Cryptocurrency in India – Lessons from other Countries
Synopsis: No legal classification of cryptocurrency in India should not be the reason for its ban. There are some international examples, from where India can adopt some ways to deal with Cryptocurrencies.
El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. This shows the rising global trend of accepting cryptocurrencies with all their associated risks. Almost all countries are permitting the growth of the cryptocurrency market subject to certain safeguards.
However, India is still thinking about whether to prohibit or regulate cryptocurrencies. Globally, there is an inclination towards regulations that recognizes the freedom of choice of people for using a medium of exchange other than a central bank-backed fiat currency.
How has India responded to the crypto business so far?
The cryptocurrency market in India has advanced in a mainly unrestrictive regulatory space since the first recorded cryptocurrency transaction in 2010.
- Firstly, between 2013 and 2018, the government’s response to the rise of virtual currencies was cautionary. It alerted users to the potential risks posed by cryptocurrency transactions. These concerns arose from its potential use in criminal activities such as money laundering, terrorist financing, and tax evasion.
- Secondly, in April 2018, RBI effectively banned cryptocurrency trading. However, the Supreme Court in 2020 overturned this ban.
- The court said that RBI can take other regulatory measures instead of an outright ban through which risks associated with cryptocurrency trading can be curbed.
- Now, the draft Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 has been introduced. The draft Bill plans to criminalize all private cryptocurrencies while also laying down the regulatory framework for an RBI-backed digital currency.
Minister of State for Finance stated in the Parliament that regulatory bodies do not have a legal framework to directly regulate private cryptocurrencies. Then, how these currencies should be regulated?
What are the lessons that India could learn from other countries?
India can take a few lessons from the U.K., Singapore, and the U.S. UK. They have categorized cryptocurrency as property. This has made the way for cryptocurrencies to be included within a regulated legal framework in the country’s economy.
- The U.K. wants to regulate the working of crypto-businesses while still imposing some restrictions to protect the interests of investors.
- There is no precise legal classification of cryptocurrency in Singapore, but the flexibility of cryptocurrency transactions to the contract law framework of the country has been resolutely recognised and there is now a legal framework for cryptocurrency trading.
- In the U.S., the authorities are taking an open approach, It led to the taxing and regulation of trade-in cryptocurrency.
- These approaches are country-specific and cannot be directly implemented in India. However, the global regulatory attitude towards cryptocurrencies gives valuable insights into the other ways to achieve balanced regulation.
- In India, the absence of an existing legal classification of cryptocurrency should not be the basis to ban its use. The government should use this as an opportunity to allow private individuals the freedom to harness a powerful new technology with appropriate regulatory standards.
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Factors Affecting Growth of Block Chain technology in India
Synopsis: There are many positive benefits in utilising blockchain technology. However, regulatory uncertainties in Policymaking have impeded the growth of Blockchain technology in India.
- Satoshi Nakamoto created the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, in 2008, as a fully decentralised, peer-to-peer electronic cash system.
- Since then, Bitcoins have seen phenomenal growth in market value. For instance, Bitcoin, which was traded at just $0.0008 in 2010, commands a market price of $65,000 this April.
- Many newer coins were introduced since Bitcoin’s launch, and their cumulative market value touched $2.5 trillion. Their value has surpassed the size of the economy of most modern nations.
- Despite its increasing acceptance globally, India has followed its usual approach of ‘bar what you can’t understand, ban what you can’t control’.
- In 2018, the Reserve Bank barred our financial institutions. It was from supporting crypto transactions, but the Supreme Court overturned it in 2020.
- Further, the government has circulated a draft bill outlawing all cryptocurrency activities. It has been under discussion since 2019.
- More recently, the Reserve Bank has announced the launch of a private blockchain-supported official digital currency, similar to China’s digital Yuan.
- However, launching official digital currency is impractical, and shows a lack of understanding of this disruptive innovation.
Why India is hesitant to accept cryptocurrencies?
Though Cryptocurrencies have many advantages, there are few concerns associated with them,
- One, extreme volatility. For example, China’s recent crackdown on cryptocurrency wiped out a trillion US dollars from the global crypto market within a span of 24 hours.
- Two, it can be used as an instrument for illicit activities, including money laundering and terror funding as there are no regulations.
What is the significance of Blockchain technology?
The underlying technology of Cryptocurrencies is Blockchain technology. Blockchain network performs functions such as verification of transactions and contracts and the updating and maintenance of these records in the form of tamper-proof ledgers. It serves many purposes.
- One, currently, intermediaries (including banks, credit card, and payment gateways) draw almost 3 percent from the total global economic output of over $100 trillion, as fees for their services. Integrating blockchain into these sectors could result in hundreds of billions of dollars in savings.
- Two, Blockchain can make every aspect of e-governance, judicial and electoral processes more efficient and transparent.
- Three, it can make our digital space more redistributive and fairer. For instance, Tech firms, including titans like Google and Facebook, derive most of their value from their multitude of users. Blockchain could enable these internet customers to receive micro-payments for any original data they share in the digital space including ratings, reviews, and images.
Despite its significance, regulatory uncertainty is hampering the growth of blockchain start-ups in India. For instance, blockchain start-ups worldwide received venture funding of $ 2.6 billion. Whereas, in India, less than 0.2 percent of the amount the sector raised globally have gone into the Indian blockchain start-ups
- India has been a late adopter in all the previous phases of the digital revolution. Like semiconductors, the internet, and smartphone technology (4G and 5G).
- Currently, we are witnessing the next phase in a digital revolution led by technologies like blockchain.
- Channelizing India’s human capital, expertise, and resources supported with the right policies will help India to make the most benefit of it.
Source: Indian Express
National AI Portal (INDIAai) celebrates its first anniversary
What is the News?
The ‘National AI Portal’ celebrated its first anniversary on May 28, 2021.
About National AI Portal:
- Firstly, the National AI Portal was launched in May 2020. It is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), National e-Governance Division(NeGD) and NASSCOM.
- Secondly, Purpose: The portal works as a one-stop digital platform for sharing of resources. Such as articles, startups, investment funds in AI, resources, companies and educational institutions related to AI in India.
- Thirdly, the portal also shares documents, case studies, research reports etc. It also has a section about learning and new job roles related to AI.
Other Artificial Intelligence(AI) Related Government Initiatives:
- Responsible AI for Youth Programme:
- Launched by: The programme has been launched by the National e-Governance Division, MeitY. It is in collaboration with Intel India with support from the Ministry of Education.
- Purpose: The program is designed to reach out to students from the government schools pan India. It aims to empower them to become ‘AI ready’ and help reduce the AI skill gap in India.
- Eligibility: The program is open to students from Government Schools, classes 8 – 12 across the country. It will be implemented in a phase-wise manner
- Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) 2020
- RAISE 2020 has been organised by the MeitY in association with the NITI Aayog.
- Purpose: To bring together people to exchange ideas on the use of Artificial Intelligence for social empowerment. This includes inclusion and transformation in industries such as education, smart mobility, agriculture and healthcare among others.
- The theme for this conference is “AI for Social Transformation, Inclusion and Empowerment”.
Defence Minister launches “SeHAT OPD portal”
What is the News?
The Defence Minister has launched the ‘Services e-Health Assistance & Tele-consultation (SeHAT) OPD portal.
About SeHAT OPD portal:
- Firstly, SeHAT OPD Portal aims to provide tele-medicine services to the serving Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families of the three Services.
- Secondly, the services will be provided by defence services doctors who are on regular duties.
- Thirdly, the portal has been developed and maintained by the Integrated Defence Staff & Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
- Fourthly, the portal has been designed on the lines of e Sanjeevani, a similar free OPD service run by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare(MoHFW) for all citizens.
- fifthly, Significance: As the portal provides contactless consultations in an easy and effective manner. The portal will help reduce the load on hospitals and patients from the armed services.
Need of Indigenous Semiconductor Manufacturing Facilities in India – Explained Pointwise
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns are impacting the production of semiconductor chips across the globe. It is creating shortages for the buyers, such as the car manufacturers and consumer electronics manufacturers in India. This in turn has forced manufacturers to reduce their production levels thereby their profit potential is decreasing.
The Chip Famine presents an opportunity for India to develop the capacity to manufacture indigenous semiconductor chips. It would reduce its import dependence and help meet the rising demand of the future.
Semiconductors are truly a modern marvel, a feat of human ingenuity and engineering unmatched by any other industry. Therefore, robust reforms must be undertaken to establish the domestic manufacturing capacity of semiconductors in India.
- A semiconductor is a material that allows electrical conductivity between a conductor and an insulator.
- Conductors are the materials or substances which allow electricity to flow through them. They conduct electricity because they allow electrons to flow easily inside them from atom to atom. Conducting materials include gold, silver, mercury, seawater, etc.
- An insulator is a material that does not conduct electrical current. Insulating materials include paper, plastic, rubber, glass, and air.
- They have less resistivity than insulators and more than conductors. The resistance of the semiconductor decreases with an increase in temperature and vice versa.
- Semiconductors are made from pure elements like silicon or germanium, or compounds such as gallium arsenide. Sometimes their conductivity is changed through doping.
- It is a process of adding small amounts of impurities to these pure elements, causing large changes in the conductivity of the material.
Significance of semiconductor chips:
- Semiconductors are the building blocks of today’s technology. For instance, They control
- the computers we use to conduct business,
- the phones and mobile devices we use to communicate,
- the cars and planes that get us from place to place,
- the machines that diagnose and treat illnesses,
- the military systems that protect us, and
- the electronic gadgets we use to listen to music, watch movies and play games
- Semiconductors make the devices more compact, less expensive, and more powerful.
- For instance, mobile phones weighed about 2 lbs, cost around $4,000, and held a charge for only about 30 minutes of talk time during their initial phase. However today an individual can buy a smartphone for 5000 rupees that would give a 1-day charge.
- Semiconductors will continue to enable the world’s greatest breakthroughs. From aerospace and consumer electronics to energy and medicine, entire industries will be transformed.
India’s sources for Semiconductors requirements:
- Firstly, Semiconductor manufacturing comprises the front-end fab manufacturing and the back-end assembly, including packaging and testing. There are only a handful of companies globally that do front-end manufacturing at scale.
- Secondly, Globally, this entire value chain has seeped in the interdependence between a handful of countries like the USA, Taiwan, Japan, China, and some European nations.
- Thirdly, India has done well in design and verification for the semiconductor industry. Most of the global semiconductor companies having an R&D footprint in India.
- Fourthly, However, 100% of our chips, memory, and display are imported into the country. In 2020, India spent $15bn on electronic imports, with 37% coming from China.
- Fifthly, although India has two fabs — SITAR, a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Bengaluru, and a semiconductor laboratory in Chandigarh. These build silicon chips for strategic purposes like defense and space and not for commercial use.
Why does India need indigenous capacity for manufacturing semiconductor chips?
- Tackle supply shocks: The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns impacted the supply of chips to India. Automobile manufacturers like Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata group were compelled to reduce their production due to the shortage.
- Meet the rising demand: Experts estimate that around 50 crore people will join the internet in the next decade thereby demanding more phones and laptops.
- Similarly, the post-pandemic world is showing a greater inclination towards work from home culture. This warrants an enhanced demand for servers, internet connectivity, and cloud usage.
- Employment Creation: Indigenous manufacturing of chips will build its smartphone assembly industry and strengthen its electronics supply chain. This will create numerous employment opportunities for the Indian youth.
- Revenue boost: Indigenous capacity would attract local taxes and boost the export potential. Further, India would be required to import fewer semiconductor chips which would decrease the import bill.
- Geopolitical Benefits: Countries having a sufficient supply of chips would be in a better position to mold the future course of geopolitics, driven by data and the digital revolution. Further self-sufficiency will decrease reliance on Chinese chip imports especially during hard times like the recent Galwan Valley border clash.
- Enhanced Security: Chips made locally will be designated as “trusted sources” and can be used in products ranging from CCTV cameras to 5G equipment. This would improve the national cybersecurity profile.
Initiatives taken to promote indigenous Semiconductor capacity
- National Policy on Electronics 2019: It envisions positioning India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector. It aims to encourage the development of core components (including chipsets) and create an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.
- Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS): The government will provide a financial incentive of 25% on capital expenditure for a list of products that constitute the supply chain of electronic products. This includes products such as electronic components, semiconductors, and specialized sub-assemblies.
- India would be offering more than $1 billion in cash to each semiconductor company that sets up manufacturing units in the country.
- Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme: Under this, the government will provide support for the setting up of Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMCs) and Common Facility Centres(CFCs).
- Production Linked Incentive Scheme(PLI): Under this, the government will provide an incentive of 4% to 6% on goods manufactured in India and covered under target segments to eligible companies for a period of five years.
- Foreign Direct Investment: The Government of India has allowed 100 percent (FDI) under the automatic route in the Electronics Systems Design & Manufacturing sector.
What are the challenges in front of India?
- Firstly, High Cost of establishment: As per a government estimate, it would cost roughly $5-$7 billion to set up a chip fabrication unit in India.
- Secondly, Bureaucratic inefficiencies: The process of establishing an indigenous semiconductor facility requires clearances and approvals from multiple government departments. Further, there exists a considerable degree of bureaucratic delays at each stage that discourages the establishment of manufacturing units.
- Thirdly, Unstable power supply: The smooth production of semiconductors requires the availability of an uninterrupted 24*7 power supply. However, this requirement is not fulfilled by many regions in the country. This restricts production to very few locations.
- Fourthly, Technological Constraint: The indigenous manufacturing of semiconductors requires the use of high-end technologies. These technologies are licensed from patent holders at a very high price.
- Fifthly, Structural Flaws: FDI in electronics is less than 1% of the total FDI inflow because of the dearth of skilled labor, delays in land acquisition, and the uncertain tax regime.
- The government should provide adequate funding to augment the research and development potential of technical institutes.
- For instance, IIT Madras developed a microprocessor named ‘Moushik’ with funding support from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- The microprocessor is an integrated circuit (IC) that contains a few million transistors (semiconductor-based electronic devices) fused on a semiconductor chip.
- For instance, IIT Madras developed a microprocessor named ‘Moushik’ with funding support from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- The proposed Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF) under National Policy on electronics should be established expeditiously. It is a wholly or partly Government-backed entity that aims to bolster domestic businesses through the acquisition and licensing of patented technology.
- Apart from this, the manufacturers need to be given an assurance of minimum domestic procurement by the government and the private sector. The focus should be on manufacturing economical and technically viable options like 28nm chips.
- The government should also support businesses in the acquisition of semiconductor manufacturing units in other countries. This is easier than setting up a domestic facility and can be done swiftly for ensuring a continuous supply of chips.
The 21st century will be an era of Digital revolution signifying an increased use of mobile phones and computer devices. This enhanced usage can be met only with a robust availability of semiconductor chips that sustains their functioning. Therefore India needs to focus on the indigenous development of semiconductors in order to realize its digital potential and emerge as a strong power in the present era.
Union Minister launches “NMMS app” and “Area officer monitoring App”
What is the News?
The Union Minister of Rural Development has launched the NMMS (National Mobile Monitoring Software) app and Area Officer Monitoring App.
About NMMS (National Mobile Monitoring Software) app :
- NMMS App permits taking real-time attendance of workers at Mahatma Gandhi NREGA worksites along with geotagged photographs.
- Impact: This will increase citizen oversight of the programme. It also enables the potential processing of payments faster.
About Area Officer Monitoring App:
- Area Officer Monitoring App facilitates area officers to record their findings online and even put a time stamp on them. The app can also enable the coordination of tagged photographs for all the schemes of the Department of Rural Development. Such as MGNREGA, PMAYG, PMGSY.
- Impact: This would enable the government to record the inspections by officials. It will also facilitate analysis of the findings for better programme implementation.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an employment guarantee act. It was introduced in 2005 through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,2005.
- Under the scheme, every rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work is entitled to get at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year.
- Implementation: Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) in association with state governments monitors the implementation of the scheme.
- Features of the act:
- Demand-driven scheme: Worker to be hired when he demands and not when the Government wants it.
- Gram Panchayat is mandated to provide employment within 15 days of work application failing which worker is entitled to unemployment allowance
- Payment of wages within 15 days of competition of work failing which worker is entitled to delay compensation of 0.05%/ day of wages earned.
IIT-M team develops “Blocktrack app” for healthcare information system
What is the News?
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras have developed a mobile app named “Blocktrack app”.
About Blocktrack App:
- Blocktrack is a blockchain-based secure medical data and information exchange system for mobile phone applications.
- Purpose: The App aims to digitise healthcare information systems. At the same time the app will protect sensitive personal information and medical records. It will decentralise control and ownership of patient data using a blockchain-based innovation.
Features of the Blocktrack App:
- Firstly, Blocktrack is developed to integrate primary healthcare, medical prescription, pharmacy, distribution and insurance network.
- Secondly, the app has two separate versions — one for patients and another for doctors.
- Thirdly, the app algorithm generates identification codes for users. This ensures uniqueness across boundaries with very little chance for duplication.
- Fourthly, the app allows for the interoperability of systems for multiple hospitals, institutes and healthcare organisations.
- Lastly, the patients can choose to visit any medical facility on BlockTrack’s blockchain network without worrying about duplicate records or re-registration.
Source: Financial Express
“Mayflower 400” – World’s First Artificial Intelligence Ship
What is the News?
A team of researchers from the marine research organization ProMare in collaboration with IBM built the world’s first Artificial Intelligence(AI) ship named ‘Mayflower 400’.
- Mayflower 400 is an unmanned and completely autonomous ship. It is powered by Artificial Intelligence and the Sun’s energy via solar panels.
- Purpose: Main aim of this ship is to study marine pollution and analyze plastics in the water. It will also track the aquatic animals. The ship is ready to sail on a transatlantic voyage.
- Key Features of the Ship:
- The ship has been taught how to avoid collisions. Thus, the ship can correct its course itself.
- The ship has been trained with a hundred hours of audio data. The training will help the ship to detect the presence of marine animals. Thereby, it will provide information about the population distribution of these animals in the ocean.
- Furthermore, the ship is capable of self-activating a hydrophone that can listen to whales.
- Also, the ship is equipped with smart captain. This AI tech along with radars and cameras will help the ship to learn during its course.
- Contributions: Various nations such as India, the United States, and Switzerland have contributed a variety of technology to the project.
- Significance: 80% of the underwater world remains unexplored. Hence, the ship will help in exploring this unexplored area.
Future of Cryptocurrencies in India
- The proposed Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 bans all private cryptocurrencies.
- It lays down the regulatory framework for the launch of an “official digital currency”.
- Further holders of private cryptocurrencies will have a 3-6 month exit period before banning the trading, mining, and issuing of cryptos.
- The Reserve Bank of India is also working on a Central Bank digital currency (CBDC) using DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology).
- DLT is a digital system for recording the transaction of assets. It records the transactions and their details in multiple places at the same time.
- Unlike traditional databases, distributed ledgers have no central data store or administration functionality.
Rationale behind such proposals:
- Check on Volatility: Private Cryptocurrencies are too volatile and pose a threat to India’s financial stability. A fiat currency shouldn’t portray such volatility. For instance, Bitcoin’s price has risen more than 10-fold over the last year due to:
- Increased institutional exposure to Bitcoin
- Global progress in fostering a friendlier legislative environment for cryptocurrencies
- Supply reduction coupled with increasing demand.
- Curb Illegal Activities: In April 2018, RBI banned banks and other regulated entities from supporting crypto transactions after digital currencies were used for frauds. In March 2020, the Supreme Court clarified that crypto transactions were not illegal in India.
- Ascertaining the Magnitude of Undisclosed Holdings: Once private currencies are banned, then all investors would have to declare their true digital holdings in order to exit within the permissible window.
- As per an unofficial estimate, Indian investors hold around $1.5 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) in digital currencies.
- The government needs to clear the uncertainty regarding the legal status of cryptocurrencies in the minds of Indian investors.
- Further, it also needs to ascertain the economic and social impact of closing startups that function on private cryptocurrencies like Unocoin, Zebpay, etc.
Introducing National Digital Currency in India – Explained, Pointwise
There is uncertainty over the legal status of digital currencies in India. An unofficial estimate mentions that Indian investors holding around $1.5 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) in digital currencies. The inter-ministerial committee (IMC) suggested a ban on private digital currencies, but it favors RBI-backed National Digital Currency or central bank digital currency (CBDC).
The draft Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 aims to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies. The Bill also aims to lay down the regulatory framework for the launch of an “official digital currency”.
What is the CBDC or National Digital currency?
A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), or national digital currency, is simply the digital form of a country’s fiat currency. Instead of printing paper currency or minting coins, the central bank issues electronic tokens. This token value is backed by the full faith and credit of the government.
T. Rabi Shankar, a deputy governor of the RBI, defined a CBDC as – “a legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form, which is the same as fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency”.
The Bank of England defines CBDC as – “an electronic form of central bank money that could be used by households and businesses to make payments and store value”.
CBDC would need an entirely new centralized payment system. This system would be linked to electronic wallets that reside on prepaid cards, smartphones, or other electronic devices.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, more than 60 countries are currently experimenting with the CBDC. There are few Countries that already rolled out their national digital currency. Such as,
- Sweden is conducting real-world trials of their digital currency (krona)
- The Bahamas already issued their digital currency “Sand Dollar” to all citizens
- China started a trial run of their digital currency e- RMB amid pandemic. They plan to implement pan-china in 2022. This is the first national digital currency operated by a major economy.
National Digital Currency in India
With the growth of digital currencies worldwide, various start-ups dealing with cryptocurrency have come up in India, such as Unocoin in 2013 and Zebpay in 2014. Further, their volatility is a cause of concern for India.
So the government-appointed SC Garg Committee for suggestions. The committee recommended banning cryptocurrencies and allow an official digital currency. Further, the committee also drafted a bill Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill.
- The panel recommended banning anybody who mines, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form. Further, the panel recommend a jail term of one to 10 years for exchange or trading in digital currency.
- The panel also proposes a monetary penalty of up to three times the loss caused to the exchequer or gains made by the cryptocurrency user whichever is higher.
- The panel also recommended completely banning all private cryptocurrencies in India.
- However, the panel said that the government should keep an open mind on the potential issuance of cryptocurrencies by the Reserve Bank of India.
Post submitting the panel report and the draft bill the government held discussions with stakeholders and conduct Inter-ministerial discussions. The government decided to provide a 3-6 month exit period prior to banning the trading, mining, and issuing of cryptos. The RBI also already started working on CBDC.
Challenges with non-state digital currency
- Safety and security of cryptocurrencies: This is one of the key issues with cryptocurrency. Mt Gox bankruptcy case is a highlight of this. Mt gox is a Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange. After the cyberattack, several thousands of bitcoin went lost and the company is yet to settle the claim.
- No investor protection: Since the cryptocurrency transactions are anonymous in nature, there is no investor/consumer protection in cryptocurrencies.
- Conflict of interest: Globally, crypto-currency exchanges act as both custodian and a regulator. So, their own interest and consumer protection get into conflict.
- Non-regulation: There are some cryptocurrency regulators who often indulge in money laundering and terrorism financing. Further, they are immune to the Central Bank regulation of various countries.
- The volatility of cryptocurrency: Many cryptocurrencies have only a limited amount of coins. For example, Bitcoins fixed the maximum possible number as 21 million. This creates an increase in demand with each passing day and creates instability in exchange rates. This made the cryptocurrency more volatile in nature.
Advantages of a CBDC
- Improving efficiency in the financial system: As the currency in digital form, it can provide an efficient way for financial transaction. Further, digital currency also solves the challenges with Cash and coins. Cash and coins require expenses in storage and have inherent security risks, like the recent heist in the RBI currency chest.
- Reducing systemic risk: There are about 3,000 privately issued cryptocurrencies in the world. According to IMF, the key reason for considering national digital currency is to counter the growth of private forms of digital money. There is a possibility of these companies going bankrupt without any protection. This will create a loss for both investor and creditor. But the National Digital currency has government backing in case of any financial crisis.
- Opportunity to private players: As the state-backed digital currency can provide investor/consumer protection, the private can confidently invest in the associated infrastructure without any doubts over its regulation. This will improve the services to people.
- Reduce volatility: The national digital currency will be regulated by the RBI. So, there will be less volatility compared to other digital currencies.
- Helps in better macroeconomic management: Current RBI’s work on inflation targeting can be extended to national digital currency also. Since India is planning to ban other cryptocurrencies, the RBI can better regulate digital and fiat currency. Thus upgrading to digital currency and balancing the macroeconomic stability.
- Prevents counterfeiting of currency and a boost to the war on black money and corruption.
- Negative interest rate: In tough times, a Central Bank might want people to spend money, hence the concept of the negative interest rates. But, presently it can’t do so as people will simply withdraw their money from the banks. CBDCs will solve this problem. A negative interest rate could be easily mandated on CBDCs kept in the wallets.
Challenges/issues with CBDC
- Potential cybersecurity threat: India is already facing many cyber security threats. With the advent of digital currency, cyberattacks might increase and threaten digital theft like Mt Gox bankruptcy case.
- Lack of digital literacy of population: Introduction of digital currency is technological advancement. But as per Digital Empowerment Foundation in 2018 report, around 90% of India’s population is digitally illiterate. So, without creating enough literary awareness introduction of digital currency will create a host of new challenges to the Indian economy.
- Challenge in regulation and taxation: Introduction of digital currency also creates various associated challenges in regulation, tracking investment and purchase, taxing individuals, etc.
- Threat to Privacy: The digital currency must collect certain basic information of an individual so that the person can prove that he’s the holder of that digital currency. This basic information can be sensitive ones such as the person’s identity, fingerprints etc.
- Fiscal policy and the monetary policy would get mixed up even further, blurring the line between the independence of a central bank and the government.
- Bank runs: It is a situation where many depositors want to withdraw money from a bank if they perceive it to be fragile. People can move money from their commercial bank accounts to their CBDC accounts if they perceive a bank to be in trouble or if there is macro financial instability.
What is the way forward?
- The government can follow the western concept of treating digital currency as property and imposing capital gains tax.
- Enhance digital literacy: The government has to create enough awareness campaigns and inform people about identifying fraudulent methods. This will reduce India’s digital divide.
- Creation of adequate cybersecurity methods: Before the introduction of National Digital currency, the government has to create certain important things, such as,
- Training of law enforcement agencies on handling any threats
- Creating a policy of basic information assessed while issuing, verifying someone’s digital currency.
- Preventing Bank runs & extent of disintermediation: Limits on individual holdings of CBDC could help ensure that CBDC is used primarily for payments and not for large savings. It will also reduce the extent of disintermediation of the banking system.
- Two-tiered approach by RBI: RBI is a regulating entity and not compete with commercial banks. So, a two-tiered approach would be useful wherein, under Tier 1: RBI creates the digital version of its currency, and under Tier 2: distribution of currency and the maintenance of CBDC wallets is left to existing financial intermediaries
Introduction of a CBDC or a National Digital currency prevents various threats associated with the private-owned cryptocurrencies and will take India towards a progressive digital economy. But the government has to create necessary safeguards before rolling it out.
Data Revolution and New Global Order
The Digital Data Revolution will shape the new global order. It would give Asia a strategic advantage in the world. India must also prepare itself to play a key role in the hyper-connected world.
- There has been a shift of global power from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific in recent times.
- This shift is marked by advancement in “Digital Data Revolution’ while the earlier order was created by the Industrial Revolution.
- However, this data revolution has created some strategic implications.
Strategic Implications of the Data revolution:
- Data has created a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship between military and civilian systems. Today cybersecurity has become national security. Thus, it demands a new military doctrine and a diplomatic framework.
- Data has blurred the line between domestic and foreign policy and calls for establishing new global rules.
- Further, a growth in smartphone-based e-commerce is generating massive amounts of data. It would give a sustained productivity advantage to Asia.
- Data streams have acquired a central position in Global trade. Further, a country’s economic and national power is dependent on data.
These factors allow India to negotiate new rules as an equal with the U.S. and China. Formulation of the rules must be by keeping in mind the new dynamics.
Read Also-What is Industrial Revolution 4.0?
- It has made use of data streams and emerged as the second-largest economy.
- It also has a $ 53 trillion mobile payments market and acquires a global share of 50%.
- Furthermore, It has formed a joint venture with SWIFT for cross-border payments. The country also suggested foundational principles for interoperability between central bank digital currencies at the Bank for International Settlement.
- However, it is still highly dependent on semiconductors and unable to avoid US sanctions on banks, 5G, and cloud computing companies.
- Thus, it is trying hard to overcome this weakness by
- Distorting dollar-based trade through its e-yuan
- Launching a $1.4 trillion science and technology strategy
- The conventional deterrence capabilities of US have reduced. It now puts more focus on diplomacy than military power to resolve conflicts with China.
- In the mobile payments market, only around 30% of consumers use digital means and the total volume of mobile payments is less than $100 billion.
- The country appears to be losing its dominant position to China in the global order.
- In the mobile payments’ sphere, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) volume is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2025.
- The goal is to create a $5-trillion economy by 2025.
- It faces a challenge of :
- Balancing engagement with major powers and
- Retaining its data for innovation and competitive advantage.
Factors showing India’s crucial position in shaping the new global order:
- China is India’s largest trading partner despite recent border clashes. Also, both the countries are uncomfortable with:
- Treating Western values as universal values
- The U.S. interpretation of Freedom of Navigation rules in others’ territorial waters
- The US wants to invest heavily in India and leverage the Indian markets, a strategy similar to China’s belt and initiative. Further India is seen as a reliable partner to curb Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
- New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific vision is premised on ‘ASEAN centrality and the common pursuit of prosperity’.
- The EU is also determined to enhance its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. This automatically induces the grouping to improve its relation with India.
- India is part of both the U.S. and China-led strategic groupings. This gives India a robust development potential.
- Further, the country must prepare itself to play a key role in moulding rules for the hyper-connected world. This would help it in realising its potential of becoming the 2nd largest economy.
Source: THE HINDU
Measures to Create Safe Online Spaces For Children
Synopsis: This article explains the concerns about child safety in online spaces and suggests measures to create safe online spaces for children.
- The children of the current generation are exposed to a world that is increasingly powered by virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI). For example, Alexa, YouTube wormholes,
- The Industrial revolution 4.0 has brought two main concerns towards Child’s safety and growth opportunities.
- One, universal access to digital connectivity
- Second, secured digital space for Children
What are the possible threats to Children due to their premature exposure to AI?
- First, concerns over Child safety. For instance, many digital platforms such as Fortnite, Battle Royale, provide online space for children to socialise with their friends. But such platforms also serve as “honeypots” for child predators. Surveillance or supervision by parents over Child’s Online activity has also become more difficult due to the Digitalisation of education.
- Second, digital addiction is another major concern among children. The AI-driven video games and social networks are designed to keep Children attracted to their online sites. This makes them prey to digital addiction.
- Third, it disturbs their cognitive growth at a very young age. For instance, their earlier exposure to the negative side of the digital space (such as fake news, conspiracy theories, hype, online bullying, hate speech) disturbs their understanding of this world.
- Fourth, concern over hacking and spying on children. For instance, many AI toys are used to promote enhanced literacy, social skills, and language development. However, they also collect data on the children in the absence of any regulatory framework. Recently, Germany banned Cayla, an Internet-connected doll, because of concerns that it could be hacked and used to spy on children.
- Fifth, though the usage of AI in education improves educational outcomes it also brings new challenges. For instance, pedagogical approaches to the child’s needs such as intelligent tutoring systems, tailored curriculum plans, engaging interactive learning experiences can improve educational outcomes. However, algorithms can also amplify existing problems with education systems. For example,
- One, failure in AI’s algorithm can deprive thousands of students of college admissions and scholarships.
- Two, open access to educational and performance data on children can harm their future opportunities
What needs to be done?
- First, need to reduce the digital divide gap by providing Internet access to all children. According to UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), nearly two-thirds of the world’s children do not have access to the Internet at home.
- Second, need for legal and technological safeguards to regulate AI products. For example,
- Technological safeguards like– trustworthy certification and rating systems,
- Legal safeguards like- banning anonymous accounts, restriction on algorithmic manipulation, profiling and data collection, etc.,
- Third, the need to create greater awareness among parents, guardians, and children on how AI works to prevent them from future online risks.
- Fourth, enforcing ethical principles of non-discrimination and fairness in the policy and design of the AI system.
- Fifth, need to develop online culture tools that help prevent addiction and also promote attention-building skills, social-emotional learning capabilities.
- Sixth, Laws and policies to prevent a range of abuses and violence, such as the National Policy for Children (2013), can be extended for children in a digital space.
A recent, landmark decision by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment is a step in the right direction towards ensuring Ethical AI for Generation AI.
Source: The Hindu
“Inclusive Internet Index 2021” Released
What is the News? Inclusive Internet Index 2021 has been released.
About Inclusive Internet Index, 2021
- Facebook Commissions the Inclusive Internet Index, 2021, and The Economist Intelligence Unit will develop the index.
- Purpose: It seeks to measure the extent of accessibility and affordability of the Internet. Also, the internet should be able to enable positive social and economic outcomes at the individual and group levels.
- Countries Covered: The index assesses the performance of 120 countries representing 98% of global GDP and 96% of the global population.
- Categories: The Index score is based on the scores of 4 categories;
- Availability: It examines the quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for access and levels of Internet usage.
- Affordability: It examines the cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the Internet marketplace.
- Relevance: It also examines the existence and extent of local language content and relevant content.
- Readiness: Furthermore, it examines the capacity to access the Internet. It includes skills (literacy), cultural acceptance, and supporting policy. Literacy measures the level of education and preparedness to use the Internet
Key Findings Related to India:
- India’s Rank: 49th out of 120 countries in the Index.
- India is set to reach one billion internet users by 2025. There were over 687.6 million internet users in India in 2020.
- Topped by: Sweden ranks 1st in the index, followed by the US and Spain.
- The majority of countries (77 out of 120) saw improvements in internet inclusion overall, in part because of increased availability.
- People in low and lower-middle-income countries relied more on online education during the pandemic in comparison to wealthier countries.
National Super Computing Mission(NSM)
What is the News? India is fast emerging as a leader in high-power computing with the launch of the National Super Computing Mission(NSM).
About National Super Computing Mission(NSM):
- Firstly, the government launched the National Super Computing Mission in 2015.
- Secondly, the aim is to connect research and academic institutions to a Supercomputing grid all over the country. The grid consists of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities, It will increase the research capacities and capabilities in the country.
- Thirdly, these supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN). The NKN is another program of the government. NKN connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high-speed network.
- Implementing Agency: Department of Science and Technology and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) through the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
Phases under the mission:
Phase 1: Under this phase, 30% of the value addition of Supercomputers is done in India.
- Param Shivay was the first supercomputer assembled indigenously, installed in IIT(BHU).
- Param Shakti and Param Brahma supercomputer installed at IIT-Kharagpur and IISER, Pune respectively.
- Thereafter, supercomputing facilities were set up in two more institutions and one more is being set up with a computing speed to 6.6 Petaflops (PF).
Phase II: Under this phase, 40% of the value addition of Supercomputers is done in India.
- 8 institutions are being equipped with supercomputing facilities by April 2021 with a total of 10 PF compute capacity.
- MoUs have also been signed with a total of 14 premier institutions of India for establishing Supercomputing Infrastructure with Assembly and Manufacturing in India.
- This phase will complete by September 2021. After completion, it will take the country’s computing power to 16 Petaflops(PF).
- This phase will take the computing speed to around 45 Petaflops. This will include three systems of 3 PF each and one system of 20PF as a national facility.
Indigenous Development: India has developed an Indigenous server named Rudra which can meet the High-Performance Computing (HPC) requirements of all governments and PSUs.
About National Knowledge Network(NKN):
- National Knowledge Network(NKN) was established in 2010. Its objective is to interconnect all institutions of higher learning and research with a high-speed data communication network. It will be helpful to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaborative research.
- Implementation: National Informatics Centre (NIC), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, is the implementing agency.
CJI launches “SUPACE Portal”— AI-driven Research Portal
What is the News? The Chief Justice of India launches the Supreme Court’s “SUPACE Portal”.
About SUPACE Portal:
- Full-Form: SUPACE stands for Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court’s Efficiency.
- Purpose: It is an artificial intelligence-based portal. It will make the research work easier for judges, thereby easing their workload.
- Key Features of the Portal:
- The portal collects relevant facts and laws and makes them available to a judge.
- The portal is not designed to make decisions. It only processes facts and makes them available to judges, looking for input for a decision.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
- Firstly, Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans.
- Secondly, it refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem-solving and decision-making.
Note: During the inauguration of Portal, CJI has said that: “Artificial Intelligence(AI) is to the intellect, what muscle memory is to the mind”.
Source: Indian Express
MoU on “Blockchain-based Traceability Interface” for Indian Spices
What is the News?
Spices Board India and UNDPs India’s Accelerator Lab signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU). The MoU aims to build a blockchain-based traceability interface for Indian spices. It will enhance transparency in the supply chain and trade.
About blockchain-based traceability interface:
- Blockchain-based traceability interface will be integrated with the e-Spice Bazaar portal. The portal was developed by Spices Board India for connecting spices farmers with markets.
- It will bring ease and transparency in data management across a complex network. This network includes farmers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators, and consumers thus simplifying the supply chain.
- It will also allow farmers and other stakeholders to access the information. This makes the entire supply chain more efficient and equitable.
What is Blockchain Technology?
- A blockchain is a distributed ledger of information. It replicates across various nodes on a “peer-to-peer” network (P2P Network).
- The data exists on multiple computers at the same time. It constantly grows as new sets of recordings or blocks add to it in a decentralization manner.
- All transactions on a standard Blockchain are verified and signed with cryptography. It is to ensure security and anonymity.
- Cryptography: It is the process of converting ordinary plain text into unintelligible text and vice-versa.
- The intended person can encrypt the coded message and use them.
- The ledger can record many transactions such as monetary transactions, property transfer, and even ballot storage.
About Spices Board India:
- Spices Board is one of the five Commodity Boards functioning under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
- Purpose: It is an autonomous body responsible for the export promotion of the 52 scheduled spices and development of Cardamom (Small & Large).
- Functions: The main functions of the Spices Board are,
- Research, Development, and Regulation of domestic marketing of Small & Large Cardamom;
- Post-harvest improvement of all spices;
- Export promotion of all spices. Further, it will assist the exporters in technology up-gradation, quality management, brand promotion, research & product development;
- Development of spices in the North East;
- Regulation of quality of spices for exports through its quality evaluation services; etc.
About UNDP Accelerator Lab:
- Accelerator Lab is an innovative initiative by the UNDP, Qatar Government and the Federal Republic of Germany. It aims to find 21st-century solutions to today’s complex new challenges.
- Purpose: These labs seek to identify grassroots solutions together with local actors. Further, they will validate their potential to accelerate further developments.
- UNDP Accelerator Lab in India has been launched by UNDP in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission.
POWERGRID Launches E-Tendering Portal “PRANIT”
What is the News?
Power Grid Corporation of India Limited(POWERGRID) launched a portal named “PRANIT”.
About PRANIT Portal:
- PRANIT is an e-Tendering Portal. It aims to make the tendering process more transparent through less paperwork and ease of operation.
- Significance: The portal is certified by Standardisation, Testing and Quality Certification Directorate(STQC), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- Power Grid Corporation of India Limited(POWERGRID) is a central public sector unit. It is also a Maharatna company. The Ministry of Power owns this CPSU.
- Objective: It is engaged mainly in the Transmission of Power. It transmits about 50% of the total power generated in India on its transmission network.
- Headquarters: Gurugram, India.
“US India Artificial Intelligence(USIAI) Initiative” launched
What is the News?
Indo-U.S Science and Technology Forum(IUSSTF) launched the US-India Artificial Intelligence(USIAI) Initiative.
About US India Artificial Intelligence(USIAI) Initiative:
- The initiative will serve as a platform for India and the United States(US) to cooperate on Artificial Intelligence(AI).
Goals of US India Artificial Intelligence(USIAI) Initiative:
- Firstly, to strengthen US-India strategic partnership by focusing on AI cooperation in critical areas and priority areas of both countries.
- Secondly, to identify opportunities for bilateral AI R&D collaboration;
- Thirdly, to share ideas for developing an AI Workforce;
- Finally, to recommend modes and mechanisms for catalyzing partnerships.
About Indo-U.S Science and Technology Forum(IUSSTF)
- Established in 2000. It is an autonomous bilateral organization. And, it is jointly funded by both the Governments of India and the United States of America.
- Aim: To promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Innovation through interaction among government, academia, and industry.
- Nodal Department: The Department of Science & Technology, Governments of India is the nodal department for IUSSTF in India. Similarly, the U.S. Department of States is the nodal department in the US.
Significance and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence(AI)
Synopsis: Artificial Intelligence(AI) has the potential to widen the social and economic divisions in society. That will lead to discriminatory outcomes at a global level.
In the last ten years alone, AI has seen exponential growth. AI-based systems are now defeating human champions in games and decoding complex proteins in labs. But the exponential growth of AI has to pursue with caution.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is intelligence demonstrated by machines. Unlike the natural intelligence present in living things, the AI will develop its intelligence based on the data. In simple terms, the more we use AI, the more data we generate, the smarter AI gets.
AI is everywhere in today’s world. For example, using shopping sites, Using GPS mapping technology, predicting texts in messages and emails, etc.
AI is predicted to leapfrog human intervention in eradicating hunger, poverty, and disease. Further, AI is will help in climate change mitigation, education, and scientific discovery in the future.
Benefits of AI Artificial Intelligence?:
AI has helped mankind in many ways. For example,
- In the field of Agriculture, AI has helped in increasing crop yields by analyzing farm data, tackling labour challenge, etc.
- Similarly, the AI will act as an enabler in the economy. For instance, AI has raised business productivity, improved access to credit, etc.
- In the field of Medicine, AI made cancer detection faster and more precise by spotting even a subtle challenge in the gene.
- Robotics and AI companies are building intelligent machines. These AI-based robots perform tasks typically carried out by low-income workers like self-service kiosks (replace cashiers), fruit-picking robots (replaced field workers), etc.
Global studies on AI Artificial Intelligence:
- A global study has predicted that AI can contribute more than $15 trillion to the world economy by 2030. This is an addition of 14% to global GDP.
- A study published in Nature reviewed the impact of AI in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The study found that the AI can act as an enabler on 134 SDGs. That is 79% of all the SDGs.
- Further, Google has identified over 2,600 use cases of “AI for good” worldwide.
The challenges with AI:
Despite having many advantages, AI also has an equal amount of challenges. For example, In 2016, it took less than a day for Microsoft’s Twitter chatbot, “Tay” to start spreading racist content based on Twitter messages.
- A proper AI-based system requires a massive computational capacity, which means more data centres have to be created.
- AI will increase digital exclusion in all spheres including the exclusion of societies, nations. Further, global Investment also likely to shift to countries where AI-related work is already established.
- Apart from that, the AI will reduce desk jobs, such as accountants, financial traders, and middle managers.
- The most important concern with AI is the concern of data privacy. The AI algorithm will improve only with access to more data. It will lead to the constant utilization of our digital footprints with or without our knowledge.
In time a situation might arise where the algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. Scandals like Cambridge Analytica are an example of such a violation of privacy.
Suggestions to improve AI:
The fact is, just like AI has the potential to improve billions of lives, AI can also enlarge the existing problems and create new ones.
- Countries have to develop broad-based ethical principles, cultures, and codes of conduct in utilizing AI-based systems. The principles not only include the “whole of society” approach but also include the “whole of world” approach. For example,
- The UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation. This focus on multi-stakeholder efforts on global cooperation.
- Similarly, UNESCO also developed a global, comprehensive standard-setting draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence to the Member States.
- In India, NITI Aayog’s Responsible AI for All strategy aims to strike the right balance between AI promotion and AI governance. The Indian government has to adopt the strategy.
Agreeing to the common principles globally is the first step towards regulating AI. The next step would be implementing the principles in reality. Only then AI will provide full benefits to humanity.
Source: The Hindu
ISRO, MapmyIndia to develop India’s “indigenous mapping portal”
What is the News?
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and MapmyIndia announced a collaboration. They will launch an indigenous mapping portal and geospatial service. It will be an Indian alternative to Google Maps.
About collaboration on indigenous mapping portal and geospatial service:
- MapmyIndia is one of India’s oldest players in the cartography space. It is even older than Google Maps. However, due to lack of access to satellite services, it was not able to provide similar services like Google Maps.
- The collaboration will enable them to jointly identify and build a holistic geospatial portal. They will utilize earth observation datasets, ‘NavIC’, Web Services, and APIs (Application Programming Interface) available in MapmyIndia.
- These organizations will also leverage ‘Bhuvan’, ‘VEDAS’, and ‘MOSDAC’ geoportals for their collaboration.
- It is the national geo-portal developed and hosted by ISRO. It provides geospatial data, services, and tools for analysis.
- The portal is used to find and access geographic information (geospatial information) and associated geographic services (display, editing, analysis, etc.) via the Internet.
Visualization of Earth observation Data and Archival System(VEDAS)
- It is an online geoprocessing platform of ISRO. It uses optical, microwave, thermal, and hyperspectral Earth Observation(EO) data. Its applications are particularly meant for academia, research, and problem-solving.
- Some areas of application are; Renewable Energy, Coastal & Marine Resources, Hydrology, Climate Studies, Cryosphere, Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, Planetary Sciences, and so on.
Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre (MOSDAC)
- It is a data repository for all the meteorological missions of ISRO. It deals with weather-related information, oceanography, and tropical water cycles.
- The portal provides a variety of products and services on a wide spectrum of applications. Its applications are weather forecasting, cyclone prediction, and other vital ocean and atmospheric parameters.
Source: Hindu Businessline
What is “Sandes” platform?
What is the News?
National Informatics Centre(NIC) launched an instant messaging platform called Sandes.
About the Sandes platform:
- It is an instant messaging platform like WhatsApp. It was previously named Government Instant Messaging System(GIMS).
- The platform can be used for all kinds of communications by anyone with a mobile number or email id.
- Initially, the platform was available to only government officers. It is now available for the common public as well.
Why was it launched?
- The platform built by the government to mitigate potential security risks. It allows the government employees to switch from mainstream social media applications to a secured Sandes platform.
- The platform is also a part of the government strategy to push for use of India-made software. Thus, it will develop an ecosystem of indigenously developed products.
Features of the platform:
- The platform has an interface similar to many other apps currently available in the market.
- The chats on the platform can be backed up to a user’s email. However, there is no option to transfer the chat history between two platforms.
- It also offers features such as group making, broadcast message, message forwarding, and emojis.
- It allows a user to mark a message as confidential. It will make the recipient aware that the message should not be shared with others. However, the confidential tag does not change the way the message is sent from one user to another.
- The app does not allow the user to change their email id or registered phone number. The user will have to re-register as a new user in case they wish to change their registered email id or phone number on the app.
Source: Indian Express
“5G Technology” roll-out in India
What is the News?
The Standing Committee on Information Technology has slammed the Department of Telecommunications(DoT) for the delay in the launch of 5G services.
What is 5G technology?
- 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade so far in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. The 5G technology mainly works in 3 bands, (low, mid and high–frequency spectrum).
- Benefits of 5G: 5G would provide
- Near Instantaneous connectivity —20 times faster than 4G.
- Reduced latency (faster response time)
- Energy saving
- Cost reduction
- Higher system capacity and
- mass device connectivity.
Key observations made by the Committee on 5G:
- Lack of preparedness: The sufficient preparatory work had not done for introducing 5G services in India. The report also mentioned the country will likely witness only partial deployment by 2021-end or early 2022.
- Delay in deployment of 5G: The committee has raised concerns that the deployment of 5G services in the country may be further delayed, judging from previous experience:
- 2G was deployed globally in 1991, it was deployed in India in 1995;
- 3G was deployed globally in 1998 but deployed in India ten years later, i.e. in 2008.
- 4G services were launched in India seven years after their global launching in 2008.
- Hence, now when many countries are swiftly moving towards 5G technology, India is likely to witness delay in deployment.
- Spectrum Issues: The Committee finds that inadequate availability of spectrum. The high spectrum prices in India may hinder the roll-out of 5G in India.
- No Guidelines for 5G Trials: The telecom companies had submitted 5G trial applications in January 2020. But till date, guidelines for trials had not been made clear. Also, there was no set date for the commencement of 5G trials.
Source: The Hindu
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World Economic Forum launches “Global artificial intelligence alliance”
What is the News?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has launched the Global AI Action Alliance (GAIA).
About the alliance:
- GAIA: It is a multi-stakeholder collaboration platform. It has been designed to accelerate the adoption of inclusive, transparent, and trusted artificial intelligence tools globally and in industry sectors.
- Members: The alliance is consisting of over 100 leading companies, governments, international organizations, non-profits, and academics. They all are committed to maximizing AI’s societal benefits while minimizing its risks.
- Committee: A steering committee will guide the alliance. It is consisting of top global leaders from industry, government, academia, and civil society.
- Significance: The alliance will provide a platform for members to;
- engage in real-time learning,
- frame new approaches to ethical AI,
- increase adoption of best practices and
- undertake collective action to ensure that AI’s benefits are shared by all.
- Artificial Intelligence(AI): It is a constellation of technologies that enable machines to act with higher levels of intelligence. It emulates the human capabilities of sense, comprehend and act, in the machines.
- Importance of AI: Artificial Intelligence(AI) could contribute more than $15 trillion to the world economy by 2030, adding 14% to global GDP. This would make AI the biggest economic opportunity of the next decade. It represents more value than today’s insurance, oil, and gas, commercial real estate, and automotive industries combined.
Source: Hindustan Times
Threat of Deepfakes in India
Synopsis: Deepfakes are becoming a huge threat. This AI-based technology has been used to incite violence and disrepute people. Recently, it was used allegedly used to incite violence in the US.
What are Deepfakes?
- Deepfakes are modified images, text, audio, and video or synthetic media, created with the help of Artificial Intelligence.
- It generates a fake version from an original or real audio-visual content by superimposing new audio or image on an existing media file.
- For example; with the use of AI, the face of a person in an original video can be replaced with the face of another person (Morphing). Now the modified face will mimic the head movements, vocal patterns, and facial expressions of the original one.
- Media is manipulated with such sharpness that it becomes almost impossible to identify the difference between fake and real media. It can only be identified by using AI tools.
Threats of Deep Fakes
- Deep fakes can be used to disrupt the democratic processes like elections in any country.
- It is believed that Capitol Hill violence was incited by using deep fake media which caused misinformation and disinformation.
- Deep Fakes are used to stain the reputations of individuals and spread propaganda against them.
- According to a deep fake tracking research organization, in the month of October alone, over 100,000 fake nude images of women were circulating online.
- Real images for that purpose were acquired through social media accounts.
- The existence of deep fakes causes that much distrust among the public that any true evidence of a crime can easily be dismissed as fake.
- These technologies can be used by terrorist organizations and insurgents to further their agenda of destabilizing state governments. They can spread false information about institutions, public policy, and politicians for this purpose.
- The existing legal framework of many countries including India does not criminalize deep fakes.
Regulations of Deep fakes
In US: As per US law, Social Media Companies cannot be held responsible for the posts on their platforms.
In India: Some provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Information Technology Act, 2000 criminalize a few related cybercrimes. But there is no specific law as of now to deal with deep fakes.
Issues in India’s legal system
- Sections 66E, 67, 67A, and 72 of the IT act deal with the violation of privacy and publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
- But these provisions can also result in penal consequences for the victim, for voluntarily producing such material.
- The Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 are insufficient to tackle content manipulation on digital platforms.
- Guidelines require that intermediate companies take necessary steps for the removal of illegal content.
- During the 2019 general election of India, the election commission gave out instructions on the use of social media for election campaigns. Social media companies also agreed to take action to prevent any violations.
- However, it has been reported that social media platforms like WhatsApp were used for spreading misinformation and propaganda during the election.
What are the steps to be taken?
Existing laws are not enough to protect individuals against deep fakes. Only AI-generated tools can be effective in detection.
- AI-based detection tools with the capability to detect deep fakes must be invented as soon as possible.
- In 2020, the University of Washington and Microsoft arranged a workshop with experts to discuss how to avoid deep fake technology from harmfully affecting the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The workshop concluded with the following suggestions:
- Deep Fakes must be included under hateful manipulated media, propaganda, and disinformation campaigns.
- Journalists should be provided with tools to examine the authenticity of images, video, and audio recordings. For that, they require proper training and resources.
- Policymakers need to understand how deep fakes can threaten polity, society, economy, culture, individuals, and communities.
The best way to deal with this menace is AI-backed technological tools to detect and prevent deep fakes. These tools must be invented by the countries in cooperation as soon as possible. If steps are not taken immediately, these technologies are even capable of invoking wars among countries, in this information age.
5G technology in India – importance, challenges and solutions
More than 40 telecom operators in the World have already launched 5G technologies. India being the 5th largest economy in the world has not yet launched the 5G technology. Is it high time to launch 5G services in India or India still have time to catch up with the technology?
Present Status of 5G in India:
Department of Telecommunication (DoT) in 2017 setup a 5G steering committee headed by AJ Paulraj. The committee submitted the report and suggest important steps. In 2018, India planned to start 5G services but it has not yet materialized.
All the private telecom players urged the DoT to lay out a road map of spectrum allocation and 5G frequency bands.
Reliance Jio plans to launch an indigenously built 5G network in the second half of 2021. And also, to be ready for deployment once the networks are in place.
The government for its part also working on creating a corpus of Rs 500 crore dedicated exclusively for the research and development of 5G technology in India.
Recently, The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought opinion about the sale and use of radiofrequency spectrum over the next 10 years, including the 5G bands from the experts.
Importance of 5G Technology:
5G will bring with High speed and ultra-low latency will revolutionise government effort in promoting digital India.
First, Minimum Government and Maximum Governance: Better speed and connectivity will reduce the red–tapism and enhance speedy and better implementation of projects and policies. This will various government missions such as smart cities mission, etc.
Second, Ultra-Low latency in 5G services (time taken by a network to respond) will help in improvement in the logistics and shipping sector and also reduces the overall cost of goods and services.
Third, Employment generation: 5G technology will open a new horizon of opportunity for new device manufacturers and application developers. Thus, more job opportunities will be created and it will help in the inclusive growth of the nation.
Fourth, Enhanced network coverage: This will enhance network performance and support during limited access or absence of mobile networks. The small cell concept used in 5G will have multiple advantages of maximum data transfer, better cell coverage, cloud access network and low power consumption etc. This will help in reducing the digital divide in India.
Fifth, 5G will provide enhanced Security: 5G will enhance security surveillance, better coordination among various agencies. The closed-circuit cameras will provide high–quality real-time video for security purposes.
Sixth, 5G will revolutionize Industrial Growth: The future of industries will greatly depend on smart technologies like 5G for efficient automation, safety, maintenance, tracking, smart packing, and energy management.
Seventh, 5G will improve Agricultural applications: 5g can be used for smart farming in the future. Such as combining smart RFID sensors and GPS technologies, farmers can track the location of livestock and manage them easily. Smart sensors can be used for irrigation control, access control and energy management.
Eighth, 5G will improve healthcare and mission–critical applications: Scientists are working on smart medical devices such as remote surgical machines, Smart medical devices, etc.
Challenges faced by India in introduction of 5G technologies:
First the major question of need and viability: Telecom operators are facing a financial crisis and have a combined debt of Rs 4 lakh crore. Apart from that, they are still trying to fully monetise 4G services. The introduction of 5G will involve a heavy upfront investment and have a long payback period. Thus, the viability of 5G after the introduction is a major challenge.
The Second challenge in the 5G deployment will be the pricing of the spectrum. DoT will price the spectrum but heavy upfront investment associated with 5G technologies will increase the price of the spectrum. But the telecom operators with a stressed balance sheet might not have that much capital to invest in the 5G technologies and spectrum.
Third challenge associated with 5G is the technological and operational challenges,
- Extensive fiberisation requirement: Most operators at present have about 20-25% fiberisation. But, a true 5G experience will require up to 80% fiberisation this also involves investment.
- The antennae need to be upgraded at every site and also require an entirely new orchestration layer to achieve the critical feature of 5G network slicing.
Fourth, the threat to national security: China is preparing to dominate the world by rolling out its 5G technology warfare across countries. By deploying the 5G in India without indigenisation of technology will make India vulnerable to China. This will make the data of individuals, groups or even security agencies at risk.
Lastly, diverting the traffic from 4G to a more efficient 5G is also a challenge. As the AJ Paulraj committee pointed out that older generation technologies will remain for almost 10 years after the 5G deployment.
Solutions for faster implementation of 5G technologies in India:
India needs to fast the pace of its 5G implementation as technology is critical to India’s digital ambitions.
First, India needs to introduce the spectrum policy: the policy should focus on incentivising heavy investment in 5G, including long-term support, and technology-neutral spectrum licences, instead of trying to look for reaping profits right away.
Second, India needs to create an ecosystem capable of leveraging 5G, Like skilled manpower, technology, R&D and investment, etc.
Third, India has to work on Indigenous 5G technology. IoT platforms not only for military applications but also for civilians to avoid any 5G warfare and data threat in the future.
Fourth, India has to Implement the recommendations of 5G steering committee. The important recommendations are:
- Three phased implementation of 5G technology in India
- Early adoption of 5G technologies to fast-track India’s embrace of 5G’s benefits.
- Setting up of Standing Committee with a five-year term to advice on building Spectrum Technology Infrastructure.
The shift from 4G to 5G is not incremental, but transformational. Skipping of 5G is not a choice India can afford. The economic impact of 5G in India is expected to be over $1 trillion by 2035 according to the report of KPMG. The Sooner the deployment of 5G in India is the better for India.
What is 5G Technology?
5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade so far in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. The 5G technology mainly works in 3 bands, (low, mid and high–frequency spectrum). The important feature of 5G is:
- 5G services will provide up to 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) of download speed. It is 100 times higher than the existing network speed. The upload time will also increase drastically.
- The energy efficiency of devices and stability of network connections will improve further with the 5G technology.
- 5G services work across the low, medium and high–frequency spectrums. This will avoid any network congestions.
- 5G services will have ultra-low latency (time taken by a network to respond). Latency for is predicted to be below 10 milliseconds, and in best cases around 1 millisecond.
- A government panel report expects the peak 5G data speeds are to be in the range of 2-20 Gbps.
- 5G technologies are the enabler of AI technologies, IoT ecosystems etc.
Three bands of 5G and their characteristics:
|5G Spectrum band||Characteristics of Spectrum|
|low band spectrum||Higher coverage with low-speed internet |
|mid-band spectrum||Higher speed but has lower coverage area and penetration of signals compared to the low band. |
|high-band spectrum||Offers highest speed, but has extremely limited coverage and signal strength |
NIC and CBSE to launch CollabCAD Software
News: National Informatics Centre(NIC), MeitY along with Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE), Ministry of Education is jointly launching CollabCAD Software.
- CollabCAD Software: It is a collaborative network, computer-enabled software system providing a total engineering solution from 2D drafting & detailing to 3D product design for students and faculty of the Engineering Graphics Curriculum.
- Aim: This initiative aims to provide a great platform to students across the country to create and modify 3D digital designs with a free flow of creativity and imagination.
- Significance: This software would also enable students to collaborate over designs across the network and concurrently access the same design data for storage and visualization.
- CollabCAD 3D modeling: National Informatics Centre (NIC), CBSE, and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog will jointly release a comprehensive e-book on CollabCAD 3D modeling.
- This book is ready for public release through the CollabCAD portal and will guide CAD students, beginners, and professionals in understanding and using CollabCAD Software.
Government launches Single Window Clearance Portal of Ministry of Coal
News: Union Home Minister has launched a Single Window Clearance Portal of the Ministry of Coal.
- Single Window Clearance Portal: The portal aims to allow successful bidders for coal blocks to be able to obtain all required clearances, including environmental and forest clearances, from a single portal with progress monitoring, instead of having to go to multiple authorities.
- Significance: The portal is in the spirit of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. It would be a milestone for Ease of Doing Business in the Indian Coal Sector.
Read Also :upsc current affairs
What was the need of the Portal?
- Presently, about 19 major approval or clearances are required to be obtained before starting a coal mine in the country.
- Some of them include approval of Mining Plan and Mine Closure Plan, Grant of Mining Lease, Environment and Forest Clearances among others. These approvals or clearances are granted either by central or state governments.
- Hence, in the absence of a unified platform for grant of clearances/ approvals for starting of a coal mine, the project proponents are required to approach different administrative ministries and Government departments separately to apply for the requisite clearances leading to delay in operationalization of coal mines.
1,600 new tech start-ups and 12 unicorns in 2020: Nasscom’s Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem report
News: National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has released the annual start-up report ‘Indian Tech Start-up Ecosystem – On the March to Trillion Dollar Digital Economy’.
Key Takeaways from the Report:
Source: NASSCOM Report
- India has added 1,600 new tech start-ups and a record 12 unicorns in 2020 (the highest ever added in a single year).
- Unicorn: It is a term in the business world to indicate a startup company valued at over $1 billion.
- The Tech start-up base continues to expand steadily at 8-10%. Sectors, which benefited from covid-19, such as edtech, agritech and gaming, are seeing a steady rise in first-time funding.
- Remote working continues to see significant adoption amongst tech startups, with around 30-35 % offering remote roles and 15-20 % companies having committed to remote work culture.
- In 2020, 14% of total investments were in deep-tech startups up from 11% in 2019.Furthermore, 87% of all deep-tech investments were in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) startups.
- India will have at least 12 more unicorns in 2021 taking the total count to 50.
Core growth drivers for Startup’s in 2020
- Digital acceleration, and shift from moving from offline to online
- Vocal-for-Local provided market support for start-ups to thrive
- Remote work enabled start-ups to reduce burn whilst accelerating growth of new start-up hubs.
Read Also :upsc current affairs
NIXI Offers free Domain in Local Indian Languages
News: The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has announced that it will offer a free IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) in any of their preferred 22 official Indian languages along with every IN domain booked by the registrar.
- NIXI: It is a not for profit Organization established under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 in 2003.
- Purpose: It was set up for peering of ISPs among themselves for the purpose of routing the domestic traffic within the country, instead of taking it all the way to US/Abroad thereby resulting in better quality of service (reduced latency) and reduced bandwidth charges.
- To promote the Internet.
- To set up, when needed, in select location(s)/parts/regions of India Internet Exchanges/Peering Points.
- To enable effective and efficient routing, peering, transit and exchange of the Internet traffic within India.
- To continuously work for enhancing and improving the quality of Internet and Broadband services.
- Set up. Internet Domain Name Operations and related activities.
- Managed by: NIXI is managed and operated on a Neutral basis, in line with the best practices for such initiatives globally.
- India’s Country Code: “.IN” is India’s Country Code Top Level domain (ccTLD).The Govt. of India delegated the operations of INRegistry to NIXI in 2004.
Economic Impact of Internet shutdown in Indian and world economy
News: According to a report by the UK-based privacy and security research firm Top10VPN, India has suffered the longest internet shutdowns in 2020 globally.
Key Takeaways from the report:
- Globally, internet shutdowns cost the world economy $4 billion. However, this represents a 50% decrease in impact compared to $8.05 billion in 2019.
- India has suffered the biggest economic impact in the world in 2020 due to Internet shutdowns adding up to 8,927 hours and $2.8 billion losses.
- Among 21 countries that curbed internet access last year, the economic impact seen in India was more than double the combined cost for the next 20 countries in the list.
- India continued to restrict Internet access more than any other country — over 75 times in 2020.The majority of these short blackouts were highly targeted, affecting groups of villages or individual city districts.
- The report made a separate mention of the extended curbs on Internet use in Jammu and Kashmir. It has called it as the longest Internet shutdown in a democracy.
Union Minister launches Digital Ocean – a digital platform for Ocean Data Management
News: Union Minister Earth Sciences has launched a web-based application named “Digital Ocean”.
- Digital Ocean: It is a first of its kind digital platform for ocean data management developed by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services(INCOIS).
- Purpose: It has been developed to share information on marine data and forecast services.
- Key Features:
- It includes a set of applications developed to organise and present heterogeneous oceanographic data by adopting rapid advancements in geospatial technology.
- The platform will also serve as a one stop-solution for all the data related needs of a wide range of users including research institutions, operational agencies, strategic users, academic community, maritime industry, policy makers and the public.
- It will play a central role in sustainable management of our oceans and expanding our “Blue Economy” initiatives.
- It will contribute to the Digital India programme and is expected to bring a sea change in how the oceanographic data is served for a better understanding of the oceans.
- INCOIS: It is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).It is located in Hyderabad & was established in 1999 under the MoES and is a unit of the Earth System Science Organization (ESSO).
- Mandate: It provides ocean information and advisory services to various stakeholders including data based on oceanographic research, advisory services such as fishing zone advisories, ocean state forecast, high wave alerts, tsunami early warnings, storm surge and oil-spill.
- INCOIS is a permanent member of the Indian delegation to IOC of UNESCO and a founding member of the Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System (IOGOOS) and the Partnership for Observing the Oceans (POGO).
What is 5G warfare of China?
Synopsis: China is preparing to dominate the world by rolling out its 5G technology warfare across countries, India needs to fast the pace of its 5G implementation to contain the digital threat of China.
What is 5G warfare?
- 5G technology will enable IOT (Internet of Things) and IOT is driven by data and Information.
- It will aid the providing country with the power to access and control the data of individuals, groups or even nations.
- Moreover,5G technologies are main enabler of AI technologies and the recent example of use of AI in warfare, like drone killing machines, multiply these threats.
Implications of Chinese 5G warfare?
China, as one of the foremost countries to roll out 5G technologies with huge investment worldwide, posing the risks of digital encirclement of the world. An invasion by Chinese 5G technology in to other nations will make them completely dependent on China
- First example is the recent cooperation of measurement of Mt. Everest between China and Nepal may enable the launch of Chinese 5G technology in Nepal, with the following implications.
- It will provide China the ability to control Nepal’s business interests, its mountaineering and tourism industry.
- It will make locals or visitors to Nepal dependent on China for Real-time information on weather, routes, map/terrain details, logistics and rescue programmes, etc.,
- There is a significant chance that, with lower incomes, the Nepal’s tourism industry might get lured into Chinese cheap loans, leading to a strategic debt trap.
- Second, Militaries who do not have indigenous 5G capabilities for IOT platforms might allow Chinese 5G infrastructure, leading them to become a hostage to Chinese technology. For example, The CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is a clear example. Pakistan today has become the virtual vassal state of China.
- Third, with Chinese companies having made huge investments across the world to spread a 5G it would lead to complete digital encirclement of the world when combined with BRI (belt and road initiative)
How India should prepare to fight the onslaught of the Chinese 5G warfare?
- First, India is already working on Indigenous 5G technology that would run IOT platforms for civilians as well as military applications, it needs to accelerate the launch of Indian 5G.
- Second, the Counteroffensive measures such as banning of Chinese apps and blocking of hardware supply chains will be able to protect the business and security interests of the country.
There is an urgent need to fasten the pace of 5G technology development in India which is suffering due to slow adoption, entangled policy processes and bureaucratic processes.
Niti Aayog launches made-in India cloud storage service — DigiBoxx
Source: Times Now
News: Niti Aayog has launched a cloud storage service called DigiBoxx as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
- Digiboxx: It is India’s first indigenous digital file storage and sharing platform that provides an easy and secure way to store all the files in one centralised location.
- Key Features:
- Like Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud service, DigiBoxx will enable both individuals and enterprises to store, manage, collaborate, organise and share all their data online.
- For Individuals the free Digiboxx offers 20GB of storage, a 2GB maximum file size, Gmail integration, and unlimited external collaborations, while the monthly plan comes with up to 5TB of storage and 10GB max file size.
- For SMEs there is an 999 plan that provides up to 50TB storage with 10GB max file size, unlimited external collaborations, advanced real-time collaboration, web preview, automated backups, user management and Gmail integration. Additionally, for enterprises, there is a customised solution.
- DigiBoxx is said to be hosted on an Indian server which means the data will be saved and encrypted in India itself.
- DigiBoxx is available on the web and Android as of now with iOS support arriving soon
What is Solar Winds Hack?
News: The ‘Solar Winds hack’, a cyberattack discovered in the United States, has emerged as one of the biggest ever targeted against the US government.In fact, it is likely a global cyberattack.
- SolarWinds Hack also called the Supply Chain attack is a cyberattack discovered in the United States.
- Instead of directly attacking the federal government or a private organisation’s network, the hackers target a third-party vendor which supplies software to them.
- Cyberattack: It is a malicious and deliberate attempt by an individual or organization to breach the information system of another individual or organization.
- Common types of cyber attacks
- Malware: Malware (malicious software) refers to any kind of software that is designed to cause damage to a single computer, server or computer network.
- Phishing: It is the practice of sending fraudulent communications that appear to come from a reputable source, usually through email.The goal is to steal sensitive data like credit card and login information or to install malware on the victim’s machine.
- Zero-day exploit: A zero-day exploit hits after a network vulnerability is announced but before a patch or solution is implemented. Attackers target the disclosed vulnerability during this window of time.
- Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks also known as eavesdropping attacks occur when attackers insert themselves into a two-party transaction. Once the attackers interrupt the traffic, they can filter and steal data.
BSNL launches world’s first satellite-based narrowband IoT network
Source: Click here
News: BSNL has launched the world’s first Satellite-Based Narrowband IoT (Internet of Things) Network in partnership with Skylotec India.
- Narrowband Internet of Things(IoT): It is a standards-based low power wide area (LPWA) technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services.
- very low power consumption
- excellent extended range in buildings and underground
- easy deployment into existing cellular network architecture
- network security & reliability
- lower component cost.
- Internet of Things(IoT): It describes the network of physical objects — “things”—that are embedded with sensors, software and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.
Cabinet approves Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity between Mainland, Lakshadweep Islands
Source : Click here
News: Union Cabinet has given its approval for Provision of Submarine Optical Fibre Cable Connectivity between Mainland (Kochi) and Lakshadweep Islands (KLI Project).
- Objective: The Project envisages provision of a direct communication link through a dedicated submarine Optical Fibre Cable(OFC) between Kochi and 11 Islands of Lakshadweep viz. Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Agati, Amini, Androth, Minicoy, Bangaram, Bitra, Chetlat, Kiltan and Kadmat.
- Funding: The project would be funded by Universal Service Obligation Fund(USOF).
- Implementation: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) has been nominated as Project Execution Agency and Telecommunications Consultant India Ltd. (TCIL) as the Technical Consultant of the Project.
- Target: The project is targeted to be completed by May 2023.
- Universal Service Obligation Fund(USOF): It was set up in 2002 and was given statutory status under the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003.
- Objective: Enabling rural Indians to achieve their fullest potential and participate productively in the development of the nation by virtue of being effectively connected through a reliable and ubiquitous telecommunications network.
AI moment in India
Context: The importance of AI economy to India
What is the significance of AI economy to India?
- Data and AI services are expected to help boost India’s economic growth in a big way. For example, according to NASSCOM, data and AI will contribute $450 billion-$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, which is around 10% of the government’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy.
- With more opportunities created, there will be a net positive effect on employment generation. For example, it is estimated to create over 20 million technical roles.
- AI can create niche solutions to specific problems that banks and other service providers are deploying, such as speeding up loan application processing or improving customer service.
- it can provide solutions for better governance and social impact. For example, during the lockdown, the Telangana police used AI-enabled automated number plate recognition software to catch violations.
What are the prospects for India?
- India has a thriving AI start-up ecosystem with cutting-edge solutions being developed in areas such as cancer screening, smart farming and conversational AI for the use of enterprises.
- Our skilled human resource in AI/ML is fast growing, with over 5,00,000 people working on these technologies at present.
What are the steps taken to Promote use of AI in India?
- NITI Aayog’s national strategy for AI envisages ‘AI for all’ for inclusive growth, and identifies healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and smart mobility and transportation as focus areas for AI-led solutions for social impact.
- The Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments, among others, have announced policies and strategies for AI adoption.
- Technology companies have established AI centres of excellence to create solutions for global clients.
What needs to be done?
- Skill Development: In 2019, we nearly doubled our AI workforce to 72,000 from 40,000, however the demand continues to outpace the supply. That means our efforts to develop talent must pick up speed.
- Data usage policy: We need a robust legal framework that governs data and serves as the base for the ethical use of AI.
- Speed up Digitalization process: though the use of digital technologies has increased, the level of digitisation continues to be low. This poses a big challenge for organisations in finding the right amount of training data to run AI/ML algorithms, which in turn affects the accuracy of the results.
- Clean Data sets: Organisations need to invest in data management frameworks that will clean their data before they are analysed, thus vastly improving the outcomes of AI models.
The future for AI looks promising but to convert the potential into reality, India will need better strategies around talent development, stronger policies for data usage and governance, and more investments in creating a technology infrastructure that can truly leverage AI.
Chinese photonic quantum computer demonstrates quantum supremacy
Source: Click here
News: China has claimed Quantum Supremacy With Computer 10 Billion Times Faster Than Google’s Prototype.
- Quantum Supremacy: It is a term proposed in 2012 by John Preskill, professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology. It describes the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers cannot.
- Difference between Quantum and Traditional Computing: Quantum computing differs from traditional computing in the way the two store information.
- The traditional computer stores information in the form of binary bits that can process either ‘1’ or a ‘0’ at a time.
- On the other hand,Quantum computers compute in qubits or quantum bits which means it can be put into a quantum state where they can simultaneously represent both 0 and 1.
- Advantages of Quantum Supremacy: Quantum computers could be put to good use such as for: Strengthening cyber security; Accelerating artificial intelligence; Modeling traffic flows to improve our cities; Developing new medicines among others.
- Concerns: Quantum computing might pose a challenge for the governments because if this technology goes into wrong hands, all the government’s official and confidential data will be at a risk of being hacked and misused.
Policy framework for technology
Context: With the rapid pace of technology blurring boundaries, a holistic policy framework is must.
How is Data a new currency?
- Paradigm shift: The amount of “value add” from intangible technology services as opposed to physical objects, even in traditional goods, is being transformed by information.
- A modern automobile has 40% of its component value from electronic-based products and a modern electric vehicle has close to 100 million lines of code, which is more than that used by a Boeing 787 or the Chrome browser.
- Increasing digitisation: There is increasing digitisation and electronification of industrial activities, products and services, influencing the evolving skill sets in industry.
- For instance, a conventional “metal-based” industrial product, information and electronics are becoming all-pervasive, ensuring that we set boundaries to control quality or the uptime of the equipment.
- Revolution: This revolution is taking place across products, as information availability drives efficiency and creates value for customers by providing greater control over the product and its surrounding environment.
Why is there a need of a new policy framework?
- To address the needs of various stakeholders: governments have tended to build specialised departments and designed policies that govern those areas.
- Over time, as each of these departments grew, they have tended to operate in silos. This has for most of the 20th century been reasonably successful in driving economic development in countries.
- Capital formation: Technology is driving an increasing share of the value add coming from digitisation and data analytics in products and services across industry segments, there needs to be a way of encouraging capital formation by way of intangibles in traditionally tangible industries.
- Issue of a shift of value between manufacturing and services as technology changes: The policy, promotes and gives incentives for manufacturing, whereas the share of intangibles, even in traditional manufacturing companies, whether it be software, research and development or even servicing of products, are not adequately covered in industrial policies.
- Inter-departmental cooperation: There is increasingly a need for inter-departmental cooperation and synergy not only in policy framework but also in deployment.
- Increasing electronification and digitisation of the automobile are not covered by industrial policies that govern the Electronics and Information Technology Ministry.
- Drones that could serve different sectors, including agriculture, and would require a lot of inter-departmental clearances outside of the Department of Agriculture.
- Holistic view: There is a need to have a holistic view of policies for economic development as technology is becoming a significant enabler in most industries.
- A sufficiently empowered policy clearing cell: It could ensure a holistic view on policy across departments of government, at the State and the Centre.
- Ecosphere: A nourishing ecosystem for industry, including the hard infrastructure and softer areas such as education, skilling, technical institutions, laboratories, testing centres, etc., has to be cultivated.
- The creation of clusters of companies in adjacent but complementary areas could constitute such an ecosystem that encourages multi and cross-disciplinary learning and spur innovation and economic development.
- In this evolving policy framework, it is important that there is close cooperation and alignment between the Centre and State to ensure effective implementation on the ground. Some of these thoughts could help us navigate through an ecosystem that is changing with technology.