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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Invites US Semiconductor Players to Invest in India



By Press Trust of India | Updated: 26 April 2022

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the semiconductor industry of the US and invited them to make further investments in India. The Finance Minister spoke about opportunities for companies situated in Silicon Valley and about the government of India’s commitment to be a reliable player in the entire semiconductor value chain with dedicated incentive for the sector in mission mode through the Indian Semiconductor Mission.

Last year, the government approved a Rs 76,000-crore scheme to boost semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country in a bid to position India as a global hub for hi-tech production, and attract large chip makers.

Incentives have been lined up for companies engaged in silicon semiconductor fabs, display fabs, compound semiconductors, silicon photonics, sensor fabs, semiconductor packaging and semiconductor design.

During the roundtable with industry leaders from the semiconductor ecosystem, including design, manufacturing, equipment, technology and systems in San Francisco, the participants informed the Finance Minister that they have substantially scaled their capabilities in India in the last few years and are also collaborating with Academia for research and development.

“The participants also mentioned that in view of global supply chain disruptions, they need to review overreliance of supply chain in certain jurisdictions and with the right policies and talent in place, next decade will belong to India,” the finance ministry said in a tweet.

Participating in the meeting Devinder Kumar, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of AMD spoke about the company’s growth in India and how India is poised to grow strongly with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat driving it.

Western Digital, Senior Vice President, Corporate Business Development Dan Steere said the company is excited to explore opportunities with the government of India to expand manufacturing in the Indian market.

Manish Bhatia, executive vice president of global operations at Micron Tech said the $10 million (roughly Rs 80 crore) scheme by the government would encourage semiconductor manufacturing in India.

The Finance Minister also met Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who gave a snapshot of the company’s investment in India and expansion plan.

During the meeting, he expressed his optimism about the company’s growth in India across segments, and how the company is looking to quadruple the number of drivers on the platform to 2 million.

“Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman acknowledged @Uber’s expansion plans in India and said that technology plays an important role in strengthening transportation and mobility sectors as well as last mile connectivity,” another tweet said.

“Union Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman met with Mr Mark Widmar, CEO, @FirstSolar, in San Francisco, today. They discussed about India’s renewable energy landscape and @FirstSolar’s $700 million investment in India,” a separate tweet said.

Widmar informed the Finance Minister that the company’s plant will be operational shortly and this is their lowest-cost factory across jurisdictions with very low carbon footprint and recycles 90 per cent of the material.

He also said that India has been at the forefront of reforms made in the renewable energy sector and the government’s new policy facilitates companies to operate at a level-playing field. Opportunities around green hydrogen and sustainable energy were also discussed at length.


IISc Says Team Has Developed Enhanced Data Encryption, Security Device



By Press Trust of India | Updated: 28 May 2022

An Indian Institute of Science team has developed a “record-breaking” true random number generator (TRNG), which can improve data encryption and provide improved security for sensitive digital data such as credit card details, passwords and other personal information. The study describing this device has been published in the journal ‘ACS Nano’, the Bengaluru-based IISc, said in a press release on Friday.

“Almost everything we do on the internet is encrypted for security. The strength of this encryption depends on the quality of random number generation,” says Nithin Abraham, a PhD student at the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering (ECE), IISc.

Abraham is a part of the IISc team led by Kausik Majumdar, associate professor at ECE.

Encrypted information can be decoded only by authorised users who have access to a cryptographic “key”. But the key needs to be unpredictable and, therefore, randomly generated to resist hacking.

Cryptographic keys are typically generated in computers using pseudo-random number generators (PRNGs), which rely on mathematical formulae or pre-programmed tables to produce numbers that appear random but are not.

In contrast, a TRNG extracts random numbers from inherently random physical processes, making it more secure.

In IISc’s “breakthrough” TRNG device, random numbers are generated using the random motion of electrons.

It consists of an artificial electron trap constructed by stacking atomically-thin layers of materials like black phosphorus and graphene. The current measured from the device increases when an electron is trapped, and decreases when it is released. Since electrons move in and out of the trap in a random manner, the measured current also changes randomly. The timing of this change determines the generated random number, the statement said.

“You cannot predict exactly at what time the electron is going to enter the trap. So, there is an inherent randomness that is embedded in this process,” explains Majumdar.

The performance of the device on the standard tests for cryptographic applications designed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has exceeded Majumdar’s own expectations.

“When the idea first struck me, I knew it would be a good random number generator, but I didn’t expect it to have a record-high min-entropy,” he says.

Min-entropy is a parameter used to measure the performance of TRNGs. Its value ranges from zero (completely predictable) to one (completely random). The device from Majumdar’s lab showed a record-high min-entropy of 0.98, a significant improvement over previously reported values, which were around 0.89.

“Ours is by far the highest reported min-entropy among TRNGs,” says Abraham. The team’s electronic TRNG is also more compact than its clunkier counterparts that are based on optical phenomena.

“Since our device is purely electronic, millions of such devices can be created on a single chip,” adds Majumdar.

He and his group plan to improve the device by making it faster and developing a new fabrication process that would enable the mass production of these chips.

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Elon Musk Wins $13 Billion SolarCity Lawsuit Against Tesla Shareholders



By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 28 April 2022

A judge in the state of Delaware on Wednesday handed Tesla chief Elon Musk a victory in a shareholder lawsuit filed over the controversial buy of solar panel maker SolarCity.

The judge ruled against a group of Tesla shareholders who contended that Musk, who was chairman of both Tesla and SolarCity at the time of the transaction, “poisoned” Tesla’s ability to fairly evaluate the purchase, wasting corporate assets in the $2.6 billion (roughly Rs. 19,920 crore) deal and harming people who owned Tesla stock, according to a complaint.

The judge wrote in his decision that evidence indicated Tesla paid a “fair price” for SolarCity and has benefited from the acquisition.

The group of investors, which includes union pension funds and other institutional investors, argued that SolarCity was a failing enterprise that faced “likely bankruptcy” were it not for the actions of Musk and other Tesla board members, who also had large equity stakes in SolarCity.

The shareholders who filed the suit had previously reached a $60 million (roughly Rs. 460 crore) settlement with other Tesla directors originally named in the complaint, with the payment coming from insurance. This group, which included Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk’s brother, did not admit fault.

A key question in the trial was whether Musk, who held 22 percent of Tesla’s equity at the time, controlled the transaction, which won approval from Tesla shareholders.

Musk told the court that buying SolarCity was part of his “master plan,” according to CNBC.

Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said during the course of the trial that Wall Street was watching “very closely to see the outcome for Musk and the corporate governance.”

The SolarCity deal has been a “black eye” for Musk and Tesla and a “clear low light” in the company’s whirlwind rise, Ives said in a note late last year.

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India, EU Launch Trade and Technology Council to Deepen Strategic Cooperation



By ANI | Updated: 25 April 2022

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held bilateral talks in New Delhi on Monday and agreed to launch the EU-India Trade and Technology Council while also committing to strengthen the strategic partnership. The European Commission, in a press statement, said this strategic coordination mechanism will allow both partners to tackle challenges at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security, and thus deepen cooperation in these fields between the EU and India.

Both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement.

According to the statement, the Trade and Technology Council will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalise political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for sustainable progress of European and Indian economies.

“Even as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, we are confident that the shared values and common interests of the EU and India offer a strong basis to intensify mutually beneficial and deeper strategic cooperation,” the press statement read.

The decision to set up a Trade and Technology Council will be the first for India with any of its partners and the second for the European Union following the first one it has set up with the US.

“They reviewed progress in the vibrant India-EU Strategic Partnership and agreed to deepen cooperation in areas of trade, climate, digital technology and people-to-people ties,” tweeted MEA after the meeting.

EU chief earlier today met External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and discussed ways to take the India-EU partnership forward and exchanged views on the impact of the Ukraine conflict.

EU chief met Jaishankar shortly after she visited Rajghat today to pay respect to Mahatma Gandhi.

EU-India’s broad economic agenda, with a focus on the free trade agreement, investment protection agreement and Geographical Indications agreement is on the agenda.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is also coming up in discussions.

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Barack Obama Urges Big Tech to Stop Dividing Society, Undermining Democracy



By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 22 April 2022

Former US President Barack Obama on Thursday called out Silicon Valley, urging tech companies to stop dividing society and undermining democracy, and for political leaders to help guide the way with regulation.

Obama said that online platforms have found that “inflammatory, polarizing content” attracts online audiences with money to be made at the expense of democracy.

“It’s that in the competition between truth and falsehood, cooperation and conflict, the very design of these platforms seems to be tilting us in the wrong direction,” Obama said at a Stanford Cyber Policy Center event.

Obama advocated modifying the US law known as Section 230, which spares platforms from liability for what users share on them. “These big platforms need to be subject to some level of public oversight and regulation,” Obama said.

“We need to consider reforms to Section 230 to account for those changes, including whether platforms should be required to have a higher standard of care, when it comes to advertising on their site.”

A regulatory structure crafted with input from tech companies, user communities and industry experts should allow them to operate effectively while slowing the spread of harmful content online, Obama said.

“Tech platforms need to accept that they play a unique role in how we, as a people and people around the world, are consuming information and that their decisions have an impact on every aspect of society,” Obama said.

“Beyond that, tech companies need to be more transparent about how they operate.”

In particular, online platforms should make it clear what kind of content they promote — even if only to regulators if there are concerns about software secrets being disclosed to competitors, Obama told the gathering.

“For more and more of us, search and social media platforms aren’t just our window into the internet; they serve as our primary source of news and information,” Obama said.

“No one tells us that the window is blurred, subject to unseen distortions and subtle manipulations.”

The US needs to set a better example when it comes to regulating abuses by big tech firms, collaborating with regulators in places such as Europe which have been more aggressive, Obama said.

“We’re so fatalistic about the steady stream of bile and vitriol that’s on there, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.

“The Internet is a tool. Social media is a tool. At the end of the day, tools don’t control us. We control them, and we can remake them.”

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India’s First Portable Solar Rooftop PV Port System Unveiled in Gandhinagar



By Press Trust of India | Updated: 19 April 2022

The country’s first portable solar rooftop system was inaugurated at Swaminarayan Akshardham temple complex in Gandhinagar on Monday. The installation of 10 PV Port systems in the temple complex has been supported by the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), a statement said.

The systems have been installed under the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s initiative to develop renewable energy cities across India.

Designed by GIZ, the PV Port systems are standard plug and play photovoltaic systems of a minimum of 2 kWp that come with or without battery storage.

“India’s first portable solar rooftop system was inaugurated at the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple complex in Gandhinagar…,” the statement said.

The PV Ports have been manufactured by New Delhi-based Servotech Power Systems Ltd (SPSL), a leading maker of high-end solar products like LEDs, oxygen concentrators and EV charging equipment under the Make in India project, it added.

“The unique PV Port system is the way ahead for greater adoption of solar power in the country,” said Raman Bhatia, founder and Managing Director of Servotech Power Systems Ltd.

The 10 PV Port systems were inaugurated in the presence of Shwetal Shah, Advisor, Climate Change Department, Government of Gujarat, and officials of GIZ, GERMI and Swaminarayan Akshardham temple.

Jorg Gabler, Principal Advisor of the Integration of Renewable Energies in the Indian Electricity System (I-RE) project, GIZ India, said that “such collaborations and the resulting synergies are expected to benefit consumers to a huge extent. We are very optimistic that the partnerships will provide us insights to deal with emerging challenges and capitalise on opportunities on the city level, which help us replicate the results in other cities across India”.

Of the 40 PV Port systems to be installed in Gandhinagar, Servotech Power Systems has already installed more than 30 systems at Pandit Deendayal Energy University, GSPC Bhavan, Indroda Park, NIFT, Arya Bhavan, and other places.

The PV Port system is highly cost-effective, requires low maintenance, has a long shelf life of 25-30 years, can be easily installed by a single person and is ideal for the Indian climate.

It is designed for 100 percent self-consumption, and no power is fed into the grid. Unlike other conventional solar PV systems, the design of the PV Port system allows the space below the panels to be utilised. Each system leads to an average annual savings of Rs 24,000 on electricity bills.

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Apple’s New York City Store Workers Want to Establish a Union



By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 19 April 2022

Workers at Apple’s Grand Central Station store announced Monday they are organising to establish a union, in what would be a first at one of the tech giant’s retail locations in the US.

The effort, calling itself “Fruit Stand Workers United,” aims to garner signatures from at least 30 percent of the New York store, the minimum needed to qualify for a unionisation election.

The campaign is connected to Workers United, an affiliate of the national Service Employees International Union, which was established in 2009 from several earlier unions.

Workers United confirmed its involvement.

“Like so many recent campaigns, this has been worker-driven, and worker led,” Workers United said in an email. “We recognise the tremendous bravery and courage these workers have taken to stand up for their rights, and we will support them every step of the way.”

Organisers of the Grand Central campaign described themselves as working in “extraordinary times with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and once-in-a-generation consumer price inflation,” though their website did not disclose the name of staff members leading the effort.

“Grand Central is an extraordinary store with unique working conditions that make a union necessary to ensure our team has the best possible standards of living,” the workers said on the campaign website for the prospective union.

The Apple effort comes as a Starbucks unionisation drive backed by Workers United has spread nationally after election victories last year in New York.

Amazon is also facing a growing challenge from unions after an upstart campaign won an election at a warehouse in nearby Staten Island earlier this month. A vote at a second Staten Island Amazon site is scheduled for later in April.

On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees union elections, indicated it received enough signatures from another Amazon warehouse to hold a vote in Bayonne, New Jersey at a site with about 200 workers.

Employees working in at least three other Apple stores are also attempting to organise, according to The Washington Post.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.

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