented people here to do the work in America, rather than having companies leave America to have it done somewhere else.” He suggested that boosting STEM immigration would be key to Intel’s success in his state. But when asked whether he’s taken that message to Ohio’s congressional delegation — after all, he said he’d been pestering them to pass the chip subsidies — Husted hedged.

“My job is to do all I can for the people of the state of Ohio. There are other people whose job it is to message those other things,” Husted said. “But if asked, you heard what my answer is.”

Of course, Republicans also pin some of the blame on Democrats. “The administration ignores the fire at the border and the chaos there, which makes it very hard to have a conversation about controlling immigration flows,” Cornyn said.

And while Democratic lawmakers reject that specific concern, some admit their side hasn’t prioritized STEM immigration as it should.

“Neither team has completely clean hands,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Warner noted that Democrats have also sought to hold back STEM immigration fixes as “part of a sweetener” so that business-friendly Republicans would in turn back pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He also dinged the chip companies, claiming the issue is “not always as straightforward” as the industry would like to frame it and that tech companies sometimes hope to pay less for foreign-born talent.

But Warner still supports the effort to lift green card caps for STEM workers. “Without that high-skilled immigration, it’s not like those jobs are going to disappear,” he said. “They’re just gonna move to another country.”

And despite their rhetoric, it’s hard to deny that congressional Republicans are largely responsible for continued inaction on high-skilled immigration — even as their allies in the national security space become increasingly insistent.

Stuck on STEM immigration

Though they’ve had to shrink their ambitions, lawmakers working to lift green card caps for STEM immigrants haven’t given up. A jurisdictional squabble between committees in July prevented advocates from including in the House’s year-end defense bill a provision that would’ve nixed the caps for Ph.D.s in “critical” STEM fields. They’re now hoping to shoehorn the provision into the Senate’s defense bill instead, and have tapped Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina as their champion in the upper chamber.

But Tillis is already facing pushback from the right. And despite widespread support, few truly believe there’s enough momentum to overcome Grassley and a handful of other lawmakers willing to block any action.

“Most members on both sides recognize that this is a problem they need to resolve,” said Intel’s Shahoulian. “They’re just not at a point yet where they’re willing to compromise and take the political hits that come with it.”

The global chip industry is moving in the meantime. While most companies are still planning to set up shop in the U.S. regardless of what happens with STEM immigration, Shahoulian said inaction on that front will inevitably limit the scale of investments by Intel and other firms.

“You’re already seeing that dynamic playing out,” he said. “You’re seeing companies set up offices in Canada, set up offices elsewhere, move R&D work elsewhere in the world, because it is easier to retain talent elsewhere than it is here.”

“This is an issue that will progressively get worse,” Shahoulian said. “It’s not like there will be some drop-dead deadline. But yeah, it’s getting difficult.”

Intel is still plowing ahead in Johnstown — backhoes are churning up dirt, farmers have been bought out of homes owned by their families for generations and the extensive water and electric infrastructure required for eight chip factories is being laid. Whether those bets will pay off in the long-term may rest on Congress’ ability to thread the needle on STEM immigration. And there’s little optimism at the moment.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said she sometimes wishes she could “shake everybody and tell them to wake up.” But she believes economic and geopolitical realities will force Congress to open the door to high-skilled foreign workers — eventually.

“I think the question is whether you do that now or in 10 years,” Cantwell said. “And you’ll be damn sorry if you wait for 10 years.”

Sat, 30 Jul 2022 23:00:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/31/microchip-immigration-tech-00048242 Killexams : Cyberattacks are raising health care costs

Presented by Bamboo Health

The Big Idea

The average cost of a data breach for a health care organization is more than $10 million, according to IBM’s annual Cost of Data Breach Report, which looked at the period from March 2021 to March 2022. That’s up 9.4 percent from the same timeframe a year earlier. Health care has had the highest breach-related damages for 12 consecutive years.

Last month, Ruth reported that chief information officers of health systems want help fighting off the hackers. Insurers won’t cover damages in some cases, and health systems complain they haven’t had enough support from government or law enforcement.

Across industries, a glaring 60 percent of organizations said they had to raise prices to cover the expense of a breach, and the regulatory compliance and legal costs can extend over years for those in health care.

According to the HHS Office of Civil Rights’ database, health care organizations have reported nearly twice as many breaches from January to mid-July as during the same period in 2021. And more than four in five organizations — not just those in health care — told IBM they’d experienced more than one successful attack.

High-tech defenses are helping. The IBM report says that organizations with security platforms that use artificial intelligence saw 55 percent lower breach costs than those without. Those with an active incident response team also spent less on the follow-up to a breach.

A June report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog arm, found that insurance companies are raising premiums for cybersecurity incidents and reducing how much they cover. Given the rising costs of cyberattacks and the decline in insurance coverage, the GAO suggested that the Treasury’s Federal Insurance Office and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency assess whether a government insurance option is needed. Per the report, both agencies say they lack the data needed to make that assessment.

President Joe Biden signed legislation in March as part of the fiscal 2022 appropriations bill that may provide CISA with some data. The bill, by Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sets a schedule for reporting cyberattacks and ransomware payments.

Welcome back to Future Pulse, where we explore the convergence of health care and technology. Pharma bad boy Martin Shkreli is back! His latest venture is a Web3 drug discovery platform called Druglike. What can decentralization and crypto do for the pharma industry, you ask? We have no idea! Please send us your wrong answers only.

Share your news, tips and feedback with Ben at [email protected] or Ruth at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter for the latest @_BenLeonard_ and @RuthReader. Send tips securely through SecureDrop, Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp here.

Tweet of the Week

Washington Watch

TELEHEALTH VOTE TEED UP — The House is set to vote this week on a bill by Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney that would extend through the end of 2024 the telehealth flexibilities the Trump administration granted at the pandemic’s outset.

The legislation would require Medicare to continue reimbursing doctors for telehealth services from patients’ homes. Federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics would continue to enjoy their new freedom.

Many of the flexibilities are set to terminate five months after the end of the Covid-19 public health emergency, which is slated to expire in October unless HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra extends it for an 11th time.

What’s next: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has slated the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act for a vote that could come as soon as today. It’s expected to pass, but the timeline for Senate consideration is unclear.

Process frustration: Some Republicans are irked because they say the vote short-circuits bipartisan negotiations to supply a win to Cheney, who has become a Democratic ally for her work on the committee investigating the invasion of the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Republicans are likely to vote for it anyway, though they complain that the legislation doesn’t allow insurers to cover telehealth bills for people on high-deductible health plans before they hit their deductibles.

CHIPS BILL’S A WIN FOR MEDICAL DEVICES — On Tuesday, the Senate advanced legislation backed by medical device makers that would supply more than $50 billion in subsidies to the domestic semiconductor industry.

Medical device makers buy only 1 percent of the world’s semiconductor chips, but that means they’ve had little leverage to bargain amid a pandemic-driven supply shortage. The chips are needed for devices, such as defibrillators and mammography systems.

AdvaMed, the medical device industry trade group, has lobbied for the legislation, which aims to decrease dependence on foreign manufacturers.

The legislation passed a procedural vote in the Senate Tuesday.

AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker told Future Pulse in a statement that the legislation will help shield the industry from future supply shocks by helping to maintain a U.S. manufacturing base.

Brian Sapp, chief technology officer at cancer treatment biotech company BrYet, also touted the billions in funding for research and development that could help startups and innovation.

But little can be done to alleviate the supply crunch in the short term.

The legislation, which the Senate is expected to pass as soon as Wednesday, would take at least a year or two to have an impact, given the lead time to build factories, said Morris Cohen, a professor emeritus of manufacturing and logistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

ORACLE PROMISES FIX FOR VA SYSTEM — At a hearing last week, senators aired their displeasure with the Veterans Affairs Department’s problematic rollout of its new electronic health records system and its ballooning costs. The latest estimate, from the Institute for Defense Analyses, puts the bill at $50.8 billion over 28 years. The original price tag was $10 billion over 10 years.

When the system from contractor Cerner debuted at the VA’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., in 2020, staff complained that it sent mistaken prescriptions — potentially putting patients’ lives in danger.

A new report from the VA’s inspector general found 60 safety issues at Mann-Grandstaff.

Oracle, Cerner’s new corporate parent, said it will fix the issues and connect the system to the cloud. It will also foot the bill for the migration. The firm’s executive vice president, Mike Sicilia, expects improvements in the next six months.

Around the Nation

AMAZON IS BUYING ONE MEDICAL — The $3.9 billion deal still needs sign off from the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department; however, antitrust lawyers don’t foresee an issue.

“The principal question is: Where can competition be limited here — that’s what the DOJ or FTC should be asking,” David Kully, a partner at law firm Holland & Knight who focuses on antitrust, told Future Pulse. “I don’t think Amazon’s acquisition of what is largely a primary care organization puts it in a position to be able to limit competition in any way.”

There’s been lots of commentary about what the deal means. It’s clear Amazon has ambitions to disrupt the health care marketplace.

Amazon has its own online pharmacy and a subsidiary drug packaging service, Pillpack. It also provides telemedicine through Amazon Care, works with a network of clinics for in-person care and has experimented with its own in-person clinics.

But that’s not all.

Amazon has built out its Echo device and Alexa voice assistant as a health tool. Hospitals like Northwell Health used the Echo to conduct virtual rounds with patients during the pandemic to preserve protective equipment and limit clinicians’ exposure to Covid-19. Alexa offers everything from health tips to telemedicine visits from Teladoc, a virtual health care company.

Separately, Amazon is moving health systems into the cloud and selling them on artificial intelligence.

The company has one final asset underestimated as a health tool: Amazon Fresh delivery and Whole Foods Market.

Organizations at the forefront of battling chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are heavily investing in food as medicine. Health and wellness provider Geisinger, for example, has a “food farmacy” where patients can get groceries for ten healthy meals. Between Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods, Amazon is primed to compete.

The Next Cures

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE COMBATS SEPSIS —  A trio of new studies has found that artificial intelligence implemented in five hospital systems could reduce mortality from sepsis, a reaction to the infection that’s a leading cause of death in hospitals.

“There are very few studies that have looked at actual outcomes post-deployment of a model like this,” Steven Lin, executive medical director of Stanford’s Healthcare AI Applied Research team, told Ruth. “They looked at adoption and what actually made it work — not just that it did work, but how did it work.”

Bayesian Health scanned the records of nearly 600,000 patients across the hospitals for signs of infection. The studies showed that not only is Bayesian’s artificial intelligence good at finding potential sepsis, but it also doesn’t inundate doctors with false flags. Early detection was associated with reduced mortality by 18.2 percent.

What We're Clicking

Researchers tried to calculate the impact of health tech companies. It sent startups into a tizzy — Mohana Ravindranath, STAT

From CVS to Google, here are 20 health care executives to watch — Fierce Healthcare

From Cedar to Ro, here’s every digital-health startup that’s cut workers so far this year — Rebecca Torrence, Insider

Wed, 27 Jul 2022 02:00:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.politico.com/newsletters/future-pulse/2022/07/27/cyberattacks-are-raising-health-care-costs-00047977
Killexams : SVVSD embraces early college P-TECH program No result found, try new keyword!In Colorado, St. Vrain Valley was among the first school districts chosen by the state to offer a P-TECH program after the Legislature passed a bill to provide funding — and the school ... Sat, 30 Jul 2022 15:39:40 -0500 en-us text/html https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/careersandeducation/svvsd-embraces-early-college-p-tech-program/ar-AA1098v3 Killexams : The missing piece in Biden's microchip ambitions: STEM immigration

JOHNSTOWN, Ohio — Just 15 minutes outside of downtown Columbus, the suburbs abruptly evaporate. Past a bizarre mix of soybean fields, sprawling office parks and lonely clapboard churches is a field where the Biden administration — with help from one of the world’s largest tech companies — hopes to turn the U.S. into a hub of microchip manufacturing.

In his State of the Union address in March, President Joe Biden called this 1,000-acre spread of corn stalks and farmhouses a “field of dreams.” Within three years, it will house two Intel-operated chip facilities together worth $20 billion — and Intel is promising to invest $80 billion more now that Washington has sweetened the deal with subsidies. It’s all part of a nationwide effort to head off another microchip shortage, shore up the free world’s advanced industrial base in the face of a rising China and claw back thousands of high-end manufacturing jobs from Asia.


But even as Biden signs into law more than $52 billion in “incentives” designed to lure chipmakers to the U.S., an unusual alliance of industry lobbyists, hard-core China hawks and science advocates says the president’s dream lacks a key ingredient — a small yet critical core of high-skilled workers. It’s a politically troubling irony: To achieve the long-sought goal of returning high-end manufacturing to the United States, the country must, paradoxically, attract more foreign workers.

“For high-tech industry in general — which of course, includes the chip industry — the workforce is a huge problem,” said Julia Phillips, a member of the National Science Board. “It's almost a perfect storm.”

From electrical engineering to computer science, the U.S. currently does not produce enough doctorates and master's degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math fields who can go on to work in U.S.-based microchip plants. Decades of declining investments in STEM education means the U.S. now produces fewer native-born recipients of advanced STEM degrees than most of its international rivals.

Foreign nationals, including many educated in the U.S., have traditionally filled that gap. But a bewildering and anachronistic immigration system, historic backlogs in visa processing and rising anti-immigrant sentiment have combined to choke off the flow of foreign STEM talent precisely when a fresh surge is needed.

Powerful members of both parties have diagnosed the problem and floated potential fixes. But they have so far been stymied by the politics of immigration, where a handful of lawmakers stand in the way of reforms few are willing to risk their careers to achieve. With a short window to attract global chip companies already starting to close, a growing chorus is warning Congress they’re running out of time.

“These semiconductor investments won't pay off if Congress doesn't fix the talent bottleneck,” said Jeremy Neufeld, a senior immigration fellow at the Institute for Progress think tank.

Given the hot-button nature of immigration fights, the chip industry has typically been hesitant to advocate directly for reform. But as they pump billions of dollars into U.S. projects and contemplate far more expensive plans, a sense of urgency is starting to outweigh that reluctance.

“We are seeing greater and greater numbers of our employees waiting longer and longer for green cards,” said David Shahoulian, Intel’s head of workforce policy. “At some point it will become even more difficult to attract and retain folks. That will be a problem for us; it will be a problem for the rest of the tech industry.”

“At some point, you’ll just see more offshoring of these types of positions,” Shahoulian said.

A Booming Technology

Microchips (often called “semiconductors” by wonkier types) aren’t anything new. Since the 1960s, scientists — working first for the U.S. government and later for private industry — have tacked transistors onto wafers of silicon or other semiconducting materials to produce computer circuits. What has changed is the power and ubiquity of these chips.

The number of transistors researchers can fit on a chip roughly doubles every two years, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law. In latest years, that has led to absurdly powerful chips bristling with transistors — IBM’s latest chip packs them at two-nanometer intervals into a space roughly the size of a fingernail. Two nanometers is thinner than a strand of human DNA, or about how long a fingernail grows in two seconds.

A rapid boost in processing power stuffed into ever-smaller packages led to the information technology boom of the 1990s. And things have only accelerated since — microchips remain the primary driver of advances in smartphones and missiles, but they’re also increasingly integrated into household appliances like toaster ovens, thermostats and toilets. Even the most inexpensive cars on the market now contain hundreds of microchips, and electric or luxury vehicles are loaded with thousands.

It all adds up to a commodity widely viewed as the bedrock of the new digital economy. Like fossil fuels before them, any country that controls the production of chips possesses key advantages on the global stage.

Until fairly recently, the U.S. was one of those countries. But while chips are still largely designed in America, its capacity to produce them has declined precipitously. Only 12 percent of the world’s microchip production takes place in the U.S., down from 37 percent in 1990. That percentage declines further when you exclude “legacy” chips with wider spaces between transistors — the vast majority of bleeding-edge chips are manufactured in Taiwan, and most factories not found on that island reside in Asian nations like South Korea, China and Japan.

For a long time, few in Washington worried about America’s flagging chip production. Manufacturing in the U.S. is expensive, and offshoring production to Asia while keeping R&D stateside was a good way to cut costs.

Two things changed that calculus: the Covid-19 pandemic and rising tensions between the U.S. and China.

Abrupt work stoppages sparked by viral spread in Asia sent shockwaves through finely tuned global supply chains. The flow of microchips ceased almost overnight, and then struggled to restart under new Covid surges and ill-timed extreme weather events. Combined with a spike in demand for microelectronics (sparked by generous government payouts to citizens stuck at home), the manufacturing stutter kicked off a chip shortage from which the world is still recovering.

Even before the pandemic, growing animosity between Washington and Beijing caused officials to question the wisdom of ceding chip production to Asia. China’s increasingly bellicose threats against Taiwan caused some to conjure up nightmare scenarios of an invasion or blockade that would sever the West from its supply of chips. The Chinese government was also pouring billions of dollars into a crash program to boost its own lackluster chip industry, prompting fears that America’s top foreign adversary could one day corner the market.

By 2020 the wheels had begun to turn on Capitol Hill. In January 2021, lawmakers passed as part of their annual defense bill the CHIPS for America Act, legislation authorizing federal payouts for chip manufacturers. But they then struggled to finance those subsidies. Although they quickly settled on more than $52 billion for chip manufacturing and research, lawmakers had trouble decoupling those sweeteners from sprawling anti-China “competitiveness” bills that stalled for over a year.

But those subsidies, as well as new tax credits for the chip industry, were finally sent to Biden’s desk in late July. Intel isn’t the only company that’s promised to supercharge U.S. projects once that money comes through — Samsung, for example, is suggesting it will expand its new $17 billion chip plant outside of Austin, Texas, to a nearly $200 billion investment. Lawmakers are already touting the subsidies as a key step toward an American renaissance in high-tech manufacturing.

Quietly, however, many of those same lawmakers — along with industry lobbyists and national security experts — fear all the chip subsidies in the world will fall flat without enough high-skilled STEM workers. And they accuse Congress of failing to seize multiple opportunities to address the problem.

STEM help wanted

In Columbus, just miles from the Johnstown field where Intel is breaking ground, most officials don’t mince words: The tech workers needed to staff two microchip factories, let alone eight, don’t exist in the region at the levels needed.

“We’re going to need a STEM workforce,” admitted Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican lieutenant governor.

But Husted and others say they’re optimistic the network of higher ed institutions spread across Columbus — including Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College — can beef up the region’s workforce fast.

“I feel like we're built for this,” said David Harrison, president of Columbus State Community College. He highlighted the repeated refrain from Intel officials that 70 percent of the 3,000 jobs needed to fill the first two factories will be “technician-level” jobs requiring two-year associate degrees. “These are our jobs,” Harrison said.

Harrison is anxious, however, over how quickly he and other leaders in higher ed are expected to convince thousands of students to sign up for the required STEM courses and join Intel after graduation. The first two factories are slated to be fully operational within three years, and will need significant numbers of workers well before then. He said his university still lacks the requisite infrastructure for instruction on chip manufacturing — “we’re missing some wafer processing, clean rooms, those kinds of things” — and explained that funding recently provided by Intel and the National Science Foundation won’t be enough. Columbus State will need more support from Washington.

“I don't know that there's a great Plan B right now,” said Harrison, adding that the new facilities will run into “the tens of millions.”

A lack of native STEM talent isn’t unique to the Columbus area. Across the country, particularly in regions where the chip industry is planning to relocate, officials are fretting over a perceived lack of skilled technicians. In February, the Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation cited a shortage of skilled workers when announcing a six-month delay in the move-in date for their new plant in Arizona.

“Whether it’s a licensure program, a two-year program or a Ph.D., at all levels, there is a shortfall in high-tech STEM talent,” said Phillips. The NSB member highlighted the “missing millions of people that are not going into STEM fields — that basically are shut out, even beginning in K-12, because they're not exposed in a way that attracts them to the field.”

Industry groups, like the National Association of Manufacturers, have long argued a two-pronged approach is necessary when it comes to staffing the high-tech sector: Reevaluating immigration policy while also investing heavily in workforce development

The abandoned House and Senate competitiveness bills both included provisions that would have enhanced federal support for STEM education and training. Among other things, the House bill would have expanded Pell Grant eligibility to students pursuing career-training programs.

“We have for decades incentivized degree attainment and not necessarily skills attainment,” said Robyn Boerstling, NAM’s vice president of infrastructure, innovation and human resources policy. “There are manufacturing jobs today that could be filled with six weeks of training, or six months, or six years; we need all of the above.”

But those provisions were scrapped, after Senate leadership decided a conference between the two chambers on the bills was too unwieldy to reach agreement before the August recess.

Katie Spiker, managing director of government affairs at National Skills Coalition, said the abandoned Pell Grant expansion shows Congress “has not responded to worker needs in the way that we need them to.” Amid criticisms that the existing workforce development system is unwieldy and ineffective, the decision to scrap new upgrades is a continuation of a trend of disinvesting in workers who hope to obtain the skills they need to meet employer demand.

“And it becomes an issue that only compounds itself over time,” Spiker said. “As technology changes, people need to change and evolve their skills.”

“If we're not getting people skilled up now, then we won't have people that are going to be able to evolve and skill up into the next generation of manufacturing that we’ll do five years from now.”

Congress finally sent the smaller Chips and Science Act — which includes the chip subsidies and tax credits, $200 million to develop a microchip workforce and a slate of R&D provisions — to the president’s desk in late July. The bill is expected to enhance the domestic STEM pool (at least on the margins). But it likely falls short of the generational investments many believe are needed.

“You could make some dent in it in six years,” said Phillips. “But if you really want to solve the problem, it's closer to a 20-year investment. And the ability of this country to invest in anything for 20 years is not phenomenal.”

Immigration Arms Race

The microchip industry is in the midst of a global reshuffling that’s expected to last a better part of the decade — and the U.S. isn’t the only country rolling out the red carpet. Europe, Canada, Japan and other regions are also worried about their security, and preparing sweeteners for microchip firms to set up shop in their borders. Cobbling together an effective STEM workforce in a short time frame will be key to persuading companies to choose America instead.

That will be challenging at the technician level, which represents around 70 percent of workers in most microchip factories. But those jobs require only two-year degrees — and over a six-year period, it’s possible a sustained education and recruitment effort can produce enough STEM workers to at least keep the lights on.

It’s a different story entirely for Ph.D.s and master’s degrees, which take much longer to earn and which industry reps say make up a smaller but crucial component of a factory’s workforce.

Gabriela González, Intel’s head of global STEM research, policy and initiatives, said about 15 percent of factory workers must have doctorates or master’s degrees in fields such as material and electrical engineering, computer science, physics and chemistry. Students coming out of American universities with those degrees are largely foreign nationals — and increasingly, they’re graduating without an immigration status that lets them work in the U.S., and with no clear pathway to achieving that status.

A National Science Board estimate from earlier this year shows a steadily rising proportion of foreign-born students with advanced STEM skills. That’s especially true for degrees crucial to the chip industry — nearly 60 percent of computer science Ph.D.s are foreign born, as are more than 50 percent of engineering doctorates.

“We are absolutely reliant on being able to hire foreign nationals to fill those needs,” said Intel’s Shahoulian. Like many in the chip industry, Shaoulian contends there simply aren’t enough high-skilled STEM professionals with legal status to simultaneously serve America’s existing tech giants and an influx of microchip firms.

Some academics, such as Howard University’s Ron Hira, suggest the shortage of workers with STEM degrees is overblown, and industry simply seeks to import cheaper, foreign-born labor. But that view contrasts with those held by policymakers on Capitol Hill or people in the scientific and research communities. In a report published in late July by the Government Accountability Office, all 17 of the experts surveyed agreed the lack of a high-skilled STEM workforce was a barrier to new microchip projects in the U.S. — and most said some type of immigration reform would be needed.

Many, if not most, of the foreign nationals earning advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities would prefer to stay and work in the country. But America’s immigration system is turning away these workers in record numbers — and at the worst possible time.

Ravi (not his real name, given his tenuous immigration status) is an Indian national. Nearly three years ago, he graduated from a STEM master’s program at a prestigious eastern university before moving to California to work as a design verification lead at an international chip company. He’s applied three times for an H-1B visa, a high-skilled immigration program used extensively by U.S. tech companies. But those visas are apportioned via a lottery, and Ravi lost each time. His current visa only allows him to work through the end of year — so Ravi is giving up and moving to Canada, where he’s agreed to take a job with another chip company. Given his skill set, he expects to quickly receive permanent legal status.

“The application process is incredibly simple there,” said Ravi, noting that Canadian officials were apologetic over their brief 12-week processing time (they’re swamped by refugee applications, he said).

If given the choice, Ravi said he would’ve probably stayed in California. But his story now serves as a cautionary tale for his younger brother back home. “Once he sort of completed his undergrad back in India, he did mention that he is looking at more immigration-friendly countries,” Ravi said. “He’s giving Canada more thought, at this point, than the United States.”

Ravi’s story is far from unique, particularly for Indian nationals. The U.S. imposes annual per-country caps on green cards — and between a yearly crush of applicants and a persistent processing backlog, Indians (regardless of their education or skill level) can expect to wait as long as 80 years for permanent legal status. A report released earlier this year by the libertarian Cato Institute found more than 1.4 million skilled immigrants are now stuck in green card backlogs, just a slight drop from 2020’s all-time high of more than 1.5 million.

The third rail of U.S. politics

The chip industry has shared its anxiety over America’s slipping STEM workforce with Washington, repeatedly asking Congress to make it easier for high-skilled talent to stay. But unlike their lobbying for subsidies and tax breaks — which has gotten downright pushy at times — they’ve done so very quietly. While chip lobbyists have spent months telling anyone who will listen why the $52 billion in financial incentives are a “strategic imperative,” they’ve only recently been willing to discuss their immigration concerns on the record.

In late July, nine major chip companies planned to send an open letter to congressional leadership warning that the shortage of high-skilled STEM workers “has truly never been more acute” and urging lawmakers to “enact much-needed green card reforms.” But the letter was pulled at the last minute, after some companies worried about wading into a tense immigration debate at the wrong time.

Leaders in the national security community have been less shy. In May, more than four dozen former officials sent a leader to congressional leadership urging them to shore up America’s slipping immigration edge before Chinese technology leapfrogs ours. “With the world’s best STEM talent on its side, it will be very hard for America to lose,” they wrote. “Without it, it will be very hard for America to win.”

The former officials exhorted lawmakers to take up and pass provisions in the House competitiveness bill that would’ve lifted green card caps for foreign nationals with STEM Ph.D.s or master’s degrees. It’d be a relatively small number of people — a February study from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology suggested the chip industry would only need around 3,500 foreign-born workers to effectively staff new U.S.-based factories.

“This is such a small pool of people that there's already an artificial cap on it,” said Klon Kitchen, a senior fellow focused on technology and national security at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Kitchen suggested the Republican Party’s wariness toward immigration shouldn’t apply to these high-skilled workers, and some elected Republicans agree. Sen. John Cornyn, whose state of Texas is poised to gain from the expansion of chip plants outside Austin, took up the torch — and almost immediately got burned.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa’s senior Republican senator, blocked repeated attempts by Cornyn, Democrats and others to include the green card provision in the final competitiveness package. Finding relief for a small slice of the immigrant community, Grassley reasoned, “weakens the possibility to get comprehensive immigration reform down the road.” He refused to budge even after Biden administration officials warned him of the national security consequences in a classified June 16 briefing, which was convened specifically for him. The effort has been left for dead (though a push to shoehorn a related provision into the year-end defense bill is ongoing).

Many of Grassley’s erstwhile allies are frustrated with his approach. “We’ve been talking about comprehensive immigration reform for how many decades?” asked Kitchen, who said he’s “not inclined” to let America’s security concerns “tread water in the background” while Congress does nothing to advance broader immigration bills.

Most Republicans in Congress agree with Kitchen. But so far it’s Cornyn, not Grassley, who’s paid a price. After helping broker a deal on gun control legislation in June, Cornyn was attacked by Breitbart and others on his party’s right flank for telling a Democratic colleague immigration would be next.

“Immigration is one of the most contentious issues here in Congress, and we've shown ourselves completely incapable of dealing with it on a rational basis,” Cornyn said in July. The senator said he’d largely given up on persuading Grassley to abandon his opposition to new STEM immigration provisions. “I would love to have a conversation about merit-based immigration,” Cornyn said. “But I don't think, under the current circumstances, that’s possible.”

Cornyn blamed that in part on the far right’s reflexive outrage to any easing of immigration restrictions. “Just about anything you say or do will get you in trouble around here these days,” he said.

Given that reality, few Republicans are willing to stick their necks out on the issue.

“If you look at the messaging coming out of [the National Republican Senatorial Committee] or [the Republican Attorneys General Association], it’s all ‘border, border, border,’” said Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition. Shi said even moderate Republicans hesitate to publicly advance arguments “championing these sensible visas for Ph.D. STEM talents for integrated circuits for semiconductors.”

“They’re like … ‘I can’t say those phrases until after the elections,’” Shi said.

That skittishness extends to state-level officials — Ohio’s Husted spent some time expounding on the benefits of “bringing talented people here to do the work in America, rather than having companies leave America to have it done somewhere else.” He suggested that boosting STEM immigration would be key to Intel’s success in his state. But when asked whether he’s taken that message to Ohio’s congressional delegation — after all, he said he’d been pestering them to pass the chip subsidies — Husted hedged.

“My job is to do all I can for the people of the state of Ohio. There are other people whose job it is to message those other things,” Husted said. “But if asked, you heard what my answer is.”

Of course, Republicans also pin some of the blame on Democrats. “The administration ignores the fire at the border and the chaos there, which makes it very hard to have a conversation about controlling immigration flows,” Cornyn said.

And while Democratic lawmakers reject that specific concern, some admit their side hasn’t prioritized STEM immigration as it should.

“Neither team has completely clean hands,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Warner noted that Democrats have also sought to hold back STEM immigration fixes as “part of a sweetener” so that business-friendly Republicans would in turn back pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He also dinged the chip companies, claiming the issue is “not always as straightforward" as the industry would like to frame it and that tech companies sometimes hope to pay less for foreign-born talent.

But Warner still supports the effort to lift green card caps for STEM workers. “Without that high-skilled immigration, it’s not like those jobs are going to disappear,” he said. “They’re just gonna move to another country.”

And despite their rhetoric, it’s hard to deny that congressional Republicans are largely responsible for continued inaction on high-skilled immigration — even as their allies in the national security space become increasingly insistent.

Stuck on STEM immigration

Though they’ve had to shrink their ambitions, lawmakers working to lift green card caps for STEM immigrants haven’t given up. A jurisdictional squabble between committees in July prevented advocates from including in the House’s year-end defense bill a provision that would’ve nixed the caps for Ph.D.s in “critical” STEM fields. They’re now hoping to shoehorn the provision into the Senate’s defense bill instead, and have tapped Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina as their champion in the upper chamber.

But Tillis is already facing pushback from the right. And despite widespread support, few truly believe there’s enough momentum to overcome Grassley and a handful of other lawmakers willing to block any action.

“Most members on both sides recognize that this is a problem they need to resolve,” said Intel’s Shahoulian. “They’re just not at a point yet where they’re willing to compromise and take the political hits that come with it.”

The global chip industry is moving in the meantime. While most companies are still planning to set up shop in the U.S. regardless of what happens with STEM immigration, Shahoulian said inaction on that front will inevitably limit the scale of investments by Intel and other firms.

“You’re already seeing that dynamic playing out,” he said. “You’re seeing companies set up offices in Canada, set up offices elsewhere, move R&D work elsewhere in the world, because it is easier to retain talent elsewhere than it is here.”

“This is an issue that will progressively get worse,” Shahoulian said. “It’s not like there will be some drop-dead deadline. But yeah, it’s getting difficult.”

Intel is still plowing ahead in Johnstown — backhoes are churning up dirt, farmers have been bought out of homes owned by their families for generations and the extensive water and electric infrastructure required for eight chip factories is being laid. Whether those bets will pay off in the long-term may rest on Congress’ ability to thread the needle on STEM immigration. And there’s little optimism at the moment.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said she sometimes wishes she could “shake everybody and tell them to wake up.” But she believes economic and geopolitical realities will force Congress to open the door to high-skilled foreign workers — eventually.

“I think the question is whether you do that now or in 10 years,” Cantwell said. “And you'll be damn sorry if you wait for 10 years.”

Sat, 30 Jul 2022 23:00:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://www.yahoo.com/video/missing-piece-bidens-microchip-ambitions-110000217.html
Killexams : Proto Labs (PRLB) Q2 2022 Earnings Call Transcript No result found, try new keyword!Q2 2022 Earnings Call Aug 05, 2022, 8:30 a.m. ET. Contents: Prepared Remarks; Questions and Answers; Call Participants; Prepared Remarks: Operator. Greeti ... Fri, 05 Aug 2022 06:30:30 -0500 en-us text/html https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/proto-labs-prlb-q2-2022-earnings-call-transcript/ar-AA10m9hS Killexams : Get to Know Jimmy Tsang, Pondurance VP of Marketing

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Blog | Pondurance authored by Pondurance. Read the original post at: https://www.pondurance.com/blog/jimmy-tsang-vp-marketing/

Tue, 02 Aug 2022 00:00:00 -0500 by Pondurance on August 2, 2022 en-US text/html https://securityboulevard.com/2022/08/get-to-know-jimmy-tsang-pondurance-vp-of-marketing%EF%BF%BC/ Killexams : AI Regulation: Where do China, the EU, and the U.S. Stand Today?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems are poised to drastically alter the way businesses and governments operate on a global scale, with significant changes already under way. This technology has manifested itself in multiple forms including natural language processing, machine learning, and autonomous systems, but with the proper inputs can be leveraged to make predictions, recommendations, and even decisions.

Accordingly,enterprises are increasingly embracing this dynamic technology. A 2022 global study by IBM found that 77% of companies are either currently using AI or exploring AI for future use, creating value by increasing productivity through automation, improved decision-making, and enhanced customer experience. Further, according to a 2021 PwC study the COVID-19 pandemic increased the pace of AI adoption for 52% of companies as they sought to mitigate the crises’ impact on workforce planning, supply chain resilience, and demand projection.  

Challenges of Global Regulation

For these many businesses investing significant resources into AI, it is critical to understand the current and proposed legal frameworks regulating this novel technology. Specifically for businesses operating globally, the task of ensuring that their AI technology complies with applicable regulations will be complicated by the differing standards that are emerging from China, the European Union (EU), and the U.S.

China

China has taken the lead in moving AI regulations past the proposal stage. In March 2022, China passed a regulation governing companies’ use of algorithms in online recommendation systems, requiring that such services are moral, ethical, accountable, transparent, and “disseminate positive energy.” The regulation mandates companies notify users when an AI algorithm is playing a role in determining which information to display to them and supply users the option to opt out of being targeted. Additionally, the regulation prohibits algorithms that use personal data to offer different prices to consumers. We expect these themes to manifest themselves in AI regulations throughout the world as they develop.

European Union

Meanwhile in the EU, the European Commission has published an overarching regulatory framework proposal titled the Artificial Intelligence Act which would have a much broader scope than China’s enacted regulation. The proposal focuses on the risks created by AI, with applications sorted into categories of minimal risk, limited risk, high risk, or unacceptable risk. Depending on an application’s designated risk level, there will be corresponding government action or obligations. So far, the proposed obligations focus on enhancing the security, transparency, and accountability of AI applications through human oversight and ongoing monitoring. Specifically, companies will be required to register stand-alone high-risk AI systems, such as remote biometric identification systems, in an EU database. If the proposed regulation is passed, the earliest date for compliance would be the second half of 2024 with potential fines for noncompliance ranging from 2-6% of a company’s annual revenue.

Additionally, the previously enacted EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) already carries implications for AI technology. Article 22 prohibits decisions based on solely automated processes that produce legal consequences or similar effects for individuals unless the program gains the user’s explicit consent or meets other requirements. 

United States

In the United States there has been a fragmented approach to AI regulation thus far, with states enacting their own patchwork AI laws. Many of the enacted regulations focus on establishing various commissions to determine how state agencies can utilize AI technology and to study AI’s potential impacts on the workforce and consumers. Common pending state initiatives go a step further and would regulate AI systems’ accountability and transparency when they process and make decisions based on consumer data. 

On a national level, the U.S. Congress enacted the National AI Initiative Act in January 2021, creating the National AI Initiative that provides “an overarching framework to strengthen and coordinate AI research, development, demonstration, and education activities across all U.S. Departments and Agencies . . . .” The Act created new offices and task forces aimed at implementing a national AI strategy, implicating a multitude of U.S. administrative agencies including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Pending national legislation includes the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022, which was introduced in both houses of Congress in February 2022. In response to reports that AI systems can lead to biased and discriminatory outcomes, the proposed Act would direct the FTC to create regulations that mandate “covered entities”, including businesses meeting certain criteria, to perform impact assessments when using automated decision-making processes. This would specifically include those derived from AI or machine learning. 

The Federal Trade Commission is Proactive

While the FTC has not promulgated AI-specific regulations, this technology is on the agency’s radar. In April 2021 the FTC issued a memo which apprised companies that using AI that produces discriminatory outcomes equates to a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive practices. And the FTC may soon take this warning a step farther—in June 2022 the agency indicated that it will submit an Advanced Notice of Preliminary Rulemaking to “ensure that algorithmic decision-making does not result in harmful discrimination” with the public comment period ending in August 2022. The FTC also recently issued a report to Congress discussing how AI may be used to combat online harms, ranging from scams, deep fakes, and opioid sales, but advised against over-reliance on these tools, citing the technology’s susceptibility to producing inaccurate, biased, and discriminatory outcomes.

Potential Liability for Businesses in the U.S.

Companies should carefully discern whether other non-AI specific regulations could subject them to potential liability for their use of AI technology. For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) put forth guidance in May 2022 warning companies that their use of algorithmic decision-making tools to assess job applicants and employees could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by, in part, intentionally or unintentionally screening out individuals with disabilities. Further analysis of the EEOC’s guidance can be found here.    

Broader Impact on U.S. Businesses

Many other U.S. agencies and offices are beginning to delve into the fray of AI. In November 2021, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy solicited engagement from stakeholders across industries in an effort to develop a “Bill of Rights for an Automated Society.” Such a Bill of Rights could cover Topics like AI’s role in the criminal justice system, equal opportunities, consumer rights, and the healthcare system. Additionally, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce, is engaging with stakeholders to develop “a voluntary risk management framework for trustworthy AI systems.” The output of this project may be analogous to the EU’s proposed regulatory framework, but in a voluntary format.

What’s Next?

The overall theme of enacted and pending AI regulations globally is maintaining the accountability, transparency, and fairness of AI. For companies leveraging AI technology, ensuring that their systems remain compliant with the various regulations intended to achieve these goals could be difficult and costly. Two aspects of AI’s decision-making process make oversight particularly demanding:

  • Opaqueness where users can control data inputs and view outputs, but are often unable to explain how and with which data points the system made a decision.

  • Frequent adaptation where processes evolve over time as the system learns.

Therefore, it is important for regulators to avoid overburdening businesses to ensure that stakeholders may still leverage AI technologies’ great benefits in a cost-effective manner. The U.S. has the opportunity to observe the outcomes of the current regulatory action from China and the EU to determine whether their approaches strike a favorable balance. However, the U.S. should potentially accelerate its promulgation of similar laws so that it can play a role in setting the global tone for AI regulatory standards.  

 

Thank you to co-author Lara Coole, a summer associate in Foley & Lardner’s Jacksonville office, for her contributions to this post.

Wed, 03 Aug 2022 09:20:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.natlawreview.com/article/ai-regulation-where-do-china-eu-and-us-stand-today
Killexams : Column: A ransomware attack cost this entrepreneur a year of his life and almost wrecked his business

Fran Finnegan, with the Corvette his wife gave him last year for his 70th birthday, just before a ransomware attack trashed his business. (Fran Finnegan)

When ransomware bandits struck his business last June, encrypting all his data and operational software and sending him a skull-and-crossbones image and an email address to learn the price he would have to pay to restore it all, Fran Finnegan thought it would take him weeks to restore everything to its pre-hack condition.

It took him more than a year.

Finnegan's service, SEC Info, went back online July 18. The intervening year was one of brutal 12-hour days, seven days a week, and the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars (and the loss of much more in subscriber payments while the site was down).

The amount of details I had to deal with was just excruciating....Because I lost everything.

Fran Finnegan, SEC Info

He had to buy two new high-capacity computers, or servers, and wait for his vendor, Dell, to master a post-pandemic computer chip shortage.

Meanwhile, subscribers, who had been paying up to $180 a year for his service, were falling away.

Finnegan estimates that as many as half his subscribers may have canceled their accounts, leaving him with a six-figure loss in income over the year.

He expects most to return once they learn SEC Info is up and running, but the hackers destroyed his customer database, including email contacts and billing information, so he has to wait for them to proactively restore their accounts.

Getting SEC Info back online required Finnegan to painstakingly reconstruct software that he had written over the prior 25 years and reinstall a database of some 15.4 million corporate Securities and Exchange Commission filings dating back to 1993.

It was a truly heroic effort, and it was all in his hands. Finnegan labored under intense, self-imposed pressure to get his service up and running just as it was before the attack.

"The amount of details I had to deal with was just excruciating and very frustrating — I thought, 'I did all this once before, and now I've got to do it all again.' Because I lost everything."

At roughly the mid-point, a few days before Christmas, he experienced a stroke — a mild one manifested in a series of falls, but not any cognitive difficulties — that he attributes to the stress he was under.

As I related last year at the start of Finnegan’s ordeal, SEC Info provides subscribers with access to every financial disclosure document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission — annual and quarterly reports, proxy statements, disclosures of top shareholders and much more, a vast storehouse of publicly available financial information, presented in a searchable and uniquely well-organized format.

The website looks like the product of a team of data-crunching experts, but it's a one-man shop. "This is my thing," Finnegan, 71, told me. "I'm the only guy. Nothing happens unless I do it myself."

With a degree in computer science and an MBA from the University of Chicago, as well as about a dozen years of Wall Street experience as an investment banker and a few years as an independent software designer for large corporations, Finnegan launched SEC Info in 1997.

Back in business: After a year, SECInfo.com is online and recovered from a 2021 ransomware attack. (SECInfo.com)

The SEC had placed its EDGAR database online for free after recognizing that doing so would allow entrepreneurs to offer a host of innovative formats and related data services.

Finnegan was one of the pioneers in the field, eventually becoming one of the largest third-party vendors of SEC filings.

Finnegan's experience opens a window into the consequences of ransomware that don't get reported much — the impact on small businesses like his, which don't have teams of data professionals to mobilize in response or a footprint large enough to get help from federal or international law enforcement agencies.

Ransomware attacks, in which perpetrators steal or encrypt victims' online access or data and demand payment to regain access, have proliferated in latest years for several reasons.

One is the explosive growth of opportunity: More systems and devices are linked to cyberspace than ever before, and a relatively a small percentage are protected by effective cybersecurity precautions.

Data kidnappers can deploy an ever-expanding arsenal of off-the-shelf tools that "make launching ransomware attacks almost as simple as using an online auction site," according to Palo Alto Networks, which markets cybersecurity systems. Some ransomware entrepreneurs "offer 'startup kits' and 'support services' to would-be cybercriminals, ... accelerating the speed with which attacks can be introduced and spread," Palo Alto reports.

The advent of cryptocurrencies may also have facilitated these attacks; perpetrators commonly demand payment in bitcoin or other virtual currencies, evidently on the assumption that those transactions are harder for authorities to track than those using dollars. (That may be a false assumption, as it turns out.)

It's hard to put a finger on the scale of the ransomware threat, in part because most estimates come from private security firms, which may have incentives to maximize the problem and in any event offer varied figures.

What does seem clear is that the problem is growing, enough so that it has gotten the attention of the White House and international agencies.

Attacks on major enterprises garner the most attention. In 2021, according to a list of 87 attacks compiled by Heimdal Security, the victims included the business consulting firm Accenture, the audio company Bose, the Brazilian National Treasury, Cox Media, Howard University, Kia Motors, the National Rifle Assn. and the University of Miami.

Healthcare institutions have long been prime targets. Last year, Scripps Health, the nonprofit operator of five hospitals and 19 outpatient clinics in California, had to transfer stroke and heart attack patients from four hospitals and shut down trauma treatment centers at two.

Staff were locked out of some data systems. The attack cost Scripps at least $113 million, according to a preliminary estimate.

Finnegan's attack was too small to show up on these rosters. But for him it was a life-changing event.

The catastrophe began with a massive data breach at Yahoo that happened in 2013 but which Yahoo didn't disclose until 2016. The hackers stole the email passwords, phone numbers, birth dates and security Questions Answers of 3 billion Yahoo users, including Finnegan.

Finnegan followed Yahoo's advice to change the passwords on his Yahoo account but forgot that he had used the same password to access his administrative privileges at SEC Info.

That might not have been a problem, except that before leaving for a weeklong vacation last summer, he activated a digital access port so he could keep an eye on his system from afar.

His old password was a ticking time bomb in the hands of anyone with access to the stolen Yahoo data. Beginning last June 26, hackers pinged his system 2.5 million times with stolen Yahoo passwords, finally hitting on the right one.

"They lucked out," he told me. "If they had tried a week earlier or a week later, they would not have been able to get in."

Finnegan didn't know his system had been hacked until a subscriber asked him by text message why his website was down. When he logged in remotely, he could only watch helplessly as the attackers encrypted all his files.

Finnegan thought he had been adequately backed up, as his data was stored on two servers, large-capacity computers housed at a data center in San Francisco. That was a safeguard against either server melting down but not against a hacker actually using his password.

He thought briefly about responding to the hackers, but a quick online search yielded reports from other victims reporting that they had paid the ransom without receiving a decrypt code.

Even if the hackers decrypted Finnegan's data — the more than 15 million SEC filings — they had trashed his operational software, and that could not be recovered via decrypting.

So Finnegan set about reconstructing his system. Fortunately, about 90% of the filings had been stored on external discs at his Bay Area home, unplugged from the internet and thus out of the hackers' reach.

But those were older filings from before 2020, the latest data on the stored discs. The remaining 10% had been destroyed — more than 1.5 million documents.

Downloading the more latest filings from the SEC took two months because the agency limits the pace of downloading from its database so that access can't be monopolized by big users.

The harder task was reconstructing all the programs Finnegan had written over the years to parse the SEC data and make it usable for his subscribers in myriad ways.

"Some of this goes back 25 years, and you forget about stuff," he told me.

At first, he says, "I thought I would just get the data, run it through the parsing engine again, and reconfigure everything and I'd be done." He ran into a phenomenon memorably identified by former IBM software executive Fred Brooks in his classic book, "The Mythical Man-Month": Software projects always take longer than anyone anticipates, and always miss their deadlines.

So weeks stretched into months. Finnegan would post a recovery date online and blow past it. "It got to the point where I stopped making predictions, because when it wouldn't happen I felt like an idiot."

By June, however, "I could see the end of the tunnel," he says, and projected a return for his birthday, July 1. It still wasn't ready, so he posted online a restoration date of July 15 — and finally went back up on July 18.

This time around, Finnegan has sealed the security holes that let his attackers run roughshod over his business. He receives data backups almost in real time and keeps them offline and unplugged from the internet and made the process of accessing his system remotely far more complex.

Finnegan still has a few tasks to complete to make SEC Info work exactly as it did before, but those involve functions that only a tiny minority of subscribers ever used. He's confident that he won't have to face this tribulation again.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get hit again," he told me. I heard a moment of doubt in his voice, but then his confidence returned. "No, no one's going to get in again," he said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Wed, 27 Jul 2022 06:18:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://www.aol.com/news/column-ransomware-attack-cost-entrepreneur-181851304.html
Killexams : India, the investment haven

Is India emerging as a favourite destination for global investors? An emphatic yes is the answer. Shaking off its initial sluggishness, India has fast-forwarded its pace on the investment highway. The proverbial hare and tortoise story seems to have taken a new twist where India has proved to be the new generation tortoise stealing the show with effortless ease.

There is a pertinent question, why should an investor come to India? Why not China? The wall street journal answers this question with analytical insight. It says that India was lagging behind China in creating an investment-friendly ecosystem. But India closed the gap very fast. The Government raised the ceiling on Foreign investment in private banks. India also abolished foreign limits on oil exploration. India reduced the restrictions on marketing companies. The portfolio managers appreciate the fact that India is a much more attractive stock market destination for foreign investors compared to China. The Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, has proudly proclaimed at the invest India conference in Canada “with its vibrant democracy, political stability and business-friendly policies, India offers an unparalleled investment destination for foreign investors. We are proactively monetizing assets across sectors- airports, highways, railways, power transmission lines."

Realizing the importance of Foreign Direct Investment in the economic upswing of the nation, India has taken giant strides in liberalizing its FDI policy. UNCTAD is on record that the FDI inflow into India reached an all-time high in 2020. Govt of India has revealed that we received 83.7 billion U.S Dollars as FDI in 2021. India is ranked fifth among the top 20 FDI host countries. India is the largest host in the sub-region. India receives 70 to 80 per cent of the inflowing FDI into this region.

India achieved this because we could shake off the hamlet syndrome ‘ to be or not be ‘.The nation realized that we want action, not an alibi for inaction. Here is the profile of India’s initiatives in creating a new architecture for the FDI regime.

India relaxed its administrative regulations for foreign investors. India lifted the requirement for approval by the Reserve Bank of India, and of course, under certain conditions.

And what is the result? India is now on the list of the 10 most improved economies for the third year in a row. Global Investors focus on India because of its perceptible stability in inflation, fiscal deficit, and growth.No wonder World Bank improved India’s ranking in its ease of business report 2020. India went up by 14 positions from 77th to 63rd.

Saudi Gazette has evaluated India as a preferred investment destination. Why should India be preferred? If the discerning investors prefer India, there must be a reason for that. The main reason is India’s inner strength and resilience.

What are the strong points in favour of investing in India by Foreign Direct investors?

The strength of our democracy ensures political stability. Administrative machinery is well oiled and fighting fit. The old misconception that the Indian Bureaucracy does not deliver is gone with the wind. Particularly in the light of e-governance and the digital revolution.An independent judiciary which ensures justice and the rule of law.

India is a sub-continent much bigger than many of the European nations put together. This vastness makes India a rich repository of varied resources. It is also a vast market for any product. The purchasing power of the country is immense. These factors will certainly attract any investor. The skilled and semi-skilled workforce in India is a great human resource. Labour is cheap, which reduces the cost of production and increases competitiveness. No multinational can lose sight of the fact that Indian manufacturing hubs have easy access to key manufacturing sites and key suppliers. This makes the development cost substantially low. Export to high-growth emerging markets is also facilitated. Transparency International has given corporates top ranking in transparency and compliance. This is extremely important in the globalized scenario.

Why this swift and perceptible improvement in ease of business in India?

India can see what others do not see and hear what others do not hear. Because India is not doctrinaire in its approach to business. India is practical and values its reality checks. There is no denying the fact that infrastructure forms the cornerstone of the development arch. India has made giant strides in Infrastructure development. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has introduced the National Infrastructure Pipeline in order to attract investment infrastructure. It is crucial to attaining the target of a 5 trillion economy by 2025. Sectors such as Energy, Roads, Urban and Railways amount to around 71 per cent of this package.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If India has improved its position as a favoured destination, it is because of the tangible results demonstrated in the field. Let the international organizations bear testimony to the concrete progress India has demonstrated. As per World Intellectual Property Organization, India ranks number 1 in the Central and Southern Asia Region in the Global Innovative index. It improved its rank by two positions at the global level. In the world competitive index also India has fast-forwarded its position(37th rank ). India rank 3rd amongst the Lower Middle-income economy group. India is slated to be the third largest economy in the world by 2030. As per the Lloyd Register, India and China will be the largest manufacturing hubs of the world by 2030. As per Baker Mc Kenzie report in the next five years, India to have greater economic influence across the Asia – Pacific Region.

Enabling policies and system

Covid has forced many corporates to shift their investment to new geographies and destinations. India is seized of the matter and has made elaborate arrangements in the policy, legislative and administrative sectors to make a difference and make it happen.

India knows best to be forewarned is to be forearmed. We have put in place appropriate governance mechanisms and delivery systems to boost investment.
An empowered Committee of Secretaries has already been set up to see that investment proposals are processed and put into action without delay bureaucratic rigmarole. Earlier Indian Governmental system was rule-based. Now it is being transformed into a role-based. Governmental functionaries have to produce a result. Or else they will be shown the exit door, The Prime Minister himself is heading the Mission karma yogi, which is meant to transform the Governmental Rajabhogis into Karmmayogis. Earlier the bureaucratic heads of public undertakings were called public undertakers. It was said Government cannot solve any problem because the government is the problem About the Indian Civil Service it was said that they were taught two golden rules:

An ICS officer is always right

When an ICS officer goes wrong rule 1 will apply

Those days are gone. The empowered committee of Secretaries is there to act and act swiftly and effectively in matters of investment.

To create a shelf of viable projects which will usher in a sea change in India’s economic development. Project Development Cells have been created at the Central Govt level. They will also coordinate with the state governments and make it happen. India has come of age. India means business. The road is long, the goal is far but the march is on and India will attain its goal without let or hindrance.

India’s imaginative initiatives in economic development have proved to be trailblazers. The Make in India campaign has today been transformed into a make the world drive. The Prime minister’s pet project of Athmanirbhar Abhiyaan is fast developing into a self-reliant movement, creating ripples in the whole nation.

Now the Government has launched its flagship project Performance Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI). Under this 14 important areas have been identified for focused development. A whopping outlay of 2lakh forty-four thousand six hundred and thirty-two crores has been set apart for this. This is a gold mine of opportunities for Indian investors.

Digital India offers immense potential for investment. A joint report by IBM and Kalaari capital places India’s digital potential at a trillion dollars. The joint report of Deloitte India and ASSOCHAM also places India’s digital potential at one trillion. With an estimated one billion beneficiaries in the digital ecosystem, India will leapfrog into the digital space, in a big way.

India has shown its Ulysses-like determination, ”to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

(The writer is a National Policy Advisor. Based on the keynote speech delivered at the US Global Business Forum at Los Angeles on 25 July 2022)

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Tue, 02 Aug 2022 16:00:00 -0500 en text/html https://english.mathrubhumi.com/features/specials/india-the-investment-haven-1.7753302
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