Why ‘net neutrality’ is important for protecting consumer rights, human rights and innovation.

The Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules last December, which had required internet providers to offer equal access to all web content,  went into effect yesterday. ‘Net neutrality’ is the principle that all internet traffic should be provided to all consumers with the same quality and same speed, regardless of whether an internet service provider has a financial interest in promoting one website over another.

The rules essentially prevented service providers from censoring content online, or from charging additional fees for better services-  like higher speeds or for access to certain parts of the internet- such as to social media sites.

While several states have taken steps to reimpose the rules on a local level, the repeal was a big win for the F.C.C.’s, whose chairperson has long opposed the regulations, saying they impede innovation. Supporters of the repeal have argued that the repeal is actually beneficial for consumers because it restores the authority of the F.T.C over internet service providers.

Many consumers, activist groups and some law-makers conversely are worried that the digital economy that the US has built will be negatively impacted by the rollback because repeal will allow anticompetitive acts and unfair or deceptive practices, and that these will go largely unchecked. Consumer rights and even a range of human rights protected by the constitution and international law, however, could be threatened. We look in more detail at what the possible impacts will be.

The rules that have been repealed used to prohibit the following practices:

BLOCKING Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.

THROTTLING Service providers could not slow the transmission of data because of the nature of the content, as long as it was legal.

PAID PRIORITIZATION Service providers could not create an internet fast lane for companies and consumers who paid premiums, and a slow lane for those who didn’t.

E-commerce start-ups are also worried that practices of paid prioritization by ISPs, they could end up on the losing end with their websites and services loading more slowly than those run by internet giants. Remote workers of all kinds, including freelancers and franchisees in the  gig economy, could similarly face higher costs to do their jobs from home.A major concern is that consumers could suffer from “pay to play” deals. Without rules that prohibit paid prioritization of content and sites, a fast lane could be occupied by big internet and media companies, wealthier households and large businesses, while everyone else would be left in the slow lane.

At a time when developing nations such as India and Nigeria are being encouraged to promote freedom on the internet and are taking the approach of opening the net and trying to close gaps in access between different groups of consumers, the United States- with the ostensible objective of encouraging competition – is taking an approach which puts the expansion of large legacy companies ahead of consumer and human rights.

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Risk Tracking - Cognitiks

Creating value from sustainability

Our client is a Fortune 10 technology company

The challenge

The Citizenship team (part of the Sustainability unit) had struggled with keeping their budgets and demonstrating value. 

They wanted to showcase their results and social investments and ensure that their future projects were more strategically aligned with business strategy, showing how they add business value.

Our approach

We helped our client to first work through and explore in more detail each of the challenges they had been experiencing, and why. We then workshopped with related stakeholders across other business units, both to understand better their roles in the challenges of our client and to identify key challenges and risks they had been experiencing in meeting KPIs. As a result we updated the company’s materiality assessment, adding key impacts that had not been previously identified and had not been considered by the sustainability team, and which were also not understood across business units. We reviewed existing and past sustainability projects based on the country office’s strategy and goals for the following year and assisted the citizenship team with a strategy and a sustainability reporting framework that assisted with meeting the KPIs of other business units. This was then socialized with relevant internal and external stakeholders and validated. 

The outcome

The following year, our client’s citizenship strategy was noticed by senior management at the regional office; they had held high-visibility events, entered into a prestigious partnership  and implemented projects that brought measurable value. The new reporting framework we designed was used also as part of the strategic planning process by other business units. Not only did our client hold on to their existing budget but they were allocated additional funds.

“ Successful businesses of the future will be those who align their values with those of their customers, and demonstrate that clearly through out their corporate governance, products and services.”


Data Driven Platform - Cognitiks

A data-driven platform that supports decision-making

The challenge

How many times have you read a report, filed it, and then later, when you need it for planning, try to recall the findings and struggle to figure out how to use them, along with the findings in numerous other reports? Our client- a federal government contractor- was tasked with collecting a large volume of structured survey and qualitative data with the objective, not only to understand the current situation, but also to inform strategy and programing. 

Our approach

We assisted our client in designing the data collection tools to ensure the right information would be available and identified existing data that the client already had. We cleaned and structured the data and using machine learning identified patterns that gave insights into the dynamics of the situation. We built a platform that allowed different teams to explore the data with ease.

The outcome

Rather than simply a ‘snap-shot’ text report, we created an analytics platform that allows the government agency to add updated data and new data sets, perform queries and take appropriate evidence-based actions as well as track changes over time. We helped our client make decision-making easier, evidence-based and more transparent.

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Addressing grievances and getting upstream of complaints

The challenge

A large international development financing bank had been experiencing a growing number of complaints and wanted a better way of managing the risks to their operations through a complaints handling mechanism.

Our approach

We worked with the client and stakeholders to assess the existing approach and mechanism.  Using a systems approach we redesigned an improved and updated complaints handling mechanism that suited the capacity of the users, digitalizing with appropriate technology parts of the system.

The outcome

Our redesigned system allows management to undertake case-management directly in the system and by adding preset queries based on the client needs, managers can also analyze complaints to understand better the risks and take mitigation measures, before those risks are elevated to complaints and threaten operations.

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Results and performance tracking

The challenge

Disbursing $70 million in loans to small and medium sized enterprises and assisting with growing the local economy in a context fraught with corruption is no easy task. Our client, fully committed to transparency and passionate about achieving real results, asked for our help.

Our approach

In addition to providing an evidence base for their funding and partnerships strategy, we built a Performance analytics and results tracking platform. The interactive platform allows stakeholders to see the results that LSETF is achieving. The performance analytics, available only to LSETF and investors, allows users to track repayment, ROI and analyze data on the 10,000 loan beneficiaries to identify factors related to loan performance and results and inform future investments.

The outcome

LSETF has been able to identify what correlates with well performing lendees, as well as the investments that bring out the greatest development outcomes. Their lending strategy is being adjusted accordingly.

In June 2019 they were nominated for an award for financial services sector/ SME ‘Responsible Digital Product’.

You can learn more about LSETF’s work on growing Lagos State’s economy and generating jobs here


Risk tracking

Risk Tracker - developing a customized solution for risk management

The challenge

We met this multi-national consumer goods client shortly after a series of disruptions and violent protests that had impacted profits over 3 quarters. They had tried using a number of ‘the off the shelf’ risk tools but they had still sustained large losses over the past 12 months and wanted assistance with a more strategic approach to their managing risk in their supply chain and distribution.

Our approach

Based on our local knowledge of the drivers of risks as well as understanding the company’s specific exposure, we provided our client with granular, realtime information as well as forecasting that enabled them to plan with confidence.

The outcome

Our client has a more strategic approach to sourcing suppliers and planning distribution. In addition, we assist them with monitoring the supply chain plan, and will be facilitating their annual planning based on a broader risk and materiality assessment. With our guidance, they have also committed to making more strategic risk and sustainability investments to manage risks “upstream”.

Political risk was at the top of CEOs concerns in 2018.
70% of global companies with over $10 billion in revenue lost more than $100m in a single event

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Cognitiks

Cognitiks talks closing civic spaces with Vint Cerf, “Father of the Internet”

Its not every day that you get the opportunity to meet Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Evangelist for Google, who- along with Bob Kahn- created the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture for what we know today as the internet.

We met with Vint at the PeaceTech Lab, along with a handful of other social enterprises that were supported by the PeaceTech Accelerator program. In addition to providing thoughtful advice to each company, Vint spoke with the Cognitiks team about the worrying trend of “closing digital space” by governments and private entities around the world. Given the role that the internet has played in promoting democracy, allowing civil society and human rights activists to collaborate and organize, this trend threatens access to information, and along with it social accountability and fundamental freedoms for citizens globally. We need to leverage opportunities he stressed for keeping digital resources accessible to all.

Following the ARPA “Internetting project” Vint’s work made the Internet a publicly accessible medium by expanding the  existing ARPANET connections between US government agencies, universities and defense contractors to public computers through a “network of networks”.  Since leaving DARPA in 1982 Vint has continued to work to ensure the Internet is a tool to improve people’s lives and livelihoods and that the Internet is a positive force for good with helping people achieve their goals and aspirations.

Cognitiks will shortly be announcing a new partnership to assist with the use of digital resources for ensuring open civic spaces and a thriving civil society. Check back here soon!


How can your organization enhance development outcomes through Cogent Data Techniques?

Is your project performing? Is it well-designed to meet its objectives? Are the beneficiaries satisfied with the outcomes or do they have concerns? How can you make implementation more effective? Are there challenges or risks we can foresee and get ahead of?
These are the kinds of questions project teams ask themselves constantly during implementation of a project or development of a product. They are also the kinds of questions that are critical for all kinds of organizations to be able to ask and answer if they want to ensure that their projects, products or services are well-designed, well-received and delivering relevant social value.

But caught in the demands and urgency of implementation, few teams have the time and resources dedicated to answering these questions. At Cognitiks, working with our clients and partners globally, we’ve designed “cogent data techniques” to help program and project teams to do exactly that- answer these questions without placing additional demand and resources. Cogent data techniques help to rapidly and afforably gain the insights needed to ensure challenges and risks are understood and addressed and relevant social impact is maximized.

Cognitiks - Resource

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New White Paper: Partnering with private firms in fragile & conflict-affected contexts. Optimizing impact through data-driven solutions.

Significant momentum has been created by multiple trends in the business and development worlds that has brought together public agencies and the business community in finding solutions for global challenges. This momentum is only likely to grow further and will help propel private companies even further into addressing global challenges and governance issues- even those that may be seen as politically sensitive- such as that of addressing conflict and fragility and contributing to meeting SDG 16.

Private enterprise has been recognized by aid agencies, development financing institutions and  national security agencies as critical in assisting countries on the path from fragility and conflict to stable, prosperous and inclusive economies. Private enterprises provide jobs, essential goods and services, tax revenues for the government, and assist in strengthening the market institutions that pave the way for further investment and for economic growth. In some fragile  or conflict affected countries experiencing, foreign direct investment is greater than aid flows into the country or the national government resources available and overall, the trend over the past 15 years has been to use development assistance to catalyze or leverage resources and investments from the private sector.

However, public financing has fallen short of its stated development aims and while blended finance is seen as the way forward to achieving the SDGs, a new, more finely calibrated and data-driven approach to leveraging private sector interest and resources is needed. In order to help usher in greater and more consistent investment and to ensure relevancy and greatest development impact of the private sector in addressing drivers of fragility and conflict, public agencies and organizations with explicit aims to this end will need to adopt new approaches that build on strengths and address weaknesses of existing instruments.

In this paper we explore some of the challenges in working with the private sector on addressing fragility and conflict- including drivers of violent extremism, and the motivations and concerns of companies in these contexts. We propose data-driven approaches and solutions that can be adopted by the public sector to maximize investments and ensure the greatest impact of private sector resources towards addressing fragility and conflict drivers

Who should read this paper?

  • Development Financing Institutions, particularly departments dealing with structured finance or blended financing in fragile states, conflict contexts;
  • Export credit agencies and other organizations underwriting investment risk for companies in emerging markets;
  • Multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, particularly departments working on fragile states, conflict contexts, violent extremism and political violence;
  • National and regional development banks;
  • Private enterprise funds and other development or social impact oriented equity funds;
  • UN Agencies and partners supporting the SDGs, particularly 16 and 17.

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Cognitiks - Kenya

Addressing marginalization is key to preventing another terror attack in Kenya. What can your company do?

With trust in public institutions at a low, CEOs of private corporations are being called upon to lead social change. Gender equality, climate change and ending hunger are examples of some of the most pressing social issues of our time that corporations are helping to solve. But what can firms do to address drivers of violence and conflict that threaten the security and development outcomes for 2 billion people around the world?

In this publication, we look at the latest terror attack in Kenya and how addressing marginalization is key to preventing another attack. We present research based on surveys undertaken with global corporations, best practices from both the public and private sector and recommendations from Cognitiks’ solutions. We show how the private sector can contribute to achieving peace and sustainable development goals.

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