lunes, 25 de julio de 2016

Facebook! Aquila’s First Flight: A Big Milestone Toward Connecting Billions of People

Facebook's solar powered plane Aquila.
By Jay Parikh, Global Head of Engineering and Infrastructure 7/21/2016 Via: Facebook Newsroom

Internet access can offer life-changing opportunities and experiences to all of us, but there are still 4 billion people without it. That’s 60% of the global population. As many as 1.6 billion of those unconnected people live in remote locations with no access to mobile broadband networks, where implementing existing network technologies is so challenging and costly that it will take years to bring everyone affordable access. As part of our commitment to Internet.org, we formed the Facebook Connectivity Lab to build new technologies — including aircraft, satellites, and wireless communications systems — to help solve this problem more quickly.

Today Connectivity Lab announced a big milestone in this work: the first full-scale test flight of Aquila, our high-altitude unmanned aircraft. Aquila is a solar-powered airplane that can be used to bring affordable internet to hundreds of millions of people in the hardest-to-reach places. When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet using laser communications and millimeter wave systems. Aquila is designed to be hyper efficient, so it can fly for up to three months at a time. The aircraft has the wingspan of an airliner, but at cruising speed it will consume only 5,000 watts — the same amount as three hair dryers, or a high-end microwave.

We’ve been flying a one-fifth scale version of Aquila for several months, but this was the first time we’ve flown the full-scale aircraft. This test flight was designed to verify our operational models and overall aircraft design. To prove out the full capacity of the design, we will push Aquila to the limits in a lengthy series of tests in the coming months and years. Failures are expected and sometimes even planned; we learn more when we push the plane to the brink.

This first functional check was a low-altitude flight, and it was so successful that we ended up flying Aquila for more than 90 minutes — three times longer than originally planned. We were able to verify several performance models and components, including aerodynamics, batteries, control systems, and crew training. In our next tests, we will fly Aquila faster, higher and longer, eventually taking it above 60,000 feet. Each test will help us learn and move faster toward our goal.

We’re encouraged by this first successful flight, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. In fact, to reach our goal of being able to fly over a remote region and deliver connectivity for up to three months at time, we will need to break the world record for solar-powered unmanned flight, which currently stands at two weeks. This will require significant advancements in science and engineering to achieve. It will also require us to work closely with operators, governments and other partners to deploy these aircraft in the regions where they’ll be most effective.

But we believe this work has never been more important. New technologies like Aquila have the potential to bring access, voice and opportunity to billions of people around the world, and do so faster and more cost-effectively than has ever been possible before.

jueves, 23 de junio de 2016

Where Rumors Can Kill

For refugees, access to information is a matter of life and death. Here’s what one organization is doing to help.

By Jeanne Bourgault     May 31, 2016  Via FOREIGN POLICY

Frustrations have been boiling over into violence on the Greek border with Macedonia. Along the razor wire fence, refugees in the Greek town of Idomeni have been stranded with no information about when — or if — the border would ever open. In April, some made a desperate dash for the other side. They were met with Macedonian stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. Three hundred were injured, including women and children. Earlier this month, refugees pushed an abandoned train car toward the border, only to be confronted this time by Greek police firing stun grenades and tear gas.

These were only some of the indignations inflicted on some of the 54,000 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries, who are now trapped in a bureaucratic purgatory in Greece. Many survived bombs, gunfire and mass killings at home. Desperate to flee the violence, they risked their lives in perilous sea crossings arranged by smugglers. Greece, which is mired in economic crisis, is not their goal — they want only to be allowed to continue on to further European destinations. But on March 20, the door to the rest of Europe slammed shut as part of an EU agreement with Turkey.

Now the refugees must wait for asylum law experts from other European countries to rule on who can stay in Greece or who might be granted asylum elsewhere — but when that will happen is anybody’s guess. In the interim, just last week, the refugees from Idomeni have been moved to other camps near Thessaloniki, about an hour away. Non-Greek media were not given access to report on the camp clearing and, once again, the refugees had no idea what was happening, or why.

When most people think of a humanitarian crisis, they imagine a population that has nowhere to live and nothing to eat. But in Greece, food and shelter, while basic, are available. The two things that are in short supply are patience and information.The two things that are in short supply are patience and information.

The situation exposes one of the greatest challenges of humanitarian crises today — ensuring access to relevant, accurate information that might help calm tense situations. Our organization, Internews, has been working together with myriad other groups around the world to try to fill this critical and under-appreciated gap. With all that refugees have had to navigate — smugglers, dangerous sea crossings, foreign cultures, domestic laws, international agreements — information they can trust is as vital as food, medicine and shelter.

Over the past decade, the notion of “information as a form of aid in its own right” has gained traction. The humanitarian community has come to understand the importance of listening to, talking to, and exchanging information with the people they serve. In addition to radio broadcasts, bullhorns and billboards, a mix of new information technologies from texting to apps are increasingly deployed in crisis scenarios, enabling the affected people not only to receive information, but to engage in dialogue with humanitarian responders.

These strategies are relatively easy to design and implement in “typical” crisis situations, where the affected populations share a common language and culture with each other and with the surrounding community. In such cases, local media can be mobilized to serve their information needs through radio, print, and television. Temporary radio stations can be set up in camps for the displaced, and radio receivers distributed to the population

Simple megaphones in public gathering places, clinics, and food distribution sites can help.

The case of the current refugee crisis in Europe, however, is much more challenging. This population speaks multiple languages and varies wildly in its demographic make-up, literacy rate, and access to smartphones and the Internet.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2016

This radio station is trying to heal one of the most war-torn parts of Africa

A sign outside a radio station in the capital city of Bangui encourages peace between Christians and Muslims
Muslim and Christian journalists are trying to bridge the Central African Republic’s sectarian divide.

By Charlotte Alfred   05/31/2016   Via THE HUFFINGTON POST

Muslim and Christian journalists are trying to bridge the Central African Republic’s sectarian divide.
There is a river that runs through Bambari, one of the largest cities in the Central African Republic. The city’s Muslim community lives on one side of the river. The Christians reside on the other. 

The river is called Ouaka, and it has morphed from the life source of the fishing and farming community to a bitter dividing line.

Christians and Muslims lived together for decades in Bambari, and throughout the Central African Republic. But the sectarian bloodshed that erupted three years ago has wrenched the country apart.
The River Ouaka now demarcates a tense truce. Few venture over the river these days, for fear of sparking more of the reprisal killings that have repeatedly flared in this city since 2013.

Yet one group of Muslims and Christians in Bambari are trying to reclaim the river’s name as symbol of unity.

They set up the city’s only functioning radio station last year. After a public vote, they named it Lego Ti la Ouaka — which means “Voice of Ouaka” in Sango, the local language.

“The radio hopes to be like a kind of bridge over the river that could help people to be reconciled,” said Mathias Manirakiza, the Central African Republic director for Internews, the international media development nonprofit that helped the community establish the radio station.

The D.C.-based Internews has helped Voice of Ouaka secure about $340,000 in funding from a United Nations-managed pool of donor funds since November 2014, when the organization began laying the groundwork for launching the station. 

But those funds came to an end on Tuesday. Now the station’s ambitious journalists, who have fended off hostile militias and showcased ways to heal their country, face an uncertain future.

A Lifeline For Residents

Radio is the most accessible form of media in the Central African Republic, due to conflict, poverty and a lack of infrastructure. But all of Bambari’s radio stations had shut down by late 2014, following a year of horrific sectarian violence. A local militia had burned one station’s building to the ground, killing several civilians.

Since then, people in Bambari have sometimes been able to pick up national radio signals broadcasting from the capital. But most of the time, they had no media left to turn to.

“In places like the Central African Republic, there are large portions of the country that have no information at all,” Marjorie Rouse, Internews’ senior vice president for programs, told The WorldPost. “Community radio stations can provide highly local information... and an important platform for discussion and debate.”

Without any functioning media in Bambari, rumors ran wild and stoked tensions in the city, said Adja Khaltouma Boulama, the president of Voice of Ouaka’s managing committee.

Bambari residents wanted a fresh start, and feared that reopening one of the old stations would only draw further attacks. So they approached Internews about opening a community radio station. 

“The community told us that they wanted to hear the voices of Bambari better represented,” said Boulama, who was elected by a group of community representatives to head the committee that oversees the station. “I wanted to do this for my country… so we could put rumors to rest and cultivate social cohesion between us, between Christians and Muslims, so that peace could return.”

Read more about this article in THE HUFFINGTON POST

sábado, 4 de junio de 2016

U.S. Subpoenas Huawei Over Its Dealings in Iran and North Korea (Cuba, Sudan and Syria)

Huawei, a major supplier of telecommunications equipment, reported revenue of about $60 billion in 2014. Credit Aly Song/Reuters

HONG KONG — Huawei Technologies has become China’s most successful international technology company, in part by tapping markets as varied as Britain, India and Kenya.

But it also moved into markets like Syria, where American officials have imposed limits on sales of technology that could be used to commit human rights abuses, and into Iran, where sanctions have only recently been eased. And its presence in such countries is now coming under greater scrutiny.

The United States Commerce Department is demanding that the company, based in the south China city of Shenzhen, turn over all information regarding the export or re-export of American technology to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, according to a subpoena sent to Huawei and viewed by The New York Times. The subpoena is part of an investigation into whether Huawei broke United States export controls.

Sent to Huawei’s American headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Plano, the subpoena called for Huawei to turn over information related to shipments to those countries over the past five years. It also sought evidence of shipments to the countries indirectly through front or shell companies. The subpoena directed company officials to testify last month in Irving, Tex., or to provide information before then; it was not clear whether the meeting took place.

Huawei has not been accused of wrongdoing. In a statement, the company said it was committed to complying with laws and regulations where it operated. The document, which was issued by the Commerce Department office that investigates export violations, is an administrative subpoena, meaning it does not indicate a criminal investigation.

Still, the scrutiny over Huawei’s dealings with those countries is emblematic of growing discord between the United States and China over control of global communications technology. It also illustrates how technology companies from both countries have been pulled into the high-stakes geopolitical contest over cybersecurity and the global management of the internet.

If the investigation finds that Huawei was acting counter to United States national security or foreign policy interests, it could limit the company’s access to crucial American-made components and other tech products. Given Huawei’s size and reach, that could affect the development of cellular networks and other large-scale technology infrastructure projects across the world.

“We do not comment with regard to ongoing investigations,” a Commerce Department spokesman said.

domingo, 29 de mayo de 2016

State of Connectivity 2015: A Report on Global Internet Access by Facebook via Internet.org

By INTERNET.ORG    Via Facebook    February 22, 2016 

State of Connectivity 2015: A Report on Global Internet Access, the second annual study by Facebook, takes a close look at the current state of global internet connectivity, how it has changed since 2014, and how we can use the data identified to generate new insights.

At the end of 2015, estimates showed that 3.2 billion people were online. This increase (up from 3 billion in 2014) is partly attributed to more affordable data and rising global incomes in 2014. Over the past 10 years, connectivity increased by approximately 200 to 300 million people per year.

While this is positive news in terms of growth, it also means that globally, 4.1 billion people were still not internet users in 2015.

  • The four key barriers to internet access include:
  • Availability: Proximity of the necessary infrastructure required for access.
  • Affordability: The cost of access relative to income.
  • Relevance: A reason for access, such as primary language content.
  • Readiness: The capacity to access, including skills, awareness and cultural acceptance.

In order to address the barriers to connectivity, corporations, governments, NGOs and non-profits need to work together to continue gathering more accurate data on the state of global connectivity, and develop global standards for collecting, reporting, and distributing this data.

As one example, Facebook is collaborating with the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University to produce detailed maps showing the population distribution of 20 countries. These maps were created using new machine learning techniques and show the most accurate estimates of population distribution and settlements available to date.

Read more about Data-Assisted Population Distribution Mapping here and here.