ARCHIVES January 2022
Myanmar Cybersecurity Law ‘Days’ Away as Coup Anniversary Nears
Myanmar’s military government is set to pass a new cybersecurity law that will ban the use of internet services, a move that has been condemned by digital rights activists and business groups.
The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since a coup by the military last February. A widespread grassroots movement has seen thousands refuse to accept military rule, with anti-coup communications and demonstrations now largely mobilized online.
But a draft bill released by the junta, if passed, would criminalize the use of virtual private networks and online gambling, carrying a punishment of one to three years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $2,800.
The first draft of the bill was released last year, but progress on the legislation slowed after substantial public outcry and industrywide criticism. The legislation is expected to become law next week.
“We are speculating the bill will actually be official within just a few days, it might come before the first of February,” Ma Htike, a digital rights activist, told VOA.
People living in Myanmar rely heavily on internet access, especially social media platforms such as Facebook, for news, and many have struggled to get online since the junta took control of the country’s telecommunication regulators after the Feb. 1, 2021, coup. Major Norwegian telecommunication operator Telenor recently quit its operations inside the country because of the political situation.
The military regularly shuts down the internet, routinely blocks social media platforms and censors what information can be found online, all in the name of ensuring national “stability.”
But political analyst Aung Thu Nyein describes the latest draft legislation as unusually severe.
“The leaked new communication law is the most draconian law restricting many freedoms and privacy of a person,” he told VOA. “This law could be a major roadblock to technological development as well, such as prohibiting the use of digital coins and blockchain technology, etc.
“It is definitely for the purpose of oppression of freedom of speech and a tool for control,” he said.
Junta-enforced regional internet blackouts make VPNs vital to accessing independent news online via private networks outside of the country.
According to Top10VPN, Myanmar went without internet access for 72 consecutive days from February to April of last year, driving demand for VPNs up by 7,200%. The report also says the shutdowns came at a cost, with Myanmar suffering nearly $3 billion in lost revenue, according to the indicators from the World Bank, The International Telecommunication Union, Eurostat and the U.S. Census.
Htike says most of Myanmar’s citizens continue to struggle with the blackouts.
“There are still various locations that the mobile internet has not been available,” she told VOA, adding that junta-backed regulators have scheduled price increases for internet subscriptions, which is likely to pose “a big obstacle” for most citizens in a country with typically low per capita incomes.
“[The] internet plays a pivot role to send information to all parts of the country, from cities to remote corners,” said Aung Htun, a journalist for Burma VJ, an informal network of professional and citizen video journalists who pool footage. “That’s why the military tried to raise the data fees higher than previously.”
In its attempts to control the flow of information, the Myanmar military has also cracked down on the country’s media. According to Reporting ASEAN, a monitoring group in Southeast Asia, 120 journalists have been arrested with 49 still detained and 16 convicted. The licenses of at least five media outlets have been revoked.
Aung Htun also says the looming internet restrictions under the new law will put people at increased risk of arrest in public, where the military sometimes randomly searches phones.
“It’s getting more difficult to hide data in your phone. It’s better to use simple ways; don’t keep any important data in your phone,” he said, adding that journalists must “stay low, and try to be in touch with your colleagues [only] by secure network.”
Freedom House, a nonprofit research institute that ranks internet freedom by country on a scale in which 100 is “most free,” placed Myanmar at 17 in 2021.
Ten foreign businesses and industry groups in Myanmar said in a joint letter they are “deeply concerned” over the latest draft of the cybersecurity law.
“If enforced, the current draft disrupts the free flow of information and directly impacts businesses’ abilities to operate legally and effectively in Myanmar,” the statement read.
Htike said the new law could force customers to break the law in order to use basic business services.
“Myanmar’s economy really declined after the coup, but still small businesses have used social media and networks, but with this kind of [restriction] it’s going to be very difficult,” she added.
Feb. 1 marks one year since the Myanmar military removed the country’s democratically elected government. To mark the anniversary, anti-coup activists have called for a silent strike, which leaves the streets of towns and cities across Myanmar deserted.
“Silent strikes are a good strategy for people to get involved,” said Htike, who also warned that risks remain whether you’re demonstrating in the streets or online.
Myanmar’s military routinely stops and searches people to check phones for evidence of VPN activity, such as whether the phone has Facebook access, which is impossible without a VPN.
They also surveil the web for digital anti-junta activity.
In a silent protest, Htike added, “it might be difficult for [the military] to do search and seizure [on empty streets], but [even] if people are active [only] online, they can [still] be targeted there.”
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, gained independence from Britain in 1948, but most of its modern history has been under military rule.
After a brief period of civilian rule, the military in November 2020 began making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud. On Feb. 1 of 2021, the military removed the democratically elected government and arrested leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, both of whom have since been sentenced to several jail terms.
Widespread opposition to military rule has resulted in thousands of arrests and at least 1,499 killings, according to the Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
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«Енергоатом» заявляє, що вперше запустив одночасно усі 15 енергоблоків АЕС
«Вперше за всю історію атомної енергетики України ДП «НАЕК «Енергоатом» працює всіма 15-ма енергоблоками одночасно»
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Innovative Electric Vehicles on Display at Washington Auto Show
Electric vehicles are in high demand as gas prices and concerns about carbon emissions and global warming climb. From the 2022 Washington Auto Show, VOA’s Saqib Ul Islam examines where consumers and car manufacturers think all-electric vehicles are heading in the future.
Camera: Saqib Ul Islam Produced by: Saqib Ul Islam
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FAA, Telecom Companies to Turn On More 5G Towers
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday U.S.-based telecommunications companies AT&T and Verizon can activate more of their fifth-generation, or 5G, transmitters after consultation with the agency.
Earlier this month, the telecommunication companies agreed they would delay launching the new wireless service near key airports after weeks of legal wrangling with the nation’s largest airlines and U.S. government regulators that feared the 5G service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause massive flight disruptions.
But in its release Friday, the FAA said both companies provided additional data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with aircraft instruments.
The agency said it used that data to precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals might interfere with aircraft, allowing the regulators to shrink the areas where wireless operators had to delay their antenna activations.
The FAA said that will allow wireless providers to safely turn on more towers as they deploy new 5G service in major markets across the country. The agency expressed its appreciation for the “collaborative approach” AT&T and Verizon took in providing the data.
The FAA says it is continuing to work with helicopter operators and others in the aviation community to ensure they can safely operate in areas of current and planned 5G deployment.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.
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Гривня дещо посилилася після тижневого падіння – курс НБУ
Довідкове значення Нацбанку, встановлене опівдні 28 січня, становить 28 гривні 82 копійки
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Toyota Heading to Moon with Cruiser, Robotic Arms, Dreams
Toyota is working with Japan’s space agency on a vehicle to explore the lunar surface, with ambitions to help people live on the moon by 2040 and then go live on Mars, company officials said Friday.
The vehicle being developed with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is called Lunar Cruiser, whose name pays homage to the Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle. Its launch is set for the late 2020’s.
The vehicle is based on the idea that people eat, work, sleep and communicate with others safely in cars, and the same can be done in outer space, said Takao Sato, who heads the Lunar Cruiser project at Toyota Motor Corp.
“We see space as an area for our once-in-a-century transformation. By going to space, we may be able to develop telecommunications and other technology that will prove valuable to human life,” Sato told The Associated Press.
Gitai Japan Inc., a venture contracted with Toyota, has developed a robotic arm for the Lunar Cruiser, designed to perform tasks such as inspection and maintenance. Its “grapple fixture” allows the arm’s end to be changed so it can work like different tools, scooping, lifting and sweeping.
Gitai Chief Executive Sho Nakanose said he felt the challenge of blasting off into space has basically been met but working in space entails big costs and hazards for astronauts. That’s where robots would come in handy, he said.
Since its founding in the 1930s, Toyota has fretted about losing a core business because of changing times. It has ventured into housing, boats, jets and robots. Its net-connected sustainable living quarters near Mount Fuji, called Woven City, where construction is starting this year.
Japanese fascination with the moon has been growing.
A private Japanese venture called ispace Inc. is working on lunar rovers, landing and orbiting, and is scheduled for a moon landing later this year. Businessman Yusaku Maezawa, who recently took videos of himself floating around in the International Space Station, has booked an orbit around the moon aboard Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Starship.
Toyota engineer Shinichiro Noda said he is excited about the lunar project, an extension of the automaker’s longtime mission to serve customers and the moon may provide valuable resources for life on Earth.
“Sending our cars to the moon is our mission,” he said. Toyota has vehicles almost everywhere. “But this is about taking our cars to somewhere we have never been.”
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Офіційний курс показує подальше слабшання гривні, на міжбанку долар сягнув 29 гривень
Торги на міжбанківському ринку почалися з близько 28,80-82 вранці, але курс до обіду послабшав на близько 20 копійок
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ФОПи сплатили в бюджет найбільшу суму єдиного податку за 5 років – Opendatabot
Єдиний податок є основним підприємницьким податком. Він передбачає спрощену систему оподаткування
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Україна хоче отримати 3-5 млрд доларів допомоги від стратегічних партнерів – ОП
Такі пакети допомоги стали б «додатковою подушкою» і могли б гарантувати стабільність фінансової системи України «незалежно від того, як розвиватиметься ситуація», вважають в Офісі президента
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California Hotels Use Robots to Do Service Jobs
The current difficulty in filling many service jobs in the U.S. is leaving hotels scrambling to provide room service. But with a bit of ingenuity and a little high-tech help some American hotels are finding a way. Angelina Bagdasaryan has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.
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Nigerian Language Advocates Seek Inclusion of African Languages in Tech Devices
Voice-activated virtual assistant technologies, such as Siri and Alexa, are becoming increasingly common around the world, but in Africa, with its many languages, most people are at a digital disadvantage. To address the problem, some African researchers are creating translation tools to recognize and promote indigenous languages, such as Yoruba.
Yoruba language teacher Oluwafemi Awosanya resumes a day’s classes with his students. He has been teaching the language for 10 years, but says he often struggles to migrate his class modules to an online students’ blogsite he created because there is no speech recognition technology for Yoruba.
“Yoruba language is a language that has to do with signs at the top, so I need to go (the) extra mile. When typing my notes, I have to first type on Microsoft Word and even when I type on Microsoft Word it gives me best highlighting, like your words are not correct,” Awosanya said.
Awosanya spends several hours manually editing and correcting his notes before uploading them to his blog.
He says despite technological advances in Africa, languages like Yoruba, one of the most commonly spoken in Nigeria, remain neglected, affecting his students.
“It limits knowledge. There are things you wish you want to educate the children on, things you want to exhibit in the classes…” Awosanya said.
More than 2,000 distinct languages are spoken in Africa. Researchers say two-thirds of the native speakers miss out on emerging technologies due to language limitations in the tech world.
Nigerian writer and language advocate Kola Tubosun says the issue threatens Africa’s technological future. He has since been trying to promote inclusivity for his native Yoruba tongue.
He created an online Yoruba dictionary as well as a text-to-speech machine that translates English to Yoruba. He said the initiative was partly inspired by his grandfather, who could not read or write in English.
“If a language doesn’t exist in the technology space, it is almost as if it doesn’t exist at all. That is the way the world is structured today and in that you spend all your time online every day and the only language you encounter is English, Spanish or Mandarin or whatever else, then it tends to define the way you interact with the world. And over time you tend to lose either the interest in your own language or your competence [competency in that language],” Tubosun said.
Tubosun, who advocates for including African languages in technology, says the tech giants are starting to pay attention even though the gap remains very wide.
“There are lots of obstacles. Some languages are not written down at all; some don’t have scripts. Some have scripts but don’t have so many people using the languages or writing them in education or using them in daily conversations,” Tubosun said.
Language experts say it will take a long time before African languages are widely adopted in voice-driven technology.
In the meantime, researchers like Tubosun and Awosanya will be working to adapt the Yoruba language for technology users.
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Nigerian Language Advocates Call for Including African Languages in High Tech Devices
Voice activated virtual assistant technologies, such as Siri and Alexa, are becoming increasingly common around the world but in Africa, with its many languages, most people are at a digital disadvantage. To address the problem, some African researchers are creating translation tools to recognize and promote indigenous languages, such as Yoruba. Timothy Obiezu in Abuja has details.
Camera: Emeka Gibson
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