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Intel Becomes Savior Of Exploited Workers

In recent years modern slavery has increasingly come under the global spotlight

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Research on AI and Machine Learning is already on at all Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs). VOA
Intel bets on artificial intelligence, to train 15,000 people in India. VOA

Intel topped a list issued on Monday ranking how well technology companies combat the risk of forced labor in their supply chains, overtaking HP and Apple.

Most of the top 40 global technology companies assessed in the study by KnowTheChain, an online resource for business, had made progress since the last report was published in 2016. But the study found there was still room for improvement.

“The sector needs to advance their efforts further down the supply chain in order to truly protect vulnerable workers,” said Kilian Moote, project director of KnowTheChain, in a statement.

Intel, HP and Apple scored the highest on the list, which looked at factors including purchasing practices, monitoring and auditing processes. China-based BOE Technology Group and Taiwan’s Largan Precision came bottom.

Workers who make the components used by technology companies are often migrants vulnerable to exploitative working conditions, the report said.

About 25 million people globally were estimated to be trapped in forced labor in 2016, according to the International Labor Organization and rights group Walk Free Foundation.

Laborers in technology companies’ supply chains are sometimes charged high recruitment fees to get jobs, trapped in debt servitude, or deprived of their passports or other documents, the report said.

It highlighted a failure to give workers a voice through grievance mechanisms and tackle exploitative recruiting practices as the main areas of concern across the sector.

In recent years modern slavery has increasingly come under the global spotlight, putting ever greater regulatory and consumer pressure on firms to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labor, child labor and other forms of slavery.

From cosmetics and clothes to shrimp and smartphones, supply chains are often complex with multiple layers across various countries — whether in sourcing the raw materials or creating the final product — making it hard to identify exploitation.

Overall, large technology companies fared better than smaller ones, suggesting a strong link between size and capacity to take action, the report said. Amazon, which ranked 20th, was a notable exception, it said.

“Top-ranking brands … are listening to workers in their supply chains and weeding out unscrupulous recruitment processes,” Phil Bloomer, head of the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

intel technology
intel technology, pixabay

A spokesman for Amazon said the report drew from old and incomplete information and failed to take into account recently launched anti-slavery commitments and initiatives.

HP said it regularly assessed its supply chain to identify and address any concerns and risks of exploitation.

“We strive to ensure that workers in our supply chain have fair treatment, safe working conditions, and freely chosen employment,” said Annukka Dickens, HP’s director for human rights and supply chain responsibility.

Also read: Another Security flaw is Revealed By Intel in its Chips

Intel, Apple, BOE Technology and Largan Precision did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (VOA)

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McLaren Removes OnePlus as Partner For The 2020 F1 Season: Report

OnePlus removed from McLaren's partners' page

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Mclaren
MClaren has not listed OnePlus as partner for the 2020 F1 season. Wikimedia Commons

OnePlus has released “McLaren Edition” smartphones for couple of years but now, a Reddit user reports that the British carmaker has not listed OnePlus as partner for the 2020 F1 season.

The removal of the Chinese brand from the list of partners has resulted in the speculation that the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition will most likely not get a successor this year, reports XDA Developers.

OnePlus has been doing special editions of its phones for a few years now.

The OnePlus 5T was available in the Star Wars: The Last Jedi Edition, and the OnePlus 6 was available in a Marvel Avengers Edition.

Both of these smartphones were available in limited quantities and in select regions only.

Mclaren oneplus
The removal of the Chinese brand from the list of partners has resulted in the speculation. Wikimedia Commons

Also Read: 64% Deaths in Males, 36% in Females: Covid-19 Death Analysis

The smartphone maker launched the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition, with a new and distinct CMF (colour-material-finish), 10GB RAM and Warp Charge 30 charging technology, to expand the scope of these special editions.

The most recent McLaren Edition device from the OnePlus was OnePlus 7T Pro.

The company recently launched its 8 series smartphones, the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. Both are powerful as well as expensive and the smartphone maker will have to find a new partner to give that a special twist worth paying more for. (IANS)

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Indian Workers Miss Office as Work From Home Becomes the New normal

Lockdown initially thrilled the people to work from home, but now they have started to miss the office environment

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Two months after working from home, Shweta Andrews, a digital editor at a publishing house, says she wants to head back to office because personal interactions with colleagues are important. (Photo Courtesy: Shweta Andrews). VOA

As she settled down to work from home when India announced a lockdown in March due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), Shweta Andrews thought exultantly “this is the way to go.” After all she no longer had to do the grinding commute between office and home in the Indian capital that took up two hours daily.

Two months on, the digital editor of a publishing house is nostalgic about that ride. “I miss my colleagues and believe it or not, I miss travelling in the Metro. I miss the rush. I miss the crowd.”

The unprecedented experiment of work from home that began in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted some Indian companies to explore the possibility of scaling up remote work as they eye long term benefits such as smaller office spaces and lower rentals.

But at a time when a long, stringent lockdown has intensified social isolation, many are finding that an interactive office environment is hard to replace at home.

A New Delhi-based senior professional in a global company, Apoorva Bapna, dismisses the notion that remote work could be the “new normal” and points out that while flexi-hours are welcome, online connections cannot replace the energy generated by professional spaces.

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Apoorva Bapna says office spaces generate energy that cannot completely be replaced by online connections. (Photo Courtesy: Apoorva Bapna). VOA

“There is just that much of bouncing of ideas I can do on a video call or a phone call. Sometimes you just need to sit across the table and have that heated conversation or a debate or just exchange ideas,” says Bapna.

India’s Information Technology sector appears to be blazing the trail for adopting the work-at-home model as the industry gears up to have nearly half the country’s four million I-T workers operate remotely – up from an average of 20 percent before March. The country’s biggest technology company Tata Consultancy Services says that it will have 75 percent of its workforce operating from home by 2025.

Some companies that rely heavily on online work could make the shift much sooner because they found it to be an efficient model in the last two months.

“From a purely productivity standpoint, we have seen a fairly smooth transition in work from home,” says Raghav Gupta, managing director, India and Asia Pacific with Coursera, a U.S. based online learning platform. He gives an example. “If I would go to Bangalore and meet two sets of people in a day, I can do five meetings today by sitting at home.”

As India eases its stringent lockdown and offices begin to reopen with a much leaner staff onsite, the debate has begun heating up.

Some assert that the personal touch provided by an office environment cannot be overlooked, even in the IT sector. “You get ready for the day, it is a mental shift you make,” according to Abhimanyu Mukherji, a service delivery manager in New Delhi with a partner company of software organization, SAP. “Just walking up to someone and talking to my team has a different impact. Now there is a loss of human touch and social interaction which we all are so used to.”

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While it is possible to be productive even doing work from home, Abhimanyu Mukherji says walking up and talking directly to his team has a different impact. (Photo Courtesy: Abhimanyu Mukherji). VOA

While he and his team delivered to their clients’ satisfaction during the lockdown, he points out that working at home from living rooms and dining tables can pose challenges of the kind that some of his team members with young children faced.

“When the kids are at home, they expect a lot of attention from the parents and therefore they are having a lot of difficulty in actually concentrating on the job,” says Mukherji. “The children assume that you must be on leave so you should be giving them all the attention.”

There are also the constraints that living in small apartments or extended families throw up, especially in cities with expensive rentals.  “It is not easy for people who live in Bombay, in smaller homes with six to eight family members crammed up in two bedroom homes,” points out Bapna.

And work from home settings can be even more burdensome for women. “We do everything on the house front and we also manage our office work, which is fairly hectic,” says Bapna who was caught in the lockdown in Jaipur city where she was visiting her parents.

Amid the lockdown there have been no comprehensive surveys to indicate which way Indians would prefer going. But a recent survey by a Bengaluru based research firm, Feedback Insights, found that two-thirds of employees were concerned about personal wellbeing, a lack of connectedness with the team and overall anxiety about the job environment. They also cited frequent distractions at home as a key challenge.

Read More: These Books Can Drive Boredom Away in Lockdown 4.0

However benefits such as savings for companies, less traffic on roads, less pollution and less spending on fuel and daycare will inevitably lead to a greater push for the work-at-home model in the post Covid world.

“By choice and also by planning we will say – you go to office two days a week, you may or may not have a dedicated desk, and the other three or four days you consistently work at home,” says Gupta at Coursera.

But shrinking office spaces, thanks to technology and the new emphasis on social distancing, is something many view with trepidation. Andrews draws an analogy with reading a book on Kindle – it does not replicate the original. “The feeling of holding a book in your hand, that touch, that smell, that personal feeling you get – it’s the same as personal contact in an office,” says Andrews. “So yes technology and computers and zoom and Kindle don’t work as well as interacting with a real human being does.” (VOA)

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Private Companies Now Allowed to Take Part in Planetary Exploration: Finance Minister

Government will aldo take steps to encourage private participation in the space sector

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planetary exploration
Private sector will be allowed to take part in planetary exploration from now on. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that private companies will be allowed to take part in planetary exploration, outer space travel among other space activities, and the government will take steps to encourage private participation in the Indian space sector as per Finance News.

Speaking to the media, Sitharaman said that the government will provide level playing field for private companies in satellite launches and space-based services.

Centre will come up with a predictable policy and regulatory environment to private players.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on atomic energy research reactor
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government will provide level playing field for private companies in satellite launches and space-based services. Wikimedia Commons

Read More: The Tale Of A Bicycle Thief That left Netizens in Tears

The private sector will be allowed to use ISRO facilities and other relevant assets to improve their capacities. She further announced that liberal geospatial data policy will be framed for private sector to access remote sensing data to tech-entrepreneurs.

The announcement is part of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday. (IANS)