Tech Giants Tap Into Autism Community for Fresh Talent

Posted May 26th, 2017 at 1:30 am (UTC-4)
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Software engineer, Philip Jarvis, who has Asperger's Syndrome, works on Microsoft's HoloLens mixed-reality device at Redmond, Washington. (Microsoft © Brian Smale)

Software engineer, Philip Jarvis, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, works on Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed-reality device at Redmond, Washington. (Microsoft © Brian Smale)

One percent of the world’s population is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, a group of complex brain development disabilities. Most are unemployed or under-employed. But several tech companies are now actively courting autistic workers for their unique skills, particularly suited for computing.

Adults on the Autism spectrum excel with analytical skills. They have an eye for detail, exceptional focus, and tolerance for repetition that wears down non-autistic workers. These individuals “tend to thrive in tech-related professions,” said Oliver Thornton, CEO and co-founder of Coding Autism, a for-profit social enterprise that trains adults on the autism spectrum in technology-related skills.

“Someone on the spectrum tends to be more prone to focusing for a longer period of time and not having the mental fatigue to be able to do that task exceptionally,” he said in an interview with Techtonics.

Despite their academic achievement and intelligence, more than 80 percent of autistic adults around the world are either unemployed or underemployed, by U.N. estimates. And the numbers are rising.

“What’s going to happen in 15, 20 years,” asked Thornton, “… when we have a major population on the autism spectrum and they can’t find jobs adequately?”

“There’s a very significant and under-utilized source of talent out there – people that have the right education, the right experience, the right credentials, and that could add value to our companies every day,” said Jose Velasco, head of the Autism at Work program at SAP, a firm that creates software solutions for businesses.

Most of these candidates don’t even make it past the job interview process.

To tackle the problem, several tech companies, including SAP, Microsoft, and Coding Autism, have put in place training and hiring initiatives to attract autistic individuals as part of a much larger effort.

An employee demonstrates a Lego Mindstorm robot he built as part of the Autism at Work training curriculum intended to see how prospective employees problems. (SAP)

An employee demonstrates a LEGO Mindstorm robot he built as part of the Autism at Work training. The curriculum is designed to see how prospective employees tackle problems. (SAP)

Coding Autism plans to train a maximum of 15 students later this year or early next year. Its specialized curriculum teaches autistic students skills that are in high demand and that “align with their characteristics,” said Thornton, who is also on the autism spectrum. The training helps them find jobs in web development, quality assurance, advanced software skills, and cybersecurity, to name a few.

Students also learn social and job skills, financial management, and career counseling to help them look for work in the technology sector and make it through the job interview process.

Microsoft, SAP, and Hewlett Packard have similar programs with strong support systems. According to Thornton, a lot of the talent these companies look for is in cybersecurity. HP, he added, was so impressed with the outstanding performance of autistic employees that it ramped up recruiting for adults on the spectrum with cybersecurity skills.

Launched in 2013, SAP’s Autism at Work program was driven by a number of factors, including high turnover rates in the tech industry and the significant cost of replacing departing employees – somewhere between “40 to 100 percent of a person that is productive already – yearly salary,” Velasco said in an interview with Techtonics.

Autism at Work trains and hires adults on the autism spectrum in nine countries, including India, Argentina, and Brazil, the U.S., and several European countries. The program prepares candidates for job interviews and provides them with the resources and structure they need to succeed in software testing, graphic design, customer support, software development, cybersecurity, and other areas.

Jeff Wang, a SAP employee participating in the Autism at Work training program, learns how to use presentation tool Prezi and shares an overview of what he learned in training with a room full of managers. (SAP)

Jeff Wang, a SAP employee participating in the Autism at Work training program, learns how to use presentation tool Prezi and shares an overview of what he learned in training with a room full of managers. (SAP)

It is a surreal feeling of not only making a living, but also feeling valued that I get [to] share my perspectives and learn new skills,” he said in an email. “It also means feeling assured that I have a strong support system and resourceful connections who [are] always willing to help – SAP Employee Jeff Wang

“We are capturing really very smart, very brilliant people,” said Velasco. “… Our colleagues are doing a fantastic job because they have a very strong attention to detail on tasks that require a lot of concentration.”

For a high-tech company like SAP, fresh talent and perspectives are crucial for innovation. “New products are only created when you bring in different perspectives into the creative process,” he added.

“The diversity of our workforce and inclusion of talented people from different backgrounds is the fuel that keeps the engines of innovation and growth running,” said Microsoft’s Director of Inclusive Hiring and Accessibility, Neil Barnett, in an email.

Microsoft, which started an autism hiring program in 2015 to increase workforce diversity and utilize untapped potential, already has 32 autistic candidates on board as software engineers and data scientists, among other roles. They receive the same benefits and compensations as full-time employees.

“People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, such as pattern recognition, the ability to think at a very high level of detail and depth, and/or excel in math or code,” said Barnett.

The program was created with a focus on adjusting Microsoft’s hiring process “to better suit the needs of people with autism.” It is “a unique way to find qualified candidates who were not making it to Microsoft through a traditional interview process,” he said.

Microsoft’s autism program and those at SAP and Coding Autism are slowly falling under a bigger umbrella – a nascent school of thought that argues that “neurodiversity” is a natural condition of the human genome.

Earlier this year, SAP held its second Autism at Work Summit, with participation from technology and private firms, the public sector, academia, and philanthropy to promote neurodiversity and encourage more companies to consider hiring autism spectrum job seekers.

“It is not only the right thing to do,” said Velasco, “but it’s going to accelerate the implementation of these programs and also the accuracy – the way in which they are implemented.”

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

‘WannaCry’ Clues Point to China as New Vulnerability Raises Red Flags

Posted May 25th, 2017 at 1:32 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, is seen on laptop in Beijing, China, May 13, 2017. (AP)

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, is seen on laptop in Beijing, China, May 13, 2017. (AP)

WannaCry Ransom Note Analysis Points to Chinese-speaking Perpetrator

Cybersecurity experts continue to comb through evidence to identify the criminals who launched the global ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack. While initial speculation linked the attackers to North Korea, researchers at cybersecurity firm Flashpoint now say Chinese speakers could be behind the English and Chinese versions of the ransom notes that popped up on computer screens in 28 languages. Minor typos in the Chinese version suggest the ransom note was typed on a Chinese-language input system, and a grammatical mistake in the English version suggests the author is not a native English speaker.

Newly Discovered Vulnerability Raises Fears of Another ‘WannaCry’

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Rapid7 have detected a vulnerability in Samba networking software that could leave thousands of computers vulnerable to attack. Rapid7 found more than 100,000 Linux and UNIX computers running Samba around the world. If exploited, the vulnerability could allow hackers to take remote control of affected computers.

Study Suggests Users More Rational on Smartphones Than PCs

A new study featured in the journal Computers in Human Behavior hypothesizes that people are likely to make more rational decisions on smartphones that focus their attention on a single task, blocking out outside information. The researchers say PC users are more open to outside information and tend to rely more on emotional decision making.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Social Media Access Urged After UK Attack; New Ransomware Detected

Posted May 24th, 2017 at 2:10 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - 3-D plastic representations of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube logos are seen in front of an IS flag in this photo illustration shot. (Reuters)

FILE – 3-D plastic representations of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube logos are seen in front of an IS flag in this photo illustration shot. (Reuters)

UK Takes on Social Media Giants After Manchester Terror Attack

U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has urged social media services like Facebook and Twitter to tackle terrorism posts and give law enforcement access to encrypted messages. The appeal followed an Islamic State terrorist attack at a Manchester pop concert that left 22 people dead on Monday. Facebook and Twitter declined to comment.

New Major Ransomware Threat Appears Days After ‘WannaCry’

Researchers at ESET security firm have discovered a new ransomware threat dubbed XData. The malware started showing up on May 17 and has been largely observed in Ukraine. The virus spreads through a Ukrainian document automation system used in accounting. ESET, which has been tracking XData, says infection rates are still low. Some decryption keys for this ransomware already exist on the BleepingComputer.com forum.

10 Ways to Protect Your Windows PCs Against Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and you’ll find yourself in a trouble if are caught off-guard without a separate, viable backup of your computer files. Writer Jesus Vigo offers some guidelines to help PC users protect themselves before any ransom demands pop up on their computer screens.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Samsung’s Iris Scanner Fooled; N. Korea Denies ‘WannaCry Role’

Posted May 23rd, 2017 at 12:25 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

The iris scanner function of the Samsung Galaxy S8 is displayed, Monday, April 17, 2017, in New York. (AP)

The iris scanner function of the Samsung Galaxy S8 is displayed, April 17, 2017, in New York. (AP)

Hackers Unlock Samsung Galaxy S8 With Fake Iris

Samsung’s latest Galaxy S8 smartphone includes an iris scanner for users to lock and access their devices. But as previously demonstrated with fingerprints, biometric security measures can also be hacked. Researchers from the Chaos Computer Club were able to do just that. They took a night-mode picture of the target, manipulated it for depth, and then put a contact lens of top of it, thereby fooling the iris scanner and unlocking the smartphone.

Facebook Responds to Leak of Its Moderator Rules: ‘We Get Things Wrong’

Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, has responded to Monday’s report by The Guardian that published leaked documents about what content should or should not appear on the social network’s website. In her response, Brickert said Facebook sometimes gets things wrong, but it is “constantly working to make sure that happens less often” and finding the right answers to address issues relating to graphic content or other objectionable material making it to the site.

Cybersleuths Find More Clues Linking WannaCry to North Korea

Cybersecurity firms Symantec and FireEye say new evidence links North Korea to the massive ransomware attack known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt that wreaked havoc around the world. Symantec and FireEye researchers say the software code used in the attack is identical to earlier versions used by hacking group Lazarus, which is linked to the North Korean government. But Symantec also says the WannaCry attack is more typical of a cybercrime and does not bear “the hallmarks of a nation-state campaign.” North Korea has denied the allegation.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Junub Games Reaches for Peace as South Sudan Wages War

Posted May 19th, 2017 at 11:30 am (UTC-4)
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A screenshot from the mobile game 'Salaam' or 'Peace.' The game encourages players to be peacemakers as they destroy the implements of war. (Lual Mayen)

A screenshot from the mobile game ‘Salaam’. The game encourages players to be peacemakers as they destroy the implements of war. (Lual Mayen)

Political feuds and ethnic violence in South Sudan have displaced more than 1.5 million people. Among them is a software engineer determined to push past hate to promote peace through games.

“Hate is one of the things that is inciting violence in South Sudan right now,” Lual Mayen, a game developer from Juba, South Sudan, told Techtonics.

Living in a refugee camp in Uganda, Mayen saw first-hand the consequences of hate-mongering and ethnic conflict, undeterred by numerous cease-fires and peace talks. All efforts to reconcile the Dinka and Nuer tribes, at odds since former Dinka Vice President Salva Kiir was dismissed in 2013, had failed. Change was necessary. As a game developer, Mayen was determined to help educate the country’s youth.

Two thirds of South Sudan’s population is under the age of 30. “They are not educated,” he lamented, “and their [lack of knowledge] is killing the country.”

So he founded Junub Games, a nonprofit organization that turns out video and board games with a singular focus on peace building. Within months, he released ‘Salaam,’ a mobile game whose name means ‘peace.’

A child play's 'Salaam,' or 'peace', a game intended to encourage children to fight hate. (Lual Mayen)

A child plays ‘Salaam,’ a game intended to encourage children to fight hate. (Lual Mayen)

The game lets users play as one of South Sudan’s warring parties. But it also gives them the opportunity to push for peace – and rewards them for it.

“It’s a game that made the player to become a peacemaker,” he said. “So I designed it in a way that it is a war game. And the wars will come – they can destroy the buildings and also destroy the people. But as a player … you have to stop all the war tools for world peace.”

Players earn points for destroying all the tools of war. If you win, “the game congratulates you as a peacemaker and also congratulates you with different types of peace messages,” he said.

A screenshot from Junub Games' the mobile Game 'Hate Cop.' (Lual Mayen)

A screenshot from Junub Games’ mobile app, ‘Hate Cop.’ The game is still being developed. (Lual Mayen)

Mayen’s latest crowdfunded mobile game, ‘Hate Cop,’ teaches young people about the dangers of hate speech. Players can take on the roles of opposing tribes or play as members of the same tribe. They rack up points when they get peace words and lose points for every hate word they draw.

The words were compiled from a lexicon on hate speech with help from PeaceTech Lab, a nonprofit that works to inspire “a new industry of peacetech entrepreneurs,” much like Mayen.

When he was in Uganda, one of Mayen’s friends told him about a partnership between PeaceTech Lab, C5 Accelerate, and Amazon Web Services called PeaceTech Accelerator, an international, eight-week mentoring program dedicated to scaling startups around the world.

Startups are selected based on their ability to produce innovative technologies that manage, mitigate, predict, or prevent conflict and promote sustainable peace.

Mayen applied and was recently in Washington D.C. to learn from TechAccelerator’s mentors about managing and expanding his business, and publishing games to the cloud.

During his stay, he had access to “potential investors, free office space, and entry into the Accelerator’s alumni network,” said Nancy Payne, PeaceTech Lab’s Vice President, in an email.

Mayen hopes this puts Junub Games on a path to change the “hearts and minds” of people and teach them to forgo hate and violence, not just in South Sudan, but eventually in other regions as well.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

The Cost of Sharing WhatsApp’s Data; APT3 Hackers Linked to Beijing

Posted May 18th, 2017 at 1:02 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

This combination of file pictures created on Dec. 20, 2016 shows the logos of WhatsApp (top) and Facebook. (AFP)

FILE – This combination of file pictures shows the logos of WhatsApp (top) and Facebook. (AFP)

Facebook Fined $122M in Europe for Misleading WhatsApp Filing

European Commission antitrust regulators slapped Facebook Thursday with $122 million in fines for providing “inaccurate or misleading” information for the vetting of its $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. The Commission said Facebook claimed it could not automatically match WhatsApp user accounts on its platform, but then turned around and said it would do just that. It then introduced controversial changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy that allowed it to harvest user data. The fine, however, does not reverse the Commission’s decision to clear the WhatsApp purchase.

Study: Virtual Digital Assistants Will Overtake World Population by 2021

Virtual, AI-driven digital assistants are the next frontier in tech rivalry and are projected to see significant growth in coming years. Market research and consulting firm Ovum claims more than 7.5 billion active devices will have digital assistants installed by 2021. Asia and Oceania are projected to have 47.6 percent of voice AI-capable devices in use by that time. China’s virtual assistants were already installed on around 43 million devices in 2016 and more are coming.

Report Links APT3 Hackers to Chinese Government

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future say members of the APT3 criminal hacking group, who previously exploited zero-day vulnerabilities in Windows operating systems, are on the payroll of the Chinese Ministry of State Security. The allegation is based on the discovery of two names – Wu Yingzhuo and Dong Hao – who had registered domain names used by hackers. The two individuals are allegedly linked to the Chinese Ministry of State Security.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Apple Starts Production in India; WannaCry Infects Medical Devices

Posted May 17th, 2017 at 11:12 am (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - Men on motorbikes ride by an Apple iPhone SE advertisement billboard in Mumbai, India, April 26, 2016. (Reuters)

FILE – Men on motorbikes ride by an Apple iPhone SE advertisement billboard in Mumbai, India. (Reuters)

Apple Starts Assembling iPhones in India

Apple has confirmed it is beginning initial production of its iPhone SE models in Bengaluru, India. The first batch will start shipping to local customers this month. Apple has been courting India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market, for some time in an effort to retake a portion of that business from China. The local production could help mitigate the cost of the iPhone SE, but at $220, it will still cost more than the average handset.

WannaCry Ransomware Infected Medical Devices in American Hospitals

Little talked about in the midst of the massive WannaCry ransomware attack that hit more than 150 countries this past week is its effect on medical devices attached to Windows computers that got locked down for ransom. In the 48 U.K. hospitals and an unknown number of U.S. medical facilities that were infected, radiology equipment and devices that monitor imaging scans were also hacked. According to writer Thomas Fox-Brewster, this is the first incident of ransomware directly affecting the operation of a medical device.

WHO Report: Rise in Screen Time Risks UK Children’s Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm over increased use of digital devices, particularly among children. In a new study in England, Wales and Scotland, WHO said the data show more than three-quarters of children between the ages of 11 and 15 are using digital devices for more than two or more hours during weekdays. The lead author of the study, Dr. Jo Inchley, said some of the risks of increased screen time and social media use include sleep deprivation and cyberbullying. Inactivity adds the risk for long-term cardiovascular disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

WannaCry Blame Game Points to North Korea

Posted May 16th, 2017 at 1:55 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, is seen on laptop in Beijing, China, May 13, 2017. (AP)

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, Beijing, China, May 13, 2017. (AP)

The finger-pointing is underway in the massive WannaCry or WannaCrypt ransomware attack that affected nearly 150 countries, with security researchers suggesting North Korean hackers might be behind it and Microsoft blaming the U.S. government.

The hackers allegedly used tools leaked by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system and lock down affected PCs until $300 in bitcoin ransom is paid. And while Microsoft has chided the NSA for stockpiling cybersecurity vulnerabilities, some security experts say the tech giant’s criticism is unreasonable.

There are now indications that some North Korean hackers might be behind the attack. Google security researcher Neel Meht says WannaCry appears to have code similar to work done by Lazarus Group hackers, linked to North Korea. The same group was blamed for the 2016 hack of a Bangladeshi bank and the 2014 Sony hack.

But researchers still haven’t puzzled out all the characteristics of WannaCry. So far, most experts have attributed the malware to phishing emails containing malicious links or attachments. But IBM Security’s Caleb Barlow told Reuters his team’s search through a database of more than 1 billion e-mails dating back to March found nothing relating to the attack, which is statistically unusual.

Other experts also agree that there is nothing to indicate how the first WannaCry infection took place.

In another development, the group suspected of leaking a spy toolkit used by the NSA – including some that were used in the WannaCry ransomware attack, has threatened to deploy yet another batch of spy tools.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

‘Smart Cities’ Are Not Just About Technology

Posted May 12th, 2017 at 11:30 am (UTC-4)
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FILE - he Yokohama Smart City Project uses Smart Grid technology and solar panels to help cut energy consumption in homes and businesses to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, Dec. 2, 2016. (AP)

FILE – The Yokohama Smart City Project uses Smart Grid technology and solar panels to help cut energy consumption in homes and businesses to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050, Dec. 2, 2016. (AP)

‘Smart cities’ or high-tech communities are popping up in parts of the developing world to connect citizens, spur economic development, and provide better services. But some experts caution that these smart hubs are more about sustainability and quality of life than the technology that supports them.

‘Smart cities’ is hardly a term everyone agrees on and does not necessarily refer only to urban centers. For Cisco’s Anil Menon, Global President of Smart+ Connected Communities, smart cities are just that – Smart+ Communities in both urban and rural areas.

And for Carlo Ratti, Director of the SENSEable City Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they are SENSEable Cities. “I like to imagine that our cities are becoming ‘SENSEable’ with its double meaning, both ‘able to sense’ and ‘sensible,’ he said in an email.

So what is a smart or SENSEable city? According to Ratti, it is “simply the manifestation of a broad technological trend.”

That means the internet “is entering the environment we live in and is becoming Internet of Things, allowing us to interact with the space around us in new ways,” he added. “Applications are manifold: from energy to waste management, from mobility to water distribution, from city planning to citizen engagement.”

For the moment, Europe is leading experiments with smart cities concepts to maintain and enhance the quality of life for its citizens. But developing countries like India, South Africa, Indonesia and others are not far behind.

“Five years ago, we had to explain to get people to be interested in smart cities,” Menon told Techtonics. “In India, for example, or even Indonesia, you don’t have to talk about smart cities, everybody’s asking ‘where do we get started?'”

But he cautioned that smart cities should not be synonymous with digitization and technology, particularly in developing countries that need to focus on creating a standard of living, promoting the middle class, and providing jobs. “That is the worst way to look at smart cities. Smart cities is not about technologies.”

Ratti agreed. While technology provides the backbone for smart or SENSEable city planning, he said it should not be an end in itself. “It must remain a means” to facilitate new applications to improve the quality of life.

FILE - A man brushes his teeth outside a shanty in Dharavi, one of the world's largest slums, in Mumbai, India, Dec. 27, 2016. (Reuters)

FILE – A man brushes his teeth outside a shanty in Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums, in Mumbai, India, Dec. 27, 2016. (Reuters)

Take for instance Dharavi in India, one of the world’s biggest slums. Dharavi, as Menon noted, is blanketed by smartphones feeding a $9 billion economy, but residents have no clean water or health care.

“Can we use a digital technology and leverage capacities in cities to deliver urban services into rural areas so you don’t disrupt families and you don’t disrupt the rural communities, especially in emerging markets?” he asked. “In other words, can we redefine the whole proposition that you need to move into cities in order to create economic development?

A transformation is already taking place. In South Africa, for example, the Stellenbosch Innovation District on the outskirts of Cape Town, has been testing initiatives like electronic hubs where residents can download educational content, and “smart shacks” – easy to assemble, fire-proof homes that generate solar energy.

And in the Indian city of Bangalore, a health startup has been working with Cisco to set up long-distance radiology services so that even patients outside the country can have remote access to pediatric radiology consultation and information, using immersive technologies and video.

“Those are the kinds of things that you’ll see in emerging markets … creative ways that people are figuring out how to deliver services remotely,” said Menon, potentially disrupting urbanization trends and creating “satellite cities” – small towns and mid-sized cities where residents could have “all have the services that you could not otherwise have gotten.”

(Cisco)

In Jaipur, the government has been working with Cisco to digitize parts of the ancient city, a major tourist attraction and religious destination.

Cisco chose Jaipur as a “lighthouse” city to deploy cameras, traffic management systems, and apps that tourists can download for information to travel safely. Police, traffic control, and other entities monitor the connected neighborhood on video cameras for parking and security. Collected analytics data help the government identify needs for new services and solicit feedback from citizens.

But in some developing regions, infrastructure, or lack of, can be a challenge. The Indian city of Hyderabad, for example, has created a public-private partnership to deploy some of the needed technologies. But archaic regulations and concerns of corruption in the procurement process “have created the environment where true public-private partnership is extraordinarily difficult.”

“Most emerging markets have regulations designed not even for the electrical world, it’s for the mechanical world,” he said. “They haven’t updated their regulations in the last 100 years. … You need new standards, new regulations, new public-private partnerships, and most importantly, a focus on security. … The thing is to be proactive in creating these conditions.”

As more ‘smart’ hubs crop up, they will be large and small, urban and rural. Some will have higher population densities, while others will be sparsely populated. “What will change dramatically,” said Ratti, “will be our way to experience the city, at the convergence of the digital and physical world – and this is going to be exciting!”

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Keylogger Found on HP Laptops; Is Facebook Out of Touch?

Posted May 11th, 2017 at 12:43 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE – The Hewlett-Packard (HP) logo is seen as part of a display at the Microsoft Ignite technology conference in Chicago, Illinois. (Reuters)

‘Keylogger’ Found on Several HP Laptops

A security researcher at Swiss firm Modzero has uncovered an audio driver on HP laptops with a keylogger feature that records every keystroke. Anyone with local access to the affected computer could comprise passwords and other data. The logging activity was discovered in the Conexant HD audio driver package on HP business and enterprise models. Those include HP Elitebook, ProBook, ZBook, and the Folio G1 laptop.

Microsoft Build 2017 Day 2

The Microsoft Build 2017 developer conference entered its second day Thursday, with a focus on the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10, new cloud-based features, mixed reality systems, and universal apps. In Wednesday’s session, Microsoft focused on its Azure cloud platform, artificial intelligence, and cross-device integration.

Facebook’s Mobile App Has Gotten Too Complicated for Old People Like Me

Writer Chris O’Brian argues Facebook has lost sight of simplicity with the latest version of its mobile app, making even the act of taking a photo much more complicated than it needs to be. The app used to be “relatively simple and elegant,” says O’Brian, but now it is a “hyperactive Snapchat clone” for people who don’t use Snapchat. Writer Jack Morse goes further by suggesting that users should delete their Facebook app. In his view, Facebook has become “shockingly out of touch with what it means to be human.”

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.