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By Fiza Ali
Google is lending support to India to deal with COVID-19 crisis
by Fiza Ali
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on India and with that, many have come forward to lend a helping hand. Governments, organizations, and individuals have joined forces to help the people of India deal with this health crisis and large-scale pandemic emergencies. In this ordeal, the tech giant, Google, has also made sure to support India by providing the right tools people require to keep up to date with the latest information and research about COVID-19. The company also announced grants worth $18 million to aid emergency relief work, in April, through Google.org.
Google has played a key role in aiding the non-profit organizations working in India to get urgent help to the people in need along with strengthening public health campaigns and providing authentic health information. With a major focus on rural areas of India, Google is working towards developing workforce and healthcare infrastructure as the country is emerging from the health crisis it faced during the past months. It is also aiding ARMMAN, Apollo Medskills, PATH, and GiveIndia to develop oxygen generation plants.
With new grants worth $15 million to PATH and GiveIndia, Google.org will also be aiding in the procurement and installation of almost 80 oxygen generation plants in healthcare facilities located in rural and high-need areas. Both the organizations, PATH and GiveIndia, will collaborate to supervise the oxygen generation project. Google will aid Apollo Medskills as well to give frontline health workers specialized training in COVID-19 management.
Google has also committed to providing a $500,000 grant to the non-profit organization, ARMMAN that will provide skill development programs to 40,000 Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in 15 states of India.
Linus Torvalds asks COVID vaccine conspiracy theorist to "SHUT THE HELL UP"
by Sayan Sen
Image via Gizmodo Linus Torvalds is the biggest man in the Linux community. But he is also popular for being perhaps one of the most outspoken in the entire tech landscape. To add to the feathers in his hat, Torvalds today asked a man to "SHUT THE HELL UP".
On 19th April, a thread called "Maintainers / Kernel Summit 2021 planning kick-off" was started to talk about the yearly Maintainers and Kernel Summit for 2021. When the discussion strayed towards COVID-19 vaccination, one of the posters named Enrico Weigelt alleged that the ongoing vaccination drive is, in reality, a "generic human experiment that basically creates a new humanoid race".
Here's what Enrico Weigelt wrote:
Clearly unamused by this humanoid conspiracy theory and also on its discussion in a Linux kernel topic thread, Torvalds weighed in quite heavily with some very strong language mixed with some biology lessons for the person. Here are parts of what Linus wrote:
You can find Linus Torvalds' full response in the source link below.
Source: LKML (1, 2)
By Usama Jawad96
Google will show regional vaccination-related search trends to U.S. health officials soon
by Usama Jawad
Tech companies have been updating their tools and technologies in the past year or so to aid in vaccine distribution and provide easy access to information on the topic to the general public. Today, Google has announced that it will soon be releasing new tools to further enhance this process.
First up is a COVID-19 Vaccination Search Insights tool for public health officials in the U.S. This is in response to health authorities wanting access to data about what kind of information their local communities need from them in order to hasten and simplify the vaccination process. This tool caters to this need by showing search trends across three categories: all vaccine information, searches indicating intent to get vaccinated, and those about safety and side effects. These trends will be at a county or zip code level and will be updated on a weekly basis.
Google has emphasized that user privacy will not be violated because the tool will utilize differential privacy to add noise to the data without significantly affecting its overall quality. As such, all data will be anonymized at a user level and will be aggregated in such a way that even though comparisons across various regions are possible, the number of search queries fired by an individual region is not.
Secondly, Google has collaborated with Ariadne Labs by providing it data to develop a Vaccine Equity Planner dashboard which combines data from various sources to show areas where people have difficulties in accessing vaccines. Google's COVID-19 Vaccination Access Dataset, which collects data from Maps-related APIs, is being utilized in this dashboard. Google has once again highlighted that this dataset does not contain user data. You can view the public dataset on GitHub here.
The company has indicated that although both the tools will be available in the U.S. in the English language only for now, it will decide whether to expand their reach globally after consultation and feedback from researchers and public health officials.
Brits spent more time online than people in Spain, France, and Germany last year
by Paul Hill
The UK’s digital regulator, Ofcom, has released its annual Online Nation report. One of the significant findings in the report is that people in the UK spent more time online (03:37 hours) than people in France (02:20 hours), Germany (02:06 hours), or Spain (03:06 hours) and it also recorded the most app downloads compared to those countries. The age group with the highest amount of time online were those aged 15 to 16 who spent a huge four hours and 54 minutes online each day.
Ofcom looked at how the country was using different services including online shopping, dating apps, video streaming, and social media. The report for the year is interesting too because the pandemic drastically affected how much time people have been spending online. Commenting on the virus’ impact, Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director of Strategy and Research, said:
The report found that online shopping sales rose in the UK by 48%, accounting for £113 billion in 2020 due to the forced closure of high street shops. Those that saw the biggest increase in traffic were food and drinks retailers (up 82%) and household goods retailers (up 76%). Household goods retailers saw an increase in traffic because more people decided to get into home improvement seeing as they were spending most of their time there now.
Interestingly, Ofcom reported that digital pocket money apps and pre-paid debit cards saw an increase in children’s online purchasing power. The availability of pre-paid debit cards has been enabled by the rise of innovative challenger banks in the UK such as Starling Bank which offers Kite accounts for kids.
According to the new report, around 20% of adults between 15 and 34 were using online dating apps before the first lockdown came into effect in March 2020. The most popular app among the 18 to 24s was Tinder while Plenty of Fish was the most popular service in the 45 to 54 age group. Scams all across the board rose last year, including romance scams. Ofcom says that romance scams increased by 12%, causing losses of £18.5 million last year.
With not much to do under lockdown, most adults turned to social video sites with young adults being recorded as particularly heavy users of these services. The 18 to 24 age range saw average YouTube usage increase to one hour and 16 minutes per day, up 11 minutes from 2019. TikTok has grown also greatly with 11 million more people joining the service between September 2019 and March 2020.
Further, Ofcom provided details about visits to adult websites; it said 49% of UK adults (around 26 million) visited an adult website or app in September 2020. The website most popular among Brits was Pornhub which was visited by a third of adults in September 2020 – Ofcom says this represents half of all online men and 16% of online women in the UK.
Finally, social media has a mixed impact on people’s lives according to the report. Nine in ten children between eight and 15 said that social media helped them feel connected to their friends but among those aged seven to 16, social media increased popularity pressures; 66% of boys and 75% of girls said they experienced these pressures.
While social media websites have a minimum age requirement of 13, nearly two-thirds of kids have a social media account by their 11th birthday. By age 15, 95% of kids are on social media.
You can download the report in full from Ofcom’s website.
Amazon Returnship program opens in U.S. to help COVID-19 recovery
by Paul Hill
Amazon has announced the launch of the Amazon Returnship program which offers professionals from different backgrounds a route back to work following the coronavirus pandemic. As things stand, Amazon’s Returnship program is only available in the United States.
Through the Returnship program, Amazon is offering those who have been out of work for at least a year to attend a 16-week paid work opportunity in locations across the country. Those that decide to participate will face “a customized and abbreviated” interview process and work on a specific project, from home, in their chosen field such as Operations Finance, Consumer Payments, and Search.
Aside from being able to work from home, participants will also get child and elder care assistance so they can get back into work in a steadier fashion. At the end of the period, participants have the chance to move into full-time positions at Amazon where relocation will be paid for if it’s needed.
Commenting on the program, Beth Galetti, senior vice president of People eXperience and Technology at Amazon, said:
If you live in the U.S., have been out of work or underemployed for a year or more, and want to try this program, you can apply on the Amazon Jobs website.