Government Schemes & Policies
- Defence Minister launches Defence India Startup Challenge
Issues related to Health & Education
- Facebook launches “Digital Literacy Library”
- GST Council approves incentives for digital payments
- IWAI sets out on large public outreach along Ganga for Jal Marg Vikas Project
Bilateral & International Relations
- India elected president of Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development
- Ajay Data elected ICANN ccNSO council member
Science & Technology
- MoU for India’s first Blockchain District signed
- Government approves 122 research projects under ‘IMPRINT-2’ scheme
- Chinese scientists create first single-chromosome yeast
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Shaur nahin’ mobile app
- ‘Mosquito Terminator’
- World’s first Hindi-speaking robot ‘Rashmi’
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Government Schemes & Policies
Defence Minister launches Defence India Startup Challenge
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has unveiled the Defence India Startup Challenge.
About Defence India Startup Challenge:
- Defence India Startup Challenge is an initiative to tap startups for finding safe and futuristic Indian solutions to critical needs of the three Armed Forces.
- It is part of iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) scheme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April meant to build an eco-system of innovation and entrepreneurship in India for the defence sector to make India self-reliant.
- A list of 11 technologies that the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force need, have been chosen. They included remote air vehicles, laser weapons, secure and safe communication systems and bandwidth, precision targeting systems, sensors, and protected and informed movement of soldiers in battle tanks.
- Those that come up with prototypes of usable products would be supported with ₹1.5 crore each and friendly procurement procedures from the Ministry under SPARK (Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart in Defence).
Issues related to Health & Education
Facebook launches “Digital Literacy Library”
Facebook has launched “Digital Literacy Library” to help young people build skills they need to safely enjoy online technology.
About the Digital Literacy Library:
- The library is resource for educators looking to address digital literacy and help these young people build the skills they need to safely enjoy digital technology.
- The library is a collection of lessons to help young people think critically and share thoughtfully online.
- Divided into themes such as privacy and reputation, identity exploration, security, safety and well-being, the lessons reflect the voices of young people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, geographies, and educational levels.
- The lessons can be found on Facebook’s Safety Center as well as on Berkman Klein’s Digital Literacy Resource Platform.
- There are 830 million young people online around the world, and this library is a resource for educators looking to address digital literacy and help these young people build the skills they need to safely enjoy digital technology.
GST Council approves incentives for digital payments
The GST (Good and Services Tax) council in its 29th meeting held in national capital New Delhi has approved cash incentives to promote Digital transactions.
- It has announced 20% cashback for digital transactions paid on business-to-consumer transactions using RuPay and BHIM platforms, subject to cap of Rs 100 per transaction.
- The GST Council meeting was chaired by Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal.
About GST Council:
- The GST Council has been created as per Article 279A of the amended Constitution.
- GST Council Secretariat will be set up with its office at New Delhi.
- It is joint forum of the Centre and the States to make recommendations on important issues related to GST.
Composition of the GST Council:
As per Article 279A of the amended Constitution, the GST Council which will be a joint forum of the Centre and the States, shall consist of the following members:
Functions of the GST Council:
As per Article 279A (4), the Council will make recommendations to the Union and the States on important issues related to
- GST, like the goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST,
- Model GST Laws,
- Principles that govern Place of Supply,
- Threshold limits,
- GST rates including the floor rates with bands,
- Special rates for raising additional resources during natural calamities/disasters,
- Special provisions for certain States, etc.
IWAI sets out on large public outreach along Ganga for Jal Marg Vikas Project
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has set out a massive public outreach initiative along river Ganga on National Waterway-1 to help push rural economy connect with waterways.
- IWAI held a two day long intensive advocacy and communications outreach at Sahibganj and Rajmahal in Jharkhand.
- IWAI is the implementing agency for Centres Jal Marg Vikas Project.
What is Jal Marg Vikas Project?
Jal Marg Vikas Project is a project on the river Ganga that envisages the development of waterway between Allahabad and Haldia that will cover a distance of 1620 km by March, 2023.
- The JMVP is being implemented by IWAI with the financial and technical support of World Bank.
- It will enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.
- The project covers Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- It aims to develop fairway with three metres depth to enable commercial navigation of at least 1500 tonne vessels on river.
- It also includes development of fairway, multi-modal terminals, strengthening of open river navigation technique, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS) etc.
Significance of Jal Marg Vikas Project:
- Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country.
- Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.
- It is component of Eastern Transport Corridor (ETC) of India along with proposed Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) and National Highway-2 (NH2).
- ETC will connect NCR with eastern and north-eastern states and function as link to neighbouring countries viz. Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and other east and south-east Asian countries.
- One of the major problems for a commercially viable and safe navigation on NW-1 is low depth upstream of Farakka due to low discharges from tributaries and difficult hydro morphological characteristics of river Ganga.
- National Waterway-1 (NW-1) is a waterway passing through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, potentially serving the major cities of Haldia, Howrah, Kolkata, Bhagalpur, Patna, Ghazipur, Varanasi, Allahabad and their industrial hinterlands including several industries located along the Ganga basin.
About Inland Waterways Authority of India:
- Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory body in charge of the waterways in India.
- Its headquarters is located in Noida, UP.
- Its main function is to build the necessary infrastructure in the inland waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation.
Bilateral & International Relations
India elected president of Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development
India has been elected as the president of the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development.
- India got the presidency of the organisation, servicing countries of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development, for the first time by defeating Iran in the election that took place in Sri Lanka.
About Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD):
The AIBD was established in 1977 under the auspices of UNESCO.
- It is hosted by the Government of Malaysia and the secretariat is located in Kuala Lumpur.
- The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) are founding organisations of the Institute and they are non-voting members of the General Conference.
- The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) is a founding organisation of the Institute and is a non-voting member of the General Conference.
Role and mandate:
- It is a unique regional inter-governmental organisation servicing countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development.
- It is mandated to achieve a vibrant and cohesive electronic media environment in the Asia-Pacific region through policy and resource development.
- The AIBD currently has 26 Full Members (countries), represented by 34 organisations, and 67 Affiliate Members (organisations) with a total membership of 101 representing 48 countries and regions and over 50 partners in Asia, Pacific, Europe, Africa, Arab States and North America.
- Full membership of the AIBD is confined to sovereign states and they are invited to designate the broadcasting authority of the country to be the beneficiary.
Ajay Data elected ICANN ccNSO council member
The nominating committee of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has selected Ajay Data, Founder & CEO of Data XGen Plus and a global leader in email linguistic services, as a new council member of Country Code Supporting Organisation (ccNSO).
- Ajay Data is the first Indian to have been selected as a member of ccNSO and will be representing India at a global level.
- He will be the custodian of Asia, Australia and Pacific Islands as a member of ccNSO.
- ccNSO of the ICANN is the policy-development body for global issues regarding country code top-level domains (ccTLD) within the ICANN structure.
- The members of ccNSO are all country code top level domain operators from around the world.
About the Internet Corporation Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN):
ICANN is the global body that oversees operation and administration of the Internet domain name system.
- It was formed in 1998.
- It is a not-for-profit partnership of people from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable.
- It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.
- ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet.
- It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.
- It is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and methodologies of several databases, with unique identifiers, related to the namespaces of the Internet – and thereby, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.
Functions of ICANN:
- Approval of companies that can become accredited registrars for domain names.
- Decision making regarding the addition of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) to the Root system.
- Coordinating technical parameters to maintain universal connectivity.
- Creating a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) for competing domain names.
Who governs ICANN?
- ICANN is governed by an internationally diverse Board of Directors overseeing the policy development process.
- ICANN’s President directs an international staff, working from three continents, who ensure that ICANN meets its operational commitment to the Internet community.
Science & Technology
MoU for India’s first Blockchain District signed
The government of Telangana has signed MoUs with Tech Mahindra, Nucleus Vision and Eleven01 Foundation to launch India’s first Blockchain District in Hyderabad, which will serve as a global talent hub.
- The MoU was signed at International Blockchain Congress 2018 held in Hyderabad.
About the Blockchain District:
- The Blockchain District will function as an incubator for domestic blockchain startups and companies to develop real-world applications of the decentralized technology.
- Initially it would be a virtual cluster, connecting with the stakeholders working in the emerging technology. It would have a physical building at a later phase.
- In short, it will be “a cluster of buildings”, which will house start-ups and other stakeholders working on the development of the platform.
- Tech Mahindra, as a founding member of the Blockchain district, will provide platform and technology assistance to all the incubators in the district.
- On its part, the Telangana government would provide regulatory and policy support to promote the growth of Blockchain.
The district is expected to provide a complete ecosystem for the growth of blockchain technology.
What is Blockchain technology?
Blockchain is a sort of distributed ledger or decentralized database that keeps records of digital transactions.
- Blockchain technology was first developed in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto.
- Since its inception, it has been used as the basis for several cryptocurrencies from around the world, including Bitcoin and Bitshares.
- Once a transaction is entered in the blockchain, it cannot be erased or modified.
- Blockchain removes the need for using a trusted third party such as a bank to make a transaction by directly connecting the customers and suppliers.
- Each transaction is recorded to the ledger after verification by the network participants, mainly a chain of computers, called nodes.
Advantages of blockchain technology:
- A blockchain is anonymous, protecting the identities of the users. This makes blockchain a more secure way to carry out transactions.
- The algorithm used in blockchain reduces the dependence on people to verify the transactions.
- Blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, have not yet been hacked. They are considered to be very secure.
- It is very challenging, almost impossible, to change any transaction information once it is validated and becomes part of a block.
- Bitcoin is commonly referred to as digital gold. Referring to bitcoin as insecure or unsafe is like calling gold insecure or unsafe.
Blockchain tech can reduce transaction costs:
- According to FICCI report, the next generation blockchain technology can help in reducing cost of transactions in various government schemes.
- For example, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 per cent of the GDP is lost due to unclear land titles and the litigation cost associated with competing claims only serves to exacerbate the problem further. Here the use of blockchain technology has the potential to make the agri-supply chain more secure, transparent and efficient.
- As per the report, Blockchain solutions, if implemented, may lead to the elimination of intermediaries or middlemen, thereby leading to improved pricing, decreased transaction fees, thus eliminate issues of hoarding
Disadvantages of blockchain technology:
- Blockchain is still relatively a new technology. There are ongoing concerns about privacy in the settlement and storage of securities – blockchain providers are working hard to address.
- Banks are also at threat with blockchain, since more and more firms (using their IT service providers from India and elsewhere) will build systems that can create and exchange ‘blocks’ with one another completely legally, without ever having to use the banks as a financial intermediary.
Blockchain is not bitcoin.
- Bitcoin is digital money, a virtual currency that was the first successful blockchain product. Blockchain is the technology that enables cryptocurrency like bitcoin. While they go hand-in-hand, there are other use cases for blockchain besides bitcoin.
Government approves 122 research projects under ‘IMPRINT-2’ scheme
The government has approved 122 new research projects under its Impacting Research Innovation and Technology ‘IMPRINT-2’ scheme.
- The cost of these research projects is expected to be around 112 crore rupees.
- The initiative aims to advance research in energy, security and healthcare domains in the high education institutions.
About IMPRINT India Programme:
Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) India Programme is joint initiative of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
- It seeks to develop road map for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in 10 technology domains relevant for country.
- These domains include health care, information and communication technology, energy, sustainable habitat, nano‐technology hardware, water resources and river systems, advanced materials, manufacturing, security and defence, and environment and climate.
- These domains are distributed among IITs Kharagpur, Kanpur, Bomaby, Rookree, Madras and IISC, Bengaluru.
Objectives of IMPRINT
- Identify areas of immediate relevance that requires innovation in the society.
- Ensure support and higher funding for research for identified areas.
- Measure outcomes of innovation and research efforts and its impact on people’s standard of living.
- It will motivate technical institutions to conduct research in areas where the country is heavily dependent on foreign technology.
- Under IMPRINT-I Programme, 142 projects at cost of Rs. 318.71 crore are already under implementation.
Chinese scientists create first single-chromosome yeast
Chinese scientists claimed to have created the world’s first single-chromosome yeast while not affecting the majority of its functions.
About the research:
- The researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing to create a single-chromosome yeast strain.
- Using the CRISPR-Cas9, the research team removed the DNA at the telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that protect them from degrading.
- They also snipped out the centromeres, sequences in the middle that are important to DNA replication.
- First, they fused two chromosomes, then joined the product to another chromosome, and repeated the process in successive rounds until there was only one chromosome left.
- The research revealed that the number of chromosomes of a eukaryote has no correlation with the amount of genetic information they possess.
- It showed that all the genetic information can be concentrated in just one chromosome.
- Brewer’s yeast, one-third of whose genome is said to share ancestry with humans, has 16 chromosomes.
- However, Chinese scientists have managed to fit nearly all its genetic material into just one chromosome while not affecting the majority of its functions.
- Yeast is a type of eukaryote, which also includes humans, plants, and animals.
- Humans have 46 chromosomes, whereas male jack jumper ants have just one.
Significance of this research:
- This research provides new approach to studying the functions of telomeres by simplifying complex genome system.
- It may help in furthering research related to aging and diseases in humans. In future, it may also pave way for new man-made species in the future.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Shaur nahin’ mobile app
- Himachal Pradesh government has launched the ‘Shaur nahin’ (no noise) mobile application, in connection with the ‘horn not ok’ awareness campaign, which was also launched.
- The ‘Shaur nahin’ mobile app can be used by the general public to report cases of noise pollution.
- The ‘horn not ok’ campaign aims to spread awareness of unnecessary blowing horn as it creates unnecessary noise pollution and is harmful to health.
- The first phase of the campaign was launched initially for Shimla and Manali.
- It is a special mosquito terminator train to prevent mosquito breeding along railway tracks in New Delhi.
- It aims to control and mitigate menace of mosquito breeding in the burrow pits along railway tracks in New Delhi.
- It was jointly launched by Delhi division of Northern Railway and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC).
World’s first Hindi-speaking robot ‘Rashmi’
- Ranchi-based software developer is developing the world’s first Hindi-speaking humanoid robot.
- He has named the robot Rashmi. He was inspired to create Rashmi after seeing Hong Kong-made humanoid ‘Sophia’ in 2016.
- The robot can reportedly also speak Marathi and Bhojpuri, in addition to being able to speak in English and Hindi.
- Rashmi is equipped with facial expressions and systems by which it can recognize and respond to spoken commands.