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Microsoft Launches New Digital Skills Initiative to Help 25 Million People Worldwide

Image for Representation
(Photo: Associated Press)

Image for Representation
(Photo: Associated Press)

The initiative provides free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, GitHub Learning Lab and more.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 1, 2020, 11:58 AM IST

Microsoft announced a new global skills initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire new digital skills by the end of the year. The announcement comes in response to the global economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Covid-19 has created both public health and an economic crisis, and as the world recovers, we need to ensure no one is left behind,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a digital event.

“Today, we’re bringing together resources from Microsoft inclusive of LinkedIn and GitHub to reimagine how people learn and apply new skills — and help 25 million people facing unemployment due to COVID-19 prepare for the jobs of the future.” Expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery, especially for the people hardest hit by job losses.

This initiative includes immediate steps to help those looking to reskill and pursue an in-demand job and brings together every part of the company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft. This includes the use of data to identify in-demand jobs and the skills needed to fill them, free access to learning paths and content to help people develop the skills these positions require, and low-cost certifications and free job-seeking tools to help people who develop these skills pursue new jobs.

This is a comprehensive technology initiative that will build on data and digital technology, Microsoft said. It starts with data on jobs and skills from the LinkedIn Economic Graph. The initiative provides free access to content in LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and the GitHub Learning Lab, and couples those with Microsoft Certifications and LinkedIn job-seeking tools.

These resources can all be accessed at a central location, opportunity.linkedin.com, and will be broadly available online in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish. In addition, Microsoft is backing the effort with $20 million in cash grants to help nonprofit organisations worldwide assist the people who need it most.

One-quarter of this total, or $5 million, will be provided in cash grants to community-based nonprofit organizations that are led by and serve communities of colour in the United States. Microsoft also pledged to make stronger data and analytics — including data from the LinkedIn Economic Graph — available to governments around the world so they can better assess local economic needs. Microsoft will use its voice to advocate for public policy innovations that will advance skilling opportunities needed in the changed economy.

The tech giant also announced it is creating a new learning app in Microsoft Teams designed to help employers skill and upskill new and current employees as people return to work and as the economy adds jobs. “The biggest brunt of the current downturn is being borne by those who can afford it the least,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “Unemployment rates are spiking for people of colour and women, as well as younger workers, people with disabilities and individuals with less formal education. Our goal is to combine the best in technology with stronger partnerships with governments and nonprofits to help people develop the skills needed to secure a new job.”


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Tech

Swiggy Joins Hands with ICICI Bank to Launch Its Own Digital Payment Platform

File photo of Swiggy's logo.

File photo of Swiggy’s logo.

Users choosing ‘Swiggy Money’ can avail instant refunds and use the money for easy checkouts and hassle-free payment processing on future food orders, Swiggy said,

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 1:39 PM IST

Food delivery platform Swiggy on Tuesday launched its own digital wallet to enable single-click checkout experience on its platform. Called ‘Swiggy Money,’ the full-fledged digital wallet in partnership with ICICI Bank will enable customers to store money and be used for all food orders.

Users choosing ‘Swiggy Money’ can avail instant refunds and use the money for easy checkouts and hassle-free payment processing on future food orders, the company said in a statement. “Along with a host of existing payment options offered to consumers, Swiggy Money will ensure seamless and swift transactions on food orders by minimising hassles such as lengthy payment procedures or payment failures resulting in improved customer experience,” said Anand Agrawal, VP Products, Swiggy.

If the Swiggy customer is an existing ICICI Bank customer, he or she can instantly start using the wallet. Non-ICICI Bank customers can also start using this immediately by providing details of a government ID to ICICI Bank. ‘Swiggy Money’ users will further be able to top-up their wallet using various banking instruments and enjoy single click purchase without multiple authentications. In cases where the order value exceeds the wallet balance, the users will be provided with a ‘split-pay’ option which will enable making payment through a combination of money from their wallet and another payment source/instruments to complete the transaction.

“This is our third offering, jointly with Swiggy. A year ago, we had customised an industry-first UPI led payment solution for Swiggy’s delivery partners to transfer funds. We had also introduced UPI-led instant one-click payment for millions of Swiggy’s customers,” informed Bijith Bhaskar, Head- Digital Channels & Partnership, ICICI Bank. Swiggy is currently present in over 500 cities in the country.


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Modi Govt Bans 59 Chinese Apps In India: A Blow To China’s Digital Silk Route Ambitions?

Image for representation. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Image for representation. REUTERS/Amit Dave

The apps that now stand banned in India, across the Google Android ecosystem and the Apple iPhone as well as the iPad platforms now include TikTok, Shareit, WeChat, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser, ES File Explorer and Mi Community.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 29, 2020, 9:45 PM IST

The Ministry of Information Technology of the Government of India has banned as many as 59 apps in India. This has been done deriving powers under the section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 citing the concerns about the security, integrity and defense of India. The apps that now stand banned in India, across the Google Android ecosystem and the Apple iPhone as well as the iPad platforms now include TikTok, Shareit, WeChat, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser, ES File Explorer and Mi Community.

This announcement comes at a time when tensions between India and China are at an all-time high, after the military skirmishes earlier this month. There have been suspicions that the apps developed and or owned by Chinese companies and developers collect user data from their phones without their permissions and transmit it back to the owners. Experts suggest that this could hit China’s Digital Silk Route ambitions in a big way. India has a large existing user base on these apps, and a fairly large potential user base waiting to sign up.

The banned apps include TikTok, Shareit, WeChat, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser, ES File Explorer and Mi Community

“The Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India. The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” says the Ministry of Electronics and IT in an official statement.

The Digital Silk Route is the technology equivalent of the BRI project, the Belt and Road Initiative which China has initiated to get an edge as a global technology and economic giant. The BRI attempts to connect Asia with Africa and Europe with land and maritime networks along six corridors, in an attempt to boost trade. China has also tied up with 16 other countries but has also been investing its own resources and creating a digital framework abroad. This includes optical cable lines, data hubs and other critical infrastructure projects which China needs to control the global digital discourse.

The Digital Silk Route is the technology equivalent of the BRI project, the Belt and Road Initiative which China has initiated to get an edge as a global technology and economic giant

This move could also have a cascading effect, as more countries could end up banning these apps in the coming days. There has been a global conversation over the past few months about the possible backdoors in Chinese company Huawei’s 5G mobile network infrastructure allowing the company or even the Chinese government to snoop in on user data. Many countries have either banned Huawei’s 5G network hardware altogether or are reluctant to use it.

This ban on popular Chinese-owned apps, including social networks such as TikTok, could have a longer-term impact on the company valuations as well, after a large chunk of their user base has been effectively shut out. At this time, it is not clear how long the ban will be in place but there are multiple recommendations in place on how to block these potentially malicious apps from being used on internet networks within India.

There has been a global conversation about the possible backdoors in Chinese company Huawei’s 5G mobile networks allowing the Chinese government to snoop in

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Telegram Consents to Pay $18.5 Million Penalty to Settle Digital Token Dispute

Image for Representation (File Photo)

Image for Representation (File Photo)

The settlement announced over the weekend comes after Telegram in May announced its decision to withdraw its cryptocurrency-focused subsidiary, Telegram Open Network or TON.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 29, 2020, 3:22 PM IST

Telegram has agreed to return more than $1.2 billion to investors and to pay an $18.5 million civil penalty to resolve the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the instant messaging platform’s unregistered offering of digital tokens called “Grams” violated the federal securities laws.

The settlement announced over the weekend comes after Telegram in May announced its decision to withdraw its cryptocurrency-focused subsidiary, Telegram Open Network (TON), due to problems it faced as a result of the US SEC scrutiny. Telegram engineers had been working on the blockchain platform called TON and a cryptocurrency they were going to name Gram for the past two-and-a-half years.

On October 11, 2019, the SEC filed a complaint against Telegram, alleging that the company had raised capital to finance its business by selling approximately 2.9 billion Grams to 171 initial purchasers worldwide. The SEC sought to preliminarily enjoin Telegram from delivering the Grams it sold, which the regulator alleged were securities that had been offered and sold in violation of the registration requirements of the federal securities laws.

On March 24, 2020, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction barring the delivery of Grams and finding that the SEC had shown a substantial likelihood of proving that Telegram’s sales were part of a larger scheme to unlawfully distribute the Grams to the secondary public market.

“New and innovative businesses are welcome to participate in our capital markets but they cannot do so in violation of the registration requirements of the federal securities laws,” Kristina Littman, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit, said in a statement. “This settlement requires Telegram to return funds to investors, imposes a significant penalty, and requires Telegram to give notice of future digital offerings.”

Telegram Founder and CEO Pavel Durov said in May that “a US court stopped TON from happening”. Durov urged others to keep fighting for decentralisation, balance and equality in the world. “You are fighting the right battle. This battle may well be the most important battle of our generation. We hope that you succeed where we have failed,” he said.


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Tech

Microsoft to Permanently Close All 83 Retail Sites to Invest in Digital Storefronts

The logo of Microsoft Inc is seen atop one of its major global offices. (Photo: Reuters)

The logo of Microsoft Inc is seen atop one of its major global offices. (Photo: Reuters)

Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows, reaching more than 1.2 billion people every month in 190 markets.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 27, 2020, 10:23 AM IST

Microsoft on Friday announced to permanently close its 83 retail stores and will now focus on its online store and retail team members will continue to serve customers from Microsoft corporate facilities and remotely providing sales, training, and support. Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows, reaching more than 1.2 billion people every month in 190 markets.

The company will also reimagine spaces that serve all customers, including operating Microsoft Experience Centers in London, NYC, Sydney, and Redmond campus locations. The closing of Microsoft Store physical locations will result in a pre-tax charge of approximately $450 million, or $0.05 per share, to be recorded in the current quarter ending June 30, 2020.

“Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter. Shares of Microsoft were down about 1.5 per cent on Friday.

“We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.” Since the Microsoft Store locations closed in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail team has helped small businesses and education customers digitally transform; virtually trained hundreds of thousands of enterprise and education customers on remote work and learning software, and helped customers with support calls.

The team supported communities by hosting more than 14,000 online workshops and summer camps and more than 3,000 virtual graduations. Microsoft said that the retail team members will serve consumers, small-business, education, and enterprise customers while building a pipeline of talent with transferable skills. “The Microsoft Store team has long been celebrated at Microsoft and embodies our culture,” said Microsoft Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan.


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IBM Rolls Out Free Digital Learning Platform to Help Job Seekers in India

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

The platform, known as ‘SkillsBuild Reignite’ will give access to free online coursework and mentoring support, designed to help people reinvent their careers and businesses.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 25, 2020, 5:09 PM IST

Tech giant IBM on Thursday announced a free digital learning platform as part of its SkillsBuild initiative to help job seekers and provide new resources to business owners in India. Called ‘SkillsBuild Reignite’, the platform will give access to free online coursework and mentoring support, designed to help people reinvent their careers and businesses.

In November last year, IBM launched SkillsBuild in collaboration with the Directorate General of Training under the aegis of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE). SkillBuild has already benefited 14,135 learners who have completed 40,000 courses and 77,000 hours of e-learning.

“We mark a significant milestone in supporting Centre’s efforts in accelerating Indian economy’s revival from the adverse effects of COVID-19 with the launch of SkillsBuild Reignite and Innovation Camp, in collaboration with IBM India,” said Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey, Union Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. SkillsBuild Reignite will include more coursework and personalised coaching for entrepreneurs seeking advice to help establish or restart their small businesses as they focus on recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The courses include financial management, business strategy, digital strategy, legal support and more. Working with NGOs such as Edunet and Unnati Foundation, among others, the new IBM partners will play a key role in addressing local needs. “Not only does this platform provides career reinvention opportunities but also innovative ways of working and individualized support for relaunching business strategies,” explained Sandip Patel, General Manager, IBM India/South Asia. IBM also announced the 10-week SkillsBuild Innovation camp which is open to learners who are interested in gaining hands-on project experience to enhance learning.


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Digital Payments Platform Gojek Axes 9 Percent of Its Workforce After Facebook, Paypal Funding

Commuters pass by a Gojek advertisement in Singapore. (Image Source: Reuters)

Commuters pass by a Gojek advertisement in Singapore. (Image Source: Reuters)

In April, the company’s senior management cut their salaries to allocate more than $7.09 million to help drivers and employees cope with poor demand during Covid-19 crisis.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: June 25, 2020, 1:09 PM IST

Ride-hailing and digital payments platform Gojek that received funding from Facebook and Paypal earlier this month has laid off 430 employees, around 9 per cent of its total workforce. The company announced to shut down its lifestyle division GoLife as well as its food court division GoFood Festival, reports The Jakarta Post. Gojek currently operates in five countries in Southeast Asia, said it would focus on its core businesses which are ride-hailing service, food delivery and e-payment solutions.

“The biggest challenge is the remaining uncertainties in the future, and the hurtful fact is that this will forever change the way we operate our business and the products we offer,” said CEOs Andre Soelistyo and Kevin Aluwi said in a joint statement late Tuesday. In April, the company’s senior management cut their salaries to allocate more than $7.09 million to help drivers and employees cope with poor demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With an aim to cement their position in the fast-growing digital payments market in Southeast Asia, Facebook and Paypal have invested in Gojek. Matt Idema, Chief Operating Officer, WhatsApp, did not disclose the sum the company has invested in Gojek but said the move underscores Facebook’s commitment to serving small businesses and helping bring them and their customers into the digital economy.

Since its launch in 2015, the Gojek app has helped bring hundreds of thousands of merchants onto its platform, giving them access to more than 170 million people across Southeast Asia. Its payments business processes billions of transactions each year and owns the largest e-wallet in Indonesia.


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WhatsApp Digital Payments Live in Brazil, as WhatsApp Pay Waits For India Rollout

As WhatsApp Payments remain stuck in India, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday announced to launch digital payments for people using WhatsApp in Brazil, where the users would be able to send and receive money to family and friends and make purchases. The Brazil launch comes ahead of India where the company began testing payments feature way back in 2018 but could not launch the feature for over 400 million users owing to regulatory roadblocks and data compliance issues.

“We’re making sending and receiving money as easy as sharing photos. We’re also enabling small businesses to make sales right within WhatsApp,” Zuckerberg said in a post. “To do this, we’re building on Facebook Pay, which provides a secure and consistent way to make payments across our apps. We’re working with local banks, including Banco do Brasil, Nubank, Sicredi as well as Cielo, the leading payments processor for merchants in Brazil,” he informed.

“Brazil is the first country where we’re widely rolling out payments in WhatsApp. With the addition of Visa’s trusted payment technology, WhatsApp users will now be able to swiftly and securely send and receive money to family and friends, and to make purchases from small businesses on the popular global messaging service.”

Payments on WhatsApp are made possible by tapping into the capabilities of Visa Direct, Visa’s real-time1 push payments technology, and Visa Cloud Tokenization, Visa’s new cutting-edge security capability that launches today in conjunction with payments on WhatsApp. Sending money or making a purchase on WhatsApp is free for people.

Businesses will pay a processing fee to receive customer payments, similar to what they may already pay when accepting a credit card transaction. Zuckerberg said earlier this year that the peer-to-peer, UPI-based payments feature will be rolled out in several countries in the next six months.

“We got approval to test this with one million people in India back in 2018. And when so many of the people kept using it week after week, we knew it was going to be big when we get to launch,” Zuckerberg said in January. “I’m really excited about this, and I expect this to start rolling out in a number of countries and for us to make a lot of progress here in the next six months,” he added.

Beginning Monday, select Brazilian WhatsApp users will gradually start seeing the payment option on the app, where they can set up an account by adding their Visa card to start sending and receiving money. For small businesses to be able to receive payments from customers, they simply need to create a WhatsApp Business app account.

“Using our technology to open up avenues like WhatsApp for more people to shop and pay each other digitally is an incredibly powerful proposition that we’re excited to bring to life,” said Jack Forestell, Chief Product Officer, Visa.

“We are very excited to bring payments on WhatsApp to our users across Brazil. Making it easier to send and receive money could not be more important than at a time like this,” said Matt Idema, WhatsApp’s Chief Operating Officer. “Small businesses are the backbone of the country. The ability to easily make sales right within WhatsApp will help business owners adapt to the digital economy, support growth, and financial recovery,” Idema added.


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Jio Platforms Strengthens its Role For India's Digital Transformation With Latest TPG Investment Deal

Image for Representation (IANS)

Image for Representation (IANS)

With Jio Platforms poised as a transformative player in India’s technology industry that has drastically transformed the telecom industry of India, TPG’s investment in Jio Platforms has further cemented the company’s position as a market leader.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 13, 2020, 9:59 PM IST

Reliance Industries today announced that Jio Platforms is getting its ninth major investment in the company. The latest investment has come from global alternative asset firm TPG that has invested Rs 4,546.80 crore in Jio Platforms at an equity value of Rs 4.91 lakh crore and an enterprise value of Rs 5.16 lakh crore. Reliance Jio has previously announced investments from Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, General Atlantic, KKR, Mubadala Investment Company and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), over the past few weeks. With a total investment of Rs 102,432.45 crore, Reliance Jio Platforms has proven to be one of the most lucrative companies for foreign investors.

Reliance Jio and its investments in India’s telecom space have changed the face of the industry. Jio Platforms could definitely evolve as a technology company that has expertise in multiple domains. Jio’s technology umbrella already includes broadband services, smart devices, cloud and edge computing, Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Mixed Reality and blockchain. The money invested by Mubadala, as well as the likes of KKR, General Atlantic, Facebook, Silver Lake Partners and Vista Equity Partners will help the company achieve the Digital India vision for 1.3 billion people and businesses across the country, including small businesses, micro-businesses and farmers.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said, “Today, I am happy to welcome TPG as valued investors in our continued efforts towards digitally empowering the lives of Indians through the creation of a digital ecosystem. We have been impressed by TPG’s track record of investing in global technology businesses that serve hundreds of millions of consumers and small businesses, making the societies we live in better.”

TPG is a leading global alternative asset firm founded in 1992 with more than $79 billion of assets under management across a wide range of asset classes, including private equity, growth equity, real estate and public equity. Over TPG’s more than 25-year history, the firm has built an ecosystem made up of hundreds of portfolio companies and a value-added network of professionals, executives, and advisors around the world. Its investments in global technology companies include Airbnb, Uber, and Spotify, among others.

Jim Coulter, Co-CEO TPG, said, “We are excited to partner Reliance to invest in Jio. As an investor in growth, change, and innovation for over 25 years – and with a longstanding presence in India — we are excited to play an early role in Jio’s journey as they continue to transform and advance India’s digital economy. Jio is a disruptive industry leader that is empowering small businesses and consumers across India by providing them with critical, high-quality digital services. The company is bringing unmatched potential and execution capabilities to the market, setting the tone for all technology companies to come.

With Jio Platforms poised as a transformative player in India’s technology industry that has drastically transformed the telecom industry of India, TPG’s investment in Jio Platforms has further cemented the company’s position as a market leader. With investments from abroad going over Rs 1 lakh crore, Jio Platform is set to revolutionise India’s digital endeavours by leading on all grounds – from enterprise to consumer technologies alike.


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Mobile Phone Users in India Prefer Audio Over Digital Screen, Study Reveals

Mobile phone users in India are now giving more preference to audio over a digital screen, said a study on Friday which found that music consumption has increased on both feature phones and smartphones as the country emerges from the lockdown.

Three in every four respondents listen to music, at least once in a day, said the study by CyberMedia Research (CMR) conducted in partnership with HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones. Beyond music, smartphone consumers also tune to podcasts, while 81 per cent feature phone cohorts prefer FM and MP3.

“As we move from a homebound economy to a ‘neo normal’, mobile audio will remain key for consumers — think, communication, music and content consumption or team collaboration,” Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR, said in a statement. “For instance, in situations involving low bandwidth, the importance of audio becomes even more critical. All said, music is what drives our lives, and a good quality experience is what consumers hold dear.”

The study is based on a survey covering 800 respondents, across the top four cities of India, namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The prolonged lockdown and the move to work-from-home has led to both smartphone and feature phone users highlighting high-quality music and audio capabilities as the most important feature in their phones. For smartphone users, audio quality now ranks higher than their smartphone’s camera, battery life or even overall phone reliability, said the study.

On the other hand, battery drainage and Internet consumption are two important factors that impede high music consumption on smartphones. These are two key factors that make them open to buying a feature phone as a companion device that can be used primarily for music and calls, the research showed.


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