WhatsApp could be ready to launch digital payments in India next month

Thanks to a government-backed platform called UPI (Unified Payment Interface), developers are able to more easily integrate digital payments for India into their apps. Google’s Tez uses UPI for bill payments, and social app Truecaller added the functionality in a recent update. The country’s most used messaging app shouldn’t be too far behind as Facebook-owned WhatsApp could be ready to offer a payment solution based on UPI as early as next month.

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WhatsApp could be ready to launch digital payments in India next month was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Digital technology must empower workers, not alienate them

Coding alone will not prepare workers for our tech-filled future.

This is a contributed article by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. A version of the essay was originally published on NBCNews.com.

Tune in to MSNBC Friday, January 19, at 7 pm PT/10 pm ET to see Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki onstage in San Francisco with Recode executive editor and co-founder Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Ari Melber in a special town hall, “Revolution: Google and YouTube Changing the World.”

It’s clear that people need more options to thrive in the digital world. The next generation of workers will depend on how we evolve education and tech in the coming years.

When you think of how to help our workforce thrive and find opportunities in the digital world, the first word that often comes to mind is “code.” Nearly every digital-skills program over the past decade has focused on computer science, with a lot of emphasis on young students. Coding, of course, is vital and a core skill for America to invest in. Google has focused resources and employee time helping people from all backgrounds to code — from helping introduce students to the basics, to offering 10,000 free Udacity courses in coding for apps, to training other businesses in how to become experts in programming artificial intelligence. All of this will help meet the growing need for workers who can write the software that will power everyone’s businesses. And it will help countless people more move into in-demand, high paying careers.

But the focus on code has left a potentially bigger opportunity largely unexplored. In the past, people were educated and learned job skills, and that was enough for a lifetime. Now, with technology changing rapidly and new job areas emerging and transforming constantly, that’s no longer the case. We need to focus on making lightweight, continuous education widely available. This is just as crucial to making sure that everyone can find opportunities in the future workplace.

There are two areas that are relevant here. The first is around basic digital skills training. An office admin, for example, now needs to use online programs to run budgets, scheduling, accounting and more. While digital technology should be empowering people, it can often alienate them from their own jobs.

Some of these skills didn’t exist five years ago, yet workers are today expected to have them. A recent report by the Brookings Institute says that jobs in the US requiring “medium-digital” skills in America have grown from 40 percent of jobs in 2002 to 48 percent of jobs in 2016.

The digital skills necessary to do these jobs are far easier to learn than code, and should be easier to deliver at scale. For example, we rolled out a “Grow with Google” program, and partnered with Goodwill last year to incorporate digital skills training into its already amazing training infrastructure for job seekers. One trainee spoke of the value of her own experiences. “Before I learned digital skills, I felt unsure of myself,” she says. “Now I feel confident. You have to feel confident in what you do in order to be successful and move on in life.”

Through these trainings, people learn about using technology to research, to plan events, analyze data and more. They don’t require a formal degree or certificate. We think there’s great scope to expand this model, and teach hard and soft skills that can empower a workforce that has access to constant, accredited learning opportunities as job requirements change.

Second, we have a huge opportunity to rethink training for jobs that are core to the digital economy, but that don’t require coding. IT support is a clear opportunity, here. Just as anyone has a clear path to becoming an auto mechanic, we need a similar path to the 150,000 open positions for IT support, in which people maintain the machines and software that underpin technology services. Yet no training today efficiently connects people to that opportunity.

We learned this ourselves through an IT-support apprenticeship program we offered, with the Bay Area’s Year Up job-training program. Over 90 percent of the young adults met or exceed Google’s expectations as apprentices, but we noticed they didn’t return to apply for full-time jobs. It turned out that the standard, two-year computer science degree cost too much time and money, teaching skills that those former apprentices simply didn’t need to start their careers.

So we developed, and just announced, a new IT certificate program alongside Coursera that’s far more focused and flexible. We believe in just 8 to 12 months, it teaches everything you need to be an IT support technician. IT support jobs are predicted to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than most other occupations the government tracks. We’re giving 10,000 people free access to the course and will connect graduates to job opportunities at places like Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint, GE Digital, Infosys, TEKSystems, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — as well as Google. If the program works, the payoff will be substantial. The median annual wage for IT support is close to the median salary in America.

You can imagine this lightweight, focused model being applied to other tech-related jobs of the future: Robust certification programs for project management, delivery fleet operation, and other jobs no one can imagine today, but that will be obvious — and ubiquitous — in five years’ time.

Moving beyond code and intensive degrees to these constant, lightweight and ubiquitous forms of education will take resources and experimentation. But that effort should help close today’s skills gaps, while making sure future skills gaps don’t open. That’s part of the reason Google has invested $ 1 billion over five years to help find new approaches to connect people to opportunities at work and help small and medium businesses everywhere grow in the digital economy.

We should make sure that the next generation of jobs are good jobs, in every sense. Rather than thinking of education as the opening act, we need to make sure it’s a constant, natural and simple act across life — with lightweight, flexible courses, skills and programs available to everyone.

As Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai is responsible for Google’s product development and technology strategy, as well as the company’s day-to-day-operations. Reach him @sundarpichai.

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Could Digital Voting Create a Society That Is Truly Governed by the People?

Political scholars could take a number of lessons from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Perhaps one of the most obvious is that our voting process is not immune to meddling. Countries from Kenya to Honduras have had to contend with contested elections in the past, but the Russian interference in the 2016 election is arguably without precedent for the U.S. With the 2018 midterms fast approaching, some experts fear that the cracks in our political process through which meddlers infiltrated have not yet been sealed.

Over the past few years, a growing chorus has asked: Why not take elections digital? If voters could weigh in via a hyper-secure app, wouldn’t it make voting more convenient, which could allow more people to weigh in more often? A voting app could ensure that we have a more direct democracy, or at least a “liquid democracy,” in which individual voters have more contact with their representatives.

But the equation might not be as simple as it seems. Some experts fear that sophisticated voting technology might exclude the less tech-savvy among us, or those who can’t afford a smartphone or computer. Others point out that taking voting totally digital might, in fact, make our elections more vulnerable to hacking; for some, only paper ballots are hack-proof.

Futurism touched base with the experts to see if digital elections would be better for American citizens, or for our democracy.

First, it’s worth discussing what kind of political shift, exactly, tech would best be used for. Areeq Chowdhury, the chief executive of WebRoots Democracy, “a voluntary, youth-led think tank focused on the intersection of technology and democratic participation” based in the United Kingdom:

Liquid democracy is an interesting idea, and the idea of giving everyone the power to vote on everything in the palm of their hands is a powerful one. In theory, it could lead to a system where everyone’s views are meaningfully listened to and acted upon, with the will of the majority truly represented.

It is not the same, however, as direct democracy. With liquid democracy, the voter should be able to assign their votes on certain issues to certain representatives, and be able to take them away. This would mean that you, as a voter, could assign your votes on an issue to someone who you deem sufficiently knowledgeable, leading to educated votes. However, this could also leave it open to being gamed by lobby groups. For it to truly work as a system, political education must be made mandatory in schools, and there would need to be serious investment in democratic engagement to ensure that enough people use the app. The first question that needs to be answered is, “do people actually want this?”

So could tech help? Steve Ressler, the founder of GovLoop.com, a social network to connect government officials:

Governments and elected officials have always wanted to get constituent feedback on issues. However, there have always been barriers — it’s hard for folks to drive downtown to attend a townhall meeting in person, find transportation to get to a voting booth, or spend the time to write a letter or call an official. The ubiquitous nature of smartphones has the potential to dramatically increase the number of people involved in the democratic process by making it easier.

It does this in a couple ways — you can provide feedback regardless of your location and, by making it real-time with short feedback loops, it decreases the time commitment. While I love idea of using smartphones to get more feedback, I believe we elect officials to not just do a straw poll on every issue  tough issues require bringing together citizen input with thoughtful judgment to make decisions.

Rouven Brües, a project manager at the Liquid Democracy Association, a nonprofit dedicated to digital civil action:

Digital media technologies can be transformative because they enable us to rethink and remodel our democracies. New ideas that are technically feasible today, such as the delegation of votes through an app, enable us to envision the democracies to come, even though their implementation might still be facing practical difficulties.

In practice, changing democratic processes with technology is not so easy.Voting is the last step in a democratic decision-making processes and arguably one of the smaller ones if you look at the whole process: setting an agenda, forming arguments and positions in a discourse, finding compromises between conflicting positions, and merging these in concrete (law) proposals.

Through our work, we have come to understand that neither apps nor software will completely replace the democratic processes in place, since they can only model parts of the process.

Using an app to receive delegations from citizens and voters is a smart way to include them in the decision-making process. However, this runs the risk that the politician doing so renounces any possibility to negotiate compromises. So how useful an app actually is to collect delegations and votes depends on the decisions that have to be made.

In any case, we strongly believe that all democratic- and civic-tech tools have to be open (as in open-source) if they want to have a sustainable impact and benefit for society and if they want to be transparent and trustworthy.

The post Could Digital Voting Create a Society That Is Truly Governed by the People? appeared first on Futurism.


Western Digital ships G-Speed Shuttle external storage devices with dual Thunderbolt 3 ports

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Drive producer Western Digital has launched two models of the G-Speed Shuttle, an external storage device range aimed at content creators that offers up to 48 terabytes of capacity and boasts fast transfer speeds using Thunderbolt 3 connectivity to connect to an iMac Pro or MacBook Pro.
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