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TikTok Owner ByteDance Strives to Move Power Out of China Amidst Shifting Consumer Sentiments

TikTok’s poaching of Disney’s Kevin Mayer to be its CEO was just the most visible part of a broader strategy by its Chinese owner to shift its centre of power away from China at a time of rising global tensions, several people familiar with the plans said. The short video app’s parent company ByteDance has quietly made a series of moves in recent months to transfer global decision-making and research capabilities out of its home country, the sources told Reuters.

The strategy is aimed not only at TikTok, which is not available in China, but all of ByteDance’s non-China focused businesses, the sources said. Such businesses also include units in India like social networking app Helo.

ByteDance has expanded TikTok’s engineering and research and development operations in Mountain View, California, according to three sources. One of the people said it had hired more than 150 engineers there. ByteDance has also hired a New York-based investor relations director to stay in touch with major investors including General Atlantic and KKR, relationships that were previously managed through Beijing, according to two sources. The new hire, Michelle Huang, is a former SoftBank investor who worked on the Japanese firm’s investment in ByteDance. Huang did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The changes come at a time of heightened tension between the United States and China over trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as intense US regulatory scrutiny of TikTok, which has rapidly gained popularity around the globe and counts the United States as one of its biggest market. Formerly Walt Disney streaming chief Mayer, who was dually named ByteDance’s chief operating officer based in Los Angeles, will also be handed leadership for areas such as global corporate development. Many of his responsibilities were previously managed out of Beijing, according to three sources.

More broadly, ByteDance is also recruiting engineers around the world, including in Singapore, Jakarta, and Warsaw, online job postings show. These significant organisational changes are being greeted warily by some ByteDance staff who support the company’s global operations from China, three sources told Reuters. They are concerned they may become less relevant in the next phase of expansion and have started to look for work elsewhere, the sources said.

American migration

For TikTok, the rapid expansion of the US engineering team is part of efforts to migrate its technical resources to the West from China, where most of the work on the app has been done up to this point, according to two of the sources familiar with the company’s plans. It is not uncommon for multinational tech companies like Google to have engineers in China. Although the engineering team on the app have previously reported to managers in China, TikTok is in the process of recruiting a high-level executive to run the engineering department from the United States, according to two sources. It has approached a senior Google employee in recent months, one source said.

Severing ties with the China-based team will be difficult, however. Some of the engineers in China support TikTok as well as ByteDance’s Chinese social media app Douyin, the three sources said. Separating development completely would be nearly impossible as both apps share some infrastructure, two of the sources said. TikTok, which allows users to create short videos with special effects, has become wildly popular with American teenagers doing viral challenges that pair dances with music clips from the app’s library.

Its Chinese ownership has, however, caused concerns in Washington about TikTok’s handling of personal data. The company uses sophisticated artificial intelligence to make video recommendations based on users’ behavior on the app. Separately from the hiring of 150 staff, the Mountain View team has poached a few dozen data engineers from US tech giants to manage user data security, one source said.

‘Issue of credibility’

Since last year, TikTok has faced scrutiny by US authorities over potential national security risks. An investigation by the US Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is focused on the handling of personal data, it was reported in November. Legal experts said regulators would study TikTok’s latest actions to determine if they mitigated any potential risks and were more than cosmetic touches.

“With any attempted restructuring, the issue is one of credibility,” said Paul Marquardt, CFIUS lawyer at law firm Cleary Gottlieb, who is not involved in the TikTok review. “CFIUS would assess whether it actually believed that the operations were functionally independent and insulated from potentially hostile influence.” Republican Senator Marco Rubio was among US lawmakers who last year urged CFIUS to review ByteDance’s 2018 acquisition of Musical.ly, a music video app popular in the United States.

When asked about whether TikTok’s recent moves could assuage US regulatory concerns, he told Reuters: “As long as TikTok or any other application operates in a way that gives the Chinese government and Communist Party leverage, it is impossible to separate the dangers of using such an application from the reality that users’ information could be at risk.”



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Tech

Latest MHA Order on Aarogya Setu Shows Why Contact Tracing Apps Won't Work in India

Representative screenshot of the Aarogya Setu app. (Image: MyGov)

Representative screenshot of the Aarogya Setu app. (Image: MyGov)

Majority of India’s mobile phone users still use feature phones. The new MHA order on Aarogya Setu underlines this, and the problem with contact tracing.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 21, 2020, 11:50 AM IST

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released its latest order for regulations to be followed during Lockdown 4.0. Among the various sections, one of the key points was around the use of Aarogya Setu on phones, going forward. Following the past order’s decision by the Indian government to make downloading of Aarogya Setu compulsory for all employees (both private and public), the new order dated May 17, 2020 switched the government’s decision from ‘mandatory’ to ‘best effort basis’.

This ruling led many to assume that the central government has “softened” its stance on the use of the Aarogya Setu app. However, a closer look reveals the government’s appreciation of the on-ground situation, where nearly 55 percent of all mobile phone users still use feature phones, and close to a quarter of the population still do not have mobile phones.

The feature phone problem

Elucidating the connectivity problem, Navkendar Singh, director of research at IDC India, tells News18, “There are about 550 million feature phone users in the market in India, and somewhere between 450-500 million smartphone users, which is less than half the mobile phone market size in India.”

Feature phones in India

Feature phones still play a major role in India. (Photo: Reuters)

Even as Aarogya Setu was stated to have crossed the 100 million registered users mark, this covers less than 8 percent of the total population of India. To make matters worse, Singh adds that the adoption of more smartphones in India isn’t really happening. He says, “The growth in the number of smartphone users is not happening. Whoever needs and can afford a smartphone right now, already has one — but, nobody is really doing anything for the so-called “next billion” demographic of India. Out of India’s 550 million feature phone users, about 40-50 percent of them are using devices that cost less than Rs 1,000. For smartphones, even a bad user experience, low-cost smartphone would cost at least Rs 3,500-4,000. The cost of a smartphone for the feature phone demographic is actually too high.”

As the Indian government attempts to reopen various industries across the country, it is this issue that prevents app-based contact tracing from being mandatorily enforced. For example, as factories and supply chains are being opened up, many daily wage and low-salary workers would be coming back to work. However, not all of them would have smartphones at hand, and it hardly seems possible to mandate the use of smartphones all across the country, just to get the contact tracing app installed. In some corners, the government’s rebranding of the status of Aarogya Setu installation is being seen as just this — not a step-down from its previous order, but a realignment to accommodate the reopening of various sectors.

It will be difficult to use technology to track the coronavirus in a country where the statistical majority still live without it.

Singh says that while the stagnation in India’s smartphone adoption was expected to happen in 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has only brought it forward. As a result, it will be difficult to use technology to track the coronavirus in a country where the statistical majority still live without it. Moreover, issues such as the ongoing migrant crisis across India further underline why the mandatory use of Aarogya Setu for travel across the country is also a difficult idea to implement.

Why the ‘best efforts’ approach might not work

As Apar Gupta, lawyer and executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) explains to News18, “Legally, “best efforts” implies that if you fail to follow the government’s suggestion in certain circumstances, there are no legal consequences to be pursued, and the suggestion works in good faith. Hence, there is ambiguity in the explanation of Aarogya Setu’s scope right now. Giving discretion to employers can create trouble for small and medium businesses, since it hands over more power to authorities such as district magistrates, who may then hold an employer accountable for not following a suggested procedure.”

A photo illustration of the Aarogya Setu app logo

The prevalent ambiguity around Aarogya Setu usage right now is what raises the need for a standard operating procedure even more. (Photo: Reuters)

Gupta states that in order to implement a “best effort basis” operation of the Aarogya Setu app, it is critical to have a standard operating procedure (SOP) issued. The SOP would then work as a guideline for all purposes linked to Aarogya Setu. However, even before the SOP is issued, what needs to be taken into account is the fact that most Indians, particularly in the unorganised and daily wage sectors, do not even own a smartphone.

Gupta further observes that the recent revision of the government’s stance on Aarogya Setu has come without much fanfare. He says, “The MHA has still not issued a press statement explaining the rationale behind revising the Aarogya Setu usage basis. What we can infer is that while it places the obligation of implementing the app on employers, this will only raise obstacles due to logistical difficulties.”

The petition that IFF filed against the compulsory Aarogya Setu mandate with the Kerala High Court was also done from an employer’s end, highlighting exactly how difficult contact tracing of Covid-19 would be in India. With a stagnated number of smartphone users, unclear guidelines towards employers and continuing concerns about privacy, contact tracing in India looks set to be a job half done, at its very best.



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Tech

Smartbands Are Playing a Pivotal Role in Tracing COVID-19 Cases: Here's How

A photo illustration provided by CarePredict shows an individual wearing the company's Tempo wearable wristband, which is being used in some U.S. senior care facilities for automated contact tracing. (Image Source: Reuters)

A photo illustration provided by CarePredict shows an individual wearing the company’s Tempo wearable wristband, which is being used in some U.S. senior care facilities for automated contact tracing. (Image Source: Reuters)

The wristbands use infrared light to connect to beacons on a wall in each room, creating a record of who has been near whom, where and for how long.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: May 20, 2020, 9:18 PM IST

When a senior living facility in Amarillo, Texas suspected a nurse may have caught the novel coronavirus this month, it had a list within five minutes of staff and residents the nurse could have infected. High-tech wristbands worn by The Legacy at Town Square’s 35 workers and 49 residents expedited contact tracing, the otherwise painstaking process of interviewing patients to determine who crossed paths with them.

The nurse tested negative an hour later and Legacy did not have to isolate or test others. But its experience shows how wristbands and other wearables have emerged as tools to automatically record encounters between people at places that can mandate their use. Facilities with quick contact tracing following infections in the coming months will be better positioned to ward off outbreaks and stay open, according to epidemiologists.

“It makes you ready to make the best operational decisions at a moment’s notice,” said Joseph Walter, executive director at LifeWell Senior Living’s Legacy facility.

Australia, Singapore and other governments have sought to enable smartphones to record people’s contacts. But data privacy rules imposed by smartphone software makers Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google limit the utility of smartphone-based systems, while many employers do not let workers carry phones because of security and safety considerations. Manufacturers are hawking wearables online priced as low as $4.

The Legacy in Texas uses technology from CarePredict, a startup that added contact tracing functionality to its system for elderly care homes when the pandemic struck. CarePredict’s Tempo bracelets function as a call button to summon staff, a digital room key, and a health and activity tracker. More than 20 care facilities in the United States have the devices, which cost about $1 per day per user, according to CarePredict.

The wristbands use infrared light to connect to beacons on a wall in each room, creating a record of who has been near whom, where and for how long. Walter said the system has proved accurate over the last two years for tracking residents’ activities at The Legacy, but its reliability in contact tracing is yet to be seen. Setting up beacons and special-purpose devices like CarePredict’s Tempo may be too costly and complex for some facilities. But wearables that communicate with each other through Bluetooth signals may be more suitable, and software development company Myplanet and automaker Ford Motor Co are among those testing popular Bluetooth-based fitness trackers and smartwatches from companies such as Fitbit Inc and Samsung Electronics Co.

One of Myplanet’s experiments found that companies hoping to reduce costs and hassles by allowing workers to use existing gadgets will face connection challenges because of variances in the devices’ Bluetooth technology, said Greg Fields, who is leading the Toronto-based firm’s contact tracing efforts for its multinational clients. Apple and Google soon plan to release contact tracing technology to smooth out some of the connection issues on phones, and device makers are confident that the tech giants will do the same for wearables, said David Su, CEO at Atmosic, a Silicon Valley-based wireless chip company.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment on the speculation. While Apple-Google technology would improve reliability in contact tracing, devices that use it would need access to the internet and a government-authorized contact tracing app. Ford conducted a small test of pricey smartwatches that alert wearers when they are standing closer than guidelines allow, but they too require Wi-Fi, which is sometimes unavailable in sprawling plants, Ford manufacturing chief Gary Johnson told Reuters. The automaker also is testing chips on identification badges, he said, and those could track sustained encounters or issue reminders to keep a distance.



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Money Remains Motivating Factor for Hackers Around the World: Verizon

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

Verizon Business 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report found that confirmed data breaches doubled from the prior year.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 12:35 PM IST

Money trumped spying as the top motivator for data breaches last year, according to Verizon’s annual report on cybercrimes published on Tuesday. About nine out of 10 breaches were financially motivated, based on an examination of more than 32,000 incidents and nearly 4,000 confirmed break-ins in 81 countries, the report said.

Verizon Business 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report found that confirmed data breaches doubled from the prior year. As the coronavirus pandemic has forced people indoors, cyber attacks on businesses are expected to climb. The report found that 86% of breaches were for money, not for purposes of spying. Credential theft, phishing and compromising business emails caused 67% of the cyber attacks.

As more businesses moved to web-based solutions, so did hackers. According to the report, breaches on web and cloud applications rose to 43%, double the previous year. Companies like Facebook Inc and Salesforce have extended working remotely to at least the rest of the year, with more businesses expected to follow suit. Verizon Business Group CEO Tami Erwin said the “digital transformation” to the work-from-home model during the coronavirus pandemic has presented a number of security red flags.

“A lot of people ended up sending workers to work from home without really thinking through what were some of the security elements in the future,” Erwin told Reuters. “I think employees working from home are probably more vulnerable to attacks,” Erwin said businesses can protect themselves from cyber attacks by keeping employees educated on phishing and other fraudulent tactics to access sensitive information.




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Virtual Hugs, Dance Parties, Group Calls and More: Here's What is Trending on Google Search

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

People in India have searched for “Quarantine Birthday Wishes” more than anywhere else in the world in the past 30 days.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 3:39 PM IST

It is pretty evident that the Coronavirus pandemic has changed our everyday lifestyle and routines. As more people are locked indoors due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, online searches are offering insights as to what people living in different countries are thinking and searching in the midst of the crisis. Google has been sharing its search data via Google Trends for the last couple of weeks which initially included “Quarantine Hobbies”, “Chances of Children Getting Coronavirus”, “How to Make Face Masks”, and so on. However, the latest Google trends have revealed that people are increasingly looking for ways on how to conduct “Virtual Parties” and send “Quarantine Birthday Wishes” to their near and dear ones during this period.

People all around the world are searching “How to Stay Connected” more than ever before, as per Google. The company said that last month there was four times increase in people searching for “How to Keep in Touch” than “How to Keep Your Room Clean.”

There has also been a massive search spike for “Virtual Hugs”, “Virtual Dance Parties”, “Virtual Flowers” and “Quarantine Birthday Wishes”. Interestingly, people in the Philippines searched for “Virtual Huge” more than anywhere else in the last one month. Similarly, Australians have topped in searching for “Virtual Flowers”, while people in India have looked for “Quarantine Birthday Wishes” more than anyone. Besides, people all around the world have been searching for “Virtual Love”, “Virtual Get-togethers”, and “Group Calls” as well.

“The world is exploring ways to get together from a distance. In April, searches for tech that connects like “group call” and “group watch” hit all-time record highs worldwide,” Google said in a tweet.




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Aarogya Setu App is Safe and Secure in Terms of Data Security: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Rejecting charges by the opposition that the Aarogya Setu application breaches privacy, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has asserted that the platform is “absolutely robust, safe and secure” in terms of privacy protection and data security. “This is a technological invention of India — Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, our scientists, NIC, NITI Aayog, and some private (entities) — whereby it is a perfectly accountable platform to help in the fight against COVID-19,” Prasad told PTI. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has alleged that the Aarogya Setu app is a “sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a private operator, with no institutional oversight.”

He also said it raises serious data security and privacy concerns. “Technology can help keep us safe; but fear must not be leveraged to track citizens without their consent,” Gandhi had said. Countering the claim, Prasad said, “It is safe and secure. The data is in an encrypted form. Most important, it is for safety of Indians in public interest because it cautions you in the event there is a COVID-infected person in your vicinity.”

The minister said the mobile application also helps tracing contacts in the event a person is infected. “It is a very robust invention of technology and many other countries are using similar applications to fight COVID-19. And the second most important point is that the data is limited. Routine data remains for 30 days and in the event you are infected, then (for) 45 to 60 days. Then automatically it will vanish,” he explained. Prasad said there is always an option to scratch the app out of the phone or uninstall it. “Then what is this hangama all about. The country has understood its utility and has willingly accepted it,” he said.

The Aarogya Setu app is for smartphones. “For feature phones, we have developed Aarogya Setu IVRS. The app is absolutely robust in terms of privacy protection and safety and security of data,” he said. It is now mandatory for all government and private sector employees attending office to download the app, according to a Union Home Ministry directive. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been urging people to download the Aarogya Setu app, saying it is a fantastic use of technology to combat coronavirus.

“Tracks the spread of COVID-19 and notifies you if someone around you is suffering from it. Also lists help-desk numbers of various states,” he had said in a series of tweets last month. Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday said no data or security breach has been identified in Aarogya Setu after an ethical hacker raised concerns about a potential security issue in the app. On Tuesday, French hacker and cybersecurity expert Elliot Alderson had claimed that “a security issue has been found” in the app and that “privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake”. Dismissing the claims, the government said “no personal information of any user has been proven to be at risk by this ethical hacker”.

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Robots, Cameras Are Now Helping China Managing the Covid-19 Crisis: Here's How

A robot at a quarantined hotel in Beijing. (Picture: AFP)

A robot at a quarantined hotel in Beijing. (Picture: AFP)

China’s methods to enforce coronavirus quarantines have looked like a sci-fi dystopia for legions of people.

  • AFP Relaxnews
  • Last Updated: May 5, 2020, 6:08 PM IST

Chinese Authorities have taken drastic steps to ensure that people do not break isolation rules after the country largely tamed the virus that had paralysed the country for months. With cases imported from abroad threatening to unravel China’s progress, travellers arriving from overseas have been required to stay home or in designated hotels for 14 days.

Beijing loosened the rule in the capital this week — except for those arriving from abroad and Hubei, the province where the virus first surfaced late last year. At one quarantine hotel in central Beijing, a guard sits at a desk on each floor to monitor all movements.

The solitude is broken by one of the few visitors allowed near the rooms: A three-foot-tall cylindrical robot that delivers water bottles, meals and packages to hotel guests. The robot rides the elevator and navigates hallways on its own to minimise contact between guests and human staff.

When the robot arrives at its destination, it dials the landline phone in the room and informs the occupant in an eerie, childlike voice: “Hello, this is your service robot. Your order has arrived outside your room.” Its belly opens and the guest takes the delivery items before the robot turns and rolls away.

Doctors in hazmat suits go from room to room daily reminding occupants, including an AFP journalist who had been in Hubei, to take their temperatures with the mercury thermometer provided at check-in, and to ask if any are experiencing symptoms. People under home quarantine elsewhere in the city have had silent electronic alarms installed on their doors.

Officials put up a notice on each quarantined household’s door asking neighbours to keep an eye on the confined inhabitants. In one Beijing residential compound, officials said that people under home quarantine must inform community volunteers whenever they open their doors. Friederike Boege, a German journalist, began her second quarantine in Beijing this year on Sunday after returning from Hubei’s capital Wuhan. Her building’s management installed a camera in front of her door to monitor her movements.

“It’s quite scary how you get used to such things,” she said. “Apart from the camera I do believe that the guards and the cleaner on the compound would denunciate me if I were to go out,” Boege said. During her previous quarantine experience in March after returning from a trip to Thailand, she was reported to building management by a cleaner for going downstairs to take out the trash.

– No human contact –

Total isolation has become a temporary norm for those under strict quarantine, without even a single trip to the grocery store or walks to break up the monotony. Joy Zhong, a 25-year-old media professional returning to Beijing from a work trip in the virus epicentre of Wuhan, spent three weeks without leaving a cramped room at another hotel in the Chinese capital.

There, guests were not allowed to order their own food and were instead given standardised meals. Friends were allowed to bring packages to the front desk, which were then left outside hotel rooms by staff who avoided direct contact with guests.

“Spending 21 days in a row without seeing a single person, it felt like time was passing extremely slowly,” Zhong said. Not all people under quarantine are as closely watched as those in Beijing, however.

Charlotte Poirot, a French teacher who arrived in China in late March — just before a ban on foreigners entering the country was introduced — spent two weeks under quarantine at a hostel in the southeastern city Guangzhou. She was confined alone in a 10-bunk room, with meals delivered to her door and medical personnel coming to check her temperature multiple times a day. “They never locked the door and the (whole) process was based on reliance,” Poirot told AFP. “We all played the game without contesting.”

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Coronavirus Has Enabled the Telecom Sector to Contribute 35% GDP in India

FILE PHOTO: Telecommunication towers are pictured through hanging flower pots at a residential building in Kolkata. (Reuters Image)

FILE PHOTO: Telecommunication towers are pictured through hanging flower pots at a residential building in Kolkata. (Reuters Image)

The leading industry experts said that many of the patterns and trends that have emerged during the pandemic situation are going to stay and the telecom sector needs to get prepared for that.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 3, 2020, 12:41 PM IST

As the telecom players ensured their networks were up and running to meet the unprecedented surge in demand during lockdown times, the sector is currently enabling 30-35 percent of the GDP in the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing period, other than the present 6 percent direct contribution to the GDP, a new report has said. The new normal will see an increase in enablement through telecom as the sector braved the conditions to keep the networks up and implement necessary changes on-the-go to augment capacities due to an unprecedented increase in the demand for digital services enabled by telecommunications.

According to the report prepared by research firm techARC in collaboration with the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the telecom leaders saluted the central government as well as the state governments for providing all support to the industry during these tough times. “With the timely intervention of the Department of Telecommunications and coordination with various state and local authorities, the defunct BTS (base transceiver station) sites were brought down from 800 to 70, increasing the capacities substantially,” said Rajan S Mathews, DG, COAI.

Applications like telemedicine, e-education, drone surveillance, and Industry 4.0 are going to see a surge in consumption, along with new technologies like 5G and IoT taking more significant roles in the near future, thus aiding the new normal.

“We swiftly extended all global best practices and learnings to the India telecom ecosystem by realigning the portfolio on the three principles of Secure, Scale and Stimulate, giving the operator community an immediate resolution of the challenges and linking them with the likely future requirements,” said Amit Marwah, Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs for Nokia India, during the first virtual techFLIX special series.

The leading industry experts said that many of the patterns and trends that have emerged during the pandemic situation are going to stay and the telecom sector needs to get prepared for that. “While connectivity and apps are available to the consumers, device fulfillment is a challenge impacting the productivity of people directly,” said Sachin Kalantri, Senior Director, Product Marketing, Qualcomm India. According to the report, the government must look into the requests of the sector empowering them to serve the customers more efficiently. “Going forward, technologies like 5G shall play a vital role in further enhancing work from anywhere experience,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Founder & Chief Analyst, techARC.

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Indian Origin Scientist On Team Uses AI to Classify Covid-19 Genome Signature in Minutes

Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify an underlying genomic signature for 29 different DNA sequences of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, providing an important tool for vaccine and drug developers.

This new data discovery tool will allow researchers to quickly and easily classify a deadly virus like SARS-CoV-2 in just minutes, according to the researchers, including Gurjit Randhawa from Western University in Canada. It provides a process of high importance for strategic planning and mobilising medical needs during a pandemic, they said. The study, published in the PLOS ONE journal, also supports the scientific hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease has its origin in bats as Sarbecovirus, a subgroup of Betacoronavirus.

The “ultra-fast, scalable, and highly accurate” classification system uses a new graphics-based, specialised software and decision-tree approach to illustrate the classification and arrive at the best choice out of all possible outcomes, the researchers said. The machine-learning method achieves 100 per cent accurate classification of the novel coronavirus sequences and more importantly, discovers the most relevant relationships among more than 5,000 viral genomes within minutes, the researchers said.

Machine learning is an application of AI that provides systems with the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. “All we needed was the COVID-19 DNA sequence to discover its own intrinsic sequence pattern,” said Kathleen Hill, a professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

“We used that signature pattern and a logical approach to match that pattern as close as possible to other viruses and achieved a fine level of classification in minutes — not days, not hours but minutes,” Hill said.

This classification tool has already been used to analyse more than 5,000 unique viral genomic sequences, including the 29 novel coronavirus sequences available on January 27, the researchers said. Hill believes the tool will be an essential component in the toolkit for vaccine and drug developers, front-line health-care workers, researchers and scientists during this global pandemic and beyond.

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PayPal Releases Global Impact Report, Processed $16 Billion in Contributions in 2019

Image for Representation

(Image: Paypal)

Image for Representation

(Image: Paypal)

PayPal said it has also taken steps to help more than 24 million merchants impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: April 28, 2020, 4:21 PM IST

Global digital payment platform PayPal leveraged the power of its giving platform to process $16 billion in contributions in 2019, including over $10 billion in contributions to charitable causes, from more than 40 million people around the world, the company has announced. Releasing its third annual ‘Global Impact Report; in COVID-19 times, PayPal said it has taken steps to help more than 24 million merchants impacted by COVID-19, including waiving certain fees and deferring repayments on select business loans. The company said it worked with governments and regulatory agencies to efficiently provide loans to small businesses in the US.

“Given the challenges the world is facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are committed to supporting the needs of our employees, customers, and communities and helping them navigate this unprecedented time,” said Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal. In 2019, the company said more than 43 percent of employees participated globally in the Kiva lending campaign, empowering over 10,000 entrepreneurs across 36 countries.

“We maintained 100 per cent pay equity for women globally and ethnic pay parity in the US for the fourth year in a row, and advocated for inclusive public policies such as signing onto amicus briefs in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme.,” said the report. PayPal employees in Mumbai and Chennai undertook initiatives to drive sustainability by volunteering their time and skills to organise clean-up drives, collect e-waste, plant trees and host environmental awareness events.

PayPal’s total diversity in 2019 was 57 percent globally and experienced a 6 per cent year-over-year increase in females in tech roles and 12 per cent increase in ethnic minorities at Director-level roles since 2015. “We matched 65 per cent of the energy in data centres with renewable generation, representing significant progress toward the company’s goal of 100 percent by 2023,” said the company. The PayPal platform is currently empowering more than 300 million consumers and merchants in more than 200 markets globally.