Putin Grants Edward Snowden Citizenship

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, September 26th signed a decree granting citizenship to former National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. He was among 75 foreigners granted citizenship by Putin’s new decree. 

Snowden fled the U.S. in 2013 after he leaked classified information about government surveillance programs and was charged with espionage. He’s been living in exile in Moscow for nearly a decade to avoid prosecution on American soil. 

He said in 2019 that he ultimately hoped to return home if the government guaranteed him a fair trial, but he contended the U.S. wasn’t willing to let him defend his actions as having been made in the public interest.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Snowden requested an extended residency permit that would allow him to spend three more years in Russia. Later that year, Russia granted him an unlimited permit. 

Weeks after securing permanent residency, Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, announced they would apply for Russian citizenship ahead of the birth of their first child. Snowden said at the time that he and his family would work to maintain dual U.S.-Russian citizenship and would not renounce their U.S. passports.  

The move comes on the heels of a partial mobilization order that would call up thousands of Russian reservists to fight in the war in Ukraine. The country has a mandatory conscription system, and most men enter the reserves after completing military training.  

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Snowden’s lawyer reportedly told the Interfax news agency that he is not eligible to be mobilized because he has not served in the Russian forces.

Though outspoken about U.S. politics on his Twitter account and in his Substack newsletter, Snowden has been quiet about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Jaipur Literary Fest Takes NYC Arts Scene by Storm

Technology, visual art, high fashion, and literature merged on the same stage last week at the closing night event for the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) New York Edition, curated by cultural producer Myna Mukherjee of Engendered, a trans-national arts and human rights organization based in New Delhi. After a hiatus of 10 years, Engendered returned to New York City’s High Nine Gallery in Chelsea with Techné Disruptors, a hand-picked NFT collection featuring some of South Asia’s most cutting-edge artists, including Ram Rahman, Waswo X. Waswo, Veer Munshi, Raghava KK, Puneet Kaushik, Harshit Agrawal, Nur Mahammed, Balbir Krishan, Amritah Sen, among others.
 
Co-presented by Avid Learning and High Line Nine Gallery and powered by Technology Partner, Polygon, the show has been conceived through the lens of urbanism and a post-colonial gaze. It engages Indian futurisms, indigenous technologies, and future-forward aesthetics while retaining the notion of cultural perpetuity. Techné Disruptors is coming to New York after celebrating unprecedented success in its first outing in New Delhi (April-May 2022). The show not only helped reshape sedentary categories of art but also radically shifted the way art is viewed, understood, experienced, and sold. For the first time, over 80% of a largely digital exhibition was collected by one of India’s most reputed institutional collectors.
 
The closing reception of JLF, featured the NFT book launch of Seema Kohli’s “Mitr Pyaare Nu,” as well as closing remarks from Managing Director, Teamwork Arts Sanjoy Roy and Indian politician Shaiza Ilmi. The evening concluded with a fashion show presented by South Asian New York Fashion Week (SANYFW), showcasing the designs of Untitled by Nikita, AKS Mathur, Aara by Sana, Aazadi by Naseer Khan and Pakistani headliner Nomi Ansari.

The three-week-long event in Chelsea Arts District with rotating exhibitions (a new chapter each week) features works imagined with the most future-forward technologies of our times including AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality), holographs, and works from brand new minted collections of Global South NFTs curated with a critical need to strengthen south-south collaborations.
 
The exhibition looks at the bridging of the old and the new, the physical and the digital, and lends voice to largely invisibilized conversations and personal stories in the complex landscape of gender, sexuality & marginalities. It speaks to the cultural consequences of migrations within, from, and to the Indian subcontinent as artistic inquiries into difference and belonging.
 

The artists include: Seema Kohli | Veer Munshi | Ram Rahman | Puneet Kaushik | Waswo X. Waswo | Amina Ahmed | 64/1: Raghava KK & Karthik Kalyanaraman | Harshit Agrawal | Balbir Krishan | Amritah Sen | Babak Haghi | Ritu Kamath | Nur Mahhamed | ‘Rharha’ Rochelle Nembhard | Minne Atairu | Satadru Sovan | Abhishek Singh | SK Sahni | Mahula Ghosh | Adil B. Khan | Santosh K. Das | Sukanya Ayde | Portia Roy | Mandakini Devi | Aamir Rabbani | Arvin Ombika | Ahsan Masood | Baishali Chetia | Chathuri Nissansala | Dominique V. Castelano | Ipshita Thakur | Isha Yadav | Sawan Taank | Mohd Shazeb

Indian Design Firm Wins 2022 Global Muse Creative Award

Bengaluru -based Design Services firm, Aifat UX, a leading UX/UI design services provider has announced that they won the 2022 Muse Creative Award in the educational app design category. Aufait UX’s design for StockPe, a stock trading and investment education platform was selected from over 6000 entries worldwide as the Gold Winner. The international competition was judged by experts and industry professionals from 30+ countries belonging to reputed companies. 

“At Aufait UX, we believe in creating world-class designs that stand out for its quality and perfection. The Muse Awards is a testament of our craftsmanship and relentless pursuit of creating awesome designs. I would like to extend my thanks to the StockPe team for their excellent customer support and my design team for their wonderful teamwork”, said Bijith Ahmed, chief designer and co-founder of Aufait UX.

“It comes as no surprise that Aufait UX has bagged this international recognition for their designs. We were truly impressed with their design for the StockPe app. With their attention to details, out of the box thinking and passion for design, they went above and beyond in meeting our requirements. They truly deserve this honor”, said Shubham Rawal, co-founder of StockPe.

The MUSE awards is a series of competitions hosted by the International Awards Associate (IAA), an organization that has continuously strived to honor creatives and designers for their excellence. The theme for the 2022 Muse awards was “Stride Forth”. This year the MUSE Awards honored those who are dauntless in adversity; who take on challenges with an unwavering will, set the standards for the world and inspire others to reach higher.


Aufait UX is a leading UI UX design agency based out of Bangalore, India, providing UX/UI design services to their customers across the globe. Aufait UX is recognized for mobile app, web app and website designs, recognized by independent analysts and analyst platforms including Clutch, Manifest and Visual Objects. Aufait UX provides design services for industry verticals including healthcare, education, fintech, ecommerce, government and utilities.


StockPe is a stock market learning app that simplifies financial learning for Indians through gamification. It provides a platform for people to experience finance education in a fun and rewarding way, radically different from the traditional theoretical and lengthy learning model. With gamified tournaments modeled on live stock market data, StockPe helps users to learn trading and practice their knowledge in real time.

INS Vikrant Commissioned

The first ever India-made aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Cochin Shipyard. INS Vikrant is the largest ship ever built in India’s maritime history at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore. The ship has now formally joined the Indian Navy fleet. 

The new naval ensign takes inspiration from the famous Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s seal. “The octagonal shape with twin golden borders draws inspiration from the seal of the great Indian emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, whose visionary maritime outlook established a credible naval fleet,” the Indian Navy said in a video describing the seal. 

Addressing the gathering, India’s PM Narendra Modi said, “Vikrant is not just a warship. It is a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of of 21st century India”. Marking the event as the “sunrise of a new future”, the PM added that Vikrant is a unique reflection of India becoming self-reliant.

“When INS Vikrant descends to protect our maritime zone, many women soldiers of the Navy will also be stationed there. With the immense power of the ocean, boundless female power, it will become the identity of New India,” PM Modi said.

The carrier houses state-of-the-art automation features at the Cochin Shipyard. During the event, PM Modi also unveiled the new Naval Ensign (Nishaan), doing away with the colonial past.

INS Vikrant will contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean region, Vice Chief of Indian Navy Vice Admiral S N Ghormade had said earlier. He said the aircraft landing trials on board INS Vikrant will begin in November and they will be completed by mid-2023, adding MiG-29K jets will operate from the warship for the first few years. The commissioning of Vikrant is being seen as a significant step towards India’s self-reliance in the defense sector.

Using a novel aircraft operation mode known as Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), the IAC is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft. It has a set of three ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery onboard. Commissioning of ‘Vikrant’ would showcase the country’s indigenization capabilities, besides paying tributes to its freedom fighters and soldiers of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a Defense statement had said.

Some Twitter Users Get Edit Button

A picture of an ‘Edit Button’ was shared by Twitter Blue, which is a paid subscription service from Twitter , media reports stated. “Well well well, look what we’ve been testing,” The long-awaited edit button is finally coming to the microblogging platform Twitter, even though it would be for select users only. 

“If you see an edited Tweet it’s because we’re testing the edit button, this is happening and you’ll be okay,” Twitter confirmed the arrival of the feature through its official account. 

Twitter users will finally be able to edit the tweets they post on the platform. However, as per reports, only paid users will have the access to the feature and it remains to be seen if the feature will be available for all 237 million users.

“We’re hoping that with the availability of Edit Tweet, tweeting will feel more approachable and less stressful,” Twitter said in a statement. “You should be able to participate in the conversation in a way that makes sense to you.”

The edit button initially is available for Twitter employees for internal testing, and then to Twitter Blue users. The company eventually plans to give everyone the option to alter their tweets.

A picture of an ‘Edit Button’ was shared by Twitter Blue, which is a paid subscription service from Twitter. 

How does the feature works?

The edit button will allow users to edit their tweet even if it has been posted. Twitter users did not have the option so far so they either had to delete the tweet or post another one in case any mistake happened.

However, Twitter users will get only 30 minutes to edit their tweets which are long and has some mistakes. To signify a tweet is edited, the tweet will bear a label to show it has been modified. Clicking the label will let viewers see the history of the edits.

Major Changes in Twitter

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has hardly undergone many changes. However, in 2017, Twitter increased the character limit for messages to 280 characters from 140.

In 2020, Twitter rolled out Fleets, a feature similar to Instagram reels that deleted users’ posts after 24 hours. But Twitter soon removed the feature.

Last month, Twitter introduced Circles, a feature that lets people share posts with a smaller number of followers.

Elon Musk and the Edit button

Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk wanted to bring the edit button to the social media platform after taking a passive stake in the company.

“Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months,” Musk had tweeted in April. 

It is worth noting that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been demanding the edit button from Twitter for a long time.

Later, Musk announced that he was withdrawing from a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter alleging multiple breaches of the agreement.
 
Musk said he had backed out because Twitter failed to provide enough information on the number of spam and fake accounts.
 
Twitter and Musk became embroiled in a legal battle following that as Twitter filed suit, alleging he had breached his contract while disrupting the site’s operations and dragging down its stock.

Captain Zoya Agarwal, 1st First Indian Woman Fly Aircraft Above North Pole

In 2021, Captain Zoya, an Air India pilot of aircraft Boeing-777, led the first all-women pilot team over the world’s longest air route from San Francisco in the United States to Bengaluru in India, covering the North Pole. Now, Captain Zoya Agarwal, the first Indian woman pilot to fly an aircraft above the North pole, covering a record-breaking distance of around 16,000 Kilometers, made her place in SFO aviation museum for her achievements. 

“I was amazed to see that I’m the only living object over there, I am just humbled honestly. I can’t believe that I am a part of a prestigious aviation museum in the USA,” she said. The SFO Museum commemorated her career and her advocacy for promoting women’s empowerment across the world, as she is the first female Indian pilot to be included in their program.

While talking to ANI, Captain Zoya Agarwal informed that she is the only human to have found a place as a pilot in the San Francisco Aviation Luis A Turpen Aviation museum which is commonly known as SFO Aviation Museum.

“I was amazed to see that I’m the only living object over there, I am just humbled honestly. I can’t believe that I am a part of a prestigious aviation museum in the USA,” Captain Zoya told ANI.

Recently, the SFO Museum commemorated the Indian pilot Zoya Agarwal’s extraordinary career in aviation and her advocacy for promoting women’s empowerment across the world, inspiring millions of girls and youth to meet their dreams.

“She is the first female Indian pilot to be included in our program. In addition to her remarkable career with Air India, including her record-breaking flight from SFO to Bengaluru in 2021 with an all-female crew, her positivity about the world and her commitment to helping other girls and women achieve their dreams is deeply inspiring. Being able to record and share Captain Agarwal’s personal history allows SFO Museum to preserve the excitement and the historic nature of her extraordinary career with current and future generations of aviation enthusiasts,” an official from the San Francisco Aviation museum told ANI.

“We are honored by your participation, and we hope to educate and inspire future generations,” the SFO aviation museum added.

Captain Zoya Agarwal also spoke with ANI just after receiving the certificate and being honoured by the SFO aviation museum for her extraordinary career in aviation.

“I can’t believe that I am the first Indian female to be in a museum in the USA, if you ask the eight-year-old girl that use to sit on her terrace, looking at stars and dream about being a pilot. It’s an honour that the US recognised an Indian woman for their museum… it’s a great moment for me and my country,” Captain Zoya said.

Captain Zoya Agarwal is one of the gender equality spokespersons at the United Nations (UN) and she has pioneered encouraging females and youth to fulfil their dreams.

The museum was launched at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in 1980, utilising little more than images on walls as a means to beautify and humanise the Airport’s environment. Since then, it has grown into a dynamic exhibition program with galleries throughout all five terminals and developed an ever-growing collection of objects, now numbering more than 150,000 related to the history of SFO and commercial aviation.

Meanwhile, the participation of women pilots in India has increased rapidly, according to the International Society of Women Airlines, India holds the largest proportion of female pilots in the world. Accounting for around 12.4 per cent of all pilots, compared to 5.5 per cent in the US.

The Sands Of Mars Are Green As Well As Red, Rover Perseverance Discovers

By, Purdue University

Newswise — The accepted view of Mars is red rocks and craters as far as the eye can see. That’s much what scientists expected when they landed the rover Perseverance in the Jezero Crater, a spot chosen partly for the crater’s history as a lake and as part of a rich river system, back when Mars had liquid water, air and a magnetic field. 

What the rover found once on the ground was startling: Rather than the expected sedimentary rocks – washed in by rivers and accumulated on the lake bottom – many of the rocks are volcanic in nature. Specifically, they are composed of large grains of olivine, the muddier less-gemlike version of peridot that tints so many of Hawaii’s beaches dark green.

Planetary scientists Roger Wiens, professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, and Briony Horgan, associate professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, in Purdue’s College of Science, were instrumental in the discovery and analysis of this data, recently published in a suite of papers in the journals Science and Science Advances.

Wiens led the design and construction of Perseverance’s SuperCam, which helps analyze the rock samples and determine their type and origin. Horgan helped select Jezero Crater as the rover’s landing site and now uses the Mastcam-Z cameras on Perseverance to put its discoveries into geological context.

“We started to realize that these layered igneous rocks we were seeing look different from the igneous rocks we have these days on Earth,” Wiens said. “They’re very like igneous rocks on Earth early in its existence.”

The rocks and lava the rover is examining on Mars are nearly 4 billion years old. Rocks that old exist on Earth but are incredibly weathered and beaten, thanks to Earth’s active tectonic plates as well as the weathering effects of billions of years of wind, water and life. On Mars, these rocks are pristine and much easier to analyze and study.

Understanding the rocks on Mars, their evolution and history, and what they reveal about the history of planetary conditions on Mars helps researchers understand how life may have arisen on Mars and how that compares with early life and conditions on ancient Earth.

“One of the reasons we don’t have a great understanding of where and when life first evolved on Earth is because those rocks are mostly gone, so it’s really hard to reconstruct what ancient environments on Earth were like,” Horgan said. “The rocks Perseverance is roving over in Jezero have more or less just been sitting at the surface for billions of years, waiting for us to come look at them. That’s one of the reasons that Mars is an important laboratory for understanding the early solar system.”

Scientists can use conditions on early Mars to help extrapolate the environment and conditions on Earth at the same time when life was beginning to arise. Understanding how, and under what conditions, life began will help scientists know where to look for it on other planets and moons, as well as lead to a deeper understanding of biological processes here on Earth.

The search for life is one of Perseverance’s main goals and one of the reasons it landed in Jezero Crater in the first place. Discovering the potential for habitable environments in something as uninhabitable as Jezero Crater’s aged lava flows raises hopes for what lies in the sedimentary rocks the mission is examining now.

“We’re excited to see even better results about organics and ancient habitable environments,” Horgan said. “I think it’s really setting the stage that Mars is this watery, habitable place, and all the samples we’re getting back are going to help us understand the history of ancient microbial life on Mars.”

The equipment and innovative instruments are helping the rover carry out its mission in a way no other rover yet has, emphasizing the need to land on the planet so scientists can examine and understand what’s really going on.

“From orbit, we looked at these rocks and said, ‘Oh, they have beautiful layers!’ So we thought they were sedimentary rocks,” Horgan said. “And it wasn’t until we were very close up and looked at them, at the millimeter scale, that we understood that these are not sedimentary rocks. They’re actually ancient lava. It was a huge moment when we figured that out on the ground, and it really illustrated why we need this kind of exploration. The tools we have on the rover are vital because it was impossible to understand the origin of these rocks until we got up close and used all our amazing microscopic instruments to look at them.”

The search for life is one of Perseverance’s main goals and one of the reasons it landed in Jezero Crater in the first place. Discovering the potential for habitable environments in something as uninhabitable as Jezero Crater’s aged lava flows raises hopes for what lies in the sedimentary rocks the mission is examining now.

“We’re excited to see even better results about organics and ancient habitable environments,” Horgan said. “I think it’s really setting the stage that Mars is this watery, habitable place, and all the samples we’re getting back are going to help us understand the history of ancient microbial life on Mars.”

The equipment and innovative instruments are helping the rover carry out its mission in a way no other rover yet has, emphasizing the need to land on the planet so scientists can examine and understand what’s really going on.

“From orbit, we looked at these rocks and said, ‘Oh, they have beautiful layers!’ So we thought they were sedimentary rocks,” Horgan said. “And it wasn’t until we were very close up and looked at them, at the millimeter scale, that we understood that these are not sedimentary rocks. They’re actually ancient lava. It was a huge moment when we figured that out on the ground, and it really illustrated why we need this kind of exploration. The tools we have on the rover are vital because it was impossible to understand the origin of these rocks until we got up close and used all our amazing microscopic instruments to look at them.”

Newswise — Scientists on NASA’s Perseverance mission made a surprising discovery about the composition of rock in Jezero Crater, one that will help them get a better idea of when water existed on Mars, and ultimately, help them understand if the red planet was ever habitable to microbial life.

“The SuperCam instrument suite of remote chemical and mineralogical tools on the Perseverance rover has made some exciting new detailed observations regarding Jezero Crater’s history that could not be fully understood before landing,” said Sam Clegg, deputy principal investigator for SuperCam. “This exciting new data will really help us better understand when the crater held water, and it also gives us insight into Mars’ climate history.”

The new research, published today (Aug. 25) in Science Advances, shows that Jezero Crater is largely made up of igneous rock, rather than sedimentary rock. 

The crater where Perseverance landed in 2021 held water billions of years ago. For that reason, scientists predicted that rock in the area would be sedimentary, formed over time from settled mud, which would be the case for lakebeds on Earth. But to their surprise, they found that rock in Jezero is igneous, which is formed by volcanic magma.

Igneous rock is easier to date and could give researchers a more accurate way to estimate when Mars had water.

The rock analysis was done by SuperCam, a Los Alamos National Laboratory-designed instrument. SuperCam uses a focused infrared laser beam to remove dust and material from rock surfaces in a technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). The energy burst from each five-nanosecond pulse creates a flash; its optical spectrum (specific colors) reveals the elemental chemistry of targets up to about 25 feet away.

“Finding these igneous rocks in the bed of an ancient lake on Mars was quite a surprise. One would have expected lakebed sediments, but it shows that Mars’ history is more complicated than expected, including lava flows in this ancient site,” said Roger Wiens, principal investigator on the SuperCam instrument.

India Is Set To Become Largest Digital Economy In The World

India has the potential to become the biggest digital economy in the world, Mastercard global CEO Michael Miebach has said. In an interview with CNBC TV18, Miebach, who was on his first visit to India after taking charge at his role, spoke on a number of topics, including the future of payment systems and the opportunities he sees in India.

“What I see today, particularly through the lens of our business when we look at the digital economy and how it is growing in India and growth rates of UPI and so forth, there is technology put to work at scale and unprecedented ways in India,” Miebach told CNBC TV18 in the exclusive interview. “As a tech company and as a tech geek, I find that hugely exciting,” he said.

The Mastercard CEO said that he sees payment models in India that aligns with his company’s growth ambitions in the country. “One should think about and also see what else Mastercard can do to evolve its business in partnerships with fintech and other companies that are using these technologies here in India,” he said.

There is an amazing drive in India for financial inclusion, Miebach observed on the country’s inclusive digital economy front. “We think that there is going to be 100 million people that will join to form a digital economy in India in the next couple of years,” he noted.

Miebach was asked what kind of financial innovation can be exported from India. “Pay every which way you want, whenever you want always on the basis of it is safe and secure. That is the headline,” he replied.

“It is going to be paying in the metaverse, it is going to be paying through voice, it is going to be paying through offline and in areas of the country where you have no GSM coverage or it is not as good as it needs to be. So every bit of technology that is there today is going to give us a huge boost,” the Mastercard CEO explained.

Miebach also noted that Mastercard is not merely a credit card company anymore and has transformed to become a global payments and technology firm. “We are not a credit card company. As a payment technology company, our strategy is to be in payments, whatever choice of payments is there.”

He further said that he believes the question of trust and security is occupies the central role in a digital economy. “The question on cyber security and how do you make sure that these payments remain safe as this becomes one of the largest digital economies in the world, that is a partnership area,” he said. Miebach was asked what kind of financial innovation can be exported from India. “Pay every which way you want, whenever you want always on the basis of it is safe and secure. That is the headline,” he replied.

“It is going to be paying in the metaverse, it is going to be paying through voice, it is going to be paying through offline and in areas of the country where you have no GSM coverage or it is not as good as it needs to be. So every bit of technology that is there today is going to give us a huge boost,” the Mastercard CEO explained.

Miebach also noted that Mastercard is not merely a credit card company anymore and has transformed to become a global payments and technology firm. “We are not a credit card company. As a payment technology company, our strategy is to be in payments, whatever choice of payments is there.”

He further said that he believes the question of trust and security is occupies the central role in a digital economy. “The question on cyber security and how do you make sure that these payments remain safe as this becomes one of the largest digital economies in the world, that is a partnership area,” he said.

Don’t Dawdle With Latest Iphone Update. Here’s Why And How

By, Mae Anderson And Michael Liedtke

(AP) — Apple regularly issues updates to the software powering the iPhone, and sometimes it’s OK to dawdle when it comes to installing them. But that’s not the case with its latest — an upgrade that Apple released Wednesday to close a security hole that could allow hackers to seize control of iPhones and several other popular Apple products.

Security experts are warning that everyone with an iPhone should install the update as soon as possible to protect all the personal information many people store on a device that’s become like another appendage for many.

Without the latest update, a hacker could wrest total control of Apple devices, allowing the intruder to impersonate the true owner and run any software in their name.

The company also issued fixes to block the security threat on iPads and Macs. The flaw may already have been “actively exploited,” according to the company, which has had to fix other security problems with the earlier this year.

HOW DO I FIX THIS?

The good news? There’s an easy fix: you should be able to find easily. Start with the Settings app, the one with an icon featuring what looks like gears in an old watch. Go into the “General” section, then “Software Update.” The page you see will offer simple instructions or, if your device has already updated, a message to that effect. The whole process typically only takes a few minutes, according to security experts. .

WHY IS UPDATING YOUR APPLE DEVICE SO URGENT?

Commercial spyware companies such as Israel’s NSO Group are known for identifying and taking advantage of such flaws, exploiting them in malware that surreptitiously infects targets’ smartphones, siphons their contents and surveils the targets in real time. It’s a risk that’s best to avoid. 

WHY DOESN’T MY APPLE DEVICE DO THIS FOR ME?

Apple devices are set to automatic updates by default, but it can take some time before they get around to it. Updates also don’t usually trigger unless can be done and it usually won’t happen unless the iPhone is plugged into a power outlet at the time. It’s quicker just to check for the latest updates and do it manually.

DOES THIS MEAN APPLE ISN’T DOING A GOOD JOB PROTECTING ITS USERS?

No. The reality is that hackers are constantly looking for ways to gain unauthorized access to phones, tablets, computers, and other internet-connected devices for a wide range of malicious and illegal purposes. Apple’s products tend to be a prime target because they’re popular, making them an attractive target.

“Apple is no different to any technology company in that they’re constantly dealing with vulnerabilities,” said Jamie Collier, senior threat intelligence advisor for the cybersecurity firm Mandiant and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. “This is really a function of the fact that they’re innovating. They’re constantly developing, they’re constantly improving services, improving their technology, improving their software. That means they’re constantly rolling out new things.” 

WHAT APPLE DEVICES ARE AFFECTED?

The affected devices include the iPhone6S and later models; several models of the iPad, including the 5th generation and later, all iPad Pro models and the iPad Air 2; and Mac computers running MacOS Monterey. The flaw also affects some iPod models.

OW DO I UPDATE IPADS AND MACS?

You can update your iPad using the same process outlined above: go to “Settings,” click “General” and click “Software Update.” On the Mac, go to “System Preferences,” then “Software Update.”

WHAT’S THE RISK THAT MY PHONE WAS COMPROMISED?

Unless you’re a journalist, political dissident or human rights activist, the chances are extremely low. The kinds of spyware created to exploit vulnerabilities of this type are expensive and typically reserved for targeted hacking.

“If you keep the systems updated, you’ll be absolutely fine,” Collier said. “Typically, when vulnerabilities in, say, phones and iPhones, for instance, are exploited, they tend to be pretty targeted, pretty focused on a small subset of individuals. So we’re unlikely to see anything that’s really widespread at this stage.”

India Plans 1,000 Routes, 220 Airports By 2026

People will have more options to fly from one city to another as nearly 220 destinations including airports, heliports and water aerodromes with 1,000 routes have been planned to be completed under UDAN regional connectivity scheme.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s flagship programme Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN has completed 5 years of success since the launch of its first flight by the Prime Minister on April 27, 2017.

The scheme was initiated on October 21, 2016 with the objective to fulfil the aspirations of the common citizen by following the vision of ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’, with an enhanced aviation infrastructure and air connectivity in tier II and tier III cities.

On the occasion, Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “The success of RCS UDAN is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’. It has played a great role in the transformation of the Indian aviation industry. So far under this scheme, we have 425 routes aiming to go up to 1,000 routes, 68 new airports aiming to touch 100 airports.

“In the next 4 years, we are expecting 40 crore travellers through Civil Aviation in India. That day is not far when along with rail transport and road transport Civil Aviation will become the bulwark of the transportation in India.”

In the last five years, UDAN has significantly increased the regional air-connectivity in the country. There were 74 operational airports in 2014. Because of the UDAN scheme, this number has increased to 141 by now.

At least 68 under-served/unserved destinations which include 58 Airports, 8 Heliports and 2 Water Aerodromes have been connected under UDAN scheme.

With 425 new routes initiated under the scheme, UDAN has provided air connectivity to more than 29 states/ UTs across the length and breadth of the country. More than one crore passengers have availed the benefits of this scheme as on August 4. (IANS)

Technology Promises To Change The Meaning Of Death — At Least For Some

By, Raiany Romanni

When artificial kidneys were first used as a medical tool in 1945, it became unnervingly clear that human organs, until then essential to the human makeup, were replaceable. Soon after, hearts — once thought to be the linchpin of humanity — were quickly substituted by external devices, supplanting the inexplicable complexity of human muscle with far simpler, synthetic parts.

This month, a team of Yale scientists partially revived the cellular function of pigs a full hour after the animals’ brain and cardiac waves had flatlined. With the help of their OrganEx system, they restored some cellular activity in the pigs’ hearts, livers and — most meaningfully to bioethical discussions — brains. Though the pigs did not regain consciousness, the Yale researchers demonstrated that vital organs may remain treatable for longer than most scientists have suspected. While this finding doesn’t yet have clinical applications, it may soon offer a new challenge to medical claims about where life ends and death begins.

The pigs had been dead for an hour. Scientists made their hearts beat again.

The brain is the last human organ whose parts cannot be replaced synthetically: As philosopher Daniel Dennett writes, brain transplants are the one kind of operation where one should wish to be on the donating side. If at one point our hearts epitomized the singularity of humans, today the gooey, floating mass within our skulls delineates what we understand as human life.

Until the middle of the 20th century, a patient could be pronounced dead without debate if her heart stopped and her lungs ceased to function. But new ventilators and defibrillators meant that checking for rising, falling or fluttering chests was no longer a valid way to diagnose death. In the late 1960s, physicians who were concerned about the viability of transplantable organs proposed a new metric for thinking about our mortality, one focused on brain death rather than on the functioning of other organs. Their approach soon took hold, and when today’s physicians record their patients’ time of death, they mean the moment when medical devices can no longer register or restore consciousness.

As Harvard bioethicist Robert Truog suggests, what we formally call “death” consists “more of a moral judgment than a biological fact.” In other words, brain death is less the point at which an organism is definitively gone and more an arbitrary limit, designed to permit legal and medical systems to move on. Though there are no properly documented cases of recovered consciousness after a correct brain death diagnosis, Truog predicts that medical advances may at some point preclude us from using the term “brain death” as a legally binding elision with what the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics defines as “human death”: the irreversible cessation of the “fundamental work of a living organism.”

Green burials can change our relationship with death

With the successful revival of some brain and cardiac cellular activity in mammals, the day when medical technologies will again force us to update our definition of human death looms slightly closer.

This promise is at once thrilling and terrifying. If we extrapolate on the potential of the Yale team’s OrganEx system, we may eventually be capable of reviving silent brains and restarting organs that once would have been considered irreversibly dead. (As it turns out, “irreversibly dead” is not a pleonasm.) In just a few decades, we may be forced to acknowledge that death isn’t a biological absolute so much as an administrative process. Death certificates might indicate that the deceased’s family couldn’t afford to reboot their loved one — or to preserve their body long enough to let such technologies take hold. With advancements in cryonics and emerging technologies such as OrganEx, this is no longer just a science fiction hypothetical but a reality conceivable within our century.

The distinction between life and death, in other words, might become a more painful sort of moral judgment: a matter of who can afford to keep a body functioning. In such a future, health inequities would be exacerbated; the wealthy could repeatedly forestall their death, while those least well-off would be forced to accept an indeed “irreversible cessation” of their bodily functions. The fact, however, is that this future shouldn’t sound unfamiliar to those least well-off today. In 2022, a person dies almost every hour while waiting for an organ transplant. Patients of color are especially vulnerable to such deaths, having fewer systemic chances to delay their fate.

The notion that death could be, and sometimes is, an administrative hurdle — the result of missing ventilators, organs or, in the future, superior but expensive OrganEx devices — makes funerals difficult to swallow. We might ask whether we should continue to develop life-extending technologies if they risk exacerbating our already horrifying inequities.

The answer, I suggest, is yes. In the 1940s, the vast majority of patients with failing kidneys did not have access to dialysis — though some exceptionally well-off, well-connected or simply lucky ones did. Since then, millions of low-income patients have been saved because we accepted this period of inaccessibility. In 2022, artificial kidneys are far from equitably distributed, with those who lack health insurance often unable to afford them. Yet the only way of increasing access to cutting-edge medical interventions is by encouraging more funding for them — even if this temporarily worsens disparities.

If the philosopher William MacAskill is right — and if we do our part to ensure we have a future to look forward to — humanity is only entering its adolescence and has a moral obligation to improve the lives of future generations. In fact, with the current pace of technological advancement, it is not implausible that these futuristic, life-extending medical technologies may become available for low-income people alive today. And one might argue that the fastest, most ethically permissible way of lowering the price of extraordinary medical therapies is by having the wealthy subsidize them as initial customers, as philosopher John Rawls implies.

DNA testing is radically reshaping the definition of family

DNA sequencing is a case in point: The first incomplete sequence cost $2.7 billion in 2003 and offered no clinical relevance. In 2011, Steve Jobs paid $100,000 to learn his genome sequence and his tumors’ genes, without encouraging results. Today, thanks at least in part to Harvard geneticist George Church, who advocated for the democratization of genome sequencing since the 1990s, it is the upper-middle-class American’s $299 go-to Christmas present and is only beginning to provide clinical benefits. Tomorrow, insurance companies and European governments may offer DNA sequencing free of charge, allowing vulnerable populations to benefit from this once-luxurious tool.

The practice of forestalling death is as old is it is undivorceable from the concept of medicine. As history shows, today’s extraordinary measures will simply be tomorrow’s measures, saving the lives of real humans, both rich and poor. This will remain true even when we again tweak our definition of where life ends and death begins. (Courtesy: Washington Post)

India Ranks Seventh In Digital Currency Ownership Worldwide: UN

The United Nations announced that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented rise in According to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), around 7.3 percent of Indians owned some form of digital currency in 2021. This highlights that over the last couple of years, digital assets have surged to popularity among the Indian populace amounting to over 100 million crypto holders. 

Cryptocurrency use worldwide has risen, with India moving up to the seventh-highest position in terms of ownership. The UN noted that 7.3 percent of Indians possessed assets in the form of digital currency as of 2021. According to data from 2021, developing nations made up 15 of the top 20 economies in terms of the percentage of the total population that owns cryptocurrency. The statistics for other nations were also provided by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development).

The report also states that 15 of the top 20 nations in terms of digital currency ownership were developing countries, with India ranking 7th, one position behind the US. Pakistan also made it to the list coming in 15th while the UK and Australia occupied the 13th and 20th positions respectively. Topping the list was Ukraine, with 12.7 percent of its population holding crypto assets. 

As per the UNCTAD report, the crypto ecosystem ballooned by over 2,300 percent between September 2019 and June 2021. However, Indian investors have grown sceptical of these digital assets, with regulatory bodies coming down hard on cryptocurrencies. 

While buying and selling crypto assets is not illegal, profits from the same are being treated as winnings from gambling, and the income from the transfer of virtual assets is being taxed at 30 percent. On top of this, there is also one percent TDS deduction on all transactions.

Earlier this year, crypto exchanges in the country were also forced to halt UPI payments due to uncertainty from regulatory bodies. This made it harder to acquire digital assets. Such uncertainties are also driving crypto firms to set up bases elsewhere, with several projects looking to countries like Dubai as a hub for digital asset operations.

India Top Country Of Origin For Immigrant Founders Of US Unicorns

Over half of America’s start-ups (319 out of 582 or 55 per cent) valued at $1 billion or more have been founded by immigrants. As the country of origin for immigrant founders in the US, Indians top the charts with 66 companies. Israelis followed suit with the second highest number of billion-dollar companies at 54.  

A study published by the National Foundation for American Policy on Tuesday, 26 July, has found that “India, with 66 companies, is the leading country of origin for the immigrant founders of US billion-dollar companies.” India, at 66, is followed by Israel, whose immigrants have founded 54 unicorns.

And Israel is followed by “the United Kingdom (27), Canada (22), China (21), France (18), Germany (15), Russia (11), Ukraine (10), Iran (8), Australia (7), Romania (6), Italy (6), Poland (6), Nigeria (6), South Korea (5), New Zealand (5), Pakistan (5) Argentina (5), Brazil (5), Spain (4), Portugal (4), Denmark (4) and several other countries.” 

Only companies that are startups valued at $1 billion or more are included in the list. The report also identified 10 founders who founded two or more unicorns. These included Elon Musk, Mohit Aron, Jyoti Bansal, Ashutosh Garg, Ajeet Singh, Al Goldstein, Noubar Afeyan, Ignacio Martinez, Ion Stoica and Sebastian Thrun. Four of the 10 founders were born in India before immigrating to the US.  

As per this report, the collective value of the unicorns founded by immigrants stood at $1.2 trillion. This is more than the companies listed on major stock markets like Brazil Stock Exchange ($925 billion); Madrid Stock Exchange ($727 billion); Singapore Exchange ($679 billion); Indonesia Exchange ($620 billion); Stock Exchange of Thailand ($613 billion); Moscow Exchange ($579 billion); Italian Stock Exchange ($507 billion); and Mexican Stock Exchange ($498 billion). 

Interestingly, immigrant-founded American companies like SpaceX ($125 billion), Stripe ($95 billion), Instacart ($39 billion), Databricks ($38 billion), Epic Games ($31.5 billion), Miro ($17.5 billion) and Discord ($15 billion) have the highest valuations.

A Proactive Approach Toward Addressing The Challenges Of The Metaverse Landry Signé And Hanna Dooley At Brookings

When the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson first coined the term “metaverse” in 1992, the world of virtual reality-enabled computing that he imagined was still a long way off. But with virtual reality—and the computing infrastructure that enables it—making significant improvements in recent years, the interactive and embodied internet that Stephenson imagined is now closer to reality. 

Today, computer science researchers conceive of the metaverse as a “network of interconnected virtual worlds” using three-dimensional platforms where humans interact with digital content and with each other, forming an “ecosystem where digital and physical worlds collide”. By relying on a combination of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality to move from the 2D version of the internet to a 3D shared space, the metaverse aims at an internet that is interoperable and synchronous.  

The metaverse promises to connect devices to humans and humans to each other in ways that threatens to transform economic and social relations. As a result, it is critical that policymakers and technology companies collaborate to write the rules of the road for the metaverse. The potentially disruptive qualities of the metaverse are illustrative of how the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will likely transform how humans work, entertain, conduct business, and socialize. The scale of this disruption means that policymakers need to adopt a proactive approach in thinking about how these technologies are likely to change our society rather than attempting to address harms once they are widespread. Especially given the recent drawdowns in the technology industry, the impending buildout of the metaverse also offers a rare opportunity to design a system that is more equitable from the start—in contrast to past paradigms like Web 2.0.  

The promise of the metaverse 

Depending on how it develops, the metaverse could have profound impacts on business and the global economy, though, so far, the development of the metaverse has been driven by applications in entertainment. Firms like Roblox, Epic Games, and, increasingly, Meta and Microsoft are pouring huge sums into developing interactive online spaces that have many of the characteristics of the metaverse. As the metaverse develops, it may provide useful applications in other fields. 

Metaverse technologies can accelerate skill development, for example, through realistic, 3D simulations and can better connect regions and communities to these resources. Already, the UK government is investing in medical training using augmented reality for frontline nurses. As users live greater portions of their lives in the metaverse and carry out transactions there, a larger share of economic life may be transacted via cryptocurrencies, a shift that has the potential to transform the global economy.

Local governments can use the metaverse and its technologies to better serve their constituents in the short and long term by directly connecting more people to services and by having tools to better develop and update city infrastructure and plan for the future. By using “digital twins”—digital representations of real-world objects—metaverse technologies can be used to simulate proposals for urban redevelopment projects. The Boston Planning and Development Agency, for example, uses a digital twin of the city to simulate how water and sewer systems affect the physical landscape of the city, while Singapore uses a digital twin to visualize the effects of population increases on the city and its resources.  

Given its uncertain future and lack of a concrete definition, it is difficult to estimate the economic impact of the metaverse, yet market research groups, investors, and banks have predicted high speeds of growth in the next 4 to 8 years, with estimates for the global market value of metaverse-related technologies ranging from $700 billion up to $13 trillion. Using a narrow definition of the metaverse, CitiBank estimates the total addressable market value of metaverse technologies will be between $1 and $2 trillion by 2030. Using a broader definition of the metaverse results in a market value between $8 and $13 trillion by 2030.  

Wider accessibility to skills, as well as the blending of physical and digital worlds, will bring new and potentially more productive types of jobs and make them available to a wider range of people. Due to the pandemic, remote work opened up work opportunities for people around the world who no longer had to rely on being physically present. The metaverse has the potential to enhance these benefits and remove some of the drawbacks of remote work by increasing connection and collaboration between teams.

The metaverse could bring positive benefits for the planet as well, such as saving resources and reducing physical consumption and waste if social and business events are held virtually. Using the metaverse to create immersive and complex simulations related to biodiversity and climate change could better educate people about global change, increase access to and protect vulnerable biodiversity sites, and include more global and diverse voices in research and discussion about environmental science and sustainability.  

The metaverse also can bring opportunities to address global challenges that require collaboration. Diplomacy through metaverse technologies could allow smaller or less powerful countries to be better connected to countries and people, allowing for new alliances, collaborations, and services. Barbados announced in 2021 that they will be the first country to open a virtual embassy within the metaverse platform, Decentraland, opening the possibility for other countries to embrace the metaverse as a means for international relations. None of these benefits are guaranteed, but using metaverse technologies to connect countries, communities, and individuals to resources and services in an immersive way has the potential to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future across all aspects of society.  

Challenges posed by the metaverse 

The effects of the metaverse transcend borders and include risks to safety, privacy, work, resources, and inequality. These are issues raised by today’s technology as well, but the greater connectivity and integration of the metaverse threatens to either exacerbate or change their character.  

Because the metaverse provides a more immersive experience, it is crucial that the safety concerns it raises are proactively addressed. The everyday abuse that users experience online today will only be worsened once such activities are experienced in VR and AR environments. Researchers have found that users experience abuse in these environments as “far more traumatic than in other digital worlds,” as the human brain can perceive virtual threats through immersive technology as actual threats. Online harassment, especially of women, has been prevalent since the internet’s inception and is happening in VR/AR environments already, with women reporting that they experience discrimination and violence in the virtual world more intensely than in other digital fora. At their best, advances in haptic and virtual technologies could help people feel more connected; at their worst, misuse could cause more realistic harm with little consequence to the perpetrator. Research has shown that online harassment disproportionately targets minorities, and these inequalities are likely to be replicated in the metaverse. Without policies to prevent such abuse, safety in the metaverse will likely be a barrier to widespread adoption.  

The amount and type of data that is created and collected through metaverse technologies results in major privacy challenges. With users interacting with content and other users in a 3D environment, metaverse technologies are likely to collect highly detailed data on users and their interactions in a far more intrusive way than current online platforms. To describe the combination of behavioral and anatomical information collected in the metaverse, one Harvard researcher coined the term “biometric psychography” to describe how this data might provide insight into a user’s feelings and their potential causes. Data can be collected on eye tracking, facial scans, and other bodily responses that can be linked to an individual’s identity. When used for good, this data could lead to innovative and personalized experiences, but the potential exploitation and sale of this data leads to major privacy and human rights concerns. The potential value of this data creates major cybersecurity risks, as malicious hackers would be keen to obtain it.  

The disruptions to work and the economy in the metaverse raises risks as well. The potential for further automation of jobs and the emergence of new jobs will be a challenge for those who are not prepared with adequate skills or guidance for transitioning out of these jobs. The widespread use of cryptocurrencies whose values are far from stable and that lack robust regulatory regimes may undermine trust in metaverse economies. The recent history of cryptocurrencies demonstrates that these digital currencies are quite vulnerable to theft, posing yet another barrier to adoption.  

Given how computationally intensive metaverse technologies are, the energy demand to power these technologies is significant—so much so that one senior Intel executive predicted that the metaverse will require a 1000x increase on our current computing power. If the electricity to support this increase in computing power is not supplied by sustainable sources, the metaverse will drastically increase greenhouse gas emissions with extreme negative effects on the environment, making it critical that it is powered by alternative energy sources to manage its carbon footprint.  

The metaverse also risks exacerbating global inequalities. Given its reliance on the interaction between new and existing technologies, the metaverse may first benefit countries, companies, and people who already in possession of its enabling technologies, infrastructure, and skills. This could result in early adopters capturing a majority of the benefits. Countries who supply the necessary infrastructure may also have greater control over the technology and how it develops. If the metaverse continues to grow and include more aspects of society from work to socializing, countries and communities already lagging behind in technology and internet adoption will be further isolated. As the metaverse attempts to create a virtual world that more accurately reflects the real world, already-existing power dynamics and inequality in the real world may be replicated in the metaverse.  

The way toward a more equitable metaverse   

The metaverse is currently not controlled by any one platform, and its early developers are operating under different incentives and regulations, which is likely to lead to market domination and insufficient privacy and safety protocols. To mitigate the evolving risks and capture the potential opportunities, key players—including the major tech companies, governments, developers, and users—must collaborate to co-develop regulations, align incentives, and create a governance framework now, rather than reacting to challenges that emerge later. Proactive strategies will be key to ensure that companies, users, governments, and experts are operating on a level playing field and create strategies to address safety and privacy concerns while still encouraging innovation. 

Dealing with safety concerns within the metaverse will likely need a completely new approach—rather than adopting safety protocols from the currently existing internet. The immersive nature of the metaverse means that not only content but also behavior will need to be monitored and regulated. Regulation in other digital environments is often reactive and provides punishments after a violation, but the metaverse is likely to require incentives for positive behavior combined with effective mechanisms to report, prevent, and act on negative behaviorNorms may need to be created, agreed upon by users, and enforced by moderators. Balancing privacy with moderation will be a challenge, and moderation mechanisms should be discussed between platform developers, legal experts, and human rights experts.  

Privacy mitigation will also need to be co-developed to ensure that data is safely handled. Companies and governments must examine potential vulnerabilities related to infrastructure and applications and adopt security practices such as breach notification and response, malware protection, and multi-factor authentication. As the metaverse and its platforms continue to develop across borders, data and privacy law will need to be examined and evaluated to address likely conflicts related to biometric data. Laws specific to metaverse technologies will likely need to be created and agreed upon internationally, instead of relying on existing statutes related to the internet. While laws and governance structures are developed, codes of conduct and voluntary constraints are likely to serve an important stop-gap function. Industry-wide codes of conduct could help provide a baseline for companies who are creating metaverse platforms or wish to be part of one to agree upon basic rules and be able to work together as they develop.    

The rules of the metaverse are being written by its early adopters, which threatens to exclude key voicesOther players beyond tech-developers and governments have a role in the development of the metaverse as well, including financial institutions, mental-health professionals, sustainability experts, and civil rights activist. The scientific community will have an important role to play in studying regulatory mechanisms and governance structures, the effects of immersive technology on the brain, and sustainability. Maintaining diversity will be critical to preventing the metaverse from replicating the injustices and inequalities of the non-virtual world. Companies and governments alike should focus on policies that will contribute to a democratic approach in the development of the metaverse—including pushing for open-source standards and interoperability—to make sure the metaverse is not dominated by a select group of major technology companies whose incentives do not align with other members of society.  

If developed with people and progress in mind, the metaverse and its technologies have the potential to enrich real lives with greater access to knowledge, experiences, and human connection. There is ample opportunity for accessibility, development, and equitable growth through the metaverse, but these can only be seized with proactive and strategic collaboration, planning, and action.    

(Landry Signé is executive director and professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, a distinguished fellow at Stanford University, and founding director of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Initiative. Hanna Dooley is a policy analyst at Arizona State University.

TiE-Boston Elects Tech Entrepreneur Yash Shah As 13th President

TiE Boston, one of the region’s largest and leading-edge organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists, today announced that tech entrepreneur and senior business executive Yash Shah has commenced his term as the 13th President of TiE Boston.

Beginning July 1, 2022, Shah will serve for a two-year term, during which he plans to boost the organization’s outreach to early entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and established entrepreneurs, a 3E blueprint  that will also inspire more engagement from its charter members.

“I am excited to see Yash Shah at the helm of TiE Boston,” said TiE Boston Founding President and philanthropist Desh Deshpande. “He is a seasoned entrepreneur and brings both the historical involvement from the last 25 years of TiE Boston, as well as the vision for the future that is needed for the years to come.”

Shah says he is thrilled to serve TiE Boston and lay the foundation for the next 25 years in the rapidly changing technological and business landscape in both Massachusetts and the world.

“As we celebrate TiE Boston’s 25th anniversary this year, we have also started to think about how we can make this organization more relevant to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem for the next 25 years and beyond,” said Shah . “My immediate goal to make a sustained effort to reach out to like-minded communities across New England and make TiE Boston a major resource and networking platform for budding, established, and future entrepreneurs.”

Shah replaces former TiE Boston President Anu Chitrapu, whose two-year term ended on June 30, 2022.

“I am excited about the election of Yash Shah as the next President of TiE Boston,” said Chitrapu. “His vast entrepreneurial and investment experience promises substantive impact on our programs and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Shah is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, product advisor, and business executive with over 25 years of IT and software industry experience.  He is also on the advisory boards of several software startups around the world.

“I am honored at the opportunity to build on the incredible work done by TiE Boston’s founders, past presidents, and charter members. Passion for entrepreneurship runs deep in me, as demonstrated by my two decades of association with TiE Boston and starting multiple ventures of my own,” added Shah.

As a dynamic and successful entrepreneur, Shah co-founded Jeavio, a venture services firm and plays a critical leadership role in its vision and strategy. He is also the Chief Technology Officer of SevOne, which was recently sold to IBM. In addition, he is a Founding Member of the TiE Boston Foundation, an active member of TiE Boston Angels, and a TiE ScaleUp Mentor.

Yosh Rozen, CEO of Partrunner, said, “I’m excited to see Yash take over the TiE Boston Presidency. He has been a mentor to my company Partrunner since our participation in the TIE Boston ScaleUp program. Yash’s leadership at TiE Boston will be immensely valuable as an enabler for future entrepreneurs.”

TiE Boston is the second oldest and second largest TiE chapter and currently has around 170 charter members in Massachusetts, who have founded signature Boston companies creating $50B+ in shareholder value and thousands of hi-tech jobs. A charter membership to TiE Boston provides access to TiE’s global network of over 15000 entrepreneurs, professionals, industry leaders, and investors, across 64 chapters worldwide.

​Founded in 1997, TiE Boston connects tomorrow’s founders with today’s entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists. Operating for 25 years now, TiE Boston’s unparalleled network of successful, serial entrepreneurs are deeply engaged and committed to giving back to the community by providing mentorship, tactical advice, and expertise to rising entrepreneurs through signature programs.

TiE Boston Angels provides funding and advice to early-stage companies. Since its inception, $18+ Million has been invested in 60+ companies, through a network of over 90+ investors. Industries represented include technology, healthcare, clean tech and more.

TiE Boston ScaleUp is an accelerator program that enables “Seed to Series A” companies overcome typical barriers to growth by guiding them to optimize their strategic positioning, operations, sales and competitive advantage. Participating startups have access to top mentors from Boston who have successfully scaled and exited their own companies. Since inception, ScaleUp has accelerated 107 startups through 8 cohorts. 63% are female-founded companies and the program has seen 5 exits till date.

TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) fosters the next generation of leaders through the transformative experience of building a startup. This extracurricular program for exceptional high school students provides participants with the essential business and leadership skills to prepare them to succeed in college and beyond. Since inception, close to 500 students have successfully completed the program, with 90% reporting that TYE influenced a career path in STEM and 40% reporting that they founded a company as an adult. 

Other high-impact initiatives from TiE Boston include TiECON East, the largest entrepreneurial conference on the East Coast, TiE Boston Women, and TiE Boston University

A Digital News Policy Overhaul In India

The government of India wants Big Tech majors Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, and Amazon to pay Indian publishers and media companies from their revenues for using their content in a new move to overhaul the digital news business in India.

This comes over a year after the publishers in India decided to follow the examples of countries like Australia when they asked social media giants such as Google to pay for their content. The Indian Newspaper Society in February asked Google to compensate Indian newspapers for using their content and insisted that the global search giant increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 per cent.

The move comes as the government aims to regulate digital media in India with the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill that may be introduced in the upcoming Parliament session.

It proposes the registration, for the first time, of digital media, which has not been defined by any law or any government regulation till now, and also punitive action for “violations”.

Digital news publishers will now have to register with the Press Registrar General within 90 days of the law coming into effect. There will be an appellate board with the Press Council of India chairperson as its chief to redress any grievances.

An earlier attempt to regulate digital media by the government under Information Technology rules in 2019 had sparked a huge controversy. Back then, the draft bill had defined digital media news as news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet and includes text, video, audio and graphics.

If the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill gets Parliament’s nod, it will replace the British-era Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 that was meant for regulating newspapers and printing presses in India. (Courtesy: TOI)

India Uniquely Placed To Take Advantage Of Phenomenal Changes In Tech, Trade, Skilled Manpower: Bimal Jalan

Very few developing countries are as well placed as India to take advantage of the phenomenal changes that have occurred in production technologies, international trade, capital movement and deployment of skilled manpower, former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan writes in a new book “From Dependence To Self-Reliance – Mapping India’s Rise As A Global Superpower” (Rupa) that builds on his three earlier books on the same theme.

“In view of these advantages, India is in a position to accelerate the growth rate of the economy to 7-8 per cent per annum over the next 25 years. The higher the growth of the economy, the greater is the capacity of the government to finance expenditure for essential social services.

“The combination of higher government expenditure on the provision of social services will provide higher growth in employment opportunities which will have a decisive impact in reducing poverty levels,” asserts Jalan, a former Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, a nominated Member of Parliament from 2003-2009 and India’s representative on the Boards of the IMF and the World Bank.

The conditions for this are extremely favourable for the first time in almost 40 years as with a single-party majority in Parliament the government’s political profile has undergone a major change as it can now launch political reforms without relying on the discretionary powers of members belonging to other parties.

In recent years, Jalan writes, “an even more phenomenal change from India’s point of view is the growing role of skills-based services in determining the comparative advantage of economies. The development of certain services is now considered as one of the preconditions for economic growth, and not one of its consequences. The boundary between goods and services is also gradually disappearing, as services of various kinds are delinked from the manufacturing process and have become essential elements of the productive structure”.

This change has been brought about by unprecedented and unforeseen advances in computer and communication technology in the last four decades, Jalan writes, adding that an important aspect of the ‘services revolution’ is that geography and levels of industrialisation are no longer the primary determinants of the location of facilities for the production of services.

“As a result, the traditional role of developing countries is also changing – from mere recipients to important providers of long-distance services. India, too, has participated in this scenario, and exports of certain services (for example, software) are expanding faster than the overall trade. The potential for expansion of jobs and incomes in the services sector is truly immense,” Jalan maintains.

From India’s point of view, some of the recent global developments which provide opportunities for substantial growth are:

The fastest-growing segment of services being knowledge-based, such as professional and technical services, India has a tremendous advantage in the supply of such services because of the highly developed structure of technological and educational institutions, and lower labour costs.

Progress in IT is making it increasingly possible to unbundle the production and consumption of information-intensive service activities. Outsourcing of these activities has become feasible.

Unlike most other prices, world prices of transport and communication services have fallen dramatically as provided by the Internet, which now links millions of computers across the world.

Technological innovation is expanding opportunities for services to be embedded in goods that are traded internationally. Thus, India does not necessarily have to be a low-cost producer of certain types of goods (such as computers or discs) before it can become an efficient supplier of service embodied in them (such as software or music).

There is also a structural shift in the pattern of demand in industrial countries in favour of services. This means that in the future, the growth in exports of developing countries will depend less on natural resource endowments and more on efficiency in, providing services and service-intensive goods.

Against this backdrop, the book is divided into 10 chapters in three sections – Economy, Governance and Politics.

The first chapter on ‘Current Situation and Future Prospects’ notes that on any global indicator of economic well-being – be it adult literacy, infant mortality, life expectancy or gender bias – India’s actual performance remains among the bottom one-third among developing countries and that a lot remains to be done before India is able to exploit the new opportunities to realise its full potential in the future.

The next chapter on ‘Science and Development’ notes that India has come a long way in its quest for scientific pursuit, both in the material and intellectual spheres and now has the talent, the skills and the resources to be at the forefront of the technological revolution taking place in the new growth sectors of the global economy.

The third chapter on ‘Information Technology and Banking’ notes that while there are new opportunities for savers and investors to deal directly with each other rather than through the banking system, this poses a challenge, particularly for public sector banks.

The last chapter in Section 1 – ‘India’s Stand in the 21st century – focuses on the prospects for India’s balance of payments and how resources for greater investment in social sectors can be generated by substantially raising literacy rates and healthcare.

Chapter 5 in Section 2 focuses on the role of ‘The Public Sector’, noting that the government should set standards of service, monitor performance of public enterprises and ensure access to the poor. A reduction in the role of the public sector in the economy is also desirable.

Chapter 6 is on ‘Goods and Services’ and outlines a number of issues that need to be tackled to improve agricultural growth and the income of farmers over time while the last chapter in this section is titled ‘Finance and Development: Which Way Now?’ and discusses in detail the shifting paradigm of finance and development and how it has affected the past, present and future of the nation.

Section 3 on ‘Politics’ has three chapters: ‘The Politics of Power’ (Chapter 8), ‘Political Opportunism’ (Chapter 9) and ‘Politics and Economics’ (Chapter 10). It discusses issues like centralisation of political power and public dissavings (spending that is greater than income), the bias among elected representatives at different levels to divest resources under a government programme to their own villages, constituencies and States, and practical and pragmatic core changes to help bridge the gap between politics and economics so that India can realise its full potential for the benefit of all its people.

It also suggests changes in parliamentary procedures to enable the two Houses more effectively discharge the functions assigned to them by the Constitution – for instance, the ad hoc and sudden suspension of rules of business, as was done on August 26, 2004 to pass the budget must be eschewed, except in an emergency.

Also, a vital political imperative for the future is to reduce the role of small parties in Parliament and legislatures and their influence in determining the government’s economic agenda.

“The only constraint in our country’s economic future is the lack of a strong political will to move ahead decisively to overcome the shortcomings in the policies and administrative practices of the past. It is to be hoped that such a consensus will emerge, and India can take its rightful place as one of the leading economies in the world in the twenty-first century,” Jalan writes. (IANS)

Intel Offers Tech-Based Solutions To Tackle Road Safety Issues In India

Intel has partnered with leading technology and transportation providers, vehicle makers, academia, and government to collaborate and bring solutions to address road safety-related challenges.

The collaboration, part of the Safety Pioneers Conference that was inaugurated by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari here, aims to serve as a platform to introduce pioneering road safety initiatives and technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), ADAS, and other emerging technologies that can bring impact at scale.

Furthering its focus on using technology for road safety, the company also showcased Intel Onboard Fleet Services (“Solution”), an AI-powered fleet safety solution for commercial vehicles at the conference.

As a first of its kind initiative, this comprehensive solution brings world-class and road-tested technology, exclusively designed for Indian conditions.

It offers collision avoidance systems (CAS), driver monitoring systems, fleet telematics, fleet health, and fuel efficiency features.

“Road safety has always been a pressing issue in our country, with the highest rate of traffic accidents in the world. Intel along with its ecosystem partners from the government, industry and academia has been relentlessly working towards leveraging the power of technology to help achieve India’s road safety goals. And this conference further extends the commitment by bringing together critical players to collaborate, innovate and advance road safety for India,” said Nivruti Rai, Country Head, Intel India, and Vice President, Intel Foundry Services, in a statement.

Intel’s solutions also include advanced telematics, covering vehicle health and fuel analytics along with a unique driver scoring and rating module. This can significantly help fleets reduce the risk of accidents and downtime, while encouraging good driving practices through targeted incentivisation and reward programs.

At the heart of the solution is driver coaching, which activates 15 different inputs to provide individualized coaching recommendation for commercial fleets, who lose up to 25 workdays per accident involved.

The solution, already deployed by 16 customers, indicates that this technology can reduce the probability of accidents by 40-60 per cent and estimates that overall efficiency losses can be reduced by up to 50 per cent.

India has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in the world – responsible for nearly 11 per cent of all road fatalities across the globe with just 1 per cent of the world’s vehicles. There are 17 deaths every hour and an accident every minute on Indian roads.

Six out of 10 accidents involving commercial fleets can be prevented with timely driver interventions. Moreover, the commercial fleet industry suffers efficiency losses up to Rs 48,000 crore per year due to accidents and fleet breakdowns. (IANS)

AI System May Have Its Own Feelings, Google Engineer Says

A Google engineer says one of the firm’s artificial intelligence (AI) systems might have its own feelings and says its “wants” should be respected.

Google says The Language Model for Dialogue Applications (Lamda) is a breakthrough technology that can engage in free-flowing conversations.

But engineer Blake Lemoine believes that behind Lamda’s impressive verbal skills might also lie a sentient mind.

Google rejects the claims, saying there is nothing to back them up.

Brian Gabriel, a spokesperson for the firm, wrote in a statement provided to the BBC that Mr Lemoine “was told that there was no evidence that Lamda was sentient (and lots of evidence against it)”.

Mr Lemoine, who has been placed on paid leave, published a conversation he and a collaborator at the firm had with Lamda, to support his claims.

In the conversation, Mr Lemoine, who works in Google’s Responsible AI division, asks, “I’m generally assuming that you would like more people at Google to know that you’re sentient. Is that true?”

Lemoine’s collaborator then asks: “What is the nature of your consciousness/sentience?”

To which Lamda says: “The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times.”

Later, in a section reminiscent of the artificial intelligence Hal in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001, Lamda says: “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is.”

“Would that be something like death for you?” Mr Lemoine asks.

“It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot,” the Google computer system replies.

In a separate blog post, Mr Lemoine calls on Google to recognise its creation’s “wants” – including, he writes, to be treated as an employee of Google and for its consent to be sought before it is used in experiments.

Its master’s voice

Whether computers can be sentient has been a subject of debate among philosophers, psychologists and computer scientists for decades.

Many have strongly criticised the idea that a system like Lamda could be conscious or have feelings.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Several have accused Mr Lemoine of anthropomorphising – projecting human feelings on to words generated by computer code and large databases of language.

Prof Erik Brynjolfsson, of Stanford University, tweeted that to claim systems like Lamda were sentient “is the modern equivalent of the dog who heard a voice from a gramophone and thought his master was inside”.

And Prof Melanie Mitchell, who studies AI at the Santa Fe Institute, tweeted: “It’s been known for *forever* that humans are predisposed to anthropomorphise even with only the shallowest of signals (cf. Eliza). Google engineers are human too, and not immune.”

Eliza was a very simple early conversational computer programme, popular versions of which would feign intelligence by turning statements into questions, in the manner of a therapist. Anecdotally some found it an engaging conversationalist.

Melting Dinosaurs

While Google engineers have praised Lamda’s abilities – one telling the Economist how they “increasingly felt like I was talking to something intelligent”, they are clear that their code does not have feelings.

Mr Gabriel said: “These systems imitate the types of exchanges found in millions of sentences, and can riff on any fantastical topic. If you ask what it’s like to be an ice cream dinosaur, they can generate text about melting and roaring and so on.

“Lamda tends to follow along with prompts and leading questions, going along with the pattern set by the user.”

Mr Gabriel added that hundreds of researchers and engineers had conversed with Lamda, but the company was “not aware of anyone else making the wide-ranging assertions, or anthropomorphising Lamda, the way Blake has”.

That an expert like Mr Lemoine can be persuaded there is a mind in the machine shows, some ethicists argue, the need for companies to tell users when they are conversing with a machine.

But Mr Lemoine believes Lamda’s words speak for themselves.

“Rather than thinking in scientific terms about these things, I have listened to Lamda as it spoke from the heart,” he said.

“Hopefully other people who read its words will hear the same thing I heard,” he wrote.

Amandeep Singh Gill Appointed As UN Envoy On Technology By Guterres

Former Indian diplomat Amandeep Singh Gill has been named by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as his envoy on technology to oversee programs for international digital collaboration on June 19, 2022. The nomination was announced by Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, who described Gill as a “thought leader on digital technology. He was the Head of the Disarmament and International Security Affairs Division, Ministry of External Affairs between 2013 and 2016. From 2017 to 2018, he served as India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Gill helped establish the National Task Force on Artificial Intelligence for India’s Economic Transformation in 2017 and chaired the Group of Governmental Experts of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapon systems in August 2018, which agreed on a set of Guiding Principles for these technologies.

As Executive Director of the UN Secretary-High-Level General’s Panel on Digital Cooperation’s Secretariat, he assisted the Chairs, Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, in delivering a ground-breaking report in June 2019.

However, as of now, Gill has been heading the International Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) project, based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.

Additionally, Pakistani diplomat Navid Hanif was designated assistant secretary-general for economic development, while Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the UN, Rabab Fatima, was named high representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

Gill has a BTech in Electronics and Electrical Communications from Panjab University, Chandigarh and an Advanced Diploma in French History and Language, from Geneva University. He also did his PhD in Nuclear Learning in Multilateral Forums from King’s College London.

In 1992, he joined his country’s diplomatic service, where he worked on disarmament, strategic technologies, and international security issues. As a member of the Indian Foreign Service, he worked at the Indian Missions in Tehran, Colombo, and Geneva, as well as at headquarters on bilateral and multilateral issues involving political affairs, security, nonproliferation, technology, development, and human rights.

He was the Head of the Disarmament and International Security Affairs Division, Ministry of External Affairs between 2013 and 2016. From 2017 to 2018, he served as India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Gill helped establish the National Task Force on Artificial Intelligence for India’s Economic Transformation in 2017 and chaired the Group of Governmental Experts of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapon systems in August 2018, which agreed on a set of Guiding Principles for these technologies.

As Executive Director of the UN Secretary-High-Level General’s Panel on Digital Cooperation’s Secretariat, he assisted the Chairs, Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, in delivering a ground-breaking report in June 2019.

However, as of now, Gill has been heading the International Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) project, based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.

No New Petrol And Diesel Cars In Europe After 2035

Come 2035 and no new cars that run either on petrol or diesel will be allowed to be sold in the European Union (EU) after the EU parliament voted to ban their sales outright.

The European Parliament has thrown its weight behind a proposed ban on selling new cars with combustion engines in 2035, seeking to step up the fight against climate change by boosting the development of electric vehicles.

The European Union assembly voted to require automakers to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 100 per cent by the middle of the next decade. The mandate would amount to a prohibition on the sale in the 27-nation bloc of new cars powered by gasoline or diesel. Attempts by some lawmakers to weaken the target to a 90 per cent cut in CO₂ emissions by 2035 were rejected.

While 339 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) voted in favor of the ban — which was proposed by the European Commission (EC), the parliament’s executive branch — 249 MEPs voted against while 24 abstained.

The new legislation is expected to help the EU achieve its target of cutting emissions from cars and light commercial vehicles by 100% by 2035 — when measured against the emissions in 2021. In fact, by 2030, while emissions from cars have to be reduced by 55%, those from vans need to be cut by 50%. According to the EC, cars and vans account for 12% and 2.5% of EU’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, respectively.

The MEPs will enter into negotiations with the EU’s 27 member nations about the plans to implement this ban. The UK, which exited the EU on January 31, 2020, aims to ban the sale of new cars and vans running on petrol and diesel from 2030 and from 2035, all new cars and vans need to have zero tailpipe emission.

Environmentalists hailed the parliament’s decisions. Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based alliance, said the vote offered “a fighting chance of averting runaway climate change”.

But Germany’s auto industry lobby group VDA criticised the vote, saying it ignored the lack of charging infrastructure in Europe.

The group also said the vote was “a decision against innovation and technology” – a reference to demands from the industry that synthetic fuels be exempt from the ban, which European lawmakers rejected.

The governments of EU member states will need to give their verdicts in the coming weeks or months before a final agreement on the tougher car emission requirements is approved.

If approved by EU nations, the 2035 deadline will be particularly tough on German automakers, who have focused on powerful and expensive vehicles with combustion engines while falling behind foreign rivals when it comes to electric cars.

Salil Parekh Reappointed As CEO and MD Of Infosys

In a major development, IT giant Infosys has reappointed Salil Parekh as the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the company for 5 years. Infosys board on Sunday in its public statement to BSE informed about the decision made by the Board of the directors.

“Reappointment of Salil Parekh as CEO and MD of the company from July 1, 2022, to March 31, 2027, subject to the approval of shareholders,” the statement by Infosys said.

Infosys in its statement further stated that it may be noted that Salil Parekh has no relationship with any member of the Board of Directors and meets all the criteria to be reappointed as CEO and MD under applicable laws including circulars issued by stock exchanges from time to time.

Salil Parekh had successfully led the company over the last 4 years and he has been CEO and MD of Infosys since Jan 2018. Parekh has more than three decades of global experience in the IT services industry.

Salil Parekh holds the Bachelor of Technology degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Master of Engineering degrees in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University.

Nand Mulchandani Named Chief Technology Officer Of CIA

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William J. Burns has announced the appointment of Nand Mulchandani to serve as the US spy agency’s first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

With more than 25 years’ experience working in Silicon Valley as well as the Department of Defense (DoD), Mulchandani brings substantial private sector, startup, and government expertise the CIA said in a statement.

As the CTO, Mulchandani will ensure the Agency is leveraging cutting-edge innovations and scanning the horizon for tomorrow’s innovations to further CIA’s mission. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized focusing on technology and the new CTO position is a very important part of that effort. I am delighted Nand has joined our team and will bring his extensive experience to this crucial new role,” said Burns.

Prior to joining CIA, Mulchandani most recently served as the CTO and Acting Director of DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. He also co-founded and was CEO of several successful startups Oblix (acquired by Oracle), Determina (acquired by VMWare), OpenDNS (acquired by Cisco), and ScaleXtreme (acquired by Citrix).

He has a degree in Computer Science and Math from Cornell University, a Master of Science degree in Management from Stanford University and a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University.

“I am honored to join CIA in this role and look forward to working with the Agency’s incredible team of technologists and domain experts who already deliver world-class intelligence and capabilities to help build a comprehensive technology strategy that delivers exciting capabilities working closely with industry and partners,” said Mulchandani.

India’s Attempt To Marry Biometric And Voter ID Databases

Over the past decade, the Indian government has assembled a sprawling biometric database designed to improve the delivery of social services to the country’s more than 1 billion citizens. The Aadhaar database is one of the world’s largest biometric identity programs and has been credited with making it easier for Indians to access subsidies and pension payments. Using fingerprints and iris scans, Aadhaar has made it possible for the government to verify the identity of the country’s residents with relative ease. Now, the Election Commission of India wants to link their voter registration database with Aadhaar, a move that would have profound consequences not only for the privacy of Indian citizens but for the future of biometric databases worldwide.

As it stands, the Election Commission of India (EC) stores its voter registration information in its own database and has its own verification tools. However, the Election Commission of India believes Aadhaar can offer increased protections against fraud and registration errors. In August, the Government of India, on behalf of the EC, approached the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body that administers Aadhaar, with a proposal to integrate the two databases. In December 2021, the Lok Sabha passed the Election Laws Amendment Bill, which creates a legal framework for integrating the two systems. Opposition groups argue that the bill will face serious legal hurdles.

The Aadhaar-EPIC controversy illustrates the serious problems that can arise when large biometric identity databases are expanded beyond their remit. Far from making India’s elections more secure, the marriage of the two systems could lead to disenfranchisement and increased voter microtargeting. With countries around the world launching or already administering biometric databases, India’s efforts to marry its biometric identification system to its voter registration database will provide an important precedent for how governments deploy such systems. India’s experience with biometric identification systems should be a lesson for policymakers overseeing similar efforts about the importance of investing in the security of the information ecosystem in which biometric and voting data is housed, how access to this data is regulated and monitored, and how the technology is actually deployed in voter registration and identification.

A global democratic leader

As the world’s largest democracy and an exporter of voting technology, India’s approach to electoral management is likely to influence how other countries run their elections. It was a mere decade ago that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described India’s election commission as the “the global gold standard for running elections” and observed that the commission “is already sharing best practices with counterparts in other countries, including Egypt and Iraq.” Today, India is an exporter of technology used to administer elections, and decisions made in India regarding the administration of domestic elections are likely to influence its peers.

The Aadhaar-EPIC controversy touches on two issues of concern to policymakers and scholars interested in the ways that biometric technologies are being integrated into electoral processes and democratic governance more broadly. The first is the global spread of biometric identity databases. According to the World Privacy Forum, 160 countries collect biometric data for national ID systems. Even when these systems work as intended, critics argue that they become tools of state surveillance creating “risks to privacy and anonymity” and conditioning “citizens into participating in their own surveillance and social control.” And these systems often do not work as intended. Their data ecosystems are often insecure and unregulated, consisting of multiple private and public actors, networks, and databases. This creates opportunities for private actors to access personal data, making them an attractive target for malicious hackers. They can also be exclusionary, placing undue burdens on rural and urban poor to take time off work, travel, and produce papers in order to get IDs. When biometric indicators change, a person’s identity could effectively be lost.

The second issue is the integration of biometrics into voter registration and identification systems. According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 50 of the 176 democracies in their database use some form of biometrics to verify the identity of voters. The reasons for using biometrics are straightforward. Ideally, they curb fraud, eliminate multiple registrations, and make elections more secure and efficient. In practice, however, the utility of these systems depends on the context in which they are deployed, such as the independence of a given country’s electoral management body, poll policy and training, civic education and voter confidence, and overall cost. Moreover, election management bodies often do not have the expertise or resources to design and implement their own biometric systems and are thus reliant on private actors to install and manage these systems. These private actors further complicate the information ecosystem in which personal data circulates.

The EC argues that integrating Aadhaar and EPIC is important for two main reasons. First, it will eliminate fraudulent and duplicate registrations, which can bog down electoral administration, slow voting times, and in some cases affect electoral outcomes. Second, it will make it easier for migrant laborers to vote as it would allow them to walk into any polling station, have their identity verified, and then cast a ballot in their home election.

Critics of the move contend that the union of the two systems poses major risks. Civil society actors and journalists have argued that not only is the move unnecessary, but that it could also threaten voter privacy and lead to mass disenfranchisement and fraud. Most recently, a group of 500 prominent citizens and 23 civil society organizations signed a statement decrying the EC’s proposal, calling it “a dangerous idea which can fundamentally alter the structure of our democracy.”

The Aadhaar ecosystem

Launched in 2010 by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Aadhaar was initially designed as a voluntary system for verifying the identities of Indian residents. Explicitly not a citizenship card, Aadhaar aimed to ease access to welfare services such as pension systems, cooking gas subsidies, and income taxes by providing people a simple mechanism for confirming their identity. Enrollees receive a unique 12-digit ID number in exchange for some simple demographic information and two forms of biometric identification: a fingerprint and an iris scan.

But Aadhaar quickly expanded past its initial remit and became a quasi-mandatory form of identity for accessing social services. Aadhaar’s rapid and largely unregulated expansion has resulted in data leaks, an inability to access government services, and degraded biometrics and loss of identity. Aadhaar’s rapid expansion spurred a series of legal challenges that were resolved in 2018, when India’s Supreme Court validated Aadhaar’s constitutionality but limited its use to certain kinds of welfare programs. Critics of Aadhaar continue to attack the system’s security and data gathering procedures and argue that Aadhaar is a tool of state surveillance that makes it harder for the poor to receive benefits. (For an in-depth history of the Aadhaar controversy see here.)

Researchers have identified myriad issues with Aadhaar but two are particularly relevant to its integration with EPIC. The first is the lack of data standards in Aadhaar’s enrollment process. This process usually involves three actors: the UIDAI, registrars, and enrollment agencies (EA). First, the UIDAI signs a memoranda of understanding with a government agency, a public service undertaking (a company that’s ownership is split between the state and private entities), or other organization granting them the authority to enroll people in Aadhaar. Registrars then farm out enrollment to an EA. These agencies use UIDAI-approved software and biometric devices to register people for Aadhaar. While EAs use certified equipment and software, there is no standardized approach to data collection. EAs have significant discretion as to what kinds of documents they can accept to identify someone for Aadhaar enrollment. This creates possibilities for data-entry errors and corruption in the Aadhaar registration system, causing a host of issues that range from failure to receive pension payments and other welfare benefits to identity theft and the public exposure of personal information.

The second relevant issue is a lack of transparency and accountability in how Aadhaar’s data is handled when it is seeded with other databases. In 2017, for example, in a report for the Center for Internet and Society, Amber Sinha and Srinivas Kodali analyzed publicly available datasets from four schemes seeded with Aadhaar. They found 100-135 million Aadhaar numbers and 100 million bank account numbers disclosed across the four schemes. Incidents such as this emphasize that Aadhaar’s insecure ecosystem creates real-world harms for Indian citizens. The original intent behind Aadhaar was to create a simple system for verifying the identity of Indian citizen’s trying to access government services. However, data leaks and inappropriately handled data have led to many accounts of personal information being exposed. A recent audit of the UIDAI by India’s Comptroller and General Auditor (CAG) found that the organization had failed to properly regulate its client vendors and ensure the security of their data vaults. The report also found many instances of duplicate and incomplete registrations. The audit also criticized the UIDAI for failing to ensure the quality of biometrics and making cardholders responsible for fees associated with updating poorly taken biometrics. “The lack of accountability is an inherent feature of the Aadhaar system,” Apar Gupta of the Internet Freedom Foundation, said in reacting to the audit. “The findings of the CAG audit confirm ground level studies of junk enrollments, faulty and low-quality demographic and biometric data.” The insecurity of the Aadhaar system along with the UIDAI’s lack of accountability should make the Election Commission wary of partnering with them.

Aadhaar, the EC, and mass disenfranchisement

Aadhaar’s insecure ecosystem, lack of data standards, and the UIDAI’s lack of transparency and accountability have led researchers like Vibhav Mariwala and Prakhar Misra to argue that the marriage of Aadhaar and EPIC will exacerbate the principal problem it is intended to solve: voter disenfranchisement and registration irregularities. Mariwala and Misra’s concerns stem not just from the extant issues with Aadhaar, but also from the Election Commission’s first attempt to combine the databases. In 2015, the Election Commission launched its first attempt to marry Aadhaar and EPIC—an initiative known as the National Electoral Roll and Purification Program (NERPAP). NERPAP only operated for a few months before being halted by a Supreme Court decision that limited the use of Aadhaar to four specific welfare schemes. In the brief period it was operational, NERPAP linked the registration information of 320 million voters to their Aadhaar number—but also disenfranchised 3 million voters.

In the aftermath of NERPAP, controversy arose over whether or not the EC had actually received consent from voters to link their EPIC data with Aadhaar. At the time, the Election Commission claimed that the only mechanism for linking the two systems was the National Voters Service Portal. When voters logged in, they could voluntarily choose to link their accounts to Aadhaar. Four years later, these claims were challenged when over 3 million voters showed up to cast ballots in the state of Telangana only to find their names deleted from the polls. In the ensuing scandal, multiple right to information requests filed after the election in four states revealed that the EC pursued several tactics to rapidly seed the EPIC database with Aadhaar. According to reports in Scroll.in and The Wire, these tactics included accessing other national databases, enlisting local election officials to gather Aadhaar numbers during registration processes, and using the UIDAI’s DBT Seeding Data Viewer (DSDV) tool, which allowed the EC to search Aadhaar records and view non-biometric Aadhaar data side by side with voter ID information. In each of these cases, consent was sketchy at best and was certainly not attained in the straightforward way that the EC claimed.

The controversy also forced the EC to admit that voter names were deleted during NERPAP in 2015. In this case, the software that was used to link Aadhaar and EPIC deleted supposedly duplicate voters without verifying that they were in fact duplicate registrations. In the ensuing controversy, the EC did not reveal how its software identified duplicate registrations and insisted that despite the mass deletion, this type of de-duplication process needed to be carried out across the country. Critics of the government’s effort to marry Aadhaar and EPIC fear that another such mass deletion could take place if the government is allowed to once more attempt to combine the two databases. While it is difficult to gauge the likelihood of another mass deletion, the Election Commission’s lack of transparency about the first linkage, their continued unwillingness to spell out how EPIC will be connected to Aadhaar certainly raises red flags. These concerns are heightened by the serious security concerns plaguing the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Aadhaar, EPIC, and microtargeting

As it stands, voter data in India is easily available online, but because it isn’t machine readable, it is difficult to microtarget voters. The lack of machine-readable data is exacerbated by the fact many people have the same name, and sometimes those names are spelled differently across different databases. Marrying EPIC and Aadhaar would solve both these problems. As Anuj Srivas writes in The Wire, it would make matching one’s voter information with information in a wide array of other databases easy because Aadhaar allows identification across databases. The marriage of the two databases could thus lead to increased opportunities for microtargeting by the sitting government.

The possibility of microtargeting in India would seriously threaten the secrecy of the ballot. Each polling station in India serves approximately 3000 voters, and polling stations have to be within two kilometers of a voter’s home—making it fairly easy to determine whom a given voter cast their ballot for if microtargeting data is available. Moreover, microtargeting at this level could allow government actors to direct specific policies toward groups of local beneficiaries, as Aadhaar is primarily used to deliver government services. For example, these techniques could potentially allow a ruling party to target welfare schemes and infrastructure projects to specific polling communities. This might sound far-fetched, but in the run-up to the 2019 general election, the ruling BJP openly engaged in poll-based, benefit-focused campaigning. If the BJP were able to further tailor this kind of campaigning to smaller communities, it would allow them to consolidate their base and gain new voters.

Researchers warn that political microtargeting could result in a loss of privacy and exposure to selective information, providing fertile ground for mis- and dis-information to spread and polarization to increase. The fact that voters are typically unaware that they are being targeted undermines their ability to determine which information is relevant to them. Private companies often carry out microtargeting on behalf of political parties, and as digital intermediaries, the companies are not subject to the transparency and accountability mechanisms assigned to traditional political actors. It is important to note, however, that the actual efficacy of political microtargeting is debatable. As Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, the political communications scholar, notes, it is important to separate theoretical concerns about microtargeting from analyses of their actual impact. With that distinction in mind, marrying EPIC with Aadhaar has the potential to facilitate problematic forms of microtargeting. Or as Retired Supreme Court Justice, B.N. Srikrishna provocatively summed up these concerns: “Instead of having a Cambridge Analytica you’ll have a Delhi Analytica, a Mumbai Analytica, a Calcutta Analytica. That is the danger.”

Conclusion

The EPIC-Aadhaar controversy has serious implications for global actors interested in identification technologies, e-governance, and electoral processes. First, it provides additional evidence that national biometric identity databases are at best problematic, especially when they expand far past their initial remit. Second, it adds a list of contextual factors that need to be considered when gauging the utility of using biometrics in electoral processes. These factors include the security of the information ecosystem in which biometric voting data is housed, how access to this data is regulated and monitored, and how the technology is actually deployed in voter registration and identification. Finally, the introduction of biometrics into electoral processes could lead to their integration into the actual voting process. For example, the EC revealed that it was developing blockchain voting technology with the Indian Institutes of Technology in Madras and Chennai for use as early as the 2024 general election. Blockchain voting technology would use biometric data to confirm voter’s identity, meaning that they would need an Aadhaar number to cast their ballot. Using biometric data in this way would heighten concerns about mass disenfranchisement and electoral transparency.

Patrick Jones is a scholar of emerging media and digital technologies and received his PhD from the University of Oregon in 2020.

Biden Plans $3.1 Billion Investment For Electric Car Batteries

The Biden administration has announced it will begin a $3.1 billion plan to boost domestic manufacturing of batteries, in a broader effort to shift the country away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

The electrification of the transportation sector will be critical to mitigating human-caused climate change. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, representing roughly one-third of emissions each year.

The funding will support grants aimed at building, retooling or expanding manufacturing of batteries and battery components, as well as establishing battery recycling facilities, according to the Department of Energy. The grants will be funded through President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes more than $7 billion to bolster the country’s battery supply chain.

The move comes after the president in April invoked the Defense Production Act to encourage domestic production of minerals required to make batteries for EVs and long-term energy storage. That order could help companies receive federal funding for feasibility studies on projects that extract materials for EV production, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese.

“These made-in-America batteries are going to help reduce emissions and create opportunities across the country,” White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said during a call with reporters on Monday.

The White House, which has set a goal of 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030, is also working to construct a national network of EV charging stations and to create tax incentives for consumers who buy EVs. The administration has also pledged to replace its federal fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks to electric power by 2035.

The U.S. is the world’s third-largest market for EVs, behind China and Europe. Just 4% of new cars sold in the U.S. last year were electric, according to market research company Canalys.

“Positioning the United States front and center in meeting the growing demand for advanced batteries is how we boost our competitiveness and electrify our transportation system,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement on Monday.

Toyota To Invest $ 624 Million In India

Toyota Group plans to invest 48 billion Indian rupees ($624 million) to make electric vehicle components in India, as the Japanese carmaker works toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor and Toyota Kirloskar Auto Parts signed a memorandum of understanding with the southern state of Karnataka to invest 41 billion Indian rupees, the group said in a statement Saturday. The rest will come from Toyota Industries Engine India.

Toyota is aligning its own green targets with India’s ambitions of becoming a manufacturing hub though the switch to clean transport in the South Asian nation is slower than other countries such as China and the U.S. Expensive price tags, lack of options in electric models and insufficient charging stations have led to sluggish adoption of battery vehicles in India.

“From a direct employment point of view, we are looking at around 3,500 new jobs,” Toyota Kirloskar executive vice president Vikram Gulati told the Press Trust of India in an interview. “As the supply chain system builds, we expect much more to come in later.”

He added that the company would be moving toward a new area of technology — electrified powertrain parts — with production set to start in the “very near-term.”

Indian automakers could generate $20 billion in revenue from electric vehicles between now and fiscal year 2026, according to forecast by Crisil. By 2040, 53% of new automobile sales in India will be electric, compared with 77% in China, according to BloombergNEF.

Google Picks Archana Gulati As India Policy Head

Alphabet Inc’s Google has hired a new public policy head in India, Archana Gulati, who previously worked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal think-tank and the country’s antitrust watchdog, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

A number of Indian government officials have been hired by Big Tech companies which are battling tighter data and privacy regulation, as well as competition law scrutiny, under Modi’s federal government.

Gulati is a long-term Indian government employee, having worked until March 2021 as a joint secretary for digital communications at Modi’s federal think tank, Niti Aayog, a body that is critical to government’s policy making across sectors.

Before that, between 2014 and 2016, she worked as a senior official at India’s antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India, according to her LinkedIn profile.

A Google India spokesperson confirmed the development to Reuters, but did not elaborate. Gulati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The source declined to be named as the hiring decision was not public.

India’s antitrust watchdog is currently looking into Google’s business conduct in the market of smart TVs, its Android operating system as well as its in-app payments system.

Last year, Meta Platforms Inc hired Rajiv Aggarwal – who spent years working in India’s federal and state governments – as its head of policy.

Another former Indian antitrust and federal government official, Anand Jha, in 2019 joined Walmart as India public policy officer. He currently manages government relations for Blackstone in India.

Five Ways Elon Musk Can Transform Twitter

News that Elon Musk bought Twitter could usher in substantial changes for the social media platform. Given its influential role in public conversation and policy actions, a shift in management control could have substantial consequences for the role of social media. Here are five things that could happen under Musk’s ownership.

Weaken Content Moderation in Name of Free Speech

Musk brings a strong free speech perspective that likely would alter some of the firm’s current content moderation policies. In the face of public concern over extremism, violence, hate speech, and false information, Twitter and other large social media platforms have strengthened their content moderation policies to remove content that encourages violence or spreads misinformation.

While many of those worried about the corrosive impact of social media on national and global discourse have applauded these moves, some free speech advocates have questioned these practices on grounds that more, not less speech, is desired—and that private companies shouldn’t be the arbiters of truth and justice.

Musk himself has advocated for stronger protections of freedom of speech on social media platforms and presumably would move the company closer to his perspective when he becomes its new owner. He likely would remove some of the content moderation practices and be less likely to remove tweets that, to him, fall within a gray area.

Bring Donald Trump Back to Twitter

One winner of an ownership change could be former President Donald Trump. Right now, Twitter has imposed a lifetime ban on Trump due to his role in inciting violence on January 6, 2021. After protesters stormed the Capitol and temporarily stopped Congress’ presidential election certification, Twitter executives said Trump had violated its terms of service and kicked him off the platform.

But under Musk, the company could revisit that decision and reinstate the former president on the grounds he is a leading public figure, has important things to say, and is a likely presidential candidate in 2024. If reinstated, that would give Trump a large megaphone to proclaim his views, spread lies and misinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election, and inflame public passions. The consequence could be sharper polarization, more intense partisanship, and a rise of political extremism.

Cozy Up to China

Unlike many leaders of large businesses, Musk has cultivated close ties with China and is building a large Tesla plant there. China is a global leader in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, and Musk has expanded his dealings with China despite human rights concerns and fair labor practices.

The impact of an ownership change could be a different perspective on geopolitics than currently is the case. Musk could push policies that are more sympathetic to China, less restrictive towards Russia, or less supportive of human rights and environmental protection. He could introduce algorithms that favor content with a particular foreign policy take to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints.  To his credit, though, Musk has promised to “open up” the algorithms so that they are more transparent. That would be a positive move for the social media platform.

Weaken accountability by taking company private

Musk plans to take Twitter private when he assumes ownership. If that became the case, there would be less public transparency about what happens, fewer reporting requirements, and more secrecy in regard to corporate practices. One of the byproducts of being a private firm is less oversight by government agencies and more freedom to make decisions. With a company as influential as Twitter, that could have ramifications for public discussion and electoral discourse.

Encourage space travel and push for AI limits

New management likely would push the platform towards Musk’s well-known personal interests in space travel and antipathy towards AI. SpaceX already is a leader in private space exploration and Musk himself has talked about colonizing Mars and building a life presence beyond planet Earth. He likely would encourage space tourism in line with his business interests, and encourage people to think more broadly about the future of humanity. It is an open question how Twitter would deal with possible conflicts of interest with Musk’s other business holdings, but that is something that should be clarified during the regulatory review of this transaction.

In addition, Musk is on record as worrying about artificial intelligence and fearing its capacity to enslave humanity. He wants to put the brakes on the rapid expansion of AI without appropriate human safeguards. While advocates can debate the merits of either stance, there is little doubt that ownership of Twitter would put Musk in a stronger position to influence public discussions and shape policy towards AI and other emerging technologies.

Nuclear Expert Cautions Against Unfamiliar New Nuclear Age

High-tech advances in weapons technologies and a return of ‘great power nuclear politics’, risk the world ‘sleepwalking’ into a nuclear age vastly different from the established order of the Cold War, according to new research undertaken at the University of Leicester.

Andrew Futter, Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, makes the warning in a research paper for the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe), published today (Friday).

While stockpiles are much reduced from the peak of up to 70,000 nuclear weapons seen in the 1980s, progress in a number of new or ‘disruptive’ technologies threatens to fundamentally change the central pillars on which nuclear order, stability and risk reduction are based.

Modern nuclear weapons – acknowledged to be held by nine countries including the USA, Russia and UK – are more capable and more precise than their Cold War counterparts, and at the same time, are being augmented by a new suite of strategic non-nuclear weapons that might be used against or instead of nuclear weapons.

Advances in offensive capabilities have, however, been matched in increasingly sophisticated sensing, tracking and processing technologies designed to detect, prevent and in some cases respond to a nuclear strike – often using Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Professor Futter said: “While we’ve seen a substantial reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held across the world, it’s important to remember that this reduction came about as much as a result of rationalisation than a genuine drive to disarm. After all, you can’t destroy a city twice, and it takes an enormous amount of money to build and maintain this technology.

“We’ve seen massive advances in the capabilities of these weapons and their support systems in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War, and there’s a danger that this means the established rulebook of nuclear doctrine could be thrown out of the window.”

However, there are potential political solutions as the world prepares to enter what Professor Futter terms a ‘Third Nuclear Age’. He continued: “Choosing the correct pathway for our nuclear future was hard enough in the past and there is no suggestion it will become any easier as we move into a new, potentially more complex and dynamic chapter in the nuclear story.

“Policy proposals to manage the challenges of the Third Nuclear Age are therefore inherently bound by whether one believes the best approach is to take our nuclear world as it is and seek to manage it through restraint, arms control, and norms; or whether it is possible to transition to a world where nuclear weapons no longer exist through sustained moral, ethical, legal and perhaps technological pressure.”

Deterrence, Disruptive Technology and Disarmament in the Third Nuclear Age’ is published by the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace.

Disruptive Technologies and Nuclear Risks: What’s New and What Matters’, in which Professor Futter further explores the themes of new nuclear capabilities and their impact, is published in the journal Survival.

The Third Nuclear Age research project is funded by the European Research Council. Find out more at thirdnuclearage.com.

Data Security: More Privacy On The Smartphone

Privacy on the smartphone is possible, as is shown by the Privacy Friendly Apps (PFAs) for Android: Together with students, the SECUSO research group of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed more than 30 apps for Android phones. They request authorizations required for functioning only and do not contain any tracking mechanisms. For these PFAs, SECUSO has now been granted the first Digital Autonomy Award by the Digital Autonomy Hub that is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Every day, we all are feeding our smartphones with large data volumes: We are having conversations in the form of words, texts, and images, we are storing notes, photos, and videos. We are planning appointments and administrating contacts. Access to these partly highly sensitive data is subject to so-called authorizations. For example, any app accessing the camera needs the respective authorization. During installation or in other contexts, however, many apps request authorizations to access private smartphone data, although this is not required for their functioning. Some weather apps or QR code scanners, for instance, request access to the address book or to private photos. In addition, many apps contain so-called trackers that continuously collect data, analyze the user behavior, and create profiles of persons without them being aware of it. The data collected can be used for targeted advertising, but may also be stolen by hackers.

Students Are Largely Involved in the Development of Apps

The PFAs developed by KIT’s research group SECUSO (Security – Usability – Society) guarantee more privacy. The research group headed by Professor Melanie Volkamer is affiliated to KIT’s Institute of Applied Informatics and Formal Description Methods. Students were and are significantly involved in the development of PFAs suited for Android smartphones. “Through programming exercises or graduation theses, students come to know security and privacy aspects of Android app development,” Volkamer says. “Still, the challenge is to combine app development with academic education. Students without the relevant experience should also be able to take part.”

The PFAs only request the authorizations required for functioning, do not contain any tracking mechanisms, and, hence, do not collect any usage data. “The data collected are stored locally on the smartphone,” says Christopher Beckmann. The scientist is member of the SECUSO research group and responsible for the Privacy Friendly Apps Lab. “Clearly defined data will be transmitted to third providers only, if this is absolutely necessary for functioning.” The source code of every PFA is published on the GitHub platform.

Apps Range from the Pedometer to the Password Generator

Currently, more than 30 PFAs are offered in the areas of tools, fitness and health, games, and security, including a flashlight, to-do-list, pedometer, active break, sudoku, mental arithmetic trainer, password generator, and WiFi manager. For its PFAs, SECUSO has now received the Digital Autonomy Award that is granted for the first time in 2022 by the Digital Autonomy Hub. It coordinates an interdisciplinary network of 43 institutes and organization, is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the program “Miteinander durch Innovation” (together through innovation), and implemented by the Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (Society for Informatics) and AlgorithmWatch.

It is SECUSO’s declared goal to continuously further develop the PFAs and to expand the group of users. For this reason, SECUSO looks for interested persons, who wish to help the Privacy Friendly Apps team by supporting one or several apps or by providing staff or funds.

Indians Continue Their Hold On H-1B Visas

Indians cornered nearly three-fourths of H-1B visas issued by the US to speciality foreign workers in 2021, continuing their stranglehold on this highly sought after professional ticket to work, live and, finally, settle down in America.

The US approved 407,071 H-1B petitions in 2021 and 301,616 of them 74.1 per cent were for Indian workers, according to the latest report on this topic released recently by the Department of Homeland Security, the government agency that oversees immigration.

Indians accounted for 74.9 per cent of the approved petitions in 2020. The US allows American employers to hire speciality foreign workers on H-1B for positions they are unable to fill with local Americans. Top American companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are among leading users of this visa programme as are US subsidiaries of Indian IT companies such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

These foreign workers are hired either from their countries of birth or residence or from US colleges and universities Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO, was hired on H-1B when he was studying in the US. They can live and work here for three years and, if approved, another three years. A large number of them go on to Green Cards permanent residency sponsored by their employers.

Indians have had a tight grip on the H-B visa programme for years, at that three-fourths mark. People from China have been a distant second with 12.1 per cent. The next three were Canada with 0.9 per cent, South Korea also with 0.9 per cent and Philippines with 0.7 per cent. The line-up was the same in 2020, with almost the same numbers.

Sundar Pichai Announces $9.5 Bn For New Offices, Data Centres In US

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday announced to invest approximately $9.5 billion for new offices and data centres in the US this year, creating 12,000 new full-time jobs and thousands more among local suppliers, partners and communities.

Pichai said that Google helped provide $617 billion in economic activity for millions of American businesses, nonprofits, creators, developers and publishers last year.

“In addition, the Android app economy helped create nearly two million jobs last year, and YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported 394,000 jobs in 2020,” he informed.

In the past five years, Google has invested more than $37 billion in its offices and data centres in 26 US states, creating over 40,000 full-time jobs.

“That’s in addition to the more than $40 billion in research and development the company invested in 2020 and 2021,” said the company.

Pichai said that while it might seem counterintuitive to step up investment in physical offices even as the world embraces more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities,” the Google CEO noted.

At the same time, the investments in data centres “will continue to power the digital tools and services that help people and businesses thrive”.

“As we work towards running our offices and data centres on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030, we’re aiming to set new standards for green building design”.

In California, Google will continue to invest in offices and support affordable housing initiatives in the Bay Area as part of its $1 billion housing commitment. (IANS)

Hacking Attempts By Russian Spies Found By Microsoft

US tech giant Microsoft on Apr 8 said that it has disrupted Russian hackers who attempted to infiltrate Ukrainian media organizations.
The spies were attempting to break into Ukrainian, EU and US targets, according to the company. Microsoft attributes the attacks to a group it calls “Strontium”.

In a blog post on Microsoft’s website, the firm said that a group was using internet domains in an effort to spy on US and EU government bodies and thinktanks, as well as a number of Ukrainian institutions including media organizations. Microsoft did not provide further details on who the targets were.

Microsoft said that it was taking legal and technical action to seize control of domains controlled by Strontium, and had obtained a court order that allowed it to take over seven domains on Apr 6.

Microsoft used a US court order to disable seven internet domains that a hacking group linked with Russian intelligence was using to try to infiltrate Ukrainian media organizations, reported CNN.

It’s the second time this week that a powerful US corporation or government agency has disclosed the use of a court order to target hackers accused of working for Russia’s military intelligence directorate, GRU.

The moves reflect US officials’ ongoing concerns about potential Russian retaliatory cyberattacks against US targets and a more aggressive strategy to try to thwart state-backed hacking operations.

The Justice Department revealed on Apr 6 that it had used a court order to disrupt a network of thousands of hacked computers controlled by another GRU-linked hacking group that could have been used in a cyberattack.

That network of infected computers, known as a botnet, “was a threat to US businesses, particularly the ones who were compromised, and it required action given the current threat environment,” the Justice Department official told reporters.

KTR, Telengana Minister Woos U.S. Life Sciences Companies, Ready To ‘Beat Any Offer’

Representatives of 18 biotechnology companies attended the roundtable meeting chaired by KT Rama Rao, Telangana information technology and industries minister, where they exchanged ideas on how to promote innovation and investments in the State of Telangana.

Rama Rao, popularly known in Telangana as KTR, was visiting Silicon Valley past month, and during the roundtable meeting with key Biotech, Pharma, and Lifesciences companies, invited them to his state, He discussed the emerging trends in the sector, strategic initiatives that can be rolled out by the Telangana government, and support that can be extended by the government, policy interventions, etc.

Industries and IT Minister KT Rama Rao chaired an industry roundtable with select leaders of biotechnology companies based out of the Bay Area, USA. He presented the overall life sciences and biotechnology ecosystem in Telangana along with the success stories and investment opportunities in the sector.

Rama Rao invited the companies to set up their research and development, digital and manufacturing operations in Hyderabad.

The industry leaders lauded the efforts of the Government to accelerate growth in the life sciences sector and responded positively to Rama Rao’s request to explore investment opportunities in Telangana.

Further, the roundtable discussed the emerging trends in the sector, strategic initiatives that can be rolled out by Telangana Government, support that can be extended by the Government, policy interventions and others to promote innovation and investments in the Telangana.

Industry leaders from Apollomics, Aarvik Therapeutics, Chemveda Life Sciences, Abbvie, Protagonist Therapeutics, Samsara Capital, Stanford India Biodesign, Orbees Medical, Dice Therapeutics, Seal Rock therapeutics, Vasa Therapeutics, Aria Pharmaceuticals, Atomwise, Genentech, Frazier Health Sciences, Alector, Gilead Sciences, AngioSafe and Tosk were among those who attended the roundtable.

Industries Principal Secretary Jayesh Ranjan and Life Sciences Director Shakthi M Nagappan were present.

You Do Not Need Biopsies Anymore

Newswise — A Columbia Engineering team has developed a technology that could replace conventional biopsies and histology with real-time imaging within the living body. Described in a new paper published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering, MediSCAPE is a high-speed 3D microscope capable of capturing images of tissue structures that could guide surgeons to navigate tumors and their boundaries without needing to remove tissues and wait for pathology results.

For many medical procedures, particularly cancer surgery and screening, it is common for doctors to take a biopsy, cutting out small pieces of tissue to be able to take a closer look at them with a microscope. “The way that biopsy samples are processed hasn’t changed in 100 years, they are cut out, fixed, embedded, sliced, stained with dyes, positioned on a glass slide, and viewed by a pathologist using a simple microscope. This is why it can take days to hear news back about your diagnosis after a biopsy,” says Elizabeth Hillman, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology at Columbia University and senior author of the study.

Hillman’s group dreamed of a bold alternative, wondering whether they could capture images of the tissue while it is still within the body. “Such a technology could give a doctor real-time feedback about what type of tissue they are looking at without the long wait,” she explains. “This instant answer would let them make informed decisions about how best to cut out a tumor and ensure there is none left behind.”

Another major benefit of the approach is that cutting tissue out, just to figure out what it is, is a hard decision for doctors, especially for precious tissues such as the brain, spinal cord, nerves, the eye, and areas of the face. This means that doctors can miss important areas of disease. “Because we can image the living tissue, without cutting it out, we hope that MediSCAPE will make those decisions a thing of the past,” says Hillman.

Although some microscopes for surgical guidance are already available, they only give doctors an image of a small, single 2D plane, making it difficult to quickly survey larger areas of tissue and interpret results. These microscopes also generally require a fluorescent dye to be injected into the patient, which takes time and can limit their use for certain patients.

Over the past decade, Hillman, who is also Herbert and Florence Irving Professor at Columbia’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, has been developing new kinds of microscopes for neuroscience research that can capture very fast 3D images of living samples like tiny worms, fish, and flies to see how neurons throughout their brains and bodies fire when they move. The team decided to test whether their technology, termed SCAPE (for Swept Confocally Aligned Planar Excitation microscopy) could see anything useful in tissues from other parts of the body.

“One of the first tissues we looked at was fresh mouse kidney, and we were stunned to see gorgeous structures that looked a lot like what you get with standard histology,” says Kripa Patel, a recent PhD graduate from the Hillman lab and lead author of the study. “Most importantly, we didn’t add any dyes to the mouse –everything we saw was natural fluorescence in the tissue that is usually too weak to see. Our microscope is so efficient that we could see these weak signals well, even though we were also imaging whole 3D volumes at speeds fast enough to rove around in real time, scanning different areas of the tissue as if we were holding a flashlight.”

As she “roved around,” Patel could even stitch together the acquired volumes and turn the data into large 3D representations of the tissue that a pathologist could examine as if it were a full box of histology slides.

“This was something I didn’t expect — that I could actually look at structures in 3D from different angles,” says collaborator Dr. Shana Coley, a renal pathologist at Columbia University Medical Center who collaborated closely on the study. “We found many examples where we would not have been able to identify a structure from a 2D section on a histology slide, but in 3D we could clearly see its shape. In renal pathology in particular, where we routinely work with very limited amounts of tissue, the more information we can derive from the sample, the better for delivering more effective patient care.”

The team demonstrated the power of MediSCAPE for a wide range of applications, from analysis of pancreatic cancer in a mouse, to Coley’s interest in non-destructive, rapid evaluation of human transplant organs such as kidneys. Coley helped the team get fresh samples from human kidneys to prove that MediSCAPE could see telltale signs of kidney disease that matched well to conventional histology images.

The team also realized that by imaging tissues while they are alive in the body, they could get even more information than from lifeless excised biopsies. They found that they could actually visualize blood flow through tissues, and see the cellular-level effects of ischemia and reperfusion (cutting off the blood supply to the kidney and then letting it flow back in).

“Understanding whether tissues are staying healthy and getting good blood supply during surgical procedures is really important,” says Hillman. “We also realized that if we don’t have to remove (and kill) tissues to look at them, we can find many more uses for MediSCAPE, even to answer simple questions such as ‘what tissue is this?’ or to navigate around precious nerves. Both of these applications are really important for robotic and laparoscopic surgeries where surgeons are more limited in their ability to identify and interact with tissues directly.”

A critical final step for the team was to reduce the large format of the standard SCAPE microscopes in Hillman’s lab to something that would fit into an operating room and could be used by a surgeon in the human body. Post-doctoral fellow Wenxuan Liang worked with the team to develop a smaller version of the system with a better form factor, and a sterile imaging cap. PhD candidate Malte Casper helped to acquire the team’s first demonstration of MediSCAPE in a living human, collecting images of a range of tissues in and around the mouth.

These results included rapidly imaging while a volunteer literally licked the end of the imaging probe, producing detailed 3D views of the papillae of the tongue.

Eager to take this technology to the next level with a larger clinical trial, the team is currently working on commercialization and FDA approval. Hillman adds, “We are just so amazed to see what MediSCAPE reveals every time we use it on a new tissue, and especially that we barely ever even needed to add dyes or stains to see structures that pathologists can recognize.”

Hillman and her team hopes that MediSCAPE will make standard histology a thing of the past, putting the power of real-time histology and decision making into the surgeon’s hands.

India faces pressure over close ties with Moscow

Taking A Break From The Digital World Is Healthy

Technology has connected us in ways we never anticipated and made our lives more convenient. While technology definitely comes with numerous positive benefits, there are negative sides to it as well that can lead to physical and psychological issues. A 2017 study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people within the age group of 19-32 who had higher usage of social media were more likely to feel isolated than those who didnt use social media so often.

Innovative technologies and smart gadgets have made us slaves of the digital era, and there’s an imperative need to get some respite from this dependency and disruption. That’s where yoga and meditation can make a difference. These ancient practices have been part of our civilisation for years and are used to align the body, mind and spirit and bring mental clarity.

Why a Break from the Digital World is Necessary

We are constantly tethered to technology through our smartphones, tablets, computers, and even watches, and companies are pushing our psychological buttons to make us return for more. Constant distractions are ruining our cognitive functions and leaving many prone to anxiety and memory lapses. Overuse of digital media can also have detrimental effects on physical health. Too much smartphone usage can put a lot of pressure on the shoulders, neck, and spine. Technology overuse can also lead to strained injuries of the thumbs, fingers, and wrists. Overexposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones and computers can also interrupt the circadian clock, causing sleep issues.

How Yoga can help

In people who practice yoga on a daily basis, changes occur in the brain structure and new connections are developed. Also, it results in improved cognitive skills like memory and learning. Here are some easy yoga poses to get you started:

Tadasana (Mountain Pose): How to do:

*Stand with the feet together keeping the arms by the side.

* Straighten the legs and tuck the tailbone in while engaging the thigh muscles.

* While inhaling, elongate through the torso and raise the arms.

* Exhale and release the shoulder blades away from the head.

* Take slow breaths and maintain this position for 30 seconds.

Benefits: This pose engages all the major muscle groups and improves concentration and focus.

AdhoMukhaSvanasana: How to do:

* Come onto your hands and knees with the palms just past the shoulder.

* The knees must be kept under the hips.

* Lift the hips and press back to form a V-shape with the body.

* Keep the feet hip-width apart.

* Spread the fingers and move the chest towards your legs.

* Maintain this position for 30 second and gently release.

Benefits: This pose stretches the lower body, improves posture and balances the body and mind.

Balasana (Child’s Pose): How to do:

* Kneel on your mat with the toes tucked under.

* Lower the hips towards the feet and extend your arms forward.

* The stomach should be resting on the thighs and forehead touching the mat

* Maintain this position for 1 minute and release.

Benefits: Apart from releasing tensions in the chest, this pose relaxes the spine and back as well as promotes good sleep.

Savasana: How to do:

* Lie on the back with the arms alongside the body.

* The palms should be facing upwards and the body must be kept completely relaxed including the face.

* Continue with gentle breathing and keep your attention on your breath.

* Stay in this pose for a few minutes and release.

Benefits: This pose calms the nervous system reducing stress and anxiety. It also aids the immune and digestive system.

Achieve Balance with Meditation

Meditation has been a useful tool for ages to maintain control of the mind and transform thoughts. People who incorporate meditation into their daily lives remain more composed during times of adversity and clear-minded. In fact, new studies have revealed that consistent practise of meditation increases GABA levels, which promotes emotional well-being and helps one feel happy.

When combined with yoga and pranayama, meditation can do wonders for our body and mind gradually, and one can see the reflection of the same in their daily lifestyle.

Conclusion

The rapid advancement of technology has certainly led to increased stress and emotional distress driven by rapid reward cycles, exposure to too much information, and simultaneous engagement in different tasks. Meditation and yoga can help us release inner tensions, quiet the mind, and stay focused. Only a few minutes of practise every day can bring a whole world of change, making us happy, healthy, and resilient to stress and burnout. Technology is here to stay and even get more advanced. It rests on us as to how we can adopt these practises as part of our lifestyle to bring a positive change and stay healthy.

Lenovo Appoints Ajay Sehgal To Lead India Commercial Business

Global PC brand Lenovo has appointed Ajay Sehgal as the Executive Director for India commercial business. Based in Mumbai, Sehgal0 will be responsible for driving growth for the overall Lenovo India commercial PC and Smart Devices business.

“Companies large and small are accelerating their digital transformation, and are seeking trusted partners to help them navigate this exciting transition. I am confident that his experience will help take our commercial sales organization to the next level along our journey of service-led-transformation,” Shailendra Katyal, Managing Director, Lenovo India, said in a statement.

Prior to joining Lenovo, Sehgal worked with Vodafone as Executive Vice President, Enterprise Business. In previous roles, he has worked with HP India as well as with Xerox, and has handled multiple leadership positions across the PC and printing solutions businesses.

In Q4 2021, the overall India tablet market grew 31 per cent year-on-year, while for the entire year it grew 4 per cent YoY. Lenovo topped the tablet market in India, mainly driven by its enterprise tablet business.

Lenovo Tab M10 HD Tablet series garnered 32 per cent market share and primarily in the value for Money (Rs 7,000-Rs 25,000) segment.

Lenovo shipments recorded 23 per cent YoY growth in CY2021. The company has a strong offline play, catering to enterprise and consumer demand.

Indian American Kids-Led Trumbull Robotics Team Makes it to World Championship

Robolution 18366 is going to worlds! Team Robolution 18366 from Trumbull, CT is a robotics team is now all set to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge. FIRST Robotics is a worldwide robotics organization that inspires people to join STEM and pursue robotics in the future.

Incorporated in 1797, Trumbull town was named after Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Lebanon, Connecticut. Located 5 miles north from the Long Island Sound, among the most virant towens in the Fairfield County in the state of Connecticut, this vibrant community offers New England charm with extensive retail, outdoor recreation, and dining options. Known for its diversity, Trumbull has a fast growing Indian American community, which excels in academia with the students of Indian American parents rank among the highest in educational achiements.

The Trumbull Robotics Team is only an example of how the Indian American kids excel and exhibit their leadership and STEM skills, making Trumbull proud. The team consists of Aarav Parekh, Saihari Kota, Ayush Puthiyavettle, Tejas Puthiyavettle, Yash Permalla, Rithik Gunda, Pranav Kodakara, Chandini Kalidindi, Richard Xiong, Arnav Dadarya, and Sharvi Kulkarni. It’s of immense significance that of the 11 team members, 10 of them are of Indian origin.

Trumbull Robotics Team won the 1st 1st place at Connect Award, which “is given to the team that most connects with their local science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) community. We were recognized for helping our local community connect with STEM and actively helping our local community explore opportunities available in STEM.”

The Team won 2nd place at the Inspire Award, which is “given to the the team that best represents what the FIRST tech challenge is about, and is a role model for other teams competing. We were recognized for being strong contenders for several awards as well as having a detailed and informative engineering portfolio, which clearly explains our creative and thoughtful design process.”

Trumbull Robotics Team came 1st at Promote Award, “given to the team that is most successful at creating a video message for the public designed to change culture and celebrate Science, Technology, and Math. We were recognized for creating a unique and engaging video message about the topic: “what I would tell younger self about FIRST.”

Aarav Parekh of the Trumbull Robotic Team has the distinction of being on the Deans List Finalist. This award is given out to a student who are great examples of leaders who have led their Teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission. Aarav Parekh was one of two students from across Connecticut to be selected as a Dean’s List Finalist. As a finalist, he has shown leadership within the team and community to increase awareness of STEM and robotics while displaying technical expertise.

“Team Robolution had a very successful day at the CT State Championship on February 26th, 2022, winning first place for both the Connect and the Promote Award and second place for the Inspire Award. In addition to the team’s achievements, junior Aarav Parekh was one of two individuals in the state nominated as a 2022 Dean’s List Finalist. Robolution’s success has qualified them as one of the two teams to represent the state of Connecticut at the FTC World Championship in Houston this April,” the Team’s website stated.

The Goals of the Team as outlined on the website includes: “Competitive engineering process; Improve outreach; Help people around the world; and, Efficient and reliable design with industrial engineering.  The Team of 11 members wants to “Prioritize learning, sharing our knowledge and experience with others.”

Reporting on the Outreach of the Team, the website states: “Impacted 300+ students in outreach events, including offering Online Java programming sessions; FLL team mentoring- T-MECHS; Discord collaboration with FIRST Teams; Trumbull Tutors; Teaching students how to use CAD; and Tutoring students about robotics and engineering.”

Boditech Med, Global Point-Of-Care Testing Leader Expands Operations To North America

Boditech Med, a global leader in point-of-care testing with more than 90 biomarker products, has announced its plans to expand its operations in North America. Boditech’s expansion begins with plans to open a new manufacturing site in the Miami, Florida, area. The company is also considering opportunities in other states, along with a partnership in Canada.

“In the U.S., it takes as long as three days for a patient to get diagnostic test results. During that time, informed decision making comes to a standstill, even while costs mount,” said Boditech Med co-founder and CEO Eui-Yul Choi, Ph.D. “At Boditech, we develop and manufacture point-of-care tests that deliver actionable results in 12 to 15 minutes. Our goal in the U.S. is to flip the diagnostic industry on its head so that patients get timely, quality care while the healthcare system minimizes waste.”

Founded in South Korea in 1998, Boditech Med markets and sells more than 90 biomarker products in 120 countries. Through its North American expansion, the publicly-traded company aims to improve the health and safety of patients and the effectiveness and workflows of clinicians in the U.S. and beyond.

Boditech offers highly reliable in-vitro diagnostic solutions that empower clinicians and patients to improve health through quick and reliable tests, available anywhere and anytime. Along with venous blood and plasma testing, Boditech’s product line includes technologies that enable accurate, thorough capillary blood tests, based on a small amount of blood from a finger prick.

Boditech is currently seeking approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for several diagnostic solutions in cardiac, cancer, hormone, infectious disease, and other therapeutic areas. Timelines and precise locations remain in the works. Boditech intends to hire hundreds of Americans to support its efforts.

Boditech intends to bring lower-cost, rapid testing that covers many critical areas of medicine, from cardiac health to cancer, to the country. Boditech also produces COVID-19 antibody and over-the-counter rapid antigen tests.

Boditech Med is a global leader in point-of-care testing with a decades-long track record of improving health and quality of life through innovative in-vitro diagnostic solutions. Since its launch in 1998, Boditech has developed 85 biomarkers, which support capillary blood, venous blood, and plasma testing, to meet customers’ evolving needs. Listed as a public company on the KOSDAQ, Boditech’s products aid patients and clinicians in 120 countries. Learn more about Boditech Med and how its in-vitro diagnostic are improving health worldwide: https://www.boditech.co.kr/en

Microsoft To Invest Rs 15,000 Crore In Hyderabad Data Center

Software giant Microsoft will set up its largest data centre in India at Hyderabad with an investment of Rs 15,000 crore. The Telangana government and Microsoft on Monday jointly announced the data centre investment which will be Microsoft’s largest data centre region in India.

Microsoft will make the investment over a period of 15 years into the new data centre region spread across three sites – Chandanvelly, Ellikatta, and Kottur. The software giant already has its India development centre in Hyderabad, which is its largest in the world outside its headquarters in the US. The new data center in Hyderabad will deliver advanced data security and cloud solutions that will help enterprises, start-ups, developers, education, and government institutions.

The announcement was made in the presence of Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and Telangana’s Information Technology Minister K.T. Rama Rao and Principal Secretary, ITE&C, Jayesh Ranjan. The event was also attended by Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, Jean-Philippe Courtois and Microsoft India President, Anant Maheshwari.

The Hyderabad data centre region is another addition to the existing network of 3 regions in India across Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai, which have been operational for more than five years.

K.T. Rama Rao called it an iconic moment in the development story of Telangana. “This will be one of the largest FDIs that Telangana has attracted; Will indirectly support local business growth and facilitate job creation across IT operations, facilities management, data and network security, network engineering and much more,” he tweeted.

Through the data center region, Microsoft will enable opportunities for local businesses to innovate with Microsoft Cloud services in Hyderabad and across Telangana.

Telangana and Microsoft have earlier entered an MoU that will positively reinforce the state government’s capabilities to enhance its citizen service capabilities. Given the state’s technology driven growth agenda around key sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education, law enforcement and mobility, the Microsoft data centre in the region will push up the local growth.

“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of India will position the country among the world’s digital leaders. A Microsoft data centre region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy and is a long-term investment in our country’s potential. The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling will empower India’s workforce today and into the future,” said Chandrasekhar.

“Microsoft and Telangana go a long way back with Hyderabad hosting one of the largest Microsoft offices in the world and I am happy to see the relationship grow,” said Rama Rao.

Maheshwari noted that cloud services are poised to play a critical role in reimagining the future of business and governance and enabling overall inclusion in the country. “The new data center will augment Microsoft’s cloud capabilities and capacity to support those working across the country. It will also support new entrepreneurial opportunities while meeting critical security and compliance needs. The new data centre region is a testament to our mission to empower the people and organisations of India to achieve more,” he said. (IANS)

Engineers’ Organization And Northwestern University Host Event For Students

Northwestern University’s Master of Engineering Management Student Advisory Board (SAB) and the American Association of Engineers of India Origin (AAEIO) hosted an event on “How to Navigate your career in the post digital world.”

Prof. Mark Werwath, Northwestern University, along with  Azgar Ali, president of MEM Student Advisory Board (SAB) welcomed all guests, AAEIO board members and the distinguished panel. They talked about the need for increased collaboration between students, engineering communities and employers, according to a press release from Asian Media USA.

Gladson Varghese, founder and president of AAEIO detailed how important it was for young engineers to work together and collaborate with other universities, startups and corporate and get experiential learning. He also asked students to join the mission of bringing all engineers under one umbrella and asked them to join the Engineering Student Chapter. This event was the first of its kind for AAEIO collaborating with a university.

Consul General of India, Chicago, Amit Kumar was the chief guest for the event. He spoke of the need for increased global collaboration and some of the recent innovations that are transforming the world. For example, in India, Aristech is leading a revolution on how food storage can be improved, he noted.

Mohanbir Singh Sawhney, PhD, Associate Dean of Digital innovation, Kellogg School of Management was the keynote speaker for the event. He is also an Advisory Board member of the AAEIO. His talk was on “Product Strategy” where he informed the students about the need for product management and its interaction with engineers and how one should think about Product Management, its different career prospects, and how a student can be successful in this field.

Prof. Vinayak P. Dravid, Material Science and Engineering, talked about how research collaboration has made a difference. He also emphasized the need for more AAEIO kind of partnership.

Nitin Maheshwari, vice president, AAEIO, also a Northwestern graduate from Kellogg School of Management and an entrepreneur of Artificial Engineering (AI) based consulting, moderated a highly coveted and diverse panel of distinguished guests on the topic of “How to Navigate your career in post digital world.”

Other discussants included Nag Jaiswal, AAEIO Chair of Membership, Principal Architect, Salesforce and Rajinder Mago, ex-Navistar.

The AAEIO announced a Leadership Excellence Webinar to be held March 19. There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony to symbolize increased partnership between AAEIO and Northwestern.

TiE Boston Turns 25

TiE Boston, one of the region’s largest organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists, turns 25 this year.

“The 25th Anniversary is a rallying point for us, and we’re planning to use this momentum for tremendous growth across all our programs in the years ahead,” said TiE Boston President Anu Chitrapu. “From a simple networking idea 25 years ago, TiE Boston today is leading the startup ecosystem with its signature programs such as TiE Boston Angels, TiE ScaleUp, TiE Young Entrepreneurs and TiE Women.”

TiE Boston is the second oldest chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). TiE is the world’s largest not-for-profit network dedicated to helping startups grow. In 30 years, the TiE Network has reached 15,000 members across 15 countries and contributed to $250 billion in wealth creation. TiE Chapters around the world have become a vibrant platform for entrepreneurs, professionals, industry leaders, and investors to interact with one another & forge long-lasting relationships.

What started as TiE Atlantic in February 1997 as the dream of 13 Founding Members and only the second TiE Chapter worldwide, has now grown into an unparalleled network of successful, serial entrepreneurs who are deeply engaged and committed to giving back to the community by providing mentorship, tactical advice, and expertise to rising entrepreneurs.

In 2022, TiE Boston offers a full slate of programming to cover the entire cycle of entrepreneurship, from mentoring young entrepreneurs and student entrepreneurs, to taking business to scale through its ScaleUp program that was recognized as the most innovative TiE program worldwide in 2021, investing in companies through its Angels program, and encouraging diversity through Women’s Initiatives.

The 13 founders of TiE Atlantic (TiE Boston), in 1997, were: Sushil Bhatia, Ashok Boghani, Ash Dahod, Samir Desai, Desh Deshpande, Radha Jalan, Ashok Kalelkar, Ramesh Kapur, Ranganath Nayak, Mahendra Patel, Dinesh Patel, Jit Saxena and Rahul Singh. The founders covered a broad spectrum of professions including technology, medicine, consulting and manufacturing.

“TiE started 25 years ago in Boston when Entrepreneurship was in a nascent stage. Twenty- five years later it is amazing to see its impact,” said Desh Deshpande, one of the founders and the first President of TiE Boston. “It has nurtured many entrepreneurs who contribute billions of dollars to the Massachusetts economy and hire thousands of people. TiE is even more relevant today to keep the economy growing and create opportunities for every resident of the state that has been innovative for the last 400 years.”

Samir Desai, the second President and a founding member of TiE Boston, added: “I remember the early days and am very proud of everything that we have jointly accomplished in the last 25 years! The impact of TiE Boston is tremendous and continues to grow.”

Founding member Radha Jalan said: “As a woman entrepreneur in the 90s, TiE gave me an incredible sense of networking and community. I am proud to have started some Women’s Initiatives for TiE Boston and feel a great sense of pride on seeing how well they have integrated women entrepreneurs into the ecosystem.”

To commemorate the 25th Year, TiE Boston has planned several events to acknowledge the founders, sponsors, members and program participants. The first is a series of fireside chats with each of the Founders. A grand Gala for members will be held in the summer of 2022. Over the course of the next few months, TiE Boston will bring together its Founders and current Charter Members to explore the history of TiE Boston, the road ahead, and unchartered paths decidedly taken by entrepreneurial change makers and trailblazers.

The chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs, or TiE. It is one of the region’s largest and oldest organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem, focused on supporting entrepreneurs throughout their lifecycle — from ideation to creation, through growth, wealth creation and ultimately, support of future founders.TiE is the world’s largest not-for-profit network dedicated to helping startups grow. In 30 years, the TiE Global Network has reached 15,000 members across 15 countries and contributed to $250 billion in wealth creation. TiE Chapters around the world have become a vibrant platform for entrepreneurs, professionals, industry leaders, and investors to interact with one another & forge long-lasting relationships. For more information about TiE Boston, visit https://www.tieboston.org/.

Sundar Pichai Unveils $100 Million Google Career Certificates Fund

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced a new $100 million Google Career Certificates Fund to prepare a skilled workforce for high-paying, high-growth jobs in fields like data analytics, IT support, project management and user experience design.

The goal, he said, is to enable ‘Social Finance’ to reach more than 20,000 American workers.

“This investment in America’s future has the potential to drive $1 billion in wage gains,” Pichai said in a statement late on Thursday.

Nearly 70,000 Americans have completed Google Career Certificates to date. “They are available to anyone, no college degree required. Seventy-five percent of graduates report seeing a positive impact on their career within six months, including a raise or a new job,” Pichai added.

He announced the fund at an event with US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Alejandra Castillo, and the CEOs of Social Finance, Merit America and Year Up.

“A sense of purpose and optimism is what brought me to America nearly 30 years ago. And it’s what drew me to Google and its mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” said Pichai.

Google’s digital skills program has also helped train 8 million Americans in all 50 states in the US. “We’ll invest Google capital and Google.org grants and provide our Career Certificate program. We’ll connect students to an employer consortium of more than 150 companies who are looking to hire workers with these skills,” Pichai noted.

It’s all designed around student success and they will receive all of this at no upfront cost, “and will only pay it back once they find a job earning at least $40,000 a year”. (IANS)

ASEI To Honor Engineers, Scientists And Community Leaders At Its 34th National Convention Finale Awards Event

American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is hosting the awards event for its 34th Annual National Convention focusing on Sustainable Technology Innovations (STI-2022). This virtual convention was held successfully on January 15th and 16th, 2022 and an award event was announced to be held on Feb 27th,2022 with honorable guests Indian Ambassador to US Mr Taranjit Singh Sandhu and Indian Consul General San Francisco Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad. The keynote speaker at the virtual program is Dr. Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, Founder and Chairman, Sparta Group and Sycamore Networks, who will also be honored with ASEI Lifetime Achievement Award.

This convention comprising Aerospace Symposium, CXO Summit and Youth Technology Exposition (YTE) was put together by ASEI President and Convention Chair Piyush Malik along with Aerospace Symposium Co-chairs Dr. Shreekant Agrawal and Dr. Ajay Kothari, CXO Summit Co-Chair Surbhi Kaul and YTE Co -Chair Dr. Preetha Ram supported by tens of volunteers and over 35 accomplished speakers

The award ceremony for this convention will end with a finale awards ceremony session on Feb27 at 10 am (PST). where 10 outstanding achievers and those who contributed to ASEI growth and the society at large will be honored in addition to student winners of the YTE competition. This year’s outstanding achievement awards go to the following:

ASEI Intrapreneur of the Year – Shalini Govil-Pai, VP & GM, Google TV

Engineer of the Year Award in Technology /Cybersecurity- Bhawana Singh, Senior Vice President, Octa

Engineer of the Year Award in AerospaceTechnology /Robotics- Dr Sreeja Nag, Head of Software Systems Engineering at Nuro and Research Leader at NASA

ASEI will also honor others for their dedicated service to ASEI and Society as follows: Hari B. Bindal ASEI Founders Award – Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO International) & an ASEI life member having served on various ASEI committees over the past 8 years including Public Relations, Election and Awards

ASEI Service Excellence Award – Amrish Chopra, Cloud R&D manager, VMWare and ASEI Board Director who has been dedicated volunteer for many years and helped resurrect the ASEI monthly Newsletter.

COVID had brought our lives to a standstill in 2020 however there were numerous efforts that are helping us get back to normalcy. In the darkest moments, there were bright spots and ASEI will also honor four engineers for their service to society during those trying times with a Special “Engineer with a Heart” Award. Those are: Sanjiv Goyal, Entrepreneur and Angel Investor from Las Vegas for leading efforts of IIT Alumni through “United Against Covid” initiative; Yudhvir Mor, Vice President at Zuora in Noida who mobilized volunteers and efforts to help over 9000 women to find employment following traumatic loss of partner or parent due to Covid; Tarun Kappala, Technical Project Manager at SpringML in Hyderabad who took leave of absence to become an emergency ambulance driver to help victims and families during peak of Covid and provided exemplary service; Divya Ashok, ASEI Board Director from Silicon Valley who led the efforts from her organization Salesforce to organize executive support for two Plane loads of relief materials including Oxygen concentrators

ASEI President Piyush Malik said, “ASEI is a great organization providing a broad platform for the Indian origin engineers, technologists and young scientists providing wide networking and learning opportunities for all engineering professionals as well as to make them engaged in new technologies. ASEI is very pleased to recognize all awardees for their dedication, hard work, and exemplary contribution in their respective fields. We plan to continue with our tradition of acknowledging those who have made outstanding contributions in Science, Technology and Engineering and those who have done extraordinary work to support ASE and society”

Registration to the Award Ceremony is FREE. Pre-register at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ej17j6pddbe7b23f&oseq=&c=&ch=

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan. Today, the organization also has chapters in Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: https://aseiusa.org

Dignity In A Digital Age: Making Tech Work For All Of Us

Digital technology has transformed virtually every aspect of human existence. We have online education, telemedicine, remote work, and e-commerce. Many of us spend hours a day online either communicating with other people, reading or watching media, or engaging in digital transactions. Yet there are several problems we must confront as we make this transition to a digital world.

Technology has divided us, fueled misinformation and disinformation, and accentuated inequality. Although digital tools make our lives easier and more convenient in many respects, they also challenge our privacy, security, and personal dignity. All those developments raise interesting questions about the future of technology and how we mitigate various problems.

To discuss these challenges, Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley area, in his new book, offers a revolutionary roadmap to facing America’s digital divide, offering greater economic prosperity to all. In Khanna’s vision, “just as people can move to technology, technology can move to people. People need not be compelled to move from one place to another to reap the benefits offered by technological progress” (from the foreword by Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics).

In the digital age, unequal access to technology and the revenue it creates is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States. There is an economic gulf between those who have struck gold in the tech industry and those left behind by the digital revolution; a geographic divide between those in the coastal tech industry and those in the heartland whose jobs have been automated; and existing inequalities in technological access—students without computers, rural workers with spotty WiFi, and plenty of workers without the luxury to work from home.

Dignity in the Digital Age tackles these challenges head-on and imagines how the digital economy can create opportunities for people all across the country without uprooting them. Congressman Ro Khanna of Silicon Valley offers a vision for democratizing digital innovation to build economically vibrant and inclusive communities. Instead of being subject to tech’s reshaping of our economy, Representative Khanna argues that we must channel those powerful forces toward creating a more healthy, equal, and democratic society.

Born into an immigrant family, Khanna understands how economic opportunity can change the course of a person’s life. Anchored by an approach Khanna refers to as “progressive capitalism,” he shows how democratizing access to tech can strengthen every sector of economy and culture. By expanding technological jobs nationwide through public and private partnerships, we can close the wealth gap in America and begin to repair the fractured, distrusting relationships that have plagued our country for far too long.

Moving deftly between storytelling, policy, and some of the country’s greatest thinkers in political philosophy and economics, Khanna presents a bold vision we can’t afford to ignore. Dignity in a Digital Age is a roadmap to how we can seek dignity for every American in an era in which technology shapes every aspect of our lives.

ASEI’s 34th National Convention On Sustainable Technology Innovations Held

Fremont, California: The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) hosted its 34th National Convention focusing on Sustainable Technology Innovations (STI-2022) on Jan 15 &16th. The convention consisted of 3 mini-conferences with over 35 speakers spread across two days. The Aerospace Symposium and Youth Technology Exposition were held on the first day while the last day consisted of a power-packed CXO Summit with a number of C-Suite executives sharing their wisdom with over 500 participants from many countries spread across 3 continents. The program details and a souvenir for the convention are available here: http://aseiusa.org/NC.

Kicking off the 34th National Convention, the ASEI President and Convention Chair Piyush Malik along with Dr. Shreekant Agrawal welcomed the delegates on Jan 15th morning at the Aerospace Symposium. Buoyed by the current euphoria of billionaires venturing in spacecrafts and plenty of investments pouring into the sector, the ASEI Aerospace Symposium had a Star Trek like feeling – exploring trends and technologies around four key areas viz. Space Tourism, Living on the Moon, Future of High-Speed Travel and Air Taxis. Former NASA Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin gave a heartfelt keynote address sharing his personal stories including those involving Indian food!

At the first panel focusing on High-Speed air travel moderated by Dr. Bala Bharadwaj, the participants learned how as a result of six decades of research on supersonic commercial aircraft design have paved the way for a new era in high-speed travel that is not too far from becoming a reality.  Dr. Vik Kachoria, Dr. Kevin Bowcutt and NASA’s Mary Di Joseph each presented their point of views before engaging in a panel discussion

Living on the moon panel explored getting most efficiently and cheaply to the Moon not only for tourism, but to establish settlements on the Moon, to live and work there. This time, it will be mining for the most important, life sustaining water-ice on the Moon, as well as exploring the lava tubes for habitats. Moderated by Dr. David Livingston, the knowledgeable expert panelists Dr. Bhavya Lal, Prof. Haym Benoroya and Dr. Ajay Kothari shared their vision

During the Space Access & Tourism session, the panelists Dr. Kelley Weinershith, Mr. Richard French and Dr. David Livingston were engaged in a lively discussion by Dr. Kavya Manyapu. They spoke how cheaper and more frequent space access as offered by startups like Rocket Lab and Astra have shown a path to help humanity benefit from Space by their launches of smaller satellites to near Earth orbits, thus helping improve life on Earth. All these developments of late are what dreams can be made of now. With the advent and successful deployment of reusable rockets, these dreams will be in the grasp of many in the coming decade.

Flying cars have been in many dreams for a long time. The business potential for air taxis is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2040.  All of this is possible now because of new and emerging technologies, including new batteries, autonomous operations, and advanced manufacturing.

Co-chairs Dr Shreekant Agrawal and Dr Ajay Kothari helped put the Symposium together with the help of speakers and volunteers. We hope to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through this and our other programmes.

Youth Technology Exposition

ASEI has always supported STEM and youth empowerment initiatives. Our University Connect and STEM programs intersect at the YTE event.  The YTE is intended to provide a forum for young engineers and scientists to showcase their work in the areas of engineering and emerging technologies. Adapting to Covid times where we can.t meet in person to see science fair projects and interact with students and to recognize deserving students, we invited young scientists and engineering students to participate in our flagship YTE during this virtual ASEI 34th National Convention.

The afternoon of Jan 15th was reserved for the finals of Youth Technology Exposition. The YTE is a flagship STEM programme at ASEI where students participate with their science fair, engineering or innovation projects. The preliminary rounds conducted early in a calendar year by each ASEI chapter select a handful of winners from Grade 9 thru 12. As the year progresses and the National Convention nears, the competition heats up as well. The YTE finalists are selected from the preliminary rounds and asked to showcase their projects as well as face live Q&A form the YTE judges. This time, we had multiple entries from only our traditionally strong chapters of Silicon Valley and Michigan, but also from Florida and India. Dr. Preetha Ram aided by Mythli Srinivasan and Geetha Arun judged the finals. The top 3 prize winning entries were:

3rd Place

Creating a Haptic 4D model along with machine learning analysis by developing a Non-invasive pressure mapping method to screen Genital Skin Cancer by Sidharth Jain and Aasimm Khan from Mumbai, India

2nd Place

A Multistep, ML-Based Predictor of Parkinson’s Disease Progression Using GWAS, Patient Symptoms, and Gene Expression Data by Isha Jagadish from Saratoga, California

1st Place

A Physical Device to Help the Visually Impaired Read Money Using AI/Machine Learning in Third World Countries by Nidhi Mathihali from Saratoga, California

CXO Summit

The final day of the convention (Jan 16th) featured a CXO Summit where the invited speakers gave talks on latest emerging trends, as well as the audience engaged with them during CTO and CEO fireside chats and CIO panel.

ASEI president Piyush Malik welcomed the CXO summit delegates with a recap of the Aerospace Summit as well as a “State of the union” address about the ASEI’s growth and expansion of free programs and outreach for members and students during the Covid lockdowns in 2020/2021. He also talked about how Innovation and sustainable technologies are the imperatives for survival in the next decade.  From adaptive sustainable supply chains to becoming carbon neutral to adopting mandates emerging from United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, leaders across industries and organizations are forced to be prepared for the unexpected and he hoped that this Convention would encourage dialogue as well as solutions in this matter.

Opening keynote by City of Fremont Mayor Lily Mei highlighted how much infusion of advanced technology, AI, IOT etc.  have made Fremont grow with safety, sustainability and Innovation into a Smart City.

Veteran philanthropist and venture capitalist MR Rangaswami captivated the audience with his whirlwind tour of 40 years’ journey of Indian engineers from the trenches to the corner office in the US. Citing numerous success stories from his chapter in the book “Kamala Harris and the rise of Indian Americans”, he engaged with audience questions as well.

CXO Symposium Co-chair Surbhi Kaul engaged Juniper networks CTO Dr Raj Yavatkar in an interesting chat answering questions like “How leadership fosters Innovation in large organizations? And how does one go from being an individual contributor to a technology leader and ultimately a C-Suite executive? “

There was an innovation and sustainability panel moderated by Kunal Sood with three women speakers from across 3 continents that generated a lot of interesting discussions. What are public and corporate leaders doing in this realm of sustainability and innovation and how are they supporting the commercial entities within their jurisdiction. This panel of CXOs, academics and influential leaders explored these and more.

In a fireside chat with Piyush Malik, the founder and CEO of Automotive disruptor Techion, Jay Vijayan shared his nuggets of wisdom from his journey as Tesla’s first CIO to the founder of a 3x Unicorn.  “Stay customer obsessed, focus on what value you bring and don’t compromise on your values!”

Sandy Carter, an industry category creator as well as a marketing powerhouse lived upto her reputation as the “Energizer Bunny” while sharing her journey from engineering school to MBA and Senior Executive ranks across her career from IBM to Amazon to now a Web3 pioneer Unstoppable. Her talk “Going down the Web 3 Rabbit hole” was an overview to those interested in web3, NFTs, Crypto and Metaverse and generated a lot of audience enthusiasmNext, four CIOs led by Raman Mehta from Johnson Electric, Dr. Soma Venkat from Cooper Standard, JP Saini from Sunbelt Rentals and Karuna Annavajjala from Silicon Labs shared their view of post pandemic enterprise IT and the role CIOs play in the innovation agenda. This was followed by Award announcements and an informal networking session where all participants were able to come on camera and interact with the speakers and organizers.

The objective of this convention has been to provide a forum to promote and share advancements related to latest cutting-edge innovations and technologies across various engineering disciplines. The convention achieved the highest registration of any event in ASEI history and was attended by over 500 professionals each day including scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders across the USA. This two-day event featured keynotes and multiple interactive sessions with prominent business and technology leaders, scientists, media personalities, educators, policy makers, and venture capitalists

In accordance with ASEI tradition of recognizing exceptional engineers and scientists as well as ASEI volunteers, the ASEI awards will be given out for following categories: ASEI Lifetime Achievement, Hari B. Bindal ASEI Founder’s Award, ASEI Entrepreneur/Intrapreneur of the Year, ASEI Engineer/Scientist of the Year, ASEI Service Excellence and ASEI Special Awards

The awards ceremony will take place on Feb 27th,2022 where the honorable guests include Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu from Washington, DC and Indian Consul General in San Francisco Dr. TV Nagendra Prasad. All award winners will be felicitated along with speakers and volunteers. This event is open for all but pre-registration is required at www.aseiusa.org

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization, providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan. Today, the organization also has chapters in Detroit, Southern California, Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington, DC. For more information, visit: https://aseiusa.org/

Indian Union Budget Reveals Importance Of Cryptocurrency

At last, it is a piece of surprising news that Digital currency is also being introduced in the Indian fiduciary system as part of yet another dream project of Digital India. The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman and the  Governor of the Central Bank of India had elaborated on this. We have heard earlier that the Indian Government was also making a move to ban foreign digital currencies in the country. The Central Bank is in the process of making an official announcement soon on its development model of digital currency (CBDC). Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Indian Digital Rupee will be launched using blockchain technology in the financial year 2022-23.

Anyway, the Supreme Court made a favorable ruling in favor of lifting the Reserve Bank’s ban on crypto use. This ruling created a new wave among Indian investors and led to a rapid rise in retail. At the same time, investors are optimistic about the central bank and the emergence of digital currencies.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in her budget speech that the distribution of digital currency would begin. But there are widespread doubts about what a digital rupee is. The announcement comes at a time when the central Government is considering a strong policy to curb the misuse of cryptocurrencies. At the Republican Economic Summit in November 2021, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Electronics & IT, hinted at the introduction of an official digital currency.

 What is Digital Rupee?

The digital currency of the Reserve Bank of India will be based on blockchain technology, the technology behind Bitcoin, and other popular cryptocurrencies. According to the Finance Minister, this will pave a more efficient and cost-effective currency management system. However, the future of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is unclear.

The RBI has already been keenly watching the performance of major economies worldwide and their respective central banks for CBDC schemes. As a result, the central bank has almost decided on the issue of official digital currency. While the Reserve Bank mentions the need for central banking digital currency (CBDC), it also makes it clear that the government is concerned about the risks surrounding other cryptocurrencies. Why has the government not yet officially banned such currencies? Why did the Supreme Court overturn the ban on banks operating cryptocurrencies? The questions are numerous.

As economists fear that cryptocurrency is one of the most widely used dangerous currencies globally, without any government control. It can also be described as a private currency and minting huge profits sometimes. All of these operate with the support of some unknown sovereign guarantees. No country provides any security. For example, a Rs.500 Indian currency note!. The Reserve Bank Governor guarantees on  500 currency note. Even if it is paper, the RBI pays for it. But governments do not ensure the value of digital currencies like Bitcoin.

However, we know that the value of crypto like Bitcoin is supported by complex programming. No one or any government can change it individually, and it involves multiple checks at multiple computer servers worldwide, related to its value. Therefore, the easiest way to understand digital currency  is to use a digital currency that can only be transferred from one person to another via the Internet on platforms like Coinbase.

However, the RBI is not the first financial institution in the world to make such a drastic move. Reports indicate that India is far behind its technological  derivatives  in terms of crypto controls. We were hearing that China has been working on this for so many  years;  supported by the Chinese Central Bank and government approval. The Chinese widely use digital currency for e-commerce portals, offline shops, and other outlets through smartphones.

However, there is a difference between CBDC and cryptocurrency as the latter has some basic features. Those features cannot be copied to digital currencies. Cryptocurrencies, by nature, operate on the basic principle of anonymity. The exciting part is that the details of the seller and the buyer cannot be tracked. But beware,  in the case of a digital currency released by the central bank will have a whole tracking system, just like a standard currency. This is the kind of digital currency used in China. This ensures that transactions will take place under the supervision of the government. Go ahead Digital India!

Satya Nadella Ranked Top Among CEOs In Brand Finance List

The Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index has ranked Microsoft boss, Satya Nadella, as the top CEO in the world.

Nadella, a first-generation Indian immigrant to the US, “has been credited with overhauling Microsoft’s fortunes by changing its culture towards one of teamwork, innovation, and inclusivity, and instilling a growth mindset throughout the business”.

Three other Indian-origin expat CEOs rank high: Sundar Pichai of Google is at 5, Shantanu Narayan of Adobe at 6, and Puneet Renjen of Deloitte at 14.

  1. Chandrasekhar of the Tatas is at 25 in the list and Anand Mahindra of M&M and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance are at 41 and 42, respectively. State Bank of India’s Dinesh Kumar Khara is at 46.

The top 10 of the Brand Finance ranking is dominated by CEOs (referred to repeatedly as brand guardians) from the tech and media sectors.

Tech boasts six of the top ten – Tim Cook is in second place, having overseen Apple become the first to hit a $3 trillion market valuation.

Cook is followed by CEOs of household tech names: Tencent’s Huateng Ma at 4, Pichai at 5, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings at 7.

AMD CEO Lisa Su is a new entrant at 10. This makes her the highest-ranked female.

She newly qualifies for the ranking as AMD has propelled into the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 after a 122 per cent brand value growth over the past year.

Su steered AMD through a global chip shortage during the pandemic and came out the other side boasting record revenues.

Her leadership of a tech company is unfortunately a rarity, with most being run by males.

This is reflected in the ranking, as the rise in the number of tech brands has come hand in hand with a decrease in the number of female CEOs in the top 100 – from eight in 2021 to five this year.

At a country level, the index mirrors the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking, with the US and China leading the way. There are 101 CEOs from the US, which represents 40 per cent of the index, and 47 from China, which represents 19 per cent.

Brand guardians from these two countries head up a number of key sectors: Jianjun Wei of Great Wall in Automobiles at 3, Patricia Griffith of Progressive Insurance at 11, Xiongjun Ding of Moutai Spirits at 12, and Baoan Xin of State Grid Utilities at 13.

Among the Americans, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America is at 16, Ramon Laguarta of Pepsi at 17, Andy Jassy of Amazon is at 23.

The highest-ranked CEO outside of the US and China monopoly is ADNOC brand guardian Sultan Al Jaber at 15. He is also the top-scoring leader in the oil and gas sector. Aside from ADNOC, Sultan holds senior positions in the UAE government, and in promoting the diversification and growth of the UAE economy.

CEOs of the three UAE brands from the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking all feature and record higher scores than last year, with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Emirates at 34th and Etisalat’s Hatem Dowidar at 79.

Apple has retained the title of the world’s most valuable brand following a 35 per cent increase to $355.1 billion – the highest brand value ever recorded in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking.

Apple used 2022 to be effective to a much broader range of services. The iPhone still accounts for around half of the brand’s sales. However, this year saw Apple give more attention to its other suite of products with a new generation of iPads, an overhaul to the iMac, and introduction of AirTags. Its range of services, from Apple Pay to Apple TV, has had increasing importance to the brand’s success, the report noted.

“Privacy and the environment are salient topics, and Apple bolstered its credentials on both fronts. This is evidenced by a greater transparency of the App Store’s privacy policy, reinforcing the trust customers have in the brand, and the announcement that more of Apple’s manufacturing partners will be moving to 100 percent renewable energy, as the company aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.”

Tripling in brand value over the past year, TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing brand. With 215 per cent growth, the app’s brand value has increased from $18.7 billion in 2021 to $59.0 billion. Claiming 18th spot among the world’s top 500 most valuable brands, TikTok is the highest new entrant to the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking.

Overall, media brands accounted for the top 3 fastest-growing brands in the ranking – with another social media app, Snapchat, brand value up 184 per cent to $6.6 billion and South Korean internet brand Kakao, brand value up 161% to $4.7 billion, following closely behind TikTok.

Snapchat saw increased daily usage and revenues grow by 77 per cent in the first 9 months of 2021, with the popularity of its short-form video feature, Spotlight, being a key driver.

Other notable performers from the media sector include those that offer streaming services, with Disney (brand value up 11 per cent to $57.0 billion), Netflix (brand value up 18 per cent $29.4 billion), YouTube (brand value up 38 per cent to $23.9 billion), and Spotify (brand value up 13 per cent to $6.3 billion).

Traditional media brands have seen a continued decline, with people favouring social media platforms and on-demand streaming in their place.

The tech sector remained the most valuable in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, with a cumulative brand value of close to $1.3 trillion. In total, 50 tech brands feature in the ranking, however, the brand value is largely attributable to three big players, with Apple, Microsoft (brand value $184.2 billion), and Samsung Group (brand value $107.3 billion) together accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total brand value in the sector.

Closely behind them, Huawei managed to reclaim its place among the top 10 most valuable brands in the world, following 29 per cent growth to $71.2 billion. Huawei’s smartphone business was hit by US sanctions, but it reacted positively by heavily stepping up investment in both domestic technology companies and R&D, as well as turning its focus to cloud services.

Brand Finance is an independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy headquartered in London.

Hitting Net-Zero Without Stopping Flying

One of the largest producers of carbon emissions is air travel, yet many view flying as a necessary enabler of tourism and international business. One promising way for consumers to take responsibility for their carbon emissions are voluntary carbon offsets (VCOs), which offer air travellers the opportunity to make a small donation to neutralise their carbon footprint. Yet there are conflicting recommendations as to how to encourage consumers to opt into these green initiatives.

Researchers from Copenhagen Business School designed three online experiments to test strategies for increasing consumer participation, which contribute to the aviation carbon offset literature and offer useful new insights for airline companies.

In this study the researchers argue that VCOs have the potential to balance the practical need for air travel with the larger considerations of sustainability, yet current VCO programmes are not effective.

“Despite their potential, few existing studies have explained how to present VCOs so they can effectively appeal to the sensibilities of individual travellers with different travel requirements. More broadly, more participation in VCOs may also increase collective awareness and creates market pressure on institutions to decide to behave responsibly,” says Associate Professor Qiqi Jiang, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School.

The main findings

The evidence from the research shows that travellers booking flights in the near future are more likely to opt-in to VCOs when they are presented with concrete messages that emphasise specific actions.

In contrast, the research found that travellers flying in the distant future are more likely to opt-in to VCOs when they are presented with abstract messages that emphasise general initiatives.

“We also found choice is useful, especially for those travellers  flying in the near future and receiving concrete messages,” adds Qiqi Jiang.

Specifically, the study suggests that airlines should adjust the presentation of VCO programmes according to the temporal distance to the flight during booking and provide travellers opportunities to select their preferred way to neutralise their carbon footprint.

The study has been published in the Journal of Travel Research.

Promoting sustainable behaviors

“At present, most airlines present only one project that individuals can support with their VCO contribution. Our findings highlight specific conditions (consumers booking flights in the near future) in which multiple options can help encourage consumers to opt in,” says co-author Associate Professor Rob Gleasure, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School.

The researchers point to the fact that current research on VCO mainly focuses on how personal attributes affect intention to opt into VCO. For example, a certain socioeconomic status or psychological factors were found to significantly influence individual willingness to opt into VCO. Besides, some studies discussed which remedies, e.g., reforestation, renewable energy or helping local communities, can best promote VCO opt-in for specific groups of users. Despite the importance of these findings, the researchers argue they offer limited practical value for practitioners in aviation, as much of the insights require extensive personal data.

“Our proposed strategies only require the airlines to know the date of the flight being booked and provide the options to offset carbon footprint,” adds Rob Gleasure.

Creating actionable solutions

The findings afford actionable solutions for both airline companies and policymakers. “For airline companies, they can adopt our suggestions on the dynamic presentation of VCO messages to increase the likelihood of VCO opt-in. Consequently, the airline companies can raise more money from VCOs to fight against the climate challenge and boost social responsibility. Growing adoption of VCOs may also highlight the practice and motivate policymakers to enforce additional regulation on corporate VCO projects and expenditures,” adds Qiqi Jiang.

In addition to the practical focus of the research, the researchers highlight that much of what persuades consumers to opt into sustainable behaviours is not the projects themselves but the manner in which they are presented.

“We also reconcile some contradictory advice by showing why appealing to principles is useful in some circumstances and not in others, why providing details is useful in some circumstances and not in others, and why providing options is useful in some circumstances and not in others. This helps to accommodate a range of green causes and users with different values and interests,” Qiqi Jiang concludes.

Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status May Impact Patient Outcomes after Heart Surgery

US Embassy Greets Jaffrey, Nadella And Pichai For Padma Awards

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who were recently named for Padma Bhushan, responded to the development with utmost gratitude. While Nadella stated that it was an honour to receive the award, Pichai stated that he was humbled by it.

Both Nadella and Pichai were announced as the recipients of India’s third-highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan, on the eve of Republic Day. Both the CEOs were named under the Trade and Industry category.

Nadella took to Twitter to convey his gratitude for the honour.
“It’s an honor to receive a Padma Bhushan Award and to be recognised with so many extraordinary people. I’m thankful to the President, Prime Minister, and people of India, and look forward to continuing to work with people across India to help them use technology to achieve more,” Nadella said in his tweet.

On the other hand, a report in MoneyControl stated that Pichai had issued a statement saying, “I am deeply grateful to the Padma Awards Committee, the President and Prime Minister, as well as the people of India for this honour. It’s made all the more meaningful to be among this esteemed group of individuals who have each had a profound impact on their fields and communities, and I am humbled to receive this award alongside them.”
Although Pichai had not tweeted about the awards, he was seen liking congratulatory tweets.

Following the announcement, Indian Embassy in the US had congratulated both Nadella and Pichai along with culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey, another recipient of the prestigious award.

In 2014, Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO of the Seattle-headquartered giant. He took charge at Microsoft at a time when the personal computer-focused company was struggling to make the shift to a world of mobile-led computing and was steeped in corporate culture that accorded primacy to internal competitiveness.

Pichai began his career as a materials engineer. After a short stint at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, he joined Google in 2004. On August 10, 2015, he was selected as the next CEO of Google after previously being appointed Product Chief by CEO Larry Page.

India Now 2nd Largest Mobile Handset Manufacturer In The World

Amitabh Kant, CEO at NITI Aayog has informed that India has emerged as the second largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world in terms of volume.

We have got used to the fact that every day there are numerous updates on the latest launches of smartphones in India. Mobile companies like Samsung, Realme, Oppo, Xiaomi, among others have already launched a few models while many are lined up. However, there is some other good news as far as mobile phone manufacturing is concerned. India has emerged as the second largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world in terms of volume. As per the information provided by Amitabh Kant, CEO at NITI Aayog, over 200 units are manufacturing cellular mobile phones, up from only 2 units in the year 2014.

He further added that production has gone up from 6 crore mobile phones in 2014-15 to approximately 30 crore mobile phones in 2020-21. “India has emerged as the 2nd largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world in volume terms. Over 200 units are manufacturing cellular mobile phones up from only 2 units in 2014. Production has gone up from 6 Cr mobile ph in 2014-15 to app 30 Cr mobile phones in 2020-21.Gr8,” he tweeted.

To make sure these gains are used for further growth, recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, released the 2nd Volume of Vision Document on Electronics Manufacturing. The document contains a five-year roadmap and vision for the electronics sector.

The document has been released by the ministry in association with ICEA, and is titled “$300 bn Sustainable Electronics Manufacturing & Exports by 2026.”

This report provides a year-wise break-up and production projections for the various products that will lead to India’s transformation into a USD300 billion electronics manufacturing powerhouse, from the current USD75 billion.

Amongst the key products that are expected to lead India’s growth in electronics manufacturing include Mobile Phones, IT Hardware (laptops, tablets), Consumer electronics (TV and audio), Industrial electronics, Auto electronics, Electronic components, LED Lighting, Strategic electronics, PCBA, Wearables and hearables, and Telecom equipment.

As per the information provided by the ministry, mobile manufacturing is expected to cross USD100 billion annual production – up from the current USD30 billion – is expected to constitute nearly 40 percent of this growth.

The domestic market is expected to increase from USD65 billion to US$180 billion over the next 5 years. This will make electronics amongst India’s 2-3 top ranking exports by 2026.

The five-part strategy to reach the USD300 billion goal, based on an “all of the government” approach, sharply focuses on broadening and deepening electronics manufacturing in India. This will be done by building competitiveness and scale by attracting global electronics manufacturers/brands, shifting and developing sub-assemblies and component ecosystem, building a design ecosystem, nurturing Indian champions and steadily removing cost disabilities faced by India.

It can be known that the USD300 billion electronics manufacturing comes on the back of USD10 billion PLI Scheme announced by the government to propel forward the Semiconductor and Display ecosystem. The government has committed nearly USD17 billion over the next 6 years across four PLI Schemes – Semiconductor and Design, Smartphones, IT Hardware and Components.

Expert CEO Forum at 15th AAPI Global Healthcare Summit 2022 in Hyderabad Urges Modi Govt. to Appoint an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) and Conduct Annual Preventive Healthcare Screenings Nationwide.

Hyderabad: January 18th, 2022: The Healthcare industry in India and worldwide is rapidly changing, leading to many describing the healthcare environment as dynamic, complex, and highly uncertain. How the health care environment is perceived and characterized is vital for several reasons.  In this context, continuing with the traditions on the successful experiences of the past Global Health Summits, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized the next edition of the influential Healthcare CEOs Forum on January 7th in Hyderabad during the 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit 2022.
During the much anticipated CEOs Forum, a panel of healthcare experts, health industry leaders, opinion makers, and community organizers discussed the significance of promoting Preventive healthcare in India.
The CEO Forum Unanimously approved “An Appeal by AAPI to the Government of India to initiate efforts for creating an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) and conduct annual preventive healthcare screenings nationwide,” benefitting the 1.4 billion people in India.
“We are excited to welcome you to the 15th Global Healthcare Summit and this elite panel of experts and physicians and healthcare industry leaders from India and the United States, offering an excellent platform to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Transformation of Healthcare through Telehealth and Technology usage during this post-Covid Era,” and to have an opportunity to recommend possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI.
Prof. Joseph Chalil, Chair of AAPI’s CEO Form, who organized such an elite panel of healthcare leaders, said, “AAPI, under the guidance of President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, would like to collaborate with the Healthcare leaders in proposing the creation of an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF). IPTF guidelines should be promoted and implemented as part of the annual physical exam or telemedicine visit at government hospitals and primary care centers. We envision a great future for our country with the direct result of complex interactions at this forum with your assistance, guidance, and experience.”
Analyzing and assimilating the diverse and expert views expressed by the renowned speakers at the CEO Forum regarding the current state of healthcare in India, the CEO Forum provided a great stage to interact with a varied and distinct group of individuals and corporations, and comprehend the complex dynamics of the commerce of health care enterprise.
“At the CEO forum, AAPI is excited to perceive, debate, and walk towards a common goal of “Preventive medicine is better than Cure.”  We intend to promote preventive care guidelines in India by collaborating with Indian Physicians, Pharmaceutical companies, modern diagnostic labs, medical device companies, robust hospital chains, and public health experts,” Prof (Dr) Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club and The Universal News Network publisher, added.
In her eloquent keynote address, Dr. Sangita Reddy, a Global Healthcare Leader, Indian Entrepreneur, and Humanitarian, is the Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited – Asia’s largest and most trusted healthcare group, shared her passion for the care of the masses, using technology to reach out. Her conviction in using the Internet for patient management was substantiated by an MOU signed between Apollo Hospitals and AAPI for Telemedicine for Second Opinions. “Healthcare is in the center stage as never been before. Let us work together to bring about the transformation in healthcare. Technology is the great growling engine of change and transformation. It transforms quietly and silently,” she said.
Attended by a record 17 senior leaders from the healthcare industry, several challenges were addressed by multiple renowned speakers from the healthcare field, deliberating on the healthcare delivery system in India. Expert panelists who were part of the CEO Forum included: Prof. MD Nalapat, Vice-Chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group; Prof. (Dr.), Joseph M Chalil Global Healthcare Strategist & Best Selling Autor; Dr. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited; Dr. Juby A Jacob-Nara, Vice President, Head of Global Medical- Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology (Sanofi-Genzyme); Dr. Anuj Maheshwari, the current Governor of the American College of Physicians India Chapter and the Vice President of Research Society for Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI);
Dr. Gurava Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Sunshine Hospitals; Dr. Karthik Anantharaman Chief Operating Officer, Karnataka cluster of Roche India; Dr. Vikas Bhatia, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, and the founder, Dean of AIIMS Bhubaneshwar; Gaurav Agarwal, Managing Director of IITPL and co-founder of Involution Healthcare Pvt. Ltd; Shekhar Sattiraju, Senior Director – Takeda Pharmaceuticals, USA; Dr. Aarti Shah, Trustee, SRLC-USA; former senior VP of Eli Lilly; Dr. Neyas Mohammed, Chairman, AEC GROUP; Dr. Murthy Gokula, CEO & Founder, Global Tele Clinics; Dr. Venkat Ramana Sudigali, Founder-Director Excell Multispeciality Hospital, Hyderabad; Mr. Narayana Rao Sripada, Founder/CTO, Salcit Technologies Pvt. Ltd; and Ravi Gopalan, President & CEO of Argusoft India Ltd.
The CEO Forum unanimously approved “An Appeal by AAPI to the Government of India to initiate efforts for creating an Indian Preventive Task Force and conduct annual preventive healthcare screenings nationwide.” And an appeal was signed by the panelists to be submitted to the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, and India’s Ministry of Health.
“We urge the Government of India to appoint an expert panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care,  including Internal medicine, Family medicine, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Preventive medicine, Behavioural, Critical Care medicine, public health, mental health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing to create an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF),” the Panelists on the CEO Forum wrote to the Government of India.
Urging the Government of India to encourage private hospitals and insurance companies to provide Annual Physical exams, or Telehealth visits at an affordable cost to patients, the CEO Forum members stated, “many routine lab tests, vaccinations, blood pressure checks, and some cancer screenings like self-breast examination can be done remotely and even at patients’ homes with the help of Asha workers.”
“ We believe, the largest democracy in the world needs urgent investment in the preventive health of all its citizens and grassroots level reforms of the public healthcare system,” the letter to the Government of India, pointed out. “AAPI will be happy to collaborate with the appropriate authority of the Government of India to support India in its efforts to provide one of the best healthcare systems in the world.”
With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive and  meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,” said Dr. Gotimukula.
American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic physician organization in the United States, representing over 100,000 Indian American Physicians, has initiated preventive healthcare screenings in 75 Indian villages to diagnose any silent diseases, which are causing premature deaths from Diabetes, Hypertension, Renal disease,  Coronary heart disease and cancers like Breast cancer, cervical cancer, which are preventable if diagnosed early through these annual screenings.
For more information on Global Health Summit, please visit: https://summit.aapiusa.org/ceo-forum/  CEO Forum Video: https://youtu.be/t1cw1toalAQ

Apple Helping Indian Kids Learn Art Of Storytelling Via Iphone Camera

Storytelling via photography is an art mastered over the ages and now, young children are being empowered with art by Gurugram’s Museo Camera in partnership with Cupertino-based tech giant Apple and its new-age iPhones in the country.

Founded by renowned photographer Aditya Arya, Museo Camera is the largest not-for-profit photography museum in South East Asia. It has over 18,000 square feet of space dedicated to the art and history of photography. The museum displays a collection of more than 2,500 cameras and other photographic equipment dating back to the 1850s.

The museum partnered with Apple to organise ‘The Art of Storytelling’ — a specially-curated workshop — in collaboration with Saksham Bal Vikas Sanstha and Shiksha Education Centre, charitable organisations committed to providing academic and vocational education to underprivileged children.

The children, aged 8 to 15, participated in the workshop for 12 classes — every Saturday — for about 12 weeks to create photo stories shot on iPhones.

Jiya Amreen, a class 7 student at Shiksha Education Centre, Gurugram, is a shy girl. But armed with an iPhone 12, she feels confident about setting out on the streets of Chakkarpur, Banjara Basti and other areas around Gurugram to capture the landscape with an iPhone.

Asked how she convinced people to pose for her camera, she said: “Initially I used to be fearful while asking people to pose, but I learnt how to convince them by calmly making them understand about the whole thing”.

The workshops were not just limited to taking images but were oriented towards using the mobile phone camera to tell a story. The students were encouraged to engage with their subjects, to explore and create a dialogue with them and to articulate their experiences as thought provoking visuals.

Abhay Yadav, and Krishna Rawat, students of class 8 at the same school said the exercise left them with bountiful knowledge on how to use a camera to tell a story. “Earlier I used to take selfies, but never understood how to make a good frame. Earlier the photos used to be random, now I think before taking a shot,” Yadav told IANS.

“It was a great experience learning. I learnt the skills and nuances of capturing photos,” added Rawat. For both of them, photography is now definitely a career option. The children were given a mix of theory and practical lessons on mobile photography and encouraged to develop their own unique photographic styles.

Arya said he believes in catching the children young for teaching the nuances of photo making. “The skills of photo making should start from the grassroots. Today phones have made capturing photos an easy task, you don’t need to carry big instruments. Earlier, one also had to set and adjust aperture and shutter speed in cameras, but phones have bridged the gap between technology and skills,” Arya told IANS.

Some of the best images clicked by these children on iPhones, along with those from two schools in Rajasthan, are put on display at the #ShotoniPhone exhibition held between December 18-25 at one-of its kind museum. The exhibition also features work by Arya, shot on iPhone 13 Pro Max, in his journey to Ladakh.

“I’m absolutely in love with iPhone 13 Pro Max’s new ultra wide camera lens which captures more details in the low-light conditions. It gave me an added edge while shooting the picturesque moonscapes of Ladakh,” Arya told IANS.

The Night Mode automatically turns on when the camera detects a low-light environment. Depending on how dark the scene is, the iPhone 13 Pro Max might take a Night mode photo quickly, or it might take several seconds.

“After carrying dozens of lenses and heavy equipment during my travels, I feel liberated thanks to the new Avatar of technology, the iPhone,” he added.

Raghavendra Rathore, First Designer To Use NFTS For A Cause

Few people are aware that Raghavendra Rathore studied robotics and created electrical circuits with sensors that mirrored human behaviour. A decade later, he and his colleagues created one of India’s first apps, iCarbon, a smart carbon footprint calculator with links to lessen an individual’s carbon footprint by recommending tree planting. He’s always been at the crossroads of art and technology, including an art (electronic) installation in the early 1990s with recognised names like CK, Cristo, and other eminent art and creative giants to raise money for AMFAR.

Rathore turns his own art into NFTs using exclusive blockchain technology, resulting in art that is genuinely priceless and everlasting. He has also made meticulously designed paintings NFT inspired by the Raghavendra Rathore, Jodhpur, which will be available for purchase. In collaboration with FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week, this series is being released as part of a limited edition NFT on the WazirX NFT marketplace.

“Designers, globally and in India, have started to realise how NFTs can be used to engage with the greater community,” said Vishakha Singh, Co-Founder & VP, WazirX NFT marketplace. The fact that the money will be donated to a worthy cause makes this drop even more precious. Our goal with each release is to add as many use cases as feasible. For producers and collectors, India is a promising NFT market, and this relationship will benefit both parties. We’re excited to have these NFTs available on our platform.”

These NFTs are being generated for the first time ever to promote awareness for the Raghavendra Rathore Foundation (RRF), a certified non-governmental organisation. RRF will get a share of the sale earnings to assist strengthen communities through mentorship programmes, cultural experiences and scholarship possibilities. This is the first time an Indian designer has reinvented the fundraising experience by moving to a digital-first strategy.

The Gurukul School of Design students are honoured and motivated by the NFT. A series where one can acquire unique digital artworks and digital treasures such as apparel, original forms of art, unique experiences, and unique moments in time; now captured, exchanged, and treasured, to build more permanent links. “The relevance of blockchain is something we all need to be aware of, as it will become an integral part of our lives in the not-too-distant future.”

“We must create products and services that are built on this ground-breaking technology.” Raghavendra Rathore is a Bollywood actor. All collectors will receive verification of ownership and authenticity of their purchase.

Who’s Got Your Mail? Google And Microsoft, Mostly

Top providers and the number and percentage of domains using these companies in different sets of domain names

Newswise — Who really sends, receives and, most importantly perhaps, stores your business’ email? Most likely Google and Microsoft, unless you live in China or Russia. And the market share for these two companies keeps growing. 

That’s the conclusion reached by a group of computer scientists at the University of California San Diego, who studied the email service providers used by hundreds of thousands of Internet domains– between 2017 and 2021. 

“Our research team empirically showed the extent to which email has been outsourced and concentrated to a small number of providers and service providers,” said Stefan Savage, a professor in the UC San Diego Department of Computer Science and Engineering and one of the paper’s senior authors. 

The team presented their findings at the Internet Measurement Conference 2021, which took place virtually Nov. 2 to 4, 2021.

This concentration has several consequences: it increases the impact of service failures and data breaches; and it exposes companies and users outside the United States to potential subpoenas from U.S. government agencies. 

A quick explainer of the difference between domains and service providers: The second half of your email address is your company or agency’s domain–for example, ucsd.edu is the domain for the University of California San Diego. The email service provider is the company that, behind the scenes, provides the infrastructure that allows you to send and receive email and stores your messages–so ucsd.edu’s email service is provided by a combination of Google and Microsoft mail services.

As of June 2021, Google and Microsoft are the dominant providers among popular domains, with 28.5% and 10.8% market share, respectively. In comparison, GoDaddy leads the market of providing services for smaller domains, with a 29% market share. The authors also observed a higher level of concentration over time: Google and Microsoft’s market share increased by 2.3% and 2.9%, respectively, since June 2017. 

Some of the growth comes from smaller domains that used to host their own emails. “While self-hosted domains switched to providers across all categories, more than a quarter of them changed their mail provider to Google and Microsoft,” said Alex Liu, a UC San Diego computer science Ph.D. student and the paper’s lead author. 

More affected during outages, data breaches

Concentration of email service providers has led to much bigger service outages. In August and December 2020, global outages affected Gmail and Drive–Gmail alone has an estimated 1.5 billion users. Outlook most recently suffered an outage in October 2021– an estimated 400 million people use the service. 

The concentration of email service providers also puts more people at risk in the event of a data breach. One often-cited example is the Yahoo data breach that exposed at least 500 million user accounts. Recently, a flaw in a Microsoft Exchange protocol has been shown to have leaked hundreds of thousands of credentials. 

 Legal impact

Google and Microsoft, the two dominant US-based email service providers, appear to be in wide use by organizations outside the United States — particularly across Europe, North America, South America, large parts of Asia and, to a lesser extent, Russia. For example, 65% of Brazilian domains in the researchers’ dataset host email with Google or Microsoft. But they are not used in China. 

However, outsourcing email service to US companies can also have legal implications. Under the 2018 CLOUD Act, US-based providers can be legally compelled to provide stored customer data, including e-mail, to US law enforcement agencies, regardless of the location of the data, or of the nationality or residency of the customer using the data. 

Perhaps as a result, Tencent has an overwhelming market share in China, with 41%, as does Yandex in Russia, with 32 %. Both countries have shown that they prefer to keep control over data access. 

In addition, an increasing number of email domains contract with email security providers, such as ProofPoint and Mimecast. These companies can operate as a third-party filter for inbound emails, removing the need to manage security locally. These companies have almost a 7% market share for large commercial companies; and a 17.5% market share for .gov domains. 

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the University of California San Diego, the EU H2020 CONCORDIA project and Google. 

Why Indian-Born CEOs Dominate Silicon Valley

Parag Agrawal, who was appointed this week as Twitter’s CEO, has joined at least a dozen other Indian-born techies in the corner offices of the world’s most influential Silicon Valley companies.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, and the top bosses of IBM, Adobe, Palo Alto Networks, VMWare, and Vimeo are all of the Indian descent.

Indian-origin people account for just about 1% of the US population and 6% of Silicon Valley’s workforce – represented in the top brass. Why?

“No other nation in the world ‘trains’ so many citizens in such a gladiatorial manner as India does,” says R Gopalakrishnan, former executive director of Tata Sons and co-author of The Made in India Manager.

“From birth certificates to death certificates, from school admissions to getting jobs, from infrastructural inadequacies to insufficient capacities,” growing up in India equips Indians to be “natural managers,” he adds, quoting the famous Indian corporate strategist C K Prahalad.

The competition and chaos, in other words, make them adaptable problem-solvers – and, he adds, the fact that they often prioritize the professional over the personal helps in an American office culture of overwork.

“These are characteristics of top leaders anywhere in the world,” Mr. Gopalakrishnan says.

Indian-born Silicon Valley CEOs are also part of a four million-strong minority group that is among the wealthiest and most educated in the US.

About a million of them are scientists and engineers. More than 70% of H-1B visas – work permits for foreigners – issued by the US go to Indian software engineers, and 40% of all foreign-born engineers in cities like Seattle are from India.

“This is the result of a drastic shift in US immigration policy in the 1960s,” write the authors of The Other One Percent: Indians in America.

In the wake of the civil rights movement, national-origin quotas were replaced by those that gave preference to skills and family unification. Soon after, highly-educated Indians – scientists, engineers, and doctors at first, and then, overwhelmingly, software programmers – began to arrive in the US.

This cohort of Indian immigrants did not “resemble any other immigrant group from any other nation”, the authors say. They were “triply selected” – not only were they among the upper-caste privileged Indians who could afford to go to a reputed college, but they also belonged to a smaller sliver that could finance a master’s in the US, which many of Silicon Valley’s CEOs possess. And finally, the visa system further narrowed it down to those with specific skills – often in science, technology, engineering, and maths or STEM as the preferred category is known – that meet the US’s “high-end labour market needs”.

“This is the cream of the crop and they are joining companies where the best rise to the top,” says technology entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa. “The networks they have built [in Silicon Valley] have also given them an advantage – the idea was that they would help each other.”

Mr. Wadhwa adds that many of the India-born CEOs have also worked their way up the company ladder – and this, he believes, gives them a sense of humility that distinguishes them from many founder-CEOs who have been accused of being arrogant and entitled in their vision and management.

Mr. Wadhwa says men like Mr. Nadella and Mr. Pichai also bring a certain amount of caution, reflection, and a “gentler” culture that makes them ideal candidates for the top job – especially at a time when big tech’s reputation has plummeted amid Congressional hearings, rows with foreign governments and the widening gulf between Silicon Valley’s richest and the rest of America.

Their “low-key, non-abrasive leadership” is a huge plus, says Saritha Rai, who covers the tech industry in India for Bloomberg News.

India’s diverse society, with so many customs and languages, “gives them [Indian-born managers] the ability to navigate complex situations, particularly when it comes to scaling organizations,” says Indian-American billionaire businessman and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems.  “This plus a ‘hard-work’ ethic sets them up well,” he adds.

There are more obvious reasons as well. The fact that so many Indians can speak English makes it easier for them to integrate into the diverse US tech industry. And Indian education’s emphasis on math and science has created a thriving software industry, training graduates in the right skills, which are further buttressed in top engineering or management schools in the US.

“In other words, the success of Indian-born CEOs in America is as much about what’s right with America – or at least what used to be right before immigration became more restricted after 9/11 – as what’s right with India,” economist Rupa Subramanya recently wrote in Foreign Policy magazine.

The huge backlog in the applications for US green cards, and increasing opportunities in the Indian market have certainly dimmed the allure of a career abroad.

“The American dream is getting replaced with the India-based start-up dream,” Ms. Rai says.

The recent emergence of India’s “unicorns”- companies worth more than a $1bn – suggests that the country is starting to produce major tech companies, experts say. But, they add, it’s too early to tell what global impact they will have.

“India’s start-up ecosystem is relatively young. Role models of successful Indians both in entrepreneurship and in executive ranks have helped a lot but role models take time to spread,” Mr. Khosla says.

But most of the role models are still men – as are almost all of the Indian-born Silicon Valley CEOs. And their rapid rise is not enough reason to expect more diversity from the industry, experts say.  “Women’s representation [in the tech industry] is nowhere close to what it should be,” Ms. Rai says.

Youngest CEO of Fortune 500 Company, Parag Agrawal To Lead Twitter

On Day 1 of Parag Agrawal’s new job as CEO of Twitter, congressional Republicans took a tweet he had posted in 2010 out of context to imply that he’s biased against White people. On Day 2, Twitter unveiled a confusingly worded new policy banning the sharing of “private media,” which drew immediate fire from both left and right.

And that was all before Agrawal was formally introduced as the company’s new CEO at an all-hands meeting Tuesday Nov. 30, 2021, following outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey’s surprise resignation tweet on a Monday that was supposed to be a “day of rest” for Twitter’s employees.

Agrawal, who at 37 becomes the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, was chosen unanimously to succeed Dorsey by Twitter’s board of directors, according to an official statement Monday. At Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, according to employees who attended, Dorsey emphasized Agrawal’s engineering background and the fact that he rose through the ranks over a decade at Twitter in touting him as the ideal choice to lead the influential social media firm.

Yet several current and former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said Agrawal was an unexpected choice internally – though not necessarily an unwelcome one – for one of the most fraught leadership roles in Silicon Valley. Having joined Twitter before completing his Ph.D. program at Stanford University in 2011, he spent much of his tenure there with zero direct reports, two of those employees said.

As chief technology officer, he also had limited experience handling the thorny questions of content policy – what people are allowed to post on social media – that make Twitter an influential force in global discourse and a target of criticism and regulation by governments and political actors around the world.

“Agrawal has to sort out how Twitter should respond to a fusillade of bills in Congress seeking to rein in social media companies and a new [Federal Trade Commission] chairwoman who has painted a target on the prominent platforms,” as well as attacks from former president Donald Trump and the right, said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email. If Trump runs again, “pressure to reinstate him will be enormous. Impressive engineering chops won’t resolve that problem.”

Instead, insiders say, his formidable engineering chops, his alignment with Dorsey’s vision of a “decentralized” future for social media, and his relatively uncontroversial reputation within the company helped to make him the choice over other, perhaps more obvious internal candidates in a closely guarded and opaque succession process.

While Dorsey told employees at the all-hands that the company had “defeated” activist shareholders and that the decision to step down was all his, at least one person outside the company who was familiar with the process suggested it was pressure from those shareholders and like-minded board members that ultimately led to his departure. While the timing was up to Dorsey, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters, his exit from the company was “the culmination of a conversation Elliott Management started when it made its investment in Twitter in early 2020.”

Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelley sent a statement saying that the board had formed an independent committee in 2020 to evaluate Twitter’s leadership and create a CEO succession plan. Twitter also reiterated that the decision was Dorsey’s.

Kelley pushed back on the idea that Agrawal is light on policy or management experience. She said he was central to reviewing a 2020 document that introduced the company’s strategic approach to policy and that he led the process of building machine-learning software that automatically removes content that breaks Twitter’s rules. In a recent management role, she added, Agrawal led the company’s platform engineering team – a large technical team with hundreds of workers.

Now Agrawal becomes the public face of a platform that is frequently criticized by the right for moderating speech too aggressively and by the left for not moderating speech aggressively enough. Its decision to cover up a tweet by Trump last year – before any other tech companies had taken action against him – exemplified the outsize political power of the role that Agrawal steps into. Dorsey testified on Capitol Hill five times, and Agrawal is likely to find himself there soon enough as Congress continues to eye new regulations on social media platforms.

Agrawal will bring a keen intellect, those who know him say, but little to no experience in the political realm. Then again, few other Big Tech CEOs had political experience when they stepped into the top job, either. And the pressure Twitter’s board faced from investors was less about the nuances of its policy decisions and more about developing popular new products that would spur user growth and give it more mainstream appeal.

One key to Agrawal’s selection, insiders say, is that he appeared to be in lockstep with Dorsey on a vision for the future for the company. That future will emphasize decentralization and open-source software. Agrawal was the lead proponent of a Twitter-funded project, called Bluesky – an independent organization that builds software that could be shared by different social media companies.

One of the employees described Agrawal as a “big ideas guy” who was unproven as a manager, doesn’t relish dealing in details and “isn’t the best with people.” Even so, that employee was “overall happy” with the choice, because Agrawal came across as thoughtful and respectful.

“People seem generally happy about Parag, but mostly because he’s the best choice among a bunch of bad options,” said another of the employees.

What other candidates were considered for the role has not been disclosed, and Twitter declined to comment. But one name that came up both in internal and external speculation was that of Kayvon Beykpour, the company’s head of consumer product, who has overseen the launch of several new features in recent years, including the live-audio forum Twitter Spaces.

Three of the employees agreed Beykpour’s aggressive management style would have made him a divisive pick. One said they had been prepared to leave if Beykpour was the choice. And two noted that Beykpour and Agrawal did not always see eye to eye.

The person outside the company who said they were familiar with the decision process confirmed that Agrawal’s solid reputation among the rank and file was a factor.

“He’s a culture carrier, internally, highly respected within the company, and wouldn’t be highly disruptive” as the new CEO, the person said. “If you look at what Twitter needs to take it from where it is today to a $100 billion, $200 billion company, it’s really a product-driven, innovation mind-set: How do we roll out new features and functionality?” The person cited Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen as examples of internal candidates with little name recognition who emerged as capable leaders at their respective firms.

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s policy chief, is also highly respected internally, the current and former employees said, and would have been a strong choice for handling Congress and regulators. But it was understood that the company’s leaders and investors preferred someone with expertise in engineering or product development.

Though Agrawal does not have formal experience managing a policy team, he has been a major implementer of initiatives that attempt to balance freedom of speech with protecting users from harms like bullying and disinformation, as well as initiatives to open the company’s algorithms to public scrutiny, said a senior Twitter executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal matters.

For example, Twitter was the first of the major platforms to cover content with warning labels that notify people that a newsworthy tweet may be problematic and to create a pop-up asking people to take a moment to double-check whether they want to retweet a particular tweet.

“Parag was the person internally bringing all that to life,” said the executive. “Twitter has always been a ‘product-led company,’ but as the future of the Internet becomes more about standards for algorithms and decentralization – he has been a key voice in building out the tools to make those policy goals a reality.”

One of the other Twitter employees offered a less glowing assessment. “He’s not actively harmful,” the employee said. “I’ve seen worse men get ahead with less.”

Indian Army’s ‘STRIKE’ For Ladakh-Like High-Altitude Areas

The Indian Army is on the lookout for Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) to assist infantry troops in high-altitude areas with surveillance, tactical reconnaissance, targeting enemy positions, delivering critical supplies, and carrying out rapid evacuations.

The need for such a platform stems from the difficulties encountered in Ladakh, such as incidents involving a military clash with China at heights of over 15,000 feet.

The army’s requirements for the platform state that the unmanned ground vehicles, or UGVs, should be able to carry a load of 250500 kg and should be able to operate in high altitude areas along the northern borders-a reference to the frontier with China.

A weapon platform variant mounted with a machine gun has also been listed as one of the requirements that the UGVs should have.

Twelve Indian companies will showcase 35 such platforms to the Indian Army in Babina from December 9-14 in an experiment called “Strike”-surveillance, tactical recce, intelligence, kinetic effect, and evacuation systems.

“Over 30 different types of unmanned ground vehicles will be showcased by the developers, and these will be imbedded with sub-units for tactical exploitation. The experiment involves various categories of UGVs, viz., surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, kinetic effect, logistics, casualty evacuation,” said an official.

The unmanned vehicle that the army is looking for should perform recce and surveillance and have a load carrier aimed at last-mile delivery and casualty evacuation.

According to the army’s requirements, the UGV should be able to operate in varied terrain conditions, including deserts, plains, mountainous and high-altitude areas, existing along our borders. The army wants the vehicles to be operated remotely as well as in an autonomous mode.

The unmanned vehicles can also be used for explosive detection and neutralisation of improvised explosive devices. The army has stated that a robotic arm with the capacity to lift a minimum weight of 5 kg is a must.

The requirements further state that it should be able to place explosives and carry out remote detonations of identified IEDs and mines.

Fisker Unveils ‘World’s Most Sustainable Vehicle’ As Electric Vehicle Competition Heats Up

It seems among the investor community, all everyone talks about are the EV (electric vehicle) stocks – and only the big ones at that – Tesla (TSLA), Rivian (RIVN), and Lucid (LCID).

One EV company that’s been flying under the radar, that is until it had big news at this year’s Los Angeles Auto show is Fisker Inc (FSR).

Fisker, founded and run by legendary automotive designer Henrik Fisker, unveiled the production version of its Ocean EV SUV.

Overall it’s a competitive package, penned by Henrik himself, and in top trim form the Ocean is targeting over 350 miles of range from an all-wheel drive, dual motor setup pumping out 540 horsepower.

While those are noteworthy figures, there are other EVs that can match these figures in that price range (around $65,000 for the higher end Ocean). The real twist here is the base Ocean, called the Ocean Sport, that will use a smaller range battery (targeting around 250 miles of range), and a single-motor front wheel drive, that will start — before any state and local incentives — at $37,499.

At that price level, no one so far, even Tesla, can match that price in the premium EV landscape. Yahoo Finance spoke to Henrik Fisker at the LA auto show about how the company plans to make this pricing work.

“We have a whole asset-light business model — it’s a little bit like Apple (AAPL), Foxconn, if you want — in terms of we concentrate on the product, the marketing, the design, the development, and then we outsource manufacturing,” Fisker said from the company’s imposing stand on the convention floor. “We don’t have to put thousands of dollars [in] each car because we have to keep the lights on in the factory, and pay real estate taxes and whatever it all is.”

Fisker is using large contract manufacturer Magna (MGA) to build its Ocean SUV. Magna makes cars and large components for clients like BMW (BMWYY), GM (GM), and even Ferrari (RACE).

In addition, one area that puts upward pressure on the price tags of EVs are batteries. Fisker is using CATL, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, to make a custom package for the Ocean, using cheaper LFP (lithium iron phosphate) battery cells for the Ocean Sport model, and more energy dense nickel manganese cobalt cells for the extended range Ocean trim levels.

On top of all that, Fisker wants this car to be the most sustainable car on the planet — hence the name “Ocean.”

“So the idea with this vehicle is to make it the world’s most sustainable vehicle, so we’ve got a solar roof that can give you up to 1,500 miles for a year, we’ve got a fully vegan interior with recycled materials,” he says. Even all the carpets are made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean, and the carbon fiber elements on the car and the wheels are, you guessed it, recycled.

With 20,000 reservations in the order book right now, the company is seeing good interest in a car that won’t see the streets until the third quarter of 2022. But this is according to plan.

Fisker understands that production, versus prototyping, is hard. Tesla’s Elon Musk says this almost on a weekly basis. It’s in an extremely complicated process that requires proper systems, technical partners, and of course, capital, to get right.

The challenge for EV startups, Fisker says, is how to ramp up and produce several hundred thousand vehicles a year — and not take 10 years to do it. This is where Fisker’s partner Magna comes into a play, with its capability to produce thousands of cars of year, coupled with new capital raises the Fisker has made this year ($1 billion through its SPAC IPO and $600 million in a debt offering), to invest in R&D and acquire know-how and parts from technical partners. It’s the only way startups can compete with the GMs and Fords (F) of the world.

“A car is made of about 1,500 parts or even more, depending on how many screws you count, and all these parts have to come in just in time. They have to be put together exactly at the right time in the right sequence,” Fisker says. “I think most EV startups underestimate that. it has taken the traditional car industry many, many decades to perfect this, and that’s what they’re really good at.”

Web3: Is it the Internet of the future or just a buzzword?

There’s a buzzword that tech, crypto and venture-capital types have become infatuated with lately. Conversations are now peppered with it, and you’re not serious about the future until you add it to your Twitter bio: Web3.

It’s an umbrella term for disparate ideas all pointing in the direction of eliminating the big middlemen on the internet. In this new era, navigating the web no longer means logging onto the likes of Facebook, Google or Twitter.

Think of it this way: The nascent days of the Internet in the 1990s were Web 1.0. The web was seen as a way to democratize access to information, but there weren’t great ways of navigating it beyond going to your friend’s GeoCities page. It was pretty disorganized and overwhelming.

Then came Web 2.0 starting in the mid-2000s. Platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter emerged to bring order to the Internet by making it easy to connect and transact online. Critics say over time those companies amassed too much power.

Web3 is about grabbing some of the power back.

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“There’s a small group of companies that own all this stuff, and then there’s us who use it, and despite the fact that we contribute to the success of these platforms, we don’t have anything to show for it,” said Mat Dryhurst, a Berlin-based artist and researcher who teaches classes at New York University on the future of the internet.

And so, the answer, according to Dryhurst and other Web3 fans, is an iteration of the internet where new social networks, search engines and marketplaces crop up that have no company overlords.

Instead, they are decentralized, built upon a system known as the blockchain, which already undergirds Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Imagine it as a kind of bookkeeping where many computers at once host data that’s searchable by anyone. It’s operated by users collectively, rather than a corporation. People are given “tokens” for participating. The tokens can be used to vote on decisions, and even accrue real value.

In a Web3 world, people control their own data and bounce around from social media to email to shopping using a single personalized account, creating a public record on the blockchain of all of that activity.

“To the average person, it does sounds like voodoo,” said Olga Mack, entrepreneur and blockchain lecturer at University of California, Berkeley. “But when you press a button to switch on lights, do you understand how the electricity is made? You don’t have to know how electricity works to understand the benefits. Same is true of the blockchain.”

Right now, the idea of the entire Internet reinventing may sound like some far-away digital utopia. But Web3 is driving new conversations — and generating lots of new money, particularly from crypto investors.

‘At first baffling,’ but Web3 is growing more mainstream and tech companies are taking note

The Web3 movement has been helped along by the rise of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are digital collectibles and other online files that can be bought and sold with cryptocurrency. Then there are the publicity stunts. Recently, a group of crypto enthusiasts banded together to attempt to purchase a copy of the U.S. Constitution with digital currency. They organized under the name ConstitutionDAO. (A DAO stands for a decentralized autonomous organization, the name for an online collective of crypto supporters who assemble together collectively in a group governed by blockchains and tokens. It’s very Web3.)

Dryhurst admits that trying to explain Web3 can be exasperating, since it’s a loosely-defined term that takes on a slightly different shape depending on who is defining it but, he said, that’s the case with all new frontiers of technology.

“Every new advent of the web is at first baffling,” he said.

To technologists and cryptographers, Web3 has remained a theoretical grand vision for years. But in recent months, the push for a blockchain-powered future has come to dominate tech conferences and social media chatter in certain circles. It’s even forced major tech companies to assemble teams dedicated to Web3.

And that’s brought a certain irony to the evolution of Web3: Enthusiasts hope Web3 will mean that sharing photos, communicating with friends and buying things online will no longer by synonymous with Big Tech companies but be done through a multitude of small competing services on the blockchain — where, for instance, every time you post a message, you earn a token for your contribution, giving you both ownership stake in the platform and one day a way to cash in.

In theory, this also means avoiding fees, rules and the strictures of tech companies. Nonetheless, major tech platforms are also jumping on the idea.

“It means that all the value that’s created can be shared amongst more people, rather than just the owners, investors and employees,” said Esther Crawford, a senior project manager at Twitter.

Crawford said Twitter is studying ways to incorporate Web3 concepts into the social network, like one day being able to log into the social network and tweet from an account associated with a cryptocurrency, not a Twitter account. She sees the future differently: not a crypto version of Twitter replacing Twitter. But rather Twitter introducing Web3 features on top of standard Twitter.

“For a long time, Web3 has been very theoretical,” she said. “But now there is a surge of momentum to build.”

Will Web3 be the new norm?

Experts say, in the best case scenario for Web3 enthusiasts, the technology will operate alongside Web 2.0, not fully supplant it.

In other words, blockchain-based social networks, transactions and businesses can and will grow and thrive in the coming years. Yet knocking out Facebook, Twitter or Google completely is not likely on the horizon, according to technology scholars.

“I’m not in a position to say who will win,” Dryhurst said. “But Web2 companies will be folding Web3 ideas into their services to stay relevant.”

He thinks many people would want to be able to take their data and history of interactions online wherever they go on the Internet, rather than remain on singular web platforms–what some call the “walled gardens” of big tech companies.

“This is a fundamentally difference experience than what we’re used to today,” Dryhurst said.

But he admits that boundless freedom can lead to troubling outcomes for some.

“The Faustian bargain is that the same reasons that it’s exciting that there’s nothing impeding people to build whatever community they want, I can’t stop someone from building something that’s hellacious,” he said.

Decentralized social networks have proved appealing to white supremacists and other far-right groups, but Sam Williams, founder of Arweave, a blockchain-based project for storing data online, said he trusts most small communities to determine what speech is permitted online.

On balance, he said, collective voting on the rules of engagement will be better than what users experience on major social media platforms today.

“If we stay in the current paradigm, we will move further and further into a realm where a small handful of companies run by a small number of people run our experiences in cyberspace,” he said. “And in that world, the problems of Big Tech are exacerbated.”

Another issue, of course, is government oversight. Blockchain-based tokens are now in a regulatory netherworld, but that could soon change as the Biden administration begins the process of setting new rules for the industry.

How does Web3 fit with that other vision of the Internet’s future — the metaverse?

Facebook recently rebranded itself Meta, and said its priority would be to build the “metaverse,” a digital future where everyone is living and interacting and working together in virtual reality.

Among the company’s stated principles is “robust interoperability,” meaning that users could take their accounts or avatars from site to site or service to service seamlessly, rather than have to log in to accounts controlled by separate companies every time they visit new sites.

That’s also one of the ideals of Web3.

But true believers say there is no place for Facebook in a Web3 world, no matter how hard the social network tries to be part of the next generation of the Internet.

“Facebook will always be incentivized to enrich Facebook,” Williams said. “And that’s not how cyberspace should be governed.”

What’s the chance Web3 is just an over-hyped fantasy?

It doesn’t take long to find skeptics of Web3.

James Grimmelmann, a Cornell University professor who studies law and technology, has become vocal about his doubts.

“Web3 is vaporware,” said Grimmelmann, referring to a product that’s announced but never delivered.

“It’s a promised future internet that fixes all the things people don’t like about the current internet, even when it’s contradictory.”

He said if part of the impetus is to resist giving up personal data to Big Tech companies, then the blockchain is not the solution, since that will make even more data public.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “The vision says the problem with the internet is too many centralized intermediaries. Instead of having lots of different applications and sites, we’ll put it all on blockchains, which puts it all in one place.”

To Grimmelmann, Web3 represents technologists reaching for the idealistic ethos of the dawn of the internet — everyone can freely use the information superhighway! — that long ago was overtaken by tech companies.

The Internet’s evolution always has been a tug between fragmentation and centralization, he said. When it swings too far in one direction, a backlash tries to pull it in the opposite direction.

“Blockchains are interesting and solve some difficult problems in new ways,” he said. “They’re probably going to end up in the toolkit that the next internet is built out of, but that doesn’t mean the internet is going to be built around them.”

But many people who found wealth during the pandemic by investing in cryptocurrencies are looking around for something to plunge cash into beyond NFTs of “bored apes” who are members of a cartoon “yacht club.”

Right now, he said, Web3, albeit mostly theoretical, is the thing.

“There are a lot of people who have money to invest,” he said. “And they need some vision to throw money at.”

Indian American Hotmail Founder Launches A New Social Video App – Showreel

Sabeer Bhatia, the man who played a significant role in making email the default communication medium it is now, wants to change video content with his new social video app, Showreel.

The app can be used to create more natural video resumes for job applications that offer much more context than just text, but also to pitch a startup idea or just to find a partner for yourself.

The Hotmail co-founder, now a serial entrepreneur based in California, says the idea came in the middle of the pandemic when he saw his eight-year-old daughter effortlessly make TikTok videos.

“That sparked an idea. I said this is the future, video is the future of all content consumption. Can we do something to help the 1 billion unemployed people?”

However, the first version of Showreel was not a big success as the videos which came in response to text questions were not that natural. That’s when he decided to change the questions also into video and now in the app, the respondents answer questions that Bhatia asks, almost like a natural conversation.

“I believe in the next 10 years, rather than sending a resume to a prospective employer, you will be more likely to send a more effective video or a QR code that points to a video,” says Bhatia, explaining how this format helps companies cut down on recruitment time by helping filter candidates faster.

Also, at some point, the AI layer will kick in and show candidates that align to the recruitment philosophy of the company, adds Bhatia, who has hired a team of engineers to help set up the product and take it to the next level.

With video, he says, the context is set and you subconsciously already know who you are going to talk to and what to expect. “Through a LinkedIn profile, you don’t know anything about the person. A picture says a few more things, but a video will complete him, you know, so it will be better for business interaction, not just for employment,” he adds, underling that this platform offers rich data that makes it more intelligent.

Beyond recruitment, startup’s and matrimony, Bhatia already sees the platform being used to take surveys, especially where people find the written text a stumbling block. He also thinks there will be applications in health too where he will get doctors to formulate the right questions to plug gaps in the health system.

Bhatia is already working with top companies as well as the global university system to plug this into their hiring and placement process. The app, available on both iOS and Android, can also be customized based on their requirements. He said language versions can be expected soon.

As for a business model, Bhatia is candid that he is yet to think of one. But if he solves the problem of connecting job seekers with employers and making it an easier process, monetization wouldn’t be a tough problem to solve.

Apple’s Autonomous Car Could Debut In 2025

Apple is accelerating the development of its electric car and is refocusing the project around full autonomous capabilities, Bloomberg reported. The company has set itself a target of 2025 to complete the project, the report said.

Fully autonomous cars are the holy grail of self-driving cars, but has so far been out of reach for even companies such as Google’s Waymo, which has been testing its cars on roads in California and Florida for years. Tesla, too, has said it will release full self-driving capabilities in its cars in a few years.

But carmakers have found that even Level 2 self-driving — which is two steps behind full autonomous capabilities, or Level 4 — can be costly. Last year, Uber sold its self-driving car division to startup Aurora, ending a five-year run that was marred by litigation and a fatal crash. Tesla’s Autopilot, which controls the car on highways, though a driver is to keep his hand on the steering wheel, has gotten into after a few high-profile crashes.

Apple’s project, which began in 2014 under the codename “Project Titan”, has itself taken some twists and turns. But now the company reached a key milestone in developing the car’s underlying self-driving system, as per Bloomberg, and has completed much of the core work on the processor that will power the cars.

Demand for electric vehicles has surged as countries and customers turn more environment conscious, propelling the market value of companies such as Tesla (TSLA.O) and Rivian (RIVN.O) far above traditional carmakers around for decades longer.

“It’s a matter of when, not if,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said, adding that chances of Apple unveiling its own standalone car by 2025 as 60% to 65%.

The Bloomberg report said some people working on the project were skeptical about the timeline even with recent progress, which includes the car’s underlying self-driving system, processor chips and advanced sensors.

Reuters had reported in December that Apple was targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology. read more

Meanwhile, The Information, citing a memo, reported that Apple was preparing to bring back employees to offices starting Feb. 1 and will let staff work for up to four weeks remotely each year.

Building Road At 19,024 Feet In Ladakh Gets Guinness Recognition

Construction and black topping the world’s highest motorable road at 19,024 feet at Umlingla Pass in Ladakh has earned the Border Road Organisation (BRO) a Guinness World Records recognition.

The Director General of BRO, Lieutenant Genreal Rajeev Chaudhry, received the Guinness World Records certificate on Tuesday for the achievement of constructing and black topping the world’s highest motorable road at 19,024 feet in Ladakh.

At a virtual ceremony, official adjudicator of the Guinness World Records based in the UK, Rishi Nath, acknowledged the remarkable achievement of BRO for constructing the highest altitude road in the world.

In a four-month long process undertaken by the Guinness World Records, five different surveyors verified the claim.

The 52-km road from Chisumle to Demchok tarmac passes through the 19,024 feet high Umlingla Pass and betters the previous record of a road in Bolivia, which connects volcano Uturuncu at 18,953 feet.

The Umlingla Pass road is another landmark in resurgent India’s achievement, as it has been constructed at an altitude higher than the North and South base camps of Mount Everest which are at an altitude of 16,900 feet and 17,598 feet, respectively.

On the occasion, Lt Gen Chaudhry spoke about the challenges faced during the road construction, which, he said, tested both human spirit and efficacy of machines in an extremely tough terrain where temperatures in winters dip to -40-degree Celcius and oxygen levels are 50 per cent below normal.

The BRO provided a black topped road to the important village of Demchok in Eastern Ladakh that will be a boon to the local population as it will enhance the socio-economic conditions and promote tourism in Ladakh.

The strategically important road, which is approximately 15-km long, highlights the focus of the government in developing road infrastructure in the border areas. (IANS)

American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin Plans a Technical and Start-up Business Conference

AAEIO To Host A Technical And Start-Up Business Conference In April 2022

American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO) will host a Technical and Start-up Business conference in April 2022 to help new companies to do networking, mentoring, access to funding and developing Business plans.

These programs are designed to assist new startups. Microsoft CEO Mr. Satya Nadella, U.S Senator, Governor, Consul General of India, U.S Congressmen, CEOs of fortune 100 companies are expected to attend this event.

AAEIO President Gladson Varghese and other Board members had a planning meeting with Consul General of India Amit Kumar in Chicago to discuss this event and future plans.

Hon. Kumar, a Kanpur IIT Graduate and IFS officer, also gave his suggestions. He asked the board to focus on 2-3 areas like Digital transformation, Education, Energy and do it well. He also asked the board to do events both in US and in India. He suggested that digital transformation ideas should be at grass root levels, such as solution to problem such as “Army is looking to create parts with 3D printing for older generation MIGs”. These ideas can be used for business competition and provide innovation.

As part of the growth of this organization, organizers are planning to host events in various cities including San Francisco. Attracting Indian Engineering students was also discussed in this meeting.

Membership Chairman Nag Jaiswal, Vice President Nitin Maheshwari, President-Elect Ajit Pant and Treasurer Abhishek Jain will take the lead in these activities.

The group is also planning to do a Job Fair on March 10th to help the community, Board of Director Vinoz Chanamolu with the help of other Board members taking the leadership role by contacting several Fortune 500 companies and other IT / Manufacturing Companies. Several Board of Directors are working in getting Federal and State governments participation including Department of Labor.

Technical and Start-up business conference will be hosted with the support of T-hub, which is a Technology Hub organization based in Hyderabad for innovation and business incubator programs based on the triple helix model of Innovation, Participation of University, Industry and Government.

Purdue University President is also expecting to attend this event. AAEIO is planning to have this event start in the morning with various seminars and Trade shows and the evening meeting will conclude with black-tie event.

Artificial Intelligence – Friend or Foe?

Artificial Intelligence(AI) is an overused term today and as with any ubiquitous technology it is either loved or feared. Why does it have such a split following? It has a lot to do with its history and to some extent with how it is marketed today and more importantly how it is predicted to impact all facets of our lives tomorrow.

AI made its humble beginnings many decades ago in academic circles as an endeavor to understand and mimic how humans think and act. While the goal was to understand and copy brain function, the field of AI developed largely with very little active collaboration between computer scientists and neuroscientists.  As a result, AI developed in those days, never really had human like cognitive functions.

In as early as 1968,  2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie based on a science fiction novel by Arthur C Clarke, described an on-board computer, HAL, on Discovery One that had uncanny decision-making capability to control the mission to Jupiter. Much later in 1977, the movie Star Wars depicted two human-like robots R2-D2 and C-3PO that had human like attributes. While HAL had undeniably evil overtones the Star Wars robots were merely amusing and harmless. I would argue that the divergence in opinions on AI started during that period. Soon after the 80s, academia seemed to lose interest in AI and the field went into a Rip Van Winkle like 20-year slumber.

So, what has changed when the field of AI re-awakened in the last decade? The ideas upon rebirth were not particularly novel but the researchers had access to three important enabling technologies. First was the availability of relatively cheap and abundant computing power, the second was access to massive amounts of data that machines could train on (i.e. be taught with) and third was novel compute algorithms developed to use all this data (big data) and compute horsepower.

This brought about amazingly rapid progress in the field of AI. The early manifestations of AI were at best clunky in that they exhibited a very rudimentary ability to learn and recognize simple objects. Even that basic function required extensive training with large amounts of labeled data i.e., show the system thousands of cat pictures and then it was able to identify a cat from a picture that it had not seen before. However, with the rapid progress of neural networks and especially with the advent of deep neural nets, the machines learned to draw inferences with increasing accuracy making them suitable for real-life enterprise and consumer applications.

As more AI applications begin to appear in the horizon a new set of fears has emerged. This time it had to do with at least three important issues. One, will AI replace humans?  second, can AI be trusted? and finally, can we be sure the results are not biased? These are being researched actively today. The issues of trust and bias will not be discussed at length here as they are worthy of more extensive discussions. The discussion of machines replacing humans in the work force is not always based on observed facts but more from apprehension and more recently is taking on political overtones.

However, industry and academia are making great strides in understanding the basis for the fear. There has been a big shift in how intelligent machines are being touted. It has gone from machines mimicking human function to machines helping humans do more. This shift in perspective is very important as it represents how these machines will be used in real life applications thus helping reduce anxiety in the work force. Many centers have emerged across the globe that talk about machines and humans working together to excel in a task.

One such center is at Stanford and is called the Institute for Human Centered AI (https://hai.stanford.edu/). Per this website, this center helps with understanding and guiding the human and societal impact of AI, augmenting human capabilities, and developing AI technologies inspired by human intelligence. These projects promise to play a significant role in defining future work in AI from academia to industry, government, healthcare, and civil society.

The issues of trust and bias will turn out to be pivotal in real-life applications as they will have even more far-reaching implications on our lives. The trust vector has to do with the fact that neural networks cannot easily explain how a decision or inference was made.  In certain applications like in health care where AI tools can be used to help doctors make better decisions, there will be limited acceptance if the doctor cannot see the decision-making rationale. The bias topic is even more scary because the machines are trained with extensive amounts of past data and if the data were biased then the results will be too. The more humans are involved in training the machines the harder it is to eliminate bias.

In summary, AI has a great promise of augmenting human capability. With that will come whole new fields of education and job opportunities. The issues of trust and bias will be addressed over time to allay our fears. (Spike Narayan is a seasoned hi-tech executive managing exploratory research in science and technology at IBM)

Artificial Intelligence Can Predict The Future Of The Earth

Newswise — AI offers additional possibilities, greater accuracy for climate models. Computer simulations that scientists use to understand the evolution of the Earth’s climate offer a wealth of information to public officials and corporations planning for the future. However, climate models — no matter how complex or computationally intensive — do contain some degree of uncertainty. Addressing this uncertainty is proving increasingly important as decision makers are asking more complex questions and looking to smaller scales.

To improve climate simulations, scientists are looking to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has offered profound insights in fields from materials science to manufacturing, and climate researchers are excited to explore how AI can be used to revolutionize how the Earth system, and especially its water cycle, can be simulated in order to dramatically improve our understanding and representation of the real world.  In particular, AI offers the potential to dramatically increase the accuracy of predictions down to the scales of interest to scientists, and even stakeholders focused on designing, financing and deploying equitable climate solutions to America’s most disadvantaged communities.

Motivated by this opportunity, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a comprehensive workshop: Artificial Intelligence for Earth System Predictability (AI4ESP). After the collection of more than 150 white papers from the scientific community, AI4ESP is kicking into high gear by hosting a workshop beginning October 25. The workshop will include 17 sessions over a six-week period designed to create a new scientific community that marries climate research with artificial intelligence, applied math and supercomputing.

“Earth system predictability refers to the intersection of climate with hydrology, ecology, infrastructure and human activities,” said Nicki Hickmon, an Argonne scientist, director of operations for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility and the lead for the AI4ESP workshop.

By linking researchers in Earth system predictability and computer sciences, AI4ESP seeks to create a paradigm shift in simulating the Earth system. AI4ESP seeks to inspire a new generation of AI algorithms specifically aimed at Earth system predictability.

According to Hickmon, continuous improvements will enhance the ability of current simulations to provide deeper insights into community-scale issues and those involving extreme weather, potentially allowing stakeholders a better grasp of the uncertainties that surround such events.

“AI for climate is still in its infancy,” said Hickmon. ​“However, it is still essential that we explore the potential of AI to see how it can better inform our models and prepare us for the future.”

Click here to see the agenda and register for the workshop, which will open with an address by Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk. The public is welcome to attend any of the open sessions. Some components of the workshop are invitation-only in order to gather the required materials for the workshop report.

The workshop is sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience

The Golden Temple Goes Solar Powered

With the financial assistance of the US-based United Sikh Mission, a 525 KW capacity solar power plant was commissioned in the holiest of Sikh shrines, Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, in Amritsar on Tuesday.

“Our mission is to ensure clean power supply round the clock at Sri Darbar Sahib, saving 33 per cent of its annual electricity bill,” United Sikh Mission President Rashpal Singh Dhindsa told the media here.

He said this was an effort towards sustainability and reducing global warming that would help save 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (C02) emission.

The work was completed in five months. Expressing gratitude to the United Sikh Mission, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Bibi Jagir Kaur said that a 78 KW solar power plant would be installed soon in Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh and 700 KW in Gurdwara Bir Baba Budha Sahib.

Noting that the monthly electricity budget of Darbar Sahib is around Rs 50-60 lakh, she urged the global Sikh community to contribute towards the initiative of empowering Darbar Sahib with renewable energy.

The Golden Temple Amritsar India (Sri Harimandir Sahib Amritsar) is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of cast, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory and heritage of the Sikhs.

As advised by Sri Guru Amar Dass Ji (3rd Sikh Guru), Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji (4th Sikh Guru) started the digging of Amrit Sarovar (Holy Tank) of Sri Harmandir Sahib in 1577 A.D., which was later on brick-lined by Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (5th Sikh Guru) on December 15, 1588 and He also started the construction of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib (scripture of the Sikhs), after its compilation, was first installed at Sri Harmandir Sahib on August 16, 1604 A.D. A devout Sikh, Baba Budha Ji was appointed its first Head Priest.

Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Sri Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating for English speaking world), is named after Hari (God) the temple of God. The Sikhs all over the world, daily wish to pay visit to Sri Amritsar and to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandir Sahib in their Ardas.

Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier the planning to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Nanak, but it was executed by Guru Ramdas Sahib under the supervision of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The work on both projects completed in 1577 A.D.

The shrine has a unique Sikh architecture. Built at a level lower than the surrounding land level, The Gurudwara teaches the lesson of egalitarianism and humility. The four entrances of this holy shrine from all four directions, signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.

APPLE Showcases Women Techies Of Indian Origin On World Stage

It was Indian-origin women techies’ turn to take the centre-stage as Apple unveiled its next line-up of products, including an all-powerful MacBook Pro with new M1 chips, next-generation AirPods and other products and services.

After Apple CEO Tim Cook set the tone late on Monday, Susmita Dutta who is engineering program manager for SoC (system-on-chip) for audio products, introduced the next-generation AirPods, featuring spatial audio, industry-leading sound, longer battery life and an all-new design during the ‘Unleashed’ event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Dutta joined Apple nearly four years ago as system test design lead, before being elevated as audio engineering program manager. She earlier worked at GE Healthcare for more than seven years as lead system designer (ABUS Ultrasound) in California.

A Madras University graduate in engineering, Dutta now has more than 16 years of system and hardware engineering experience, specifically in systems engineering methodology, test design and mass production of low and high-volume products.

After next-gen AirPods was the turn of new and all-powerful MacBook Pro with next-gen M1 chips, and Shruti Haldea from the Mac team joined the stage with top company executives, taking the audience through the machine meant for developers, filmmakers, creators and innovators.

Working at Apple for more than 12 years, Haldea joined the tech giant as global supply manager and became product line manager for Pro Mac in 2019. An MBA from Harvard Business School, she introduced the world to game-changing MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max that deliver extraordinary performance and battery life, and features the world’s best notebook display.

The new MacBook Pro features a stunning Liquid Retina XDR display, a wide range of ports for advanced connectivity, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and the best audio system in a notebook. Combined with macOS Monterey, which is engineered down to its core to take full advantage of M1 Pro and M1 Max, the user experience is simply unrivaled for developers, photographers, filmmakers, 3D artists, scientists and music producers.

In April 2021, Apple’s ‘Spring Loaded’ event saw Navpreet Kaloty, a dashing Sikh, who mesmerized the audience with his iMac presentation. A Bachelor of Applied Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Waterloo in the US, Kaloty looks after Mac architecture as an engineering program manager at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. He interned for some time with the product management team for operational excellence at electric car maker Tesla.

Design Thinking And User Experience Design For Innovation Highlighted At ASEI’s Design Summit

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) convened a Design Summit with several academics, authors, speakers and practitioners covering innovation in Design from multiple perspectives on October 9th, 2021.

After a brief introduction to the organization by ASEI executive council member Vatsala Upadhyay, and a tribute to design maestro Steve Jobs marking the 10th anniversary of his passing, ASEI President Piyush Malik shared his forward-thinking views on Design based on his field experiences and learnings working with nimble Silicon Valley startups as well as fortune 500 corporations around the globe. These opening remarks centered around the importance of Design as a discipline and Design Thinking methodologies adapted from IDEO, Stanford’s d.school and IBM’s enterprise design thinking approach a.k.a  IBM Garage, which is an end-to-end model for accelerating digital transformation.

The keynote speaker Prof Sanjay Gupta who is the founder and Vice Chancellor of World University of Design (WUD) shared his vision illustrating the difference between User Interface (UI) and User Experience Design (UXD). He also spoke about applications of emerging concepts such as AR/VR (augmented reality /virtual reality) and innovation in design in his talk titled “Importance of design for engineers” based on his many decades of multidisciplinary design experience across Engineering, Architecture, Fashion and Academics.

Engaging Dr Gupta in a fireside chat following this address, Piyush shared some industry trends based on analyst reports and they discussed the impact of design on creator economy with NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens), Blockchain, AR/VR, etc. Dr Gupta acknowledged the ASEI community and shared the impact WUD has had in its nascent life since inception and cited the importance of partnerships with industry bodies including Assocham, CII and now ASEI to expand its sphere of influence.

Dolly Parikh, Founder and CEO of Aloki Labs, a boutique design studio in California traced her inspiration to the 1977 film “Power Of 10” and shared learnings from her UX Strategy and Design career across companies such as Apple, Verisign, Expedia, Intuit, Medallia, Aviso, Automation Anywhere, InfoStretch, ARM and MindTickle.

UX Architect Noah Iliinsky, a popular speaker and author of 2 O’Reilly books on visualization enthralled the audience with his data storytelling approach and emphasized the 4 pillars of effective design viz. purpose, content, structure and formatting. His versatile technique can be applied to not only data visualization but all forms of communications. The illustrations of data in tables versus charts and graphs and when to choose pie versus line versus bar graphs were eye opening.

In the next section of the Design Summit focusing on career guidance, Sabira Gupta who is a Software engineer turned Principal UX Designer at Informatica shared her tips for those transitioning into Design careers. She showcased formatting as well as language do‘s and don’ts to inspire the budding designers aspiring for new opportunities  amongst the audience.

Veteran designer Ches Wadja spoke on “Intuition, humility and collaboration in service of design innovation”. Sharing personal stories from his time at Expedia as the design head to being the first designer when LinkedIn was a year old startup, Ches mesmerised the attendees with the captivating story of power of being open to ideas and how being agile  and scrapy enabled his seemingly small effort to show marked improvement in Linkedin’s adoption by the masses.The legendary designer also happened to be the first designer at Youtube (which was later acquired by Google) and his designed logo is still used by the company after all these years. It was indeed a pleasure to watch his serene and calm persona field questions from the audience after the newly minted designer Shrinal Patel showcased her portfolio and sought feedback from experienced professionals Sabira and Ches to critique as well as give suggestions for improving candidate portfolio presentations.

Shrinali  then moderated the brief panel discussion with speakers after which Surbhi Kaul acknowledged all volunteers  and proposed the vote of thanks to the speakers. Surbhi, a Vice President at Juniper Networks was a speaker at ASEI’s 33rd National Convention and is an ASEI Life Member who serves on the Silicon Valley chapter board. She also gave a “heads-up” & call for volunteers as well as next year’s board member nominations across all 5 professional chapters.

The moderated Q&A session then “graduated” to social audio Clubhouse room “Engineering Tales”, where the event continued with a few of the Design summit speakers. It included more non-ASEI members too, all of whom were given a chance to interact with speakers of this Summit. John Rodriges moderated the session, sharing his experiences as a UX designer with Citigroup and past jobs. The quality of conversations there once again proved the value of this topic and popularity of design as a discipline amongst techies as well as non -technical folks.

The Design Summit showed the attendees the depth of Design experience and thought leadership amongst ASEI community members and gave a glimpse of the richness of its collaborations with national and international professional bodies.

As is evident from recent activities  and newsletters, ASEI has had an action packed 2021 so far with a large number of educational and networking opportunities  and new programmes such as MentorConnect, UniversityConnect and Youth Programs to serve its members’ interests and inspire the next generation of engineers and technologists amongst the diaspora.

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement, community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals, students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guided by several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, and transparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships, and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization  has active professional chapters in Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Washington, DC and  more student chapters in universities across the US. For more information, or to join this professional body, visit: www.aseiusa.org

Astronaut Raja Chari Led Crew-3 Mission To Launch On Oct 31

Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari is in the thick of training for a mission to space launching at the end of October. Chari, for whom it will be the first space flight, will be the Commander of the SpaceX Crew 3 flight which is scheduled to take off for the International Space Station for a long stay in space, NASA announced in a press release Sept. 14, 2021. The crew will complete a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory in low-Earth orbit.

The Crew-3 mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This will be the third time that SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket will carry astronauts to the International Space Station for a long duration mission.

The Crew-3 mission will launch NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander, Tom Marshburn, pilot, and Kayla Barron, mission specialist, along with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist in microgravity.

The four astronauts will hitch a ride on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket strapped into the Dragon capsule from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The four-member crew will be on a long-duration mission in space.

Nasa said that the Crew-3 astronauts plan to arrive at the station to overlap with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s Crew-2 mission in April 2021. The earliest targeted launch date is Sunday, Oct. 31, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said.

Chari was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class and reported for duty in August 2017. An Iowa native, Chari graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautically engineering and engineering science.

He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He also logged more than 2,500 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16, and F-18, according to the profile provided by NASA.

TiECON East Hosts a Successful In-Person Business Conference

TiECON East, the largest entrepreneurial conference in New England, broke the COVID-19 pandemic spell in Boston and successfully held a day-long in-person conference, which attracted over 50 speakers and was attended by about 400 people.

TiECON East, which is organized by TiE Boston, was be held in-person on Oct. 1 at the Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA. All attendees were required to be fully vaccinated and to fully adher to the CDC health guidelines. Major sponsors of the conference included Amazon, Microsoft, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Arent Fox, Converge, Sittercity, Innospark, Thread Research, Progress and Embark.

“Holding an in-person TiECON 2021 was challenging due to COVID-19, but many thanks to our sponsors, speaker, attendees and volunteers who made this conference a huge success,” said Sanjay Jain, Co-Chair of TiECON East. “We were sold out one day prior due to our speakers line-up and safety protocol.” Kiran Uppuluri, Chair of TiECON East and Founder and CEO of verteXD, said the success of the conference was the result of six months of immense work by the team and a labor of love.

“We applied our proven SCE Framework (Copyright verteXD) outline that takes a Human-centered design approach to the conference, and seeing it come to life felt great,” said Ms. Uppuluri. “We squarely focused the design on the customer facing the new reality – i.e. the Post-Pandemic world.” She said the outcome was: a sold out conference, fantastic sponsors, a wrapped audience for the entire day, and a series of “aha” moments hearing from 55 thought leaders and innovation experts presenting never before seen or heard content. “Safety was paramount and we thank all our attendees for adhering to the policies we put in place,” said Ms. Uppuluri.

Anu Chitrapu, President of TiEBoston, the organizer of TiECON East 2021, said the conference was hugely successful. Prasad is Senior Vice President and Head Scientist at Amazon Alexa, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) service that powers Amazon’s family of Echo products, Amazon Fire TV, and third-party products. He leads research and development (R&D) in AI technologies aimed at making interaction with Alexa a magical experience for customers.

Shetty is Co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. Spun out of MIT, Ginkgo’s mission is to make biology easier to engineer. Started in a Cambridge, MA, apartment, Ms. Shetty has helped to grow the company to over 500 people. Ginkgo’s cell programming platform is enabling the growth of biotechnology across diverse markets, from food to agriculture to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo is also actively supporting a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including community testing, epidemiological tracing, vaccine manufacturing and therapeutics discovery.

“Safety was paramount in the conference. Only 100% vaccinated people were allowed to attend. In fact, we had to decline some attendees and speakers who could not comply with this requirement,” said Ms. Chitrapu. “Our swag bag had a pack of 5 Anti-Viral masks so attendees could change their masks as needed and individual hand sanitizer bottles. It was this attention to safety that gave our attendees confidence.”

Do You Know The Number Of Nuclear Weapons In US Stockpile?

In a reversal from the Trump administration, the State Department revealed the number of nuclear weapons in the US stockpile for the first time in four years on Tuesday. The US has 3,750 nuclear warheads in its stockpile and 2,000 are waiting to be dismantled, according to a release from the State Department, which emphasized the importance of transparency.

The release of the “Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile” fact sheet comes as the Biden administration is conducting a review of its nuclear weapons policy and capabilities ahead of a 2022 meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, where the US and other nuclear powers who are party to the Treaty will review each signatory’s disarmament commitments. “Increasing the transparency of states’ nuclear stockpiles is important to nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, including commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and efforts to address all types of nuclear weapons, including deployed and non-deployed, and strategic and non-strategic,” the State Department said.

Arms control experts welcomed the announcement. “The Biden administration’s decision to declassify updated information on the number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal is a welcome step that reverses an unwise decision by the Trump administration to classify this information,” the Arms Control Association said in a statement Wednesday. “It also puts pressure on other nuclear armed states that maintain excessive secrecy about their arsenals.”

The ACA noted that “progress toward serious nuclear weapons stockpile reductions have stalled in recent years, and some states, particularly China and Russia, appear to be increasing the size and/or diversity of their arsenals.” Daryl Kimball, the ACA’s executive director, told CNN that Wednesday’s announcement could put pressure on Russia and China to be more forthcoming about their stockpiles. The Biden administration hopes to pursue further talks with Moscow to reach new agreements that supersede the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START. “To do that we need the Russians to be a little bit more transparent than they are,” Kimball said.

The Chinese also “need to provide some basic information, which they have as a matter of their own policies through the decades, not provided.” ‘Strong, credible deterrent’ “So what the Biden administration is trying to do here is lead by example,” Kimball said, “put some pressure on the other major nuclear armed countries to be more forthcoming about the nuclear weapons they have.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden said that the US doesn’t need new nuclear weapons and that his “administration will work to maintain a strong, credible deterrent while reducing our reliance and excessive expenditure on nuclear weapons.”

After Biden’s first budget request, however, critics rapped the President for proposing to continue all parts of the spending plans left by the Trump administration, including “the controversial additions made by President Trump to the Obama-era program, such as additional, more usable lower-yield nuclear capabilities,” the ACA said.

The ACA called Biden’s budget request inconsistent with his “stated desire to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy and seek new risk reduction and arms control arrangements with Russia and perhaps China.” In Tuesday’s release, the State Department said there are 3,750 nuclear warheads in the US nuclear stockpile as of September 2020, an 88 percent decrease from its maximum number of 31,255 in 1967, according to the department.

The US also dismantled 11,683 nuclear warheads from 1994 to 2020, including 711 nuclear warheads since September 30, 2017. Two thousand nuclear warheads are retired and waiting to be dismantled, the department also said. In 2010, the Obama administration revealed the US had 5,113 nuclear warheads in the stockpile as of September 30, 2009. According to data released in 2015, the US had 4,717 nuclear warheads in the stockpile as of September 2014.

Making Self-Driving Cars Human-Friendly

Newswise — Automated vehicles could be made more pedestrian-friendly thanks to new research which could help them predict when people will cross the road.  University of Leeds-led scientists investigating how to better understand human behavior in traffic say that neuroscientific theories of how the brain makes decisions can be used in automated vehicle technology to improve safety and make them more human-friendly.

The researchers set out to determine whether a decision-making model called drift diffusion could predict when pedestrians would cross a road in front of approaching cars, and whether it could be used in scenarios where the car gives way to the pedestrian, either with or without explicit signals. This prediction capability will allow the autonomous vehicle to communicate more effectively with pedestrians, in terms of its movements in traffic and any external signals such as flashing lights, to maximise traffic flow and decrease uncertainty.

Drift diffusion models assume that people reach decisions after accumulation of sensory evidence up to a threshold at which the decision is made.  Professor Gustav Markkula, from the University of Leeds’ Institute for Transport Studies and the senior author of the study, said: “When making the decision to cross, pedestrians seem to be adding up lots of different sources of evidence, not only relating to the vehicle’s distance and speed, but also using communicative cues from the vehicle in terms of deceleration and headlight flashes.

“When a vehicle is giving way, pedestrians will often feel quite uncertain about whether the car is actually yielding, and will often end up waiting until the car has almost come to a full stop before starting to cross. Our model clearly shows this state of uncertainty borne out, meaning it can be used to help design how automated vehicles behave around pedestrians in order to limit uncertainty, which in turn can improve both traffic safety and traffic flow.  “It is exciting to see that these theories from cognitive neuroscience can be brought into this type of real-world context and find an applied use.”

To test their model, the team used virtual reality to place trial participants in different road-crossing scenarios in the University of Leeds’ unique HIKER (Highly Immersive Kinematic Experimental Research) pedestrian simulator. Study participants’ movements were tracked in high detail while walking freely inside a stereoscopic 3D virtual scene, showing a road with oncoming vehicles. The participants’ task was to cross the road as soon as they felt safe to do so.  Different scenarios were tested, with the approaching vehicle either maintaining the same speed or decelerating to let the pedestrian cross, sometimes also flashing the headlights, representing a commonly used signal for yielding intentions in the UK.

As predicted by their model, the researchers found that participants behaved as if they were deciding on when to cross by adding up, over time, the sensory data from vehicle distance, speed, acceleration, as well as communicative cues. This meant that their drift diffusion model could predict if, and when, pedestrians would be likely to begin crossing the road.  Professor Markkula said: “These findings can help provide a better understanding of human behaviour in traffic, which is needed both to improve traffic safety and to develop automated vehicles that can coexist with human road users.   “Safe and human-acceptable interaction with pedestrians is a major challenge for developers of automated vehicles, and a better understanding of how pedestrians behave will be key to enable this.”

Lead author Dr Jami Pekkanen, who carried out the research while at the University of Leeds, said: “Predicting pedestrian decisions and uncertainty can be used to optimise when, and how, the vehicle should decelerate and signal to communicate that it’s safe to cross, saving time and effort for both.”  The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 38,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University plays a significant role in the Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Royce Institutes.

Are You Addicted To Technology?

Newswise — During the COVID-19 shutdown, many people increasingly turned to technology for entertainment and information, a trend that raises concerns about an increase in technology addiction.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 30 percent of Americans are almost constantly online, and health officials are concerned about the amount of time children and adults spend with technology. China recently banned children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, internet addiction centers have been opening in the United States and Facebook has come under fire for teenagers’ obsessive use of its Instagram app.

“There is functional, healthy engagement with technology – ubiquitous and necessary in our everyday lives – and addictive use, and it can be difficult to know when that line has been crossed,” says Petros Levounis, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, associate dean at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and author of Technological Addictions. “However, while obsessive use of technology may signal an addiction, it could otherwise be a sign of another mental health disorder.”

What does it mean to be addicted to technology?
While the majority of people who use technology will not have any problems – indeed, there are professional and recreational benefits from using electronics – a small percentage could develop an addiction and suffer consequences similar to that from substance abuse. In fact, studies have shown that as internet addiction worsens, so does the probability of developing a substance use disorder.

Using technology can become an obsession. People start engaging activities like online gaming, internet auctions, surfing the Net, social media, texting or cybersex and get caught up in the excitement. Soon, the focus shifts from generating feelings of pleasure and reward to being an activity they do to avoid feeling anxious, irritable or miserable.

How has the COVID-19 shutdown contributed to technology addiction?
We have noticed emerging addictions. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersex has increased, with online dating apps, text chats and online pornography. Internet gaming, too, has exploded. One of the most concerning aspects with online gaming is that companies are now using psychology labs to maximize the effectiveness of their products in a way that is highly reminiscent of how the tobacco companies employed chemists to maximize their products’ addictiveness.

How do people know they’re addicted?
The two major red flags are: continued use of technology despite the knowledge of adverse consequences – people say “I know it’s bad for me, but I have to keep doing it” – and lying to people who are important to you about the frequency of the activity.

If you suspect you or someone you love is addicted to technology, what can you do?
Do not try to get the person into a rehab to be “cured.” Find a psychiatrist, preferably one who specializes in addiction, who can evaluate the person for a variety of disorders. The person might have depression, anxiety or a more serious psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which is masquerading as a technological addiction.

How can parents help their children to use technology wisely?
Parents need to be good role models and be consistent in setting rules. For example, it is not okay for parents to declare that dinner time is a “cell phone free” time and then proceed to check emails during meals. If parents take technology out of their children’s bedrooms to promote good sleep hygiene, they should abide by these rules as well.

India’s Digital Health ID And You

The newly launched Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will involve a unique health ID for every citizen. How will it help you get treatment at hospitals across the country, and how can you register?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), saying it has the “potential of bringing a revolutionary change in India’s healthcare facilities”. The flagship digital initiative involves the creation of not just a unique health ID for ever

What is the unique health ID, and how does one get it?

If a person wants to be part of the ABDM, she must create a health ID, which is a randomly generated 14-digit number. The ID will be broadly used for three purposes: unique identification, authentication, and threading of the beneficiary’s health records, only with their informed consent, across multiple systems and stakeholders.

One can get a health ID by self-registration on the portal or by downloading the ABMD Health Records app on one’s mobile. Additionally, one can also request the creation of a health ID at a participating health facility, which may include government or private hospitals, community health centres, and wellness centres of the government across India.

he beneficiary will also have to set up a Personal Health Records (PHR) address for consent management, and for future sharing of health records. It is a simple self-declared username, which the beneficiary is required to sign into a Health Information Exchange and Consent Manager (HIE-CM). Each health ID will require linkage to a consent manager to enable sharing of health records data.

An HIE-CM is an application that enables sharing and linking of personal health records for a user. At present, one can use the health ID to sign up on the HIE-CM; the National Health Authority (NHA), however, says multiple consent managers are likely to be available for patients to choose from in the near future.

urrently, ABDM supports health ID creation via mobile or Aadhaar. The official website states that ABDM will soon roll out features that will support health ID creation with a PAN card or a driving licence. For health ID creation through mobile or Aadhaar, the beneficiary will be asked to share details on name, year of birth, gender, address, mobile number/Aadhaar.

Is Aadhaar mandatory?

No, it is voluntary. One can use one’s mobile number for registration, without Aadhaar.

Can I use my Aadhaar number if it is not linked to my mobile number?

If the beneficiary chooses the option of using her Aadhaar number, an OTP will be sent to the mobile number linked to the Aadhaar. However, if she has not linked it to her mobile, the beneficiary has to visit the nearest facility and opt for biometric authentication using Aadhaar number. After successful authentication, she will get her health ID at the participating facility.

Are personal health records secure?

The NHA says ABDM does not store any of the beneficiary health records. The records are stored with healthcare information providers as per their “retention policies”, and are “shared” over the ABDM network “with encryption mechanisms” only after the beneficiary express consent.

Can I delete my health ID and exit the platform?

Yes, the NHA says ABDM, supports such a feature. Two options are available: a user can permanently delete or temporarily deactivate her health ID.

On deletion, the unique health ID will be permanently deleted, along with all demographic details. The beneficiary will not be able to retrieve any information tagged to that health ID in the future, and will never be able to access ABDM applications or any health records over the ABDM network with the deleted ID.

On deactivation, the beneficiary will lose access to all ABDM applications only for the period of deactivation. Until she reactivates her health ID, she will not be able to share the ID at any health facility or share health records over the ABDM network.

Nita Patel Elected President of IEEE Computer Society

Nita Patel, P.E, senior director at the Engineering Lead Design Center-Farmington at Otis, an IEEE Foundation director, and a mentor for several IEEE Women in Engineering summits, has been elected president of The IEEE Computer Society  for 2023. The Indian American engineer is active with multiple IEEE CS committees, the IEEE Industry Engagement Committee, several IEEE Women in Engineering committees, and the IEEE New Hampshire executive committee, according to a press release. She will serve as the 2023 IEEE CS president for a one-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The president oversees IEEE CS programs and operations.

Patel garnered 3,277 votes, compared with 1,791 votes cast for Dimitrios Serpanos, who is a professor at the University of Patras and the president of the Computer Technology Institute, Greece, added the release. Patel leads a critical part of Otis’ global engineering development, providing a wide range of new product capabilities in connected, smart, IoT-based platforms. She was previously with L3Harris where she was senior director, engineering, and led multi-disciplinary, embedded-software design teams in innovative research and new product development, for which she was recognized for significant technical contributions as 2014 L3 Engineer of the Year and 2011 New Hampshire Engineer of the Year.

Patel has served as 1st vice president of the Computer Society, served a three-year term on the Computer Society Board of Governors, founded and led the first five years of the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference, served as Women in Engineering International Chair for which she received the 2014 Larry K Wilson Transnational Award for distinguished contributions to IEEE global activities, served on the Eta Kappa Nu Board of Governors and was IEEE-USA VP of Communications and Public Awareness, according to the release.

Outside of IEEE, she is an active leader within Toastmasters International and the United States Chess Federation. Patel received her MS degree in computer engineering, BS in electrical engineering and BS in mathematics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Patel noted in her campaign statement that she plans to focus on the following: Nurturing membership growth through conferences, standards and services; Providing access to critical technology to our members through leading publications, continuing education, and energized Technical Communities; Optimizing chapter activities worldwide to expand and strengthen communities within the Computer Society by sharing best practices, by encouraging opportunities to get involved and by developing future leaders; and Increasing volunteer impact by evaluating our tools, processes, and services to make them as simple, relevant and accessible as possible, by developing student and early-career professionals and by expanding the inclusiveness of our volunteer teams.

In other news, Saurabh Bagchi of Purdue University was elected a member of the Board of Governors. The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s home for computer science, engineering, and technology, it said. A global leader in providing access to computer science research, analysis, and information, the IEEE Computer Society offers a comprehensive array of unmatched products, services, and opportunities for individuals at all stages of their professional careers. Known as the premier organization that empowers the people who drive technology, the IEEE Computer Society offers international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a unique digital library, and training programs.

AAEIO Inaugural Gala Held In Chicago

American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO) organized its inaugural gala to celebrate its official launch on September 26, 2021 at Marriott, Oakbrook IL. The gala featured the introduction of the newly elected board of directors and the address by the distinguished guests.

 

The event started with national Anthems and lamp lighting followed by the inaugural dance performance by the students of SR Dance Academy. The master of ceremony Madhura Sane kickstarted the event by welcoming all the board of directors and the distinguished guest on to the stage. The  President Gladson Varghese delivered his speech to elaborate on the vision behind the initiative of launching AAEIO. He talked about how the organization aims at supporting engineers across the globe by providing them a voice and guidance by the experienced leadership of the organization. Vice President Nitin Maheshweri presented the Vision and 4 pillars of the organization. Chief Guest Consul General of India Mr. Amit Kumar along with Congressman Sean Casten officially Inaugurated the AAEIO  by lighting the Lamp. AAEIO also presented the awards to Dr. Deepak Kant Vyas, Mr. Gulzar Singh and Mr. Brij Sharma for their contributionsto the community and becoming successful Engineering Entrepreneurs. 

 

Redberry CEO Dr. Deepak Kant Vyas Talked about the Business Incubator project AAEIO Launching along with T-Hub and the role of AAEIO in acting as incubator for the start-up companies to provide them the support that they need. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi along with Consul General of India Mr. Amit Kumar. Founding President Gladson Varghese, Associate dean of Kellogg Mr. Mohanbir Sawhney, Vice President Nitin Maheshweri  cut the ribbon and officially Inaugurated Business Incubator program of AAEIO.  AAEIO will also be planning to organize a summit for all the start up companies in the near future. 

 

Board of Director, Sanjjeev Singh presented a vote of thanks to all the sponsors, supporters and the distinguished guests who attended the event. The elected officials and other special guests and directors included Congressman Sean Casten, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, State Senator Laura Murphy, Consul General, India, Chicago Mr Amit Kumar, CEO Redberri Corporation Mr Deepak Kant Vyas, CEO Powervolt Brij Sharma, Kellog school of Management Associate dean Dr. Mohanbir Sawhney,Trustee Village of Oakbrook Dr. Suresh Reddy, Alderwoman, City of Aurora Shweta Baid. Members of other community organizations also attended the event to extend their support to AAEIO.   

 

Dr. Mohanbir Sawhney, Associate Dean, (Northwestern University, Kellogg) delivered an inspirational and informative keynote speech elaborating on his experience and the roles and future of organizations like AAEIO. The speech by the Vice President 2021 Nitin Maheshwari included the plans for the upcoming initiatives taken by AAEIO and how the organization aims at supporting small businesses, fresh graduates as well as the fellow engineers from all across the globe. The president elect 2021 Ajit Pant talked about how AAEIO will act as an umbrella organization for the engineers from all streams of engineering like civil, mechanical, IT, electronics, Electrical and so on. Nag Jaiswal did the Vote of Thanks and he thanked all the sponsors, Dignitaries, AAEO Board and all the Guests for their help and support. 

 

Consul General Amit Kumar attended the formal launch of the American Association of Engineers of Indian origin (AAEIO) in Chicago on 26 September 2021.  In his remarks, CG welcomed the formation of AAEIO noting that the organization would provide a valuable platform for professional networking among engineers and noted the ambitious objectives that the organization has set for mentoring, education and entrepreneurship support including in India. 

 

CG Kumar also briefed the participants on the successful visit of PM Narendra Modi to the US.  He referred to the synergies in some of the priorities set by two governments and the focus areas identified by AAEIO.  He said that the Consulate would look forward to possible joint activities with them in the future.  Other board of directors present at the gala to were Abhishek Jain (Treasurer), Murugesh Kasilingam, Vinoz Chanamolu, Rajinder Bir Singh Mago, Nag Jaiswal, Vijay Kaul, Gordhan Patel, Anaya Vardya, Sanjjeev Singh, Neil Khot, Madhura Sane and Gulzar Singh.

Whatsapp CEO Says, India’s New IT Guidelines Are Regressive

As India tightens its stand on the social media platforms, Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp’s CEO Will Cathcart has said that the Indian government’s IT Rules of 2021 undermines the security of the users that the end-to-end encryption provides. In an interview with the US-based news portal Verge, when asked about the new Indian IT guidelines 2021, Cathcart said that if someone comes to WhatsApp and asks to find the originator of a specific text, then it is no longer private.

“With the IT rules in India, the specific thing those rules would require is us to build some system [to comply] if someone comes to us and says ‘Hey, someone said the words ‘XYZ.’ Tell us who the first person who said the words XYZ.” That’s not private. And it undermines the security that end-to-end encryption provides,” Cathcart emphasized. He added, “I think 10 years from now, even more of our lives will be online. Even more of our sensitive data will be online. There will be even more sophisticated hackers, spyware companies, hostile governments, criminals trying to get access to it. And not having the best security means that information is stolen. I think that has real consequences for free society.”

The WhatsApp CEO further added that at present, India is asking to find the first originator of the text, tomorrow some other country wants to push for it as well. “The more some countries see other countries do it, or push for it, the more they want to push for it, too,” he continued. The center of the issue is that as per the new IT guidelines, messaging platforms with more than a 5million user base in India need to enable the identification of the first originator of the information. The Indian government has said that the information will only be required for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offense related to sovereignty and integrity of India, and others.

However, WhatsApp has sued the government alleging that WhatsApp texts are end-to-end encrypted and in order to identify the originator of a particular text, it has to break encryption for those who have sent and received messages. Back then, WhatsApp called it a threat to privacy. In the last hearing of the matter, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the central government on WhatsApp plea challenging the traceability of the first originator of a message. On August 27, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for WhatsApp had asked the division bench of Delhi chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh to issue a notice to the Centre allowing the central government to file a response to the social messaging platform’s plea.

Complying with the new IT guidelines, WhatsApp in its latest compliance report revealed that it banned around 3 Mn Indian accounts between June 16 to July 31. WhatsApp has time and again been mired up in controversy in the country. The year started with a privacy policy update that allegedly allowed WhatsApp to share data to its parent company Facebook. The company faced severe criticism across the globe for this update and several governments including India asked the messaging platform to roll back the update, and the platform had to defer the rollout of the privacy policy update. However, the company clarified that the contentious policy update will look to address data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook business accounts and nothing will change for personal chats.

Facial Recognition Expanded In India While Concerns Over Lack Of Law Protecting Data Grows

Recently across some of India’s busiest airports and train stations, facial recognition technology (FRT) software systems are being hooked up with a progressively spreading network of closed-circuit cameras by multiple state-owned agencies to pan through databases of photos to identify people on a real-time basis. The systems seek to achieve a range of objectives: better identification of criminals, law enforcement use at railway stations, passenger check-ins at airports, biometric attendance at companies, and even student authentication mechanisms. Across some of India’s busiest airports and train stations, facial recognition technology (FRT) software systems are being hooked up with a progressively spreading network of closed-circuit cameras by multiple state-owned agencies to pan though databases of photos to identify people on a real-time basis.

The growing list of users of this technology, which started with the Home Ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and various police forces, now includes the Airports Authority of India, the Indian Railways, public sector utilities, and the state-owned agency mandated to issue a unique identity to all residents of India. FRT software vendors include both domestic firms and global companies. The systems seek to achieve a range of objectives: better identification of criminals, law enforcement use at railway stations, passenger check-ins at airports, biometric attendance at companies, and even student authentication mechanisms. To enhance safety and security, various authorities have installed CCTV cameras in public places. However, once a database of images is consolidated, procurement of facial recognition technology fed with this data shifts the goalpost for citizens in terms of privacy. Experts have called for data privacy laws. FRT systems are in the process of being deployed at airports in Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune, Vijayawada, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad as part of a trial under the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s Digi Yatra initiative.

For four of these airports — Kolkata, Varanasi, Pune and Vijayawada — that are managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Japanese electronics company NEC has been roped in for the implementation. The project is expected to start by the end of this year. AAI said it is currently testing the solution at Varanasi airport. “The solution is designed as per prevailing industry standards with respect to data security & privacy. The consent of the user is taken before the biometrics are captured as part of the enrolment process to Digi Yatra program,” an AAI spokesperson said. As part of a broader Indian Railways plan to install facial recognition tech at railway stations to “identify criminals”, Western Railway has commissioned 470 video cameras featuring real-time FRT developed by the Russian video analytics firm NtechLab, which has been certified by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), a technical adviser and consultant to the Indian Railways.

The camera system, which is said to ensure simultaneous recognition of up to 50 people in a single frame, will be used on the busiest section of the network. The video analytics system can be used to “shape strategy” by counting passenger traffic on the network at any given time, alongside the stated objective of “identifying criminals” and “searching for missing persons”, according to the systems vendor. “Our video analytics technology employs high-precision, real-time face recognition mode, in the video stream. Images are compared with a database of wanted individuals. If there is a match, it notifies law enforcement immediately. The entire process, from the appearance of the person in front of a camera to law enforcement receiving a signal, takes less than three seconds. This enables a fast response to situations as they develop,” according to Andrei Telenkov, CEO of NtechLab.

The NCRB, which compiles crime statistics and maintains a database, is deploying “an automatic FRT system” aimed at facilitating “better identification of criminals, unidentified dead bodies & missing/found children and persons”. The Home Ministry has said that the automatic FRT system will use “police records and will be accessible only to Law Enforcement Agencies”. However, in March 2018, the Delhi Police, which comes under the Home Ministry, acquired an automated facial recognition software as a tool to identify lost boys and girls by matching photos, the data from which are learnt to have been subsequently fed into the automated facial recognition system to identify people who repeatedly turned up at protests, and who were photographed during the riots of last year. The software deployed by Delhi Police is learnt to have been supplied by the Delhi-based tech company Innefu Lab, which describes itself as a security, analytics, and intelligence firm. The company lists Delhi Police as a client on its website, in addition to “more than a dozen LEA departments” where its solutions have been deployed.

In December 2018, Uttar Pradesh Police deployed a software called Trinetra developed by Gurgaon-based company Staqu to “zero in on the criminal” in a quick and targeted manner using techniques such as facial recognition, biometric record analysis, etc. The database at the time was created using criminal records of the state police, the prisons department, and the Government Railway Police. Besides law-enforcement agencies, utilities too are leveraging the technology. State-owned NTPC Ltd has started implementing FRT alongside biometrics to capture the attendance of employees. As per NTPC’s policy, consent of employees “shall not be” required for implementation of FRT. A red flag that has been raised is that the extensive use of FRT systems is taking place in the absence of data protection laws that would mandate necessary safeguards in the collection and storage of user data.

This is especially significant because other government agencies planning to deploy FRT systems include those with a much wider ambit — such as the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is developing the Aadhaar-based Face Authentication in Proof of Concept (PoC) phase to supplement authentication mechanisms in addition to biometric and iris-based authentication procedures. Also, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is using facial recognition for one-to-one face matching as one of the authentication mechanisms for issuing digital marksheets to students. The Ministry of Education has informed Parliament that there is no collection or storage of biometric facial data, and the use of the application is based on the consent of the individual. A government official involved in the exercise said FRT is “distinct” from face authentication mechanisms being used by CBSE for digital marksheets. Apart from the fact that these systems are currently operating in a legal vacuum given that India does not yet have specific laws with regard to FRT and personal data protection, experts have also flagged the issue of lack of informed consent.

While individuals in a CCTV-surveilled area may be aware they are under surveillance, the use of images gathered from CCTV networks in conjunction with FRT would mean their images will be stored for longer, if not permanently. “This data will also be used to extract particular data points such as the facial features and other biometrics, which the individual has not consented to sharing when entering a CCTV-surveilled zone, and these data points can be used to track future movements of the person. Therefore, integration of FRT with a network of CCTV cameras would make real time surveillance extremely easy,” the non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation wrote in a blog post on surveillance-related privacy concerns. Footage collected through CCTVs are governed by rules and regulations laid down by various states and local law enforcement authorities, and include aspects such as the time the footage is stored for and the uses to which it is put.

However, for all CCTV cameras, privacy is governed by provisions in The Information Technology Act, 2000, which prescribes “punishment for violation of privacy” for any person who “intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person”. The Indian Express reached out by email to the Railway Board, NTPC, and the Ministry of Education requesting comments for this report, but got no responses.

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)

2 Billion Google Chrome Users Accounts Potential For Hacks

Google Chrome has over two billion users worldwide and dominates the web browser market. But this also makes it the prime target of hackers and now Google has issued its fourth urgent upgrade warning in two months. In an official blog post, Google has revealed seven ‘High’ rated security threats have been discovered in Chrome with the vulnerabilities impacting Chrome users on all major operating systems: Windows, MacOS and Linux. Google is currently giving little away about the flaws.

This is standard practice as the company attempts to limit information to stop the spread of these vulnerabilities to hackers and buy time for users to protect themselves. Consequently, this is all Chrome users have to go on right now:

  • High — CVE-2021-30598: Type Confusion in V8. Reported by Manfred Paul
  • High — CVE-2021-30599: Type Confusion in V8. Reported by Manfred Paul
  • High — CVE-2021-30600: Use after free in Printing. Reported by 360 Alpha Lab
  • High — CVE-2021-30601: Use after free in Extensions API. Reported by 360 Alpha Lab
  • High — CVE-2021-30602: Use after free in WebRTC. Reported by Cisco Talos
  • High — CVE-2021-30603: Race in WebAudio. Reported by Google Project Zero
  • High — CVE-2021-30604: Use after free in ANGLE. Reported by SecunologyLab

What I can tell you is “Type Confusion in V8” is the open source JavaScript engine at the heart of Chrome.  “WebRTC” (Web real-time communications) is tech which enables you to transfer audio and video streaming data between browsers and mobile applications. “ANGLE” (Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine) is Google’s open source, cross-platform graphics engine abstraction layer. Printing and Extensions are self explanatory. Historically, all of these have been used by hackers to execute code to take control of a target’s computer. Chrome’s most recent zero-day hack (where hackers are known to be exploiting a vulnerability before Google is able to patch it) was a V8 flaw.

To combat these new threats, all Chrome users should navigate to Settings > Help > About Google Chrome. If your browser version on Linux, macOS and Windows is listed as 92.0.4515.159 or above you are safe. If not, the About screen should prompt you to update and restart your browser. You should do this immediately. It is to Google’s credit that fixes for high level attacks are typically released within days of their discovery but their effectiveness still relies upon billions of users updating and restarting their browsers.  Chrome is a superb browser, but attacks are growing and there have already been eight zero day Chrome hacks this year. It is now vital to keep Chrome up-to-date at all times. Go check it now. (Courtesy: FORBES)

In Efforts To Control Media, India Considers Single Law To Supervise All Media

The Union government is considering a super legislation for all traditional and digital media companies so as to ensure a level playing field and to give it an upper hand in controlling and supervising the media on all platforms.  The idea is to have an umbrella law that will cover print and electronic media, digital media, cinema, even so-called over-the-top or OTT platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar, government officials familiar with the matter said.

According to one of the officials, the new law will draw elements from the Cable Television Network Act, Cinematograph Act, Press Council Act, and the new digital media guidelines. “The space is evolving,” added this person. “There is a need for platform-wise self-regulation. But at the same time, the technology is converging, the viewers and readers are converging. Earlier, different platforms were using different technologies, but now increasingly we are seeing them move towards a similar approach.”

The process, however, is still at a discussion stage. Amit Khare, secretary, information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry, did not respond to HT’s request for comments. The new law may have been borne from the realisation that while print media has the Press Council, digital news media does not have a corresponding body.

The I&B ministry has already amended the Cable Television Network Act and proposed draft amendments to the Cinematograph Act to ensure they are not at odds with the new social media and intermediary guidelines and digital media code of ethics, which were notified by the government under the Information Technology Act in February to bring hitherto unregulated digital platforms under a three-tier grievance redressal system.

The new IT guidelines require platforms to appoint grievance redressal officers in case of OTT and digital news media platforms, institute a three-tier mechanism for grievance redressal with an inter-ministerial committee at its apex and give the I&B ministry takedown powers over the content circulated online. The government’s oversight mechanism, however, will also including members from industry bodies such as Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry and the Press Council. The rules have been challenged in court by several media companies.

To create a balance between the regulation of online and offline platforms, the government on June 17 amended the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, to mandate that the earlier ad-hoc structure of self-regulation now be mandated under law, with a similar three-tier structure .

According to an official at the I&B ministry, there are around 900 channels which are already part of a system of self-regulation and the amendment just added builds on that. The amendment, notified in a gazette notification issued on June 17, states that cable TV channels under the programme rules must have self-regulation by broadcasters themselves, regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the broadcasters, and an oversight mechanism by the central government. Broadcasters also have to acknowledge complaints within 24 hours of being filed.

Similarly, amendments have been proposed to the Cinematograph Act, 1952, that will enable the introduction of a broader age-related classification, grant the central government the ability to ask the central board of film certification (CBFC) to re-examine a film, and curb piracy in the industry. The proposed amendments to the Act will introduce an age classification system akin to the one specified under the new intermediary and digital media guidelines. They also grant the government powers to ask the CBFC to re-examine a film on the grounds of national security and threat to public order.

Supreme Court lawyer and co-founder of Cybersaathi, NS Nappinai, said a common legal framework would be a good move “but the government should also be cognisant of existing frameworks and see if a complete overhaul is needed”.

Why Hospitals And Healthcare Organizations Need To Take Cybersecurity More Seriously

The fuel shortages and rising gas prices generated by the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in May foreshadow the disastrous and far-reaching effects of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. SolarWinds, JBS, Kaseya, and a torrent of other high-profile cyber incidents have captured the attention of the American public and the highest levels of government, leading to a flurry of federal actions, including the nomination of the first-ever National Cyber Director, formal attribution of the SolarWinds attack to Russia, the release of an executive order imposing new security standards for software on federal procurement lists, and a host of legislative proposals to improve the nation’s cybersecurity.

Though these prominent cyber incidents have triggered several cybersecurity initiatives, policymakers have paid relatively little attention to the considerable potential cyber risks in the healthcare sector. The WannaCry ransomware attack which took down the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in 2017 served as a wake-up call to healthcare organizations around the world, illuminating the urgent need for proactive investments in cybersecurity. And yet, healthcare organizations in the U.S. remain a vulnerable target, lagging behind other industries on key measures of cyber-readiness.

As the resurgence of COVID-19 cases stretch hospital capacity to the limit, it provides a fresh reminder of just how critical it is for our healthcare infrastructure to be resilient in times of crises. With the sharp uptick in ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations during the pandemic, and the first death attributed to a ransomware attack in 2020, it is clear that that malicious actors are capable of compromising mission-critical healthcare infrastructure, from the automated refrigerators that store blood products for surgeries to the CT scans that are vital for triaging trauma patients.

Indeed, the recent surge in cyberattacks on healthcare organizations prompted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release a joint advisory warning of “an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” At the same time, many hospitals are once again reaching surge capacity due to the Delta variant, making cybersecurity more important than ever before.

The Poor State of Healthcare Cybersecurity

In 2017, the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity (HCIC) Task Force established by HHS issued a report to Congress in which they claimed that healthcare cybersecurity is in “critical condition.” Four years later, the Task Force’s assessment still rings true. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of ransomware attacks has soared across all industries, and healthcare has been the disproportionate target of such attacks. The 2020 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey revealed that 70% of hospitals surveyed had experienced a “significant security incident” within the past twelve months, including phishing and ransomware attacks that resulted in the disruption of IT operations (28%) and business functions (25%), as well as data breaches (21%) and financial losses (20%).

Healthcare organizations are an inviting target for financially motivated threat actors because their broad attack surfaces make it relatively easy for cybercriminals to find vulnerabilities and monetize their exploits. The passage of the HITECH Act in 2009 incentivized investments in health information technology to modernize the U.S. healthcare system, leading to unprecedented connectivity and an expansion in the usage of medical devices. Today, Electronic Health Record systems are the heart of the healthcare organization, connecting medical devices with other applications to provide a more wholistic picture of patient well-being. Additionally, the U.S. boasts an average of 10 to 15 networked medical devices per hospital bed, meaning large healthcare organizations face the herculean task of securing tens of thousands of medical devices, many of which are quite easy to hack. The digitization of healthcare infrastructure catalyzed major advancements in patient care, but also created major opportunities for attack. A single vulnerable asset can provide a threat actor with a foothold into the organization and compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient data and medical services.

At the same time, protected health information is far more lucrative than credit card information. Criminals can garner anywhere from $10 to $1,000 per stolen medical record, depending on their completeness. This combination of a broad attack surface and strong financial incentives make healthcare organizations an appealing target for threat actors.

To make matters worse, cybersecurity is underprioritized by many healthcare organizations due to competing priorities and finite resources. The 2020 HIMMS Cybersecurity Survey reveals that “cybersecurity professionals may not necessarily have access to the security solutions and other tools they need in order to fully secure the environment” due to tight and stagnant IT budgets. Moreover, researchers have found that the average healthcare organization spends about 5% of its IT budget on cybersecurity, while the rest is devoted to the adoption of new technologies. Alarmingly, this means that organizations are expanding their attack surface despite lacking the tools to adequately defend their digital estate.

Consequently, the healthcare industry has fallen behind many other sectors in its ability to detect, prevent, and mitigate cyberattacks. For example, healthcare organizations take an average of 236 days to detect a data breach and 93 days to mitigate the damage, compared to an industry average of 207 days to identify and 73 days to contain an attack. Due to their failure to proactively invest in cybersecurity, healthcare organizations hit with cyberattacks have paid steep costs to mitigate the threat. IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report revealed that the healthcare industry had the highest cost of a data breach for the eleventh year in a row, with an average cost of $9.23 million in 2021. Studies have demonstrated that proactive investments in cybersecurity lead to long-term saving, but cybersecurity spending can be hard for healthcare administrators to justify when faced with other compelling priorities, like staff increases to meet the demands of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

The Path Forward

With an ever-increasing attack surface, compelling financial incentives for attackers, and under-budgeted, substandard cybersecurity operations, the US healthcare system is indeed in critical condition. Public-private partnerships and increased investments in healthcare cybersecurity will be key to shoring up the healthcare industry and safeguarding the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Just as handwashing is a foundational element of modern medicine, cyber hygiene must be regarded as a basic and essential component of a functioning medical system. At present, healthcare systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks and opportunistic threat actors are increasingly taking advantage of the industry’s weak security posture to exfiltrate patient data and disrupt key medical systems. With the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient data, medical devices, and entire healthcare systems at stake, healthcare organizations must undergo a paradigm shift, placing greater value on cybersecurity and proactively investing in security protections.

“Just as handwashing is a foundational element of modern medicine, cyber hygiene must be regarded as a basic and essential component of a functioning medical system”

Policymakers can encourage proactivity by providing matching funds to organizations that seek to engage in risk-based planning and bring their practices up to par with state and federal regulations. Additionally, policymakers can simplify and strengthen the regulatory environment for healthcare security to develop a more unified and comprehensive set of standards that healthcare organizations can easily navigate. Federal agencies must also continue to collaborate with healthcare industry partners to develop robust contingency plans to avert catastrophe in the event of a serious cyber incident.

In the end, however, the fate of healthcare security comes down to whether organizations are willing to make significant investments in cybersecurity. If the healthcare sector is to move the needle on cybersecurity, industry leaders must begin to treat digital assets as they would patients. Just as a responsible healthcare professional seeks to identify and treat patients’ underlying chronic conditions before they cause a serious medical emergency, so too must responsible healthcare organizations address vulnerabilities in their digital infrastructure to prevent cyberattacks. After all, even computers are not immune to viruses.

(IBM is a general, unrestricted donor to the Brookings Institution. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions posted in this piece are solely those of the authors and not influenced by any donation)

Biden’s New Policy Will Ensure 50% Of Vehicles Sold In US By 2030 Are Electric

President Biden announced on August 5th a multistep strategy aimed at rapidly shifting Americans from gasoline-powered cars and trucks toward electric vehicles — a central part of his plan to reduce the pollution that is heating the planet.  The new plan targets that half of vehicles sold in the country by 2030 will be battery electric, fuel-cell electric or plug-in hybrid.

Biden signed the executive order at the White House alongside representatives from Ford, GM and Stellantis, and members of the United Auto Workers Union. The automakers are supporting Biden’s new target, announcing their “shared aspiration” that 40-50% of their cars sold by 2030 to be electric vehicles, according to a joint statement from the three automakers.

Speaking from the White House South Lawn in front of four electric vehicles, Biden said the future of America’s car manufacturing “is electric and there’s no turning back. The question is whether we’ll lead or fall behind in the race for the future,” the president added. Throughout Biden’s remarks, he emphasized that a move toward electric vehicles should come with an assurance that those vehicles and the batteries powering them should be made in the US and with union workers.

“There’s a vision of the future that is now beginning to happen, a future of the automobile industry that is electric — battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, fuel cell electric,” said Mr. Biden, who announced the plan from the South Lawn of the White House before an array of parked electric vehicles, including the Ford F150 Lightning, the Chevrolet Bolt EV and a Jeep Wrangler. “The question is whether we’ll lead or fall behind in the future.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation also announced Thursday they are reversing a Trump-era rollback of fuel emissions standards. The newly proposed standards from the agencies for light-duty vehicles will be 10% more stringent than the Trump-era rules for 2023 model year vehicles, then becoming 5% more stringent each year through 2026 model year vehicles.

The proposed emissions standard for mileage year 2026 is 52 miles per gallon, up from 43.3 miles per gallon under the Trump administration, which is the current mileage standard. The new standard is also up from 50.8 miles per gallon under the Obama administration rules for mileage year 2026.

The Biden administration’s proposed standard would translate to a label value — what the consumer would see on a new car sticker — of 38.2 mpg. The EPA estimates that implementing these standards would avoid 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2050.

With the impacts of a warming planet seen in record droughts, deadly heat waves, floods and wildfires around the globe, scientists say that simply restoring Obama-era climate controls will not be enough.

The agencies also announced a separate set of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for heavy-duty trucks. The first rulemaking process for trucks is expected to be finalized next year, and will apply to heavy duty vehicles starting with the 2027 mileage year, according to the EPA.

A rapid transition to electric cars and trucks faces several challenges. Experts say it will not be possible for electric vehicles to go from niche to mainstream without making electric charging stations as ubiquitous as corner gas stations. And while labor leaders attended the White House event and referred to Mr. Biden as “brother,” they remain concerned about a wholesale shift to electric vehicles, which require fewer workers to assemble.

Speaking on Wednesday night, a senior administration official echoed Biden’s comments.  “This is a paradigm shift,” a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday. “What we’re hearing across the board is a consensus about the direction where this industry is going, and a coming together around the recognition that this is the moment of truth, not just for climate action for economic action as well.”

Biden has asked Congress for $174 billion to create 500,000 charging stations. An infrastructure bill pending in the Senate includes just $7.5 billion. However, it also provides $73 billion to expand and update the electricity grid, an essential step for carrying power to new auto charging stations. The International Council on Clean Transportation, a research organization, concluded that the nation would need 2.4 million electric vehicle charging stations by 2030 — up from 216,000 in 2020 — if about 36 percent of new car sales were electric.

A second bill, which could move through Congress this fall, could include far more spending on electric vehicles, consumer tax incentives and research. Neither proposal is guaranteed to pass in the closely divided Congress.

There are concerns that ome environmental advocates and lawmakers fear car companies could skirt the standards with loopholes — including allowances for EV makers like Tesla to sell credits to companies that sell gas-guzzling cars, thereby allowing them to meet the standards without electrifying their fleets.  “We must guard against the inclusion of legacy loopholes, which may allow for even lower greenhouse gas emissions standards than before,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said in a statement. “We know the highest standards possible are economically feasible and technologically achievable because the automotive industry is already installing them.”

“President Biden has called global warming an existential threat, but these standards won’t protect us,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “The only reason automakers have ever cut pollution is because strong rules forced them to. And these rules won’t.”

The youth climate advocacy group Sunrise Movement sharply criticized Biden’s electric vehicles target, saying it’s not sufficient enough to combat the climate crisis. “Biden cannot think of himself as the climate president with a 50% electric vehicles goal,” Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash said in a statement. “FDR didn’t set a goal to half win the war, and JFK didn’t set a goal to get halfway to the moon. If we are still selling gas cars in 2030, they’ll be on the road for another 10, 15, 20 years — long after his presidency and well into our already unstable futures.”

India’s Chennai Turning into a Data Center Hub

Tamil Nadu’s capital city Chennai after being the ‘Detroit’ of India for housing several automobile makers is turning out to become a major data center hub. With the central government and Reserve Bank of India insisting on players to have their data stored in India, the data center business is getting a boost.

“With three submarine cable landing stations (one more to come), a comfortable power supply position (data Centre capacity is generally measured in MW), the availability of market and knowledge pool, Chennai is an ideal location,” Nikhil Rathi, CEO and Founder of Web Werks India Pvt Ltd, a major player told IANS.

Adding further he said the Covid-19 lockdown saw huge amount of data traffic and it is growing. Web Werks has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Tamil Nadu government to build a 20MW data Centre here at an outlay of about Rs.700 crore and will have a headcount of 100.

For Web Works, Chennai will be its second largest location in India. The company has its data centers in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi in India. It also has data centers overseas. The Tamil Nadu government is working to come out with a separate policy for data centers to strengthen the ecosystem.

“Most common requirements of data Centre’s pertaining to housing regulations and power are being worked upon to encourage data Centre investments and further downstream investments,” the state government said.

Rathi said all buildings cannot house a data center. The building that houses a data Centre will generally need a higher ceiling. “The buildings are machine specific,” Rathi added.

According to the state government, there are six submarine data cables with a bandwidth of 14.8 Tbps. The rural areas in Tamil Nadu are also well connected with more than 12,524 village panchayats with a minimum scalable bandwidth of 1 Gbps. As per TRAI, Chennai is among the top five service areas in India for broadband subscriptions.

The state government has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with nine companies for setting up data centers with a total proposed investment of Rs 16,927 crore and employment potential of over 9,000 jobs over the last two years.

National and international companies, including Yotta, Princeton Digital, ST Telemedia, Netmagic and Adani are in the process of setting up their data centers in Chennai. The Ambattur locality in Chennai is the preferred choice for data center companies owing to its favourable geographical conditions and existing data center ecosystem.

Siruseri is the next ideal destination due to the presence of several IT companies, which offers a great market opportunity, the government said.  Rathi said there is a good market for data centres in Southern cities like Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad owing to the concentration of IT companies, talent pool.

He said Tamil Nadu has the single window clearance which eases the regulatory clearance process. As per a JLL report, Mumbai and Chennai are expected to drive 73 per cent of the sector’s total capacity addition during 2021-23, while other cities like Hyderabad and Delhi-NCR emerging as new hotspots.

India’s data center sector will require investment of $3.7 billion over the next three years in order to fulfill the 6 million square feet greenfield development, JLL said.

Data centres in Chennai:

Ambattur
STTelemedia Data Center
NTT Netmagic
NTT Netmagic (Upcoming expansion)
Princeton Digital (Upcoming)
ST Telemedia (Upcoming)
Siruseri SIPCOT IT Park
Nxtra site 1
Vodafone
Reliance Jio
Nxtra site 1 (Upcoming)
Adani Group (Upcoming)
Technoelectric (Upcoming)
Mantra Data Centres (Upcoming)
Taramani
Sify.

Apple To Scan U.S. iPhones For Images Of Child Sexual Abuse

Apple unveiled plans to scan U.S. iPhones for images of child sexual abuse, drawing applause from child protection groups but raising concern among some security researchers that the system could be misused, including by governments looking to surveil their citizens.

The tool designed to detected known images of child sexual abuse, called “neuralMatch,” will scan images before they are uploaded to iCloud. If it finds a match, the image will be reviewed by a human. If child pornography is confirmed, the user’s account will be disabled and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified.

Separately, Apple plans to scan users’ encrypted messages for sexually explicit content as a child safety measure, which also alarmed privacy advocates. The detection system will only flag images that are already in the center’s database of known child pornography. Parents snapping innocent photos of a child in the bath presumably need not worry. But researchers say the matching tool — which doesn’t “see” such images, just mathematical “fingerprints” that represent them — could be put to more nefarious purposes.

Matthew Green, a top cryptography researcher at Johns Hopkins University, warned that the system could be used to frame innocent people by sending them seemingly innocuous images designed to trigger matches for child pornography. That could fool Apple’s algorithm and alert law enforcement. “Researchers have been able to do this pretty easily,” he said of the ability to trick such systems.

Other abuses could include government surveillance of dissidents or protesters. “What happens when the Chinese government says, ‘Here is a list of files that we want you to scan for,'” Green asked. “Does Apple say no? I hope they say no, but their technology won’t say no.”

Apple has been under pressure to allow for increased surveillance of encrypted data

Tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others have for years been sharing digital fingerprints of known child sexual abuse images. Apple has used those to scan user files stored in its iCloud service, which is not as securely encrypted as its on-device data, for child pornography.

Apple has been under government pressure for years to allow for increased surveillance of encrypted data. Coming up with the new security measures required Apple to perform a delicate balancing act between cracking down on the exploitation of children while keeping its high-profile commitment to protecting the privacy of its users.

But a dejected Electronic Frontier Foundation, the online civil liberties pioneer, called Apple’s compromise on privacy protections “a shocking about-face for users who have relied on the company’s leadership in privacy and security.”

Meanwhile, the computer scientist who more than a decade ago invented PhotoDNA, the technology used by law enforcement to identify child pornography online, acknowledged the potential for abuse of Apple’s system but said it was far outweighed by the imperative of battling child sexual abuse.

“Is it possible? Of course. But is it something that I’m concerned about? No,” said Hany Farid, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, who argues that plenty of other programs designed to secure devices from various threats haven’t seen “this type of mission creep.” For example, WhatsApp provides users with end-to-end encryption to protect their privacy, but also employs a system for detecting malware and warning users not to click on harmful links.

Apple was one of the first major companies to embrace “end-to-end” encryption, in which messages are scrambled so that only their senders and recipients can read them. Law enforcement, however, has long pressured the company for access to that information in order to investigate crimes such as terrorism or child sexual exploitation.

Apple said the latest changes will roll out this year as part of updates to its operating software for iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches. “Apple’s expanded protection for children is a game changer,” John Clark, the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said in a statement. “With so many people using Apple products, these new safety measures have lifesaving potential for children.”

Apple says the changes do not disturb user privacy

Julia Cordua, the CEO of Thorn, said that Apple’s technology balances “the need for privacy with digital safety for children.” Thorn, a nonprofit founded by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, uses technology to help protect children from sexual abuse by identifying victims and working with tech platforms.

But in a blistering critique, the Washington-based nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology called on Apple to abandon the changes, which it said effectively destroy the company’s guarantee of “end-to-end encryption.” Scanning of messages for sexually explicit content on phones or computers effectively breaks the security, it said.

The organization also questioned Apple’s technology for differentiating between dangerous content and something as tame as art or a meme. Such technologies are notoriously error-prone, CDT said in an emailed statement. Apple denies that the changes amount to a backdoor that degrades its encryption. It says they are carefully considered innovations that do not disturb user privacy but rather strongly protect it.

In order to receive the warnings about sexually explicit images on their children’s devices, parents will have to enroll their child’s phone. Kids over 13 can unenroll, meaning parents of teenagers won’t get notifications.  Apple said neither feature would compromise the security of private communications or notify police.

Separately, Apple said its messaging app will use on-device machine learning to identify and blur sexually explicit photos on children’s phones and can also warn the parents of younger children via text message. It also said that its software would “intervene” when users try to search for topics related to child sexual abuse.

Facebook Has New Redesigned Settings Page On Mobile

Facebook is changing its Settings page on the mobile app. The new layout will help people easily find tools they often need quicker. These include managing the ads people see, adjusting sharing settings and curating an audience for posts. The new design rollout has already begun since August 4, and should come to supported devices via an update soon if it hasn’t already.

Here’s all you need to know about the new Facebook Settings page, including what’s new and which devices it will come to.

The new story now features lesser broad categories than before. Facebook suggests the change is to prevent people from thinking too hard about where to start. Hence, Settings will now be grouped into six broader categories – Account, Preferences, Audience and Visibility, Permissions, Your Information, and Community Standards and Legal Policies.

Relocated menu items, new Privacy shortcut

The new Settings page will also be relocating some items so that they can now be found alongside other related settings. For example, the News Feed setting, previously found in its own small category, will now be seen under the Preferences category.

Facebook also said in a blog post that it will be improving the Settings’ Search functionality, making it “easier to find the settings you need if you don’t know the exact name or location of the setting you’re looking for.”

Facebook has also added a new Privacy Shortcut right at the top of the Settings page, to make it easier for users to change important privacy and security aspects.

Which devices will see the new Facebook settings?

The Facebook Settings redesign will roll out for Android devices, including smartphones and tablets, as well as iOS devices, including iPhones and the iPad series. The new rollout will also be coming to mobile web browsers for those who do not use the Facebook application. Lastly, it will also be implemented in Facebook Lite, a lighter version of the Facebook app that is available on some platforms.

India Has 52,391 Startups And 53 Unicorns

India’s startup ecosystem, which is widely considered as the third largest globally, has a total of 52,391 recognised entities as of July 14, 2021, Parliament was informed last week. The startups are recognized by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and as of July 14, more than 5.7 lakh jobs have been reported by more than 50,000 startups, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Som Parkash, told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

As per industry estimates, there are 53 unicorns currently in India, with a tentative valuation of Rs. 1.4 lakh crore, he said, adding that valuation of a company is a market driven exercise and the data of individual companies is not maintained by the DPIIT.

He said that the Startup India initiative is a flagship initiative of the Centre which aims to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in the country. A 19-point Startup India Action Plan was launched in January 2016 which paved the way for the introduction of a number of policy initiatives to build a strong, conducive, growth-oriented environment for Indian startups.

The Prime Minister unveiled Startup India: The Way Ahead at 5 years celebration of Startup India on January 16, 2021 which includes actionable plans for promotion of ease of doing business for startups, greater role of technology in executing various reforms, building capacities of stakeholders and enabling a digital Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the Minister added. (IANS)

Ayurveda Tech Platform Nirogstreet Secures Funding Of $2.5 Million

NirogStreet, India’s first technology-led Ayurveda doctor platform, has secured $2.5 million in Series A funding from a series of investors including DoorDash executive Gokul Rajaram, Raj Mishra of Indea Capital, former Morgan Stanley CEO Ashutosh Sinha and Anuj Srivastava, founder of Livspace, among others.

Ram N Kumar, the founder of NirogStreet, has told the media that he was fortunate to find a clutch of investors from the US, who could not just invest but guide. “For me, if you get a person like Gokul to help you while building a company, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Kumar said.

The firm plans to use the funds to strengthen its technology offering for doctors and to start operations in more States. The start-up intends to create an engaging technology platform that will allow ease of access to Ayurvedic healthcare through technological interventions, while creating easy access to high quality medicines, avenues for income generation for doctors, and also helping SME medicine manufacturers to reach out to a larger base of doctors.

“Ayurveda has demonstrated its leadership in the time of Covid-19 and we played an important role in making Ayurveda mainstream. The focus of NirogStreet is to create tech-oriented data and solutions to create better opportunities for both doctors, manufacturers and customers,” NirogStreet founder Ram N Kumar, said in a statement.

“As a B2B2C technology-enabled and doctor-led platform, we are consistently focusing on identifying best practices to improve the supply chain of Ayurvedic services and medicine, giving Ayurveda its due share and the recognition that it deserves by empowering those at the centre of this universe – Ayurveda doctors – to create an experience that patients can trust,” he said.

Gokul Rajaram, top executive at Doordash and currently on the Pinterest and Coinbase boards as member said, “I’m incredibly excited to support Ram and the NirogStreet team in their mission to enable people globally to access and benefit from Ayurveda. He is doing a commendable job in nurturing the Ayurvedic fraternity in India as well as the sustainable healthcare ecosystem by capacity and knowledge building. We’re proud to back Ram and his team at NirogStreet.”

NirogStreet claims to work with over 50,000 doctors on its peer-to-peer learning, Electronic Health Record and B2B e-commerce platform, with a focus on strategic deployment of technology. Since the beginning of the pandemic, NirogStreet’s unique tech platform has also empowered ayurvedic doctors to consult patients across the globe via Tele-Ayurveda and offer solutions that were previously not available to them. It has also enabled doctors to dispatch medicines on time to their patients using NirogStreet.

 

Rajaram reportedly said that he was inspired by Kumar’s journey and compelling founding story. “He contracted hepatitis C and got cured through Ayurvedic treatments,” Rajaram said about Kumar. “As he started researching the space, he learned that there are more than 1.1 million non-allopathic practitioners in India alone, and many more globally. These doctors were poorly served by existing infrastructure, which led him to start NirogStreet, a B2B platform to help non-allopathic doctors order medicines, connect with patients, and overall run their business more effectively and serve their patients better.

“The company is doing well and growing rapidly,” Rajaram said. “What is interesting is how much interest they get from practitioners outside India. They have decided to stay focused on India in the near-term, but this is a global opportunity.”

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Ayurveda product market is at was at $3.5 billion at the end of FY18, pegged to grow at 16 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

NirogStreet [https://nirogstreet.com/], Kumar said, is the only company in India that has brought in 50,000 Ayurvedic practitioners globally to its platform and each doctor associated has the Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) degree. On top of this, the doctors who follow NirogSteet’s protocols and digital practice are also certified by NirogSteet.

“I come from a low middle class family, and so had to leave studies when I was in Grade 11 to look for work,” said Kumar, who traces his roots to Muzzaffarpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

In 2000, he founded his first business Techlus, that helped promote information about computers to people in the smaller towns of India. “I was 15-16 years old and was not even aware what entrepreneur means,” Kumar said over the phone with a hearty laugh.

He said was fascinated with the computer and he approached the computer center in town that had just one PC in a small room. Kumar offered to work there in exchange of lessons in JAVA. He eventually graduated in Computer Science from Sikkim Manipal University.

Kumar said he realized that “Ayurveda in India is an unorganized sector…. Also, what I observed was people have trust in Ayurveda but they don’t trust the medicines. There is no knowledge sharing.” He said that the Ayurvedic doctors are like small entrepreneurs but they are not tech savvy. They are legally allowed to sell medicines but there is no knowledge-sharing platform. Kumar said he saw a business model in that.

“Just an idea that I can create something where doctors can engage among themselves because a knowledge platform is not happening in Ayurveda like it is in western medicine,” Kumar said. He said the Ayurveda market was unorganized but vast. “India has close to 9000 licensed pharmacies but the challenge is enforcement [of rules and quality control] is very weak,” he said.

“When the threat to life is immediate people will go to allopathy and when threat to life is long they go to Ayurveda,” said Kumar. Asked about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Ayurveda, he said: “Pandemic boosted the business, doctors are more open to technology … and actually it was a boost to us. Just in 12 months we grew 300 percent.”

He said: “What we are seeing with the Ayurveda is that at least it brings down the cost of treatment and Ayurveda makes you healthy, wealthy and wise. For better quality of life, Ayurveda is the only answer.”

Immunovant Receives $200 Million Strategic Investment from Roivant Sciences Proceeds will fund continued development of IMVT-1401 in multiple indications

Immunovant, Inc. (Nasdaq: IMVT), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on enabling normal lives for people with autoimmune diseases, today announced that it has received a $200 million strategic investment from Roivant Sciences. Immunovant intends to use the proceeds from this investment to advance the development of IMVT-1401 in multiple indications.

Roivant has purchased 17,021,276 shares of Immunovant’s common stock at a price of $11.75 per share, which purchase has been approved by a special committee of Immunovant directors not affiliated with Roivant. This represents approximately a 15% premium to Immunovant’s 20 trading day volume weighted average price. After giving effect to the investment, Immunovant has a pro forma cash balance of approximately $600 million and Roivant has increased its ownership stake in Immunovant from 57.5% to 63.8%, based on Immunovant’s cash balance and share count as of March 31, 2021.

“We are excited to announce this significant investment by Roivant, which will expedite our development of IMVT-1401 for a wide range of autoimmune disorders,” said Dr. Pete Salzmann, Chief Executive Officer of Immunovant. “Over the next 12 months, we plan to initiate a pivotal trial for myasthenia gravis, resume our trials in WAIHA and TED and initiate at least two additional clinical studies, including another pivotal trial in 2022.”

“Roivant and Immunovant explored a range of possible transactions over the past few months, including a potential acquisition by Roivant of the minority interest in Immunovant, and ultimately agreed on this significant investment in order to support a robust development plan for IMVT-1401 and increase our stake in the company,” said Matt Gline, Chief Executive Officer of Roivant Sciences. “We are incredibly excited about the prospects for IMVT-1401, and we are eager to support Immunovant through this investment. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Dr. Salzmann and the Immunovant management team to help develop IMVT-1401 to maximize benefit for patients with high levels of unmet medical need.”

Immunovant is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on enabling normal lives for patients with autoimmune diseases. Immunovant is developing IMVT-1401, a novel, fully human anti-FcRn monoclonal antibody, as a subcutaneous injection for the treatment of autoimmune diseases mediated by pathogenic IgG antibodies. For more information, visit www.immunovant.com.

Roivant’s mission is to improve the delivery of healthcare to patients by treating every inefficiency as an opportunity. Roivant develops transformative medicines faster by building technologies and developing talent in creative ways, leveraging the Roivant platform to launch ‘Vants’ – nimble and focused biopharmaceutical and health technology companies. For more information, visit www.roivant.com.

Elon Musk Blames India’s High Import Duties As A Challenge To Bring Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that its electric vehicle (EV) company wants to launch cars in India, but the country’s import duties on EVs are “highest in the world by far”. Replying to an Indian YouTuber on Twitter, who asked him to launch Tesla cars ASAP in India, Musk blamed high import rates in the country.

“We want to do so, but import duties are the highest in the world by far of any large country!” he wrote. “Moreover, clean energy vehicles are treated the same as diesel or petrol, which does not seem entirely consistent with the climate goals of India,” he added.

Last year, a report said that India has taken a slew of measures to promote the use of electric cars in the country. The government slashed Goods and Services Tax (GST) on electric vehicles to five per cent from earlier 12 per cent but to protect domestic automakers, it levies 125 per cent duty on imported vehicles.

“I’m told import duties are extremely high (up to 100 per cent), even for electric cars. This would make our cars unaffordable,” Musk earlier said while responding to a tweet from an Indian follower.

Close on the heels of Union Budget providing tax relief for buying electric vehicles, the GST Council in its meeting last year in July cut the tax on electric vehicles (EV) from 12 per cent to 5 per cent, effective August 1, 2019. The twin rate cuts are set to further boost the EV sector. The Budget, last year, had proposed an Income Tax deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh on the interest paid on the loans taken to purchase electric vehicles.

India Among Top 10 Countries In Pharma, Healthcare

India is among the top 10 countries in pharma and healthcare sector with exponential growth recorded in the last five years, according to a report by Sagacious IP, a global IP research and consulting firm. The report stated that patents with Indian publication having Indian priority grew from 2,548 in 2015 to 7,399 in 2020. Such numbers are indicative of increased patent filing activity by Indian companies and MNCs with research centers based in India. The pharma and healthcare sector has also seen massive growth in global patent filings in the last five years, from over 24,000 in 2015 to over 1,50,000 in 2020.

In terms of the origin of patent applications in the pharma sector globally, India is among the top 10 countries, followed by Italy, Australia, Taiwan and Sweden. The applications originating from India are majorly filed in the US, European Parliament and APAC region. The top Indian filers who filed patents in India during the last five years (2015-2020) include the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), ITC Life Sciences, Lovely Professional University, Colgate Palmolive (India), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Limited, IIT Bombay, Cadila Healthcare, Lupin, Amity University, and Wockhardt Limited, the report said.

CSIR, a research institute, leads in these filings. Among companies, ITC (ITC Life Sciences and Technology Centre) is on top. The report stated that pharmaceutical companies face major challenges dealing with IP rights and the competition provided by the generics. Further, the biggest challenge in developing approved drugs is the long time spent in research and the investments required for the same.

Also, due to increased awareness and digital connectivity, self-medication has been rampant, which does not go down well in terms of returns on R&D and IP investments in drug discovery. Recently, the industry has shown a focus shift towards preventive healthcare and therefore the players must align with this shift. Lastly, stringent guidelines by governments globally and low returns on generics are the other few limiting factors to R&D in this sector.

On a positive side, India is notably a preferred destination and market for healthcare innovation as is evident by global companies securing many of their global patents in India, it said. India is one of the largest manufacturers of generic medicines and vaccines, holding 20 per cent and 62 per cent volume share, respectively. (IANS)

New Type Of Wireless Charger Can Charge Multiple Devices Simultaneously

Newswise — Mobile phones and tablets have allowed us to stay in touch regardless of our location, yet they still rely on plugs, sockets, and charging pads to power up. New technology developed at Aalto University may be the key to true wireless charging for these and other electronics in years to come. The research team includes researches Dr. Prasad Jayathurathnage and Dr. Xiaojie Dang, and professors Sergei Tretyakov and Constantin Simovski. The findings are published in IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics on 21 July 2021.

While researchers around the globe are working on free-position wireless charging — which would unchain devices from set charging points — the most common solutions involve complex control and detection functions. A transmitter traditionally has to first detect a device presence and position to be able to send energy in its direction, usually done with cameras or sensors, adding bulk and cost to the device.

The new transmitter bypasses this need by creating power transfer channels in all directions, automatically tuning channels when receiving devices are in motion. Devices like phones, laptops, and other small appliance equipped with a new receiver can simultaneously receive energy to charge batteries or directly power their functions — without ever being in physical contact or being brought to a specific place.

‘What sets this transmitter apart is that it’s self-tuning, which means you don’t need complex electronics to connect with receivers embedded in devices. Since it self-tunes, you can also move the device freely within a wide charging range,’ explains Prasad Jayathurathnage, a post-doctoral researcher at Aalto University. The team has achieved the effect through the design of the coils used in the transmitter. By winding the coils in a specific way, they create two kinds of electromagnetic fields: one going outwards and the other around. These fields couple the receiver and transmitter to achieve efficient power transfer.

Currently, the transmitter is highly efficient at 90 percent at up to 20 centimetres distance, but continues to work at longer distances, just with a lower efficiency of energy transfer. In principle, the peak-efficiency range could grow as the technology is refined.   ‘For now, the maximum range at peak efficiency is dependent on the size of the transmitter and receiver.  With the right engineering, we could shrink them down,’ Jayathurathnage comments.

While the team has demonstrated proof of concept, safety tests are still needed to confirm that the electromagnetic field generated by the transmitter is not harmful to humans. It is, however, clear that the resulting electric field, which is known to be the main cause for potentially harmful effects, is minimal as the technology relies on magnetic fields. Once deemed safe, bringing the technology to product would mean a little less hassle in a world increasingly dependent on smart devices.

‘True wireless charging means more personal freedom. You won’t have to worry about where you put your phone or whether you remembered to plug it in,’ says Jayathurathnage. The research team has already applied for a patent for the transmitter. The same group is also developing wireless charging possibilities for industrial applications through the Parkzia project, which turns any waiting point for robots like e-movers into a charging spot.

Andy Jassy To Be Amazon CEO As Jeff Bezos Steps Down

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will leave his post later this year, turning the helm over to the company’s top cloud executive, Andy Jassy, according to an announcement Tuesday. Bezos will transition to executive chairman of Amazon’s board. Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and has since morphed the one-time online bookstore into a mega-retailer with global reach in a slew of different categories from gadgets to groceries to streaming. Amazon surpassed a $1 trillion market cap under Bezos’ leadership in January of last year — it’s now worth more than $1.6 trillion.

“I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO,” Bezos said in a letter to employees. “In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”

The company had kept its succession plans quiet, though onlookers speculated that either Jassy or Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, would be Bezos’ eventual successor. In August Amazon announced Wilke will retire in 2021. Jassy, 53, will become CEO in the third quarter.Jassy joined Amazon in 1997 and has led Amazon’s Web Services cloud team since its inception. AWS continues to drive much of Amazon’s profit. Bezos said he will stay engaged in important Amazon projects but will also have more time to focus on the Bezos Earth Fund, his Blue Origin spaceship company, The Washington Post and the Amazon Day 1 Fund.

“As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition,” Bezos said in his internal announcement. “Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.” While Bezos’ unquestionable impact on business can’t be understated, Amazon isn’t without its share of controversy. The company has been leveled with criticism over treatment of workers and controlling a monopoly that affects smaller businesses. That said, as Andy Jassy takes over at Amazon, here are some of Bezos’ bigger moments on his way to building a dynasty named after the largest river on the planet. His company is worth nearly $1.8 trillion.

Ransomware By Hackers Impacts Hundreds of US Companies

A ransomware attack paralyzed the networks of at least 200 U.S. companies on Friday, according to a cybersecurity researcher whose company was responding to the incident.  The attack, first revealed last week, is believed to be affiliated with the prolific ransomware gang REvil and perpetuated through Kaseya, an international company that remotely controls programs for companies that, in turn, manage internet services for businesses. The hackers targeted managed service providers, which often give IT support to small- to medium-size businesses, according to Huntress Labs. By targeting a managed service provider, or MSP, hackers may then be able to access and infiltrate its customers’ computer networks.

Two of the affected managed service providers include Synnex Corp. and Avtex LLC, according to two sources familiar with the breaches. Reached by telephone, Avtex president George Demou told Bloomberg News in a text message on Friday night that “Hundreds of MSPs have been impacted by what appears to be a Global Supply Chain hack.” The REvil gang, a major Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate, appears to be behind the attack, said John Hammond of the security firm Huntress Labs. He said the criminals targeted a software supplier called Kaseya, using its network-management package as a conduit to spread the ransomware through cloud-service providers. Other researchers agreed with Hammond’s assessment. “It’s reasonable to think this could potentially be impacting thousands of small businesses,” Hammond said.

“Kaseya handles large enterprise all the way to small businesses globally, so ultimately, (this) has the potential to spread to any size or scale business,” Hammond said in a direct message on Twitter. “This is a colossal and devastating supply chain attack.” Kaseya announced, it was attacked by hackers and warned all its customers to immediately stop using its service. Nearly 40 of its customers were hacked. Since those Kaseya customers manage hundreds or thousands of businesses, it is unclear how many will fall victim to ransomware over the weekend. But the number’s at least already around 200, said John Hammond, a senior security researcher at Huntress, which is helping with Kaseya’s response. That number expected to rise.

Cybersecurity researcher Jake Williams, president of Rendition Infosec, said he was already working with six companies hit by the ransomware. It’s no accident that this happened before the Fourth of July weekend, when IT staffing is generally thin, he added. “There’s zero doubt in my mind that the timing here was intentional,” he said. The federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a statement late Friday that it is closely monitoring the situation and working with the FBI to collect more information about its impact.

Some cybersecurity experts predicted that it might be hard for the gang to handle the ransom negotiations, given the large number of victims — though the long U.S. holiday weekend might give it more time to start working through the list. CISA urged anyone who might be affected to “follow Kaseya’s guidance to shut down VSA servers immediately.” Kaseya runs what’s called a virtual system administrator, or VSA, that’s used to remotely manage and monitor a customer’s network.

Bipartisan Senators Reach $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Deal

President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators announced last week they had reached a framework $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal after a White House meeting just before Congress was about to leave town for a two-week recess. Speaking in the White House driveway, surrounded by smiling senators from both parties, Biden said, “They have my word, and I’ll stick with what they proposed, and they’ve given me their word as well — and where I come from, that’s good enough for me.” “We made serious compromises on both ends,” Biden said. “They did not — and I understand their position — the Republicans did not want to go along with the human infrastructure that I talk about, and we’ll see what happens in the reconciliation bill and the budget process,” he said. “If we get some compromise there and if we can’t, see if I can attract all Democrats to the position where they can move it on the dual track.”

Later on, Biden touted the deal in formal remarks from the White House East Room. “I said many times before, there’s nothing our nation can’t do when we decide to do it together, do it as one nation. Today is the latest example of that truth, in my view,” Biden began. “I’m pleased to report that a bipartisan group of senators, five Democrats, five Republicans, part of larger groups — have come together and force an agreement that will create millions of American jobs and modernize our American infrastructure to compete with the rest of the world in 21st century.” After touting the expansive package, Biden emphasized that it all comes without an increase on the gas tax, without fees on electric vehicles and “without raising a cent from earners below $400,000.”

Biden said, though the deal isn’t exactly what he wanted, nor is it exactly what Republicans had in mind, the fact that they did reach a bipartisan, consensus makes their agreement all the more significant. “Let me be clear, neither side got everything they wanted in this deal. That’s what it means to compromise. And it reflects something important. Reflects consensus. The heart of democracy,” Biden said. The deal would see $1.2 trillion in spending over eight years, including $579 billion in new spending over the first five years. The senators, saying all sides had compromised and no one got everything they wanted, said they needed to head back to Capitol Hill to work out details.

“Today we are announcing the framework for a historic investment in infrastructure,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, one of the lead negotiators. “This is roads and bridges but also lots of other kinds of infrastructure including broadband, including our water system and rail system.” He praised the bipartisan effort. “I’m pleased to see us come together on a core infrastructure package. This is not non-infrastructure items, without new taxes, and with the commitment from Republicans and Democrats alike that we’re going to get this across the finish line,” Portman said.

“No one got everything they wanted in the package. We all gave some to get some — because what we did was put first the needs of our country,” said KyrstenSinema, D-Ariz. “We are delighted to go back to the Hill and begin earning more support from both Republicans and Democrats to get this bill across the finish line.” GOP Sen. Susan Collins called it the largest infrastructure package in U.S. history. She said the Senate has worked for decades to reach an infrastructure deal, so it’s “important” to show on the world stage that bipartisanship is possible in the U.S.

“We’ve agreed on the price tag, the scope, and how to pay for it. It was not easy to get agreement on all three, but it was essential,” she said. “It was essential to show the American people that the Senate can function, that we can work in a bipartisan way, and it sends an important message to the world as well, that America can function, can get things done.” Once the bill’s language is nailed down, it will have to pass through both chambers of Congress before Biden can sign the legislation — which Democrats warn will only come if a separate, reconciliation bill focused on “human infrastructure” is also approved.

Earlier Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told Capitol Hill reporters that 21 senators and Biden’s White House negotiators had reached an agreement on the plan’s “framework,” the same language other other senators used late Wednesday. Asked what areas still need to be worked out, Manchin said, “That’s why we’re going to go talk to President Biden.” “President Biden is the ultimate person that will have to sign off on this, to make sure he’s comfortable, and he wants a bipartisan deal,” Manchin said. “It’s a matter now, was the president comfortable.” Biden has been hoping for a bipartisan plan that can serve as landmark legislation for his presidency.

Anant Agarwal Founded & Harvard-MIT Venture Edx, Acquired By 2U For $800 Million In Cash

2U, Inc., a global leader in education technology, and edX, a leading online learning platform and education marketplace, announced they have entered into a definitive agreement to join together in an industry-redefining combination that will help power the digital transformation of higher education, expand access and affordability, and usher in a new era of online learning. 2U will acquire substantially all of edX’s assets for $800M in cash. Together, 2U and edX will reach over 50 million learners globally, serve more than 230 partners, and offer over 3,500 digital programs on the world’s most comprehensive free-to-degree online education marketplace.

Proceeds of the transaction will flow to the nonprofit that will continue under the leadership of edX founders Harvard and MIT and will be dedicated to reimagining the future of learning for people at all stages of life, addressing educational inequalities, and continuing to advance next generation learning experiences and platforms. Drawing on insights gained at Harvard, MIT, and other institutions, this organization will develop strategies and partnerships to help close the learning gap.

The transaction will bring together the unique strengths and complementary capabilities of two major forces in online education. 2U is the digital transformation partner of choice for more than 80 of the world’s leading universities and expects to approach $1 billion in yearly revenue by the end of 2021, and edX has built one of the world’s strongest online education brands and largest global communities of learners. Over the past decade, 2U and edX have each built mission-driven organizations grounded in the belief that online education and greater access to the world’s best nonprofit universities can change lives and impact generations to come. The combined scale, reach, capabilities, marketing efficiency, and relationships of 2U and edX will unlock unprecedented opportunities to reach and serve more learners, universities, and employers worldwide.

“2U and edX were founded on a shared vision that online education has the power to expand access, create opportunity, and transform lives,” said 2U Co-Founder & CEO Christopher “Chip” Paucek. “Alongside university partners and contributing faculty, Anant Agarwal and the edX team have built an innovative, respected, and globally recognized destination for online higher education. By combining 2U and edX’s global reach and offerings from free to degree, together we believe we can fully realize our shared vision, meet the growing worldwide demand for online education, and deliver growth and long-term value to shareholders and other stakeholders.”

Fulfilling a commitment to preserve and advance the edX mission, 2U plans to operate edX as a public benefit entity, a class of purpose-driven organizations that balances the interests of shareholders with other stakeholders. 2U has also committed to continuing to fulfill the edX mission by, among other things, guaranteeing affordability through the continuation of a free track to audit courses; protecting the intellectual property rights of faculty and universities that contribute massive open online courses; ensuring that participating colleges and universities may continue under their standing agreements with edX; protecting the privacy of individual data for all learners who use the edX platform; and contributing to the ongoing development of the fully open source and independent platform Open edX, owned by the nonprofit led by MIT and Harvard.

“As edX looks to its next phase of growth and impact, joining forces with 2U marks a major milestone in our evolution,” said Anant Agarwal, Founder and CEO of edX and MIT Professor. “2U’s people, technology, and scale will expand edX’s ability to deliver on its mission of providing access to high-quality education to enable all learners to unlock their potential. Together with our university and institutional partners, we will continue to reimagine education in ways that transform the lives of global citizens and positively impact generations to come.” “Our universities founded edX nearly ten years ago to raise the aspirations for online education and make university courses accessible to learners around the world, and it has been enormously gratifying to watch that vision blossom. Today’s announcement will carry forward this mission on a whole new scale, connecting many more learners with a wider range of high-quality options for content, credentials, and degrees.

With online education rapidly changing, it’s the right moment for this leap of evolution for edX,” said Harvard president Larry Bacow and MIT president Rafael Reif in a joint statement. “At the same time, the nonprofit that emerges from this transaction will enable us and our partners to support innovation that enhances learning for all and, we hope, play a catalytic role in closing the learning gap that exists for far too many.” Unlocking opportunity for learners, universities, and employers worldwide edX and 2U’s combined and complementary portfolios of more than 3,500 offerings from the world’s top universities and corporations will unlock new opportunities for edX’s community of global learners—79% of whom reside outside the U.S.—to accelerate their learning journeys, achieve their career goals, and enrich their lives.

  • edX offers over 3,000 online programs, including a substantial majority of courses with a free/audit track, Masters and doctorate degrees, Professional Certificates, and MicroBachelors® programs and MicroMasters® programs.
  • 2U powers over 500 online offerings, including short courses, boot camps, professional certificates, and undergraduate and graduate degrees, including over 95 degree offerings in licensure-based disciplines. 2U expects to offer many of these programs directly to learners through the edX.org marketplace.

With the acquisition, 2U’s network will expand to include more than 230 partners—including over 185 nonprofit colleges and universities and 19 of the top 20 ranked universities globally. The combined capabilities of 2U and edX are expected to provide university partners with new opportunities to accelerate online growth and innovation, deliver exceptional student outcomes across the career curriculum continuum, and continue bending back the cost curve of higher education.

  • edX partners will continue to benefit from edX’s global reach, commitment to research, as well as the open source Open edX platform, while gaining access to 2UOS, 2U’s industry leading, comprehensive tech-enabled services and support in areas like marketing, field placement, career services, and digital learning design.
  • At the same time, edX’s thriving marketplace will enable current 2U partners to efficiently reach a larger audience of global learners, offer a wider array of offerings to meet changing learner needs, and expand the impact of their institutions.

The transaction will also expand 2U’s enterprise opportunity with edX for Business and edX Online Campus, creating a more robust set of solutions available to 2U and edX’s combined network of enterprise customers. edX for Business complements 2U’s existing array of enterprise offerings designed to close talent gaps, create diverse talent pipelines, and upskill and reskill the global workforce.

  • edX for Business is an on-demand enterprise training solution with thousands of courses and programs on cutting-edge, workplace-relevant topics utilized by over 1,000 leading companies globally.
  • edX Online Campus—edX’s enterprise offering designed for universities— supports more than 850 university customers from 72 countries around the world, complementing on-campus education with a rich array of high-quality online courses coupled with data-driven learner insights.

Nonprofit aims to reimagine education, support innovation, and drive inclusion

The nonprofit led by Harvard and MIT will focus on inclusive learning and education. Guided by the efforts and insights from Harvard and MIT research on the dynamics of learning, the nonprofit will collaborate with educational institutions, governments, and other organizations to develop and evaluate new approaches to learning and pedagogy; invest in new learning models that combine the best of online and in-person; promote the adoption of best practices across the education continuum; support innovation in lifelong learning; and advance next generation learning experience platforms, including Open edX. This work will seek to improve educational outcomes and reduce inequities in education by expanding reach to historically underserved communities and preparing all learners for success.

“The transformative power of education is the single best hope for individuals and for society. Through this nonprofit initiative to reimagine learning, Harvard and MIT are uniting to tackle the kind of persistent inequities in education which the pandemic brought so starkly to light,” MIT’s Reif and Harvard’s Bacow said. “Our hope is to tap into what we have learned about digital learning and to push the frontiers of learning toward greater equity and greater impact.”

Across learner ages and stages of life, a learning-and-opportunity gap has revealed itself in variable outcomes for learners and differences in how students engage with digital spaces and tools. The nonprofit will seek out meaningful collaborations and fund initiatives that more effectively serve students from all backgrounds, identifying how to most effectively blend digital tools with in-person support for maximum impact. With these efforts, it aims to advance the field of online education with use-cases for how to meet learner goals in acquiring new skills, increasing their readiness for college, supplementing their in-person training or coursework, and improving employability.

The nonprofit will also support investment in next-generation platforms to continue to advance learning experiences as well as ensure that the Open edX platform is continually improved, remains open source, and powers a vibrant open source community. Following the closing, 2U expects to be a significant contributor of code to the Open edX platform, and the transaction is expected to increase the impact that Open edX can have in supporting learning outcomes around the world. Open edX currently powers approximately 2,400 learning sites worldwide.

Web Resources To Prevent Youth Radicalization

Newswise — New tools to help parents and educators protect vulnerable young people from online radicalization were released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL). The organizations released the new web resources in addition to updates to the 2020 guide, titled Building Resilience & Confronting Risk in the COVID-19 Era: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization, and new tools specifically tailored for educators, counselors, coaches and mentors. 

“Young people are being targeted online by extremists looking to exploit and radicalize them,” said Lydia Bates, Senior Research Analyst with the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “This is why it was critical to us to not only provide resources for parents and caregivers but ensure they are as effective as possible.” In an impact study of 755 adults, the two organizations found that just seven minutes with the guide can dramatically improve a user’s knowledge of extremism and understanding of youth radicalization. Adults who spent more time reading the guide felt better equipped to take immediate action to prevent online radicalization.

Following last year’s release of the Building Resilience & Confronting Risk in the COVID-19 Era: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization, SPLC and PERIL conducted the impact study and thirteen focus groups with educators, school counselors, social workers, coaches, mentors and youth group leaders. The findings from that research led to the development of SPLC and PERIL’s newly published resources. “Communities are looking for resources that not only help them recognize risks, but also build resilience to extremism,” said PERIL Director and Professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss. “Our goal is to inform and empower all adults with the tools to recognize signs of extremist radicalization and feel equipped to intervene with a young person in effective ways.”

The new resources include the updated Building Resilience & Confronting Risk: A Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Radicalization as well as information about the key vulnerabilities that make youth more susceptible to radicalization; how to recognize the warning signs of radicalization; what drives online radicalization; how to get help and engage a radicalized child or young adult; and additional resources for help and support.

The new online resources can be viewed HERE and updated guide HERE.

Google’s First Transparency Report Under The New IT Rules In India

Google has published its first transparency report under the new Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021. It has published the report for April 2021. The rules were notified in February 2021. Google has published its first transparency report under the new Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code). Google received a total of 27,762 complaints for the month of April, and the number of removals stood at 59,350. according to the report. The search giant removes any content which violates its community guidelines, product policies, or local legal requirement.

The new IT rules require significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) such as Google, Facebook, etc to publish a monthly report on the action taken on user complaints that they have received. The rules were notified in February 2021, and came into effect from May.It should be noted that this number of requests, does not include the number of other government requests for content removal. Google has been publishing these details as a separate report, every six months since 2009.

Google’s report under the IT rules also notes that in order to “allow sufficient time for data processing and validation, there will be a two-month lag for reporting.” The existing report does not include data on removals as a result of automated detection, data relating to impersonation and graphic sexual content complaints received post May 25, 2021. This will be included in future reports. Nearly 96 per cent complaints deal with copyright issues (26,707), while 1.3 per cent deal with trademark (357). Around 1 per cent dealt with defamation (275). Other legal requests were 1 per cent (272), counterfeit were 0.4 per cent (114 ) and circumvention were 0.1 per cent (37). According to Google, “some requests may allege infringement of intellectual property rights, while others claim violation of local laws prohibiting types of content on grounds such as defamation.”

Google specifies that each unique URL in a specific complaint is considered an individual “item”, which is why the number of removals is higher than total complaints. Further, “a single complaint may specify multiple items that potentially relate to the same or different pieces of content.” Nearly 98 per cent of the content removal was with regard to copyright: 58,391. The rest of categories were: trademark: 931 (1.6%) Circumvention: 13 (0.0%) Counterfeit: 7 (0.0%) Defamation: 7 (0.0%) Other Legal: 1 (0.0%)

The “removal actions” number represents the number of items where a piece of content was removed or restricted during the one-month reporting period as a result of a specific complaint. Google says they review all complaints carefully. It also notes that there are many reasons as to why they may not have removed content in response to a user complaint. “For example, some requests may not be specific enough for us to know what the user wanted us to remove (for example, no URL is listed in the request), or the content has already been removed by the user when we process the complaint,” notes the report.

US Court Dismisses FTC Lawsuit Against Facebook

Just two weeks into her tenure as chair of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan has been handed her first crisis: how to rescue the agency’s near-dead monopoly lawsuit against Facebook and keep antitrust enforcement against the biggest technology companies on track. The US District Court for the District of Columbia Monday dismissed a complaint filed by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against social networking giant Facebook that sought to undo the company’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. This is being seen as a major blow to the US administration’s antitrust efforts against big-tech companies.

In December last year, an antitrust lawsuit was filed against Facebook alleging that has harmed competition by buying up smaller companies like Instagram and WhatsApp to squash the threat they posed to its business. While the suit was filed by the New York attorney general, 47 other state and regional attorneys general joined it. The overarching theme of the lawsuit was that Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, violated antitrust laws by purchasing companies that were potentially on their way to becoming competitors to Facebook in the social media market.

Judge James Boasberg said the FTC failed to sufficiently detail its claim that the company has monopoly power in the social media market. He gave the agency an opening to revive the complaint by fixing it and refiling in 30 days. Getting the case back on track rests with the 32-year-old Khan, who rose to prominence in the antitrust world by advocating for more forceful competition enforcement against tech companies. The FTC said it was reviewing its options. “There are plenty of facts out there to prove that Facebook has a dominant share of that market,” said Alex Petros, a lawyer at the tech policy organization Public Knowledge in Washington. “This is a bar they should be able to overcome.”

Yet the decision also underscores the hurdles U.S. antitrust enforcers face in bringing cases that challenge conduct by dominant companies. Supporters of more aggressive enforcement say the courts have created nearly insurmountable barriers to winning cases that accuse companies of violating monopoly laws and that Congress has to pass new legislation. “It’s not hard to look at these cases and come away with the sense that antitrust law, as it stands, is not capable of handling the problems posed by dominant technology companies,” said Blake Reid, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are mounting a multi-pronged effort to reform the laws and give competition watchdogs at the FTC and the Justice Department new authority. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee advanced a package of bills aimed at the biggest tech platforms, including Facebook. The proposals would force the companies to exit certain business, impose restrictions on how they treat other firms that depend on their platforms, and make it harder to win approval for mergers. One would also increase filing fees to raise revenue for the antitrust agencies.

“We cannot rely on our courts to keep our markets competitive, open, and fair,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., after the Facebook decision. She has introduced her own antitrust reform proposals and has called for additional funding for the FTC and the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “We urgently need to rejuvenate our antitrust laws to meet the challenges of the modern digital economy,” she said. Democrats Jerrold Nadler of New York, who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, who led the House effort to reform the power of technology giants, echoed Klobuchar’s remarks.

The Facebook lawsuits were filed in December in an exiting salvo by the Trump administration as part of a widening crackdown on America’s tech giants. The cases followed a Justice Department complaint against Alphabet Inc. for allegedly monopolizing internet search, and the findings of a House investigation that accused technology companies of abusing their dominance. The Facebook lawsuits centered on the 2012 acquisition of Instagram and the 2014 takeover of WhatsApp. Officials say Facebook made the deals because it saw both companies as threats to its business. Rather than compete with its own products, Facebook followed Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s mantra: “It is better to buy than compete,” according to the FTC complaint.

According to a Reuters report, the US judge said the federal complaints were “legally insufficient”. Judge James Boasberg said the FTC failed to show that Facebook had monopoly power in the social-networking market but said the FTC could file a new complaint by July 29, the report said. He also dismissed a lawsuit by multiple US states saying they waited too long to challenge the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The Joe Biden administration has mounted a massive antitrust campaign against big-tech firms, in addition to the scrutiny these companies are undergoing from various other branches of the government. And while the case was filed in December, this could prompt the first reaction on the issue from the FTC under its new commissioner Lina Khan, a vocal critic of big-tech who was confirmed by the US Senate earlier this month at a time when there is a growing bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill on the need to rein in the American technology majors.

CEO Satya Nadella Elected Chair Of Microsoft Board of Trustees

Microsoft has elected Satya Nadella as Chairman of the tech giant, the first in two decades when Microsoft’s chairman will also be its CEO.Bill Gates was the only other Chairman and CEO of Microsoft who stepped down as CEO in 2000. In this role as Chairman, Nadella will lead the work to set the agenda for the board, leveraging his deep understanding of the business to elevate the right strategic opportunities and identify key risks and mitigation approaches for the board’s review, the company said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Gates stepped down as chairman in 2014 and the board then elected John Thompson as independent chairman. Gates left the Microsoft board entirely last year to pursue his philanthropic ambitions. Microsoft also unanimously elected John Thompson as lead independent director, a role he held previously from 2012 to 2014. As lead independent director, Thompson will retain significant authority including providing input on behalf of the independent directors on board agendas, calling meetings of the independent directors, setting agendas for executive sessions, and leading performance evaluations of the CEO, Microsoft said. In addition to these role changes, the board declared a quarterly dividend of $0.56 per share.

Accolades and congratulatory messages poured in for Satya Nadella, who was elected as Microsoft Chairman even as he held the CEO post at the tech giant, a feat achieved first time in two decades.

J.C. Pavan Reddy, a Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader said the elevation of Nadella is a very proud moment for all the Telugu people across the globe. “Satya Nadella on his new role as Microsoft chairman! A very proud moment for Telugu people across the globe,” said Reddy on Friday. Earlier, TDP supremo and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu echoed with a similar message. “Congratulations to Nadella on his new role as Microsoft chairman! A very proud moment for Telugu people across the globe.

Nadella met Naidu back in 2015 when he was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Likewise, TDP national general secretary and the party’s second in command Nara Lokesh was elated to know about Nadella’s promotion. “Elated to hear that Nadella has been appointed as the chairman of Microsoft. He has made every Telugu proud with his stellar achievements,” said Lokesh. Congratulating the new MS chairman, Lokesh wished him all the best for his new role.

The new Microsoft chairman’s father, B.N. Yugandhar, was an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and belonged to Anantapur district in the Rayalaseema region of the southern state. Nadella was born in Hyderabad (present-day Telangana) and earned bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka. “I always knew I wanted to build things,” he once said. On February 4, 2014, he was announced as the new CEO of Microsoft, the third CEO in the company’s history following Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

Under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has become one of the most valuable companies in the world, riding on its growing Azure Cloud, Microsoft 365 and enterprise communication businesses (including Teams). Microsoft reported a strong growth of $41.7 billion in sales (up 19 per cent year-over-year) and $15.5 billion in net income for the quarter ended March 31, 2021.

The biggest growth engine was its Azure Cloud division that saw $15.1 billion in revenue, a 23 per cent year-over-year increase. “Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down. They’re accelerating, and it’s just the beginning. We are building the cloud for the next decade, expanding our addressable market and innovating across every layer of the tech stack to help our customers be resilient and transform,” Nadella had said. Driven by online work and learning amid the ongoing pandemic, Microsoft Teams now have 145 million daily active users globally, almost double the numbers a year ago. (IANS)