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The UN says a new computer simulation tool could boost global development

MIT Technology Review

The news: The United Nations is endorsing a computer simulation tool that it believes will help governments tackle the world's biggest problems, from gender inequality to climate change. Global challenges: In 2015, UN member states signed up for a set of 17 sustainable-development goals that are due to be reached by 2030. They include things like "zero poverty," "no hunger," and "affordable and clean energy." How could the tool help? Called Policy Priority Inference (PPI), the software uses agent-based modeling to predict what would happen if policymakers spent money on one project rather than another.

Japan passes bill to build AI-powered 'super cities' addressing societal issues


Japan has passed a bill to build "super cities" which address societal issues using emerging technologies such as AI. The bill, passed on Wednesday, aims to accelerate the sweeping change of regulations across various fields to support the creation of such futuristic cities. Addressing issues such as depopulation and an aging society will be the focus of the super cities. Technologies including big data and AI will be key to successfully tackling the challenging problems. Large amounts of data will be collected and organised from across administrative organisations. Local governments will be selected for the ambitious projects which will launch forums with the national government and private companies to take forward the plans. Draft plans will be created from this deep public-private collaboration that will subsequently be submitted to the state government if approved by local residents.

scoutbee offers free Covid-19 emergency supplier searches for critical medical supplies


As the world gets to grips with the health and humanitarian emergency resulting from the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the knock-on economic effects have also been stark. In an increasingly global economy, we have seen how fragile some supply chains have become. Our team quickly built a simple tool so organisations with great need could gain rapid access to our supplier insights, in order to help with shortages of critical supplies. The free service provides help to organisations performing emergency sourcing of critically needed medical equipment and supplies including surgical masks, hazmat suits, swabs and tubes etc. Until 30 April, organisations (such as NGOs, public bodies, local and national governments and healthcare providers) struggling to source urgently needed supplies can make a request for our AI powered supplier search at scoutbee Covid-19 Emergency Supply Chain Support.

Japan enacts high-tech 'super city' bill

The Japan Times

The Diet enacted a bill Wednesday to create "super cities" where artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies are utilized to resolve social problems. The bill revising the national strategic special zone law passed the House of Councilors by a majority vote with support mainly from the ruling coalition. The revision stipulates procedures to speed up the changing of regulations in various fields to facilitate the creating of such smart cities. The government hopes to utilize cutting-edge technologies to address issues such as depopulation and the aging of society. In such cities, data-linking platforms to collect and organize various kinds of data from administrative organizations and companies will be established for autonomous driving, cashless payments, telemedicine and other services.

France's New Online Hate Speech Law Is Fundamentally Flawed


The solution to online hate speech seems so simple: Delete harmful content, rinse, repeat. But David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, says that while laws to regulate hate speech might seem promising, they often aren't that effective--and, perhaps worse, they can set dangerous precedents. This is why France's new social media law, which follows in Germany's footsteps, is controversial across the political spectrum there and abroad. On May 13, France passed "Lutte contre la haine sur internet" ("Fighting hate on the internet"), a law that requires social media platforms to rapidly take down hateful content. Comments that are discriminatory--based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and religion--or sexually abusive have to be removed within 24 hours of being flagged by users.

Singapore puts $288M focus on digital transformation to help firms cope with pandemic fallout


Singapore is allocating more than SG$500 million ($288.26 million) to support local businesses in their digital transformation efforts, which increasingly are imperative for enterprises to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, the funds will go towards facilitating companies in their adoption of e-payments, e-invoicing, as well as more advanced digital tools. The pandemic had accelerated the pace of digital transformation, with telecommuting, online food and services, and virtual events now the norm. "Our businesses must adapt and we will support them in this," said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, during his speech Tuesday to announce the government's Fortitude Budget. Some compromise in personal privacy has been deemed necessary in countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea that have turned to technology to aid in contact tracing and movement monitoring, but there are questions citizens should still ask to protect their cyber wellbeing.

Japan extends timeline for approving Fujifilm's Avigan drug for COVID-19

The Japan Times

The government has decided to postpone approving Fujifilm Holdings Corp.'s Avigan drug for the treatment of COVID-19 until June or later, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said earlier this month he hoped the drug, known generically as favipiravir, would be approved some time in May if its efficacy and safety could be confirmed. But Kato told a news conference Tuesday that clinical tests on the drug would continue into next month or beyond, while noting that there was no change in the government's policy of approving the drug swiftly once its effectiveness is confirmed. Fujifilm shares slumped last week after it was reported that an interim study showed no clear evidence of efficacy for Avigan in COVID-19 cases. Researchers at Fujita Health University, which is conducting a clinical trial on the drug, said in a statement the interim study was done to ensure the scientific validity of the trial, not to determine the efficacy of the drug.

Mapped: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World


From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world. In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. At the state level though, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis. Today's visualizations from SurfShark classify 194 countries and regions based on the extent of surveillance. Click here to explore the full research methodology.

The Apple-Google Contact Tracing System Won't Work. It Still Deserves Praise.


This article is part of Privacy in the Pandemic, a Future Tense series. In debates over digital privacy, American tech companies are often branded as the villains, with European policymakers cast in the role of savior. Big Tech is out to steal your privacy, but European governments are stepping in to protect it. Or so the narrative goes. But the new exposure notification system released by Google and Apple on Wednesday has turned these roles on their head, albeit in ways that at least some public health authorities say will make their job more difficult.

India's COVID-19 Response Has Been a Disaster, but Some States Have Been Surprisingly Successful


Despite what you may have heard, from the World Health Organization or World Economic Forum or wherever else, India has not done a good job of containing the coronavirus. According to the country's Ministry of Health and Welfare, India now has over 110,000 cases, having already surpassed the total of the only country with more people, China. The total death toll, as of this writing, stands at about 3,500. In a country of 1.3 billion people, these may seem like small numbers. But they do not actually give a full accounting of the virus's toll.