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According to a report, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) a new toolkitto support the development of High Speed Internet service in rural communities. The toolkit defines 27 USDA programmes that aims to ‘facilitate the expansion of broadband, including grants, loans and technical assistance from multiple mission areas of the USDA’.

Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, stressed the importance of the user-friendly tool by saying that “high-speed broadband e-connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for school children, doing homework in rural communities.”

WhatsApp announced a ‘Startup India-WhatsApp Grand Challenge’ in partnership with Invest India to enhance the country’s entrepreneurial and small business community growth. Through this challenge, WhatsApp will award five winning startups each a grant of $50,000. The themes for the startup challenge vary between healthcare, rural economy, financial and digital inclusion, education, and citizen safety. “Entrepreneurs with highly innovative ideas, business models that solve for a local India problem, making a large scale socio-economic impact, are invited to apply,” WhatsApp highlighted in a press release. The last day for registration for WhatsApp Startup India challenge is March 10.

Facebook, in a reported session at the 2019 edition of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, held in Sri Lanka from 16-21 January, has outlined its efforts at curbing misinformation and promoting online safety through digital literacy skills programmes.According to Shelley Thakral, head of policy programmes (India, South Asia and Central Asia) at Facebook, the company has partnered with civil society organisations in Sri Lanka to promote digital literacy and economic development. Thakral cited an initiative in collaboration with Sarvodaya, one of the oldest civil society organisations in Sri Lanka, that aims to train up to 20 000 school children by the end of 2019 on how to stay safe on social media.

Refinitiv joins the UN Task Force on Digital Financing of Sustainable Development Goals as a data partner. The company announced that it will deploy its data and insight to support local communities and combat climate change through committing to three core pledges on environment, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable solutions that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “As we explore ways in which the digitalization of finance can be used to unlock resources for the Sustainable Development Goals, having solid data on the sources, types and direction of funding flows is critical to our work. With Refinitiv's support, we hope to find opportunities in which small changes to investment criteria or incentives could shift investors and investments toward more sustainable outcomes” said Tillman Bruett, Director of the Task Force Secretariat. The task force, which consists of leaders from developed and developing countries, is mandated to recommend strategies to harness the potential of financial technology to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. It met at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 22 – 25 January 2019, Davos and is expected to present its preliminary report of recommendations to the Secretary-General in September 2019.

A new report from Germany’s NetzPolitik says Facebook is working with Aeronautics giant Airbus, to test drones in Australia. This is an attempt to revive the social media giant’s ambitious programme to beam Internet across the globe using drones which was abandoned last year. NetzPolitik obtained a document, requested under Australia’s Freedom of Information Act, that showed that the two companies spent last year planning on how to collaborate and schedule test flights in November and December 2018.  According to the report, Facebook wants to use the drones that operate at an altitude of 20 kilometres from the Earth’s surface to bring connectivity to some 3.8 billion people who do not yet have access to the Internet.

The most significant effort in advancing Industry 4.0 is the development of digital infrastructure. According to a recent report, private and public sector representatives who took part in the 2019 edition of the ASEAN Digital Infrastructure seminar organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council in Thailand, announced the expansion in the country’s Internet infrastructure.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, Pichet Durongkaveroj told reporters during the seminar that Thailand is all set to become a full-fledged broadband nation by the end of 2019 by providing Internet access to an additional 50 000 villages this year.



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