Research and Innovation Forum 2022: panel organizer, speaker, PC member, moderator and Best panel moderator award

As I wrote earlier, this year I was invited to organize my own panel session within the Research and Innovation Forum (Rii Forum). This invitation was a follow-up on several articles that I have recently published (article#1, article#2, article#3) and a Chapter to be published in “Big data & decision-making: how big data is relevant across fields and domains” (Emerald Studies in Politics and Technology) I was developing at that time. I was glad to accept this invitation, but I did not even think about how many roles I will act in Rii Forum and how many emotions I will experience. So, how was it?

First, what was my panel about? It was dedicated to data security entitled “Security of data storage facilities: is your database sufficiently protected?” being a part of the track called “ICT, safety, and security in the digital age: bringing the human factor back into the analysis“.

My own talk was titled “Data security as a top priority in the digital world: preserve data value by being proactive and thinking security first“, which makes it to be a part of the panel described above. In this talk I elaborated on the main idea of the panel, referring to an a study I recently conducted. In short, today, in the age of information and Industry 4.0, billions of data sources, including but not limited to interconnected devices (sensors, monitoring devices) forming Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) and the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, continuously generate, collect, process, and exchange data. With the rapid increase in the number of devices and information systems in use, the amount of data is increasing. Moreover, due to the digitization and variety of data being continuously produced and processed with a reference to Big Data, their value, is also growing. As a result, the risk of security breaches and data leaks. The value of data, however, is dependent on several factors, where data quality and data security that can affect the data quality if the data are accessed and corrupted, are the most vital. Data serve as the basis for decision-making, input for models, forecasts, simulations etc., which can be of high strategical and commercial / business value. This has become even more relevant in terms of COVID-19 pandemic, when in addition to affecting the health, lives, and lifestyle of billions of citizens globally, making it even more digitized, it has had a significant impact on business. This is especially the case because of challenges companies have faced in maintaining business continuity in this so-called “new normal”. However, in addition to those cybersecurity threats that are caused by changes directly related to the pandemic and its consequences, many previously known threats have become even more desirable targets for intruders, hackers. Every year millions of personal records become available online. Moreover, the popularity of IoTSE decreased a level of complexity of searching for connected devices on the internet and easy access even for novices due to the widespread popularity of step-by-step guides on how to use IoT search engine to find and gain access if insufficiently protected to webcams, routers, databases and other artifacts. A recent research demonstrated that weak data and database protection in particular is one of the key security threats. Various measures can be taken to address the issue. The aim of the study to which this presentation refers is to examine whether “traditional” vulnerability registries provide a sufficiently comprehensive view of DBMS security, or whether they should be intensively and dynamically inspected by DBMS holders by referring to Internet of Things Search Engines moving towards a sustainable and resilient digitized environment. The study brings attention to this problem and make you think about data security before looking for and introducing more advanced security and protection mechanisms, which, in the absence of the above, may bring no value.

Other presentations delivered during this session were “Information Security Risk Awareness Survey of non-governmental Organization in Saudi Arabia”, “Fake news and threats to IoT – the crucial aspects of cyberspace in the times of cyber war” and “Minecraft as a Tool to Enhance Engagement in Higher Education” – both were incredibly interesting, and all three talks were delivered by females, where only the moderator of the session was a male researcher, which he found to be very specific, given the topic and ICT orientation – not a very typical case 🙂 But, nevertheless, we managed to have a great session and a very lively and fruitful discussion, mostly around GDPR-related questions, which seems to be one of the hottest areas of discussion for people representing different ICT “subbranches”. The main question that we discussed was – is the GDPR more a supportive tool and a “great thing” or rather a “headache” that sometimes even interferes with development.

In addition, shortly before the start of the event, I was asked to become a moderator of the panel “Business in the era of pervasive digitalization“. Although, as you may know, this is not exactly in line with my area of expertise, it is in line with what I am interested in. This is not surprising, since both management, business, the economics are very closely connected and dependent on ICT. Moreover, they affect ICT, thereby pointing out the critical areas that we as IT-people need to refer to. All in all, we had a great session with excellent talks and lively discussion at the end of the session, where we discussed different session-related topics, shared our experience, thoughts etc. Although it was a brilliant experience, there is one thing that made it even better… A day later, a ceremony was held where the best contributions of the forum were announced and I was named the best panel moderator as a recognition of “the academic merit, quality of moderation, scheduling, and discussion held during the panel”!!!

These were wonderful three days of the forum with very positive emotions and so many roles – panel organizer, speaker / presenter, program committee member and panel moderator with the cherry on the cake and such a great end of the event. Thank you Research and Innovation Forum!!! Even being at home and participating online, you managed to give us an absolute amazing experience and even the feeling that we were all together in Athens! supported programme by Riga TechGirls and my participation in it as a speaker and lead mentor for the digital development workshop on Information and data literacy

This February I got yet another experience by participating in a programme launched by Riga TechGirls and supported by (“Google Impact challenge” grant), in addition to local supporters such as the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia, the Ministry of Culture, Riga city council (Rīgas Dome), titled “Human on technology” for more than 2000 Latvian teachers with the aim of disrupting technophobia and provide them with digital skills that are “must-have” in this digital world/ era. I have acted as both the lecturer and the lead mentor for the digital development workshop held as a part of the “Information and data literacy” module.

Hope the knowledge and experience I have shared will be beneficial and improve their lives, work-related and daily activities, and now they will be able “to train the “Google””. This, however is a reference to the title of my talk (and “How to train your dragon?” animated film) since I was asked to speak about working with information and entitled my lecture Work with information or how to train your “Google”?” During this lecture we discussed tips&tricks for data and information search, data analysis, fact checking in the digital environment, spoke about the “art” of searching for information in different browsers – how to create search requests, how to search more precisely so that searches are more accurate, including but not limited to the build of queries with searching operators for advanced search. And of course, we spoke about how the search engine works, i.e. what is the process of searching the information from the crawlers to indexing and sorting results returned to the end-user and different algorithms they are based on, and covered a rich list of search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, Yandex, Baidu, Seznam and many more by trying to understand what is the difference between them and how they can be classified (i.e. security- and safety- oriented, regional search engines etc.).

The second meeting with the audience took place a bit later as the last activity of the “Information and data literacy” module, where I acted as the lead mentor of this digital development workshop. Here I delivered a lecture (mostly of practical nature), followed by splitting participants in rooms, where they were asked to complete tasks we have prepared to them and discuss questions they could have (both related and not related to these tasks, thereby providing the support to resolve their daily problems), where 11 female mentors, including myself, were actively involved. We worked hard, but it seems we were able to help combating challenges teachers face on a daily basis in their daily activities (from data sorting and organization of email to backup creation and their further maintenance), and that is great!!!

During this workshop we have discussed how to structure your data more wisely, effectively and efficiently with their further re-use in both local and cloud environments with the focus on OneDrive and Google Drive, which are used by teachers more frequently. We have covered a lot of tips&tricks for both the creation of their own pre-defined systems, which I have recommended to develop keeping in mind FAIR principles (this was an attempt to provide them with a brief overview of these principles, when and how they should be used etc. and why both FAIR and openness, including but not limited to open science, matter) and filling them with the information found applying previous knowledge acquired during the lecture I have delivered before (the use of different search engines (at least just to test), building of queries and use of operators to limit the resulting set and make it more search query-compliant etc.). We have also referred to other curious methods and techniques and took a brief overview on stuff like extensions for browsers, including those allowing video download from Youtube, Google Lens, data export and import “from-to and between” cloud storage and local system, image and video search in different search engines, verification of facts, searching for academic and scientific literature and many more…

It was an amazing experience of working with teachers – the target audience of this programme – and even more pleasant to hear that they will (continuously) apply these knowledge and practical experience gained during this weekend at their workplace (and outside it). We continue receiving their comments that they have started doing this immediately during the workshop and continue doing this today as the first activity to be done when arriving at the workplace AND everything works as expected or even better!!! It is the best assessment we could hope for!

I am very grateful for all those comments left for both the Riga TechGirls team and even more grateful for those left for me – I am very happy that both my lecture and the following hand-outs were both easy to understand & track (this audience was something really new for me in terms of both the nature – teachers, and amount – around 1 000 people (90 Zoom rooms for practical assignments and discussions) during the day in three time slots), and valuable at the same time!!! I am very glad to hear that teachers would likely meet me again – I will be glad to meet you again, too!!!

Riga TechGirls, mentors and supportive words for attendees

Thank you, Riga TechGirls team – the first community in Latvia aimed at educating and inspiring women and girls in IT, empowering them to be architects of the future – for your invitation and this valuable experience!