Bringing Broadband to Rural America an Ongoing Quest

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimates that about 19 million Americans still don’t have access to broadband internet. Most of those people live in rural parts of the country. But little by little, individuals, companies and the government are changing that. VOA’s Calla Yu reports. …


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Huawei Founder Says Company Can Withstand Increased US Pressure

Despite the U.S.-China trade deal signed last week, the two countries appear headed for more confrontation, especially over high tech.One of China’s highest-profile tech executives, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday that he expects the U.S. to escalate its crackdown on Huawei. But he vowed that the world leader in building 5G networks is prepared to withstand further restrictions on its foreign markets and suppliers.Analysts say his remarks suggest that the Chinese may be ready to directly confront Americans in the global competition for high-tech advancements, which are seen at the core of trade frictions.Tech war is on”He [Ren] is fully aware that the tech competition between the U.S. and China will escalate. The U.S. has no plan to cut China some slack simply because they have just signed the Phase 1 deal. Both are now entering the battleground of their tech disputes,” said Lin Tsung-nan, professor of electrical engineering at National Taiwan University in Taipei.Beijing’s critics say Huawei acts as a virtual arm of the Chinese government, benefitting from favorable policies and funding that have sped its expansion around the world. They warn countries that allow Huawei to build their new wireless data networks that they are giving Beijing’s authoritarian government enormous influence over their security. Instead, U.S. officials argue, countries should trust American, European, Korean and other companies.Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies, gestures during a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 21, 2020.Provisions in the U.S.-China Phase 1 trade agreement aim to root out Chinese state policies that encourage intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. However the deal leaves open questions about enforcement. Many, including Huawei chief Ren, remain skeptical that the countries will reach an agreement on such issues.Speaking to the audience in Davos, Ren said he believes the United States will escalate its crackdown on Huawei, but that the impact will be minimal as the company has adapted to restrictions imposed since last year.Huawei and its 46 affiliates were targeted in 2019 after the …


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Sources: EU Nations Can Restrict High-Risk Vendors Under New 5G Guidelines

EU countries can restrict or exclude high-risk 5G providers from core parts of their telecoms network infrastructure under new guidelines to be issued by the European Commission next week, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The non-binding recommendations are part of a set of measures aimed at addressing cybersecurity risks at national and bloc-wide level, in particular concerns related to world No. 1 player Huawei Technologies. The guidelines do not identify any particular country or company, the people said. “Stricter security measures will apply for high-risk vendors for sensitive parts of the network or the core infrastructure,” one of the people said. EU digital economy chief Margrethe Vestager is expected to announce the recommendations on Jan. 29.Other measures include urging EU countries to audit or even issue certificates for high-risk suppliers.EU governments will also be advised to diversify their suppliers and not depend on one company and to use technical and non-technical factors to assess them. Europe is under pressure from the United States to ban Huawei equipment on concerns that its gear could be used by China for spying. Huawei, which competes with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson has denied the allegations. …


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When Algorithms Make Art: Immersive Art Installation Exhibits Machine-Learning

An immersive art installation in New York City has visitors captivated. The team behind the popular attraction? It’s part human and part machine-learning algorithms. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at what happens when artificial intelligence becomes part of the creative process …


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Britain’s Johnson Poised to Give Huawei Role in 5G Development

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears set to give the go-ahead for Chinese telecom giant Huawei to play a role in the development of Britain’s 5G wireless network — a move that risks jeopardizing intelligence-sharing between Britain and America, according U.S. officials.  Despite last-ditch lobbying by the U.S. to block Huawei, British officials say it is a “foregone conclusion” Johnson will allow Huawei participation.That would confirm a “provisional” decision made by his predecessor, Theresa May. Last year, she said Huawei should be allowed to build some so-called “non-core” parts of Britain’s future 5G data network, discounting U.S. alarm.Johnson’s final decision could come as early as this week, officials say.For a year, the Trump administration has urged Britain to ban Huawei from participating in the development of Britain’s fifth-generation wireless network. U.S. officials say there’s a significant risk that the company, which has close ties to Chinese intelligence services, will act as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s espionage agencies, allowing them to sweep up data and gather intelligence.FILE – Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Oct. 16, 2019.Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have urged all Western allies to shun Huawei on security grounds. They have specifically warned Downing Street that Britain’s participation in the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing arrangement — the U.S.-led Anglophone intelligence pact linking Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain — would be imperiled.Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei from developing their 5G networks. As yet, Canada has not.Senior U.S. security officials flew to London last week and warned Johnson and his ministers that allowing Huawei to supply even some non-core equipment of the future 5G network would be “nothing short of madness.”Cost factorBut Johnson has faced strong counter lobbying from China — and also from British telecom providers and mobile phone companies. They have already been installing Huawei technology to start setting up the new network in more than 70 cities in Britain. They warn that delaying the rollout of 5G would cost the British economy billions of pounds. Ripping out …


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Sources: Merkel Seeks to Delay Huawei Position Until After March EU Summit

Chancellor Angela Merkel has asked her conservative lawmakers to wait until after a March EU summit before taking a position on whether China’s Huawei can take part in the rollout of Germany’s 5G network, sources involved in their talks said.Merkel believes European Union coordination on the issue is important and she has been unable to bridge differences within her CDU/CSU bloc, the sources said.Merkel’s conservatives are divided on whether to support a proposal by their Social Democrat (SPD) junior coalition partners that, if approved, would effectively shut out the Chinese technology giant from the network.    …


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Malawi is Home to Africa’s First Drone Academy

Malawi this month opened the first African Drone and Data Academy, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.  The academy aims to improve drone technology skills across Africa, beginning with Malawi and neighboring countries.Karen Asaba developed an interest in drones at Uganda Flying Labs, a Kampala-based drone mapping and data hub. As a student at Malawi’s just opened African Drone and Data Academy, she gets to learn how to build one.”Right now, we are learning how to assemble a drone from the start, considering its weight, considering the central gravity, considering the GPS and all the electronics that are involved in making the drone,” she said.Asaba is one of 26 students from across Africa in the first three-month course at the academy, learning to construct and pilot drones.Instructors are seen teaching students at the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi. (Lameck Masina/VOA)The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is backing the program, which this year is expected to train 150 students.UNICEF says the academy, and the launch of Africa’s first drone corridor in Malawi in 2016, will promote drones for development and humanitarian use.Rudolf Schwenk, the country representative for UNICEF in Malawi, says the drones will have broad practical applications.”For example, transporting medical supplies to remove areas or transporting samples very fast, where it will take a lot of time to transport them.  We have also worked on emergency preparedness and response because with data and drone imagery, you can see where flooding will happen,” Schwenk said.Thumbiko Nkwawa Zingwe, a student at the newly-launched African Drone and Data Academy, says the course he has taken there has insipred him to start a space agency in Malawi. (Lameck Masina/VOA)The drone course was developed with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, better known as Virginia Tech.Kevin Kochersberger, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, explained the course’s components.”We go through three modules in this program. They have gone [through] drone logistics, drone technologies so they become very functional in drone[s] – not only being pilots, but they operate and maintain the drones as well,” Kochersberger said.The drone academy has inspired some …


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Apple’s Cook: Global Corporate Tax System Must be Overhauled

Everyone knows that the global corporate tax system needs to be overhauled, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Monday, backing changes to global rules that are currently under consideration.The growth of internet giants such as Apple has pushed international tax rules to the limit, prompting the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to pursue global reforms over where multinational firms should be taxed. The reforms being examined center around the booking of profits by multinational firms in low-tax countries such as Ireland where they have bases — and where Cook was speaking on Monday — rather than where most of their customers are. “I think logically everybody knows it needs to be rehauled, I would certainly be the last person to say that the current system or the past system was the perfect system. I’m hopeful and optimistic that they [the OECD] will find something,” Cook said. “It’s very complex to know how to tax a multinational… We desperately want it to be fair,” the Apple CEO added after receiving an inaugural award from the Irish state agency responsible for attracting foreign companies recognizing the contribution of multinationals in the country. Apple is one of Ireland’s largest multinational employers with 6,000 workers and both it and the Irish government have gone to court to fight a European Union order that Apple must pay 13 billion euros ($14.41 billion) in back taxes to Dublin. The appeal to the EU’s second-highest court began in September and could run for years. Cook said Apple’s belief that “law should not retrofitted” was at the heart of the case and that the company had great faith in the justice system. Apple’s commitment to Ireland, which became its first European operation in 1980, was “unshakable,” Cook said. The Apple chief executive also said that more regulation was needed in the area of privacy and must go further than the 2018 European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy laws that handed regulators there significantly more powers. “I think more regulation is needed in this area, it is probably strange for a business person to be talking about …


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Google CEO Calls for Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the U.S. start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager.Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach U.S. authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.  …


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Extradition Hearing for Huawei Executive Begins in Canada

The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei begins Monday in a Vancouver courtroom, a case that has infuriated Beijing, set off a diplomatic furor and raised fears of a brewing tech war between China and the United States.  Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s legendary founder, in late 2018 at America’s request shocked Beijing.   Huawei represents China’s ambitions to become a technological power, but has been the subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.  “This is one of the top priorities for the Chinese government. They’ve been very mad. They will be watching this very closely,” said Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia.  Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading HSBC Bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.   In this file photo taken on Nov. 6, 2019, the logo of Chinese telecom giant Huawei is pictured during the Web Summit in Lisbon.Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, denies the allegations. Meng’s defense team has pointed to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump they say suggest the case against her is politically motivated.  Meng was detained in December 2018 by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights — the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.  Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.   China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of …


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Intellectual Property Theft a Growing Threat

The new U.S.-China trade agreement includes provisions that are aimed at curbing forced technology transfers, in which companies hand over technical know-how to foreign partners. For many high-tech businesses, the intellectual property behind their products represents the bulk of their companies’ value.  To learn more about the risks of IP theft, Elizabeth Lee recently visited the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where companies talked about the risks to their technology secrets. …


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