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5 Mn Indians Will Be Trained in Digital Skills by 2021: Facebook

Facebook is aggressively fighting spread of misinformation on the platform by taking down fake accounts.

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A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

To help small businesses in India reach the global economy, Facebook is planning to train five million people with digital skills in three years, a top company executive said here on Saturday.

With ten ongoing programmes, Facebook has already trained one million people across 150 cities and 48,000 villages with support from 50 partners, the social networking giant said on the inaugural day of the two-day Facebook Community Boost programme aimed at helping small businesses gain digital marketing skills.

“We have a very strong framework of partnership with local partners and state governments,” Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director, India, South and Central Asia, told reporters here, adding that the company also works closely with the Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship on digital training.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, Sheryl Sandberg, digital
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

“We are very excited that our programmes such as BoostYourBusiness, SheMeansBusiness, that are run in partnership with State and Central Government, civil society and private institutions, focus on facilitating economic transformation and mainstreaming of small businesses at the grassroots level into the formal economy,” she added.

The Facebook training programmes entail simple lessons that help to build a digital presence, avoiding expensive fees for creating and hosting websites, tap into the growing mobile economy, gain market access by learning to market their products to more than two billion people globally who use Facebook, increase awareness about their products and services.

The training programmes for India will also help people learn how to utilise Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform Instagram, Das said.

The training modules for these businesses in digital marketing and online safety developed by Facebook are available in 14 local languages.

Facebook said its programmes reached 29 states in India, including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Odisha and Rajasthan among others.

Social Media, digital
This photo taken March 22, 2018, shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone. VOA

In addition, Facebook jobs product enables businesses to post job listings and empowers youth to find jobs even in remote geographies.

“More than 80 per cent of SMBs (small and midsize businesses) on Facebook say they have increased sales because of the platform and access to global and local market,” Das said, citing the findings of a recent survey.

The results showed that over 70 per ccent of SMBs on the social networking platform built their business on Facebook.

“All these facts encourage us to look at training five million people and entrepreneurs in much needed digital skills by the year 2021,” she added.

When asked how Facebook would prevent businesses from making fraudulent or exaggerated claims on the platform, Das said that Facebook would take action when somebody reports the matter.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech, Russia, Sheryl Sandberg, digital
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“Moreover, customers should examine the veracity of the claims made on Facebook. Unlike in other e-commerce platform, real transactions do not happen on Facebook,” she said, adding that the platform is primarily being used for increasing product awareness.

When it comes to dealing with misinformation on the platform, Facebook primarily relies on the “credible violence” yardstick, meaning that it would remove the content when its reviewers determine that the content has the potential to cause harm to individuals, she said.

Also Read: As Facebook Faces More Criticism, All Eyes Focus on COO Sheryl Sandberg

On concerns of businesses generating fake like or page views, Das said that Facebook is aggressively fighting spread of misinformation on the platform by taking down fake accounts.

In the last two quarters, Facebook has removed more than 1.5 billion fake accounts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a note last week. (IANS)

Next Story

China’s Political System Helps It To Take A Lead in Artificial Intelligence

The U.S. still dominates in the overall market for self-driving car technology, machine translation, natural language understanding, and web search. China has gained a strong presence in a few segments of these businesses, largely because of its vast domestic market.

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Watrix employees demonstrate their firm's gait-recognition software at their company's offices in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2018. VOA

Recent technological advances demonstrated by China have started an intense debate on whether it is set to take a lead in the field of artificial intelligence, or AI, which has extensive business and military applications.

U.S. concerns about China’s AI advances have also influenced, in part, the ongoing trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing. Both the United States and European Union are taking measures to stop information leaks that are reportedly helping Chinese companies at the expense of Western business.

But many analysts are saying that Chinese corporate and defense-related research in areas like AI and 5G wireless technologies can thrive on their own even if information from the Western world is shut off. China is already reportedly leading in several segments of businesses like autonomous vehicles, facial recognition and certain kinds of drones.

FILE - People retrieve their parcels from a JD.com driverless delivery robot in Tianjin, China, Nov. 12, 2018.
People retrieve their parcels from a JD.com driverless delivery robot in Tianjin, China, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

The U.S.-based Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence recently captured attention when it reported that China is a close second after the United States when it comes to producing frequently-cited research papers on artificial intelligence. The U.S. contribution is 29%, and China accounts for 26% of such papers.

“The U.S. still is ahead in AI development capabilities, but the gap between the U.S. and China is closing rapidly because of the significant new AI investments in China,” Bart Selman, president-elect of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a professional organization, told VOA.

Political advantage

Chinese President Xi Jinping has in recent months encouraged Communist leaders to “ensure that our country marches in the front ranks when it comes to theoretical research in this important area of AI, and occupies the high ground in critical and AI core technologies.” He also asked them to “ensure that critical and core AI technologies are firmly grasped in our own hands.”

Analysts said China’s political system and its government’s eagerness to support the technological advancement were key reasons it could build infrastructure such as cloud computing and a software engineering workforce, and become a big player in artificial intelligence.

FILE - Chinese students work on the Ares, a humanoid bipedal robot, displayed during the World Robot Conference in Beijing, Oct. 21, 2016.
Chinese students work on the Ares, a humanoid bipedal robot, displayed during the World Robot Conference in Beijing, Oct. 21, 2016. VOA

Chinese companies enjoy special advantages in deploying new technology like facial recognition, which is often difficult in democratic countries like the U.S., said William Carter, deputy director and fellow in the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“China does have strengths in terms of application development and deployment, and has the potential to take the lead in the deployment of some technologies like autonomous vehicles and facial recognition where ethical, social and policy hurdles may impede deployment in the U.S. and other parts of the world,” Carter said.

China’s capabilities in image and facial recognition are possibly the best in the world, partly because government controls have made it easier to generate data from a wide range of sources like banks, mobile phone companies and social media.

“These capabilities arise out of the use of deep learning on very large data sets. In general, China has the advantage of having more real world data to train AI systems on … than any other country,” Selman said.

Other areas where China has shown significant advances are natural language processing (in Chinese only) and drone (unmanned aerial vehicle) swarming.

“China also has unique capabilities that are not found in the U.S. or Europe. I’m thinking of electronic payment platforms [e.g. AliPay] and the super app WeChat that provide an advanced platform for the rapid introduction of further AI technologies,” Selman said.

U.S. role

Last February, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking government agencies to do more with AI.

“Continued American leadership in artificial intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” Trump was quoted as saying in an official press release accompanying the order.

Critics have said that Trump’s order does not suggest enhanced government investment and plans for attracting fresh talent in AI research and development, which is essential for growth and industry competition.

FILE - Children react next to a security robot patroling inside a residential compound in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China, Jan. 18, 2019.
Children react next to a security robot patroling inside a residential compound in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China, Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

Gregory Allen is an adjunct senior fellow with the research group Center for a New American Security. He was recently quoted as saying that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is spending the most on research and development at $2 billion over five years. In contrast, the Chinese province of Shanghai, which is a city government, is planning to spend $15 billion on AI over 10 years.

“So literally, we have the U.S. federal government at present at risk of being outspent by a provincial government of China,” Allen said.

China’s AI capabilities have limits. They suffer from major weaknesses in areas like advanced semiconductors to support machine learning applications.

“At the end of the day, when it comes to most major AI fields, China is not the technological leader and is not the source of most foundational innovations,” Carter said.

Also Read: Mueller Report Confirms Intelligence Findings About Russia’s Interference in 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections

The U.S. still dominates in the overall market for self-driving car technology, machine translation, natural language understanding, and web search. China has gained a strong presence in a few segments of these businesses, largely because of its vast domestic market.

Despite the competition, collaboration and exchange of ideas occur between the two countries in the AI field, although this aspect is less discussed, Carter added.

“Politically, the dynamic is more competitive; economically and scientifically, it is more collaborative,” he said. (VOA)