Facebook most welcome, but no compromise on data security: Prasad

Mar 22, 2018 0

New Delhi– Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said social media giant Facebook, which has a robust presence in the country, is welcome, provided there is no compromise on data security.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad with John Kern, SVP, Supply Chain Operations, Cisco, in Delhi. (Photo: Coutresy, Cisco India)

“Facebook is most welcome here, why not? They have the most robust presence here. But as far as data security is concerned, there shall be no compromise,” Prasad said here at the ET Telecom India Mobile Conclave.

“I am happy if they reinforce their architecture, they are most welcome,” he said.

However, condemning the presence of political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), Prasad said: “But companies like CA has no place because they have publically claimed that ‘we abuse the system to influence the supporters’.”

“Any sanctity of India’s voting pattern should not be compromised,” said Prasad.

India had on Wednesday warned social media giant Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg of “stringent action” including summoning him over “misuse” of data to allegedly influence electoral process.

Amid allegations of misuse of personal data for political purposes by Facebook, the BJP had also hit out at Congress accusing it of compromising national security by reportedly roping in political data analytics firm CA to run its 2019 election campaign.

On Wednesday night, the Facebook CEO apologised for the data debacle that upended the social media giant and said he was ready to testify before US Congress, said a media report. (IANS)

Read More

Google commits $300mn to empower media houses

Mar 21, 2018 0

San Francisco– In a bid to help news organisations thrive in the digital age, Google has committed $300 million over the next three years as part of the Google News Initiative (GNI).

The GNI will help media outlets evolve new business models while adopting innovative technologies.

According to Google, business models for journalism continue to change drastically and the rapid evolution of technology is challenging all institutions, including the news industry, to keep pace.

“Over the next three years, we’re committing $300 million toward meeting these goals. We’re also deepening our commitment to building products that address the news industry’s most urgent needs,” Philipp Schindler, Chief Business Officer at Google, said in a blog post late on Tuesday.

The GNI is focused on three objectives: Elevate and strengthen quality journalism, evolve business models to drive sustainable growth and empower news organisations through technological innovation.

Google has earlier worked closely with the news industry to address key challenges.

“We worked with the industry to launch the open-source ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages Project’ to improve the mobile web and ‘YouTube Player’ for Publishers to simplify video distribution and reduce costs,” Schindler said.

“We also introduced ‘Flexible Sampling’ to help with discovery of news content on Google; ‘Google News Lab’ to provide newsrooms with trainings and editorial partnerships, and the ‘Digital News Initiative’ to drive innovation in the European news industry,” he added.

Over the past few years, Google has worked with publishers to elevate accurate, quality content and stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation.

“We’re launching the ‘Disinfo Lab’ alongside the ‘First Draft’ to combat mis- and disinformation during elections and breaking news moments,” Google said.

Google is also teaming up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and the Local Media Association to launch “MediaWise”, a project designed to improve digital information literacy for young consumers.

Google is currently working with news organisations around the world to develop and deploy technology that improves newsroom efficiency, creates enriching storytelling experiences, and protects journalists from cyber attacks around the world.

“For example, we are using our natural language processing API to help ‘Hearst Newspapers’ sort, label and categorise more than 3,000 articles every day,” Google said.

Google has also worked with the South China Morning Post to use “Google Earth Studio” to create immersive VR experiences that show the evolution of Hong Kong throughout history.

“Finally, we’re also launching ‘Outline’, an open-source tool from Jigsaw that lets news organisations provide journalists more secure access to the internet,” Google announced.

“Outline” makes it easy for news organisations to set up their own VPN on a private server.

In 2017, Google paid $12.6 billion to partners and drove 10 billion clicks a month to publishers’ websites for free. (IANS)

Read More

India to take up trade protectionism measures with US: Prabhu

Mar 20, 2018 0

New Delhi– India on Tuesday said it will bilaterally take-up the issue of recent trade protectionism measures imposed by the US.

Addressing a press conference after the Informal WTO Ministerial Meeting here, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said: “Every country will have a different response to it. We are obviously not the largest exporter of steel or aluminium to the US….”

“We will take it up with the US, with whom we have a huge trade surplus and we have a very good political relationship. We will take up this with them bilaterally.”

Suresh Prabhu

The assertion by the minister assumes significance as recently the US slapped import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, unfolding the prospect of an all-out global trade war.

According to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, the recent trade protectionist measures by the US have major potential for escalation.

“I have said very publicly, that I am very concerned and I think the institution itself could say the same, because these measures, for whatever reason, have a very major potential for escalation because of the possibility of responses from other partners with trade restrictive measures as well and that, I think, is something we should avoid,” Azevedo said.

“That’s what I heard today, many many countries saying we have a concern with this. We have to proceed very carefully and try to work within the framework of WTO… because I think that’s the only way we can avoid a very disruptive and unpredictable scenario in global trade.”

Further, Minister Prabhu said that “food security” issue was also discussed at the meeting during which “talks were held in a free and frank” manner.

The minister had earlier said that India is a strong supporter and believer in the WTO framework and is strongly committed to see the organisation being strengthened.

New Delhi hosted the largest Informal WTO Ministerial Meeting which began on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by delegates from 52 countries, including WTO Director General Azevedo, who participated in the discussions.

This is the second WTO mini-ministerial meeting being hosted by India, after the first in 2009 and it took place after the collapse of the WTO Buenos Aires ministerial talks in December last year.

The talks at the 11th ministerial conference at Buenos Aires broke down as the US reneged on its commitment, along with other countries, to find a permanent solution to the issue of public food stockholding by members of the multilateral trade body.

The US representative to the WTO talks declared in a small group meeting that a permanent solution to the food stockholding issue was not acceptable to America.

Under the WTO norms, a member-country’s food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 per cent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88.

India has been seeking amendments to this formula, fearing that full implementation of its food security programme may result in breaching of the WTO subsidy limit.

At the Buenos Aires ministerial, India continued to press for the reduction of farm subsidies by developed countries and resisted inclusion of new issues on the negotiating table like e-commerce and investment facilitation into the ongoing Doha Round of talks that have a developmental agenda, if in case these dilute the commitment to complete the existing agenda. (IANS)

Read More

Privatise public sector banks before it’s too late: Nandan Nilekani

Mar 20, 2018 0

By Vishav

Mumbai– Public sector banks should be privatised now when they dominate the market share before their value is eroded by “creeping privatisation”, Infosys Chairman and the architect of Aadhaar Nandan Nilekani said on Tuesday.

He said the choice is obvious because it’s a choice between privatisation — which would benefit the taxpayer and the state — and a creeping privatisation.

Nandan Niliekani

Nilekani said the pace at which the public sector banks are losing market share has been estimated by to be four per cent a year.

“Today, the market share of public sector banks is 70 per cent. So in 10 years, this share is going to become very small and may eventually be reduced to something like 10 per cent,” Nilekani told IANS.

He said this happened in the telecom sector as well where the big four telecom companies – all private – dominate, and BSNL is a small player.

“It’s also happening in airlines where they are now talking about privatisation of Air India.

“So rather than to wait for that situation to arise while the public sector banks still dominate the market share, I feel it’s a good idea to let them be free and owned by public,” Nilekani said.

He added that another reason for public sector banks to be privatised is the increasing role technology is playing in the banking sector.

“Technology has now become so critical to business success in banks. Getting this technology right is a very complex task which requires huge talent which may be a challenge in public sector banks,” he said.

“So all the more reason why they should be privatised so the tax payer gets some value upside out of that.”

Head of the Kotak Mahindra Bank Uday Kotak added while the public sector banks hold the major share of the market, the growth in the banking sector is now dominated by private players.

“In the next five years, the 70-30 ratio of public and private banks will move to 50-50 ratio,” Kotak said.

This means a four per cent increase in the market share per year compared to one per cent per year currently.

Kotak said this huge jump in the market share will be driven by digital technology, Aadhaar based electronic KYC (Know your customer) and data driven lending.

“Aadhaar is not just for last mile payments but will change the face of finance. KYC through Aadhaar is the future of where finance will go,” he said.

Nilekani said that Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is going to be another game-changer and by December this year, UPI transactions will cross one billion mark making it the largest payment system in the country. (IANS)

Read More

Wheat production likely to hit 100 MT target this year

Mar 20, 2018 0

By Saurabh Katkurwar

New Delhi– Wheat production in the country could this year achieve the long-cherished target of 100 million tonnes (MT), thanks to the conducive climatic conditions throughout the season, especially in March when the grain ripens.

If farmers and scientists are to be believed, climatic conditions in the major wheat-producing states of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are favourable, availability of water is sufficient and pest attacks are relatively negligible.

The Union Agriculture Ministry has predicted 97.11 million tonnes of wheat production this year in its second advanced estimates, issued last month.

However, the output would be over 100 million tonnes due to a consistent level of suitable conditions in every aspect for the crop, said G.P. Singh, Director, Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR).

“The climate has been conducive this year and pest attacks, including yellow rust, have been reported in very few pockets. The grain filling (ripening) process is at a good pace owing to optimum temperature. So total production certainly would be over 100 million tonnes,” Singh told IANS.

Union Agriculture Secretary Shobhana Pattanayak also said the government was sure of better production this year.

“Last year, the output was 98.51 million tonnes. This year it will be more than that. But they (IIWBR scientists) are saying it will cross 100 million tonnes,” Pattanayak told IANS.

In 2016-17, the ministry had predicted output of 96.64 million tonnes in its second advanced estimates, but the actual production was 98.51 million tonnes despite a sudden surge in temperature in mid-March.

This March, the temperature is expected to remain below 30 degrees Celsius, which would ensure bumper production, Singh said.

An important constituent of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the IIWBR is a nodal agency for wheat and barley research activities in the country.

Notably, the area under wheat cultivation has reduced to 30.07 million hectares in 2017-18 from 31.78 million hectares in 2016-17.

The possible reason could be delayed sowing this year due to the stern measures taken by the government against stubble burning, besides increase in areas under cultivation of cotton and summer rice.

Singh said wheat harvesting had already started in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and it would start in western Rajasthan in the next few days, while the reaping process in Punjab and Haryana would start early in April.

Manoj Munjal, who has cultivated wheat on 150 acres in Taraodi village of Karnal district, confirmed the expectation of a bumper harvest this year.

“Temperature has gone up by a few degrees but it is still below 30, which is good for grain filling process. Farmers in our area are likely to start reaping by April 13,” Munjal said.

The Food Ministry has decided to procure 32 million tonnes this year, including 11.9 million tonnes from Punjab, 7.4 million tonnes from Haryana, 6.7 million tonnes from Madhya Pradesh and four million tonnes from Uttar Pradesh.

The centre has announced Rs 1,735 per quintal as the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat this year.

According to government data, India’s share in global wheat production was recorded at 15.36 per cent in 2017-18, with China being the leading wheat producing country, followed by India and Russia.

Nepal, Bangladesh and the UAE are the top export destinations for wheat from India. (IANS)

Read More

Facebook security chief likely to leave amid alleged data breach: Report

Mar 20, 2018 0

New York– With Facebook dealing with an alleged data breach crisis, the Chief Information Security Officer of the social network, Alex Stamos, is planning to leave the company by August, according to a report in The New York Times.

Facebook is facing a backlash as a data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team allegedly harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters to influence their choices at the ballot box.

Mark Zuckerberg

The social network announced in mid-March its decision to suspend Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), along with its political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, for violating its policies and commitments, but refused to call the incident a “data breach”.

The impending exit of Stamos reflects heightened leadership tension at the top of the social network, The Times report said.

Citing versions of some current and former employees of the social network, the report said that much of the internal disagreement is rooted in how much Facebook should publicly share about how nation states abused Facebook’s services.

Stamos reportedly met with resistance by colleagues when he had advocated more disclosure around Russian interference of the platform and some restructuring to better address the issues.

In December 2017, Stamos’s responsibilities were reassigned to others, following which he expressed desire to leave the company. But he was convinced to stay until August to help see through the transition of his responsibilities, according to the report.

His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, the current and former employees were quoted as saying.

Responding to the report on Monday, Stamos in a tweet said that he is still fully engaged with his work at Facebook, while avoiding divulging details about whether he intended to leave Facebook or not.

“Despite the rumours, I’m still fully engaged with my work at Facebook,” he tweeted.

“It’s true that my role did change. I’m currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security.”

Following the reported data leakage of its 50 million users for alleged political purposes, Facebook suffered the biggest one-day drop of its stocks by seven per cent on Wall Street on Monday in four years, Xinhua new agency reported.

Cambridge Analytica received user data from a Facebook app years ago that purported to be a psychological research tool, though the firm was not authorised to have that information.

Facebook admitted that an estimated 270,000 people had downloaded the app and shared their personal details with it. (IANS)

Read More

‘Cold comfort’ for India as neighbours give ‘pause for thought’ on Chinese aid

Mar 19, 2018 0

By Anjali Ojha

New Delhi– China’s growing imprint through building of infrastructure projects in South Asian countries is proving to be “not so useful” for them and New Delhi is finding “cold comfort” in the fact that China’s aid was being relooked at by many of India’s neighbours, the government has told a parliamentary panel.

According to a report by the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, the panel was informed by the government that “experiences” with Chinese infrastructure projects in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka were leading these countries to give “at least some pause for thought”.

In “oral evidence” to the panel on February 16, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that China had been a “net exporter of capital infrastructure technology in last five years”. China has said for many years that it did not intend to do this because it was very typically a Cold-War construct which the Americans had done, Gokhale pointed out.

“The logistics base at Djibouti is the first one where Chinese President Xi Jinping, wearing combat fatigues, addressed the soldiers in October, thereby removing even the veil of some ambiguity whether or not this is a military base,” Gokhale said.

He said China has begun a number of projects in every South Asian country with substantial commitments. “The experience has been that while initially the appearance of free money or cheap money as well as quick execution of projects — which we have to admit is very much a part of the Chinese modalities — was attractive to a number of these countries… there have been some experiences in some of our neighbouring countries which are now giving at least some pause for thought,” he said.

Giving examples, he said it was generally accepted that Hambantota port, for instance, had proved to be an “economic burden” for the Sri Lankan government. “In case of Bangladesh, the general sense we got is that President Xi committed $23 billion when he went an official visit two years ago, but it now transpires that a large amount of this money is actually commercial credit and at interest rates which are comparable to international commercial interest rates, but they are also insisting on buying Chinese equipment rather than tendering on international basis,” he said.

Similarly, in Myanmar, there had been some rethinking on the Kyauk Pyu — a deep sea port which was to be a part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative — because the sheer size of the port did not appear to be something that the Myanmar government was going to utilise.

“That is the cold comfort to us,” he said, adding that the Indian government’s aim was to try to build infrastructure projects which were of interest of the countries in our neighbourhood.

“Our infrastructure projects are different from Chinese infrastructure projects in that they are largely demand-driven. In other words, we wait for governments of our neighbours to tell us what projects are required and then we proceed to do it,” he said, adding that prominent among these were India’s projects in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Gokhale also told the panel that India had raised concerns with China at the “highest level” about the proposed projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and a constant vigil was being maintained.
During Xi’s visit to Pakistan in 2015, several bilateral cooperation agreements, including those on hydroelectric and nuclear projects, highways, motorways, ports, export processing zones, agriculture, and financial arrangements for projects were signed. Most of these agreements were for projects proposed under the CPEC, and some of the proposed projects were in PoK.

“Government’s consistent position is that Pakistan has been in illegal occupation of parts of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947. Government has conveyed to the Chinese side, including at the highest level, its concerns about their activities in PoK and asked them to cease these activities,” the report says.

“Government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it”, the report quoted the foreign secretary as saying. (IANS)

Read More

Canada’s top Sikh tycoon donates $10 mn to university

Mar 15, 2018 0

By Gurmukh Singh

Toronto– Canada’s top Sikh real estate tycoon Bob Dhillon donated $10 million to the University of Lethbridge in Alberta on Wednesday.

The university has renamed its business school after him. It will henceforth be called the Dhillon School of Business.

Bob Singh Dhillon (Photo: Twitter)

Calgary-based Bob (Navneet) Dhillon is the president and CEO of the real estate giant Mainstreet Equity Corporation which he started from the back of his car in the 1980s.

With its assets over $1.5 billion, the company owns over 10,000 apartment units across Canada.

The university said the Dhillon School of Business will drive futuristic learning and focus on new technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrencies and new growth industries, including artificial intelligence and robotics.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant and I’m very fortunate that I’m in a position to make this contribution. This is my way of giving back to Canada,” said Dhillon whose family hails from Tallewal village near Barnala in Punjab.

Dhillon, who is an alumnus of Bishop Cotton School in Shimla, said: “I am an immigrant and a businessman and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunities I’ve had growing up here in Canada.

“I was very fortunate that the importance of education was drilled into me by my family, my parents, my brother, really everybody around me growing up.”

The Sikh real estate tycoon, who also holds an MBA from the famous Ivey School of Business at Western University, added: “Education is what drives successful global nations and Canada is unique in that there is so much opportunity here.

“The UofL is a world-class university that the world needs to discover.”

University President and Vice Chancellor Mike Mahon said the donation from Dhillon will be transformational for his institution.

“Our university was founded by forward-thinking mavericks…Here we are 50-plus years later and we’re still looking ahead, pushing boundaries and creating an educational experience like no other.

“This gift, this commitment from Dhillon, will help drive us forward.” (IANS)

Read More

Job creation is happening in new economy: Jayant Sinha

Mar 9, 2018 0

Mumbai– India is witnessing a major upsurge in job creation, not in the traditional economy but in the new economy, a central minister said on Friday, citing the example of cab aggregators Ola and Uber who created lakhs of jobs in the past few years.

Jayant Sinha

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha was addressing a session titled “Democracy, Demography, Demand: The Mystery of the Missing Jobs” at the India Today Conclave here.

“There is a tremendous upsurge in job creation, not in the traditional economy but in the new economy, in entrepreneurship,” Sinha said

“For instance, Ola and Uber have given employment to 10 lakh drivers. So, I would say it is not about the missing jobs..it is about the missing data,” the Minister said.

In support of his contention, the Minister pointed to various estimates, including Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) data to say that “job situation is not as bad as it is being made out to be”.

As per EPFO data, over one crore new accounts were added in 2017 to the 4.5 crore members of the organisation.

Former Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot of the Congress, who participated in the discussion, highlighted the dismal employment situation in the country, pointing to the stressed agriculture sector, which has prompted a farm friendly Budget 2018-19, as well as the slowdown in exports.

“Our country is at a turning point with the number of young people who are unemployed or underemployed,” Pilot said.

“We have a situation where 40 per cent of people going out to seek jobs are underskilled,” he added.

Rebutting Pilot, Sinha said that it is precisely to meet this gap in skilling that the ruling NDA government had created a Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

“No doubt there is work to do in the area of job creation, but we are a 2.5 trillion dollar economy and we are on the right trajectory,” Sinha said.

While the NDA made an election promise of creating 10 million jobs a year, slowing private investment and huge corporate indebtedness has made the job scenario a difficult one.

Besides, with the larger part of the workforce in the informal economy, demonetisation made 2017 an even more difficult period.

The 5th Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey, 2015-16, shows that with rising education levels, the unemployment rate has also gone up in the age group of 18-29 years.

“The unemployment rate for persons aged 18-29 years and holding a degree in graduation and above was found to be maximum with 18.4 per cent based on the Usual Principal Status Approach at the all-India level,” said the Survey report on Youth Employment-Unemployment Scenario, Volume II.

The unemployment rate for the age group at the all-India level was estimated at 13.2 per cent.

The Survey’s Volume I suggested that the unemployment rate was estimated to be five per cent at the all-India level. (IANS)

Read More

Trump mimics Modi, says US ‘getting nothing’ on Harley-Davidson tariff issue

Feb 27, 2018 0

Washington– US President Donald Trump, upset over the issue of high import duty on Harley-Davidson motorcycles in India, has said that Washington was “getting nothing” despite India’s announcement of slashing customs duty on imported motorcycles to 50 per cent.

He also imitated Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but this time without the Indian accent.

PM Modi and President Trump (Photo: twitter)

Trump described Modi as a “fantastic and a beautiful man” while talking about his recent conversation with him in which India informed the US about reduced tariffs on imported motorcycles, but Trump said that US was “getting nothing”.

“When they (Harley Davidson) send a motorcycle to India, as an example, they have to pay 100 per cent tax, 100 per cent,” Trump said in his remarks to a gathering of governors of all the states at the White House on Monday.

“Now, the (Indian) Prime Minister, who I think is a fantastic man, called me the other day and said we are lowering it to 50 per cent. I said okay, but so far we’re getting nothing. So we get nothing. He gets 50 (per cent), and they think they’re doing us a favour. That’s not a favour,” he said.

Trump imitated Modi by folding his hands and taking in a soft and serious tone.

He said: “I wasn’t sure, he said it so beautifully. He’s a beautiful man. And he said, ‘I just want to inform you that we have reduced it to 75, but we have further reduced it to 50′. And I said, huh. What do I say? Am I supposed to be thrilled? And that’s not good for you people, especially as governors. It’s just not right. And we have many deals like that,” the US President said.

He said the US gets “zero” when it buys an Indian motorcycle.

“So when they have a motorbike, a big number, by the way – they have a company that does a lot of business. They have a motorcycle or a motorbike that comes into our country… we get zero. They get 100 per cent, brought down to 75; brought down, now, to 50. Okay,” Trump said.

“It’s a great company. When I spoke with your chairman or the president of Harley, they weren’t even asking for it because they’ve been ripped off with a trade so long that they were surprised that I brought it up. I’m the one that’s pushing it more than they are, but it’s unfair. And India sells us a lot of motorbikes,” Trump said. (IANS)

Read More