9 PM Current Affairs Brief – September 28th, 2019

World Digital Competitiveness Rankings

News:The World Digital Competitiveness Ranking(WDCR) 2019 report has been released.

Facts:

About World Digital Competitiveness report:

  • The report has been prepared by the International Institute for Management Development(IMD) World Competitiveness Center.
  • It measures the capacity and readiness of 63 nations to adopt and explore digital technologies as a key driver for economic transformation in business, government and wider society.

The countries are ranked based on three factors which are:

  • Knowledge – the capacity to understand and learn the new technologies, 
  • Technology – the competence to develop new digital innovations 
  • Future Readiness- the preparedness for the coming developments.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • India has jumped four places from 48th place in 2018 to 44th rank in 2019.
  • The country has improved overall in all factors such as knowledge, technology and future-readiness as compared to the previous year’s ranking.
  • The biggest improvement is in the technology sub-factor level holding the first position in telecommunications investment.
  • The US was ranked as the world’s most digitally competitive economy, followed by Singapore in second place.
  • However, the largest jump in the overall ranking was registered by China moving from 30th to 22nd and Indonesia from 62nd to 56th.

National Launch of 10 Year Rural Sanitation Strategy (2019-2029)

News:The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS),Ministry of Jal Shakti has launched the 10 Year Rural Sanitation Strategy (2019-2029).

Facts:

About the Rural Sanitation Strategy:

  • The strategy has been prepared by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation in consultation with the State Governments and other stakeholders.
  • The strategy lays down the roadmap for Open defecation free(ODF) Plus which is the government’s next step in dealing with open defecation and sanitation issues in the country.
  • The aim of the strategy is to take a step further from the construction and maintenance of toilets for rural households by focussing on waste water and solid waste treatment at the village and panchayat level.
  • The strategy also demands focused intervention through (a)capacity strengthening (b)IEC (Information, Education, and Communication), (c)organic waste management (d)plastic waste management and (e) water management.
  • Further, the strategy also involves sanitation coverage of public spaces which will involve construction of community toilets as well as community sanitary complexes in gram panchayats.

Additional information:

Open defecation:

  • Open defecation refers to the practice whereby people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using the toilet to defecate.
  • A city or ward can be notified as Open defecation free(ODF) if at any point of the day,not a single person is found defecating in the open.
  • The ODF+ strategy focuses on sustaining community/ public toilet usage by ensuring their functionality, cleanliness and maintenance.
  • Further,the ODF++ is aimed at achieving sanitation sustainability by addressing complete sanitation value chain, including safe containment, processing and disposal of fecal sludge and septage.

Quantum Supremacy

News:Ascientific paper by Google has claimed that quantum processors have reached the regime of quantum supremacy.

Facts:

  • The research has found that quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that would have been accomplished in 10,000 years by the world’s fastest supercomputer named Summit.

What is Quantum Supremacy:

  • The phrase quantum supremacy was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology.
  • It refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime.This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.

Difference between Traditional computers and Quantum computers:

  • The thing that differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
  • The traditional computer stores information in the form of bits that can take only two values, zero or one.
  • On the other hand, quantum computer stores it in the form of quantum bits (qubits) that can take on various combinations of zero and one.

Additional information:

About Quantum bits:

  • Quantum bit (qubit) is the smallest unit of quantum information which is the quantum analog of the regular computer bit used in the field of quantum computing. 
  • A quantum bit can exist in superposition which means that it can exist in multiple states at once. 
  • Compared to a regular bit which can exist in one of two states, 1 or 0, the quantum bit can exist as a 1, 0 or 1 and 0 at the same time. 
  • This allows for very fast computing and the ability to do multitudes of calculations at once, theoretically.

Fake News

News:Recently,twenty countries including France, Britain and India has signed an agreement at the UN to stop the spread of fake news online.

Facts:

  • The agreement was initiated by the Reporters Without Borders(RSF), a press freedom watchdog.
  • The signatory countries committed to promoting independently reported, diverse and reliable information.
  • The agreement also underlined the responsibility of internet providers to promote trustworthy content and pluralism to escape the current information chaos.

Additional information:

Fake news:

  • Fake news is the deliberate creation of factually incorrect content to mislead people for some gain.
  • Fake news is becoming an increasingly serious problem.It is viewed as a serious threat to the democratic process.

About Reporters Without Borders(RSF):

  • Reporters Sans Frontieres(RSF) or Reporters Without Borders is a non-profit organization that works to document and combat attacks on journalists around the world.
  • It is headquartered in Paris, France.It also has a consultant status at the United Nations.
  • The key documents published by the organisation are: (a)World Press Freedom Index (b)Predators of Press Freedom and (c)Press Freedom Barometer.

Note:In the World Press Freedom Index,2019 India has been ranked at 140th out of 180 countries. Norway has topped the list for the third year in a row followed by Finland.

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes 2019

News:President of India has announced the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards 2019.

Facts:

  • The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards are given by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR).
  • The award is given each year for outstanding contributions to science and technology.
  • The award is named after Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar who was the first director-general of the CSIR and the first Chairman of the UGC.
  • The prize is given in seven categories namely: (a) Physical Sciences, (b) Chemical Sciences, (c) Biological Sciences, (d) Medical Sciences, (e) Mathematical Sciences, (f) Engineering Sciences and (g) Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Science.
  • Any citizen of India engaged in research in any field of science and technology up to the age of 45 years is eligible to be nominated for the award.

Additional information:

About CSIR:

  • CSIR was established by the Government of India in 1942 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • It has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.

Exercise KAZIND – 2019

News:TheJoint Military Exercise KAZIND-2019 between India and Kazakhstan will be conducted at Pithoragarh,Uttarakhand.

Facts:

About the exercise:

  • Exercise KAZIND-2019 is the fourth edition of an annual event which is conducted alternatively in Kazakhstan and India. 
  • The aim of this exercise is to conduct company level joint training with emphasis on counter terrorism operations in mountainous terrain. 
  • During the exercise,aspects of emerging trends of global terrorism and hybrid warfare have also been included.
  • The exercise will also enhance the level of defence cooperation which will further foster bilateral relations between the two nations.

Bharat-22 ETF

News: Government has decided to launch the fourth tranche of Bharat-22 Exchange traded fund(ETF) on October 3,2019.

Facts:

What are Exchange traded fund(ETF)?

  • Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) are index funds that are listed and traded on stock exchanges just like regular shares.
  • They are a basket of stocks with assigned weights that reflect the composition of an index.
  • The ETFs trading value is based on the net asset value of the underlying stocks that it represents.
  • The ETF is aimed at helping speed up the government’s disinvestment programme.

About Bharat-22 ETF:

  • Bharat 22 is an ETF that will track the performance of 22 stocks of Central Public Sector Enterprises(CPSE), Public Sector Banks(PSB’s ) and strategic holding of SUUTI(Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India).
  • The 22 stocks are diversified across six sectors such as(a) basic materials (b) energy (c)finance (d) FMCG (e) industrials and (f) utilities.
  • Bharat-22 ETF is managed by the ICICI Prudential AMC while Asia Index is the index provider.

G-4 for UNSC reform, enhanced role of developing countries

News:The foreign ministers of G-4 grouping held a meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA).

Facts:

About G-4:

  • The G4 nations comprises of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan.
  • These four countries support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
  • Unlike the G7, where the common denominator is the economy and long-term political motives, the G4’s primary aim is the permanent member seats on the UN Security Council.

Highlights of the meeting:

  • The G-4 countries have decided to prepare for a fresh plan for reforms at the UNGA in 2020 when the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary.
  • The G-4 countries highlighted that there is a clear need for an enhanced role of developing countries and of major contributors to the United Nations to make the UNSC more legitimate, effective and representative.
  • The countries also put a focus on the role of the African continent in the Council.
  • The G-4 countries also said that the reforms-related decisions should be by a two-thirds majority in the UN General Assembly which was enshrined in the 1998 resolution of the UNGA. 
  • This is contrary to the position taken by China which has always said that the decisions should be taken through comprehensive consensus.

Additional information:

About United Nations Security Council(UNSC):

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom,France,China and the United States serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members elected on a regional basis to serve two-year term.

Need of UNSC reform:

  • The UN represents a larger world but it has only 5 permanent members in an important body such as UN Security Council(UNSC).
  • The current composition of the UNSC represents the post World War II realities and thus is not in pace with the contemporary geopolitical realities of the world.

UNSC reforms:The demands for reform of the UNSC is based on five key issues which are:

  • categories of membership (permanent , non-permanent).
  • the question of the veto held by the five permanent members.
  • Council with a membership that includes regional powers 
  • the size of an enlarged UN Security Council and its working methods.
  • the relationship between the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly.

Financial Stability and Development Council(FSDC)

News:Thesub-committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) has met to discuss measures to promote interest and competition in stressed asset markets.

Facts:

About FSDC:

  • The Financial Stability and Development Council(FSDC) was set up by the Government as the apex level forum in December 2010.It is not a statutory body.
  • The objective of FSDC is to strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability, enhancing inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development.
  • The FSDC was first proposed under the recommendations of Raghuram Rajan committee(2008) on financial sector reforms.

Members:

  • The Chairperson of FSDC is Union Finance Minister of India
  • The members include (a) Heads of all Financial Sector Regulators (RBI, SEBI, PFRDA & IRDA) (b) Finance Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) (c)Secretary, Department of Financial Services (DFS) and (d)Chief Economic Adviser.
  • In 2018, Government had reconstituted FSDC to include (a) Minister of State responsible for the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) (b) Secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (c)Chairperson of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) and (d) Revenue Secretary.

Functions:

  • It focuses on financial literacy and financial inclusion.
  • It aims strengthening and institutionalizing the mechanism of financial stability and development.
  • It monitors macro-prudential supervision of the economy.It also assess the functioning of large financial conglomerates.
  • It also addresses intra regulatory coordination issues.

YSR Rythu Bharosa scheme

News:Andhra Pradesh Government is set to launch a scheme for farmers called as YSR Rythu Bharosa scheme.

Facts:

About the scheme:

  • The scheme aims to provide monetary support to farmers which will also include landless and tenant farmers.
  • Under the scheme,each farmer holding up to five acres will be given financial assistance of Rs 12,500.
  • The amount also includes Rs 6,000 per annum to each family being provided by the Centre under its PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme.
  • The main feature of the scheme is that the money will be directly deposited in the farmer’s bank account doing away with all middlemen and avoiding the pitfalls of corruption of any kind in the disbursement of funds.
  • The scheme is modelled on Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme but Andhra Pradesh government has also decided to include tenant farmers.

Additional information:

Tenant farmers:

  • Tenant farmer traditionally refers to a farmer who does not own the land that he lives on and works but rather it is owned by a landlord. 
  • Generally, the landlord contributes the land, capital and management, while the tenants contribute their labor and possibly some capital.
  • The returns from the crops are shared in a variety of ways, depending on the agreement between landlord and tenant.

About Rythu Bandhu scheme:

  • Rythu Bandhu is an investment support scheme for farmers in Telangana.
  • The scheme provides cheque payments to farmers based on their landholdings.
  • Under this scheme, the state government gives every beneficiary farmers Rs 5,000 per acre as investment support before every crop season.

First Indigenous Fuel Cell System

News:President of India has unveiled the first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System on the occasion of CSIR Foundation Day.

Facts:

About the Indigenous fuel system:

  • The system has been developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) in partnership with Indian industries.
  • It has been developed under India’s flagship program named New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI).

Working of the system:

  • The 5.0 kW fuel cell system generates power in a green manner using methanol / bio-methane with heat and water as bi-products for further use.
  • The system provides greater than 70% efficiency which otherwise may not be possible by other energy sources.
  • The Fuel Cells developed under this system are based on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane(HTPEM) Technology.

Applications of the system:

  • This development would replace Diesel Generating (DG) sets and help reduce India’s dependence on crude oil.
  • This system will also meet the requirement of efficient, clean and reliable backup power generators that are demanded by telecom towers, remote locations, and strategic applications.

Additional information:

About HTPEM:

  • High Temperature Proton exchange membrane(HTPEM) is the core of the fuel cells running above 150 °C.
  • HTPEM offer several advantages such as (a)high proton conductivity, (b)low permeability to fuel (c)good chemical/thermal stability (d)good mechanical properties and (e)low cost.
  • They are considered to be a promising technology for efficient power generation in the 21st century.

About NMITLI:

  • New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative(NMITLI) is the largest Public-Private partnership effort within the R&D domain in the country.
  • The responsibility of conceptualising, evolving and implementing the programme has been assigned to the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research(CSIR).
  • The programme seeks to catalyze innovation centred scientific and technological developments as a vehicle to attain for Indian industry a global leadership position, in selected niche areas.

About CSIR:

  • CSIR was established by the Government of India in 1942 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • It has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.

‘Tikki Mausi’ mascot

News:Government of Odisha in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF) has unveiled a mascot named ‘Tikki Mausi’.

Facts:

About the mascot:

  • The mascot- ‘Tikki Mausi’ aims to change the behaviour of common people and make them aware about child and women’s nutrition and development in every household.
  • The mascot has been named as ‘Tikki Mausi’ in reference to the second mother of a child. 
  • It is also projected to spread awareness for better health care of children and their development.

Additional Information:

UNICEF

  • UNICEF stands for United Nations Children’s Fund.It was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946.It is headquartered in New York,USA.
  • It is a special program of the United Nations (UN) devoted to aiding national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children.
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