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  1. Google Pixel Buds A-Series launch in India confirmed Will be sold on Flipkart, later this year Last week, Google unveiled the Pixel Buds A-Series officially as its latest true wireless earbuds. It will be available starting June 17 in the US, and UK. The Google Pixel Buds A-Series will launch in India as now we have confirmation. Answering multiple queries after the launch, Made by Google’s official Twitter handle revealed that the Pixel Buds A-Series will indeed come to India. The tweet also confirmed the availability on Flipkart. “In India, it will be available through Flipkart but we have no estimated timeline. Stay tuned for updates!” the tweet reads. (Image credit: Future) The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is Google’s second pair of TWS and is a watered-down version of the last yeast’s Google Pixel Buds. Its price tag is far more affordable than the original Pixel Buds, but it does lose out on some features. Ahead of the official launch, Mukul Sharma has also spotted the same on BIS certification which means the launch is not too far away in India. Google Pixel Buds A-Series features and specs (Image credit: Google ) As said earlier, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is a Lite version of the original Google Pixel Buds from 2020. The new Pixel Buds A-Series look very similar to their predecessor. It comes in a flat circular design and an egg-shaped carry case which also doubles up as a charging case. It is available in two colourways - Clearly White and Dark Olive. It is also IPX4 rated for protection against sweat and water. On the inside, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series harnesses Bluetooth 5.0 and a custom made 12mm dynamic driver. You can further access the Bass Boost feature from the companion Pixel Buds app. The adaptive feature adjusts the volume based on the outside environment. However, there is no active noise cancellation. The Pixel Buds A-Series does retain the hands-free Google Assistant from the Pixel Buds. You can use this feature to ask for directions, get real-time translations and read notifications to you. It also comes with a microphone on both buds. As for the controls, the Buds A-Series offers capacitive touch control to control music, calls, and Google Assistant as well. As far as the battery life is concerned, these buds are rated to last up to 5 hours of listening time or up to 2.5 hours of talk time with the case offering up to 24 hours of listening time or up to 12 hours of talk time. A quick 15-minute charge is rated to deliver up to 3 hours of listening time or up to 1.5 hours of talk time. It comes with a USB Type-C port for charging and does not offer wireless charging luxury. Other features include in-ear detection, motion detection, case close detection, and find my device. Google Pixel Buds A-Series price in India The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is priced at $99 in the US which is around Rs 7,200. In India, we can expect the Pixel Buds A-Series to be priced under Rs 10,000 and compete against the likes of Oppo Enco X in the sub Rs 10,000 TWS segment. Google Pixel Buds A-Series launch in India confirmed
  2. India asks social media firms to remove reference to 'Indian variant' of coronavirus India's information technology (IT) ministry has written to all social media companies asking them to take down any content that refers to an "Indian variant" of the coronavirus, according to a letter issued on Friday which was seen by Reuters. The World Health Organization said on May 11 that the coronavirus variant B.1.617, first identified in India last year, was being classified as a variant of global concern. The Indian government a day later issued a statement saying media reports using the term "Indian Variant" were without any basis, saying the WHO had classified the variant as just B.1.617. In a letter to social media companies on Friday, the IT ministry asked the companies to "remove all the content" that names or implies "Indian variant" of the coronavirus. "This is completely FALSE. There is no such variant of Covid-19 scientifically cited as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO). WHO has not associated the term 'Indian Variant' with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports," stated the letter, which is not public. A senior Indian government source told Reuters the notice was issued to send a message "loud and clear" that such mentions of "Indian variant" spread miscommunication and hurt the country's image. The IT ministry could not be reached for comment. Around the world, coronvirus variants have generically been referred to by doctors and health experts on the basis of where the are identified. This includes South Africa and Brazil variants. A social media executive said it would be difficult to take down all content using the word as there would be hundreds of thousands of such posts, adding that "such a move would lead to keyword based censorship going forward." The Indian government is facing increased criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Prime Minister Modi and state authorities being blamed for not adequately planning for the ongoing second wave of coronavirus infections. India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world and has been reporting around 250,000 infections and 4,000 deaths daily. Source: India asks social media firms to remove reference to 'Indian variant' of coronavirus
  3. Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India Image Credits: TechCrunch Amazon has long maintained that its video streaming service, Prime Video, helps it drive more sales on the shopping app. Now the e-commerce giant is testing what happens when it brings the video streaming service to the shopping app itself. The e-commerce giant on Saturday launched miniTV, an ad-supported video streaming service that is available within the Amazon shopping app and is “completely free.” miniTV is currently available only in India, Amazon said. miniTV features web-series, comedy shows, and content around tech news, food, beauty, fashion “to begin with,” Amazon said. Some of the titles currently available have been produced by leading studios such as TVF and Pocket Aces — two of the largest web studios in India — and comedians such as Ashish Chanchlani, Amit Bhadana, Round2Hell, Harsh Beniwal, Shruti Arjun Anand, Elvish Yadav, Prajakta Koli, Swagger Sharma, Aakash Gupta and Nishant Tanwar. “Viewers will be informed on latest products and trends by tech expert Trakin Tech, fashion and beauty experts such as Sejal Kumar, Malvika Sitlani, Jovita George, Prerna Chhabra and ShivShakti. Food lovers can enjoy content from Kabita’s Kitchen, Cook with Nisha, and Gobble. In the coming months, miniTV will add many more new and exclusive videos,” the company added, without sharing its future roadmap plans. (Amazon began integrating reviews and other web clippings — from media houses — on its shopping service in India for more than two years ago.) miniTV is currently available on Amazon’s Android app, and will arrive on the iOS counterpart and mobile web over the coming months, Amazon said. Amazon’s move follows a similar step by Walmart’s Flipkart, the company’s marquee rival in India, which rolled out video streaming service within its app in 2019. In recent years, scores of firms in India including Zomato have explored adding a video streaming offering to their own apps. The video streaming landscape in “N2B” countries — the nations with the potential to help firms find their next two billion users. (UBS) Amazon has also aggressively pushed to expand its Prime Video offerings in India in recent quarters. The company — which partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel earlier this year to launch a new monthly mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) tier (for $1.22) — has secured rights to stream some cricket matches in the country. Amazon also offers Prime Video as part of its Amazon Prime subscription in India. The service is priced at 999 Indian rupees ($13.6) for a year and also includes access to Amazon Music and faster-delivery. Prime Video had over 60 million monthly active users in India in April, ahead of Netflix’s 40 million users, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch). Netflix, which spent about $420 million on locally produced Indian content in 2019 and 2020, said in March that it will invest “significantly more this year” in India. But in the company’s recent earnings call, founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said investment in India was more “speculative” than those in other markets. Times Internet’s MX Player had over 180 million users during the same period, and DIsney+ Hotstar had about 120 million. Their biggest competition in India remains YouTube, which has amassed over 450 million monthly active users. But other than competition, video streaming services face another challenge in India. In late March, Amazon issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini series hurt religious sentiments of some people in the key overseas market. Amazon’s apology came days after New Delhi announced new rules for on-demand video streaming services and social media firms. Source: Amazon launches free video streaming service miniTV in India
  4. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is facing a Covid-19 vaccine shortage at home Come again another day. With never-before surges in Covid-19 infection every day, a vaccine shortage in India couldn’t have come at a worse time. Yesterday (April 8), India saw 131,968 new infections of the novel coronavirus, the highest single-day spike yet. Meanwhile, several states have reported extreme shortages in Covid-19 vaccines. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is experiencing its worst-ever wave of Covid-19 yet, and the most acute vaccine shortage in the country. Nearly half of the city’s 120 vaccination centres will be shut today (April 9) due to insufficient available doses. The state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, has sent repeated requests to the central government to send over fresh stocks. States like Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana have all reported a shortage of shots. The eastern state of Odisha had to shut down 700 vaccine centres because of low supply, the state’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote in a letter to central health minister Harsh Vardhan yesterday (April 8). The shortage at Serum Institute of India Currently, all vaccines are disbursed to the states by the central government. Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII), forms a majority of the immunisation programme. SII has been under fire for not delivering vaccines on time, especially to countries with whom AstraZeneca has binding contracts. The British-Swedish drugmaker has sent a legal notice to SII to fulfil the vaccine shipments on time. Covax, the global vaccine-sharing alliance, had notified its partner countries on March 25 that there would be delays in shipments coming from India in March and April. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, has said that he is “very stressed” about the current situation, and would need Rs3,000 crore in aid from the government to speed up production. This shortage also coincides with the momentum India has gained in vaccinating its population, with over 3 million doses administered on April 8. In the 83 days since it began the vaccination drive, India has administered 94 million doses. The country is still far from its August target of inoculating 300 million Indians, which would mean 600 million shots of the two-dose Covishield or India’s homegrown Covaxin. The shortage has also renewed the criticism against India’s vaccine diplomacy. India’s vaccine friendship The Modi government has shipped over 64 million doses of either Covaxin or Covishield, either as part of the Covax agreements, as friendly grants, or under commercial contracts. The foreign ministry’s vaccine initiative, “Vaccine Maitri” (vaccine friendship) has been under fire from critics in the country, who argue that India should focus on vaccinating its population before eyeing geopolitical gains. The shortage in vaccine supplies also seems to have hit this vaccine friendship initiative now. In the month of April, India dispatched only two shipments of the vaccines to Bangladesh and the Oceanic country of Nauru. What could potentially help the dire vaccine situation in India is if the drugs regulator were to grant emergency approvals to other vaccine candidates in the queue. Other vaccines like Sputnik V India’s subject expert committee (SEC) on Covid-19 vaccines has been mercurial about granting emergency use authorisations. The committee granted Covaxin a restricted approval even without phase 3 trial data, and allowed Covishield to be used despite a lack of India-specific trial data. But the same leeway has not been granted to Sputnik V, the Russian coronavirus vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund that has partnered with Indian pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s for trials in India, has also received interest from several Indian drugmakers to produce its Sputnik V vaccine. Nearly five companies in India have tied up with RDIF, the latest being Panacea Biotech for 100 million doses. Dr Reddy’s and RDIF have also lined up 250 million doses for India’s population over the next 12 months if the vaccine were to be approved. India could also review its hesitance over allowing Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine from being approved in the country. The company was among the first to apply for an emergency authorisation in December 2020 but eventually withdrew its application because of demands for data that it could not fulfil at the time. Source: The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is facing a Covid-19 vaccine shortage at home
  5. India's second wave hits the whole world through vaccine export curbs Facing a brutal new wave of coronavirus cases, India on Thursday made anyone over 45 eligible for vaccination. But the scramble to vaccinate as many people as possible has also meant sharply curtailing exports. Why it matters: The hopes of vaccinating the world have largely fallen on the shoulders of India, a vaccine manufacturing powerhouse and home to the world’s largest producer, the Serum Institute. Until recently, India was exporting most of the doses it was producing — a mix of donations to neighbors and other friendly nations, sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.K., and contributions to the global COVAX initiative. Indian-made vaccines have gone to 82 countries. Then, after a long lull, cases began to surge. They are now at their highest point since mid-October and are continuing to climb precipitously. Vaccine exports, which had been ramping up, suddenly fell sharply. Rather than supplying the world, the Serum Institute appears to have redirected nearly its entire supply to the homefront. Driving the news: India has not imposed an export ban and will continue to supply doses, including to COVAX, a government source tells Axios. But given "domestic requirements," the source added, "there is some recalibration of the supply schedules.” Another official, speaking to Reuters, put it more bluntly: “Right now we are dealing with an emergency situation. Whatever we have, we will use it,” the official said. The government aims to vaccinate a minimum of 400 million people, up from 56 million at present (just 4% of the population), the official told Reuters. By the numbers: India has exported 6 million doses over the last three weeks, with less than 2 million of those going to the COVAX initiative. That’s down from 31 million in the three prior weeks, of which 16 million went to COVAX That’s a crippling setback for COVAX, which is a critical source of vaccines for low-income countries, particularly in Africa. COVAX had expected 71% of its first wave of distribution to consist of AstraZeneca doses produced at the Serum Institute, according to a preliminary forecast. A spokesman for Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said shipments expected in March and April had been delayed, and COVAX is now “in talks with the government of India in the hope of ensuring some supplies are completed during April.” What to watch: If this is anything more than a temporary delay, “that would be catastrophic,” African CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters Thursday. He said Africa would likely fall short of its vaccination targets this year. The big picture: The world currently has four major sources of vaccines. The U.S. is the second-largest producer, just ahead of India, but isn't exporting at all. China is currently the top producer and top exporter, according to Airfinity, focusing less on the domestic rollout in part because the virus remains under control in the country. The EU, meanwhile, has exported around 40% of its supply to date, but it's in the midst of a vigorous debate about whether and how to curb exports. Source: India's second wave hits the whole world through vaccine export curbs
  6. It has been a rough few days for India when it comes to global surveys and associated criticism. Over the last week, the world's largest democracy lost it's ranking as a 'free' country on the 2021 Freedom in the World index, and led the world leaderboard for internet shutdowns. India led the world last year in internet shutdowns that affected hundreds of millions of people, as governments cracked down on political rivals and tried to suppress protests. At least 155 internet shutdowns in 2020 disrupted access for people in 29 countries, according to a report on Wednesday from digital rights group Access Now. That included 28 full internet blackouts that plunged people and in some cases entire cities, into “digital darkness," the report said. Most recorded incidents took place in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. "Like it did in previous years, India once again topped the list of internet shutdowns with at least 109 in 2020, followed by Yemen with at least six shutdowns, Ethiopia with four, and Jordan three. India, Yemen, and Ethiopia had been among the worst disruptors of the internet in 2019," the report explains. India witnessed the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the year 2020. Most of the incidents took place in India, some of the Middle Eastern countries, and some parts of Africa. A total of 155 internet shutdowns were imposed globally out of which India had 109 shutdowns. Read More: https://www.freepressjournal.in https://www.livemint.com https://www.indiatoday.in https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com https://thewire.in
  7. India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies The Indian government might not completely ban cryptocurrencies. In an interview on March 5, country’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she wants to foster innovation in crypto. “We want to make sure that there is a window available for all kinds of experiments which will have to take place in the crypto world,” she said during an interview on CNBC TV18, a business and financial news television channel in India. “We are not closing our minds.” The comments from Sitharaman counter a proposed bill from the Indian government in January of this year that would ban all private cryptocurrencies. The proposed law would also include a system for the creation and regulation of an official cryptocurrency issued by the country’s central bank and the promotion of blockchain, the technology underlying digital currencies. The Reserve Bank of India’s “digital rupee” is aimed at being similar to China’s “digital yuan“. Local business and lobbying groups like the Association for Blockchain, Crypto and Digital Asset Entrepreneurs and the Blockchain and Crypto Committee formed in response to the news of the potential ban in an effort to lobby the government and enhance its understanding of cryptocurrencies. In mid-February, Balaji Srinivasan, the former chief technology officer of the crypto trading platform Coinbase, compared the proposed law to “banning the internet”. ”It would be a trillion-dollar mistake for India, without exaggeration,” he said during an interview with The CapTable, an online business-news publication in India. While Sitharaman said the country’s central bank would take the lead on overseeing “unofficial cryptos”, her comments indicated a possible outcome of regulating cryptocurrencies instead of an outright ban. “There will be a very calibrated position taken,” she said. Source: India’s finance minister reconsiders a ban on cryptocurrencies
  8. Asked whether you will buy bitcoins, big bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala answered, "I won't buy it for even $5." In an interview with CNBC International TV, the ace investor said, "Only the sovereign has the right to create currency in the world. Tomorrow people will produce 5 lakh bitcoins, then which currency will go? Something which fluctuates 5-10% a day, can it be considered as currency?" "If a dollar moves 1-2%, it becomes a news, but bitcoin fluctuates 10-15% every day," Jhunjhunwala said. On cryptocurrency trading, he said, "I think it's speculation of the highest order." The veteran investor added, "I am not going to buy even if the price goes up," adding, "I don't want to join every party in the town, so I don't even put my minds on bitcoins." On fear of missing out the crypto fever, he mentioned, "There have been so many times when markets have gone up, but I stayed out. You should only go to the parties you like." "I will never buy bitcoins in my life," he reiterated. A high-level committee earlier suggested that all the private cryptocurrencies, except any virtual currencies issued by state, will be prohibited in India. The central government will take a decision on the recommendation of committee and legislative proposal, the finance minister had said. On whether crypto trading will be banned in India, Jhunjhunwala echoed the same thought. "The power to issue currencies should only be with the state and it should be taken away from others. The biggest sovereign right is to issue currency. The regulator must ban cryptocurrencies in India," he said. Bitcoin tanked as much 18% on Tuesday and traded around $48,750. The selloff puts Bitcoin prices at the lowest in about two weeks. SOURCE
  9. Allegations of planted evidence raise questions about hacking ecosystem in India (Flickr/ Vijay Chennupati/CC-BY-2.0) Recent allegations that planted evidence may have been used to frame an activist in a terrorism case are raising new questions about the surveillance and hacking ecosystem in India. The human rights activist in question, Rona Wilson, is one of several people accused of plotting to overthrow the Indian government in connection with a violent demonstration in Bhima Koregaon, India in 2017. Wilson is among the several activists accused of instigating violence at the demonstration. Cases against the defendants have largely relied on digitally-collected evidence, according to Amnesty International. He has been incarcerated for nearly three years. A new forensic analysis of Wilson’s computer, conducted by Boston-based Arsenal Consulting, is now raising questions about the viability of the evidence, who put it there and the extent to which hacking in India is used to further the government’s prosecutions. Details about the ecosystem of surveillance and cyber mercenary groups in India targeting activists, companies and journalists have been emerging for years now. But the Arsenal Consulting report could shed new light on just how far attackers will go to silence activists, researchers and digital rights activists say. “What this case shows is that as authoritarianism increases, invariably digital threats against civil society increase as well,” John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, told CyberScoop. Arsenal Consulting, which has previously conducted digital forensic analysis on the Boston Marathon bombing case, found evidence on Wilson’s computer that an outsider targeted the device with malware and planted at least 10 documents meant to incriminate him, according to a copy of the report viewed by CyberScoop. Wilson is accused of being a member of the banned Maoist party, plotting to use its funds to undermine the government and plotting to kill the prime minister. The documents in question were made in a version of Microsoft Word that Wilson’s computer didn’t have, according to the report. Wilson has long maintained that he did not participate in the demonstration and that he never engaged with the documents in question. The documents allegedly incriminate Wilson, though exactly how was not immediately clear. The perpetrators first targeted Wilson with malware through an apparent phishing email, which imitated one of Wilson’s acquaintances in 2016, containing a spammy decoy document, according to the analysis. But when Wilson clicked through the malware, a remote access trojan called NetWire was then able to monitor Wilson’s keystrokes, passwords and browsing, according to the report. Arsenal concluded that Wilson’s computer was compromised for more than 22 months, according to the report. Wilson’s lawyer, Sudeep Pasbola, told The Washington Post, which first reported on the Arsenal analysis of Wilson’s computer, that the planted documentation “destabilizes” the prosecution and proves his client’s innocence. In response to the Arsenal report, the government entity overseeing the case claimed in a statement shared with the Post there was “substantial documentary and oral evidence” against the individuals charged. The latest information about the apparent targeting of Wilson’s computer is a sign of a deeply entrenched surveillance problem in India, according to Danna Ingleton, the acting co-director of Amnesty Tech. “These new reports indicating that activist Rona Wilson’s devices were compromised in order to plant incriminating evidence are deeply concerning,” Ingleton told CyberScoop. “Amnesty International is calling on authorities in India to conduct an independent, impartial, and transparent investigation into the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including determining whether there are links between these spyware campaigns and any specific government agencies.” Other Bhima Koregaon activists also have been targeted with what Amnesty and Citizen Lab, have described as a coordinated surveillance campaign. “Arsenal has connected the same attacker to a significant malware infrastructure which has been deployed over the course of approximately four years to not only attack and compromise Mr. Wilson’s computer for 22 months, but to attack his co-defendants in the Bhima Koregaon case and defendants in other high-profile Indian cases as well,” the report states. Several activists are also alleged to have been targeted by surveillance software developed by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group. Pro-government and commercial overlaps While it may be unclear who exactly is responsible for the reportedly manipulated evidence against Wilson at this time, the possible links between pro-India hacking operations and the global commercial sector of surveillance software have begun to emerge in recent research. One pro-India hacking group, known as Confucius, appears to have code overlaps with commercial surveillance products, suggesting possible links according to research published in February by the security firm Lookout. The group also appears to have historical connections with Bahamut, a hack-for-hire group that has gone after a number of targets in India, as well as in other countries. The possible reason there may be overlaps between some of these groups are numerous. The hacking operations could be explicitly linked or run by the same individuals or groups, or cybersecurity professionals could be working for multiple hacking shops and carrying over knowledge and expertise from former jobs. Cyber mercenaries could also be purchasing tools from one centralized hub. Adding to the puzzle of who may be using the malware used to target Wilson is the fact that NetWire malware can be purchased from World Wired Labs, a company whose remote access tools have historically been used by criminals and nation-state hackers alike. The Bhima Koregaon digital evidence case is the latest to emerge from India suggesting that India’s hack-for-hire and surveillance ecosystem is far more developed than what has publicly come to light so far, and that it is likely growing behind the scenes. An India-based security firm, BellTroX, has been working as a cyber mercenary group for a number of clients interested in hacking global targets, such as activists and corporate IT firms, according to Citizen Lab research revealed last June. Appin, another Indian company, has also allegedly provided offensive cyber capabilities on a contractual basis, researchers say. Yet another, called CostaRicto, has been targeting a number of South Asian targets, including those in India, with a custom backdoor. Ground truth Security researchers note that the burgeoning use of hack-for-hire groups and surveillance software globally offers would-be attackers a cloak of secrecy and deniability in running operations against activists and dissidents. It’s the kind of growing industry that could chill free speech and hamper investigations into alleged human rights abuses, activists say. But beyond attribution dilemmas, Wilson’s case represents a concerning shift in the health and trustworthiness of the information environment that activists, dissidents and journalists may need to confront in the future, according to Scott-Railton. “What’s particularly troubling about this case is that it raises pretty fundamental questions about whether a case right now is really based on evidence that’s unimpeachable,” Scott-Railton, who has reviewed the Arsenal analysis, told CyberScoop. There has been at least one other publicly known instance where evidence was reportedly digitally planted against a defendant in a case in Turkey. In that case, a Turkish journalist was sent to jail for alleged connections with a group accused of terrorism in the country, but an investigation Arsenal Consulting conducted found he had been digitally framed and targeted with malware in 2011. The journalist has since been acquitted. Source: Allegations of planted evidence raise questions about hacking ecosystem in India
  10. IDC: Indian market drops 2% in 2020, strong H2 counters weak H1 In its latest market report, IDC focuses on the performance of the Indian smartphone market in 2020. The first half of the year, which was marked by the lockdowns and restrictions at the beginning of the current pandemic, saw a 26% year-over-year decline in shipments, while the second half of 2020 saw a recovering market push to a 19% YoY growth. The resulting nearly 150 million phones shipped are a decline of just -1.7% YoY, which is the first after several years of growth for the Indian market. IDC projects that 2021 will bring an increase in shipments of around 10% over 2020. The online sales grew in 2020, accounting for nearly half of the total market at 48%. During Q4 of 2020 online shipments posted a record 51% share of all shipments, thanks to trade-in programs and deals. MediaTek-powered devices led the sales with a share of 43%, followed by 40% of Qualcomm-powered phones. 5G smartphone shipments crossed the 3 million mark in 2020, but adoption was limited by the lack of a 5G network and the higher price point. Xiaomi retained its leading position in 2020 with 41 million units shipped. Samsung was second on the thanks to the success of its online channels and its Galaxy M series of phones, shipping just under 30 million phones. Realme pushed Oppo for fourth and posted the biggest growth of 2020 with 19%. Source Source: IDC: Indian market drops 2% in 2020, strong H2 counters weak H1
  11. Everyone should worry that Indians aren’t taking their second vaccine doses On Jan. 16, India started its vaccination drive against Covid-19, administering preliminary doses to nearly 200,000 healthcare workers, and reminding them to come back on Feb. 13 for their second shots. But when that date rolled around, fewer than 8,000 returned—a measly 4% of the total. By Monday morning (Feb. 15), the proportion had improved, but only just: 24,561 healthcare workers got their second shot out of the 224,301 who ought to have received it, or just over 10%. This is a problem—and not just for India. If people skip their second doses, or even if they delay the doses beyond the recommended time frame, it gives the coronavirus more chances to re-arm itself—to mutate by chance in a way that could lend it high resistance to the vaccines we have. If that mutant, resistant form spreads, a year’s worth of vaccine research could be overwhelmed by a fierce new wave of disease. This scenario echoes another that has already transpired with tuberculosis. India has become a cradle for strains of TB bacteria that can hold out against antibiotics; in 2019, the country registered the highest number of drug-resistant TB cases in the world. Among the reasons that bacteria grow inured to antibiotics is an insufficient duration of treatment: doctors prescribing regimens that are too brief, or patients stopping their doses if they feel better or cannot afford their medicines. These strains of drug-resistant TB bacteria have spread to the US, the UK, Germany, and other countries. Crafting new antibiotics to battle these bacteria is difficult as well as expensive: 10-15 years of work and at least $1 billion in investment per drug. On Feb. 22, India starts rolling out its vaccines to the general populace. In a country like India, there are plenty of reasons why people may skip their second doses. Perhaps they won’t find transport to a clinic on the day, or will have to work for a day’s wages instead. Perhaps they’ll feel an adverse reaction after the first dose and decide they don’t trust the vaccine. It is arguably the responsibility of health authorities to convey the importance of taking both doses, and to track those who have neglected their follow-up visits. If the numbers of second doses administered are so low even among healthcare workers—who, presumably, can be mandated to take their doses, work in hospitals or clinics where the vaccine can be administered, and understand the need for the second shot—Indian authorities will have to step up the urgency of their communication even further. The coronavirus is still around, and unless it’s stopped dead in its tracks by a comprehensive immunization campaign, it will keep spreading. Viruses mutate in warm bodies. India has 1.3 billion of them. Source: Everyone should worry that Indians aren’t taking their second vaccine doses
  12. PayPal is shutting down domestic payments business in India Image Credits: Yichuan Cao/ NurPhoto / Getty Images PayPal is shutting down its domestic business in India, less than four years after the American giant kickstarted local operations in the world’s second largest internet market. “From 1 April 2021, we will focus all our attention on enabling more international sales for Indian businesses, and shift focus away from our domestic products in India. This means we will no longer offer domestic payment services within India from 1 April,” said a company spokesperson. In a long statement, PayPal said its priorities had shifted in India, but did not elaborate why it was winding down the business. A report recently said the company, which has amassed over 360,000 merchants in the country, was struggling to make inroads in India. Indian news outlet The Morning Context reported in December that PayPal was abandoning its local payments business in India, a claim the company had refuted at the time. “With the shift in priorities, some PayPal employees have been reassigned to new teams. Our focus is to always minimize the impact on our people whenever possible. Overall, our workforce is growing in India, not reducing. We are currently recruiting across our sites in India in large numbers,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. Nonetheless, the move comes as a surprise. The company said last year that it was building a payments service powered by India’s UPI railroad, suggesting an increase in the level of investments it was making in the country. Over the years, PayPal also partnered with a range of popular Indian businesses such as ticketing services BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip and food delivery platform Swiggy to offer a faster check out experience. At the time of writing, PayPal website in India appears to have removed all such references. India has emerged as one of the world’s largest battlegrounds for mobile payments firms in recent years. Scores of heavily-backed firms including Paytm, PhonePe, Google, Amazon, and Facebook are competing among one another to increase their share in India, where the market is estimated to be worth $1 trillion by 2023. Several of these firms also offer a range of payments services for merchants. The company, which says it processed $1.4 billion worth of international sales for merchants in India last year, added that it will continue to invest in “product development that enables Indian businesses to reach nearly 350 million PayPal consumers worldwide, increase their sales internationally, and help the Indian economy return to growth.” PayPal has been offering cross-border payments support in India for more than a decade. After entering the country, it allowed consumers in India to pay at online merchants with local currency. The story was updated with additional details provided by PayPal. Source: PayPal is shutting down domestic payments business in India
  13. Microsoft India’s newest office is palatial Microsoft’s offices have become increasingly lavish, and their Seattle headquarters is currently in the middle of a major refurbishment which has seen several buildings completely demolished. One of their newest offices is located in Noida, a satellite town of India’s capital New Delhi, and Microsoft has recently published a blog post showing off the palatial architecture, inspired directly by the Taj Mahal. Design brief Spread across the top three floors of a six-story building, the offices will be housing their new Microsoft India Development Center (IDC). “It’s really about two aspects,” says Rajiv Kumar, managing director, Microsoft IDC, and a Microsoft veteran of nearly 29 years. “One is to build a world-class product development organization in India. It’s a dream I had when I came back to India from Redmond in 2005 when there was nothing.” “In order to attract the best talent from the country, you have to go to the places where they are,” says Kumar. “So, we started in the middle of the country when we opened Hyderabad center, and then went south with the Bengaluru center. My vision to create the Noida center was to attract the best talent that graduates from some of the world-class engineering and management institutions in the country’s north.” The second aspect, Kumar adds, is how the IDC can cater to the next billion people in the world’s emerging market to realize Microsoft’s vision. “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on this planet to achieve more,” he says. “That’s a very ambitious statement, but I feel the IDC owes it to the company to realize this mission.” By being close to the capital, the Noida campus will enable more frequent collaboration with the government around developing technologies not only addressing India’s needs but also for similar regions around the world. Inspiration The architects took cues from the actual Taj Mahal by depicting rivers with chevron patterns in the corridors, and the greens of Char Bagh Gardens through the colour palette and textures. “The Taj Mahal is one of the most distinctive buildings on the planet,” says Arunjot Singh Bhalla, managing director of RSP Design Consultants, explaining the thinking behind the interiors. “The challenge was: How does one possibly interpret the Taj Mahal and go one step further and apply it to an office?” “The Microsoft design language is a combination of general directions on what we want our offices to look like,” explains Riku Pentikainen, regional director-Asia at Microsoft RE&F. “It’s a combination of local culture, and being locally relevant, as well as incorporating hidden artifacts and items. We feel very good about being in the right place, at the right time.” The Taj Mahal’s marble domes, minarets, arched entrances, jaali work, and even a visual reference to the Char Bagh Gardens, translate seamlessly in this Noida space. In the core area of the office space, archways and marble cladding create a sublime effect, while lattice perforations of the jaali screens — in marble or modified for the ceilings — render the space’s texture and depth. The subtle domes, at the same time, add volume. The river also influences the incorporation of intersecting arches along the “river corridors,” is a direct reference to the Taj Mahal, and breaks the monotony of “corporate-looking” units such as conference rooms. “We took the elements and were informed by the richness of the architecture of this amazing monument,” Bhalla says. John Bowden, manager of Workplace Strategy, Asia Pacific Region at Microsoft, adds, “You don’t need to have diamond-studded walls to create something like this. It’s the concept, the form, the lighting, the materials used, and the color to create that atmosphere.” Local artisans To spur the local economy, all the marble and fabrics were sourced from nearby regions. The artwork called for artisans who could execute intricate tapestries and inlay work, while collaborating closely with the IT and facilities teams to create the intersectionality of form and function. “We hired local artisans to do the inlays and paintings. It’s our way of helping the local talent so they can also add Microsoft in their profile,” says Mann. When the pandemic struck and work at the site came to a standstill, the company provided the artisans with safe and hygienic accommodations as well as meals. Surprise elements This drive for playfulness comes together in a series of “surprise” elements across the workspace. A key example is the perforated jaali right at the entrance with the impression of the picture of Bill Gates, which is only visible at certain angles.The new facility will accommodate the Xbox team — the first campus in India to host a gaming team. “These murals contain typical floral iconography,” says Bowden. “However, if you look closer, you realize the flowers are actually symbols from our cloud, our technology and our logo.” These easter eggs, Bowden adds, were a part of the design guidelines. This gamification of the workplace breaks the formula of traditional Indian workspaces. Here, the area interacts — even engages — with the user. “We try to have fun,” he laughs. A lot of the space reflects what the new generation wants in a workplace, based on research, Mann says. “We have different kinds of seating for, say, when you want to have your meal, or if you want to be alone, or be in a spot where nobody disturbs you, or you take a 10-minute break,” she says. The public health considerations that were heightened because of the pandemic also resulted in automated doorways, along with distanced seating. Sustainability One of the crucial processes in the creation of space was sustainability. The base building is LEED platinum rated, which means it caters to the highest sustainability standards of construction and operation. The campus also includes recycled products and locally sourced materials including the marble, plus energy-saving light and water installations. Bhalla adds that 2% of the office, which is in a city infamous for air pollution, is covered in greenery. “We did a lot of study on the biophilia of the site, and the local plants that would survive in Noida,” he says. The accessible workplace includes customized counters for wheelchairs, Braille signage, hazard warnings and access ramps. Boutique experience Pentikainen describes the space as a “boutique” experience in which Microsoft’s vision to break away from the conventional and create a new path translates seamlessly into the Noida IDC. The Taj Mahal becomes more than just an architectural viewpoint, or a symbol of grandeur. It signals a vision that is ahead of its time and endures. “I think working at an office is going to be a more beautiful experience than in the past because employees will have a choice,” Kumar says. “They can work from the comfort of home, or they can come to office and work in a world-class environment where they can collaborate, build social capital and forge a bond among themselves. I really believe that.” Video tour Microsoft India’s newest office is palatial EDIT: Video substituted.
  14. India plans to introduce law to ban Bitcoin, other private cryptocurrencies Image Credits: Getty Images India plans to introduce a law to ban private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in the country and provide a framework for the creation of an official digital currency during the current budget session of parliament. In the agenda (PDF) published on the lower house website, the legislation seeks to “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India,” but allow “for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology [blockchain] of cryptocurrency and its uses.” The law also seeks to “create a facilitative framework for creation of the official digital currency” that will be issued by the nation’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, the agenda said. In 2018, an Indian government panel recommended banning all private cryptocurrencies and proposed up to 10 years of jail time for offenders. The panel also suggested the government to explore a digital version of the fiat currency and ways to implement it. At the time, RBI said the move was necessary to curb “ring-fencing” of the country’s financial system. It had also argued that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies cannot be treated as currencies as they are not made of metal or exist in physical form, nor were they stamped by the government. The 2018 notice from the central bank sent a panic to several local startups and companies offering services to trade in cryptocurrency. Nearly all of them have either since closed shop, or pivoted to serve other markets. This proposal was challenged by several exchanges and traders, who filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court. The nation’s apex court ruled in their favor last year. This ruling was seen as “historic” but it did not impact the earlier circular on the policy level. “Since the government is considering introducing the bill during this session of Parliament, we are sure the government will definitely listen to all the stakeholders before taking any decision,” said Sumit Gupta, co-founder and chief executive of CoinDCX,a cryptocurrency exchange in India. “We are talking to other stakeholders and will definitely initiate deeper dialogue with the government and showcase how we can actually create a healthy ecosystem in unison,” he said. Source: India plans to introduce law to ban Bitcoin, other private cryptocurrencies
  15. Apple registers record iPhone sales in India - It may be the new start it was expecting 5G demand may push it further up (Image credit: TechRadar) A report from analytics firms Counterpoint Research and CyberMedia Research (CMR) suggest that Apple may have doubled its year-on-year iPhone sales in India in the company's fourth quarter of 2020. Apple shipped more than 1.5 million iPhone units in India in the quarter that ended in December, up 100% on its year-on-year performance. Apple best ever quarter in India comes on the back of strong sales of older models like iPhone 11, iPhone XR and iPhone SE coupled with high interest in the new iPhone 12. Overall, the tech giant had 4% of the market in quarter four, while cumulative 2020 sales soared 60% at more than 3.2 million units. The Apple iPad category saw 25% growth (performance-wise) in Q4 and for the full year 2020, it logged 17% growth. For the calendar year 2020, Apple's total India smartphone share was about 2.4%, which is a significant rise. Apple changing its India strategy The news agency IANS has quoted Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, as saying: "Apple continues its stellar run in the India smartphone market, gaining strength on the back of increased local manufacturing and strong marketing initiatives during the festive season." The relatively lesser market share of Apple in India is understandable as it has pegged itself in the premium segment and also due to the fact that the company kind of treated the Indian market with a disinterest that puzzled analysts, both here and elsewhere. But Apple may be looking to change its ways. Already, last year, Apple launched its online store in the country and offered customers a bouquet of financing and upgrade options, AppleCare+, and freebies like AirPods with the purchase of iPhone 11. As Prabhu Ram said, "Apple is on track to grow further and gain strength in the year ahead, as it unveils its new India initiatives on the back of its new online store, and upcoming flagship retail stores." Apple phone manufacturing in India itself is also moving into a higher gear. Despite the problems in one of its assembling units, Wistron, Apple is looking to increase its production in India through Foxconn and Pegatron, two other contract manufacturers of the tech giant. 5G demand to help Apple in India Further, the expected spike in demand for 5G phones in India is also expected to help Apple. Counterpoint Research predicts that India's 5G smartphone shipments could grow more than nine-fold in 2021 to 38 million units, up from an estimated 4 million last year. Apple can tap into this massive jump by aggressively plugging its iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. The latter's price is not all that too distant from the competing brand products in the segment. Rumours have it that Apple may put 5G connectivity into its entry-level iPhone SE this year. It is also said that iPhone SE could rock the same A14 Bionic processor that powers the iPhone 12, and it could be launched in the second half of the year. This can make Apple even more competitive in India in the years to come. Apple registers record iPhone sales in India - It may be the new start it was expecting
  16. India to impose permanent ban on 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok: Indian media FILE PHOTO: Smartphone with Chinese applications is seen in front of a displayed Indian flag and a "Banned app" sign in this illustration picture taken July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration (Reuters) - India’s ministry of electronics and information technology has issued fresh notices to make permanent a ban imposed on video app TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps in June, Indian media reported late on Monday. When it first imposed the ban, the Indian government gave the 59 apps a chance to explain their position on compliance with privacy and security requirements, the Times of India bit.ly/3iJxgcX reported on Monday. The companies, which include ByteDance’s popular video-sharing app TikTok, Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and Alibaba’s UC Browser, were also asked to respond to a list of questions, the newspaper said. "The government is not satisfied with the response/explanation given by these companies. Hence, the ban for these 59 apps is permanent now," business newspaper Livemint bit.ly/3a3Us1t quoted a source familiar with the notices as saying. It said the notices were issued last week. The ministry’s June order stated that the apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”. The order, which India referred to as a “digital strike”, followed a skirmish with Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border site when 20 Indian soldiers were killed. In September, India banned another 118 mobile apps, including Tencent’s popular videogame PUBG, as it stepped up the pressure on Chinese technology companies following the standoff at the border. A TikTok representative told the Economic Times bit.ly/39lKf1v newspaper that the company was evaluating the notice and will respond to it as appropriate. The ministry of electronics and information technology could not be reached for comment outside regular working hours. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment. Source: India to impose permanent ban on 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok: Indian media
  17. Microsoft launches Surface Laptop Go in India Microsoft has finally announced the Surface Laptop Go in India. Buyers in India will now be able to buy “ultra-light” Surface Laptop from authorized retail and online partners, including Reliance Digital, Amazon. The Surface Laptop Go starts at INR 63,499 and goes up to INR 110,999 for the top model. You can also pay in parts — Microsoft is giving you the opportunity to buy it in No-cost EMI options from authorized retail and online partners start at INR 8,000 per month. You’ll be able to buy it from tomorrow, January 22. SURFACE LAPTOP GO PRICING IN INDIA Model MRP (commercial SKUs) MRP (consumer SKUs) Surface Laptop Go i5/4/64GB Surface Laptop Go i5/8/128GB Surface Laptop Go i5/8/256GB Surface Laptop Go i5/16/256GB INR 63,499 INR 76,199 INR 92,999 INR 110,999 — INR 71,999 INR 91,999 — A couple of months back, Microsoft India announced the Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2, and this left many buyers wondering whether the company will bring the Laptop Go to India. And now with the announcement, Microsoft just made it clear that users in India can also get the taste of the lightest and most affordable Surface Laptop. The Laptop Go is powered by Intel’s 10th generation i5 Quad Core processor with up to 16GB RAM and 256GB storage. The base model comes with just 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC drive. Also, the 16GB RAM is limited for commercial SKUs. Microsoft promises up to 13 hours of battery life with support for Fast Charging on this new laptop. The laptop features a 12.4-inch 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI) PixelSense touchscreen display, which offers a decent visual experience. The large precision trackpad and a full-size keyboard with 1.3mm key travel deliver an accurate and comfortable input experience. When it comes to ports, the new Laptop Go comes with an USB-C port, an USB-A port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a Surface Connect port. You can enjoy great video calls with built-in Studio Mics, Omnisonic Speakers and Dolby Audio and 720p HD camera. You can know more about the laptop here. If you’re based in India., are you planning to buy the Surface Laptop Go? Let’s know down in the comments. Source: Microsoft launches Surface Laptop Go in India
  18. Rumors suggest that the next Assassin's Creed could be set in India The India connection gets stronger (Image credit: Ubisoft) Assassin's Creed is one of the biggest game franchises out there and rumors of upcoming games are always rife on the internet. And according to a new leak, the setting for the next instalment could be India. For the record, Assassin's Creed Chronicles, which has four different settings, did include India. But that was not meaty enough to be called a proper portrayal since it was 2.5D and partially a platformer. The new leak was posted on 4chan which means that it needs to be taken with a fistful of salt. The post happens to show a 'draft map' from the next game which shows India in the 17th century with the British, Dutch and other European countries establishing their colonies. Assassin's Creed: Leaked details (Image credit: 4chan) The person who claims to be a Ubisoft insider writes in the post that the game will apparently include all of India, Bangladesh and a part of Pakistan. With this game, the developers are aiming to bring a larger map than Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Since the game might take place during the 17th century, it will likely include the Taj Mahal as well. It is mentioned that the emphasis will apparently be on the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company, that will form rival factions. The post also mentions that there are no talks yet of naval gameplay. And following the tradition set by Odyssey and Valhalla, the game is set to have a fully written female protagonist and players will be able to pick to play as either gender. One of the more important aspects mentioned regarding platforms is that it will apparently be exclusive to the newer generation of consoles and developers have no intention of releasing it for PS4 or Xbox One. The makers are also thinking of bringing back the bounty system, with each region having their own bounty. Hence if the player has a bounty in the Mughal Empire they are likely not to bring it to Dutch-India. While all this information seems to match with the way the Assassin's Creed games have played out in the last few instances, this could all be fake. And that is highly likely considering that Valhalla released only in October and it's only been a few months since. But it would be interesting if this does pan out to be somewhat true. Rumors suggest that the next Assassin's Creed could be set in India
  19. Google India boots out 'rogue' loan apps from Play Store They were digital Shylocks (Image credit: Shutterstock) Google India has removed several personal loan apps from its Play Store that are in violation of its safety policies and Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) guidelines. India's banking regulator had earlier conveyed its misgivings over the proliferation of unregulated fintech apps on Google Play Store and advised them to take the errant applications down. "We have reviewed hundreds of personal loan apps in India, based on flags submitted by users and government agencies. The apps that were found to violate our user safety policies were immediately removed from the Store, and we have asked the developers of the remaining identified apps to demonstrate that they comply with applicable local laws and regulations," Google India said in a blogpost. Google did not specify the number of lending apps that have been kicked out, but sources in the industry say that around 30 apps may have got the chop. Modus operandi of online loan sharks Quite typically, many of these apps are from fly-by-night operators, and target vulnerable borrowers by offering loans at usurious interest rates and then using extreme measures for recovery of money. Many of these apps levy exorbitant processing fees, as high as 2,000 rupees on loans of less than 10,000 rupees with tenures of 30 days or under. In the event, borrowers end up paying interest rates as high as 60% per week. Banks in India, on the contrary, offer personal loans with annual interest rates of 10-20%, and they usually do not have to be repaid in full for at least a year. Chinese threat here, too The Google Play Developer Policy now requires financial services apps that offer personal loans to disclose key information such as the minimum and maximum periods of repayment, the maximum annual percentage rate, and a representative example of the total loan cost. The RBI, for its part, has constituted a working group to suggest regulatory measures to promote orderly growth of digital lending amid rising incidents of harassments relating to online lending. Three apps, 10MinuteLoan, Ex-Money and Extra Mudra, were removed from the Play Store a few days back. Among the aps taken down in the fresh drive are LazyPay, Cashguru, Rupeeclick and Finance Buddha. Many of these apps, as it happens, have Chinese connection. And that is another angle of fight for the Indian authorities. Police in various Indian States have increased their drive against these online loan sharks. A few Chinese have also been taken into custody. Via: Google India Google India boots out 'rogue' loan apps from Play Store
  20. Amazon launches mobile-only, more affordable Prime Video plan in India Image Credits: Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg / Getty Images Amazon is doubling down on one of the biggest strengths of Prime Video streaming service: Aggressive pricing. The e-commerce giant on Wednesday launched Prime Video Mobile Edition, an even more affordable tier of the on-demand video streaming service — now also bundling some mobile data. Prime Video Mobile Edition, for which Amazon has partnered with Indian telecom network Airtel, will feature 28-day mobile-only, single-user, standard definition (SD) access to customers in India for Rs 89 ($1.22). This tier will include 6GB of mobile data that customers can consume during the subscription period. There’s also a slightly expensive plan for Prime Video Mobile Edition that will charge customers Rs 299 but will offer 1.5GB mobile data for each day of the subscription. To anyone who subscribes to Prime Video Mobile Edition, Amazon says it will pick the tab for the first month. Amazon Prime subscription costs $1.7 a month in India and includes access to Prime Video and Prime Music. The new Prime Video plan is currently only available in India. Its launch comes two years after Netflix unveiled a similar plan in India. Affordable pricing is key for on-demand steaming services that are looking to make inroads in India, the world’s second largest internet market. Even as more than 600 million users are online in the country today, only a fraction of them currently pay to access digital subscriptions. In a recent report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated that gaming, and video streaming market in India could clock as much as $5 billion in gross value transactions by March 2025. “India is one of our fastest growing territories in the world with very high engagement rates. Buoyed by this response, we want to double-down by offering our much-loved entertainment content to an even larger base of Indian customers. Given high mobile broadband penetration in the country, the mobile phone has become one of the most widely used streaming devices,” said Jay Marine, Vice President, Amazon Prime Video Worldwide, in a statement. Airtel, the second largest telecom operator in India, is the first roll-out partner for Prime Video Mobile Edition, said Sameer Batra, Director, Mobile Business Development at Amazon, suggesting that the company may ink similar deals with other telecom operators in the country as it looks to expand the “reach of our service to the entire pre-paid customer base in India.” Nearly every on-demand video streaming service in India, including Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar, maintain various partnerships with local telecom operators and satellite TV providers to reach more users in the country. Amazon did not explicitly say when or if it plans to extend Prime Video Mobile Edition outside of India. Source: Amazon launches mobile-only, more affordable Prime Video plan in India
  21. Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society filed a lawsuit in India late December to compel local ISPs to block access to Sci-Hub and Libgen on copyright infringement grounds. With the case set for a hearing tomorrow, scientists, academics, teachers and students are calling on the government to prevent a blockade for the good of society. Following in the footsteps of the entertainment industries, publishers are increasingly trying to have pirate sites shut down or blocked to prevent the unlicensed spread of academic and scientific papers. Their main targets are Sci-Hub (‘The Pirate Bay of Science’) and Libgen (Library Genesis), platforms with a key aim of distributing such papers freely to the masses for the purposes of spreading knowledge. Of course, this runs counter to the publishers’ business model, as a lawsuit filed in India by several publishing giants explained last month. Complaint Filed at High Court in Delhi On December 21, 2020, Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society, filed a lawsuit hoping to have the court compel Indian ISPs to block both Sci-Hub and Libgen. Accusing the platforms of blatantly infringing their rights on a massive scale, the publishers said that due to the defiant nature of the platforms, ISP blocking is the only effective solution to hand. The massive complaint, which runs to 2,169 pages, was received by Sci-Hub with little time to review its contents. This not-insignificant issue was quickly pointed out to the Court, with counsel for Sci-Hub asking for an extension. After Sci-Hub assured the Court (pdf) that “no new articles or publications, in which the plaintiffs have copyright” would be uploaded to the site in advance of the next hearing, more time was granted to respond. Scientists, Academics, Teachers and Students Protest The case is set for a hearing tomorrow but in advance of that, interested parties are attempting to put the government under pressure to intervene by preventing a blockade that, according to them, would cause damage to education and society in India. Speaking on behalf of thousands of scientists, academics, teachers and students, the Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) is expressing dismay at the publishers’ efforts to prevent the “free flow of information” between those who produce it and those who seek it. “International publishers like Elsevier have created a business model where they treat knowledge created by academic research funded by taxpayers’ money as their private property,” its statement reads. “Those who produce this knowledge — the authors and reviewers of research papers — are not paid and yet these publishers make windfall profit of billions of dollars by selling subscriptions to libraries worldwide at exorbitantly inflated rates which most institutional libraries in India, and even developed countries, cannot afford. “Without a subscription, a researcher has to pay between $30 and $50 to download each paper, which most individual Indian researchers cannot afford. Instead of facilitating the flow of research information, these companies are throttling it,” the non-profit Breakthrough Science Society adds. Instead of demonizing Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan, the group describes her work as an effective solution to make research papers available to all for the benefit of humanity. As a result, the Breakthrough Science Society says it actually supports the work of Sci-Hub and Libgen, arguing that their work is not illegal and should continue unhindered. “We support their initiative which, we contend, does not violate any norm of ethics or intellectual property rights as the research papers are actually intellectual products of the authors and the institutions,” BSS writes. “We strongly oppose any form of commoditization of research information that is a hindrance to the development of science and the humanities. In the interest of the advancement of knowledge, Sci-Hub and Libgen should be allowed to operate in India.” Petition To Pressure the Government In an effort to pressure the Indian government to intervene on behalf of the people, the Breakthrough Science Society has launched a petition, calling on everyone from scientists and academics to teachers and students, to declare that knowledge should be accessible to all, not just those who can afford to pay the publishers’ rates. Dr. Ashwani Mahajan, an Associate Professor at the University of Delhi, who among other things describes himself as a policy interventionist, says that if the ISPs are compelled to block Sci-Hub and Libgen, Indian researchers’ access to information will be seriously undermined. While acknowledging that the government spends large sums of money to subscribe to journals, Mahajan says that researchers and students are heavily reliant on Sci-Hub and Libgen for information that the publishing industry itself does not pay for. “Content is generated by the academic community working in research institutes and universities which are mostly Government funded. Most of the peer reviewers are also not paid. As a result, the publishing houses’ expenditure is very low, and they earn high profitability,” he writes. “Publishing houses ask the researchers to assign their copyrights to the publishers as a pre-condition to publish articles. Then use these assigned copyrights to maintain a monopoly over the scholarly works.” “Copyright Law Allows for Injunction to Be Denied” In his statement, Mahajan argues that the Court has the power to deny the blocking injunction sought by the publishers. For example, he notes that the majority of Sci-Hub and Libgen users are accessing the information offered by the sites for non-commercial purposes, primarily study and research. Citing Section 51 of the Copyright Act, Mahajan says there is an exception that allows users to import one copy of any work for their private and domestic use. Furthermore, there are additional exceptions that provide for fair dealing, which includes research and review. Furthermore, Mahajan believes that the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) obligates member countries, including India, to ensure the right “to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications”, specifically by eliminating laws, policies and practices that “unjustifiably limit access by individuals or particular groups to facilities, services, goods and information related to science, scientific knowledge and its applications.” Whether the Court will consider the above options for denying an injunction remains to be seen. However, there is considerable opposition in the scientific community and it’s difficult to argue that academics and students will be better off if ISPs are ordered to block the sites. The publishers, of course, have clearly stated that the opposite is true, so they will oppose every move that could undermine their business model. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. A legal campaign by academic and scientific publishers to prevent Internet users from accessing Sci-Hub and Libgen has expanded to India. In a complaint filed at the High Court in Delhi, Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society, are demanding that local ISPs should block the sites to prevent copyright infringement. More than thirteen years after the first pirate site was blocked following a court order in Denmark, movie, music and sports companies in dozens of countries have sought similar action. More recently, publishing giants including Elsevier have also sought to protect their rights by targeting Sci-Hub (‘The Pirate Bay of Science’) and Libgen (Library Genesis), platforms that help to distribute scientific and academic papers to the masses, but without charging readers a penny. New Complaint Filed at High Court in Delhi In a new complaint dated December 21, 2020, Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society, aim to compel Indian ISPs to block both Sci-Hub and Libgen. Naming Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan personally and the sites themselves, the complaint alleges that all “substantially indulge in online piracy by making available for viewing and download, providing access to, and communicating to the public, Plaintiffs’ literary works” via the Internet. The companies acknowledge that Elbakyan has never hidden her connection to Sci-Hub but note that the sites themselves, accessible via multiple domains, have their WHOIS details hidden behind privacy services in many cases. “Therefore, it is virtually impossible to bring the owners of the websites before this Honorable Court in order to ensure that the Orders of this Court are complied with,” the complaint reads. To solve this accountability hurdle, the publishers have included Internet service providers as defendants in the complaint. Also named are the Department of Communications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, to ensure they play their part in having the pirate platforms blocked in India. Complaint is Voluminous But Relies on Tested Theories At 2,169 pages long, the publishers’ complaint is huge by any standards. However, it appears to tread little new ground and instead bases itself on previously tried and tested procedures. In particular, it leans heavily on complaints previously filed by Twentieth Century Fox and local Disney-owned media giant UTV Software Communications, which resulted in some of the largest torrent and streaming sites on the Internet being permanently blocked in India. In the current complaint against Sci-Hub and Libgen, which is similar to the UTV case, the aim is to categorize the platforms as “rogue sites” worthy of the special actions available under a so-called “dynamic injunction”. In practical terms, this means that the plaintiffs’ won’t have to keep returning to court for additional injunctions when Sci-Hub and Libgen predictably launch new domains and mirror sites to avoid blocking. According to Sci-Hub, the case was to be heard Thursday in the High Court of Delhi. In the same tweet, the platform also shared a full copy of the complaint, available here. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. India Is Using More Solar Energy—but It Carries a Lead Risk In rural areas, solar power is stored in lead batteries. If they aren't properly recycled, contamination can cause health problems. Photograph: Getty Images This story originally appeared in Undark and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. At the 2018 United Nations climate meeting in Poland, the European Union and the Indian-led International Solar Alliance (ISA) signed a joint declaration that climate change activists say could help India meet its renewable energy target by 2022. The country is one of several—including China, Brazil, and Bangladesh—that have announced ambitious initiatives to expand their use of solar power. A year later, at the next U.N. climate summit in Madrid, India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, urged more countries to join the ISA “to speed up this alliance to trap solar energy in a big way.” More than 60 have signed and ratified the agreement. For advocates of renewable energy and climate change activists, these initiatives seemed like good news. Fast-growing nations like India, after all, are expected to rapidly increase use of planet-warming fossil fuels in coming decades, and adoption of renewable alternatives could help to dampen the environmental and climate impacts as their economies expand. But some public health researchers are concerned that the rapid and aggressive push for solar power in some developing countries can have a frequently overlooked side-effect: Localized spikes in lead poisoning. The problem, they say, is that a portion of solar panel installations in these countries will not be connected to the national electricity network—as they typically are in the U.S., U.K., and Denmark. Indeed, while grid connectivity is reliable and rooftop solar installations don’t need lead batteries for on-site storage in many bigger Indian cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, in smaller towns, and remote rural areas—where off-grid solar activity is underway—the quality of connection to the national electricity grid is poor. Many villages get electricity for only two or five hours a day, and the power supply from the grid is erratic and unpredictable, meaning that many solar projects in these areas continue to be heavily reliant on lead-acid batteries for storing unused solar power. The situation is similar across the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, some 600 million people still lack access to electricity. In areas where grid connectivity is infeasible, microgrids that rely on solar or other types of renewable energy may offer solutions. According to a report by the United States Agency for International Development and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “the vast majority of batteries in micro-grid applications worldwide have been lead-acid” to date. In Kenya, where the government is aiming to provide electricity to all residents by 2022, off-grid systems play an important role. And according to a draft report prepared for the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission, lead-acid batteries are the main form of energy storage available on the market. Meanwhile in India, tens of millions of households remain without power. Where grid connections prove impossible, lead-acid batteries will almost certainly be used. As in most developing countries, recycling of lead-acid batteries in India is also not adequately regulated to protect public health. This results in lead being released back into the environment. “This is the, kind of, dirty side of renewable energy,” said Pamli Deka, associate director of the energy program at the World Resources Institute in India. While solar energy is considered clean, she said, not many organizations and energy enterprises are talking about the downsides, “for various reasons just like the oil and gas industry would not talk about the bad things of oil and gas.” While the impacts of prolonged lead exposure are extremely well known, those working in or living near recycling plants aren’t always aware of the dangers, which include higher risks of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. The heavy metal can also cause damage to the kidneys, reproductive system, and the central nervous system. And while for adults, lead poisoning is one of the most significant hazards to occupational health, for children’s health, the risks are even higher. “When a battery becomes old, the lead comes out in the form of lead sulfate and corrodes,” said Amod Pokhrel, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. If particles from those corroding batteries end up on the floors of nearby houses, Pokhrel says, young children could get exposed to them. Childhood behavioral problems such as reduced attention span and anti-social tendencies have been linked to early lead exposures. And studies have long connected prolonged lead exposure to developmental delays, poor performance in school, lower IQ scores, loss of appetite, weight loss, and irritability. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington found that in 2015, lead exposure was responsible for 12.4 percent of the global burden of developmental intellectual disability. Awareness of the potential connection between increased lead contamination and off-grid solar energy projects is attributable to a handful of studies conducted over the last decade. Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International, a research organization that identifies and monitors exposures to hazardous materials, said solar programs often fail to take account of where batteries are being made and where they’re getting recycled. In a 2011 study published in the journal Energy Policy, Gottesfeld and his co-author, Christopher Cherry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, noted that in countries with advanced infrastructure, about 5 percent of the mass of lead used to produce lead-acid batteries gets released into the environment. In China and India, that figure rises to 34 and 22 percent, respectively “There is a failure on the part of those who are promoting these panels,” Gottesfeld said, “including the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, even U.N. agencies that are advocating and providing financing for these systems.” To his knowledge, Gottesfeld said, none of these programs “require that the lead batteries be collected back by the supplier or the manufacturer of these systems. And that’s a huge problem in most of the world.” Officials from the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation (which has been funding various solar energy projects in India) did not respond to repeated requests for comment. According to a 2013 study of nearly 95,000 children in China, 24 percent had blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter, 16 percent higher than the global average. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s blood lead level of concern is 5 micrograms per deciliter. Lead gets stored in the teeth and bones, where it remains for decades. During pregnancy, that lead is released in the blood and affects the developing fetus. These escalating problems are not limited to Asia. In a 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Research, for example, Gottesfeld and co-authors analyzed soil samples from 15 lead battery recycling plants and one manufacturing site across Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Tunisia, Tanzania, and Cameroon. Forty-two percent of samples taken from outside these facilities had lead levels in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for residential soil. Experts are concerned that the informal sector uses crude methods for lead recovery that could potentially result in millions of tons of lead being released into the environment globally—particularly with the rapid expansion of solar installations in small, developing locales. “When you’re talking about a solar panel and a lead-acid battery, of course, there’s probably 1,000 or 10,000 times more lead in the battery than in the solar panel,” said Dustin Mulvaney, an associate professor of environmental studies at San José State University. When lead-acid batteries reach the end of their life cycle after two to five years, adequate recycling plans are required to prevent lead pollution. “In the case where a project has a sponsor that has an end-of-life management plan, I probably would have less concern. But we’re talking about some very rural places that are very far from those kinds of institutions, so it’s not as likely,” Mulvaney added. Currently, India has 550 authorized lead battery recycling plants. According to a 2011 study by the Indian Bureau of Mines, only 40 percent of these registered recyclers were operating. To make matters worse, they were operating only at half of their capacity. In comparison, Gottesfeld said, the U.S. has only 11 or 12 such plants, even though the country’s lead-acid batteries market is much larger than India’s. “Consolidation is key because you can’t afford to do this with the pollution-control equipment on a small scale,” Gottesfeld said. “It only is economically feasible on a large scale.” In order to consolidate the industry, Gottesfeld added, there need to be laws in place that require the takeback of used lead batteries. And where there is already contamination, “you need to test the children and abate the soil and the contamination in these communities.” In February, the Modi administration proposed new rules that will make it mandatory for manufacturers and sellers to collect used batteries and have them sent to registered recyclers. The rules are currently open for public comment. Last September, Modi announced a more ambitious renewable energy target than his country set at the Paris Climate Agreement, pledging to increase capacity from 175 gigawatts by 2022 to 450 gigawatts by 2030. As of December, India had installed just over 85 gigawatts of renewable energy, 44 percent of which came from solar and all of which—according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy—is connected to the grid. But in remote rural and semi-urban areas of India, the distance between the transmission line from a solar energy project’s location to the electricity point of any utility company can pose a challenge, noted Rohit Kumar, the head of the Indian subcontinent at REC Solar, a Norwegian solar panel manufacturing company. And even when connections are possible, power stations aren’t always able to accept the additional electricity. That leaves lead-acid battery storage as the more likely option in many areas. (According to Kumar, REC Solar only manufactures solar panels that are meant to be connected to India’s national electricity grid network.) Compounding the problem, lead batteries used in local solar installations join those already in use in India and elsewhere for vehicles, telecom towers, and computer servers. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest implemented a rule as far back as 2001 to deal with the growing lead contamination issue, mandating that manufacturers of lead batteries should collect at least 90 percent of used batteries sold, and that used batteries only be sold to registered recyclers. Many manufacturers have previously failed to follow that rule due to a weak collection and enforcement system. Whether the Modi administration’s proposed update to the rule will result in any improvements is far from clear. “In India, Bangladesh, and all of Africa,” said Gottesfeld, “it is well known that a considerable proportion of the batteries get diverted to the informal sector, instead of being recycled at large facilities with pollution-control equipment.” A 2015 study published in the Journal of Health and Pollution noted that because of these factors, the amount of battery scrap that registered recyclers receive is very limited. In small and rural recycling plants, the used lead batteries from vehicles, power generators, and even solar installations are often broken open outdoors and the lead paste is immediately discarded because of a lack of awareness about its environmental impacts. In an email, B Vinod Babu, nodal officer of the waste management division of India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), admitted that there have been issues with regard to compliance by dealers, manufacturers, assemblers, and importers of lead-acid batteries. CPCB, he wrote, has been following up with the State Pollution Control Boards for more effective implementation of the rules. Meanwhile, the biggest manufacturer of lead batteries in India, Exide, which supplies batteries to off-the-grid solar installations in hospitals, gas stations, and households in rural and semi-urban places across the country, says it is following the rules. Satyabrata Pattanayak, head of solar sales at Exide Industries Limited, insisted that Exide collects nearly all of its used lead batteries. “In my mind, 90 to 95 percent of batteries are recycled by Exide.” Whether or not that’s accurate, public health researchers say they are concerned that the rise of solar usage in remote, developing areas—and the often unsafe practices undertaken in battery recycling—will inevitably come with increased childhood lead exposures. One study of children in two rural villages in Thailand who lived in houses with lead batteries that were connected to solar panels suggested significant evidence of elevated blood lead levels, for example. The government had supplied the solar panels because those two villages did not have any electricity supply. Some of the villagers had installed the solar panels right outside their bamboo or wooden houses but kept the lead batteries inside their households for storing excess solar energy. The researchers observed that 50 percent of children who lived in houses with lead batteries—a common practice in many developing regions—had elevated blood lead levels compared to 23 percent of children who lived in a house without lead batteries. More recently, in a 2018 study published in the journal Environment International, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the blood lead levels in Indian children living across the country from data published in various journals between 2010 to 2018. They estimated that lead exposure had resulted in 4.9 million years of disability-adjusted life years, which is a measure of the number of years lost due to ill-health or disabilities. Children who suffer from lead poisoning also experience symptoms like stomach aches, constipation, fatigue, vomiting, seizures, and hearing loss. “India’s certainly one of the worst countries in the world with regard to informal use of lead-acid battery processing, said Bret Ericson, the lead author of the study and now a consultant with the U.N. Environment Program. “It’s one of the countries where the problem is most severe, particularly in the northeastern part.” According to Ericson, half of the world’s lead gets recycled in the informal sector. “These are just people trying to make a living,” he said. “They just don’t know they are poisoning people.” India Is Using More Solar Energy—but It Carries a Lead Risk
  24. Apple will launch its online store in India on September 23rd It will be Apple’s first direct retail channel in India Image: Apple Apple will launch its online store in India on September 23rd, giving customers in India a way to buy Apple products directly from the company for the first time. “We’re proud to be expanding in India and want to do all we can to support our customers and their communities,” said Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people Deirdre O’Brien said in a statement. “We know our users are relying on technology to stay connected, engage in learning, and tap into their creativity, and by bringing the Apple Store online to India, we are offering our customers the very best of Apple at this important time.” Apple says the Indian online store will offer “Apple’s full range of products and support,” and that will include the new products announced this week, O’Brien said in an interview with The Indian Express. On Tuesday, Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 6, a new iPad Air, and more. India is becoming an increasingly important market for Apple. In recent years, Apple has started manufacturing some of its devices in the country — Foxconn started building the iPhone 11 near Chennai in India earlier this year, and the company has made other iPhone models in India since as early as 2017. Apple will launch its online store in India on September 23rd
  25. The COVID-19 outreach is turning out to be not only health, social, and economic hazard but also a cybersecurity crisis. The pandemic has presented new challenges for businesses in the areas of remote collaboration and business continuity. With increased remote working for better business continuity, employees are using numerous Internet tools. As businesses and people have started relying more on technology and are busy fighting with the pandemic, the attackers now have plenty of options to target them more than ever. According to PWC's April report, the number of security threats to the Indian company doubled in March 2020—especially what's more worrying is a 100% rise between March 17 and 20—from Jan 2020. Sanjay Dhotre, the Union Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology (MeITY), said that India has seen over 350,000 cyberattacks in the second quarter, triple the number of recorded events in the first quarter of 2020. He also highlighted that there were 700,000 cybersecurity incidents until August 2020. Key Cybersecurity Crises in Numbers According to ACRONIS Cyber Readiness Report 2020, 31% of companies worldwide are faced with at least one cybersecurity incident per day. However, India reported twice as many cyberattacks per day, where most of the cyberattacks comprise phishing, DDoS, video conferencing, exploiting weak services, and malware. Image source: Acronis The phishing campaign is the most worrying attack as they attained the peak during this pandemic. Though malware hit fewer numbers, it remains a more critical issue in India – reports almost 2x times Malware issues than the global average. Image source: Acronis Further, 39% of all organizations surveyed experienced video conferencing attack. Among them, India, Canada, Switzerland, and the UK are the most affected countries. Coronavirus themed phishing emails and malicious websites claiming useful information on COVID-19 have emerged as the top threats to the companies. Also, 400,000 new ransomware assaults are recognized from April – June 2020 as per the report of Seqrite. Most of these cyber-attacks were succeeded by obtaining access to a remote system by exploiting vulnerable services. Why is India So Vulnerable to Cyberattacks? Increased use of the Internet and Mobile technology — The NITI Aayog report states that India positions 3rd rank in the list of the highest number of internet users worldwide after the USA & China. With the exponential rise on the Internet and mobile phone users, there is a significant rise in the number of cyberattack incidents in India and globally. Ignoring Internal Security Threats — Enterprises are more focused on guaranteeing business continuity with seamless operations than bridging the gaps in their remote infrastructure. If sensitive data flows between various departments without a proper monitoring and logging process, then it becomes tricky to identify the loopholes in case any attack happens. Confronting External Threats — With the ever-increasing external threats, an organization can't be 100 % prepared. Only a few Indian companies maintain security measures in place like Web Application Firewalls to monitor external threats and stop cyberattack incidents as and when they happen. Detectable Weak Points During Remote Work — The main weak points, which get exposed during the sudden shift to remote work include Weak Authentication Techniques, Insufficient Monitoring, and Exposed Servers (DNS, VPN, RDP, etc.) Moreover, many employees usually ignore personal online security hygiene. With this 'work from anywhere culture,' employees begin to access their personal emails as well as social media sites on their official machine. Overall, with the merging of the personal and work-life online, cyber-attacks can easily occur through unsecured personal accounts. Missing Expertise in Cloud Technology — To ensure ease of accessing the data from any device and anywhere, many companies have adopted cloud technology. However, they don't have adequate in-house resources to manage and protect APIs, SaaS, or containers. The increasing number of poorly configured cloud architectures will inevitably open doors for the attackers. The Pandemic Landscape Demands Modern Protection Here are the golden tips to keep you away from these recent cybersecurity incidents: Train your employees in security principles Be cautious with attachments, links, or text received via emails, especially with a subject line related to COVID-19 Frame robust remote work policy Use only trusted sources like legitimate websites for up-to-date information Don't disclose your financial or personal information in an email or phone calls from unknown persons Encourage the use of office devices only for official purpose Don't reuse passwords between different accounts and applications Take data backups and store it separately Use multi-factor authentication Modernize your stack with Cloud-based WAF, such as AppTrana, a next-generation cybersecurity protection suite that includes vulnerability assessments, virtual patching, zero false positives, DDoS attack prevention, and many more features. The Closure In the cybersecurity space, attackers lead the learning curve, with security professionals following the lead to boost preventive measures. However, with advanced technologies, this scenario begins to change. The next-gen threat monitoring tools and predictive analytics go beyond the rule-based system and detect cyber risks, thereby flags potential threats in a secure and faster way. With adequate nationwide cybersecurity awareness and robust policies in place, companies should be capable of battling cyber threats effectively in the future. Source
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