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Digital Privacy Is a Big Concern in Europe. For This Reporter, Too.

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How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Matt Apuzzo, an investigative correspondent in Brussels, discussed the tech he’s using.

What are the most important tech tools for you as an investigative journalist?

As with most people these days, my go-to device is my phone, which in my case is an iPhone X. I don’t use it for anything particularly unique to journalism, except maybe document scanning. Sometimes, I might have only a minute to see a key document, and having it can mean the difference between breaking a story and not. For years I have used an app called TurboScan Pro, and I love it.

Tech is great, but there’s no substitute for personal relationships. I prefer face-to-face conversations whenever possible, and I almost never record them. I use small, discreet notebooks like the Moleskin pocket journal. A lot of my interviews are over coffee, drinks or meals, and I want something as unobtrusive as possible at the table. I love the feel of the Rhodia pocket webnotebook, but let’s be honest: I’m not picky. Some of the best, most surprising nuggets of information have been scribbled on napkins or the backs of envelopes or tapped in text messages to myself.

I try to transcribe long interviews immediately. I have been a longtime devotee of the web-based app Workflowy for taking notes, at the recommendation of my colleague Farhad Manjoo. It’s particularly great for long-term projects and collaborations. I recently downloaded and am trying out the app Bear at the recommendation of another colleague, Kate Conger. My dream piece of note-taking software has a lightweight, fast interface that supports tagging and annotation of PDFs. I’ve tried Evernote and OneNote but found both to be too bloated for my purposes. The quest continues.

I use a MacBook Pro, which I like for its full-disk encryption. But it devours battery life. Maybe it’s just my device, but it loses 50 percent of its charge while sleeping overnight, and Apple says there’s nothing wrong with it. So I followed the lead of another colleague, Eric Lipton, and invested in a power pack that can recharge both my Mac and my phone. I picked a unit from ZDI because Wirecutter recommended it, and I’m quite happy with it.

When I travel, it all gets tossed into an Everyday Max Backpack, which opens and packs like a roll aboard but carries like a slim backpack and includes a separate laptop compartment. All the cables are kept in check with the Grid-It organization system.

How do you keep communications with sources secure?

Before moving to Europe this summer, I spent about a decade covering national security and intelligence in cities like Washington, so I’m pretty security conscious. Before I left, a friend who works in intelligence offered a gentle reminder that most countries would probably consider me fair game for intelligence collection.

So I use a cheap Chromebook when traveling to places where curious eyes might be tempted to sneak a peek. I set it up with a burner account, and I never connect it to any personal or business accounts.

And all those note-taking apps? If I’m working on something particularly sensitive or talking to someone who is sticking his neck out by meeting with me, those notes often don’t get saved digitally. When the story is done, the notebook gets tossed and that’s the end of it.

For my phone, I appreciate Apple’s encryption standards. I don’t appreciate having to turn off all the location-based corporate surveillance on my iPhone, but nothing is perfect.

For text-based conversations, I use mostly Signal and WhatsApp. But as President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort reminded us all: End-to-end encryption is useless if you’re backing up chats to the cloud. So I don’t.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in how Europeans use tech versus Americans?

The biggest difference seems to be one of trust. Speaking generally, Europeans seem far more suspicious of private companies and far more trusting of their governments. Americans don’t trust the government with their data, but will click “O.K.” to allow companies to mine their personal lives and sell their information to any number of unsavory buyers. Again this is a generalization, but the idea that companies can secretly use your personal information to manipulate you seems much more unsettling to Europeans than the knowledge that the government is tracking subway rides and videotaping city streets.

And tech-savvy countries like Estonia are innovating in ways that make government more efficient. When you see Estonia’s “only once” policy — the promise that you’ll never have to give the government a piece of information more than once — it’s hard not to view the United States and all of its paper as slow and outdated. Age, sex, address, date of birth, employer, phone number: How many times have you scratched them on a piece of paper for a different bureaucrat in a different office in a different wing of the American bureaucracy?

What are the most important tech tools now for you and your family in keeping touch with folks back home?

The move has been pretty seamless, techwise. I’m on WhatsApp with my family and friends and Signal with my colleagues, just as before. I ported my Washington cell number to Tossable Digits, a service that forwards calls to my Brussels number and forwards text messages to my email address. It’s nice to keep an American number handy.

You won’t find me on Facebook. I pulled the plug and don’t miss it at all.

And I’m almost three years clean on Twitter, which was a much harder break. But I noticed it was really hurting my attention span. Plus, it just felt like an endless version of the worst kind of cocktail party. Only with Nazis. So many Nazis. I’m still there as @mattapuzzo, though, because a colleague told me that if I deleted the account it would be taken over by sex bots.

And nobody wants that.

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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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