BRIDGING THE INTERNET’S DIGITAL LANGUAGE DIVIDE

AROUND HALF THE world’s population still lacks access to the internet. Companies like Facebook, SpaceX, and Amazon want to change that by launching constellations of satellites into the sky, which will beam internet back down to Earth. But even if these projects succeed, tech giants may face a more fundamental problem in bridging the digital divide: language.

There are thousands of different tongues spoken around the world, but most of the content on the web is only available in a select few, primarily English. More than 10 percent of Wikipedia is written in English, for example, and almost half the site’s articles are in European dialects. Getting one billion more people online is often held up as the next major milestone, but when they log on for the first time, those users may find the internet has little to offer in the primary languages they speak.

“Approximately 5 percent of the world speaks English at home,” said Juan Ortiz Freuler, a fellow at the World Wide Web Foundation, during a panel at the RightsCon conference in Tunisia Wednesday, but around “50 percent of the web is in English.” Freuler argued the internet has facilitated “cultural homogenization,” now that the majority of its users rely on Facebook and Google, and communicate in the same dominant languages. But the problem “is not because of changes in technology,” said Kristen Tcherneshoff, community director of Wikitongues, an organization that promotes language diversity. Corporations and governments largely didn’t provide the resources and support necessary to bring smaller languages online.

LOUISE MATSAKIS COVERS AMAZON, INTERNET LAW, AND ONLINE CULTURE FOR WIRED.

Many of the biggest online platforms were founded in Silicon Valley, and started with primarily English-speaking user bases. As they’ve expanded around the world and to different languages, they’ve been playing catch-up. Facebook has faced criticism for not employing enough native speakers to monitor content in countries where it has millions of users. In Myanmar, for example, the company for years had only a handful of Burmese speakers as hate speech proliferated. Facebook has admitted that it did not do enough to prevent its platform from being used to incite violence in the country.

Another part of the problem stems from the fact that relatively few datasets have been created in these languages that are suitable for training artificial intelligence tools. Take Sinhala, also known as Sinhalese, which is spoken by around 17 million people in Sri Lanka and can be written in four different ways. Facebook’s algorithms—trained primarily on English and other European languages—don’t map well to it. That makes it difficult for the social network to automatically identify things like hate speech in the country, or stop the flow of misinformation after a terrorist attack.

But Tcherneshoff says language diversity is about more than just practicality, it’s about expression. Jokes, emotions, and art are often difficult, if not impossible, to translate from one language to another. She pointed to projects like the Mother Language Meme Challenge, which invited people to make memes in their native tongue for Unesco’s International Mother Language Day in 2018. The idea, in part, was to demonstrate how humor is often intimately tied to language.

Mozilla is one organization working to crowdsource language datasets that can be used by any developer for free, like Common Voice, which it claims is “the world’s most diverse voice dataset.” It includes recordings from over 42,000 people in dominant languages like English and German, but also Welsh and Kabyle. The project is designed to give engineers the tools they need to build things like speech-to-text programs in different tongues. Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, believes open source datasets like Common Voice are one of the only viable ways to ensure more language diversity in emerging tech. At for-profit companies, the issue “falls very low on the economic ladder,” he said during the RightsCon panel.

Bringing more languages online may ultimately be an exercise in cultural preservation, rather than utility. Despite advocates’ best efforts, it’s unlikely there will ever be as many websites in Yoruba, say, as there are in French or Arabic. New internet users may simply opt to browse in their second or third language instead of their native tongue.

At the same time, corporations like Google have built programs that make it easier to access online content in different languages, like Google Translate. Google also gave some of its tools to Wikipedia to help translate articles, although they still require careful review by native speakers; Wiki editors have complained that the Google tools sometimes produce shoddy results. For the time being, promoting language diversity online still requires the concerted effort of humans.

[“source=wired”]

Google Stadia’s internet speed requirements are just the beginning

Google Stadia on Thursday unveiled its pricing and some of the video games you can play on its all-new service set to launch in 2020. The company also offered up some guidelines as to the types of network speed requirements it has for various qualities of gameplay: 10Mbps  for 720/60fps stereo, roughly 20Mbps for 1080/60fps HDR with 5.1 surround audio, and 35Mbps for 4K/60fps HDR video with 5.1 surround.

That’s all well and good, but don’t assume that meeting Google’s internet speed requirements means you’ll be able to play at the stated quality. They’re the minimum, but not necessarily sufficient, conditions.

Google — like many of the PC cloud-gaming services — doesn’t mention the other, more important issues that usually affect your experience as exemplified by Nadia Oxford’s tweet: the network. If you’re getting potato streaming, then local network congestion is what’s mashing it.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Think of it as being able to drive 75 mph on the highway, but then you hit the city and your speed unavoidably drops to an average of 25 mph. That number encompasses a lot of stop and go. While these services will test your network, and even in some cases include jitter and other types of network latency data in its calculations, like stop-and-go traffic it can bottleneck by surprise at any moment. And none of it even factors in a given device’s connection stability.

In other words, even if you’re getting 500Mbps with no latency when Google checks your network, at any point while you’re playing, the entire block may start streaming some random playoff game in 4K HDR and those packets interweave with your game packets, interrupting how smoothly they’re flowing. Google fails to lay out any of the details, such as maximum jitter and latency, that you’d want to see before plopping down your $130/£119 for a Founder’s Edition preorder.

When latency rises, frames and frame-rates drop, audio stutters, image quality degrades visibly, your trigger pull registers a millisecond too late and you end up dead in a puddle of your own blood while screaming at the cats in frustration. (OK, maybe that last one’s just me.)

While Google has an advantage over many competitors in that it owns a lot of the network infrastructure between its game-hosting cloud servers and the edge servers which are the last point of delivery between Google and your internet service provider or cellular carrier. But there’s only so much it can do to optimize packet delivery once they leave your ISP. And while many of these services have algorithms to gracefully fall back to lower levels when network issues arise, but that’s not always executed well.

And none of this even includes the irritation of excitedly trying to launch a game, only to be told that your network isn’t up to snuff at the moment — bandwidth great but too much jitter, please try again later. I participated in the Project Stream Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey trial. The first time I ran it, it was great. The second time, unplayable. Both times Speedtest told me I had more than enough bandwidth. And that problem’s not limited to Google.

Everything announced at WWDC: Get the latest on iOS 13, iPad OS, Dark Mode for iPhone and more.

New Mac Pro makes its debut: The long-awaited update to Apple’s flagship desktop starts at $5,999, available in the fall.

[“source=cnet”]

In 1995, Bill Gates made these predictions about streaming movies and fake news on the internet

Today, pretty much everyone regularly uses the internet to read breaking news and stream the latest blockbuster films. But in 1995, the internet was still in its infancy, and many Americans weren’t even online yet.

Bill Gates — as the co-founder of Microsoft (which made Internet Explorer, one of the first web browsers) — likely knew as much about the potential of internet technology as anyone in the mid-90s, however. So it’s not shocking that in 1995 Gates would be asked for his predictions on what the internet might look like a couple of decades into the future.

That’s exactly what happened when Gates sat down with author and journalist Terry Pratchett for an interview that appeared in the July 1995 edition of GQ magazine’s UK version. At the time, Gates was 39 and the world’s richest person with a net worth of $12.9 billion (he’s now second to Jeff Bezo with a $99.6 billion net worth, according to Forbes).

Gates’ conversation with Pratchett recently resurfaced online when writer Marc Burrows, who is working on a biography of Pratchett, tweeted two screenshots of the magazine interview (Gates is identified in the interview screenshots as “BG” and Pratchett is “TP”).

Not surprisingly, Gates had a couple of predictions for the future of the internet — one of which would turn out to be eerily prescient, while the other one seems to have come up short.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter
Streaming movies

One prediction that Gates nailed was that the internet would forever change the way we consume entertainment, like movies and television shows. At the time, most people’s idea of a home entertainment system was a television hooked up to a VCR (electronic devices that played VHS tapes for anyone too young to remember), though video discs like DVDs were beginning to be introduced by the mid-90s.

In the interview, Pratchett is astounded when Gates tells him that “VCRs will be obsolete within ten years.”

“What? Completely obsolete?” asks Pratchett, who then asks if discs will be the primary home video format.

“Oh, they’ll be replaced by a disc player within four or five years,” Gates says. “I’m talking about access to media across the network.”

In other words, Gates is describing our ability to watch movies, TV shows and other streaming videos online. Gates, who complained that VCRs had “the world’s worst user interface,” went on to explain: “Everything we’re talking about will have screens to guide you and when you pause there’ll be a built-in personality that’ll immediately jump in and help you.”

Gates’ prediction ended up being pretty much on the money, as online video technology continued to improve over the next decade to the point where the now-ubiquitous video streaming platform YouTube was founded in 2005, 10 years after this interview took place. In 2007, Netflix announced plans to start streaming full movies and shows online. Today, Netflix has nearly 150 million streaming subscribers around the world, while more than two billion people watch videos on YouTube every month.

Pratchett also wanted to know if Gates thought that the internet would eventually make it easier to spread misinformation to large groups of people.

“There’s a kind of parity of esteem of information on the Net,” Pratchett remarked to Gates in the interview. “It’s all there: there’s no way of finding out whether this stuff has any bottom to it or whether someone just made it up.”

As an example, Pratchett proposed a hypothetical situation where someone purporting to be an expert promoted a theory online claiming that the Holocaust never happened. That theory, Pratchett argued, could be propped up on the internet and “available on the same terms as any piece of historical research which has undergone peer review and so on.”

While Pratchett’s biographer, Burrows, argued on Twitter this week that Pratchett had “accurately predicted how the internet would propagate and legitimise fake news,” Gates’ response is worth noting for the fact that the Microsoft co-founder failed to foresee the same negative effects of online misinformation.

Gates agreed with Pratchett that misinformation could be spread online, but “not for long,” the billionaire reasoned. For instance, Gates argued, the internet could contain fake news, but it would also create more opportunities for information to be verified and supported by appropriate authorities, from actual experts to journalists and consumer reports.

“The whole way that you can check somebody’s reputation will be so much more sophisticated on the Net than it is in print today,” Gates tells Pratchett.

Of course, we know now that many online platforms — from social media sites like Facebook to online video sites like YouTube — have struggled to squash the spread of misinformation and fake news on the internet. Even Gates himself says today that he’s concerned about the spread of misinformation online, admitting that “it’s turned out to be more of a problem than I, or many others, would have expected.”

But Gates also said, in a 2018 interview with Quartz, that he remains optimistic that the internet will continue to become more sophisticated as an information source over time, and that the benefits of having access to such a wealth of information on the internet will eventually outweigh the “challenges” of separating fact from fiction online.

[“source=cnbc”]

What is the right way to ask neighbours for help on the internet?

Small trees, shrubbery beds and tables and chairs with city buildings in the background

Viral internet content, whether meme or catastrophe, burrows into our minds, because that is its way. But occasionally, rather than being replaced by something meaner or madder, a piece of it will set up home there, put the kettle on, never leave. And then I must work out… why.

A man in Philadelphia screenshotted and tweeted a post from nextdoor.com, a request from his pregnant neighbours for meals and favours. It included recipe ideas, their food preferences, and the detail that they’d leave a cooler for meals outside the door. The Sun headlined its piece on the Twitter thread, “YOU WHAT!?” continuing, “Fury as deluded millennial couple expecting baby ‘ask strangers to chip in cooking and cleaning’ because ‘they’ll be tired’.’’ A thousand more “YOU WHAT!?”s abounded, and a familiar kind of internet fury was unleashed, that heightened outrage, a brief sugar high.

This is what fuels the internet, of course, and many friendships, too – the mean bliss of mutual hatred, a linking of arms to form a community of righteous anger. And community is the thing that I kept coming back to, when, the following night, the couple’s cooler turned up in my dream, and the following week, when I found myself contemplating one of their recipe ideas for my tea.

I’ve written before about my own experience of Nextdoor, the website where neighbours are encouraged to share gardening recommendations and information about lost cats, a place that fosters a synthetic (if often warming) sense of community, in a time when such a thing is rare. Having spent time on this site, the pregnant couple’s request felt familiar, if only for its mundanity. But it jarred with the world beyond their doorstep for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the scope of the favour they were asking. They’d exposed themselves as needy – they’d asked for help, but… they’d asked wrong. Which makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what would be the correct way? When you are living far from family and those who love you, what is the correct way to ask for help?

When I first read it, I chuckled, I did. But as I swam deeper into the reactions my sense of unease grew, shifting quickly into a glum sort of hopelessness. I was lucky never to have to ask for help when I had a baby. It arrived in Tupperware, on tube trains, balanced carefully on laps. When I was going into labour, my friend cleaned our windows. When I was a week into a hospital stay and couldn’t bear the idea of company, my mum silently delivered meatballs then drove away again, an hour each way. Later, another friend took the baby while I had the most magical haircut of my life, an inch off the ends, spread thickly over an afternoon.

The question comes sometimes when sick or in need, “What can I do to help?” But often the true reply is gritty and dirty and dull, and few are prepared for honesty here. That exchange of love is only possible when you’re surrounded by people who know you. And today, few of us are.

These poor pregnant sods were vilified for asking for the benefits of a community. It became increasingly clear that reader outrage was based in disbelief that such benefits were a possibility. Which makes sense – it’s difficult to grasp the idea of physically taking part in such openhanded compassion, in part because we get so little respite from individual striving, and in part because the idea of community today is so nebulous and scarred.

It’s spring now, and I find myself impossibly moved by the sight of community gardens, thorn-strewn and blooming, and so departed from the rest of cities’ public spaces. Those spaces, now colonised by private money, and growing, it seems, into well-swept metaphors for the state of community today. A state where 2.4 million adult British residents report chronic loneliness. And yet, many are talking all the time, into the internet, where the possibilities of intimate connection are advertised like wartime propaganda.

There is little understanding that many of these communities are based in words, not action. It’s no wonder that Nextdoor couple got confused – like other internet spaces, they seemed to expect that if they clicked in the right place, their order for love would arrive before 9am the following day.

The international reach of this Nextdoor post has proven that today we’re all neighbours. Sometimes social media works in our favour, by aiding real conversations and providing entertainment in the dark, and sometimes it feels as if we’re pouring our entire selves into a beaker, only for it to turn immediately into steam.

But we shouldn’t deny the many possibilities for connections here, nor let the policing of favours get in the way of kindness. Real communities are often irritating, grabby of time, and require the dirtying of hands, but they are also nourishing. And they are also home. If we’re serious about ending loneliness, a neighbour shouldn’t have to ask for help – we should already have offered.

[“source=theguardian”]

Internet users in India to rise by 40%, smartphones to double by 2023: McKinsey

Untitled-9NEW DELHI: With data costs falling by 95 per cent since 2013, India will see internetusers rise by about 40 per cent and number of smartphones to double by 2023, McKinsey said in a report.

It also expects core digital sectors to jump two-fold to USD 355-435 billion by 2025.

The report ‘Digital India – Technology to Transform a Connection Nation’ by McKinsey Global Institute said the country is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers, with 560 million internet subscribers in 2018, second only to China.

Indian mobile data users consume 8.3 gigabits (GB) of data each month on average, compared with 5.5 GB for mobile users in China and 8-8.5 GB in advanced digital economy of South Korea. Indians have 1.2 billion mobile phone subscriptions and downloaded more apps — 12.3 billion in 2018 — than residents of any other country except China.

“Our analysis of 17 mature and emerging economies finds India is digitising faster than any other country in the study, save Indonesia — and there is plenty of room to grow: just over 40 per cent of the populace has an internet subscription,” it said.

While a government push has helped digitise the economy, private sector firms such as Reliance Jio has helped bring down data costs by more than 95 per cent since 2013, it said, adding the cost of one gigabyte fell from 9.8 per cent of per capita monthly GDP in 2013 (roughly USD 12.45) to 0.37 per cent in 2017 (the equivalent of a few cents).

“Private-sector innovation has helped bring internet-enabled services to millions of consumers and made online usage more accessible. For example, Reliance Jio’s strategy of bundling virtually free smartphones with subscriptions to its mobile service has spurred innovation and competitive pricing across the sector,” the report said.

As a result, monthly mobile data consumption per user is growing at 152 per cent annually — more than twice the rates in the United States and China. Average fixed-line download speed quadrupled between 2014 and 2017.

“India will increase the number of internet users by about 40 per cent to between 750 million and 800 million and double the number of smartphones to between 650 million and 700 million by 2023,” it said, adding the potential for India’s internet subscriber base could reach 835 million by 2023.

McKinsey said India’s internet user base has grown rapidly in recent years, propelled by the decreasing cost and increasing availability of smartphones and high-speed connectivity, and is now one of the largest in the world.

The average Indian social media user spends 17 hours on the platforms each week, more than social media users in China and the United States.

The share of Indian adults with at least one digital financial account has more than doubled since 2011, to 80 per cent, thanks in large part to the more than 332 million people who opened mobile phone–based accounts under the government’s Jan-Dhan Yojana – a mass financial-inclusion programme.

“By many measures, India is on its way to becoming a digitally advanced nation,” McKinsey said. “Just over 40 per cent of the populace has an internet subscription, but India is already home to one of the world’s largest and most rapidly growing bases of digital consumers. It is digitising activities at a faster pace than many mature and emerging economies.”

India’s core digital sectors, comprising of IT-BPM, digital communication services and electronics manufacturing, accounted for about USD 170 billion — or 7 per cent — of GDP in 2017–18.
“We estimate that these sectors could grow significantly faster than GDP, and their value-added contribution could range from USD 205 billion to USD 250 billion for IT-BPM, USD 100 billion to USD 130 billion for electronics manufacturing, and USD 50 billion to USD 55 billion for digital communication services, totalling between USD 355 billion and USD 435 billion and accounting for 8 to 10 per cent of India’s GDP in 2025,” it said.

It said India is on a fast track to adopt key digital attributes, and the number of smartphones and internet subscriptions could continue to increase rapidly in the next five years.

[“source=economictimes.indiatimes”]

Forced to Log Off: Why the Global Internet Shutdown Score is Not Good News for Kashmir

Image result for Forced to Log Off: Why the Global Internet Shutdown Score is Not Good News for KashmirSrinagar: Internet shutdowns in Kashmir, perhaps, remain the missing pages in the narrative of a Digital India. A country attempting a digital revolution, while also globally leading the internet shutdown track record, undisputedly, reflects the irony in the world’s largest democracy.

According to a study at the Stanford University (Of Blackouts and Bandhs: The Strategy and Structure of Disconnected Protest in India), India has witnessed 134 network shutdowns in 2018 alone and more than 100 in 2016-17. Most of these blackouts happened in the volatile Kashmir region.

The aim of the internet shutdowns is to control the spread of rumours, misinformation and restore law and order. However, the study suggests that the shutdowns do not seem to be meeting their intention.

The study found that approximately half of the world’s known network shutdowns have happened in India alone, mostly in Kashmir. “A cursory look at the trajectory of shutdowns in India shows that the northern border states have acted as ‘innovators’ and shutdown contagion has advanced south with time,” read the research.

It also points out that these shutdowns are neither executed on the national level nor concentrated in a single state. Internet shutdowns are as decentralised as state power, it then comes to appear. The study also found a correlation between the co-occurrence of violence with a shutdown and non-violent action. An internet shutdown seems to encourage violent action.

“Information blackouts compel participants in collective action in India to substitute non-violent tactics for violent ones that are less reliant on effective communication and coordination,” it reads.

These shutdowns are measures of deliberate action by the authorities and are imposed by the state governments who find it “useful in pacifying or preventing protest”, the study says, supporting its arguments with strong empirical evidence.

The 2016 unrest in Kashmir gave the state its longest internet shutdown, which lasted for 203 days. In India, the number and diversity of both protests and network shutdowns affect life and livelihood deeply.

The study, hence, maintains that “widespread institutional support makes India the most shutdown-prone sovereign state in the world by several orders of magnitude”.

State governments and judicial entities ordered approximately 100 blackouts and disrupted several communication networks, which stands more than all other countries combined, the study says.

As per different estimates used in the study, the total duration of shutdowns in India between 2012 and 2017 remains 16, 315 hours (680 days), which has generated an economic loss of approximately $3.04 billion.

“Despite the prolific use of network shutdowns across the country,” the study points, “neither India nor any other national government has conducted publicly acknowledged studies on the effectiveness of shutdowns as a means of suppressing unrest”.

Nearly 23 deadly violent incidents, the study has found, and at least as many that did not prove fatal were linked to WhatsApp between mid-2017 and November 2018.

The majority of blackouts in the country occur in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), with the state alone comprising about 47% of the total shutdowns.

“Of 36 states and union territories, these four regions account for more than 75% of all recorded shutdown events in India (2012-17), while Jammu and Kashmir alone comprises about 47%,” it reads.

The author of the study, Jan Rydzak, has found that a large proportion of these shutdowns are implemented with the explicit goals of ensuring or restoring public order, as against the known practice maintaining security “during peaceful mass events such as festivals and processions”. However, it finds that “in most instances, this has been tantamount to preventing or quashing protests, riots, or collective violence”.

In India, the institutional variables, the study reads, play a significant role in the expansion of network shutdowns as a form of information control. “Before August 2017, shutdowns were executed primarily under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure — a legal provision with roots in the British Raj which grants states broad powers to prevent or disperse unlawful assemblies during curfews,” it reads.

The internet blackouts are perceived as a logical extension of curfews and measures whose purpose is to inhibit public gatherings. The study concludes to position India “as an extreme case in several respects”.

“India’s contribution to their total count has never been smaller than 23 percent, with a clear increasing trend,” the study has found. Globally, India is “one of the few democracies to have exercised the power to shut down communication networks”.

With the increasing number of internet blackouts, the study has found that the “public dissent in India has also been on a steady upward trajectory, with every previous year surpassing the number of events in the previous”.

“In many ways, India is a Petri dish of information control in the developing world,” the study says in its concluding remarks.

[“source=news18”]

T-Mobile opens a home internet trial in rural and underserved areas

T-Mobile is rolling out home internet service with an invitation-only trial starting today. It hopes to connect 50,000 homes in rural and underserved areas through the LTE program this year.

The pilot, which is for existing customers, will reach areas where T-Mobile expects to offer connection speeds of around 50 Mbps. The $50/month service has no data caps, annual contracts, equipment costs or hidden fees. Those who sign up will receive a router T-Mobile says is easy to set up, and they’ll have support from a customer service team.

The pilot is a precursor to T-Mobile’s grander home internet plans. If the merger with Sprint is approved, it aims to switch on 5G home internet service in more than half of US zip codes by 2024, offering download speeds of more than 100 Mbps. The planned network will be able to support home internet in 9.5 million households by that time — those goals could sweeten the merger for the FCC, which is seeking to close the broadband gap.

Almost half of US residents have “no competitive choice” for home broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps, T-Mobile says. The rural broadbandproblem has also been well documented, with millions of Americansunable to access high-speed internet. Meanwhile, some T-Mobile rivals are also moving into the home internet market. Verizon (owner of Engadget’s parent company, Verizon Media) is taking a different strategy, having opened up 5G service in select parts of some cities.

[“source=engadget”]

Internet users in India to reach 627 million in 2019: Report

TechIndia’s internet users expected to register double digit growth to reach 627 million in 2019, driven by rapid internet growth in rural areas, market research agency Kantar IMRB Wednesday said.

Internet usage in the country has exceeded half a billion people for first time, pegged at 566 million, driven by rural internet growth and usage.

In its ICUBE 2018 report that tracks digital adoption and usage trends in India, it noted that the number of internet users in India has registered an annual growth of 18 percent and is estimated at 566 million as of December 2018, a 40 percent overall internet penetration, it observed.

It projected a double digit growth for 2019 and estimates that the number of internet users will reach 627 million by the end of this year.

Of the total user base, 87 percent or 493 million Indians, are defined as regular users, having accessed internet in last 30 days. Nearly 293 million active internet users reside in urban India, while there are 200 million active users in rural India, it said.

The report found that 97 percent of users use mobile phone as one of the devices to access internet.

While internet users grew by 7 percent in urban India, reaching 315 million users in 2018, digital adoption is now being propelled by rural India, registering a 35 percent growth in internet users over the past year.

It is now estimated that there are 251 million internet users in rural India, and this is expected to reach 290 million by the end of 2019, the report said.

“Increased availability of bandwidth, cheap data plans and increased awareness driven by government programmes seem to have rapidly bridged the digital gap between urban and rural India. Consequently, the penetration in rural India has increased from 9 per cent in 2015 to 25 percent in 2018,” it added.

Bihar registered the highest growth in internet users across both urban and rural areas, registering a growth of 35 percent over last year.

The report also noted that the internet usage is more gender balanced than ever before with women comprising 42 percent of total internet users.

“It is fascinating to note that the digital revolution is now sweeping small towns and villages perhaps driven by increased accessibility at affordable data costs. The increase in the usage of digital in rural India, where more than two-thirds of active internet users are now accessing the internet daily to meet their entertainment and communication needs,” KantarIMRB managing director Media and Digital Hemant Mehta said.

Marketers have a big opportunity today where they can use digital to reach their consumers both in urban and rural India, Mehta said.

[“source=economictimes.indiatimes.”]

Securing the “internet of things” in the quantum age

MIT researchers have developed a novel chip that can compute complex quantum-proof encryption schemes efficiently enough to protect low-power “internet of things” (IoT) devices.

MIT researchers have developed a novel cryptography circuit that can be used to protect low-power “internet of things” (IoT) devices in the coming age of quantum computing.

Quantum computers can in principle execute calculations that today are practically impossible for classical computers. Bringing quantum computers online and to market could one day enable advances in medical research, drug discovery, and other applications. But there’s a catch: If hackers also have access to quantum computers, they could potentially break through the powerful encryption schemes that currently protect data exchanged between devices.

Today’s most promising quantum-resistant encryption scheme is called “lattice-based cryptography,” which hides information in extremely complicated mathematical structures. To date, no known quantum algorithm can break through its defenses. But these schemes are way too computationally intense for IoT devices, which can only spare enough energy for simple data processing.

In a paper presented at the recent International Solid-State Circuits Conference, MIT researchers describe a novel circuit architecture and statistical optimization tricks that can be used to efficiently compute lattice-based cryptography. The 2-millimeter-squared chips the team developed are efficient enough for integration into any current IoT device.

The architecture is customizable to accommodate the multiple lattice-based schemes currently being studied in preparation for the day that quantum computers come online. “That might be a few decades from now, but figuring out if these techniques are really secure takes a long time,” says first author Utsav Banerjee, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science. “It may seem early, but earlier is always better.”

Moreover, the researchers say, the circuit is the first of its kind to meet standards for lattice-based cryptography set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that finds and writes regulations for today’s encryption schemes.

Joining Banerjee on the paper are Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Abhishek Pathak of the Indian Institute of Technology.

Efficient sampling

In the mid-1990s, MIT Professor Peter Shor developed a quantum algorithm that can essentially break through all modern cryptography schemes. Since then, NIST has been trying to find the most secure postquantum encryption schemes. This happens in phases; each phase winnows down a list of the most secure and practical schemes. Two weeks ago, the agency entered its second phase for postquantum cryptography, with lattice-based schemes making up half of its list.

In the new study, the researchers first implemented on commercial microprocessors several NIST lattice-based cryptography schemes from the agency’s first phase. This revealed two bottlenecks for efficiency and performance: generating random numbers and data storage.

Generating random numbers is the most important part of all cryptography schemes, because those numbers are used to generate secure encryption keys that can’t be predicted. That’s calculated through a two-part process called “sampling.”

Sampling first generates pseudorandom numbers from a known, finite set of values that have an equal probability of being selected. Then, a “postprocessing” step converts those pseudorandom numbers into a different probability distribution with a specified standard deviation — a limit for how much the values can vary from one another — that randomizes the numbers further. Basically, the random numbers must satisfy carefully chosen statistical parameters. This difficult mathematical problem consumes about 80 percent of all computation energy needed for lattice-based cryptography.

After analyzing all available methods for sampling, the researchers found that one method, called SHA-3, can generate many pseudorandom numbers two or three times more efficiently than all others. They tweaked SHA-3 to handle lattice-based cryptography sampling. On top of this, they applied some mathematical tricks to make pseudorandom sampling, and the postprocessing conversion to new distributions, faster and more efficient.

They run this technique using energy-efficient custom hardware that takes up only 9 percent of the surface area of their chip. In the end, this makes the process of sampling two orders of magnitude more efficient than traditional methods.

Splitting the data

On the hardware side, the researchers made innovations in data flow. Lattice-based cryptography processes data in vectors, which are tables of a few hundred or thousand numbers. Storing and moving those data requires physical memory components that take up around 80 percent of the hardware area of a circuit.

Traditionally, the data are stored on a single two-or four-port random access memory (RAM) device. Multiport devices enable the high data throughput required for encryption schemes, but they take up a lot of space.

For their circuit design, the researchers modified a technique called “number theoretic transform” (NTT), which functions similarly to the Fourier transform mathematical technique that decomposes a signal into the multiple frequencies that make it up. The modified NTT splits vector data and allocates portions across four single-port RAM devices. Each vector can still be accessed in its entirety for sampling as if it were stored on a single multiport device. The benefit is the four single-port REM devices occupy about a third less total area than one multiport device.

“We basically modified how the vector is physically mapped in the memory and modified the data flow, so this new mapping can be incorporated into the sampling process. Using these architecture tricks, we reduced the energy consumption and occupied area, while maintaining the desired throughput,” Banerjee says.

The circuit also incorporates a small instruction memory component that can be programmed with custom instructions to handle different sampling techniques — such as specific probability distributions and standard deviations — and different vector sizes and operations. This is especially helpful, as lattice-based cryptography schemes will most likely change slightly in the coming years and decades.

Adjustable parameters can also be used to optimize efficiency and security. The more complex the computation, the lower the efficiency, and vice versa. In their paper, the researchers detail how to navigate these tradeoffs with their adjustable parameters. Next, the researchers plan to tweak the chip to run all the lattice-based cryptography schemes listed in NIST’s second phase.

The work was supported by Texas Instruments and the TSMC University Shuttle Program.

[“source=news.mit.edu”]

Former Astronaut Jumps Into Australian Internet of Things Startup

Shuttle flight STS-120, which Pam Melroy commanded, is most famous for helping to repair a torn solar array on the International Space Station. Pictured here is NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski.NASA

Pam Melroy was commanding a space shuttle crew at the International Space Station in 2007 when a big problem occurred. The astronauts were unfurling a solar array when they saw something seriously wrong — a tear was forming between the solar panels. The “fix” NASA decided on was a spectacular spacewalk, where Scott Parazynski rode a robotic arm to carefully stitch the array together with a tool the crew fashioned in orbit.

It’s an experience that Melroy will draw upon in her new position, as a board advisor to Myriota — an Australian company planning to build an Internet-of-things platform where devices can connect directly with satellites above. It’s a technology that could create efficiencies in farming crops or sending information, Melroy argues, and it all starts with creating the right culture as a team.

Space teamwork skills easily translate to startup teamwork skills that Myriota will need, Melroy said. The company is at a point where it is scaling from a small group of key people to a larger employee base, due in large part to closing a Series A round of $15 million last year. Hiring people needs to be done strategically, with business goals in mind, Melroy argued.

Melroy added she has faith the company is on the right path, after many conversations with co-founder and chief executive Alex Grant. The company is starting pilot programs, and they now have a satellite of their own that is dedicated to the IoT technology, she said.

Myriota plans a rapid ramp-up of its customer base from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands in the next year, Melroy added. She says they will most likely hit that target as Australian companies tend not to make announcements until the infrastructure is in place to support their claims. (She joked it is a different situation from the United States.)

Former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy during training for her last mission, shuttle flight STS-120.NASA

Melroy has a broad base of experience to draw upon as she works in Australia, which she visited several times in the past year to advise industry and government on growing their space program. (It was during this time that she first met Myriota, joking “I couldn’t stump” the executive team with hard questions.)

From her time at NASA supporting other astronauts and flying three shuttle missions, as well as her decades of experience in the U.S. Air Force, Melroy said she received “a lot of leadership experience at all levels, including the executive,” especially in building culture.

Melroy was the deputy director of Lockheed Martin’s Orion program immediately after leaving NASA, between 2009 and 2011. She then joined the Federal Aviation Administration in 2011 as a senior technical advisor and director of field operations for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. “That gave me the insight into regulatory and policy aspects, especially as it impacts new technology,” she said.

Melroy subsequently worked at DARPA as deputy director of the tactical technology office, a position that she says helped her gauge if a technology is really cutting edge. She also talked with businesses and startups while at DARPA, which helped her “gain an appreciation of what some of their challenges and opportunities are.”

Myriota’s differentiator, she said, is offering is direct-to-orbit services, bypassing the base station that other IoT companies provide. It not only is more convenient for the end user, but it also drives down costs.

“The agriculture here in Australia, there’s an estimate that it could be 50 percent more productive with an integration of IoT technologies,” she said, as farmers get more refined information about soil moisture and animal locations. “But from a productivity standpoint, for almost every industry, this is also a big deal.”

 

[“source=forbes”]