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Kenya and Google join hands to to bridge the digital divide Kenya and Google join hands to to bridge the digital divide

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Kenya and Google join hands to bridge the digital divide

Aman Sahay

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Google's Loon Baloon

Google’s Loon Baloon | Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Kenya has, in partnership with Google’s sister firm, Loon, launched a fleet of 35 internet balloons that will provide internet services to remote areas of the country. This is the first balloon-powered internet to launch in Africa.

HOW DO INTERNET BALLOONS WORK AND DO MANY COUNTRIES USE THEM?

Google’s internet balloons are wireless Internet connectivity towers that float in the stratosphere. They beam Internet signals to earth-based stations, which then transmit the internet to users through internet service providers.

These floating giant balloons are made from plastic. They are fitted with solar panels that power the gadgets that control the balloon’s operations and beam internet signals to earth.

Using a special crane, the balloons are propelled to the stratosphere – a height of about 20km above the earth. Artificial intelligence software installed in the balloons’ computers controls the floating movements using wind power.

A single balloon can provide internet connectivity to an area of about 80km in diameter and serve about 1 000 users on the ground. It’s expected that the signal strength users get will be similar to 4G browsing speeds.

WHAT DOES INTERNET CONNECTIVITY LOOK LIKE IN KENYA?

Kenya has a wide variety of connectivity infrastructure. About 39 million Kenyans are hooked up to wireless

subscriptions, mostly through mobile phones, which depend on signals from a mast. Wired subscriptions stand at about 458 000.

This is impressive for a population of about 51 million people. Internet connectivity in Tanzania, by comparison, reached an estimated 27 million people (out of about 56 million people) by March 2020.

Kenya also continues to deepen its connectivity infrastructure through a national fiber optic cable. To date, close to 6 000km of the fiber optic backbone has been laid down and plans are to reach all 47 counties.

Despite impressive developments, more can be done. Most people in Kenya access the internet through their mobile phones.

When looking at how well mobile phone providers cover the country geographically, we see that large areas of the country, particularly in the north and northeast, don’t have much coverage.

Most internet coverage is around towns in the central, coastal, and western areas and along major roadways. This state of coverage is partly attributable to internet privatization and electricity coverage.

Commercially, it does not make sense for internet service providers to cover areas of low population density, since the cost of physical internet infrastructure outweighs the benefits from subscriptions.

The market competition also affects connectivity. Two mobile network operators – Safaricom and Airtel – have a stranglehold on the market. They have not provided internet users with choice in terms of price, service variety, and quality.

And over about 20 years, the telecoms market has seen the demise of close to 70 internet service providers.

HOW WILL THE BALLOONS CHANGE THIS?

As countries aim for universal internet connectivity, Google’s Internet balloons are a welcome addition. If the balloons are directed towards the currently underserved areas, their presence could reduce the digital exclusion of those areas.

Their entry in the market may also jolt the current market players to reconsider their pricing models and become more innovative in their service offerings. There could be a reduction in data rates or bundling of more services at the current price. That’s good for internet users.

But every big entrant into the market could have an impact on smaller players, some of which continue to provide “last mile” internet coverage, even in commercially less attractive regions.

Poorly resourced and weakly capitalized internet service providers might fold unless they reimagine their business models. This is a new venture, and it’s too early to know exactly what effect these balloons will have or the types of social changes they’ll bring.

WHAT TYPE OF OPPORTUNITIES COULD THESE BALLOONS BRING TO KENYA’S REMOTE AREAS?

There are a number of opportunities that these balloons can bring, particularly to rural areas. The balloons don’t have the physical limitations of wired connections, such as installations in sometimes inaccessible regions.

The balloons could give more people access to information and communication technology infrastructure and services. They could help create more industry around e-commerce, e-learning, and e-government.

Given the involvement of the government of Kenya in the project, we should expect a push for increased internet use in the key sectors of rural areas such as health, education, and agriculture.

For instance, the balloons could allow more children in rural areas to have the option of online learning. Also, new telemedicine technology has been launched and the balloons are expected to facilitate long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, and monitoring.

Hopefully, as the benefits of Google’s internet balloons unfold, we should also see faster development of local digital applications, supported by local digital infrastructure platforms. That might spur the development of content.

With better and improved internet connectivity, there is also an opportunity to reimagine public service delivery.

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Hi guys, I'm Aman Sahay. My dream is to explore each and every corner of this planet, and I'm passionate about it. All I want to say is - "Be Authentic Because You Are Already Unique".

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Paypal to shut down services within India: All you need to know

Aman Sahay

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Paypal India

Digital payment solutions provider Paypal will shut down its domestic payments business within India from April 1. The company will instead focus more on the international payments business. which means global customers will still be able to pay Indian merchants using Paypal.

“We will continue to invest in product development that enables Indian businesses to reach nearly 350 million PayPal consumers worldwide, increase their sales internationally, and help the Indian economy return to growth,” a PayPal spokesperson said in a statement.

“From April 1, 2021, we will focus all our attention on enabling more international sales for Indian businesses, and shift focus away from our domestic products in India,” the spokesperson added.

“This means we will no longer offer domestic payment services within India from 1 April.”

PayPal was one of the payment options on many Indian online platforms like Swiggy, MakeMyTrip, BookMyShow, etc.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G Flagship Processor: All you need to know

Aman Sahay

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor

The Snapdragon 888 5G by Qualcomm for the mobile platform is official, and it’s the fastest processor ever made by the company. This is the processor that will power most of the flagship devices next year, including the Xiaomi M11 and the Realme Race. The chipmaker Qualcomm said that the Snapdragon 888 offers improved performance for the next generation of high end 5G smartphones.

The launch of the Snapdragon 888 processor comes at a time when consumers are thinking twice about buying premium smartphones due to job losses and uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic. The company, however, does not believe that the demand for top-level flagship smartphones has dropped. In fact, Qualcomm said that there is a huge demand for high-end smartphones in many parts of the world, including India.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Now that the processor has been officially announced, here are the top five highlights of the latest chipset:

1.  Integrated 5G

The Snapdragon 888 comes with a built-in 5G modem, which is a good thing. Previously, smartphone makers had to use two different chips, which complicated the overall phone design process. Since the mobile chip is integrated with a third-generation X60 5G modem, it is easy to make smartphones. Phone manufacturers had been demanding a single flagship chip that acts as the brain of a smartphone and also connects to 5G, all through a single solution. The integration of the modem within the chip itself results in longer battery life and lowers the cost of smartphones. The 3rd gen onboard X60 5G modem will support both the mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrum, plus 5G carrier aggregation, multi-SIM, standalone, and non-standalone global connectivity.

2. Powerful and Improved GPU for Gaming

According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 888 makes it their chip to use a 5 nm semiconductor manufacturing process. This results in a more powerful chip performance with lesser power consumption. The Snapdragon 888 also has a built-in graphics processor (GPU), the Adreno 660, which the company claims renders graphics 35 percent faster. Also, Qualcomm is betting heavily on gaming on high -end phones that will be powered by the Snapdragon 8 8 8 processor. Qualcomm said the new chip introduces the 3rd generation of its Elite Gaming platform that brings Variable Speed Shading (VRS) to smartphones for the first time. VRS is a technique that brings photographic realism to games. The Snapdragon 888 will also support 4K displays with a refresh rate of up to 144 Hz.

3. Advanced AI Engine

A mobile chip is not enough for performing complicated tasks like image processing or facial recognition. So chipmakers like Qualcomm rely excessively on artificial intelligence (AI) to run photo and video editing applications. The new Snapdragon 888 has a new Hexagon 780 AI processor built into the chip itself, which according to Qualcomm runs 50 percent faster than last year’s AI processors. Thanks to the chip’s reliance on machine learning, the Snapdragon 888 handles 26 trillion operations per second, or TOPS, promising a huge leap in the energy efficiency of AI tasks.

4. Improved Camera Support

Qualcomm is also betting on computational photography to transform mobile phones into a kind of professional cameras. All thanks to the latest ISP, the Snapdragon 888 processor will be able to capture photos at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second, which translates to having an ability to shoot 120 photos per second at 12-megapixel resolution. The camera system actually captures shots at a resolution of up to 200 megapixels, as well as video recording in 8K and 4K. The chip can also record video with HDR, a feature that Apple greatly highlighted with the launch of the iPhone 12 series .

Several OEMs have already announced their commitment to making flagship-level smartphones using the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and are expected to be announced in the first quarter of 2021. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese smartphone brands dominate the list of smartphone manufacturers that will use the Snapdragon 888, including OnePlus, Realme, and Xiaomi.

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Technology

Free screen replacement for Apple iPhone 11 users: All you need to know

Aman Sahay

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Apple-iPhone-11

There is some good news for Apple users who are experiencing touchscreen issues in their iPhone 11. The company has said that users having such problems can now get a free screen replacement from Apple.

Apple has acknowledged that a number of iPhone 11 sets, manufactured between November 2019 to May 2020 may face touchscreen issues. The company stated that a number of iPhone 11 displays, “may stop responding to touch due to an issue with the display module.” And because of this, the company is offering free service to eligible customers.

The company has put up a support page on its website to help affected customers find out if they are eligible for a replacement. It has been given the name, ‘iPhone 11 Display Module Replacement Program for Touch Issues’.

Apple states that the issue is being caused by a problem with the display module. However, it did not reveal the exact problem with the display module that is causing the issue.

Are you eligible for the free screen replacement?

– To check if your iPhone 11 is eligible for a display replacement, you simply have to enter your phone’s serial number on the dedicated support page. The website will then check its database and see if your iPhone’s serial number matches its replacement list or not.

– To check for your iPhone 11’s serial number head into the Settings panel, then open the General tab and tap About.

– If you are eligible for a free service, you will be required to take your device to an Apple Authorized Service Provider and submit your device for repair.

– The company states that it will limit the repair program to the original region of purchase and that it will not extend the standard warranty coverage of the device.

– Apple recommends its users to take a backup of their data before going to get the issue fixed.

– It also states that if the display is cracked, users will first have to get it repaired before submitting the phone to get the touchscreen issue fixed.

Like most Apple service programs, the iPhone 11 plan does not extend standard warranty coverage and covers affected devices for two years after the first retail purchase. If any users had been experiencing touchscreen issues and had their displays fixed before the company rolled out the program, are eligible to get a refund. For the refund, the users can get in touch with Apple directly from its support page.

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