Tag Archives: Diaspora

UNCTAD WIF14 – Investing in Sustainable Development

The fourth version of the World Investment Forum, organized by @UNCTAD, was held in Geneva with over 3,000 participants from 150 countries. The fourth version of this event gathered high-level decision makers from the public sector, academia, and investment promotion agencies, interested on how foreign direct investment can reach a sustainable path. The city of Lima, Peru, is already in preparations to host the fifth version, which will be held in 2016.

The forum had a considerable participation of investment promotion agencies, particularly from Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. With over 300 speakers, the agenda included 50 different sessions in which participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas on multiple topics.  Among those, it is important to highlight agricultural investment, regional integration, international investment agreements, and gender equality.

An important debate was held with world leaders as to how close funding gaps in infrastructure and climate change adaptation. Some of the speakers called the attention on the fact that the main issue is not on a lack of resources for infrastructure, but on “lack of adequately packaged or large enough projects”, as stated by UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi. Additionally, UN’s counselor to the Millennium Development Goals – MDGs, Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, stated that “long-term thinking and complex solutions” must be kept in mind when speaking about turnkey projects.

During the event UNCTAD launched the Investment Guides – iGuides, as a way for investors to have updated, comparable and centralized data on their target destinations.  Information such as business costs, key procedures and laws are included on the first iGuides that were launched (Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Comoros, East African Community, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lao, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Zambia).

The way in which regions develop their investment strategy is largely influenced by endogenous and exogenous actors.  Civil society and public leadership are part of the internal ones, and Diasporas are part of the exogenous actors. Numerous countries still rely on a great extent on their Diaspora for investment, not only in remittances but also as a FDI source.  This trend is followed by both emerging and developed countries, crisis-stricken Europe included: Ireland, Spain, among others.  This process is commonly referred to as Diaspora Direct Investments, and has become a new source for seeking capital. Around 215 million people live away from their home country and, if well managed, can help national and regional investment promotion agencies identify and influence the decision of potential investors. This policy has been successfully implemented by several countries. Ireland for example targets both both diaspora-owned business and companies employing influential fellows of the diaspora, acting as connectors.

A special session was held on the role transnational corporations can play in women empowerment and gender equality, moderated by Maria Cattaui-Livanos, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce with participation of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, @UNWomen. Elian Carsenat of @FDIMagnet shared with Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka the latest Gender Gap Grader infographics on startups and access to financing.

Gender Gap Grader for WIF

Open data initiatives such as Gender Gap Grader can play a role to empower women, trigger changes. Even if closing the gender gap in investment will take time, women could have a more decisive role in attracting FDI and VC/Angels money to foster innovation ecosystems in places where it is most needed. What it takes is combining the activation of Women’s Networks with Diaspora Direct Investment: reaching out to influential women in the Diaspora to attract investments, expertise and help make connections.
About Karina Azar,


In her five years career, Karina developed strong expertise on Foreign Direct Investment as Promotion Manager and Advisor to companies considering relocation in Colombia.  On 2013 she was ranked on Neashore Americas Power 50 as one of the most influential executives in the outsourcing field.  She is currently researching on Sustainable Development with the Sorbonne University in Paris and independant consultant on FDI matters.  Karina can be reached at karinaazarb@gmail.com or via LinkedIn.


About FDIMagnet,

FDIMagnet is NamSor™ offering for Investment Promotion. We use our unique data mining software to offer differentiated Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) services:

–   Diaspora Direct Investments (DDI)

–   Smart Investors Targeting & CRM

–   FDI Targeted Communication

Follow @FDIMagnet or email us at contact@fdimagnet.com

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Place Marketing Forum 2014 – what role for a Diaspora in attracting FDI, Tourism?

Organized by the “Regional Attractiveness and Place Marketing Chair” of Sciences Po Aix, for its second edition, Place Marketing Forum 2014 gathered more than 400 thought leaders, experts and professionals, from the public and private sector, all involved in territorial marketing and regional attractiveness. Katherine Loflin, Head of Loflin Consulting Solutions and international Expert in Place Making (USA), was guest of honour of this year edition.

The remarkable case of Connect Ireland / Succeed in Ireland was presented by ConnectIreland CEO Michael McLoughlin. Elian Carsenat, NamSor / @FDIMagnet had an opportunity to discuss the role of a Diaspora for FDI and Tourism during the ensuing rountable with digital tourism expert Ludovic Dublanchet, Michael McLoughlin and Caroline Isautier (San Francisco Consult).

How your country, your region, your city can use a Diaspora for its ambassadors strategy?

Firstly, you need to acknowledge your Diaspora and answer this perenial question: who are they, where are they and what are they doing. Below our key points on this topic.

To download the full presentation (PDF) 20141016_PMF2014_NamSor_FDIMagnet_Pitch_vFf.pdf

Secondly, you need to create communication channels and the appropriate conditions to activate and engage your Diaspora. Kingsley Aikins (DiasporaMatters) is a renowned expert on how to engage a Diaspora, you’ll find his pitch at TEDxVilnius below.

Additional thoughts on PMF2014

Place Marketing Forum 2014 was a great success. I was amazed by the quality of the place branding cases presented, such as OnlyLyon, IAmsterdam,  Our Miami and the innovative CRM approach deployed at Val Thorens Ski Resort. What also made this event particularly interesting is the transversal approach taken to country branding / place marketing, covering not just tourism but also foreign direct investments (FDIs) and attraction of talents / startup ecosystems. A cool takaway was found in the conference USB key, in the form of a 282 pages comprehensive report ‘Place Marketing Trends 2014‘ by Joel Gayet.

This event is set to grow and attract even more international interest. I look forward to PMF2015.

In the meantime, we look forward to see you at the Global Diaspora and Development Forum, Dublin.

Further reading

About NamSor

NamSor™ Applied Onomastics is a European vendor of Name Recognition Software (NamSor sorts names). NamSor mission is to help understand international flows of money, ideas and people.

NamSor launched FDIMagnet,  a consulting offering to help Investment Promotion Agencies and High-Tech Clusters leverage a Diaspora to connect with business and scientific communities abroad.

Photo Credits – PMF2014

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moving voices from the grave

It’s not every day one hears the voice of Tolstoy, expressing himself in French. It didn’t occur during a session of spiritism, but during an interview organized by KazTV at the ‘Institut des Archives Sonores’, Paris. Thank you Mr Edison!

This institute, created by Franklin PICARD, resulted of the merger of two large private collections of voice recordings from all over the world. Where do they come from ? From the grave, but before that – where did they come from? Onomastics, the science of proper names, is a powerful tool to search in such archives the origin of the voices. They often belong to several origin, if you think in terms of geography, or political boundaries or culture: the voice of President Kennedy is the voice of America, but it’s also the voice of the Irish Diaspora.

During soviet times, thousands of voices of poets, writers, philosophers, scientists were edited under one flag – the USSR. How can we find them today? In the collections of the IAS, long unheard voices are sleeping treasures for countries such as Kazakhstan – as they rediscover their cultural identities and long for their dead poets.

We’ve recently used NamSor software to help Lithuania attract FDIs or build expert networks in Life Sciences. But there could be hidden treasures in cultural archives (cinema, music, photography, literature, arts, ..) which data mining can help unearth, opening a whole range of new possibilities.

Watch the interview by Kazakhstan National TV (in Russian, dubbing in Kazakh)


video mirror

About NamSor

NamSor™ Applied Onomastics is a European designer of name recognition software. NamSor is committed to promote diversity and equal opportunity. NamSor launched GendRE API, a free API to extract gender from personal names. We support the @GenderGapGrader initiative. http://namsor.com

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Digital Society Forum – new technologies for connected migrants

Last March 26th in Paris, we joined the fourth Digital Society Forum with Stéphane Richard, CEO of French Telecom company Orange, Christine Albanel (Orange), Marie-Noëlle Jego-Laveissière (Orange), Dana Diminescu (Télécom Paritech, Director of « Migrations ICT » at FMSH Paris), Henri Dudzinski (Journalist), Catherine Grandsard (Centre Georges Devereux), Baki Youssoufou (WeSignIt) and Michel Fortin (NamSor).

NamSor offers solutions to help countries reconnect with their Diaspora and engage the Diaspora for economic development (remittances -also known as ‘Western Union’ money transfers-, FDIs, cooperation in Scientific and Education development, …)


(video in French)

Read further:

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DataViz of the Dutch Digital Diaspora

As a final map in our Twitter GEOnomastics serie, we present today the Dutch e-Diaspora.

To prepare the mapping, we recognized Twitter names as Dutch, Turkish or Spanish and filtered those having a geotag (~3% of tweets).

Emigration from the Netherlands has been happening for at least the last eight centuries. In several former Dutch colonies and trading settlements, there are ethnic groups of partial Dutch ancestry. Emigrants from the Netherlands since the Second World War went mainly to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and until the 1970s South Africa. There are recognisable Dutch immigrant communities in these countries. Smaller numbers of Dutch immigrants can be found in most developed countries. In the last decade, short-range cross-border migration has developed along the Netherlands borders with Belgium and Germany. Source: Wikipedia

To access the interactive map: http://cdb.io/1fsjItu

Dutch Digital Diaspora

Finally, we present the summary of the different Twitter GEOnomastics mappings we’ve published so far :


NamSor Applied Onomastics is a European vendor of name recognition software (NamSor sorts names), which aims to help understand international flows of money, ideas and people. namsor.com

NamSor will be at Big Data Paris on the 2nd of April 2014 and present at 5PM the potential benefits of mining the Big Data to reduce inequalities, promote Foreign Direct Investments in less favoured territories, using Diaspora Marketing. Meet us there!

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Revealing the Irish, French, Indonesian digital diasporas

An Irish Times @GenerationEmigration reblog

NamSor technology has mapped the location of Irish-owned Twitter accounts around the world.
To access the interactive map, click here: http://cdb.io/1h8kTDG


Elian Carsenat and Michel Fortin

Before Christmas, we came to Ireland to present NamSor, a piece of name recognition software which uncovered the Irish ‘digital diaspora’ for the first time. This interactive world map of the Irish, French and Indonesian e-Diasporas was produced using Twitter account data.

Twitter is an interesting data source because about 3 per cent of Twitter accounts opt-in to show their Tweet location (using GPS from a smartphone) and can be visualised on a map. We were interested to visualise the Irish digital diaspora, not just in the US and the UK, but globally. Our assumption was that the Irish themselves are familiar with the history and sociology of the Irish diaspora in the US and the UK (and such organisations like IDA Ireland and Tourism Ireland have been successful in leveraging those), but what about Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia? It is interesting to see how large and dispersed the Irish diaspora is in the US, and how small and concentrated it is in populous Indonesia.


The scientific jargon for this special data mining is applied onomastics. We’ve worked with many different databases before, using onomastics for a specific purpose. For example, to help the Lithuanian Investment Promotion Agency understand the sociology of its diaspora and attract foreign direct investments (FDI), we’ve data mined Factiva C&E, a large database of company directors worldwide. We’ve also analysed PubMed, a scientific database used by doctors and biotechnology researchers, to recognise where international talent flows in that competitive field.

We spent a lot of time in Dublin with Kingsley Aikins, chief executive of Diaspora Matters, who is well known internationally in the diaspora field and has worked with many other countries as well as Ireland.

He believes the product could be a real game changer in the diaspora field and could help answer the perennial question all countries ask about their diasporas – who are they, where are they and what are they doing. He believes that we now live in a networked age and the key to success of diaspora engagement is in building global networks. Namsor will help find these people and enable new diaspora networks to be developed.

He also referred to the emerging global war for talent and how diasporas are going to be critically important sources of talent. Countries who know and keep in touch with their diasporas will have a competitive advantage. This will apply not only to those wishing to return to their home country but also to those wishing to be involved and help with DDI (Diaspora Direct Investment). Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia have already introduced initiatives in these areas.

We were impressed with the success of the Gathering, bringing several hundred thousand people to Ireland. This is an innovative initiative and must have strengthened the bonds between the Irish diaspora and Ireland.

There may not be such thing as a ‘French diaspora’, but we see more and more French people going abroad, especially the young and talented seeking an international experience. We’ve seen a lot of them in Dublin! Our impression is that the French abroad don’t really know or help each other as effectively as in other cultures, such as the Irish. French diplomats, large companies, entrepreneurs established abroad, exporting SMEs, professors and students all seem to live in separate worlds. France could learn a lot from what Ireland is doing.

NamSor Applied Onomastics is a European vendor of name recognition software (NamSor sorts names), which aims to help understand international flows of money, ideas and people. namsor.com

Diaspora Matters is a consultancy company based in Dublin advising governments, companies, organisations and individuals on how to develop strategies and programmes to connect with their Diasporas. diasporamatters.com

This article was inspired by and original article published in onomastics.co.uk

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NamSor Applied Onomastics to help Lithuania become a talent magnet in BioTech

LTUWorld reblog

Recognizing names and their origin in global scientific and technology databases allows research institutes and high-tech companies identify where the ‘brain juice‘ flows internationally. What are the main talent magnets (universities, companies) in a particular field? How best can a growing biotechnology industrial cluster retain local talent, as well as attract international professors?

Professor Daumantas Matulis, Head of Department of Biothermodynamics and Drug Design at the Institute of Biotechnology (Vilnius University) said ‘NamSor did a pilot project for us and helped us better understand the depth and breadth of Lithuanian talent deployed internationally, in the field of BioTech and Medical Research.’

Kotryna Stankute, Acting Director at Global Lithuania Leaders (GLL), network of international Lithuania-affiliated professionals, said it is crucially important to each country to be aware about their talent pool based out of the country. A strategy of networking with the world-wide Lithuanian professionals’ Diaspora and their engagement can turn brain drain to brain exchange.

Elian Carsenat, founder of NamSor, said ‘We data mined millions of research articles from PubMed Central® (PMC) to recognize Lithuanian names (or names related to Lithuania). By a happy accident, we also discovered that there exist cultural biases in medical research : a scientist of a given culture or origin is more likely to be interested in a particular topic; some scientific communities are more or less likely to be cited by another community. Such cultural biases could even impact the overall bibliometric ranking of a country’s scientific research. We turned this serendipity into a paper, which will share at the International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS 2014, Glasgow, August).’

In September 2014, Lithuania will host Life Sciences Baltics 2014, the only international forum in the Baltic region for world-class biotechnology, pharma and medical devices experts worldwide.

About the Institute of Biotechnology
Founded in 1975 as the all Union Research Institute of Applied Enzimology, currently,  the Institute of Biotechnology is mainly involved in research and training in the fields of biotechnology and molecular biology, including research and development of recombinant biomedical proteins, genetic and molecular studies of restriction modification phenomenon, developing of viruses diagnostics, epigenetic study of small RNA, drug design and synthesis, bioinformatics.

About NamSor
NamSor™ Applied Onomastics[i] is a European vendor of Name Recognition Software (NamSor sorts names). NamSor mission is to help understand international flows of money, ideas and people.

NamSor launched FDIMagnet,  a consulting offering to help Investment Promotion Agencies and High-Tech Clusters leverage a Diaspora to connect with business and scientific communities abroad.

[i] Onomastics (or onomatology) is the science of proper names. NamSor and NomTri are registered trademarks.

PDF document 20140101_NamSor_BioTech_offering_vFinaf.pdf

Further reading : [Leveraging a large Diaspora for Economic Growth | Investment Promotion Agency innovates to attract Foreign Direct Investments | Onomastics for Business]

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What’s in a Twitter name? A glance at the Irish digital Diaspora

To jump directly to the interactive map, click here : http://cdb.io/1beWaVB

(onomastics.co.uk reblog)

It’s been a while since I published a first ‘Feature of the Month’ in onomastics.co.uk and I can measure the progress made. The article, published in March 2013, showed maps of French and English investments in Africa, established by recognizing the names of Company Directors, instead of the traditional measurement of capital flows (FDI).

At the time, NamSor Applied Onomastics software was new and I was still exploring how such data mining tool, which recognizes personal names, could be useful. I was uncertain whether the social benefits would exceed the risks inherent to such powerful technology.

Names are a Code and contain a lot of information about an individual, but there is no determinism. Human groups of different levels can be recognized through names, but human societies are fractals. Each group can be broken down again and again, from different angles. A first name,  a last name, a Twitter handle are part of a person’s identity and may indicate a social intent, the belonging to an ethnic/linguistic group, a geographic origin, beliefs, … however at the finest grain level, every individual is unique and an exception to the group.

Genetic code, at one point, was thought to contain all the information needed to ‘build’ an individual from the physical point of view. After years of research, it seems that part of the information and the ‘algorithm’ are elsewhere…  Still there is huge interest in applied research such as 23andMe that ‘decrypt’ the genetic code to provide insights into a person’s ancestry, as well as hints about potential health issues.

The Name Code and the Genetic Code share the same ability to fascinate : each can somehow statistically be recognized to have an influence on your life, social status, average income, career… both relate to a family history. Each Code can be misleading and yet insightful. Fleur Pellerin, the French SME & ICT Minister, was born Kim Jong-suk in South Korea. She is both truly French and truly Korean, one name indicating a culture, the other a phenotype and genetic heritage. Considering only the Genetic Code would be denying a part of our humanity, which comes from being a child, a teenager, experiencing life, interacting socially, being part of a country and a culture, making one’s choices.

Twin studies would tell a lot about the links between those two codes (Name, Genetic) – if only there were more twins. Even though identical twins possess the same genetic makeup, they may go through different experiences throughout their lives that shape their personality, behaviour, and psychopathology in ways that make them unique relative to each other (Hughes et al., 2005). Twins will have a different first name.  Twins might also have a different last name, if -hypothetically- one twin was raised in Russia and the other twin was adopted and raised in the United States. In that case, what would the Name Code and the Genetic Code tell about potential Health issues (smoking or alcohol addiction, obesity & diabetes, life expectancy, etc.) ?

An article published last month caught my eye ‘Scientists seek volunteers willing to have genetic code published on internet‘: the hunt is on for 100,000 British volunteers to post their genetic information online in the name of science, as a North American open-access DNA project arrives in Europe. Personal Genome Project UK’s mission is ‘to make a wide spectrum of data about humans accessible to increase biological literacy and improve human health‘. The organization recognizes that ‘Even if a person’s name, home address or facial photograph is specifically excluded, a dataset like the one we are building is far from anonymous. It is simply too easy for someone to connect the dots and reveal a person’s identity.’ Genetic Code is a very personal data. Would you like to see yours published along with your Name Code and Identity? Yet if the identity of participants can be protected, I can see huge scientific value in such Open Data.

The Name Code, as such, is not personal data. Personal data is all information about yourself, that you should be allowed to keep confidential. A name is given to you as a communication tool, to interact with the World. There is a social intent in giving a child a common name, or a rare name that will more immediately identify a person – though I believe that one should be allowed to change names, just as Casanova did (who named himself Chevalier de Seingalt). There are legitimate reasons to keep one’s name and identity secret sometimes: you should be free to do so, unless that freedom infringes on someone else’s rights. A personal name (except possibly when it becomes a trademark) doesn’t belong to anyone : it’s been used before, it’ll be used again, it’s often shared by several people, it’s found in the press, it’s made up for fiction books … Could a democracy work without the citizen knowing their politicians’ names? How could historians do their research if we were to erase all personal names from the archives?

We see potential social benefits in applied onomastics and name data mining, that clearly exceed the risks of misuse : not just in social sciences research, but also in economic development, tourism, marketing, health, urban planning … We’ve helped one EU country reach out to its Diaspora in the US to originate foreign direct investments (FDI) and create jobs. We’re currently helping a BioTech scientific cluster raise its game through better understanding where the talents lay in that field, and where the brain juice flows internationally. We’re trying to find local partners to launch AgroDiaspora, an economic development initiative in Africa to foster stronger links between Sustainable Agriculture Transformation Projects and top-level BioTech scientists of African heritage, who could help make local plants climate-change resistant, among other benefits. We are also very excited and enthusiastic about a paper we submitted to ICOS 2014, the XXV International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, which will take place in Glasgow in August – as we foresee very positive outcome from that research.

In last month onomastics.co.uk feature ‘The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain‘, Eleanor Rye mentions a very interesting research into what surname-based sampling can reveal about historic male migrations in the UK and Ireland.

We are currently conducting similar applied research on Twitter. I love Twitter. The freedom to choose one’s handle and name. The limited amount of structured information that goes with an account : a location, a language, a short profile, a few pictures. What’s in a Twitter name or handle? Anything : real names, company names, fancy names, pictograms, … the amount of information produced through Twitter is enormous, but it’s possible to filter this ‘bigdata’ in a way to make sense of it. We created geographic maps of e-Diasporas, by recognizing the Twitter names of geotagged tweets: Irish, Swedish, Russian, etc. We call this Twitter GEOnomastics, borrowing a term from Dr. Evgeny Shokhenmayer. Below is the map of the Irish e-Diaspora, along with Swedish and Russian.

Irish Twitter GEOnomastics

Irish Twitter GEOnomastics

Click here to access the interactive map:

How does it work? The software accurately recognizes that ‘NamSor Applied Onomastics’ (@NomTri) is probably a trade mark or a company name, whereas ‘Elian Carsenat’ (@ElianCarsenat) is probably a personal name – and most likely a French name. Fancy names are also recognized and filtered out.

We see wide applications of such maps. When Captain James Cook explored the seas in the 18th century, having accurate maps could mean life or death for a ship and its crew. Working out latitude had been known for centuries, but measuring longitude was still tricky and inaccurate. In today’s digital world, I see latitude as ‘recognizing the semantics’ in a message expressed in a particular language and longitude as ‘recognizing the culture’ of the target audience. We’re full of curiosity on how and to whom this map can be useful, possibly Twitter itself. We’re going from Paris to Dublin in two weeks to find out : we hope to meet people at Twitter European Headquarters. Twitter just issued its IPO but is also not clear how to make its money. We’ll also meet Irish urban planners, people working in the tourism industry, investment analysts and Diaspora experts.

Read our next posts to discover more Twitter GEOnomastics maps showing Irish, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Swedish, Italian, Dutch e-Diasporas (or cultural influence).

NB. The maps are currently interactive, so you can zoom in and out of a particular territory, however this may be shut down in a month or two.

[onomastics.co.uk | get a pdf version | academia.edu] Related : Can name data mining help economic development?

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Onomastics for Business Data Mining

This is a reblog of ParisTech Review original article.

Can name data mining help economic development?

As of today, the main business application of onomastics is naming, or branding: finding the proper name for your company or your product to stand out in the world. Meaningfully, Onoma – the Greek root for name – is also a registered trademark of Nomen, the naming agency founded by Marcel Botton in 1981. Nomen initially licensed one of Roland Moreno’s inventions, the Radoteur name generator, and created many distinctive and global brand names such as: Vinci, Clio or Amundi. But once your business has a name, should you forget about onomastics? Not anymore. Globalization, digitalization and the Big Data open new fields to experiment disruptive applications in Sales & Marketing, Communication, HR and Risk Management. Though discriminating names carries a high risk of abuse, it can also drive new, unexpected ways for developing poor areas.

Our human brain interprets names every day, as we understand a language, as we know a particular culture or region of the world: the likely menu of a restaurant, the industrial sector of a company… even a dog’s name might tell you something about its owner. Personal names (first name, last name, a Twitter handle) carry meanings which vary according to one’s language and culture, but often form an essential part of one’s identity.

Extracting semantics from names

How exactly my brain works is not clear even to myself, but what if I could program a computer to extract semantics from names: would it provide valuable business intelligence? Some people in the US think so. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has a long standing experience in extracting intelligence from personal names: back in the 80s they used LAS name recognition software to help identify Russian spies, recognize false identities, track soviet influence. LAS could rely on the CIA to help collect a database with one billion names to calibrate the software. That’s about the total world developed population at the time.

After thriving on the surge in US security and foreign intelligence budgets post-9/11, LAS considered diversification and started to address other markets: Marketing, Financial Services Compliance (notably KYC, ie. Know Your Customer). LAS was acquired by IBM in 2006. But to further increase their leadership, in 2011 the US security agencies used the MITRE Corporation to help foster further “innovation in technologies of interest to the federal government. Challenge #1 entailed multicultural name matching—a technology that is a key component of identity matching, which involves measuring the similarity of database records referring to people. Uses include verifying eligibility for Social Security or medical benefits, identifying and reunifying families in disaster relief operations, vetting persons against a travel watch list, and merging or eliminating duplicate records in databases. Person name matching can also be used to improve the accuracy and speed of document searches, social network analysis, and other tasks in which the same person might be referred to by multiple versions or spellings of a name”. A name tells more – or something different – than just a nationality of origin. For example, Boston terrorists Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have names with a -v termination typical of Slavic names (as found in Russia or in Bulgaria) but can be recognized as originally from Caucasus. There was some media report in the aftermath of the bombing that the FBI didn’t know Boston bomber travelled to volatile Dagestan region in Russia in 2012 because “his name was misspelled on travel documents”. However this information remained unconfirmed and is probably not accurate given the massive US investment in name-matching technology.

In Europe, the legal framework to leverage such tools varies from country to country, but is generally very strict. The directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, article 8, states that “Member States shall prohibit the processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, […]” . In principle, this directive applies to Security Agencies as well, however there are exemptions which member states can interpret differently.

By making the distinction between the language ‘discriminatory ethnic profiling’ rather than the more common ‘ethnic profiling’ to describe the practice of basing law enforcement decisions solely or mainly on an individual’s race, ethnicity or religion the European Union recognizes the need of security forces to understand the complex relationships that exist between nationality, geography, and more subjective concepts such as: ethnic origins, cultural backgrounds, civilisations, religions. How the knowledge might be applied, how the data might be collected remains a matter of national security. The UK and France, for example, are known to have different views on this topic. In any case, what is done in practice by anti-terrorism agencies is not public information.

Security, border control, etc. is a business in its own right. What about other sectors?

Customer intelligence: business potential and ethical issues

In Sales & Marketing, onomastics can be used to enrich a customer database with information extracted from names that would not be practically or economically available otherwise. So retailers and luxury brands – especially in food, clothing and cosmetics where ethnicity plays a significant role – can improve customer intelligence and use those insights to better interact through online channels. Echoing concerns expressed by early 20th century John Wanamaker “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”, companies like L’Oreal that spend several billion dollars a year on communication and advertising continuously try to improve the efficiency of their targeting.

Let us look at a more sophisticated example, for example public–private partnership (PPP) projects in mining, energy or infrastructure. Those projects can have significant social impacts in a territory and raise various political or economic issues. Understanding the human geography and recognizing the interests of the communities cohabiting in that territory can be critical to obtain a buy-in from all stakeholders. Onomastics, combined with geo-demographic segmentation, can help rapidly build geographic maps that can be used both for decision making and communication purposes. Automatic name clustering is the underlying technology that will help decrypt the complex identities present in large or small territories (from a continent, to a road). The objective is to answer tough questions and manage unavoidable frustrations though appropriate communication. Where should a tramway line pass in a multi-ethnic region? How to redistribute offshore oil revenues in the lands?

Concerning HR, I recently spoke with an executive at a large European bank who regretted that not enough trustworthy expatriates had been sent to control a large acquisition in a BRIC country, costing several hundred million Euros in write-offs. Among thousands of employees at the European head-office, the bank could have recognized the names of few people likely to accept an expatriation back to their home country. Having some people knowing both languages and both corporate cultures would have helped bridge the inter-cultural gap between the local management and other expatriates, saving millions of Euros.

In the digital world, onomastics brings a new view angle to social graph analysis: it can help colourize online communities, profile opinion leaders according to their audience. On Twitter, for example, you can more easily create a communication channels, well targeted on a particular community (business expatriates, tourists, migrants, but also international investors…)

Let’s now consider a provocative and controversial use of onomastics that will help us move on to the topic of ethics. Different cultures, nationalities and social backgrounds imply different behaviours, with respect to Money and Risk taking: earning, saving, spending, gambling, investing, donating, risking death and loosing it all… It is a fact that people with aristocratic names (in places where there is such an object as aristocratic names) would earn more and obtain cheaper credit than people with names typical of the lower class or a recent immigration wave. Why not take shortcuts: a bank could adjust the price of a credit, according to the borrower’s name; a car insurance company could adjust its evaluation of the risk (including the risks of insurance fraud, dangerous driving…) according to the name on the application form. They would better measure their risk. Furthermore, they could offer more competitive prices for categories of clients and they could better target them commercially.

Such use is highly controversial, since it raises the question of Equality (or inequalities) and discrimination. But discrimination is a fact, and onomastics can allow us to better see and understand how it works. Why should people with different sounding names hit glass ceilings in the first place, regardless of their skills? Casanova chose his own name de Seingalt and wondered if D’Alembert would have attained his high fame, his universal reputation, if he had been satisfied with his name of M. Le Rond, or Mr. Allround.

I am a supporter of Equal Opportunity Rights. And yet, I built a powerful discrimination algorithm based on names. NamSor is a piece of name recognition software which applies onomastics to analyse global flows of money, ideas and people. As any powerful new technology, it carries potential risks of abuse but I believe there is a positive use for it.

One classical application where onomastics plays a significant role is called geo-demographics: it consists in analysing the sociology of a particular territory (including the cultural and ethnic origins of its inhabitants) inferred from open sources and census data. Geo-demographics can be a useful tool to ensure, for example, that all populations have an equitable access to public services, such as hospitals. The company Experian is one of the leaders in that field, especially strong in the UK.

The effective use of the Big Data & Open Data is widely considered to be a critical enabler for future SmartCities : enabling dynamic allocation of resources, more efficient use of energy, prompt response to a crisis and so on. The combination of social networks and mobile applications with geo-localized devices opens new possibilities. Recognizing the diversity of populations that cohabit across space and time can help design more inclusive cities and transportation systems. Sensors that discriminate populations (in the sense of perceiving) can draw the clear picture needed to prevent discrimination (in the sense of favouring) and help defuse some of the time bombs ticking here and there.

Targeting diasporas: a game changer for development?

But the most promising use of software such as NamSor could be elsewhere – though it still deals with territorial equality. It is quite common for regions of the world that are less economically developed to use their own weakness (poorer people) as a strength (cheaper labour) to attract investments. The idea is to trigger a virtuous circle of job creation, infrastructure development, better education, migration flow reversal, etc. commonly known as the FDI Magnet effect. The region becomes more attractive and gradually moves up in the global value chain. As it loses competitiveness in terms of cheap labour because of the new wealth of its population, it develops a different economy based on innovation, services, tourism, consumption.

Most countries implement some kind of policy to direct flows of investments in poorer regions, as a mean to preserve their territorial cohesion and integrity. Those policies are most effective when they combine with successful private initiatives. So the objective of many Investment Promotion Agencies (IPA) is not so much to attract big money, as to attract a great business that will employ and help grow their people. The global competition to attract such investments is fearful.

Poorer regions have another weakness, which can be turned into a strength. Emigration is generally an opportunity loss, but after some years it generates a Diaspora which can be leveraged to attract investments back to the region.

For example, Ireland took decisive steps during the early 80’s to proactively reconnect with its emigrants or with successful businessmen of Irish descent. Rebekah Berry reminds us that “as recently as 1986 Ireland was one of the poorest countries in the European Union, but [in 2002] it is one of the richest. The engine of this new Irish prosperity has been Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). [Between 1986 and 2002], the Irish have done almost everything right. They have attracted huge amounts of money from America – due largely to a century of personal and familial ties – and they have used this money to build factories ”.

The regions of Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai have amongst the lowest number of millionaires in China. But if they could reconnect with the few they have, in Beijing, Shanghai or even abroad, wouldn’t it make a difference?

For that purpose, onomastics can be a useful tool and it has served the development strategy of a European country, Lithuania.

InvestLithuania is the first Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) to use name recognition to originate FDI deals. With three million people living in Lithuania and nearly one million people of Lithuanian origin living abroad, there is a good many personal and familial ties to be leveraged to attract new investment projects to the country. NamSor name recognition software helped discover those ties. Another method to accelerate the origination of new investment leads is to better understand and leverage the existing network of foreign businessmen in the country itself. Domas Girtavicius, a Senior consultant at Invest Lithuania, said “we were impressed by the accuracy of the name recognition software: it reliably predicts the country of origin and the number of false positives is fully manageable”.

This project with InvestLithuania was very successful and consequently I was invited to participate to the World Lithuanian Economic Forum (WLEF), which took place in Vilnius this year, on the 3rd of June. This Forum is organized by Global Lithuanian Leaders (GLL), a non-profit association whose mission is to reconnect with Lithuanians and friends of Lithuania abroad. I found the GLL to be a great initiative, providing the country with a wealth of expertise from different parts of the word, across all domains (politics, education, culture, business…), and also bridging some of the cultural gaps that necessarily exist in such a matrix (place / domain). Specifically, the GLL helps bring elements of culture from the US and UK, such as entrepreneurship and business networking.

While some diasporas, especially those originating from the Mediterranean, have a millennium standing culture of business and personal networking, other countries struggle to adjust to their new situation. What is the value of a social network such as LinkedIn to the Lebanese Diaspora? Low. What better communication tool in Marseilles than “word of mouth” to launch Massilia Mundi, which aims to become the social network of that city international Diaspora? But for many Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs), LinkedIn is an essential tool. For example, in traditional Lithuanian culture, people treasure strong family ties and personal links with close friends, but do not nurture a wide network of professional connections or casual contacts. I believe many countries are in a similar situation, where a dedicated organisation could help reconnect people : for them, tools such as the social networks, professional databases and onomastics can make a difference.

Could that work also for regions in China? In 2005-2009, while I was working for a global consulting firm, I had the opportunity of managing an project in banking, with a mix of Chinese and French teams: a team in Paris which included several young ParisTech graduates of Chinese origin and a team in Shanghai. I remember the excitement and the pleasure of the entire team – including myself – to do a project connected with China, with the opportunity of travelling to Shanghai, tasting the food of different regions of China, being introduced to the Chinese culture. Several people from that team, both French and Chinese, are now in China. Jing, now a dear friend, went back to Shanghai in 2009 and I remember how she still felt sentimentally bound to her original city of Xiangtan, Hunan – ready to help in any way she could. From this experience, I understood that if there existed such an organization as ‘Global Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai Leaders, it would not often encounter rebukes when reaching out for help, money or expertise. Such an organization could be very helpful in closing the economic gap with other regions.

Technically, Chinese names are clearly recognizable amongst other nationalities or origins. So, querying a professional database, we can produce onomastics mapping of Chinese company directors. For example, the following maps represents the density of Chinese and Japanese business communities in Southern Latin America, relatively to each other.


Source: Factiva DF Copyright 2013 NamSorts.com NomTriTM NamSorTM – All rights reserved

How many of those successful Chinese businessmen (or businessmen of Chinese origin) come from Ningxia, Gansu or Qinghai? This is where applied onomastics can be a game changer. Not that all questions are solved. At the present time, the available software allows us to detect phenomenons, not to understand them perfectly. For instance, I would like to share two data visualizations produced as part of this effort, which I found beautiful and promising.



What do we see here? Something – something that still needs to be analysed and understood, but something that may be of great value for someone trying to locate and identify potential investors or decision makers. Chinese last names actually raise specific challenges, since they have been used for many centuries and with rare or less common names disappearing over time, only one hundred different names remain today. But first names still carry regional differences, poetry and other semantics. Roots may be almost invisible, onomastics can still track them. And the more difficult is the tracking, the more valuable are the findings.

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Download documents : Onomastics for Business.pdf (English version) Onomastique et Big Data.pdf (French version) Mirrors: [Harvard.edu] [arXiv]

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Leveraging a large Diaspora for Economic growth

Any country with a strong outflows of bright young people faces the following dilemma: is it a threat or an opportunity?

On one hand, young graduates seek abroad the experience they think they couldn’t have at home. This is an opportunity loss for the country that raised them, trained them and hoped for a future return on that investment. It can unbalance the country demographics.

On the other hand, having a large Diaspora offers many benefits: money flows to families at home, cultural and scientific transfers (including bringing home a more entrepreneurial culture), inbound Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), access to a large global network of well-connected people…

Lithuania economic growth: role of Diaspora / brain circulation

We had the opportunity to participate to the last panel at the World Lithuanian Economic Forum 2013 (WLEF / PLEF) and to discuss the following topic ‘Country economic growth: role of Diaspora / brain circulation’. We used onomastics to share several insights into the Lithuanian Diaspora with the other panellists and the participants: how Global Lithuanian Leaders can be leveraged in the fields of Innovation, Business and Communication (Softpower).

You will find our presentation below for download (in PDF):

20130603 Presentation To WLEF vF.pdf

We are very grateful to Global Lithuanian Leaders (GLL) for inviting us at ForumOne and WLEF.

About NamSor™ Applied Onomastics

We design name recognition software to help countries and international companies better understand global flows of money, ideas and people. We also offer consulting services to help Investment Promotion Agencies and countries reconnect with their business communities abroad.

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