Focus on feeding platforms like Twitter and Facebook generates junk news

Ev Williams is not a fan of the increasingly homogenised media he currently sees, with its emphasis on feeding the great, gaping maw of platforms like Twitter and Facebook too often producing what he describes as tantamount to junk food. “We’re still stuck in some very naive thinking, with the idea that people consuming media …

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Status update

Technology empowers people, opens up multiple opportunities, but will it get rid of the biases, prejudices and injustice inherent in a society?

Uber Zendesk screen shot

Screen shot for search on “sexually assaulted”

Uber, the taxi riding company said “only” 5 claims of rape and less than 170 claims of sexual assault were received by the company between December 2012 and August 2015 in US. This is in response to the screen shots of search queries related to the period between December 2012 and August 2015 in Uber’s Zendesk customer support platform, released by buzzfeed.com.

In one screenshot, a search query for “sexual assault” returns 6,160 Uber customer support tickets. A search for “rape” returns 5,827 individual tickets. Uber officials provide various explanations for these large number of search results, but buzzfeed.com also gives appropriate rebuttals.

Uber Zendesk screen shot

Screen shot for search on “rape”

After Uber learned of BuzzFeed’s investigation, the company began contacting customer service representatives in its system who had searched the Zendesk database for the terms rape and sexual assault, apparently in a hunt for the leaker.

The point to be debated is : with technology a service, related app and an eco system to offer cheap taxi rides can be built and rolled out. But can technology solve problems faced by women, minorities and oppressed sections in the society?

News Source

Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/can-technology-solve-social-problems/

Status update

“Technology is for everyone. It sees all humanity as one. It doesn’t know it’s being handled by a man or a woman or a black or a white but inadvertently it often fails to deliver to the ‘other’. Women and blacks.” says an article in ciol.com
Gadgets and apps are designed to solve the problems of a limited, affluent part of the population. An example could be-million laundry delivery startups but few businesses disrupting child care.

“Every time a manufacturer releases a facial-recognition feature in a camera, almost always it can’t recognize black people. The cause of that is the people who are building these products are white people, and they’re testing it on themselves. They don’t think about it.”

Coding means building a product, and there are infinite ways to build it “right.” Therefore, what’s built often reflects the coders’ implicit biases. If they all look the same, live in the same place, and come from the same schools, they are likely to think the same.

To build this new digital world properly, you need people who’ve had different experiences, whether it’s race, gender, or sexuality, or anything.

In Indian context we can add caste, religion or language to this mix. Do you agree?

Do Indian IT work places reflect all these diversities?

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Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/is-todays-tech-world-gender-and-colour-and-religion-and-caste-and-class-neutral/

Status update

California state government reached a deal to raise minimum wage to $10.50 an hour next year and then gradually to $15 by 2022. (On Thursday, March 31, 2016)

Just hours later, lawmakers in Albany struck a deal that will raise the minimum within New York City to $15 by the end of 2018, before gradually ratcheting it that high across the rest of the Empire State.

This wage increases follow sustained and united struggles of service sector workers from 2013 onwards. As a result more than a dozen states have passed minimum wage increases since 2014. San Francisco and county of Los Angeles have already adopted a $15 minimum wage plan that will take effect by 2020. In Seattle city Socialist Alternative party councilor Kshama Sawant campaigned for the passage of a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the city (in 2013).

Numerous statewide polls in California showed voters would approve this hike to minimum wage. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both endorsed a union-led nationwide push for a $15 minimum wage.

Reaction of some workers to this news:

Sandra Carrera, 38, of Los Angeles working in a San Francisco restaurant can’t make enough on minimum wage to cover $1,050 in rent and bills each month, so she sells party supplies to make up the difference. But that income has dwindled. A wage hike couldn’t come soon enough, Carrera said.

Miguel Sanchez, 43, of Highland Park working as a cook in the restaurant puzzles through a similar math problem as he makes tortillas with masa-caked hands. After rent and bills, his income from two minimum-wage jobs leaves him about $440 to buy food and take care of his wife and two young daughters.

Jiwon Park, 22, a server at Lee’s Noodles is worried about prices going up as well. But in the meantime, a higher minimum wage means more money for textbooks and ESL classes, groceries for his mother and a chance to save up and start his own restaurant or store someday. He said the statewide wage hike that took place in January has already made a difference for him. “It’s a dollar,” Park said, “but if you work 50 hours, it’s $50. If you work 500, it’s $500.”

Reacting to this raise, businesses threaten that they will be forced to cut jobs when the wage increases come into force. However, the same workers solidarity which achieved this wage hike will thwart any efforts by employers to cut jobs. Moreover it should be noted that jobs in personal services such as restaurants can not be out sourced to low paid overseas locations easily.

Collective action by employees is the only way to force the state and employers to meet their demands even for basic livelihood needs.

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-me-0327-minimum-wage-20160328-story.html
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/04/new-york-reaches-deal-raise-minimum-wage-15

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Status update

BPO companies and their customers strive continuously for more and more cost reductions (read more work with less employees, less pay and benefits)

“Customers want beyond 10-15% cost and performance benefits, to which we found the answer in Robotics –non-invasive software technology to quickly increase efficiencies from business processes.”

“BPO 1.0 was about pure offshoring and labor arbitrage based benefits; followed by BPO 2.0 that was about transformation through process harmonization, innovation, and evolving options of business models. BPO 3.0 today is about technology play for improved costs and efficiencies.”

“When we looked around to see what could set us sailing, it was ‘Automation’. Automation isn’t new, it’s been around for a while. But pushing the envelope had the answer to getting right back on the horse.”

“Plonking a robot on the desk and ordering it to do the mundane repetitive tasks that processing advisors carry out would have been ideal…” But, “It’s about doing certain things in sequence in a well-designed manner to make way for robots.”

“A holistic approach to Robotics is required for optimum outcome. It involves 1) a high-end automation platform to reduce human intervention to the maximum extent…”
These are excerpts taken from an article in ciol.com on how to implement automation in BPO industry. What will be the implications for BPO employees and fresh graduates aspiring to join the industry?

To read the full article : When soft robots are at work in the BPOs…

Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/bpo-automation-cost-reductions-implications-for-employees/

Status update

A new study shows that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. The research offers a sobering look at the oft-touted “democratizing” effect of social media and Internet access that bolsters minority opinion.

The study finds that in the wake of widespread knowledge of government surveillance people tend to silence dissenting opinions which are contrary to the commonly accepted views (called “Spiral of Silence”). The participants who shared the “nothing to hide” belief, those who tended to support mass surveillance as necessary for national security, were the most likely to silence their minority opinions.

“The adoption of surveillance techniques, by both the government and private sectors, undermines the Internet’s ability to serve as a neutral platform for honest and open deliberation. It begins to strip away the Internet’s ability to serve as a venue for all voices, instead catering only to the most dominant”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/03/28/mass-surveillance-silences-minority-opinions-according-to-study/

http://jmq.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/02/25/1077699016630255.full.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence

Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/mass-surveillance-silences-minority-opinions-study/

Indian IT majors reduce hiring numbers

The Big Five software exporters – TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL and Cognizant – together added net 24 per cent fewer employees in 2015 at 77,265. US-listed, Chennai-based Cognizant Technologies down 74.6 per cent from 2014, HCL Technologies down 71 per cent and TCS dip by 6.6 per cent at 26,066. Infosys made a whopping 111.4 …

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Einstein’s Big Idea

History and science behind E=mc2

Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/einsteins-big-idea/

Scrap performance appraisal !

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Scrap Performance Appraisal

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! Scrap performance appraisal ! Dear IT friends, We would be confronting this year’s appraisal cycle in the backdrop of massive layoffs by IT giants such as TCS and IBM. After slogging day-and-night for one whole year, we expect pay-hike and promotion as righteous rewards for our efforts. Although we have …

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TCS Layoff – NLDF combats

This entry is part 2 of 23 in the series Struggle Against Layoffs

Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/tcs-layoff-nldf-combats/

TCS Retrenchment

This entry is part 1 of 23 in the series Struggle Against Layoffs

India’s largest IT services provider, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been issuing termination letters to more than 25,000 employees. However, the company says that “workforce optimization is a continuous process which happens throughout the year taking into account employee performance, business needs, and people aspirations. This is nothing out of the ordinary or a special …

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Permanent link to this article: http://new-democrats.com/ndlf-press-release-on-tcs-retrenchment-2/

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