Tag Archives: UN

Thinking a lot about food lately!

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about food – not so much because I’m hungry but because it seems to be a topic that keeps popping up in both my work and personal life.

A few weeks ago our family helped hand out grocery bags with shopping lists to members of our church.   We were part of an effort to help the Raleigh Catholic Parish Outreach replenish their food bank, as they have seen a 42% increase in families seeking aid this summer compared to last year.  Clearly the recession is worsening the situation for many families across North Carolina who seek out CPO for a week”s worth of groceries.  Families take the shopping bags with a shopping list of items attached, fill the bag with the items, and bring it back the following week to be collected and taken to the CPO Food Bank. Essentially this work of charity is to gather food from those able to procure it to share it and redistribute it to those less fortunate.

Last week our family also enjoyed our weekly delivery of The Produce Box. It’s a great service we subscribe to that deliver locally grown, farm-fresh produce to our door every week during our North Carolina growing season.   Why – because it not only supports local farmers, but it tastes better and is healthier too!

Then last week we also saw the passing and death of Norman Borlaug.  As you may know, Norman won the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his revolutionary work to create genetically altered strains of wheat and rice that significantly increased the crop yields.  He is universally credited with saving the lives of hundreds of millions of people by enabling many developing economies to become self-sufficient in their agricultural production during the 1960s.

During the recent downturn there have also been quite a few media articles and reports about the increasing number of citizens (and especially Americans) who have taken to growing their own produce.   Given the global economic downturn they are now frequently called “recession gardens.

Thanks in large part to the innovation of Mr. Borlaug there is now sufficient food on the earth to feed the world’s population.  Similarly, thanks to programs like the Produce Box, my family can enjoy organic food from a local farm as an alternative to the very good and high quality produce in the grocery store that is shipped in from all parts of the globe.

But still we have a hunger problem in many parts of the world.  As you can see at the Stop the Hunger site – approximately 27,000 people die of hunger each day in the world, and 78% of the malnourished children live in countries with food surpluses.   So if we have enough food – it must just be a question of getting it to the right places…..

More to come – on Smarter Food….


What If We Had Smarter Insurance?

Over this past weekend I spent part of Father’s Day watching the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, which was once again a striking display of how competitive pressure and being atop the leaderboard can result in rapid changes in the standings and an unexpected winner.  More on that some other time….

During the final two days of the tourney, the commentators were abounding in “what if” analysis given the rapid changes in the standings as the final rounds of golf were played.   As  I watched, I was also struck by how Metlife  has changed their marketing slogan to be “for the IF in life” as evidenced by presence of the Metlife Blimp in the skies over the U.S. Open course.

Then just a few hours later I was off to Toronto and Montreal to meet with two of our key software partners that have solutions to help our clients in the Insurance industry become “smarter.”   As many of you know, Insurance is one of the 13 key industries that IBM is focused on with our Smarter Planet initiative, and for Insurance companies we have a very defined point of view on the future of insurance that you can understand by viewing these videos.

Camilion Solutions is focused on helping insurance companies develop “product agility” for their products – or said differently – increase the speed and flexibility of how insurance companies can develop new offerings and solutions for their clients.  Most insurance firms have to invest significantly in IT each time they create new products, since as information based businesses they have to link their IT and their products so the right information is collected from clients to enable the rating, pricing and risk management associated with the each policy that is issued and the overall insurance risk pool they carry as a company.     Obviously this doesn’t seem like a fast, lean process for most insurance firms – thus the opportunity for Camilion!  They help clients define products as collections of re-usable “components”, store all product information in one central place, and make this accurate and consistent product information accessible by all stakeholders and systems, across products and even lines of business.   The intended result – increased speed to market, lower risk, and reduced costs.  And for us as clients this means better tailored, more flexible products for our insurance needs.

Then on Tuesday I spent most of the day with Silanis Technology.  If you have ever applied for any type of insurance, you know full well the mountains of paperwork that are required during the application process, and then again once as you are issued a policy.   Despite all the technology in the world, most important transactions like insurance, or buying a home, require an avalanche of paper to be printed out and signed.  Now however,  we can be smarter – with the solution offered by Silanis.   They invented the technology and the business process management solution to handle this type of complexity and they automate the business processes requiring secure, compliant and legally enforceable, electronic signatures and records. They pioneered the electronic signature market more than 17 years ago, and have developed a very large client base.   In many ways they automated “the last inch” of so many processes – where all the documents are created electronically (thankfully no more typewriters and carbon copies!) – but we still print the docs to sign, and then send them off to somewhere to be scanned into electronic records!

It seems like adoption of this type of solution has also accelerated since new legal guidelines for e-signatures were issued in most countries beginning in 2000.  Next time you get an insurance policy, or close on a new home, you might be able to do it all online – saving all that paper printing, all the courier fees, and even the fees to show up at the lawyer’s office in person.  Imagine a world where we don’t have to print all those docs  and how that will contribute to saving our environment!  That sounds like a good first step toward a smarter planet.

Even BIGGER breakthroughs are possible when we then combine real time indicators of risk with real time analytics and business model innovation.  One cool example was unveiled today at the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.   Farmers in developing countries can now take advantage of new Index Insurance contracts to help them insure their crops from a severe drought.  These contracts link the insurance to a measure of the weather in a certain region (i.e. rainfall amount), so that the insurance company can measure the index without having to visit each individual policy holder (huge field cost!) to assess the risk and damage claims. Now farmers who often live on $2 per day can get access to bank loans and lines of credit that are backed by these insurance policies, and can significantly improve their quality of life in a way never before possible.  So far more than 2 million farmers have been aided by this new type of insurance.

Now that sounds like a smarter planet to me!