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21st May Current Affairs

Global Report on Assistive Technology

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have released the first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT).

What is Assistive Technology(AT)?

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software programme, or product system that is used to help people with disabilities increase, maintain, or improve their functional abilities.

Examples: Prosthetics, braces, walkers, customised switches, special-purpose computers, screen readers, and specialist curricular software.

Key findings of the report:

Over 2.5 billion individuals require one or more assistive items.

A billion people are denied access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

The number of persons in need of assistive devices are predicted to reach 3.5 billion by 2050.

This is because of the aging population and the rising incidence of noncommunicable diseases around the world.

In the areas of cognition, communication, and self-care, there are significant shortages in service provision and qualified personnel for assistive technology.

Key recommendations:

Improve access within education, health and social care systems.

Ensure availability, safety, effectiveness and affordability of assistive products.

Enlarge, diversify and improve workforce capacity.

Actively involve users of assistive technology and their families.

Increase public awareness and combat stigma.

Initiatives by the Indian Government for the disabled:

Accessible India Campaign: Creation of Accessible Environment for PwDs.

DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme.

National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities.

Unique Disability Identification Project.

SpaceX Launches 53 Starlink Satellites From California

(GS-III: Developments in Science and Technology)

In News:

SpaceX recently launched a rocket carrying 53 satellites for the Starlink internet constellation from California Onboard Falcon 9 rocket.

Details:

SpaceX has already launched more than 2,500 Starlink satellites to date but plans to loft many more.

What is the Starlink project?

The Starlink network is one of several ongoing efforts to start beaming data signals from space.

Under the project, the company intends to evolve into a constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites.

The aim is to provide low-cost and reliable space-based Internet services to the world.

What are the benefits of LEO satellites based internet?

LEO satellites are positioned around 500km-2000km from earth, compared to stationary orbit satellites which are approximately 36,000km away.

As LEO satellites orbit closer to the earth, they are able to provide stronger signals and faster speeds than traditional fixed-satellite systems.

Because signals travel faster through space than through fibre-optic cables, they also have the potential to rival if not exceed existing ground-based networks.

Challenges:

LEO satellites travel at a speed of 27,000 kph and complete a full circuit of the planet in 90-120 minutes. As a result, individual satellites can only make direct contact with a land transmitter for a short period of time thus requiring massive LEO satellite fleets and consequently, a significant capital investment.

Criticisms of LEO satellites:

The balance of power has shifted from countries to companies since most of these are private companies run projects. As a result, there are questions related to who regulates these companies, especially given the myriad of nations that contribute to individual projects.

Complicated regulatory framework:

Stakeholders in these companies are from various countries. Thus it becomes challenging to receive requisite licences to operate in each country.

Satellites can sometimes be seen in the night skies which creates difficulties for astronomers as the satellites reflect sunlight to earth, leaving streaks across images.

Satellites travelling at a lower orbit can also interrupt the frequency of those orbiting above them.

Those objects, colloquially referred to as ‘space junk,’ have the potential to damage spacecraft or collide with other satellites.

Potential:

LEO satellite broadband is preferable in areas that cannot be reached by fibre and spectrum services. The target market will therefore be rural populations and military units operating away from urban areas.

Mozambique confirms first wild poliovirus case in 30 years

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

Mozambique has identified its first case of wild poliovirus Type 1 this week after a child contracted the disease.

Details:

It is the country’s first such case since 1992 and the second imported case of wild poliovirus in Southern Africa this year.

An outbreak was reported in Malawi earlier this year.

Note:

As of today, wild poliovirus is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What is Polio?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines polio or poliomyelitis as “a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.”

Transmission: The virus is transmitted by person-to-person, spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

When is a country declared polio free?

There are three variants of the poliovirus, numbered 1 to 3. For a country to be declared polio-free, the wild transmission of all three kinds has to be stopped. For eradication, cases of both wild and vaccine-derived polio infection have to be reduced to zero.

India was declared polio-free in January 2014, after three years of zero cases, an achievement that is widely believed to have been spurred by the successful Pulse Polio campaign.

Efforts by India in this regard:

Under the Pulse Polio programme, all states and Union Territories have developed Rapid Response Teams (RRT) to respond to any polio outbreak in the country.

In 2014, the government made the Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) mandatory for those travelling between India and polio-affected countries, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Syria and Cameroon.

World Governance Indicators

(GS-II: Governance Related issues)

In News:

According to a presentation presented in 2020 by Sanjeev Sanyal, then-Principal Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance, the World Bank’s World Governance Indicators (WGI) inputs are arbitrary.

Details:

The presentation was prepared by the Ministry of Finance for internal circulation within the government to counter the negative commentary on India.

What is Governance?

Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised.  This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them.

What are World Governance Indicators?

Released by the World Bank.

WGI provide a ranking of 215 countries based on six dimensions of governance:

  • ‘Voice and Accountability’.
  • ‘Political Stability and Absence of Violence’.
  • ‘Government Effectiveness’.
  • ‘Regulatory Quality’.
  • ‘Rule of Law’.
  • ‘Control of Corruption.’

Sources: These aggregate indicators are based on over 30 individual data sources produced by a variety of survey institutes, think tanks, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, and private sector firms such as Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project and Freedom House, etc.

Significance: WGI plays a key role in deciding the sovereign credit rating of any country.

Concern of the Indian government:

World Governance Indicators (WGI), according to the government, are based on impressions from the Western press or tiny polls of NGOs and a handful of academics, many of whom lack an India specialist.

There would be a decline in WGI results as a result of these institutes’ critical comments towards India. This could result in India’s sovereign rating being downgraded.

India’s score in the latest WGI:

India’s WGI score is much below the BBB Median on all six indicators.

While BBB is an investment-grade rating issued by global rating agencies such as S&P and Fitch.

A WGI score below BBB Median would suggest that India falls below the middle when the scores of countries are arranged in a descending order.

Major Incidents Which Hugely Affected India’s WGI Rank:

  • Kashmir issue.
  • Harassment of Activists.
  • Sedition laws.
  • Cancellation of NGO licences.