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National News-Daily Digest: 4 Key Updates

1.  Internet in India: Gaping gender gap

 India has the highest gender gap in mobile phone ownership amongst 18 comparable countries and ranks among the lowest in women’s access to the Internet, a new study released by LIRNEAsia, an information and communications technology (ICT) policy think tank that is involved in “pro-poor, pro-market” research in Asia-Pacific since 2005. According to the study, women, rural citizens, and those with lower education or income significantly lag behind in Internet and social media usage. According to the study, only 43 per cent of women in India own mobile phones compared to almost 80 per cent of Indian males — mostly because of a lack of awareness. This difference of almost half surpasses all other countries in the survey, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Rwanda. The gender gap is accentuated in rural regions — a 52 per cent gap — compared to 34 per cent in urban areas. The study also found that India’s 57 per cent gender gap in Internet usage was surpassed only by Bangladesh and Rwanda and that the gender gap social media usage was even higher with wider divides only in Bangladesh. According to the study, India also has a high distrust of news shared on social media — 29 per cent trust social media news while more than half did not. India also saw higher online harassment than Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Cambodia at 19 per cent of users. Much of this was offensive name-calling and in 20 per cent of such cases, it led to reduced use of the particular website.

According to LIRNEAsia, the 18-country study included comparative research done by ICT Africa in Africa and DIRSI in Latin America.

The study also found a substantial urban-rural divide in mobile phone ownership with 71 per cent urban penetration and 55 per cent rural. The urban-rural gap is comparable to that in Nigeria.


2. Access to Andamans eased

 Foreigners no longer need a Restricted Areas Permit to visit 29 inhabited islands in the Andaman and Nicobar chain. The Union Home Ministry decided to lift restrictions as the government intends to boost tourism. 11 other uninhabited islands will also be thrown open to foreigners.

Area permits The 29 inhabited islands have been excluded from the restricted area permit (RAP) notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, till December 31, 2022, subject to certain conditions. However, citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals having their origin in these countries would continue to require RAP to visit the Union Territory. For visiting Mayabunder and Diglipur, citizens of Myanmar will continue to require RAP, which shall be issued only with the prior approval of the ministry.


 3. World’s first thermal battery plant to be unveiled in Andhra Pradesh

 The world’s first-ever facility to create thermal batteries will be inaugurated in Andhra Pradesh. It will see thermal batteries being manufactured by Bharat Energy Storage Technology Private Limited (BEST). These batteries are based on alternative sources of energy production, and their presence is expected to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. Through thermal batteries, BEST will look to store energy that can power telecommunications, commercial enterprises, electric vehicles as well as charging systems. Not only will it help create renewable energy, but these batteries are also expected to help provide energy to remote areas. As per the plans known, BEST aims to commercially open up the plant by May 2019, where it could provide an initial capacity of 1000MW. In its first phase, it will produce batteries for telecom, mini/microgrids, and electric buses, that are expected to run for up to 800kms on a single charge. By 2025, BEST aims to expand the capacity of its thermal battery plant to 10GW. This technology, patented in India by Dr Patrick Glynn in 2016, scores over Li-ion batteries due to lesser heat sensitivity, as well as a smaller carbon footprint. In addition, these also outperform solar panels, which are expensive to maintain, and highly weather-dependent during operation. While conforming to the Indian government’s 2030 e-vehicles goal, BEST also plans to make batteries that are completely free of hard metal or inflammable substances, so that re-usable materials could make up 95 per cent of all thermal batteries.


4. Three northeastern States emerge as new HIV hotspots

 Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura have emerged as the new hotspots for HIV, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In four sites in Mizoram and one in Tripura, HIV prevalence was higher among IDUs, which for the rest of the country is 6.3%. At least in three places at Aizwal, Champhai and Kolasib, the prevalence of HIV in IDUs was 37.44%, 33.06% and 38.14% respectively.

HIV prevalence among female sex workers was higher at four sites — two in Tripura and one each in Mizoram and Meghlaya. At one site of Mizoram’s Aizwal district, the prevalence of HIV was as high as 24.68%, compared with 1.6% for other sites in the country.


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