The swift lockdown of the entire world was unprecedented, unheard of, and took industries and institutions the world over by surprise. However, some sectors responded swiftly, and education was one of them. Universities, colleges, schools and coaching centres quickly switched to delivering lectures online through digital means. Camera surveillance, video recordings and online chats became the norm. However, issues of privacy, the safety of the data being collected, how it is being used and where it is being stored took a back seat.
To showcase its ‘Digital India’ objectives and how committed the government was to not let a pandemic dampen spirits, the Government of India also jumped on the bandwagon and pushed forth its own e-learning initiatives such as ‘Swayam’, ‘Diksha’, ‘E-Pathshaala’, Free/Libre and Open Source Software for Education and a few more. These online platforms quietly but surely have been able to collect huge amounts of data and generate different types of datasets. These platforms, which work under the beck and call of the government of the day, have become a massive repository of data, which the government and private players can exploit to build and control the society.
Such vast tracts of data in the hands of unregulated entities can be used to suit nefarious ends. They can be used for profiling, which in turn can be used to deliver targeted content to mould impressionable minds or make students the target for certain kinds of advertisements and thought processes. And the impact of these activities can be long term.
The weakness of the current infrastructure of cybersecurity of both government and private institutions in the country is highlighted almost every day. In the month of October, a data breach of the official website of the Prime Minister affected 5 lakh users. Earlier, a popular online education company’s website was breached and sensitive information pertaining to students and registered members was compromised. Very recently, there was news of the breach of security measures of a popular grocery delivery app, which resulted in the email IDs, phone numbers and addresses of its users being stolen. There are numerous such instances which reiterate the point that the data security infrastructure in India is still far from satisfactory and the government and private institutions will do well to go slow on the ‘Digital India’ campaign and first ensure that data is not jeopardised.
In the US, laws such as the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and California Consumer Privacy Act have been enacted specifically to protect children’s privacy and the regulation of data collection from them. The Federal Trade Commission of the US saddled with the regulation of trade and consumer protection in the US even brought out Covid-specific COPPA guidelines. Further, these laws require service providers (in this case, schools) to educate parents/guardians about privacy matters and privacy measures, to notify guardians about their privacy practices and to take explicit consent before collecting their wards’ data.
Institutions have also stepped up to the challenge. The MIT Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has put out age-appropriate modules which can be used to educate students on the appropriate ways of being online and giving control to students to determine the correct use of media for themselves. The University of California, Berkeley has also come with the Teaching Privacy project to teach the basic tenets of online privacy.
In India, the absence of appropriate laws and regulations has let everyone run amok and formulate their own rules and policies without much regard for the accompanying issues of privacy, data abuse and misuse. The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill is yet to see the light of day and the existing legal framework comprising the IT Act, 2000 and the 2011 Rules issued under this Act governing these digital platforms are inadequate to handle issues of privacy pertaining to children specifically. Since there are no clear-cut laws related to these matters yet, it is confusing for institutions and service providers, which contribute partly to breaches and inappropriate processing.
THE WAY AHEAD
To tackle security breaches and issues of children’s privacy online, it would be wise to incorporate appropriate provisions in the pending PDP Bill, which should lay down procedures, acceptable practices and standard operational procedures for online platforms and websites engaging in students’ activities. A rich and well thought out resolution released in the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners of European countries on E-Learning Platforms (Resolution) may be referred to while drawing up a legal framework.
On the ground, certain procedural safeguards may be put in place for schools and institutes to strictly adhere to. The data collected should be processed only for the purposes for which it was collected, complying with the purpose limitation principles. The data collected should not be used for any kinds of targeting or profiling. Material such as video recordings should be stored only for a very limited period of time and, prior to recording, clear unambiguous consent from parents or guardians must be sought. The platform should also ask permission for access to the device’s camera and microphone before each lecture, the video feed be relayed only to the child and her parent and not to the entire class, and parents/guardians be given the right to turn off video recordings. The explicit consent of guardians/parents should also be taken in case of any dire need for the recording being shared by any third party.
With each passing day it becomes clearer that the pandemic—and consequently, online learning platforms—is here to stay. Thus, privacy and data protection, which were earlier resigned to intellectual discussions, have to come to the fore and be handled with deliberation. We cannot cut corners now. The very future of our coming generations is at stake.
The author is a Delhi-based lawyer specialising in technology and IT. The views expressed are personal.
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ON SOCIAL MEDIA DAY, NETIZENS CALL FOR CAUTION AND VERIFICATION
On the occasion of Social Media Day on Thursday, netizens took to social media to spread the message of caution. The official Twitter account of United Nations shared, “We all love to share. But sharing misformation is harmful and it spreads faster when we are upset. On Thursday’s Social Media Day, we ask you to #PledgeToPause and verify content before you share it online.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also tweeted: “Lies and misinformation spread around the world at the touch of a button. We can do our part to stop the spread. On Social Media Day, I encourage you to pause and take time to verify facts before you share something online.”
A social media user said, “Social Media Day is a day to celebrate the freedom and opportunities that this platform has given us,” whereas another social media user said, “Happy Social Media Day to all. Let us pledge to be more sensible, factual, responsible and positive on social media platforms.”
In today’s day and age, when the world is going digital, social media is paving its way to become an information age. From getting to know which celebrity is partying where, who got a promotion amongst your friend circle and sometimes, getting your daily dose of news, social media has emerged as one of the most important tools in our daily lives.
16 LGBTQ filmmakers awarded at ‘Colors of Love Film Festival’
About 16 LGBTQ filmmakers were awarded at the fourth edition of the “Colors of Love International LGBT Film Festival”, organised by Script Factory Production Private Limited. Out of 61 film submissions from LGBT filmmakers around the world, the jury recognised 22 films and 16 filmmakers for their inspiring work. The LGBT Film Festival received submissions for short films, documentaries, animation films, music videos, and web series with LGBTQ themes.
OUT, a short film directed by Seth Chitwood of the United States won the best LGBT-Gay film, followed by best LGBT-Lesbian film ‘Where do the sounds go’ directed by Florent Gouelou of France, Best LGBT-Bisexual Film ‘Write to me by mistake’ directed by Guiseppe De Candia of Italy, Best LGBT-Transgender Film ‘Sisterhood’ directed by Tobias Kralmark of Sweden, Best LGBT-Sexual Diversity Film ‘Quality Check’ directed by Harriette Murtland of the United States, Best LGBT-Documentary Film by ‘Merchant Marine Paul Goercke and Alexander Hamilton Post 448’ directed by Alexander Zane Irwin of the United States.
Best LGBT-Animation Film ‘Embrace’ directed by Latesha Merkel of the United States, Best LGBT–HIV based film ‘More Tomorrow than Before’ directed by Ulises Perez Mancil from Mexico, Best LGBT–Music Video ‘Give Her Your Love’ directed by Celeste Lois from Argentina, Best LGBT–Pride Celebration Film ‘Heaven in Hell’ directed by Len Rosen from the United States, best LGBT Director ‘Send Pic?’ directed by James Cooper from Canada, Best LGBT Female Filmmaker ‘Shall We Talk?’ directed by Katya Mikheeva from Russian Federation, Best LGBT Screenwriter ‘Keep Off the Grass’ written by Francis Rudd from the UK, best LGBT Cinematography Film ‘Enigma’ by Cinematographer Rayner Cook from the United States, best LGBT Editor ‘Breathe’ edited by Stefan Hickert from the Netherlands and Special Jury Mentioned award ‘Romario’ directed by James Cooper from Canada.
The LGBT Film Festival received submissions for short films, documentaries, animation films, music videos, and web series with LGBTQ themes.
Gary Punjabi, director of the LGBT Film Festival said, “The USP of the LGBT Film Festival is that it was organised during Pride Month (June),”addi ng, “There was an audience interaction on the topic “Women and Bollywood,” where we discussed female Bollywood filmmakers, and hosted a panel discussion on the topic “Pride is Every Day,” with panellists Jaswant Kaur, Kirandeep Sahay, and Ravindra Mukherjee.”
Color’s of Love international LGBT Film Festival was founded by the Script Factory Production Private Limited in 2020. An LGBTQ community enterprise, Colors of Love was founded to curate and present queer short films to new audiences in a fun and informative manner.
SPENDING TIME WITH NAMBI WAS A GREAT INSIGHT, SAYS MADHAVAN
Actor R. Madhavan is all set for his directorial debut. Will ‘Rocketry: The Nambi Effect’ kick off a new era for Indian cinema? Find out in this exclusive conversation.
With less than 50 days to go for 75 years of India’s Independence, patriotism is evidently in the air. This Friday, audiences will get to witness it across cinema halls in India, with the release of the much-awaited “spy” thriller –Rocketry, The Nambi Effect. Narayanan was a part of the golden engine team that was instrumental in kicking off India’s ambitious satellite programmes. Narayanan’s fight for justice to clear his name off the falsely accused espionage charges forms the central theme of this movie. The Daily Guardian Review spoke to actor R. Madhavan for an exclusive conversation before his big release. Excerpts:
R. Madhavan (left), and Nambi Narayanan.The poster of the film.
Q: Are you nervous, excited or a bit of both?
A: Right now, I have reached a stage beyond exhaustion and so I’m kind of numb. I’m happy that the film is releasing. I’m very keen to see the outcome of this film. I think I have moved past the stage of excitement and nervousness.
Q: What was your experience of working with Nambi like?
A: I think it was an eye-opener. First of all, it was embarrassing that one didn’t know enough about him and his story. It was even more shocking that what you knew about him was not even scratching the surface. When I knew the truth about who Nambi Sir is and what he has done for this country that nobody was aware of, it made me feel ashamed. It was that emotion which drove me to make up my mind about doing this film.
Q: Did you build a ‘more than movie’ relationship with him?
A: Oh yes! I’m in awe of him. Absolute awe. On top of that, he is kind, he is generous, and with age, he has been more active than most of us put together- mentally and physically. Had it not been for Covid that he, unfortunately, got in the last week, he would have been there with me now for all the promotions, which is something that I miss about the whole film, the promotion.
Q: How difficult was it to get into the skin of the character?
A: See, the thing is, I spent a lot of time trying to get into his mind and trying to understand what makes his mind tick. What makes him such a crazy patriot? You know the kind of guy who looks beyond the obvious and makes the impossible possible, right? Spending time with him was a great insight. I realised that people like him are patriots because they do their job with absolute sincerity, without any expectation of fame or money or anything of that sort. That’s an attitude, which is in-built and cannot be cultivated.
Q: How important is a movie like this for Gen Z to get inspired and feel patriotic?
A: The whole idea was to increase the intellectual capital of India, which is so required at this juncture. Telling a story of technocrats like Nambi Sir and glorifying the technological achievements in fields like science or medicine or IT is very essential. The idea is to see the film and understand that there are some geniuses, who have studied in the esteemed universities abroad and came back to work for the country.
Q: Is that why you recently also described Nambi as the ‘Father of James Bond’?
A: Yes, I think so. It’s uncanny the things he has done. I wish I had 12 hours to tell his story. With the sheer amount of strength, tenacity, and bravery to go with technical finesse, he is a genius in making the rocket engine. All that makes him the ‘Father of James Bond.’ Imagine, James Bond with everything he did and also an inventor and a scientist.
Q: From Madhavan, the actor to Madhavan, the Creator, how significant is that change?
A: Well, you know, academically it’s a huge change and I have little idea how much I have succeeded in it till the first of July and how the outcome of the film will be in terms of the public. For me, it was sort of a mission, almost insanity. No rationale for me to have done this film with the kind of budget we did it in, but we did it and finally, I have to tell you that I’m nervous about that outcome as anybody else.
Q: What is your reaction to the film getting a 10-minute-long standing ovation at Cannes 2022?
A: (Laughs) Well, I have to figure out if that ovation was for Nambi Sir alone or if some of it was for me as a director as well. I suspect it was because Nambi Sir was there.
Q: ‘Life Before Nambi’ and ‘Life After Nambi’, for you, what is the road ahead?
A: That already happened. My life before I met Nambi Sir is very different. Madhavan before meeting Nambi Sir is very different from Madhavan after having met Nambi Sir. I think I am permanently changed. And I suspect, for the better.
Q: Your directorial debut is a biopic. Will we see a pattern for your subsequent ventures too?
A: I hope so. Maybe I won’t be directing them but definitely looking at more ventures that are meaningful, about technocrats and their achievements and the possibilities that this country offers in every aspect of technology. We only end up making biopics on soldiers and sportspersons but I think it’s about time we made it about our technocrats as well. On that note, ‘Rocketry’ is all set to take off.
Vaishnavi H.S. is an entertainment industry analyst who has worked in leadership roles in many leading television and radio channels.
Tourism has a value beyond lifestyle and economic factors
Going on a holiday can have a positive impact on an individual’s mental health and well-being, according to a new study. A new cross-disciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has proposed a change in the way we view tourism, seeing it not just as a recreational experience, but also as an industry that can provide real health benefits.
The collaboration between ECU’s Centre for Precision Health and the School of Business and Law found many aspects of going on holiday could have a positive impact on those with mental health issues or conditions.
Lead researcher Dr. Jun Wen said the diverse team of tourism, public health and marketing experts investigated how tourism could benefit those living with dementia.
“Medical experts can recommend dementia treatments such as music therapy, exercise, cognitive stimulation, reminiscence therapy, sensory stimulation, and adaptations to a patient’s mealtimes and environment,” Dr. Wen said, adding “These are all also often found on holidays.” This research is among the first to conceptually discuss how these tourism experiences could potentially work as dementia interventions.”
HOLIDAY FUN OR TREATMENT?
Dr Wen said the varied nature of tourism meant there were many opportunities to incorporate treatments for conditions such as dementia.
For example, being in new environments and having new experiences could provide cognitive and sensory stimulation.
“Exercise has been linked to mental wellbeing and travelling often involves enhanced physical activity, such as more walking. Mealtimes are often different on holidays: they’re usually more social affairs with multiple people, and family-style meals have been found to positively influence dementia patients’ eating behavior and then there’s the basics, like fresh air and sunshine, increasing vitamin D and serotonin levels,” he said.
“Everything that comes together to represent a holistic tourism experience, makes it easy to see how patients with dementia may benefit from tourism as an intervention,” he further expressed.
A SHIFT IN THINKING
Covid-19’s impact on travel in recent years has raised questions about tourism’s value beyond lifestyle and economic factors.
“Tourism has been found to boost physical and psychological well being, so, after Covid-19, it’s a good time to identify tourism’s place in public health and not just for healthy tourists, but vulnerable groups,” he said.
He hoped a new line of collaborative research could begin to examine how tourism can enhance the lives of people with various conditions and expressed, “We’re trying to do something new in bridging tourism and health science,” he said, adding, “There will have to be more empirical research and evidence to see if tourism can become one of the medical interventions for different diseases like dementia or depression; so, tourism is not just about travelling and having fun; we need to rethink the role tourism plays in modern society.”
‘OVERNIGHT SUCCESSES’ CANNOT BE ATTRIBUTED TO PROVIDENCE
Everybody wants to hop onto a bandwagon that is taking off, yet few of us are prepared for the toil that paves the way for it.
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen,” goes a quote attributed to Lenin. For Eric Yuan and the team at Zoom, those weeks were in March and April 2020. That was when the world was reeling under the twin impact of the pandemic and the lockdowns; and voila, Zoom was the savior. From work meetings to birthday parties, everything started happening online. Usage of Zoom ‘zoomed’ thirty-fold in just four months, surpassing three hundred million daily participants. The company’s market capitalization smashed past the hundred-billion-dollar mark, rising eightfold over the ten months to October 2020.
‘Overnight successes’ are not confined to the world of business. In 1976, an unknown, out-of-work actor named Sylvester Stallone approached a movie studio with a script. The studio offered him over three hundred thousand dollars, but he opted to take a much lower sum if they agreed to his demand to play the lead role. The studio finally relented, and the rest is history. The movie, ‘Rocky’, smashed box-office records, was nominated for ten Oscars, and spawned multiple sequels. It left behind an enduring legacy based on its theme of the power of the human will.
One might be tempted to attribute such successes to providence. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. As entertainer Eddie Cantor said, “It takes twenty years to make an overnight success.” Many processes in life follow the pattern of the Chinese bamboo tree, a seed that needs to be watered and cared for over four full years before it even begins to sprout. Yet, in the fifth year, it suddenly shoots up, growing over fifty feet in just a few weeks. Plodding over those dreary four years lays the foundation for what follows.
Before 2020, the team at Zoom had spent nine years obsessing over the customer experience, product architecture and technical standards, with the founder Eric personally responding to customer complaints. Eric’s own story is testament to his persistence, of how he found his feet in the US after eight visa rejections and despite his patchy English.
Sylvester Stallone’s story is no different. To realize his Hollywood dreams, he went through many rough years, with only two pairs of clothes, sleeping in a bus station, and even having to sell his dog. To quote him, “Life is an opponent that never stops punching, so you better never stop punching back.”
In the world of business today, it has become commonplace to talk about the ‘hockey-stick’ curve, an initial period of learning followed by supposedly meteoric growth. Yet, few founders and investors have the patience to last it through the initial curve of the ‘hockey stick’. This is where setbacks happen, mistakes are made, business models come apart, and often, startups flounder and die. Eventually, this trial by fire culminates in a better product and a wiser management team. Everybody wants to hop on to a bandwagon that is taking off, yet few of us are prepared for the toil that paves the way for it.
I have also seen this dynamic in the stock markets. Whenever we hear of someone making a ‘multi-bagger’ return on a stock, it is tempting to attribute it either to luck or to spotting an attractive company early. Yet, neither of these explanations conveys the full story. The real secret of bagging a multi-bagger is often in being able to retain conviction and hold it through periods of gut-churning volatility, when the stock might be down over 50%.
This pattern is mirrored in the world of books too. Writing my first book, KaalKoot, took many years. This was a period where I had to keep at it without any external validation, and with pangs of self-doubt gnawing away at my mind. After the success of KaalKoot, writing my second book was much faster and easier. Yet, it was those difficult early years that laid the foundation for what followed.
The US Airways pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who saved hundreds of lives in January 2009 by successfully landing the plane over the Hudson river after an engine failure, garnered widespread applause for his presence of mind during those critical moments. Yet, to quote him, the secret lay elsewhere. “For 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education, and training. On January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”
That, then, is the secret of becoming an ‘overnight success’, i.e making regular deposits in the bank of experience, being consistent with it, and persisting despite obstacles.
S. Venkatesh is the author of AgniBaan and KaalKoot, a leadership coach and an investor who has held key positions with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Macquarie. He writes about mindfulness and its link to creativity, business and wealth.
CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMING BUSINESSES
Several fintech businesses have outmanoeuvred their rivals by embracing the SaaS model.
The groundbreaking SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) idea has the potential to disrupt many industries, including banking. SaaS, being a cloud-based technology, may assist both fintech startups and banks, particularly in satisfying regulatory requirements and providing security to their consumers. Without a doubt, SaaS is gaining popularity among financial services organizations due to its promises of more business flexibility, faster deployment, and support for an open ecosystem.
Symbiotic relationship between SaaS platforms and Fintech growth
The Fintech approach, which makes use of the resourceful SaaS foundation, allows businesses to access and utilise cloud-based applications rather than purchasing or building their own software. Financial firms may reap advantages such as end-to-end cost reductions, data security, scalability, and agility from the fintech industry. PwC, a well-known rating agency, predicts that more fintech businesses will utilise SaaS to address concerns generated by the post-Covid environment.
Understanding the significance of the SaaS model is not rocket science. According to Financesonline.com, the SaaS market capitalization will reach $623 billion by 2023. The use of the SaaS model in the fintech industry may foster innovation and creativity while also improving efficiency and profitability. Fintech companies can also save huge amounts of operational capital every year because of SaaS. This is not possible with the traditional model, in which companies hire experts.
SaaS solutions are extremely scalable, allowing a financial institution to digitally alter its operations while boosting security and enhancing compliance. It is also feasible to minimise physical footprints and increase efficiency via automation. By embracing the SaaS model for online transactions, several fintech businesses have outmanoeuvred their rivals and the banking and finance industry at large. FinTech lenders, for example, might accept business loan applications online, process them in minutes, and send the money to qualified customers a day or two later.
What makes SaaS a magic sauce for Fintech growth
SaaS platforms have shown the power of open platforms in the open-platform vs. patented technology argument over the last several decades. This has given SaaS a long-term viability and scalability that was previously unheard of, particularly in the financial services sector. For a fraction of the price, fintech companies have started bringing in the bulk of the capabilities that sophisticated legacy systems had inside mega banks.
There was a chance to develop an ecosystem with the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow banks to interact with these fintech partners, who could bring in novel processes and products at a relatively low cost and with relatively low usage of resources. It is also critical to incorporate outside innovation into an internal environment dominated by legacy technologies in financial organizations. The necessity to start small, to be nimble, and to expand with the market’s and customers’ ever-changing needs is obvious.
The maturation of SaaS models has aided the rise of APIs in the financial services sector, while laws such as the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) are driving banks to establish and promote open platforms. While API-based SaaS platforms have opened up a wide market and empowered the developer community, they have also contributed to the abolition of faceless goods that dominated conventional industries. It has also aided in the extraction of enormous value from data and innovative system integrations, which is now shared across a bigger and more powerful ecosystem.
The triple-edged efficiency of SaaS
Scalability, sustainability, and convenience are the three pillars furnished by SaaS to the Fintech ecosystem. The compulsions in the financial sector are being addressed by the three pillars of a SaaS delivery model. Scalability and the need to quickly add new products to existing systems, as well as a high level of data and platform security and the ability to better control costs, are all reasons why SaaS models are the delivery method of choice for banks around the world, both big and small. It is also the best strategy for working with banks, development communities, incubator programs, and data suppliers in the ever-expanding fintech ecosystem. All of this is wrapped up in a customer experience layer that is easy to use and lets business users, with only a little technical knowledge, launch products in a way that is good for business.
This transformation of SaaS-based delivery models into revenue-generating and customer-driven ones is beneficial to all parties involved. Some issues persist, but the overall contribution of proprietary and open businesses built on the SaaS cloud to the financial services sector has been spectacular. If the total cost of ownership data for the manufacturing sector is any indication, the collaborative delivery models that have recently been brought to the market will almost certainly have an almost immediate effect on banks’ total expenses.
Rahul Meena is the founder and CEO of Treflo.
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