The Fight Against Plastic Waste at Sea

As a lover of the sea, I can’t help but be concerned about the way we treat our most precious resource. The facts are there for all to see, below are some of the things that have struck me.

Since the 1950s, the production of waste and in particular plastic has increased exponentially: from a few million tonnes in 1950 to over 300 million tonnes in recent years

Currently, about 8 million tonnes of waste are dumped into the marine environment each year. This figure is expected to increase further over the coming decades, with serious implications for the marine environment and human health, unless improvements are made in waste management and its prevention.

sref dogan erbek

What can be done to limit this problem? Do we have solutions to prevent, monitor and cleanse our seas of marine litter? If so, which ones and how many? In fact, there are tens of thousands of solutions, but of these, only a hundred or so have been considered as innovative solutions, other than simple recycling or reduction of waste production, to confront the problem.

It is vital, not just for our species, that we tackle plastics first. It is the most common waste we find in our seas, but there are also other lesser studied materials, such as glass and metal, to name but a few. All these materials make up marine litter. Of these, plastic is the most studied, both at the macroscopic level as well as at the micro and nanoscopic levels. In the first case, it is plastic waste visible to the naked eye that causes direct damage to wildlife, endangering the lives of animals that accidentally ingest it. In the second case, they are small materials with dimensions similar to those of viruses (we speak of microplastics if they are smaller than 5 mm, and nanoplastics between 1 and 100 nanometres), which can be easily ingested by marine organisms, such as zooplankton and fish, cross biological barriers and enter the circulation and even the food chain, reaching humans with consequences that are still unknown today.

I have heard about innovative solutions, but what does that mean in practice? These are solutions, including technologies, that have been used for the first time to prevent, monitor and remove waste of various sizes from waters and coastal areas and have proven to be both suitable and effective. These technologies were selected using databases from projects funded by the European Commission (CORDIS, ESA, EMFF), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the UNEP-sponsored Coordinating Body for the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), scientific papers and crowdfunding platforms.

From the 20,000 results obtained from these databases, 180 were selected as possible solutions, either manual or automated, to prevent litter, including macro- and microplastics, from entering river mouths, to monitor their presence on beaches or in the open sea, and to remove marine litter from coastal areas, the sea surface and the seabed. These solutions include conveyor belts to collect and remove macro-waste floating on the sea surface; drones, GPS trackers and autonomous underwater vehicles to detect areas of widespread marine litter and monitor them over time; floating barriers to prevent the accumulation of litter; and nets, pumps and filters to sample microplastics.

Solutions were selected taking into account several aspects: for example, applicability to the prevention, monitoring and disposal of general or specific marine litter (e.g. plastic, glass) and/or particular size classes (e.g. macro, micro, nano litter); another selection criterion was methodological, technological or engineering innovation.

This would explain why, according to my understanding, out of the tens of thousands of solutions analysed, very few have become a technological reality or are on the market. Most of the solutions have only been demonstrated on a small scale, e.g. in the laboratory, reaching a low level of technological advancement (for specialists the so-called TRL – Technology Readiness Level). We are well aware that many solutions have the potential to prevent, monitor and clean up our seas of waste on a global scale, but that very often they do not go beyond the planning stage due to a lack of funding. The European Union seems to have already recognised this limitation and the new European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon Europe for the period 2021-2027 differentiates calls according to the level of technological advancement.

It therefore seems to me that a simple series of recommendations would be sufficient to make significant progress on these issues. These include, for example, new investments to improve existing solutions that have not yet become technological realities, but also synergy and collaboration between the various promoters of these solutions (scientists, NGOs, industries, public and private bodies) to improve existing technologies and develop new ones. It seems essential to strengthen waste management measures at national and international level, working on both the reduction of waste at source and its elimination from the environment, with a vision of a circular economy, for the sustainable development of our seas.

The future of maritime transport may lie in aviation

Ever since I was a child, I have been very interested in shipping. I remember that I couldn’t understand why all boats weren’t powered like my toy…with batteries.

Later I understood, and now, it gives me the opportunity to tell you about a sailing company. Although its name might not reflect it, Brittany Ferries is a French company.  It is particularly innovative and is banking on a two-stage electric future. It is this aspect that is of particular interest to me.

Firstly, two new ships will be joining the fleet, with a combined LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and electric propulsion system. This “optimised hybrid” system should eventually enable a total reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of 10 and 20% to be achieved, according to the company, a performance that is “set to progress as and when shore power sockets are installed in the ports allowing batteries to be recharged by shore power”.

If LNG is considered very encouraging, with the energy giant Shell having recently placed an order for 40 tankers, the hybrid version is much more promising. Indeed, it is conceivable that with the expected performance of new types of batteries (Sodium-Ion, Lithium-Sulphur, solid state batteries), new fully electric ships will emerge.

Brittany Ferries, however, is looking one step further. In the 1970s, the Soviet army developed a type of aircraft called the Ekranoplan, which was designed primarily for military use. It was designed to take advantage of a well-known aerodynamic effect: the ground effect.

seref dogan erbek

Without wishing to go into the physical and technical details here, which may bore my readers, it should simply be remembered that an aircraft flying very low on a flat surface (ideally water) uses much less energy. Man has taken the example of certain large birds that take advantage of this effect (swans, giant petrels, kori bustards, etc).

The next step for Brittany Ferries is therefore to bring the Soviet Ekranoplan up to date. This will be done by joining forces with the start-up Regent (Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport) based in Boston, USA.
Indeed, the French maritime operator aims to create a new mode of fast, sustainable and efficient maritime transport, the Seaglider.

A partnership agreement has been signed to participate in the design and development of Seagliders with a capacity of 50 to 150 passengers sailing between the UK and France by 2028. Regent expects the first commercial crossings to be on smaller electric boats from 2025.

A ferry… flying at 290km/h!

The Seaglider principle combines the manoeuvrability of ferries with the aerial efficiency of hovercraft and the speed of aircraft. These “gliders” on the sea, which could connect existing ports, should reach the impressive speed of 290 kilometres per hour.

After leaving the harbour, the Seaglider rises on its foils, and in the open sea it takes off on its air cushion, flying at a low altitude, which allows for comfortable sailing over the waves to the port of arrival, where it lands again on its foils, ensuring passenger comfort. In the open sea, it launches on a cushion of air to the port of arrival. Electric propeller motors on the wings provide sufficient thrust for take-off, and regulate the necessary airflow generating sufficient lift for take-off and flight.

seref dogan erbek

Seagliders would therefore be a very efficient mode of transport, capable of moving relatively large loads over long distances and at high speeds. The energy required would be provided exclusively by electric batteries recharged at the dockside.  Safety would be ensured by redundant propulsion systems, as well as by new generation radars that would automatically detect and bypass obstacles at sea.

I am excited about this type of technical innovation, especially since it’s associated with one of my great passions; the sea. I am looking forward to seeing a Seaglider in action!

Nuclear waste, a utilitarian thought

John Stuart Mill, in the 19th century, defined utilitarianism as a doctrine that makes the useful, that which serves life or happiness, the principle of all values in the field of knowledge as well as in that of action.

For most of us, and I am obviously no exception, energy is paramount in our professional and leisure activities. Of course, I personally favour electrical energy, but the question of its origin always remains. In Europe, just over 30% of energy comes from nuclear sources.

I have already mentioned this subject in a previous article explaining why nuclear fusion energy will replace fission energy in a few decades, without waste and without risk. In the meantime, we will have to continue to manage the waste resulting from fusion. But it is very surprising to me to see that, as much as humanity can show vanity and presumptuousness, sometimes it does not believe in itself or in its capacities.

Seref Dogan Erbek

For example, the first thing that comes to mind and that we hear in the media is that it will take hundreds of thousands of years to significantly reduce the danger of nuclear waste. So we are putting future generations at risk. Really?

By being a little provocative, can we seriously think that radioactivity discovered only in 1895 by Henri Becquerel will remain in its current state of research concerning, in particular, waste? If in a little over a century we have been able to domesticate atomic fission and soon fusion, there is no reason why in future years a means will not be found to eliminate the danger of waste.  In the meantime, recycling channels are at work, and currently in France 96% of waste is recovered/reused, only 4% is so-called “ultimate” waste that needs to be stored.

Some countries, such as Finland, which obtains almost 32% of its energy from the atom, are devising intelligent strategies, even if mankind is unable to recycle 100% of its waste. Firstly, the location of a nuclear power plant is determined by where the waste is stored, i.e. in the immediate vicinity. Secondly, the safety of the burial of the waste must be envisaged for a very long period of time, even if future generations forget where it is located.

Accordingly, Finland has already begun digging a tomb designed to withstand the next ice age.  It lies exactly 437 m below the ground on Olkiluoto, an island in the Baltic Sea on the west coast of Finland. There, special guests will rest: radioactive waste that will remain so for hundreds of thousands of years. The temperature is a constant 11 degrees Celsius.

The underground labyrinth of 200 tunnels will eventually be almost 70 km long. Up to 3,250 spaces will be created where the so-called “capsules” will be stored. These will contain the used nuclear fuel. Onkalo (the translation of Finnish means burrow), the name of this site, is a veritable sarcophagus.

Fourfold protection is in place because the used fuel packages, which contain uranium and other radioactive elements such as plutonium, will be inserted into a steel cylinder, which is itself covered by a 5 cm thick copper cylinder to prevent corrosion.

The minimum duration of this protection is 100,000 years, making it the longest-lasting man-made object. The capsules will then be buried in holes at regular intervals in the Onkalo tunnels. They will be surrounded by blocks of bentonite, a type of clay found underground. Once the capsules have been placed, the tunnels themselves will be gradually filled with clay. Above this, 400 m of extremely stable granitic rock, which has not moved for two billion years.

For the time being, therefore, there is no ideal solution while waiting for the “energy of the stars”, i.e. fusion. Thus, the usefulness (no pun intended) of remembering the teaching of John Stuart Mill. I cannot resist adding a thought from Marie Curie:

“In life nothing is to be feared, everything is to be understood.”

Electric cars or missed opportunities?

If I told you that a very elegant lady waits for her electric car to be charged, undoubtedly everyone would be expecting to see a lady dressed in Prada or Dior next to a Tesla, Polestar or an EQC. However, this is not the case, as the photo illustrating my point shows, and which dates back to…1912.

This seems like a long time ago, yet the rechargeable battery had already been invented nearly 50 years earlier, in 1859 by Gaston Planté and the concept was improved in 1881 by Camille Faure.


In 1884, Thomas Parker, a British inventor was already able to pose next to his “Electric Cart”. Then, in 1900, another Camille, Camille Jenatzy broke the world land speed record with the first automobile surpassing 100km/h. Its name was ‘La Jamais Contente’ (The never Contented) and had 68 horsepower.

At the same time, in the streets of New York, 38% of the automotive market consisted of electric vehicles. This figure is simply astounding, while in 2021, they represent, across the entire planet, just 10million vehicles, out of 1.5 billon (0,000005%) traditional vehicles. 

These facts give… to me at least, a sensation that goes beyond vertigo, an impression of a considerable opportunity missed for humanity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine at what stage the evolution of electric cars would be at if fossil fuels hadn’t taken advantage. Range wouldn’t be a problem and full charging would take no more than a few seconds.

Seref Dogan Erbek

Instead of this, hundreds of millions of deaths, even more illnesses occur each year due to harmful emissions. Our planet is polluted, and the global damage is enormous. For more than a century, car manufacturers have only, and very slowly, improved internal combustion engines. They have lived off their profits without serious investment in new technologies, except for a few timid attempts with hydrogen-powered vehicles. All they had to do was change the shape of the headlights, increase the power a little and convince you, with enormous marketing resources, that you had to change your vehicle…

If electricity had been developed as extensively as fossil fuel engines, we would now have electric airplanes, electric boats and not just electric trains.

Obviously, my statement may seem obvious, in hindsight everyone is smarter and can give lessons. However, this is not the goal.  The real goal for me is to modestly contribute to raise awareness of a biomimetic approach. This approach is by nature, interdisciplinary. The starting point is given by fundamental research which observes, analyses and models the living. The most interesting biological models are then taken up by the engineering sciences which translate them into technical concepts. Finally, entrepreneurs take over and move on to industrial development.

If nature has not created an internal combustion engine for its needs, it is because there are better ways. Electricity is present everywhere, at the level of each atom, each molecule of the universe, including in the neurons and synapses of the reader who is now finishing this text.

So instead, let’s take more inspiration from nature, as we have done for thousands of years, the industrial era has often taken us away from this model.

Let’s all change this state of affairs!

Do you really know the “cost of using” your technology ?

It’s not unusual for the younger generations consider their elders, typically of their parents age, as selfish, having emphasised their personal comfort and favouring a society of unrestrained consumption. All of this by destroying precious natural resources and by creating numerous sources of pollution.

This can’t be denied, just as one can’t deny an awareness, even if slow and overdue, is still underway. Are the youth of today really as righteous as they think? Their way of life has changed, that’s clear, favouring soft mobility, sensible consumption and activities that have a beneficial effect on nature.

It’s here that we find the crux of the debate. The sources of pollution were until now, obvious: cars, planes, central heating etc. all of which are easily identifiable, as well as “culpable” as those which had caused this way of life.

The youth that, some of the time, don’t hesitate to give lessons in morality to the ‘aged’, should perhaps take into consideration other sources of pollution, often exiled or invisible since they are out of sight.

Here are some simple examples I want to mention:

  • Sending 30 emails, with attachments costs as much, in energy as well as pollution as driving a car 100km;
  • Sending at least one less e-mail thanking the sender, over the French population, would equate to removing 4000 Diesel cars from the market per year;
  • 10% of electrical energy in Europe is consumed by datacentres;
  • Watching a streamed film consumes as much as 100amps per hour;
  • Opening (and only this, without scrolling) WhatsApp equates to driving a diesel car 13 metres.

Do you really know the “cost of using” your technology ? Seref Dogan Erbek

I could lengthen this list indefinitely and risks omitting other pertinent factors. For example, that 90% of energy consumed by a smartphone (1.5 billion unit sold per year) is generated outside of their fabrication (the components stretching on average 4 times around the planet) without mentioning the cost of recycling and its impact on health.

The worst of all, however, as it often is, is left for last. Every 2 days, the world’s population produces as much information as it has generated since the dawn of its existence back in 2003. Of course, one can hope that among this mass of data, are the works of the new Plato, Einstein and Proust, it is nevertheless more likely that the majority is composed of spam, smileys, cat videos, mindless articles, moronic and (unfortunately) mundane comments.

So, this is what I think and what I believe: history often repeats itself in an ironic way, the chances are that the current sanctimonious youth will be caught up by their children’s generation with the same grievances and criticisms…compounded by the fact that they can’t deny, this time, they know all too well the impact of their actions.

Container freight rates from Asia to Europe exceed 10.000 USD

During the past year, freight prices have been increasing nonstop and have now hit a record high. Bloomberg has highlighted that the rate to ship a forty-foot container to Rotterdam from Shanghai has jumped by 485% year-on-year, following a 3.1% rise over a week, according to information released by the Drewry World Container Index.

The new price slightly exceeds the threshold of 10,000 USD, reaching 10,174 USD. Between 2016 and 2020, this rate never rose above 3,000 USD.

I also look at the composite index data, which is drawn up by a UK analyst firm and keeps track of a number of major shipping routes worldwide, rose by 2% within a week to 6,257 USD, recording another massive year-on-year growth of 293%.

Neither of these values have been seen in records before, which date back to 2011.

The Maritime Executive reported additional results from Xeneta, another market intelligence firm which collates financial data from shippers. The numbers show similar growth, with the global benchmark recorded as having risen by 34.5% since the beginning of 2021.

seref dogan erbek

What I’m seeing that rates have increased in all major trade corridors over those five months, with routes between the Far East and Europe taking the lead and witnessing price spikes of more than 50%.

Bloomberg attributes these huge rate increases to the low availability of twenty- and forty-foot containers in comparison to demand.

I can foresee that freight rates will eventually settle back into ‘normal’ levels, but until then, shipping companies will have to endure the uncertainty around when that will happen and find ways to keep up with the logistics costs they are facing in the meantime.

The economic and environmental impact of gold mining

For centuries now, gold has consistently attracted more investors and higher demand in comparison to the other precious metals.

Demand per year outweighs 3,000 billion tonnes, with China and India being top of the list of those demanding more of the ‘yellow metal.’

Gold is widely regarded as a ‘safe haven’ par excellence, given its ability to hedge the portfolio and avoid the damaging effects of inflation in extreme economic times.

However, I cannot overlook the burdensome mining activity that gold production brings significant consequences, namely waste and the environmental impact, due to the highly harmful waste products generated during the working process.

Read on to learn more about this issue.

Physical extraction: the costs.

Extracting physical gold from a mine takes hard work and requires significant investment, energy consumption and use of labour. It starts with an exploratory phase which can last for up to ten years, and is regarded as an investment with the aim that it will eventually recover the incurred costs and generate profit. It is far from guaranteed that the results of this activity will be economically viable, as just around 0.1% of areas under consideration turn out to be an actual mine.

The second phase consists of the construction of a structure that is able to extract the material. Often the cost-effectiveness of such a structure is uncertain because, on average, just 10% of active devices produce the amount of gold needed to justify the investment.

Once the effective economic viability of the site has been evaluated, it is necessary to apply for a national licence in order to build the actual mine and thus proceed to the extraction phase. The application necessitates a long and bureaucratic process, which is often influenced by the social and organisational conditions of the country where the operation is taking place. This process can take as long as five years to be carried out, without any certainty that the licence to work will be obtained.

Once the procedure for the application has been concluded and the licence obtained, the physical extraction of fragments of earth and rocks containing gold can commence. The ‘average life’ of a mine until its depletion tends to be between ten and thirty years; once the mine’s production cycle has come to an end and all the raw material has been extracted, the structure will be completely demolished through a process that usually lasts between one and five years.

The final stage of the gold production cycle is the reclamation of the lands upon which the activity has been carried out. This operation is essential in order to avoid significant damages to the nappes and the surrounding vegetation. This process may require a further five years to be fully implemented and comes with significant costs.

Hopefully, the general framework explained above clarifies each step of the process, the reasons why gold mining as a business requires significant investment and a long-term operational perspective, and why profit projections remain uncertain.


Environmental impact.

So, here is my opinion… In a world that is becoming more and more enlightened on topics such as environmental issues, health and maintaining the delicate ecosystems that contribute to our planet, it is important to pay attention to the environmental matters and potential dangers that gold mining involves.

When extracting gold, the use of substances such as mercury, sulphuric acid and cyanide is necessary. Such substances can easily spread to the water near the production site and cause contamination, poisoning the local flora and fauna as a consequence.

In order to obtain an ounce (approx. 35g) of pure gold, a staggering 250 tonnes of rocks must be removed. A single gram of gold uses five grams of mercury, a substance that causes damage to the nervous system, the lungs and the kidneys. Given this statistic, it comes as no surprise that gold mining produces more than 30% of the world’s mercury pollution.

Cyanide can have serious consequences on health such as seizures, damage to the lungs and respiratory failures due to the reduction of oxygen levels. Sulphuric acid, a substance used to dissolve metals from the surrounding rock, releases 9 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, generating the infamous acid rains.

Finally, every tonne of gold produced adds a devastating 300,000 tonnes of toxic waste to the environment. I think this stark reality is where attention must be drawn to, and it is in the hands of the main proponents of the Green Economy – together with the competent control authorities – to take this phenomenon into account.

How the Shipping Industry has Changed

The immense amount that the shipping industry has changed over time is something that we take for granted in modern society. In the era of free two day shipping and sometimes even 1-day deliveries, it’s important to examine what is different.

Means of Travel

Ships, railroads, and trucks have changed the fundamentals of how we ship items around the world. In fact, prior to the 1800’s, most items were shipped via merchant ships and horseback.

The change to the shipping industry sped up in the 1900’s. This is due to the development of road systems in many major cities. Cars ultimately became more popular, and trucking followed soon after. Nowadays, our complex shipping system relies on a mix of cargo ships, railroads, and trucks, with each playing an important role in deliveries worldwide.

How the shipping industry has changed Dogan Erbek

Tracking Technology and GPS Accuracy

Today we get to enjoy the advanced tracking that shipment companies use. When we order something, we get a pretty accurate estimate on when that delivery will arrive. It’s almost second nature now that we know to use our given tracking number to see any updates about our delivery.

This wasn’t always the case though. While customers had been given a rough estimate on a delivery in the past, the tracking technology wasn’t nearly what it is today. Customers were also left in the dark after an initial estimate.

Additionally, GPS accuracy has also taken a big leap. GPS accuracy has pushed shipping companies to deliver on an increase in productivity and ultimately faster shipments. Gone are the days of needing to write down directions, printing them from your computer, or even asking locals how to get back on the correct route. While advanced GPS technology helps average consumers in our everyday lives, it’s even more important to the shipping industry.

RFID and Smart Devices

While consumer awareness of RFID technology isn’t necessarily as big as tracking or GPS technology, the role that it plays is huge. RFID technology allows for shipping companies to easily keep track of their inventory as it moves from different shipping locations.

RFID uses a chip or a sensor to send out radio waves, essentially transmitting information. Once that information is sent out, it is processed by the company’s computer systems. Shipping companies use RFID technology in a similar manner as barcodes. Although, the superior speed of RFID technology is more beneficial to shipping companies.

Smart devices are changing things for the shipping industry, too. By building sensors into shipping equipment and vehicles, crews can take advantage of real time data and insights related to their shipment. Smart devices connect to the internet, which allows them to transmit data to the crew in charge of the shipment.

Where Things are Going

The future is going to rely heavily on automation. Automation can be a scary subject, because it can replace the need for so many jobs, and we really don’t know how many industries will take advantage of it. One thing that’s for certain though, is that the shipping industry will be fundamentally changed by automation.

Autonomous vehicles are already part of our reality, and autonomous trucks will soon be a part of the shipping industry. While there are still regulatory issues and safety concerns that stand in the way of full implementation, the technology is there. The question now becomes, when will we fully take advantage of it.

Additionally, drones will also become common practice for companies delivering packages. Amazon has led the way in this technological development, announcing Amazon Prime Air. Similar to autonomous vehicles, regulatory hurdles still stand in the way of drone deliveries. There is also still a large associated cost with drone deliveries, making the widespread rollout something that we’ll have to wait a little bit longer for.

No one is safe until we are all safe

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that “these extraordinary times and circumstances call for extraordinary measures.

The US supports the waiver of IP (intellectual property) protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we will actively participate in WTO (World Trade Organisation) negotiations to make that happen”.

It is reported that 10-15 billion vaccine doses are needed to stop the spread of the virus; by April 2021, there had only been 1.2 billion doses produced worldwide.

No one is safe until we are all safe Dogan Erbek

The way I see it, US’s stance is circumstantial and in a way symbolic; the WTO negotiations could last for months curtailing to have an immediate impact in ending this present health crisis. Nevertheless, I believe this is very big news.

With this declaration US administration is following India and South Africa, which in early October 2020 issued a proposal for temporary suspension of IP rules in the context of Covid-19. In this regard, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also said she was “ready to discuss any proposal that would tackle the crisis in an effective and pragmatic way.”  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were overjoyed with the news and congratulated the US on this historic decision.

Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry took the White House’s decision very badly. They argue that developing countries lack the skills and resources to manufacture COVID vaccines based on new technologies. They also say that it will undermine the pandemic response, risk-taking and innovation in vaccine research. In my view, one thing is clear; this waiver, if can be applied timely on WHO scale, will deprive the big pharma of monopoly profits during this pandemic.

The big pharma prefers the donation of vaccines to patent infringement. There, however, promises have not been kept so far. The COVAX Facility, the global pooled procurement mechanism formulated by WHO for COVID-19 vaccines, was supposed to distribute two billion doses by the end of 2021 to the poorest countries, has not received enough deliveries, being able to provide only 53 million doses so far. Despite this largest vaccination campaign in history, one in four people in developed countries have been vaccinated to date, while in low-income countries it is one in 500. Can we give a better example of inequality?

On the flipside of the coin, there are also geopolitical concerns. Thus far, China and Russia exported their vaccines in quantity and have engaged in significant technology and knowledge transfer, forging partnerships around the world, and helping to speed up the global vaccination effort. This has been clearly an act of benevolent power to the world. The US and the EU are surely taking this perspective into account as well.

In today’s world, I think it is nearly impossible to think outside of the box of Big Data. Generous and benevolent they all seem, these programs will help to gather huge amounts of valuable medical information and records in less developed countries, where privacy and data protection regulations are much more lax compared to developed countries.

Is small beautiful ?

COVID-19 accelerated a major shift in working relations with new and elaborate definitions and notions such as smart working. Smart working stands for an employment relationship agreed between the parties, organised through phases, cycles and goals and without any schedule or place constraints, with the possibility of using technological tools to work.

In its essence it resembles very much already existing Anglo-Saxon start-up and tech employment world, muted labour protection and rights with easy access and very easy exit (voluntary or otherwise).


After the pandemic, we have seen a sub-category of this concept widely in continental Europe with varied names, remote working, home-working, télé-travail. Thus far, we have generally experienced the part where “without place constraints” and “the possibility of using technological tools to work”.  All the major studies in all developed countries point to the same direction conveying the same message; The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? – Microsoft World Trend Index 2021. According to this report, 73% of employees want flexible remote work options. Similar reports also state a positive impact on efficiency and quality from the viewpoint of employees. This all seems and reads very positively. Are we refusing, however, to acknowledge the negatives and risks?

I would like to cite the worrying new mantra: if you can do your job from anywhere, someone anywhere can do your job. With the exponential growth of technological advances, this is now especially true for financial industry with all the related corporate structures and information services. I wonder whether well-paid white collar jobs with substantial social benefits in Europe are still secure. Would not the companies be inclined to hire highly educated and skilled people from developing countries for merely a fraction of the salaries now applicable?
These risks do not concern the employees alone; employers are also facing major challenges. The cross-border employment may imply various bureaucratic, legal and tax consequences with related costs as well as risks. Big companies with their vast resources may cope with this matter. As I see it, the smaller companies will need to come up with more creative ideas and tailor-made solutions to succeed should this trend persist.