Govt plans to transform India Post into a multi-service agency

Aiming to leverage technology to provide cost-effective and innovative solutions, the government is planning to equip India Post to handle not only savings and insurance services, but also payments and data registration.

With the world’s largest postal network, India Post has about 1.55 lakh post offices spread across the country. On an average, a post office serves an area of 21.21 sq km and a population of 7,175 people.

The government is planning to utilise the huge resources at the disposal of India Post to provide cost-effective and innovative solutions to the citizens like financial services using digital connectivity, a source said.

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via  Business Standard News

E-kranti—Digital revolution on the anvil

The ₹113,000-crore ‘e-kranti’ project of the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative is the world’s most ambitious broadband project that seeks to provide digital access to all citizens, from the rural and elderly to the poor. The ‘Digital India’ blueprint revolves round ‘nine pillars’ — broadband highway, e-governance, electronics manufacturing leading to ‘zero import’, universal phone access, electronic delivery of services, jobs, rural internet, information for all and ‘early harvest’ programmes.

The aim is to move governance online, and for that to happen, bridging the so-called digital divide is essential. The government  aims to expand its rural internet coverage to 250,000 villages by 2017, from the existing 130,000. In two years, 150,000 post offices will be transformed into multi-utility centres (providing a range of government services, banking for instance, and not just postal services). Some 250,000 government schools will get broadband and free WiFi and all schoolbooks will have e-versions.

The digital drive is also integral to the government’s plan to create 100 smart cities. Under the plan, all cities with a population of more than a million will get public WiFi hotspots. All government communication will move to a universal secure email client.

Microsoft wants to use white space broadband to connect rural India to the internet

Rural regions in India could soon have improved high-speed internet delivered over the last mile without wires, if a Microsoft program that taps unused wireless spectrum to provide free internet to rural regions receives government clearance.

Microsoft has sought clearance for a pilot program in two districts for its white space initiative. White space technology has previously been deployed in South Africa, Ghana, and the UK, although to this point white space broadband hasn’t been deployed at a commercially meaningful scale.

Microsoft’s tech uses the unused buffer frequencies — “white spaces” — between TV channels to carry data. In India, these spaces end up being available in the 200-300 MHz spectrum band, although there are chunks of unused spectrum available in India up to 700 MHz. Currently, that spectrum belongs to a national broadcaster in India, Doordarshan.

White space signals can travel up to 10 kilometers, which makes the technology perfect for connecting rural or expensive-to-wire areas. For participating regions, a $20,000 white space router in a town center would receive the white space signals and then provide free Wi-Fi access to the town’s citizens.

Microsoft is looking to prove that its technology is commercially viable, which would eventually require various regulatory agencies to approve the spectrum use. But the upside is considerable — some have estimated that white space connectivity (at speeds up to 4Mbps) could cost as little as ₹130 per month per user.

Six out of 10 men in India admit violence against wives: UN study

Six out of 10 men in India admit to having perpetrated violence against their wives or partners, according to the ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference’ report, by the United Nations World Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Washington-based International Center for Research on Women, which polled 9,205 men, aged 18 to 49, across seven States to understand their views on masculinity, partner violence and son preference.

Violence was defined as emotional such as insults, intimidation and threats, or physical and sexual such as pushing, punching and rape. It also included economic abuse in which a man did not permit his wife or partner to work or took her earnings against her will.

“Many men in India act in a manner that is fairly pre-determined by their gendered roles and expectations, socio-economic characteristics and childhood experiences,” said the report.

“Men who experience economic stress were more likely to have perpetrated violence ever or in the past 12 months. This may be because of norms related to masculinity, which reinforce the expectation that men are primary economic providers for their households.”

The study — across the States of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra — found that men who had experienced discrimination as children were four times more likely to be violent towards their partners.

The highest reports of violence came from Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, with more than 70% of men in these regions admitting to being abusive towards their wives and partners.

More than 38% of all crimes committed against women in India in 2013 were those registered under the charge of cruelty by husband or his relatives, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Germany celebrates 25 years of fall of Berlin Wall; Gorbachov warns of a new ‘cold war’

On 8 November 2014, Germany marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Speaking at the event, former President of Soviet Union Mikhail S. Gorbachev said tensions between the major powers have put the world “on the brink of a new Cold War”. He also called for new trust to be built through dialogue with Moscow, and suggested the West should lift sanctions imposed against senior Russian officials over its actions in eastern Ukraine.

It was Gorbachev’s reforms, including a loosening of Soviet control over its former communist satellites, that triggered the events that led to the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

The Economist explains: The cost of traffic jams

FEW things unite cultures more than the frustration of sitting in a line of stationary traffic, with no discernible reason for the blockage and no end in sight. From London to Los Angeles, Berlin to Bangalore, seething anger at standstills is a common emotion felt by all drivers. The causes of traffic jams are well understood (accidents; poor infrastructure; peak hour traffic; and variable traffic speeds on congested roads). But what is the cost of all this waiting around?

The Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London-based consultancy, and INRIX, a traffic-data firm, have estimated the impact of such delays on the British, French, German and American economies. To do so they measured three costs: how sitting in traffic reduces productivity of the labour force; how inflated transport costs push up the prices of goods; and the carbon-equivalent cost of the fumes that exhausts splutter out. In 2013 the expenses from congestion totalled $200 billion (0.8% of GDP) across the four countries. As roadbuilding fails to keep up with the increasing numbers of cars on the road, that figure is expected to rise to nearly $300 billion by 2030. Two-thirds of the costs incurred are the result of wasted fuel and time that could be better spent elsewhere, and the remainder from increased business expenses.

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via The Economist.

Nanobodies to help out in boosting immunity

Targeting difficult-to-reach areas affected by disease could become a lot easier as researchers have developed a new system to make nanobodies, the efficient tiny cousins of antibodies, the defensive proteins deployed by the immune system, more accessible.

Nanobodies could be much more efficient than antibodies in attacking diseased cells, but scientist have so far lacked an efficient way of identifying the nanobodies, which are more closely tuned to their targets.

The researchers determined partial sequences of the amino acids that made up the protein of the nanobodies with a technique known as mass spectrometry.

Using a computer algorithm called “llama magic“, the researchers matched the composition of the highest affinity nanobody with the original genetic sequence.

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via  The Times of India.