- Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey: 20% rural students lack books.
The issue in news
According to the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) survey, about 20% of rural children have no textbooks at home.
Annual State of Education Report (ASER)
- ASER is a nationwide survey of rural education and learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic skills.
- It has been conducted by the NGO Pratham for the last 15 years (Since 2005).
- It provides reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India.
- ASER continues to be an important national source of information about children’s foundational skills across the country.
- In 2020, the survey was conducted via phone calls, reaching 52,227 rural households with school-age children in 30 States and Union Territories.
- The ASER survey provides a glimpse into the levels of learning loss that students in rural India are suffering, with varying levels of access to technology, school and family resources, resulting in a digital divide in education.
- In Andhra Pradesh, less than 35% of children had textbooks, and only 60% had textbooks in Rajasthan.
- More than 98% had textbooks in West Bengal, Nagaland and Assam.
During the survey week:
- About one in three rural children had done no learning activity at all.
- About two in three had no learning material or activity given by their school. Only one in 10 had access to live online classes.
- Despite the levels of smartphone ownership having almost doubled from 2018, a third of children with smartphone access also did not receive any learning materials.
Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- U.K. to partner for developing GIFT City in India
The issue in news
The United Kingdom has entered into a strategic partnership to develop India’s GIFT City.
- GIFT (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) is India’s first international financial services centre.
- It is located in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
- At the 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue between the two countries, India and the U.K. also signed off on a new infrastructure finance and policy partnership to help India execute its National Infrastructure Pipeline that envisages investments worth $1.4 trillion.
- The UK has agreed to set up a new Fund of Funds to be managed by the State Bank of India (SBI) group in order to route the U.K.’s future capital investments into India.
- It provides an opportunity to drive international capital flow from London to India.
- Bilateral trade between India and the U.K. stood at £24 billion in 2019.
- India is now the second-largest project investment source for the U.K.
- To help combat the pandemic, the U.K. and India announced a joint investment of £8 million for research to understand and address the factors leading to the severity of the novel coronavirus in South Asian populations in the U.K. and in India.
- India, Central Asian republics call for destruction of terror ‘safe havens’
The issue in news
The second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue was held virtually where the leaders reviewed the relations between India and Central Asian countries.
- The meeting was attended by India’s External Affairs Minister and his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic.
- The Central Asian republics joined India in demanding the destruction of safe havens of terrorism.
- It condemned terrorism while reaffirming to fight it by destroying their networks and funding channels.
- They underlined the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries.
- Support was expressed for the peace negotiations in Afghanistan.
- India announced an additional $1 billion Line of Credit for the Central Asian countries.
- It is expected that the money will be spent on major infrastructural and connectivity projects.
- India also announced grant financing for high-impact community development projects in the countries.
- The meeting led to the establishment of working groups by India Central Asia Business Council comprising the key chambers of all participating countries.
Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
- ISRO to launch satellite EOS-01
The issue in news
ISRO has announced that India would launch EOS-01 and nine international customer spacecraft.
- The customer satellites are being launched under a commercial agreement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), Department of Space. The launch would be made onboard Polar rocket PSLV-C49 from the spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
- This will be the 51st mission of ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.
- This is the first launch by ISRO since the COVID-19 lockdown.
- EOS-1 is India’s latest earth observation satellite.
- It is intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
- Countering deepfakes, the most serious AI threat
The issue in news
The article discusses the threats posed by the use of deepfakes and analyzes possible solutions.
- Deepfakes are the synthetic digital media content (video, audio, and images) manipulated using Artificial Intelligence. o Deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to make videos/images of fake events, hence the name deepfake.
- Deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content. The main machine learning methods used to create deepfakes are based on deep learning and involve training generative neural network architectures, such as autoencoders or generative adversarial networks (GANs).
- Apart from doctoring existing videos, deepfake technology can create entirely fictional photos from scratch. Audio can also be deepfaked too, to create “voice skins” or ”voice clones” of public figures.
Increasing use of deepfakes:
- As per the available reports, the number of deepfake videos online is increasing at an exponential pace.
- With the increasing access to synthetic media technology, AI-generated fake videos are becoming more common (and convincing).
- Access to cloud computing, algorithms, and abundant data has created an ideal scenario for the creation of deepfakes.
- Plenty of tools are now available to help people make deepfakes. Several companies offer this as a service. There are even mobile phone apps that let users add their faces to a list of TV and movie characters on which the system has trained.
- The advent of new techniques allows even unskilled people to make deepfakes with only a handful of photos.
- Deepfakes are not illegal per se, but depending on the content, a deepfake may infringe copyright, breach data protection law, and be defamatory if it exposes the victim to ridicule.
- As with any new innovative technology, deepfakes can be and have been weaponised to inflict harm.
- Deepfakes can inflict damage to individuals, institutions, businesses and democracy.
- The very first use case of malicious use of a deepfake was seen in pornography, inflicting emotional, reputational violence upon women.
Spread of false news:
- Deepfakes being hyper-realistic digital falsification, it becomes very hard to differentiate them from authentic media.
- Deepfakes are being used to spread propaganda and disinformation with ease and unprecedented speed and scale. Such disinformation and hoaxes can have undesirable consequences.
Potential for malicious use:
- Amplifying division in society
- Harming an individual’s reputation
- Economic fraud
- Undermining democracy
- False evidences
- A deepfake could be used as a tool by a nation-state to undermine public safety and create uncertainty and chaos in the target country.
Long term harm:
Loss of trust:
- Deepfakes are capable of also inflicting long-term social harm by accelerating the already declining trust in news media. Such erosion in trust can contribute to a culture of factual relativism.
- This would lead to the creation of a zero-trust society, where people cannot, or no longer bother to, distinguish truth from falsehood. And when trust is eroded, it is easier to raise doubts about specific events.
- Combined with distrust, the existing biases amplified due to the echo chamber and filter bubble effects would lead to discord in society.
- The echo chamber effect is a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulates them from rebuttal. People are able to seek out information that reinforces their existing views, potentially as an unconscious exercise of confirmation bias.
- A filter bubble is a state of intellectual isolation that allegedly results from personalized searches when a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user, his/her location, past click-behaviour and search history. As a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.
- It would also lead to what is often referred to as a liar’s dividend, wherein an undesirable truth is dismissed as deepfake or fake news and people may start providing an alternative-facts narrative to replace the truth.
Are deepfakes always malicious?
- Not all deepfakes are malicious. Many are entertaining and some are helpful.
- Deepfake videos can enliven galleries and museums. For the entertainment industry, technology can be used to improve the dubbing on foreign-language films, and more controversially, resurrect dead actors.
- Voice-cloning deepfakes can restore people’s voices when they lose them to disease.
To counter the grave threat posed by deepfakes there is the need for a multi-stakeholder and multi-modal approach.
Amplifying authoritative sources:
Authentic and authoritative sources must be made more visible to help inform people. This will help negate the effects of false news.
The government has an important role to play in this regard.
Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
- ‘Green’ crackers to make full-fledged Delhi debut
The issue in news
Delhi is set for its first full-fledged debut with ‘green’ crackers for Deepavali.
- The development comes amid growing sentiment against not deepening the air pollution crisis the capital countenances every winter.
- A ban on fireworks was imposed in 2018 and in 2019 only ‘green’ crackers were allowed.
- However, it could not be implemented on a large scale as the permission had come too late for manufacturers to ensure their availability on time.
- Firework is a device that contains gunpowder and other combustible chemicals which causes striking effects and when ignited they explode. They are mostly used in celebrations, festivals, etc.
- Green crackers are those crackers that do not contain harmful chemicals that would cause air pollution. They are environmentally friendly.
- Green crackers are less harmful as compared to conventional firecrackers and less pollution emission will result in reduced air pollution.
- In green crackers, the commonly used polluting chemicals like aluminium, barium, potassium nitrate and carbon have either been removed or sharply reduced to slow down the emissions by 15 to 30%.