Google Creating Publishing Platform for Local News Publishers

To help small newsrooms overcome challenges in their strive to go digital, Google is creating a new publishing platform for local news publishers. The new publishing tool will be made available to publishers globally later in the year.

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Facebook Tests a New Feature To Let Users Enjoy Events Together

Facebook is testing a new feature to let users share events that they are interesting in attending to, on their “Stories” so that they can coordinate with friends and enjoy events together. Friends also can tap on the sticker in the Story to visit the event page.

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‘Cyber Security, Data Privacy Biggest Concerns for Indian Businesses

Most business leaders in India regard data privacy and cybersecurity concerns as the biggest barrier to their digital transformation, a new report ‘Digital Transformation Index’ from Dell Technologies said.

According to the research, 93 per cent of Indian businesses are facing major impediments to digital transformation today.

Almost half of Indian business leaders believe they will struggle to meet changing customer demands within five years, according to the report tilted “Digital Transformation Index” (DT Index).

Offering insights into the areas where Indian businesses are considering investment to drive their digital transformation, the research showed that regulation or legislative changes and lack of the right in-house skill sets and expertise are the other top concerns for Indian businesses.

The research also indicates that businesses are taking steps to overcome their barriers, along with the threat of being outmanuevered from more nimble, innovative players.

Close to 75 per cent of Indian businesses — 19 per cent more than in China — intend to invest in cybersecurity in the next one to three years, according to the report.

Conducted in collaboration with Intel Corp, the research showed that 67 per cent of Indian businesses intend to invest in IoT (Internet of Things) technologies – 11 per cent more than that of Chinese companies.

While 62 per cent of Indian businesses intend to invest in multi-Cloud (7 per cent more than Chinese firms), 61 per cent of Indian businesses intend to invest in Artificial Intelligence (only one per cent more than companies in China), the findings showed.

For this study, independent research firm Vanson Bourne surveyed 200 business leaders in India from mid to large-size companies to gauge their organisations’ place on the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index.

The global results of the report, based on 4,600 respondents from 42 countries, will be released in early 2019, Dell Technologies said.

The report said that 37 per cent of Indian businesses plan to invest in Blockchain, 31 per cent in quantum computing and 42 per cent in augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies in the next one to three years.

“The next digital era has arrived and it’s reshaping the way we live, work and conduct business. Which means that time is of the essence. Genuine transformation needs to happen now, and it needs to be radical,” Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director – India Commercial, Dell EMC, said in a statement.

The findings showed that just 12 per cent of Indian businesses are “Digital Leaders” – companies that are digitally advanced – up from 8 per cent in 2016 when the previous edition of the report was published.

The share of “Digital Adopters” — companies that have a mature digital plan, investments and innovations in place — went up to 34 per cent this year, from 29 per cent in 2016.

The share of “Digital Evaluators”, companies that are cautiously and gradually embracing digital transformation has grown to 40 per cent, from 37 per cent in 2016.

The percentage of “Digital Followers” (a digitally immature group) has also dropped, from 21 per cent in 2016, to 14 per cent in 2018, according to the survey.

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Indian Smartphone Users Consuming average 1GB Data a Day

Smartphone users in India are consuming an average 1GB data per day — from an average 4GB a month not long ago — and spending more than 90 minutes on online activities daily across the entry-level, mid and premium segments, a Nielsen India report said.

India has emerged among the most preferred smartphone markets in the world owing to affordable handset prices and low-cost data penetration, triggering a huge replacement demand among the customers across segments, the “Nielsen Smartphone 2018” report added.

“The advent of high-speed 4G Internet, less-expensive mobile handsets and a correction in call data charges have encouraged the speedy adoption of smartphones in India,” said Abhijit Matkar, Director-Technology IPG – Nielsen India.

To meet the demand of the mass market, new Chinese and Indian handset makers have launched affordable handsets which are under Rs 5,000.

“This sudden influx of affordable smartphones created a whole segment of new consumers who either upgraded from feature phones or were new mobile users altogether,” Matkar said in a statement.
When it comes to app usage, chat and VoIP apps dominate usage across customer segment followed by browser apps.

Interestingly, uTorrent Beta app dominates across categories when it comes of consumption of data, followed by YouTube across customer segments, the findings showed.

The smartphone users spend more than 90 minutes a day on online activities while the premium segment takes the usage up to 130 minutes per day.

“The price of handsets and data is emerging as a remarkable surrogate for monitoring the ever-widening set of users and their smartphone usage, thereby facilitating business and marketing strategy for better return on investment (ROI)”, Matkar added.

Despite the availability of economically-priced smartphones, average smartphone prices are still increasing.

“In fact, the average cost has steadily risen from about Rs 7,700 in 2015 to about Rs 10,000 in 2017,” said the report.

The appetite for data consumption has risen over the last 15 to 18 months. The highest engagement occurs on apps that consume a lot of data like Facebook, WhatsApp Messenger, Instagram and Google Chrome, the report added.


Social-media commerce accounts for 79% of online selling in India

Sales through social media platforms account for over 79 per cent of the total online selling of goods and services in India, a report said.

Growing digitisation and increasing internet penetration in India have reportedly encouraged commerce to move online, it said.

“Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are used most by merchants in India, than anywhere across Asia (excluding China),” said the report named “Beyond Networking: Social Commerce as a Driver of Digital Payments”.

Across the Asian markets surveyed, India leads with 84 per cent of merchants using mobile-enabled payment methods, according to the survey.

The survey found that about 52 per cent of the total consumer demand on social media commerce comprises cosmetics and beauty products.


Faster web, apps drive smartphone purchases: report

Faster Internet accessibility and ability to use more applications are the main reasons that drive people to buy smartphones, a report by Ericsson Consumerlab said.

“Among today’s users in high growth markets, smartphone adoption is driven by application functionality and a faster Internet experience,” the Ericsson ConsumerLab’s Emerging App Culture report said.

About 43 per cent people say that better Internet access is the main reason for buying a smartphone while 33 per cent prefer to buy these devices to access more applications, the report said.

The research was carried out among smartphone users in the 15-54 year age group, who accessed Internet at least once a week, in India, Russia and Brazil.

“The app culture emerging in these high-growth markets reflects a trend similar to that in the US… We see a general evolution toward new users purchasing increasingly specialised apps, such as those for dating services and price comparison, from the moment they get their smartphones,” Ericsson ConsumerLab Senior Specialist said.

People mostly use their smartphones to check in to locations, use maps for navigation, watch Internet TV, movies, live news, play online games, among others, the study showed.

A majority owners are first-time users who purchased their smartphone during the past six months, it added.

However, mobile applications (apps) are used differently across the three markets.

“The Indian smartphone users are more interested in downloading personalisation applications, such as screen savers, live wallpapers and third party browsers apart from social media applications and games,” it said.

Russians use their phones for navigation and maps, shopping comparisons, barcode scanners, translators, dictionaries while the Brazilians used applications to enhance their social interactions, the report said.

The study said users have few applications on their phones but they use them frequently.

“While 69 per cent say they access Internet using applications daily, almost half do not use more than one to five applications on a weekly basis,” the study said.

When it comes to the daily application usage, 49 per cent people say they use it for social networking,  39 per cent for chat, 31 per cent for weather forecasts, 26 per cent for news, 20 per cent for maps, GPS and navigation and 12 per cent for timetables and traffic.


Malaria: A grave threat to millions !

The number of deaths from malaria might be steadily declining, but health experts believe the mosquito sting continues to pose a grave threat to millions in India.

An estimated one million fresh cases of the disease – which causes body ache and fever – are reported in India each year. About 95 percent of the country’s population resides in malaria endemic areas.

According to the World Malaria Report 2011, over 70 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion population faces the risk of malaria infection, with an estimated 310 million people – one third of the total – facing the “highest risk”.

The situation is very bad and it is an epidemic sort of issue. Malaria is quite rampant across the country, particularly in rural areas including major cities like Delhi.

Though the country has been effective in treating the disease with new medicine, the threat of plasmodium which causes the disease becoming resistant to new drugs remains.

Even though the plasmodium became resistant to old conventional treatment, new drugs have been effective for now. But, there are many countries like Cambodia and Thailand, it has developed resistance. Though the type is different, threat remains that it may also develop some resistance.

Most physicians no longer administer Chloroquine to patients as the plasmodium – P. falciparum – that causes the severe type of malaria has more or less developed resistance to the drug. The drug has only been effective in controlling the milder from of malaria.

The main vector of the disease in India is the female Anopheles Culicifacies, which is a small to medium sized mosquito. They usually breed in rainwater pools and puddles, burrow-pits, irrigation channels, seepages and sluggish streams. Extensive breeding is generally encountered following the monsoon.

Some experts, however, also say that investments in malaria control have yielded good returns in the past years.

“In last five years, there has been a constant reduction in the number of malaria cases in the country. The number of cases has gradually come down from 2 million in 2001 to about 1.2 million in 2011,” said a senior scientist at the National Institute of Malaria Research.

Recent government data also shows a decline both in the number of malaria cases and related deaths.

According to National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), over 1.5 million cases of malaria were reported in the country in 2009 and 2010. The figure fell to 1.3 million in 2011 and to 1 million in 2012. Till March 25 this year, 72,327 cases have been reported.

Likewise, the number of malaria related deaths in the country in 2009 were 1,144 and came down to 1,018 in 2010. In 2011, the number further came down to 754, and to 506 in 2012. This year, till March 25, the number of deaths are only 18.

However, in a clear contradiction to the government data, a 2011 study by Lancet stated that malaria actually killed an estimated 46,800 Indians in 2010. The country had over 10 crore suspected malaria cases but only 15.9 lakh could be confirmed in 2010, according to World Malaria Report 2011.

Experts, however, say more needs to be done to completely check the disease.

Towards this, the World Malaria Day celebrated on April 25, instituted by WHO during the 2007 World Health Assembly of 2007, aims to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria prevention and control.

According to the World Malaria Report 2011, malaria is prevalent in 106 countries of the tropical and semi-tropical world, with 35 countries in central Africa bearing the highest burden of cases and deaths. Compared to a century earlier, the area of malaria risk has reduced from 53 percent to 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, while the number of countries exposed to some level of malaria risk has fallen from 140 to 106.

Worldwide, there were 655,000 deaths from the disease in 2010.

INFO: In Brief:


Fever, headache, muscle and joint pains. Later reduced consciousness, kidney failure and coma. The death rate in travellers returning to Europe and diagnosed in Europe is between 0.5% and 4%.


Microscopy of a blood sample (thick and thin blood smear), rapid test finding a malaria specific protein in the blood and in some specialised laboratories detection of parasite DNA.


There are several drugs available. If the patient has taken drugs for prophylaxis the drug chosen for treatment should not be the same as used for prophylaxis. If the infection is severe the treatment is given intravenously.


Prophylaxis with a drug is primarily given to prevent disease from P.falciparum malaria. No prophylactic drug is entirely effective and no malaria drug without side effects. It is therefore important that the drug for prophylaxis is chosen with regard to the risk of being infected with malaria is balanced against the risk of side effects.

Side effects 

Comparing chloroquine and paludrine and lariam the risk of mild side effects are about the same, but lariam users have up to four times higher risk of experiencing neuropsychiatric side effects of which difficulty with sleeping is the most common.

Overall 2% to 5% of all users, no matter which drug they use, experience symptoms, which are suspected to be side effects from the drugs and lead to cessation of medication.

General Attitude to Malaria Prophylaxis 

In general the traveller should be offered the most effective drug taking the destination, mode of travel and length of stay into consideration. In areas with very low risk like for instance Thailand, drugs are not recommended for prophylaxis, only traditional methods like repellents and impregnated mosquito nets.  In area with a high degree of resistance against chloroquine, like tropical Africa and part of South America and South East Asia, it is recommended;

Malarone as first choice for short-term travellers, and lariam for long term travellers, both with doxycycline as an alternative.

Protection should be as good as possible, but it is unacceptable to have the travel spoiled by side effects, if the risk of infection is low.

Traditional protection 

The malaria mosquito primarily bites between dusk and dawn. The risk of infection can be much reduced by preventing mosquito bites, for instance by sleeping in closed, air-conditioned rooms or rooms with screened windows.


Biogas Pumps are Making Pakistani Farms Richer, Greener

Fateh Jhang, Pakistan: For farmer Mujahid Abbasi, switching the power source for his irrigation pump from diesel to biogas has brought economic and health gains.

The 43-year-old from Fateh Jhang village, some 42 km from Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad, has benefited from a pilot project led by the Punjab provincial government to provide biogas equipment at a subsidised rate. Abbasi uses dung from his 30 buffalo to produce nearly 40 cubic metres of gas per day, which powers his irrigation pump for six hours and his family’s cooking stove.

Muhammad Sadique, 103, plucks flowers in the field to be sold in local markets in the outskirts of Faisalabad, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Fayyaz Hussain/Files

The father of five says cutting out diesel has saved him around $10-$12 daily over the past 13 months. He has used the money to plant seasonal vegetables on five additional hectares that had lain fallow for several years due to a lack of funds.

Turning a lever to start his groundwater pump, Abbasi recalls how the 20-horse power engine used to consume around 13 litres of diesel each day. But he has not bought diesel since he installed the biogas-run pump in March 2015. “This is a brilliant saving,” he said. “This means additional income of $1,150 for me annually. It has helped improve our family’s economic well-being.”

Close to 20 other farmers in his area have followed suit and are also running their irrigation pumps on biogas, thanks to the government-backed project.

Vegetable farmer Naeem Raza Shah uses slurry left over from the biogas production process to fertilise his 19 hectares, cutting out chemical fertiliser which previously cost him around $850 per year. “The organic fertiliser from the biogas plant is an economic blessing for me,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Subsidies for small farmers

Abbasi and Raza are among nearly 17,000 beneficiaries of the $67 million programme that aims to convert 100,000 irrigation pumps from diesel to biogas by the end of 2017 across Punjab province.

According to Punjab Agriculture Minister Farrukh Javed, the initiative aims to reduce dependence on diesel and boost farm productivity by improving access to irrigation water and promoting the use of bio-fertiliser, while fighting groundwater contamination from chemical inputs.

The government is paying half of the conversion cost for diesel-powered pumps, which ranges from 200,000 to 400,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,912-$3,824) per tube well. The subsidies are weighted in favour of farmers with less land, who usually have lower incomes and would struggle to afford the pump conversion without additional financial support.

The programme is expected to avoid the use of 288 million litres of diesel, worth 30 billion Pakistani rupees each year.

It will help cut the diesel import bill and boost farmers’ profits, while reducing environmental pollution. It is expected to shrink the sector’s carbon footprint by more than 5%.

Agriculture accounts for nearly 39% of Pakistan’s annual carbon emissions, which are increasing at a rate of 6% per year.

According to a 2010 census by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, farmers operate 1.1 million irrigation pumps across the country to exploit groundwater, more than 70% of them in Punjab. Of these, 900,000 are run on diesel.

Meanwhile, in Punjab alone, there are 32 million cattle and buffalo, which produce 117 million tonnes of dung annually – enough to produce around 6 billion cubic metres of biogas.

“The government should encourage the private sector to join its efforts to capitalise on the untapped opportunity the biogas sector offers in view of the millions of tonnes of unused dung from 180 million head of cattle across the country,” said Arif Allauddin, former head of Pakistan‘s Alternative Energy Development Board.