August 26, 2014

Digital India

08 Aug 2014

PM Modi has often time and again laid emphasis on using technology to overcome issues ranging from farming to governance. The Digital India Group on MyGov is a significant step towards that goal.

It's one of the fastest growing groups on the MyGov site with 37,590 members and is open to members who preferences are Digital Technologies which include Cloud Computing and Mobile Applications. The aim of the group is to
"Come out with innovative ideas and practical solutions to realise Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a digital India."
All you have to do to get started is to register on the site, pick a group of your liking and choose a task listed on the group!

Comments on the group page include-
The Indian Farmer should benefit from the IT sector. Linking of Soil record, with Farm Output and selling price in comparison with world prices. If data on seeds sowed can be got, a pattern on output can be realized.

Now India needs up gradation of government staff to technical one. Every record must be in database to enhance performance, security, maintenance.
Every School must have a central server that will connected to central cloud of containing all sorts of E Training material ( both for teachers as well as students section wise ) All students above 6th should be give tablets like Aakash but more powerful( costing around 3000 ) with which they will connect to their school server freely. All e-Material should be created in regional language as well as English. Do not give subsidy to 100% tab but give to only those who can't afford.

Digitization of services using technology is valuable for creating transparency, responsibility and quick runaround. Educating people of its value and widespread usage thereafter will ensure private sector participation for e.g. passport process developed by TCS. Government should educate people and ensure easy access to internet on mobile devices. All regional and cooperative banks must be encouraged to provide ATM services.

RFID -Short for radio frequency identification, RFID is a technology similar in theory to bar code identification. Could be integrated with small electronic chip & used for individual phones for unique user Identification, Transactions made by him/her, Shopping, Tour & Travel, Hotel & Restaurant Bills, Energy, Gas, Water, Bus, Train, Air, Boating, etc. bills…One stop solution for all bills.
WIFI should be freely enabled through-out India for better communication, knowledge sharing, and digitalization of our nation.

E-Seva Centers in every Village as single window delivery of all government services to public.

When we add more and more number of services that can be availed electronically, automatically people will get attracted to it. After achieving a certain stage, some can be made ONLY available electronically. The Kerala model of "Akshaya Kendras" is highly successful in providing a large number of services at all locations. People can go there, submit applications, which will be processed electronically and service will be made available within a fixed number of days. No bribes, no worries.

Bring in the judicial system on digital platform and connect them with police department, CBI, forensic etc. so that unwanted and harassing process could be allayed.

Voting rights to students through e-voting. Students go to other places for studies and at the time of election they are not able to vote due to distance. Even lots of students couldn't vote in this election. A separate website should be launched for e-voting. If any student send request of online voting with proper documents that he/she is studying in other city, a password should be sent to him/her so he/she may vote through e-voting.

The Government has already taken the right step with the 'Indian Citizen ID Card'(ICIC) project. This central database should store all the information about every citizen, starting from DOB Cert, educational cert, Voter ID, Ration Card, DL, PAN, Passport, Gas, Electricity, Telephone consumer ID, bank account numbers, biometrics, insurance, vehicle's registration number etc. A single digital ICIC should be given to all citizens or just a number they should memorize. That card or number should be mandatory for all starting from school admission for their kids, hospital admission, traffic check points, purchasing rail/air tickets to insurance to color tv. Every government of private body has to verify their ICIC number through a simple mobile App, where they simply enter the ICICI number and the App displays the details of the citizen. The App can also do thumb impression verification (technology is capable to do that). This will not only make like easy for the citizens, but also reduce corruption. I request the PMO to invite for full PPT presentations on this, so that we get an opportunity to share the idea in details.

You too can become a part of the digital initiative by partaking in any of the six tasks members are currently working on.

So debate, ideate, get started!

You can join this Group, if you are signed in!! 

Fighting Back Against Western Sanction

August 23, 2014 (Ulson Gunnar - NEO) - While the impact of sanctions leveled against Russia is being debated, one fact is perfectly clear; the dangerous interdependence cultivated by the concept of “globalization” leaves nations vulnerable amid a global order dominated by hegemonic special interests that use such interdependence as a weapon.

Two rounds of sanctions have been leveled against Russia targeting Russian banking, arms manufacturing, and oil industries. Even as the sanctions are marketed to the world as Russia “paying a price” for its role in “destabilizing” Ukraine, Russia has been busy cultivating ties and expanding markets that are increasingly found outside the West’s spheres of influence and therefore, beyond the reach of these sanctions. Russia is also looking inward to diversify its markets and seek socioeconomic independence.

Instead of viewing the sanctions as an impassable obstacle requiring capitulation to Wall Street and London, Russia has viewed them as a challenge to sever reliance on unstable markets. More so, Russia’s quest for alternative markets is a means of applying its own form of pressure back upon the West. While the West attempts to portray the sanctions as “cutting off Russia,” the restrictions do at least as much to isolate the West itself.

Multipolar World Vs Western Hegemony

In a unipolar world, supranational geopolitical blocs like the EU (European Union), the African Union, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and regional free trade agreements serve to consolidate and open up the collective socioeconomic potential of the planet to those at the top of this international order. Currently, this constitutes the special interests on Wall Street, in the city of London, and among the special interests converging in Brussels. Interdependence is intentionally cultivated among the various members of individual blocs and between supranational blocs themselves. This ensures that leverage is constantly maintained over each individual national entity, making individual nations incapable of sidestepping collective initiatives of the blocs they are a part of.

In the European Union, this can be clearly seen as individual nations benefiting from ties with Moscow are attempting with limited success to rebel against broader EU sanctions against Russian industries.

The use of sanctions across several supranational blocs, including North America, the EU, and to a lesser extent, the West’s proxies in nations like East Asia’s Japan, had at one point critically threatened those nations targeted by them. Nations like Iran or Cuba who have suffered under Western sanctions for decades are clearly behind because of them. Behind, but not out.

As technology enables each individual nation to procure wealth on its own it once depended on trade with other nations for, the impact of sanctions is diminishing. The impact of sanctions is also undermined by a growing alternative international order outside of the West’s unipolar paradigm. BRICS, the nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, constitute the leading edge of the rise of the developing world. No longer satisfied with subservience to the Wall Street-London global order, nor eager to find themselves entangled beneath another global empire led by another global superpower, these nations are attempting to redefine international relations in more traditional, multilateral terms.

Becoming self-sufficient economically while redefining international ties in a less interdependent manner, appears to be the defining aspect of the emerging multipolar world BRICS is attempting to create. The creation of international trade outside the traditional framework of the IMF, the World Trade Organization, and other institutions created by the West, for the West, has gradually eroded the impact of sanctions, penalties, and monopolies empowered by Western domination over international finance and global trade.

More to Do

While Russia seems to be taking Western sanctions in stride, the fact that the United States and Europe are targeting Russia in the first place is a warning to all members of BRICS as well as to developing nations around the world. In the capitals of nations residing outside the Wall Street-London international order, the possibility that any one of them could be next should be at the center of economic planning and the future of their respective foreign policy.

Creating alternative markets outside this international order could be a short-term stop gap. In Russia’s case, growing ties with China in terms of energy exports ensures a lasting alternative market for Russian natural gas that is set only to grow in the future as the West attempts to cutoff and isolate both Moscow and Beijing.

Seeking to create economic opportunities and progress domestically could be a more long-term and lasting solution. Russia’s decision to ban the import of food products from nations targeting it with recent sanctions gives BRICS an opportunity to expand in the void left by European, American, and Australian agricultural industries. It also gives an opportunity for Russian producers to expand their operations domestically. In the immediate aftermath of Russia banning imports from the West, stocks in Russia’s agricultural industry soared. While such spikes are more due to speculation than an actual jump in value, the fact that these producers now have an incentive to expand may create long-term value to justify investor confidence today.

But rather than waiting for sanctions to begin disrupting the socioeconomic status quo of a nation residing outside Western hegemony, a disruption the sanctions are designed specifically to create, why shouldn’t BRICS and other developing nations begin the process of developing their domestic markets and alternative international trading regimes beforehand?

If Russia, the largest nation geographically, the ninth most populous, and with one of the most formidable conventional and nuclear military forces on Earth, can be targeted for sanctions aimed to cripple its economy, then any nation can be targeted. Russia, with its resources and leadership is able to cope and adapt to these sanctions and even perhaps come out stronger in spite of them. Other nations might not weather such adversity so gracefully. Across BRICS and other nations in the developing world, a concerted effort must be made to move away from the interdependence of globalization and back toward greater multilateral trade regimes and greater domestic economic self-sufficiency.

Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

Singapore quietly expanding F-15 fleet

James Hardy, London and Lindsay Peacock, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
22 August 2014
The RSAF has being quietly augmenting the size of its F-15SG fleet. Source: US Air Force
Singapore appears to have quietly boosted the size of its F-15SG fleet from 24 aircraft to 40, according to Boeing financial statements, aircraft registration filings, and US congressional reports.

Singapore originally bought 12 F-15SGs - with an option for eight more - under a contract signed in December 2005. In October 2007 the city-state modified this option by buying 12 more to give it a total of 24.

These aircraft have all been confirmed as delivered and have US-type serial numbers running from 05-0001 to 05-0024. Several remain in the United States with the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) 428th Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base (AFB) in southwestern Idaho, while the remainder are active in Singapore with 149 Squadron.

Aircraft operating in Singapore use four-digit serial numbers in the 83xx sequence, starting at 8301, although these do not run consecutively.

In January 2014, several aircraft with new serial numbers - 05-0025, 05-0028, 05-0030, 05-0031, and 05-0032 - were seen at Mountain Home AFB. These had not been previously reported and suggest that Singapore has obtained another batch of eight aircraft.

Meanwhile, a 26 November 2012 letter from the US State Department to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner under the Arms Export Control Act refers to the "sale, modification, and follow-on support of eight F-15SG aircraft to the Government of Singapore".

Figures released by Boeing show that eight F-15s were delivered to an unspecified customer in 2012.

Boeing financial data also shows that a total of 93 F-15s were delivered from 2005 to 2012. South Korea has confirmed that it received 61 and Singapore that it received 24 for a total of 85, leaving eight unaccounted for in public records.

Finally, on 5-6 August 2014, Boeing took out civil aircraft registrations for what it described as F-15SG aircraft: N361SG, N363SG, N366SG, N368SG, N373SG, N376SG, N378SG and N837SG.

Neither Boeing nor the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) would confirm whether the city-state had acquired 16 more F-15s than previously disclosed, although they also did not deny it.

A Boeing spokesman told IHS Jane's that the company was "unable to discuss" the number of F-15s it had supplied to Singapore, while a MINDEF spokesman said: "The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) bases our procurement on the assessed long-term defence needs, and the RSAF has purchased sufficient F-15SGs to meet our defence requirements."

Singapore's reticence on its follow-on purchases of F-15s is unsurprising: it has long demurred on outlining the extent of its defence procurement and capabilities, instead preferring to quietly build up what is widely seen as the best equipped military in Southeast Asia.

One retired armed forces officer told IHS Jane's that this was a strategic decision to keep its neighbours guessing, and also because the country's leaders did not need to use military procurement as a populist crutch.

However, this refusal to confirm acquisitions can occasionally lead to surreal conversations with military and defence industry officials, such as at the 2012 Singapore Airshow, when Israeli officials would not confirm the sale of IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles to Singapore despite the presence of one on static display at the show.

Ukrainian military moves to endgame

Tim Ripley, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
22 August 2014

  • Ukrainian soldiers rest in their 2S19 MSTA-S self-propelled howitzers on 14 August before moving to the front line in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Source: AP/PA
  • Key Points

Government forces are continuing to gain the upper hand in eastern Ukraine
Both sides are using heavy weapons in the worst fighting witnessed in Europe since the Balkan conflict
Ukrainian troops have continued their offensive aimed at clearing pro-Russian rebels from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions despite strong resistance.

Both the Ukrainian and rebel forces are using tracked armour, heavy artillery, and rockets in the heaviest fighting seen in Europe since the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

The operation by Ukrainian troops, underway for more than a month, has pushed deep into rebel-held regions, with fighting now reported in the suburbs of the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk for several days. Reports on 20 August indicated that in Lugansk, Ukrainian troops had recaptured a central city police station.

Ukrainian forces appear to be trying to cut rebel forces in the two cities off from each other, as well as severing land routes to the Russian border to block supplies and reinforcements from reaching them.

The rebel setbacks of the past weeks have prompted three prominent rebel leaders - including their military commander, Igor Girkin, known as Strelkov; the political leader in Donetsk, Alexander Borodai; and the rebel head in Lugansk, Valery Bolotov - to step down.

The Organization for Security in Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has reported daily artillery fire in both Donetsk and Lugansk for more than a week, as well as regular breakdowns in power, water, telephone, and other utilities because of the fighting.

Rebel fighters claimed to have shot down a Ukrainian Air Force Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jet near Lugansk on 17 August, although a Kiev government spokesman reported that the pilot was rescued by friendly forces. A further air loss occurred on 20 August when a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft was shot down over Lugansk, with the pilot reported missing.

Controversy continues to surround an alleged incursion by an armoured column from Russia into eastern Ukraine on 15 August. UK government sources told IHS Jane's that the column comprised some 23 armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) that were subsequently engaged by Ukrainian artillery and anti-tank weapons, resulting in 12 AFVs being destroyed. Two Western journalists working just inside the Russian border confirmed seeing the column cross into Ukraine but did not see the reported engagement. The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the incursion, calling Ukrainian claims "fabrications".

Both the Ukrainian military and rebel forces have been observed using BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, which have caused widespread military and civilian casualties as well as extensive damage to property and transport infrastructure.

On 7 August the UN reported that at least 2,119 people had been killed in Ukraine since the conflict started in April. Local authorities in Donetsk reported that about 951 people had been killed in the city during the previous five months of fighting. The Ukrainian government reported on 21 August that about 620 its military and security service personnel had been lost in the conflict, including around 70 in the week 12-19 August.

The continued determination of the Kiev government to prosecute its offensive into eastern Ukraine appears to be bearing fruit, although at a heavy cost in human life and damage to civilian property.

Ukrainian army and national guard units appear to be better trained and motivated than the units that first engaged the rebels in the early days of the crisis back in April.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has reported that about 25 battalions of national guard volunteers were fighting on the Donbas front and appear to be performing better than expected, considering they were only formed a few months ago. However, the OSCE reports a number of these units have been implicated in the abuse of civilians.

What has surprised many observers is the reluctance of Russian president Vladimir Putin to intervene directly to prop up the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. So far the Russian armed forces do not seem to have been sent to fight openly alongside the rebels, although NATO claims Moscow is regularly allowing resupply convoys to cross the border.

This might indicate the threat of Western economic sanctions is having some impact, but it is more likely Putin is concerned about public reaction to heavy casualties among conscript soldiers in regular army units. The experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Chechnya in the 1990s has made Kremlin occupants very reluctant to risk Russian lives in foreign adventures that could turn into protracted and bloody conflicts.

So far Putin has been content to let 'deniable' intelligence operatives and ultra-nationalist volunteers carry the burden of the fighting in Ukraine.

An all-out conventional war with Ukraine would also cost a lot of money and impose a heavy burden on the Russian economy. It appears that the Kremlin is hanging its erstwhile allies in Donetsk and Lugansk out to dry.