Many people from outside the United States dream of working in America, but getting a work visa is not easy. These visas also make it tough for foreign nationals to start their own businesses. From Palo Alto, California, Elizabeth Lee reports one Silicon Valley venture capital firm has found a way to help these entrepreneurs.
Kenya has started a digital skills training program to enable 1 million young people to secure freelance online work in the next year, in a bid to tackle the country's acute youth unemployment problem. Kenya has the highest rate of youth joblessness in East Africa, the World Bank said, with 17 percent of all young people eligible for work lacking jobs. Neighboring Tanzania and Uganda have comparable rates of 5.5 and 6.8 percent respectively. There are now an estimated 40,000 Kenyans who have secured online work ranging from transcription services to software development on sites like Amazon's MTURK and the Kenyan-owned KuHustle platform. Joe Mucheru, the minister for information, communication and technology, said the digital jobs initiative aimed to boost that number to 1 million, using a partly government-funded program called Ajira, or "employment" in Swahili. "It is called the gig economy," he told Reuters, without saying how much the government was funding. "Companies are actually putting work online because it is cheaper, it is efficient and it is better for them." Kenya has sought to promote itself as a tech hub for Africa. Its successes include pioneering work by Safaricom to build a mobile money payments system, M-Pesa, that can be used on the simplest devices and which has been mimicked abroad. But experts say Kenya and other African governments seeking to expand IT skills in their economies need to improve the reliability of electricity supplies, lower the cost of internet access and boost IT training in the education system. Unleashing creativity Through Ajira, Kenya's government sends mentors across the nation to train young people, providing internet connectivity for free on Wi-fi and an online registration platform. Kenya's internet penetration rate is about 85.3 percent according to the regulator Communications Authority of Kenya, high compared with 28.7 percent for the continent as a whole. "When you give young people internet connectivity and you give them gadgets, they get creative and they start finding things," said Sam Gichuru, the co-founder of KuHustle. KuHustle has 21,000 Kenyans who use it to secure online work. Gichuru plans to launch it in other African nations. Derrick Muturi, 25, started online work with KuHustle in 2013 and now runs a firm that employs four to develop livestock management apps for farmers and runs a website for meat deliveries. Muturi, an IT graduate who works from Nairobi's business incubation center Nailab, said he was able to start a small business without hunting for capital, one of the biggest challenges for African entrepreneurs. "Your capital is actually what you know, your experience and how good you are," he said. The government initiative mirrors one started by Google, which has trained half a million young Africans with digital skills and aims to create 1 million web-based jobs.
A group of university students in the Netherlands hope a motorcycle they built themselves will take the world by storm. They collaborated on their new Storm Wave bike by putting it together piece by piece, and then drove it for 80 days around the world. As we hear from VOA’s Deborah Block, the idea was to raise awareness of electric-powered vehicles.
The 3.5 million Americans who drive trucks for a living may face growing competition for jobs as technology improves and self-driving or autonomous trucks that don't need human operators become more common. Researchers say a similar wave of automation and robotics displaced most of the 5 million people who lost manufacturing jobs over the past few years. Frustration and fear from that drastic change helped spark an angry movement that upended U.S. politics. Some experts say it will be years before a significant number of robot trucks are on the roads, as engineers and scientists work on technical, regulatory, and safety concerns while seeking public acceptance of this evolving technology. But others point out that autonomous trucks already operate in mines, while robotic cars run races up mountains. Automotive and computer firms are working to improve the sensors and processors needed for the task. "We are not that far from the ultimate vision of a completely self-driving car," said Chan Lieu, a former official of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Researchers say the same economic pressures that boosted automation in factories also promote robot truckers, who are likely to be less expensive than human drivers. Robots don't need breaks, join unions, ask for raises, demand overtime pay, file lawsuits, or show up with a hangover. Many Americans say they are worried about the safety of robotic vehicles, but government statistics show 94 percent of road accidents are due to human error. That is causing some worries for the insurance industry, which is trying to figure out how to adjust premiums for an unprecedented, but probably safer, future. Jobs In the meantime, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen expects companies will continue to use more robots. She urges governments and companies to do more to help displaced humans. "Most economists and policymakers recognize that it's important to provide ways for workers who were harmed by these kinds of developments to be retrained for jobs so that they can succeed in the economy," she said. Surprisingly, at a time when lost jobs are a major economic and political issue, many high-paying technical positions go unfilled. Economist Ken Simonson of the Associated General Contractors of America says companies can't find plumbers, electricians, pipefitters and others. "We are going to continue to see a lot of industries struggling to find already qualified workers or to bring new entrants up to the skill level that they need to get things done," he said. For many people, apprenticeships offer a way to learn the new kinds of skills that help people find and keep jobs in a workplace of growing technical complexity. Newport News Shipbuilding has been teaching apprentices for nearly a century, and has a strong record of employing the program's graduates. But researcher David Wiczer of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says other programs have mixed results. "Every time you take someone from one occupation to another, the level of risk magnifies,” he said. “It's much safer to switch one employer from the other and do the same thing you've been doing." In a TEDx talk, MIT economist David Autor says American workers made a big shift from agriculture to manufacturing in the late 1800s and early 1900s. "We have faced equally momentous economic transformations in the past and come through them successfully," he said. But workers in this latest economic transition may be in for a bumpy ride, as scholars say previous major changes were wrenching and took many years.
Between May and October, the nation of Israel gets an average of about 30 sunny days a month. That makes it a perfect place for solar power, a fact that the country and solar entrepreneurs are just starting to take advantage of. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.
There is a worldwide two-pronged effort to fight drug resistant microbes. One of them is the all-hands-on deck effort to find and test new antibiotics. The other is to make sure people don't come in contact with potentially deadly bugs in the first place. And some of the buggiest places are areas where lots of people are crowded together, like buses, and subway cars. Now some new technology may be able to reduce the threat. VOA's Faith Lapidus reports.
Facebook is stepping up efforts to head off tougher regulation by Germany, a fierce critic of the social media network operator, saying Monday it would do more to combat fake news as its chief operating officer met with officials in Berlin. Top German lawmakers are planning legislation this year to force Facebook to remove "hate speech" from its web pages within 24 hours or face fines, a push that could force the social media giant to bear more responsibility for content posted by users. Chancellor Angel Merkel, who is running for a fourth term this year, has warned that the internet is not "a space that is free from the law." Germany's strict libel and slander laws are meant to protect citizens by making it a crime to defame others. More than 218,000 cases involving insults were filed with prosecutors in 2015. But few internet-based cases were prosecuted. Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, visited Berlin on Sunday to meet with German government officials considering new regulations on Facebook, according to a Berlin-based source at a rival internet company. Dan Rose, who is in charge of partnerships for Facebook, on Monday acknowledged that it was no longer a simple communications platform. "There is no question we play an important role in the media landscape," Rose told the DLD technology conference in Munich. "There are people who are discovering their news and consuming their video and other media types on Facebook. ... We take that role seriously." The issue has taken on more urgency amid concern by Germany's political establishment that a proliferation of fake news and racist content, particularly about the 900,000 refugees that arrived here last year, could sway public opinion in the election campaign. Facebook on Sunday announced a partnership with German third-party fact-checking organization Correctiv, promising to update its social media platforms in Germany "within weeks" to reduce the dissemination of fake news. Rose said it aimed to expand that model to other countries. Code of conduct Tougher legislation poses challenges for the company's lucrative business model. Like most media companies, it is based on generating advertising revenue but without all the costs of producing and managing content. Analysts expect Facebook to have generated $27.3 billion in revenue last year, more than 43 percent of which is set to fall to the bottom line as net profit. But measures that would legally oblige such social media platforms to set up "complaints offices" and invest more resources into deleting hate posts or fake news would chip away at that profit. A year ago Germany got Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube to sign up to a code of conduct, which included a pledge to delete hate speech from their websites within 24 hours. A similar voluntary code was adopted by the European Union in May. A September report by a group that monitors hate speech said it found Facebook deleted about 46 percent of illegal content reported by users in Germany within 24 hours, more than the 10 percent and 1 percent removed by YouTube and Twitter respectively. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas wants that rate to be increased to 70 percent. "A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper last month. Social networks such as Facebook are concerned that if they actively search for illegal content such as child pornography or incitement to terrorism, they could be deemed legally liable for such content. To combat that disincentive, the European Union is considering adopting a so-called “good Samaritan” principle from the United States that would exempt platforms from liability in such cases, according to an EU Commission official. Senior conservative lawmaker Volker Kauder has said platforms should also provide information when requested about the identities of those posting fake news and hate speech. "They say there is too much [hate speech]," he said. "But a big auto manufacturer that produces millions of cars can't say: 'I produce so many cars that I can't guarantee they are all secure.' No, that is not on. I expect and demand from Facebook that laws are upheld."
Japanese researchers say they have successfully copied fingerprint data from a digital picture of a person flashing a two-fingered "V" or peace sign, raising questions about the potential theft of such information. "One can use it to assume another identity, such as accessing a smartphone or breaking and entering into a restricted area such as an apartment," Isao Echizen, a professor at Japan's National Institute of Informatics, told Reuters Television. Flashing a two-finger peace sign is very common among Japanese when posing for a photo. Echizen and fellow researcher Tateo Ogane reproduced an experiment on Friday in which they extracted Echizen's fingerprints from a digital photograph taken at a distance of 3 m (9.8 ft). The high-resolution photograph was taken with a 135-mm lens mounted on a digital SLR camera. Fingerprint scanners have found their way into mobile phones, laptops, external hard drives and electronic wallets as an alternative to authentication using passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs). NTT Docomo, Japan's biggest mobile carrier, said it had not received any reports of misuse of fingerprint data on customers' devices. "Fingerprint authentication is used for many purposes, including smartphones, and each manufacturer decides how the authentication process is maintained," said spokesman Yasutaka Imai. "We'll continue to monitor the situation carefully".
When the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket goes into space Saturday, it will carry a payload that could revolutionize how airplanes fly. Technology on board will make airplanes trackable over the entire Earth, including the black zones over vast oceans and deserts where planes currently can't be traced. VOA's Carolyn Presutti explains.
These days, many Americans live much of their lives online — connecting with friends on social networks, making everyday purchases and authorizing banking transactions over the internet. The convenience that online services and applications provide is clear. What’s often less clear is how our personal information is being distributed and handled in these exchanges. Technology nonprofits Mozilla and the Tactical Technology Collective recently co-hosted “The Glass Room,” a pop-up exhibit in New York City that examines the various ways our personal information is collected online, and what privacy we forgo in exchange for free email services, social networking platforms and the like. Making data tangible “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product,” said Henrik Chulu, a representative of Tactical Technology Collective. “When we’re talking about data, usually it’s this sort of intangible, immaterial thing in the cloud. ... Here we’re sort of trying to make it more visceral and tangible.” Included among the displays were large books, produced by artist Aram Bartholl, that list the 4.7 million passwords leaked as a result of a 2012 hack of social network LinkedIn. The volumes gave physical form to the vast number of online accounts that had been accessed. Visitors were encouraged to check whether their passwords were included in the hack. Nearby, a three-dimensional bar chart compared tech giant Apple and its cash reserves to the U.S. federal budget, an attempt at providing some context for the tech behemoth’s vast wealth. Another tech colossus, Alphabet (the conglomerate that owns Google and nearly 600 other enterprises), was represented by a nail-and-string map detailing all the companies it has acquired or owns shares of that span categories including data analysis, bio-medicine and artificial intelligence. ‘Privacy is a privilege’ Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s house was not spared. A small replica was encased under a glass dome, surrounded by the outlines of four bordering houses. “When he bought this house, he also bought the four houses around it ... in order to basically maintain his privacy,” noted Chulu. Exhibition materials state that construction workers were also asked by Zuckerberg to sign non-disclosure agreements. “Privacy is not dead, it’s just become super-expensive,” Chulu said. “It’s become a privilege now, rather than a right.” So how can average citizens protect their online privacy? The Glass Room offers a free “Data Detox” kit that includes directions for engaging the various privacy settings of social networks, using web browser features and add-ons to surf the web privately and privacy app recommendations. “You can make hopefully more informed choices about what data you want to keep, what you want to take control over, what you want to share,” Chulu said. An app to ‘fix’ headlines In addition to interactive workshops on digital privacy, Glass Room visitors also have an opportunity to play hacker, using a device called Newstweek to alter news headlines that others are reading over public Wi-Fi networks. The developers of Newstweek say they are “providing opportunity for citizens to have their turn to manipulate the press; generating propaganda or simply ‘fixing facts’ as they pass across a wireless network.” They blithely call their product “a tactical device for altering reality.” Developers Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev contend the growth of information networks is not matched by users’ awareness of what is reliable or accurate, thus “offering a growing opportunity for manipulation of opinion, from source to destination.” Facial-imaging software For all the disturbing implications of technology, there are potentially helpful applications, like Parabon Snapshot by Parabon NanoLabs. The DNA analysis software can be helpful in identifying unidentified remains and is geared toward law enforcement agencies. From DNA samples, the software can predict facial features such as eye color and face shape as well as ancestry, generating a virtual likeness that detectives can use for investigative leads. “By using machine learning, basically an artificial-intelligence technology, you can teach an algorithm to be better at guessing what the actual person will look like,” Chulu said. As new online products and services are introduced, data collection efforts will likely continue in the background, but Glass Room representatives are keen to help everyone safeguard their information and privacy. “The biggest contribution is making knowledge available to as many people as possible,” Chulu said.
An exhibit in New York City is taking a closer look at our relationship with technologies and online platforms, and the increasing lack of privacy stemming from it. From personal data that we willingly provide to facial prediction software, the Glass Room project asks: Is privacy possible in the digital age? VOA's Tina Trinh explores.
A million emotions are going through Matt Desch. He feels like he's awaiting the arrival of a child. He's actually "birthing" 10 of his company's communication satellites into orbit, in an eventual replacement of 66 satellites. "One of the most complicated technical feats in the aerospace industry," he said. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Saturday will carry the first 10 Iridium satellites. When the rocket is halfway around Earth and in the proper orbit, it will send his "babies" off one by one, every 90 seconds, into space. They will unfold their solar panels and reorient themselves with the stars and the horizon. Desch says the 850-kilogram satellites, the size of a Mini Cooper, will start looking for antennas and begin communicating with Iridium's ground station in Norway, which will transmit the data to Virginia. Desch's engineers have been planning for this day for seven years. Lately, they have assembled in a mission control room, practicing and troubleshooting every possible problem. On Saturday, they will pour over the extensive data, making sure all 10 satellites are in operation. Then, over the next three months, the engineers will position the new satellites and perform a delicate choreography in a slot swap with the old satellites. The satellites travel 27,000 kph. Each replacement must be completed while the satellites are moving, without any noticeable disruption to service. Sometime in 2018, all 66 satellites will have been exchanged for new, technologically improved versions. Once that happens, the payload on board the satellites could revolutionize how airplanes fly. No more 'black zones' Currently, 70 percent of the world's airspace is without real-time surveillance because of rough terrain, deserts or vast oceans. The technology on the new satellites makes airplanes trackable over the entire Earth, including those black zones. No one can currently pinpoint a plane in those areas — even on a flight over the Atlantic from the United States to Europe — except the pilot and the passengers. "You look at the screen on the back of the seat and you see the map and you recognize where you are. But air traffic control [only] knows roughly where you are," said Don Thom, CEO of Aireon, the company that developed the system inside the payload. The new technology would eliminate incidents like the aftermath of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The plane disappeared over the ocean nearly three years ago while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China. The body of the plane and the remains of the 239 people on board have not been found, despite an extensive underwater search of the Indian Ocean. Only a piece of debris was discovered off Reunion Island. Prior to that in 2009, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The flight recorders were not recovered until two years later. The more recent mystery surrounding MH370 prompted the industry to re-examine airplane tracking standards. National and international aviation agencies have implemented rules and recommendations to make real-time tracking possible. Currently, U.S. pilots report their positions every 15 minutes. Internationally, pilots will be required to do that by the end of next year. A new rule, eased in by 2021 by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), makes it mandatory for planes under distress to transmit a location report every minute. Automatic signaling Airplanes will do this through a surveillance technology called automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B.) The ADS-B will transmit the plane's coordinates every minute to a receiver, like Aireon's system in the sky. The ADS-B equipment is not mandatory in all planes until 2020, two years after the receivers are operational. VOA asked about the delay during a media conference call with Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta. He said the cost-benefit ratio was not justifiable, since the tracking system would benefit only "a small number of flights." But Aireon says the system affects thousands of flights daily and the industry as a whole, since airlines will be able to create more direct routes without avoiding traditional dead zones. Passengers will benefit from more efficient and more frequent flights. CEO Thom says airlines will save millions of dollars in fuel costs, and the reduced fuel burn will cut carbon emissions, thus contributing less to global warming. Some new planes already are equipped with the technology and are awaiting 2018, when Iridium satellites begin their tracking. The Iridium satellite constellation is not the only group poised to implement the technology. Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst at the Fairfax Teal Group, an aerospace and defense firm, says Global Star also offers a lower-orbit satellite system, but Iridium's system is larger and will be the first of its size to be operational. "It may be that Iridium may be able to be the one of the early pioneers of this, but this is going to be the wave of the future for other satellite systems as well," Caceres said.
When the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket goes into space Saturday, it will carry a payload that could revolutionize how airplanes fly. Technology on board will make airplanes trackable over the entire Earth, including the black zones over vast oceans and deserts where planes currently can't be traced. VOA's Carolyn Presutti explains.
Google may be famous for its search engine and internet-related services, but the Silicon Valley giant also has a physical presence around the world: Google for Entrepreneurs. The aim is to promote entrepreneurship in places outside of Silicon Valley. VOA's Elizabeth Lee reports from Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Google may be famous for its search engine and its numerous internet-related services, but the Silicon Valley giant also has an international physical presence through an initiative called Google for Entrepreneurs, which aims to promote entrepreneurialism all over the globe. “Entrepreneurship and innovation are thriving all over the world, not just here in Silicon Valley," said Mary Grove, director of Google for Entrepreneurs. "We see that all over the world, so it’s really exciting to see this tidal wave. It’s never been easier, in some ways, to start a company and your audience has never had the potential to be more global.” The internet makes that possible. Grove said startups and entrepreneurs are the backbone of economic development. “We ourselves began as a startup in a garage about 18 years ago and we’ve really been through the entrepreneurial journey and understand some of the challenges, some of the opportunities," she said. "Now, 18 years later, we really want to be a platform to help empower the next generation of startups to launch and grow and ultimately be successful." Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Google for Entrepreneurs created Google campuses in London, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Warsaw, Tel Aviv and Seoul. Each campus provides combined working and meeting spaces that are free and open for anyone in the startup community. Entrepreneurs can network, attend classes and collaborate with mentors to help their startups grow. Korean entrepreneur Yeram Kwon has attended events at Google’s Seoul campus. “Through these events I could learn new business opportunities or new ideas relative to a business problem, Kwon said. Baby-friendly spaces The global campuses all feature a bit of Silicon Valley’s innovative culture. One example is a nine-week, parent-friendly accelerator program called Campus for Moms. In the startup world, an accelerator is an intensive program in which entrepreneurs work to achieve a goal for their business within a short time. This program condenses the curriculum into one day a week for nine weeks, making it easier for entrepreneurs with small children to attend. And they can also bring the kids to campus. In this case, parents can bring their young children onto Google’s campuses while working on their startups. These spaces have cry rooms, play rooms and feeding rooms. Outside the six global campuses, Google for Entrepreneurs also works with partner programs in other regions of the world to reach even more entrepreneurs. “Being partners means a few things. One, it does mean financial support and resources to help grow and run their organizations, and more importantly to us, it means being part of this global community that is truly a network,” Grove said. As an example, "we may work with an amazing organization like Startup Grind, which starts [nurturing startup ecosystems] in a couple dozen cities, and our help and support is able to expand their work to over 80 cities,” she said. Entrepreneurial ecosystem Grove said the key to creating a healthy entrepreneurial environment is to have a talent pool, a business-friendly government, and a culture that is not afraid of taking risks. One such place is South Korea. “It is true that entrepreneurs are considered as risk-takers in Korea. Most Korean people think that it is much safer to work for big companies like Samsung and LG because there is more risk if you choose to be an entrepreneur in Korea," Kwon said. "But recently that kind of perception has changed a lot since the Korean government and companies like Google have supported many startups,” Kwon added. Access to capital is another key component to a healthy startup environment, Grove said. And Google for Entrepreneurs works with numerous partners around the world to find financial resources. “We know capital is concentrated now in Silicon Valley. How can we work in some of these markets to help foster the next generation of angel investors or seed investors, bringing in international investors and helping them have visibility in these markets?” she asked. Since launching globally in 2012, through its campuses and partner programs, Google for Entrepreneurs said it has reached 330,000 entrepreneurs in 140 countries, raising $1.8 billion in funding while creating more than 20,000 new jobs through these startups.
What's the future of wearable technology like the Fitbit or the Apple Watch when it comes to our health? Right now we can count on these devices to do quite a few very cool things. Not only are they in touch with GPS to count steps, they can also monitor heart rate, body fat composition, perspiration, health, temperature and muscle activity, just through touching our skin. But researchers at Stanford Medical Center say that when it comes to wearables, that's just the tip of the health monitoring iceberg. A nurse on your wrist A wearable device likely won't ever replace the diagnosis of a real doctor, but your smart watch, fitness tracker, or other body-touching tech may be able to give you some clues about what's going on inside your body, sometimes before the brain gets word something's not right. In a study published online today in PLOS Biology, Stanford researchers decided to discover exactly what wearables might be able to do. So they began by collecting a whopping 2 billion baseline measurements from a group of 60 people and entering that information into a database. A few of the entries included data "from each participant's wearable biosensor devices and periodic data from laboratory tests of their blood chemistry, gene expression and other measures." With these baselines established, the volunteers wore a whole range of wearables currently available on the market. These collected more than 250,000 measurements a day. In a press release, the researchers say that included "...data on weight; heart rate; oxygen in the blood; skin temperature; activity, including sleep, steps, walking, biking and running; calories expended; acceleration; and even exposure to gamma rays and X-rays." Armed with all that information, and with the constant feedback from the devices, researchers said it became possible to tell when the body wasn't working the way it was supposed to. Start getting well, before you get sick The senior author of the study, Stanford professor Michael Snyder told VOA the technology to gather all of this information exists right now. "All but weight and blood oxygen can be collected from a smart watch," he notes. "A patch can get the blood oxygen." From there "... given a baseline range of values for each person," the team said, "it is possible to monitor deviations from normal and associate those deviations with environmental conditions, illness or other factors that affect health." One great example: Snyder was also one of the participants in the study. On a family trip to Norway, Snyder's vitals veered off the norm after a long transatlantic plane flight. Soon after, based on the deviation, Snyder says "I wasn't completely surprised when I went on to develop a fever and other signs of illness." Ultimately Snyder was diagnosed with Lyme disease, something he'd already decided was likely based on his activities before the trip. And he was already receiving treatment by the time he was diagnosed. A lot of these technologies, Snyder says, are available right now in an "experimental phase," as he calls it. That means they already "exist, and companies and groups like ours are validating them." That doesn't mean you'll be able to get one next Christmas, but Snyder can see a day when consumers could strap on some tech and it would just grab all the data it needs all by itself. "It could all be automatic," he told VOA. "The device can have algorithms that determine your baselines and deviations from that. In a sense, this is like a oral thermometer." As with all kinds of information, there are privacy considerations, and concerns about what could happen if all your health information gets hacked. But the authors say it's easy to imagine a world where your "automatic data analysis could spot patterns of outlier data points and flag the onset of ill health, providing an opportunity for intervention, prevention or cure." Taking it one step further, there could come a day when your watch is tied in to to your doctors office, which could generate a text suggesting you might just have just gotten the flu, or a cold. The team also says the technology could monitor blood sugar levels, or the status of a pacemaker, and has the potential to change the world of preventive care. Jessilyn Pearl Dunn, one of the other authors of the study, says this could also save the health care industry a significant amount of money. "You can foresee," she told VOA, "savings on the healthcare data acquisition and data entry side, as well as a tele-health component (long-term potential for reducing number of in-person clinic visits)." She says it's hard to estimate the savings simply because "the potential of this technology is so huge."
President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has been actively considering ways to revamp a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Possibilities for reforming the distribution of H-1B visas, which are used largely by the tech industry, were discussed at a meeting last month with chief executives of tech companies at Trump Tower, said two sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to talk about the closed-door talks. Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller proposed scrapping the existing lottery system used to award the visas. A possible replacement system would favor visa petitions for jobs that pay the highest salaries, according to the sources. H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in "specialty" occupations that generally require higher education, which according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) includes, but is not limited to, scientists, engineers or computer programmers. The government awards 65,000 every year. Companies say they use them to recruit top talent. But a majority of the visas are awarded to outsourcing firms, sparking criticism by skeptics that say those firms use the visas to fill lower-level information technology jobs. Critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications. The H-1B visa program tends to be more critical to outsourcing firms than U.S. tech firms. For instance, more than 60 percent of the U.S. employees of Indian outsourcing firm Infosys (INFY.NS) are H-1B holders, and the company in its annual report has cited an increase in visa costs as among factors that could hurt its profitability. The top 10 recipients of H-1B visas in 2015 were all outsourcing firms, according to government data compiled by the IEEE-USA, a professional organization representing U.S. engineers. Sixty-five percent of H-1B petitions approved in the 2014 fiscal year went to tech workers, mostly from India, according to USCIS. In several high-profile cases, American workers were asked to train H-1B holders to do their jobs before being laid off themselves. The idea advanced by Miller in the tech meeting has also been pushed by the IEEE-USA. Miller previously served as a staffer for Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for attorney general, who has been an outspoken critic of abuses of the H-1B program. Trump, who has applied for H-1B visas to bring in foreign workers to his own businesses sent mixed messages about the program on the campaign trail. He assailed it for taking jobs from U.S. workers, but during a Republican debate last March said he was "softening" his position "because we have to have talented people in this country." He later issued a statement on his website saying he would "end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program." Trump businesses, like Trump National Golf Club and Trump Model Management, have received permission to bring in more than two dozen foreign employees on H-1B visas since 2011, according to Department of Labor data. TRUMP TOWER MEETING During the meeting last month in New York, Trump seemed to be searching for middle ground, and members of his transition team raised specific proposals, the two sources said. A third source familiar with the talks said the Trump team has also discussed the plan to change the lottery system internally. There were more than a dozen top tech executives from some of the country's largest tech companies, including Google (GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O) and Apple (AAPL.O), present at the meeting. Microsoft (MSFT.O) CEO Satya Nadella said technology companies need to be able to recruit talent from abroad when necessary. Trump seemed open to modifying the H-1B program, the sources said. He said he wanted to stop "bad people" from immigrating to the United States, not "great people," according to one account of the meeting. Among proposals the group discussed was raising the cost of applications from large companies as a way to discourage bulk filing for the visas. Asked by Trump if they would object to that, none of the tech CEOs said they would. "In our view, the president-elect is not hostile to H-1B visas," said one of the sources familiar with discussions at the meeting. While Trump could initiate some changes to the visa program with executive action, significant shifts would likely need to go through a lengthy formal rulemaking process, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration expert at Cornell Law School. Major changes would likely be subject to court challenges, he said. Other reforms, like changing the visa cap or offering more green cards to high-tech workers, could require Congressional action, Yale-Loehr said. A wide variety of companies, including Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO), use the H-1B visa program to bring in employees from abroad.
At the end of January, dozens of design teams will come to Los Angeles for a competition, sponsored by SpaceX owner Elon Musk, that could be a look at the future of transportation. They will all present their version of a hyperloop transportation system, a people mover that can hit speeds of more than 1,000 kilometers (750 miles) per hour. VOA'S Kevin Enochs reports.
Feathers have long been used in clothing and the bedding industry for their light weight and the warmth they provide. Two British students are developing a method to turn tons of wasted chicken feathers into useful material that can have different applications. Zlatica Hoke has more.
The first self-sufficient boat powered only by emission-free energy will start a six-year trip around the world in the spring. Energy Observer, a former multihull race boat converted into a green vessel equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and a hydrogen fuel cell system, will be powered by wind, the sun and self-generated hydrogen. The 5 million euro ($5.25 million) boat, now in a shipyard in Saint-Malo, will set sail from the Brittany port and will make its first of 101 stops across 50 countries in Paris as part of its circumnavigation. "This boat will demonstrate that there are many solutions for energetic transition," said French environmentalist Nicolas Hulot, who attended the project presentation Wednesday at the UNESCO headquarters. "All solutions are within nature." Designed in 1983 under the supervision of Mike Birch, the boat enjoyed a successful career in open-sea sailing races, including winning the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994, with Peter Blake at the helm. The Energy Observer project was conceived in 2015 by skippers Frederic Dahirel and Victorien Erussard, with scuba diver and filmmaker Jerome Delafosse also behind the project. 'An incredible vessel' "I'm passionate about new technologies," Erussard said. "Building a self-sufficient boat could have seemed utopian, but this is going to be an incredible vessel. It's very promising for the future." The technology fitted to the 30.5-meter (100-foot) boat, which is also equipped with a kite sail, will enable the production of hydrogen through electrolysis. "We bank on the diversity of renewable energies," Essuard said. "And if there is no sun or wind, or at night, we have the option to draw in our hydrogen reservoirs. We will produce this hydrogen in a decarbonized manner through electrolysis of the sea water." According to Florence Lambert, director of the CEA Liten research institute, which devised the boat's energy system, Energy Observer is a good example of what energy networks will look like in the near future, with its well-balanced mix of renewable energies and hydrogen storage system. Mark Z. Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University who develops road maps for countries to convert to 100 percent renewable energies by 2050, proposes that transportation worldwide be transformed into a combination of battery-electric transport and hydrogen fuel cell/battery-electric hybrid transport. "I believe that it is fantastic that a boat powered by hydrogen and electricity will travel the world," he said in written comments to The Associated Press. "It is an important step forward and consistent with this proposed path to 100 percent clean, renewable energy worldwide for all purposes to solve energy security, job creation, air pollution and climate problems."