WhatsApp has announced changes for its 200 million users in India following the spread of viral messages via the app that resulted in deadly mob attacks.
India’s government has threatened to take WhatsApp to court, saying “…the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.” The information technology ministry said, “If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”
The Facebook-owned messaging app said it will limit Indian users’ ability to forward messages, allowing only five contacts at a time to receive them.
The firm said it will also remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.
Both moves are designed to make stop the mass forwards that have resulted in the mob attacks.
India is WhatsApp’s largest market.
Верховний суд України своєю постановою від 17 липня частково задовольнив касаційну скаргу «Ощадбанку» та дозволив стягнути з «Укртелекому» заборгованість за договором купівлі-продажу облігацій на суму 1,1 мільярда гривень, повідомила прес-служба державного банку 20 липня.
У фінансовій установі заявили, що Верховний суд скасував рішення Господарського суду Києва від 27 листопада 2017 року та постанову Київського апеляційного господарського суду від 10 квітня 2018 року про розірвання цього договору.
В установі нагадують, що 15 вересня 2015 року між «Укртелекомом» та «Ощадбанком» був укладений договір, згідно з яким банк зобов’язався передати у власність «Укртелекому», а останній зобов’язався не пізніше 15 березня 2017 року прийняти та оплатити облігації ТОВ «ЕСУ» (власник контрольного пакета акцій «Укртелекому») серії С в кількості 1 000 000 штук за ціною в 1 мільярд гривень плюс накопичений купонний дохід за облігаціями на дату продажу.
В «Ощадбанку» заявили, що в серпні 2017 року «з метою уникнення виконання зобов’язань за договором шляхом сплати банку понад 1 мільярда гривень», «Укртелеком» подав до Господарського суду Києва заяву про розірвання договору та визнання зобов’язань за договором припиненими. Суди першої та апеляційної інстанції задовольнили цей позов. 17 липня за касаційною скаргою банку судові рішення скасували, а направили на розгляд до суду першої інстанції.
У Верховному суді та «Укртелекомі» наразі не коментували інформацію.
Згідно з інформацією на сайті «Укртелекому», компанія надає повний спектр телекомунікаційних послуг в усіх регіонах країни. Вона є частиною групи СКМ, якою володіє український бізнесмен Рінат Ахметов.
Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України» вказує російському «Газпрому», що мирова угода щодо вже ухвалених рішень арбітражу неможлива, а на неоплачений борг нараховано вже 75 мільйонів доларів відсотків.
«Як ми сказали «Газпрому» на тристоронній зустрічі (у Берліні 17 липня – ред.), мирова угода щодо вже прийнятих рішень арбітражем рішень не є можливою. А зараз вже пізно просити «мирову угоду» за цими спорами. «Газпром» має сплатити нам за рішеннями арбітражу 2,56 мільярда доларів. Плюс вже 75 мільйонів доларів відсотків. І поки не отримаємо ці кошти, ми будемо продовжувати примусове стягнення, арештовуючи активи «Газпрому» по всьому світу. Ніхто рішення арбітражу не відміняв і не зупиняв», – вказує «Нафтогаз» у мережі Twitter із посиланням на комерційного директора компанії Юрія Вітренка.
Читайте також: Стокгольмська історія. Як український «Нафтогаз» планує знову перемогти російський «Газпром»
30 травня «Нафтогаз» повідомив, що почав процес стягнення з російського «Газпрому» боргу в близько 2,6 мільярда доларів відповідно до рішення Стокгольмського арбітражу в справах щодо постачання і транзиту газу.
Дивіться також: Російський газ: чи піде Україна на мирову
Стокгольмський арбітраж розглядав спір «Нафтогазу» і «Газпрому» про умови контракту на поставку і транзит газу, укладеного в 2009 році на 10 років. Сторони висували одна до одної претензії на кілька мільярдів доларів.
North Korea’s economy contracted at the sharpest rate in two decades in 2017, South Korea’s central bank estimated Friday, in a sign international sanctions imposed to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have hit growth hard.
Gross domestic product (GDP) in North Korea last year contracted 3.5 percent from the previous year, marking the biggest contraction since a 6.5 percent drop in 1997 when the isolated nation was hit by a devastating famine, the Bank of Korea said.
Industrial production, which accounts for about a third of the nation’s total output, dropped by 8.5 percent and also marked the steepest decline since 1997 as factory production collapsed on restrictions of flows of oil and other energy resources into the country. Output from agriculture, construction industries also fell by 1.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.
“The sanctions were stronger in 2017 than they were in 2016,” Shin Seung-cheol, head of the BOK’s National Accounts Coordination Team said.
“External trade volume fell significantly with the exports ban on coal, steel, fisheries and textile products. It’s difficult to put exact numbers on those but it (export bans) crashed industrial production,” Shin said.
The steep economic downturn comes as analysts highlight the need for the isolated country to shift toward economic development.
Switch to economic construction
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April vowed to switch the country’s strategic focus from the development of its nuclear arsenal to emulating China’s “socialist economic construction.”
“As long as exports of minerals are part of the sanctions, by far the most profitable item of its exports, Pyongyang will have no choice but to continue with its current negotiations with the U.S. (to remove the sanctions),” said Kim Byeong-yeon, an economics professor at the Seoul National University with expertise in the North Korean economy.
North Korea’s coal-intensive industries and manufacturing sectors have suffered as the U.N. Security Council ratcheted up the sanctions in response to years of nuclear tests by Pyongyang.
China, its biggest trading partner, enforced sanctions strictly in the second half of 2017, hurting North Korea’s manufacturing sector.
Beijing’s suspended coal purchases last year cut North Korea’s main export revenue source while its suspended fuel sales to the reclusive state sparked a surge in gasoline and diesel prices, data reviewed by Reuters showed earlier.
2018 to be ‘a lot worse’
“This year will be a lot worse. Shrinking trade first hits the Kim regime and top officials, and then later affects unofficial markets,” said Kim at Seoul National University, adding that a reduction in tradable goods would eventually decrease household income and private consumption.
North Korea’s black market, or Jangmadang, has grown to account for about 60 percent of the economy, and is where individuals and wholesalers buy and sell Chinese-made consumer goods or agricultural products, according to the Institute for Korean Integration of Society.
China’s total trade with North Korea dropped 59.2 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier, China’s customs data showed last week.
The BOK uses figures compiled by the government and spy agencies to make its economic estimates. The bank’s survey includes monitoring of the size of rice paddy crops in border areas, traffic surveillance, and interviews with defectors.
North Korea does not publish economic data.
North Korea’s Gross National Income per capita stands at 1.46 million won ($1,283.52), making it about 4.4 percent the size of South Korea’s, the BOK said.
Overall exports from North Korea dropped 37.2 percent in 2017, marking the biggest fall since a 38.5 percent decline in 1998, the BOK said Friday, citing data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
If there can be driverless cars on the road, why not driverless boats on the water? Faith Lapidus has details of a team building a robotic boat, and what they want it to do.
Chinese policymakers are pumping more liquidity into the financial system and channeling credit to small- and medium-sized firms, and Beijing looks set to further loosen monetary conditions to mitigate threats to growth from a heated Sino-U.S. trade war.
The world’s second-biggest economy has started to lose momentum this year as a government campaign to reduce a dangerous build-up of debt has lifted borrowing costs, hitting factory output, business investment and the property sector.
As an intensifying trade conflict raises risks to exporters and overall growth, many economists expect the central bank to further reduce reserve requirements in the coming months, on top of the three reductions made so far this year.
Benchmark rate unchanged
However, few see a cut in the benchmark policy rate this year, as authorities walk a fine line between keeping liquidity conditions supportive and preventing any destabilizing capital outflows that could put the skids on a fragile yuan currency.
On Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) plans to introduce incentives that will boost the liquidity of commercial banks.
These are aimed at encouraging banks to expand lending and increase their investment in bonds issued by corporations and other entities, such as local government financing vehicles (LGFVs).
The PBOC has also been ensuring ample liquidity by allowing commercial banks to tap its Medium-Term Loan Facility (MLF), especially lenders that have invested in bonds rated AA+ and below, the source said.
The improved cash conditions have been reflected in reduced short-term borrowing costs for banks, with the country’s key seven-day money rate at 2.6409 percent Thursday, 37 basis points lower than recent highs at the end of June.
Economy expansion slows
The combination of lower interbank rates and the push to boost bank support should help to ease financing pressures for weaker firms, analysts said.
“This should spell good news for lower-grade bond markets which have been suffering from a flight to quality-grade bonds, and some firms have subsequently found access to liquidity difficult,” analysts at Everbright Sun Hung Kai said in a note.
China’s economy expanded a slower-than-expected 6.7 percent in the second quarter, and June factory output growth weakened to a two-year low as the trade dispute with the United States intensified.
To be sure, markets don’t expect aggressive policy loosening, given Beijing’s broad deleveraging pledge and fears that doing so could hit the yuan and trigger a spike in capital outflows.
Trade war worries have already weighed on the yuan, which hit a one-year low on Thursday.
Focus on small, medium businesses
A key focus is on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 80 percent of all jobs in China, and have suffered from rising borrowing costs and a shrinking credit pool amid Beijing’s three-year-long crackdown on off-balance sheet financing and a corporate debt build-up.
A trader at a state-run copper smelter in southern China told Reuters his firm has resorted to selling inventory to raise cash in light of the tougher financing conditions.
“Banks give, but the cost has gone up,” said the trader, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to comment on his firm’s finances.
While the PBOC did not respond to faxed questions about its plans, a Shanghai-based trader at an Asian bank said the bond market had seen a notable pick-up in the volume of trade of LGFV debt.
Hackers targeted the campaigns of at least three candidates running for Congress in the upcoming 2018 U.S. elections, but the attacks were detected and thwarted, a Microsoft executive said Thursday.
The attempted attacks tried to use a fake Microsoft domain as a landing page for phishing attacks, said Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president for customer security and trust. He refused to name which candidates were targeted, citing privacy concerns.
“They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint,” Burt told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.
He also did not identify the source of the phishing attacks, though the tactic was similar to those used by Russian operatives to target the Republican and Democratic parties during their presidential nominating conventions in 2016.
Burt said Microsoft coordinated with the U.S. government and was able to take down the fake domains. He also said none of the campaign staffers targeted by the phishing attacks were infected.
More attacks are coming
Thursday’s revelation came in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland, after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump sided with Putin, supporting the Russian leader’s assertions that his country did not meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump’s comments, which directly contradicted the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, have drawn harsh criticism from politicians, and former diplomatic and intelligence officials.
Current intelligence and security officials have warned repeatedly that not only was Russia responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, but that more attacks — both in the form of hacks and in the form of more subtle information operations — are coming.
Russia taking lead
“What we assessed and reassessed and have carefully gone over still stands,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of Russia’s efforts.
“It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this,” Coats added, speaking during an appearance at the same security forum. “They are the ones who are trying to undermine our basic values, divide us with our allies.”
But U.S. and private sector officials say that, at least to this point, Russian efforts to influence the 2018 elections appear to be somewhat subdued.
“We’re not seeing the targeting of the actual state and local election systems that we saw in 2016 right now,” said Jeanette Manfra, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity.
New tools working
For now, some leading private sector technology and social media companies agree.
Facebook, which Russia used to run ads and false news stories as part of its 2016 influence campaign, thinks some of that could be related to more awareness and crackdowns on the fake accounts Russian-linked operatives had been using.
“The new tools that would identify and remove fake accounts like the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] was running, combined with the new requirements for transparency in advertising, are such that I think we’re not seeing that same conduct,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, said.
“But we are watching for that activity,” Bickert said.
Microsoft’s Burt is also cautious, despite his experts “not seeing the same level of activity by the Russian activity groups” as they did two years ago.
“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to see it,” he said. “There’s a lot of time left.”
“I think we should all be prepared, given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned Thursday. “We would be foolish to think they’re not.”
The Trump administration wants to scrap automatic federal protection for threatened plants and animals, a move that would anger environmentalists but please industry.
A proposal unveiled Thursday would no longer grant threatened species the same instant protection given to endangered species. It would also limit what can be declared a critical habitat for such plants and animals.
Officials with the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that they wanted to streamline regulations. They said current rules under the Endangered Species Act were inconsistent and confusing.
Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the new rules would still be very protective of endangered animals.
“At the same time, we hope that they ameliorate some of the unnecessary burden, conflict and uncertainty that is within our current regulatory structure,” he told reporters.
But conservationists called the changes a “wrecking ball” and a gift to big businesses.
“They could decide that building in a species habitat or logging in trees where birds nest doesn’t constitute harm,” the Center for Biological Diversity’s Noah Greenwald said.
Industries such as logging, mining and oil drilling have long complained that the Endangered Special Act has stopped them from gaining access to new sources of energy and has stifled economic development.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday it was “too early” to say if the United States would impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts, a suggestion that has been met with harsh criticism from the industry.
The department opened an investigation in May into whether imported autos and parts pose a national security risk and was holding a hearing on the probe Thursday, taking testimony from auto trade groups, foreign governments and others.
Ross’ remarks came at the start of the public hearing, which he said was aimed at determining “whether government action is required to assure the viability of U.S. domestic production.”
A group representing major automakers told Commerce on Thursday that imposing tariffs of 25 percent on imported cars and parts would raise the price of U.S. vehicles by $83 billion annually and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Automakers say there is “no evidence” that auto imports pose a national security risk, and that the tariffs could actually harm U.S. economic security.
They are also facing higher prices after tariffs were imposed on aluminum and steel.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, whose members include General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp, warned on the impact of the tariffs.
“Higher auto tariffs will harm American families and workers, along with the economy” and “would raise the price of an imported car nearly $6,000 and the price of a U.S.-built car $2,000,” said Jennifer Thomas, a vice president for the group.
She noted that the U.S. exports more than $100 billion of autos and parts annually to other countries, while “there is a long list of products that are largely no longer made in the U.S., including TVs, laptops, cellphones, baseballs, and commercial ships.”
No automaker or parts company has endorsed the tariffs, and they have pointed to near-record sales in recent years.
Jennifer Kelly, the United Auto Workers union research director, noted that U.S. auto production has fallen from 12.8 million vehicles in 2000 to 11.2 million in 2017 as the sector has shed about 400,000 jobs over that period, with many jobs moving to Mexico or other low-wage countries.
“We caution that any rash actions could have unforeseen consequences, including mass layoffs for American workers, but that does not mean we should do nothing,” she said, suggesting “targeted measures.”
Many firms that sell vintage vehicles also warned that the tariffs could devastate the industry because many older cars need parts that are only made outside the United States. Polaris Industries Inc warned that off-road vehicles could also be inadvertently covered by the tariffs.
A study released by a U.S. auto dealer group warned that the tariffs could cut U.S. auto sales by 2 million vehicles annually and cost more than 117,000 auto dealer jobs, or about 10 percent of the workforce.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested he would move quickly to impose tariffs, even before the government launched its probe.
“We said if we don’t negotiate something fair, then we have tremendous retribution, which we don’t want to use, but we have tremendous powers,” Trump said Wednesday. “We have to — including cars. Cars is the big one. And you know what we’re talking about with respect to cars and tariffs on cars.”
The European Union, Japan, Canada and Mexico, along with many automotive trade groups, are among 45 witnesses scheduled to testify during the daylong hearing.
The Commerce Department said earlier this week it aimed to complete the investigation “within a couple months.”
President Donald Trump lashed out Thursday after Brussels hit US tech giant Google with a record fine, and warned he would no longer allow Europe to take “advantage” of the United States.
“I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google,” Trump tweeted in reaction to the 4.34 billion euro penalty imposed on Google for abusing the dominance of its mobile operating system.
“They truly have taken advantage of the US, but not for long!” he said.
In announcing the fine on Wednesday, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager accused Google of using the Android system’s near-stranglehold on smartphones and tablets to promote the use of its own Google search engine while shutting out rivals.
The decision, which followed a three-year EU investigation, comes as fears of a transatlantic trade war mount because of President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports.
The new sanction nearly doubles the previous record EU antitrust fine of 2.4 billion euros, which also targeted Google, in that case for the Silicon Valley titan’s shopping comparison service in 2017.
Denmark’s Vestager ordered Google to “put an effective end to this conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments” of up to five percent of its average daily turnover.
The Google decision came one week before European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker was due to travel to the United States for crucial talks with the American president on the tariffs dispute and other issues.
Google chief Sundar Pichai immediately said the firm would appeal.
“Today’s decision rejects the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less. We intend to appeal,” he said in a blog post.
Google provides Android free to smartphone manufacturers and generates most of its revenue from selling advertisements that appear along with search results.
The EU says Android is used on around 80 percent of mobile devices, both in Europe and worldwide.
The Android case originated when a lobbying group called FairSearch — with members then including huge tech companies like Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle — complained that Google was unfairly tilting the field of competition.
Google’s parent company Alphabet ranked as the fifth largest information technology company in the world in 2017, with global revenue of $111 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
That figure represented a doubling in global revenue in only four years.
China’s Ambassador in Phnom Penh says the European Union should not mix politics with trade as it mulls withdrawing Cambodia’s vital preferential single market access in response to the country’s autocratic backslide.
The European Union has just wrapped up a fact-finding mission to Cambodia to determine if Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences should be withdrawn in light of actions such as the dissolution of the only viable alternative party at this month’s national election.
After delivering a public lecture about China’s Belt and Road initiative to students Tuesday at the University of Cambodia, Ambassador Xiong Bo repeatedly stressed free trade should not be impacted by political preconditions in response to a question about the EBA.
“So I think in terms of the trade relations between the EU and Cambodia I think these trade relations should be conducted according to the economic and trade rules but should not be changed according to any political reasons,” he said, speaking through a translator.
“No matter what the EU will do the Chinese will stand firmly in expanding and deepening our cooperation with Cambodia in all fields, especially in terms of trade and economic relations,” he said.
China has pumped billions of dollars into Cambodia through investment, concessional loans and aid in recent years, dramatically undermining the influence of Western powers in the country.
Xiong said the European Union has declared itself a staunch supporter of global free trade, sentiments he hoped the bloc would stick to, adding he did not believe all member states would support moves to withdraw the EBA.
Any decision to withdraw EBA status from Cambodia would require consensus among EU members.
The EBA grants developing countries such as Cambodia quota free and duty free access to the EU market.
This access is conditional on compliance with certain international human rights standards and countries have been sanctioned before for failing to meet those.
The European Union is Cambodia’s biggest market, absorbing about half of the country’s exports.
Monday, EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar said a European Commission fact finding mission examining human rights and labor rights in the context of the EBA had concluded and would now report to EU decision makers.
Last week, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said withdrawing the EBA was a “last resort if all our other efforts have failed” to address the bloc’s concerns.
Chief among those concerns are the jailing of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha in September and the dissolution of his party in November.
In both cases the actions were predicated on their alleged involvement in an internationally backed conspiracy to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the European Union have slammed the moves as a transparent ploy by Hun Sen to crush his only viable opponents before the country’s July 29 election. The United States has already sanctioned the commander of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, for carrying out “serious acts of human rights abuse against the people of Cambodia.”
Cambodia’s government says they are meddling in its internal affairs.
Cambodian government nervous
In June, Hun Sen dispatched one of his top advisors, Sok Siphana, to Brussels to lobby the European Union against removing the EBA.
A Cambodian statement at the time said, “Sadly and quite unfairly, in a very large number of cases, the Government felt like the victim of unfounded accusations and excessive generalizations.” It concluded, “There is a conspiracy and a treasonous act of collusion with a foreign power to do a regime change through undemocratic means. How could it be otherwise?”
Sok Siphana, a prominent lawyer and economic advisor who led Cambodia’s negotiations into the World Trade Organization in 2003, has not responded to VOA inquiries about the lobbying effort.
Political Analyst Meas Ny said he did not believe Sok had been successful in his mission.
“The recent mission sent by the Cambodian government it was hard for the head of the delegation to convince the EU community because I think the EU so far have got their information from all sources,” he said.
He said it is clear the Cambodian government is not going to change its stance due to the threat of EBA withdrawal.
“But I think we can talk up a lot of issues that the government might be facing in the future if the EBA is lifted,” he said.
Chief among those, Meas said, was the knock on effect to Cambodia’s micro-finance sector from the resulting unemployment among Cambodia’s 700,000 garment workers, many of whom are heavily indebted.
Late last year, Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak warned in a leaked letter if the EBA were withdrawn Cambodia would have to pay $676 million for an estimated $6.2 billion in revenue from exports to the European Union.
For more than 30 years, doctors have worked to save people’s arms and legs. VOA’s Carol Pearson reports, saving a limb after an accident or infection can take an entire team of specialists at a limb preservation center.
Facebook says it will begin removing false information from its site that could lead to violence.
“There are certain forms of misinformation that have contributed to physical harm” in certain countries, the U.S. social media giant said in a statement Wednesday announcing the policy.
The company says it will work with local organizations to identify such information, including written posts and doctored photos.
Facebook has been accused for allowing users to spread hate speech and false information that has led to recent violence in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India. Sri Lanka imposed a state of emergency in March after false news posted on Facebook led to deadly attacks on the country’s minority Muslim population by Buddhist mobs.
The California-based company was thrust into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign through the spread of misinformation among voters. It was revealed last September that Russians, using fake names, used social media to try to influence voters ahead of the election.
Facebook founder and chief operating officer Mark Zuckerberg sparked criticism Wednesday when he tried to explain the difference between misinformation and offensive speech.
In an interview published by the technology news site Recode, Zuckerberg said he would not ban people who deny the Holocaust, the mass genocide of 6 million European Jews carried out by Nazi Germany.
She may not be the warmest waitress, but she serves a nice, hot cup of “Joe” at a café on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.
Though this robotic barista is still getting help from her human counterpart, she is a signal that Asia is ahead of the curve in embracing new technologies ahead of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
A recent report from PwC Global, a professional services firm, studied 1,155 manufacturing businesses based on how much they were embracing and incorporating innovations in technology, from drones to 3-D printing.
Across the board, companies in the Asia-Pacific region scored higher than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
In Thailand, for instance, manufacturing companies have widely adopted new technologies to transform their operations.
“Many are using robots to assemble products at their factories to rely less on human labor, reduce costs, and boost overall efficiency,” said Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, consulting lead partner at PwC Thailand.
ASEAN catches up
The report graded firms based on questions about the kinds of tools they were introducing into their workplaces. For example, manufacturers were asked if they made use of virtual reality; 44 percent in the Asia Pacific said they did compared with 34 percent in the United States and 19 percent in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
The regional group Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reports that small and medium enterprises are using new technology to catch up to bigger rivals.
“Digitization is enabling SMEs across ASEAN to participate in cross-border trade, allowing them to grow and scale their businesses while reducing costs,” said Bidhan Roy, a general manager at Cisco Systems Pte Ltd.
Benefits of youth
Observers say the Asia-Pacific region benefits from its youth.
The relatively young population means people are amenable to different work environments and business operations, as well as having a keen interest in using new technology.
Another advantage? The region’s economies are also somewhat young, with many just opening up to global trade in the last two decades. In addition its underdeveloped infrastructure has the ability to adapt for future needs, like public transit or drone deliveries.
“Asian companies have the advantage of setting up robust digital operations from essentially a blank slate in terms of factory automation, workforce, and even organizational IT [information technology] networks as a whole,” the PwC report said.
But more is needed to make these companies successful.
Cisco Systems’ Roy noted that small and medium firms “are at varying stages of maturity in terms of digital adoption” and could use collaboration with governments and corporations.
PwC Thailand’s Vilaiporn agreed on the benefit of collaboration.
“Thailand 4.0 will only be successful if both the government and private sectors understand their roles in fostering investment and focusing on research and development, as well as equipping the workforce with necessary skill sets and capabilities,” he said.
The “4.0” refers to the latest industrial revolution, which goes beyond mechanization and automation. It entails business processes becoming more efficient through a comprehensive application of technology, from smart devices to machine learning.
Luxury air travel faster than the speed of sound: A US start-up is aiming to revive commercial supersonic flight 50 years after the ill-fated Concorde first took to the skies.
Blake Scholl, the former Amazon staffer who co-founded Boom Supersonic, delivered the pledge this week in front of a fully-restored Concorde jet at the Brooklands aviation and motor museum in Weybridge, southwest of London.
The company aims to manufacture a prototype 55-seater business jet next year but its plans have been met with scepticism in some quarters.
“The story of Concorde is the story of a journey started but not completed — and we want to pick up on it,” Scholl said at an event that coincided with the nearby Farnborough Airshow.
“Today … the world is more linked than it’s ever been before and the need for improved human connection has never been greater.
“At Boom, we are inspired at what was accomplished half a century ago,” he added, speaking in front of a former British Airways Concorde.
Boom Supersonic’s early backers include Richard Branson and Japan Airlines, and other players are eyeing the same segment.
Speaking to AFP at Farnborough on Wednesday, Scholl indicated that the air tickets could be beyond the reach of some.
“What we’ve been able to do thanks to advances in aerodynamics and materials and engines is offer a high speed flight for the same price you pay in business class today,” he said.
He said this works out to around $5,000 (4,300 euros) round-trip across the Atlantic.
“Now I know that might sounds like a lot, because it is, but it’s actually the same price you pay for a lay flat bed on airlines today,” he said.
Boom Supersonic’s aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year.
The company is making its debut at Farnborough and hopes to produce its new-generation jets in the mid-2020s or later, with the aim of slashing journey times by half.
The proposed aircraft has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometres (5,167 miles) at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kilometres per hour.
If it takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft since Concorde took its final flight in 2003.
The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people.
“The one accident that did happen on Concord actually happened on the runway,” Scholl told AFP on Wednesday.
“It had nothing to do with high-speed flight so there’s no actual barrier to creating a highly safe, efficient supersonic airplane and we have super high standards for safety.
“We’ll be going through the same safety testing process that every other aircraft goes through and the FAA (US Federal Aviation Administration) and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) will not let our airplane fly unless we pass a very high safety bar.”Some analysts meanwhile remain sceptical over the push back into supersonic, with consumer demand booming for cheap low-cost carriers.
“Supersonic is not what passengers or airlines want right now,” said Strategic Aero analyst Saj Ahmad.
Ahmad said supersonic jets were “very unattractive” because of high start-up development costs, considerations about noise pollution and high prices as well as limited capacity.
‘Untried and untested’
Independent air transport consultant John Strickland noted supersonic travel was unproven commercially.
“If there is an economic downturn or something happens where the market for business class traffic drains away, then you have nothing else left to do with that aircraft,” Strickland said.
“I think it’s going to be some time before we see whether it can establish a large viable market … in the way that Concorde never managed to do.”
These concerns have not stopped interest from other players.
US aerospace giant Boeing had last month unveiled its “hypersonic” airliner concept, which it hopes will fly at Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — when it arrives on the scene in 20 to 30 years.
And in April, NASA inked a deal for US giant Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane.”
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