Exams In The Time of Corona

Giving exams in times of Covid-19

In wake of Coronavirus, board and college exams had been postponed in various states and students of primary and secondary were given promotions. The Central government and few State governments have declared rescheduled dates for board exams along with the guidelines to be followed. Ministry of Human Resource Development is even creating a framework for the post-Covid academic session.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

HRD’s Declaration
Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) announced that final exams will be conducted in July. The government said the health and safety of students are of utmost priority and thus social distancing, masks, and sanitizers will be common practices for conducting exams. Moreover, students will be able to give exams from the district they are in rather than going to the exam center in another district.

If the situation does not improve by July then for then, new dates or modes of conducting exams can be thought about but the exam will take place for final year students.

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, HRD Minister

Following are some announcements made by Ministry of HRD:

  • Pending 10th and 12th boards exams to be conducted between 1-15 July
  • 1st-year college students may get promoted if exams not conducted till July
  • 2nd and 3rd- year students to get promotion on the basis of internal assessment (50%) and previous academic record (50%)
  • Final year college students have to appear for exams

However many students have raised concerns over conducting an exam during the pandemic. Some say that final exam is not possible with an incomplete syllabus. Furthermore, a lack of infrastructure to conduct and appear for an online exam is also a major concern. Delay in exams will also cause a delay in the issuance of Degrees.

Updates on Other Exams

  • JEE Mains and NEET to take place between 18-23 July, and JEE Advanced exams on 23 August
  • ~11 lakh students to appear for JEE mains
  • ~15 lakh students to appear for NEET
  • UPSC exam date to be announced on 5 June
  • CA exams to be conducted from 29 July to 16 August
  • SAT exam to be conducted in August, September, and October
  • GRE and GMAT have introduced home-based online exam under online surveillance of a trained human proctor from start to finish to maintain test security

Updates From Some States

  • Tamil Nadu board exams postponed to 15 June
  • Telangana SSC exams scheduled to begin from 8 June
  • Madhya Pradesh state board’s pending 12th board exams to be held between 9-15 June
  • West Bengal Higher Secondary Council and CISCE to conduct exam between 1-15 July
  • Uttarakhand state board to conduct remaining board exams of 10th and 12th after 15 June

HRD’s Post-Covid Proposal

  • 220 working days might come down to 100
  • Study hours at school: 600
  • Study hours at home: 600
  • Social distancing – 6ft distance – in classroom
  • Assessment components eased to quizzes, assignments, projects, presentations, role-play, games, etc.
  • Proposed attendance policy:
    • Standard 1 to 5 – 1-2 days/week
    • Standard 6 to 8 – 3-4 days/week
    • Standard 9 to 12 – 4-5 days/week

  • The University of the Third Age is an international movement whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community—those in their third ‘age’ of life. It is commonly referred to as U3A. U3A started in France at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Toulouse in 1973.
  • Ancient China was the first country in the world that implemented a nationwide standardized test, which was called the imperial examination. The main purpose of this examination was to select able candidates for specific governmental positions. The imperial examination was established by the Sui dynasty in 605 AD.
  • The design of the NCERT logo is taken from an Ashokan period relic of the 3rd century BCE. The intertwined swans symbolize the integration of the three aspects of the work of NCERT – Research and development, Training, and Extension. The motto has been taken from the Isha Upanishad and means ‘life eternal through learning’.

Aarogya Setu Goes Open Source

India's Covid-19 tracking app Aarogya Setu

Indian government amid concerns over the security of the Covid-19 tracking app Aarogya Setu, made it open source with the aim of bringing transparency and improvement in the app.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

History of Aarogya Setu
The app’s motive is to monitor the live location and trace the travel history of the user. It also has the health record of the user. As per the Government, Aarogya Setu uses the live location and Bluetooth-based proximity to keep track of an individual. More than 100 million people have downloaded the app so far and 98 % of users use it on Android devices.

In a press release, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) said that this app tracked around 9 lakh people related to Covid-19 positive cases and helped find 24% Covid-19 positive cases.

However, the app drew criticism and concerns over data security and Terms of Use from Cyberlaw activists and critics. Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) was at the forefront while addressing the issue. Software developers and experts demanded the government to allow reverse engineering of the app and to publish the source code of the app.

Government’s Action
The government responded to the concerns and have made the Aarogya Setu an open-source software. As of now, only the Android version of the app has been made open source. It is expected that next week the government will make iOS version of the app open source.

Open source means that anyone can open, analyze, change, and use the original code of the software without acquiring the license to do so to develop a separate derivative software. One just has to acknowledge the owner of the app or the original code. VLC media player, WordPress, Mozilla Firefox, etc are some of the open-source software.

The government has said that this is taken in order to promote transparency of the app. The government has also launched a bounty of ₹1 lakh for anyone who can find loopholes and vulnerabilities in the app.

Problem Solved?
By making the app open source, any software developer will be able to go through the code. The move is expected to help find vulnerabilities and loopholes in the app. One can address the problems by writing fresh codes or suggesting these to the government. Cyber experts have also demanded the government to release the server-side code of the app to address the issue effectively. Moreover, it is too early to say whether this move will address security and privacy concerns.

However, open sourcing the code can also be misused by miscreants in multiple ways. It can make any vulnerability easily transparent to the public at large. Also, others can make copycat apps that redirect user data to their servers.

Other Open Source Covid Tracking Apps

  • Czech Republic government’s Covid-19 tracking App eRouška (eFacemask)
  • Singapore’s TraceTogether Covid App
  • Austria’s Stopp Corona App
  • UK’s NHS COVID-19
  • Australia’s COVIDSafe App
  • A 2008 report by the Standish Group stated that the adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about $60 billion per year for consumers.
  • A 1997 paper on analysis of the hacker community and free-software principles received significant attention in the early 1998 and was one factor in motivating Netscape Communications Corporation to release their popular Netscape Communicator Internet suite as free software. This source code subsequently became the basis behind SeaMonkey, Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, and KompoZer.
  • Open Source for America is a group created to raise awareness in the United States Federal Government about the benefits of open-source software. Their stated goals are to encourage the government’s use of open-source software, participation in open-source software projects, and incorporation of open-source community dynamics to increase government transparency.

India Looking To Park Oil In US

India may park oil in US

India is taking benefits of cheap crude oil by stockpiling its emergency reserves, oil tankers offshore and asking other nations to store oil for India. Historically, India has been buying from OPEC+ nations, but seems to be diversifying by buying oil from US, and even asking it to park oil in its reserves.

Crux of the Matter

India’s Crude Oil Stockpile
Strategic crude oil reserves help a country survive short-term supply disruptions in case of any emergency. Currently India has stored oil amounting to 20% of its annual need. As of now India imports nearly 80% of the annual crude oil need. India majorly depends on the gulf countries for oil.

However, as the price of crude oil has fallen due to less demand due to the Coronavirus lockdown, India seems to be taking advantage of it, just like China, by stockpiling 5.33 million tonnes (MT) in strategic storage. Strategic storage facilities in India are located at Visakhapatnam, Mangalore, and Padur (Karnataka). Looking at the increasing annual demand for fuel post lockdown, India is mulling to expand strategic storage to 6.5 MT. Moreover India has also stored around 8.5-9 MT oil on ships across the world.

Strategy to buy US’ Crude
US WTI crude oil futures stock traded in negative in April before expiring. Thereafter, it has seen a rise, albeit a slow one due to prolonged lockdown and uncertainty. At a time when WTI oil is cheap, India is planning to park oil from America in its own local facilities as India’s storage facilities are full. Recently Australia has also stockpiled oil in the US.

We are exploring some possibility if we can store some of our investment in a different country … we are exploring the possibility in the USA if we can store some of the low priced oil.

Dharmendra Pradhan, Indian Oil Minister
  • Morgan Downey is an Irish-born New York-based American commodities trader and acknowledged authority on the financial aspects of the oil industry. Downey has been cited in the press as an expert in oil markets and his 2009 book ‘Oil 101’ was called a “must-read” by a Financial Times blogger.
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation, doing business as ExxonMobil, is an American multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas. One of the world’s largest companies by revenue, ExxonMobil from 1996 to 2017 varied from the first to sixth-largest publicly traded company by market capitalization.
  • Fossil fuel phase-out is the gradual reduction of the use of fossil fuels to zero use. Current efforts in fossil fuel phase-out involve replacing fossil fuels with alternative energy sources in sectors such as transport, heating, and industry.

Earth’s Weakening Magnetic Field Affecting Satellites

Earth’s magnetic field is observing weakness, says European Space Agency. The weakness is causing malfunctioning in the spacecrafts and satellites passing over the affected region between South America and Africa.

Crux of the Matter

Earth’s Magnetic Field
The geomagnetic field is created by the convection currents of molten iron and nickel in the earth’s core. It protects the earth from cosmic radiation and charged particles from the Sun. Recently, scientists discovered that it is gradually weakening from Africa to South America. This change in the nature of the magnetic field is named ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’.

The new, eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is thriving. The challenge now is to understand the processes in Earth’s core driving these changes.

Jurgen Matzka, German Research Centre for Geosciences

What Is South Atlantic Anomaly?
European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites observed this change. Swarm satellites identify and precisely measure the different magnetic signals that form Earth’s magnetic field. Scientists are yet to find what has caused the weakness in the magnetic field. However, some scientists think that the north pole and south pole are switching places. Last time “geomagnetic reversal” took place almost 8 lakh years ago. However, scientists say that approximately every 250,000 years such an incident takes place and in last 200 years, magnetic field has lost nearly 9% of its strength.

This weakening of the geomagnetic field does not harm anything at the surface level. But satellites and spacecraft passing through this region may experience malfunctioning due to weaker magnetic force.

  • Peter Peregrinus of Maricourt, was a 13th-century French scholar who conducted experiments on magnetism and wrote the first extant treatise describing the properties of magnets. His work is particularly noted for containing the earliest detailed discussion of freely pivoting compass needles.
  • William Gilbert was an English physician, physicist, and natural philosopher. William was the first to state explicitly that Earth is a magnet. A unit of magnetomotive force, also known as magnetic potential, was named ‘the Gilbert’ in his honor.
  • In physics, the dynamo theory proposes a mechanism by which a celestial body such as Earth or a star generates a magnetic field. The dynamo theory describes the process through which a rotating, convecting, and electrically conducting fluid can maintain a magnetic field. A dynamo is thought to be the source of the Earth’s magnetic field and the magnetic fields of Mercury and the Jovian planets.

Airtel Invests in AI Startup

Airtel is strategically investing in new startups to increase its service quality and revenue. In return, new startups get a platform to explore and expand from the wide range of experience Airtel has. The telco even recorded a rise in Average Revenue Per User, which is a critical measure in the telecom sector.

Crux of the Matter

Telcos’ Modern Warfare: AI
Airtel invested in conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technologies based startup Voicezen. Voicezen is working on developing advanced solutions that leverage machine learning, speech to text, AI, and voice technologies to offer real-time analytics to provide better customer services. Even Vodafone launched VIC, AI-powered digital customer service, and support virtual assistant. Reliance Jio is also working on natural language processing and AI-based chatbot developed by startups like Reverie and Haptik.

Airtel’s Strategic Investments
Airtel’s Startup Accelerator Programme aims to support the startup ecosystem contributing to Digital India. Startups get the benefit from Airtel’s online and offline distribution network, deep market understanding, the ecosystem of global strategic partners, and advisory services from Airtel’s executive team.

Today, early-stage startups in India have some very exciting ideas but face multiple challenges in scaling up. With Airtel’s scale and digital capabilities around distribution and payments, we have the potential to drive accelerated growth of emerging startups that are solving hard problems.

Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer of Bharti Airtel

So far Airtel has invested in three startups i.e. Voicezen, Vahan Inc., and Spectacom. Vahan focuses on developing the online platform dedicated to finding blue-collar jobs in India. Whereas, Airtel is helping Spectacom to spread awareness about its health and fitness platform and soon-to-be-launched fitness platform ‘X sport’ similar to the ‘Airtel X stream’ platform. Telcos seem to be collaborating with Tech firms to increase revenue and improve customer services. In recent, Reliance Jio has announced a series of deals with Tech giants or Investors backing tech firms.

Airtel Preparing for Big?
Recent Airtel’s deal with Nokia is expected to lay the foundation of 5G for it. 6.4 billion subscribers of Nokia will help Airtel to expand and enhance its capacity and revenue.

Even AI market size is expected to grow from $4.2 billion in 2019 to $15.7 billion by 2024. Increased working efficiency with the accuracy of AI is a major factor in the increase in its demand across the globe.

Airtel’s Jan-Mar quarter revenue grew by 15% YoY to ₹23,723 crores from ₹20,602 crores compared to last year. Currently Airtel’s average revenue per user is ₹154 which is higher than Jio’s ARPU of ₹130.6.

  • Sunil Bharti Mittal is an Indian billionaire entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises. In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honor. And as of April 2020, he is listed as the 6th richest person in India by Forbes with a net worth of $8.2 billion.
  • The world’s sixth-largest mobile messaging application Hike Messenger was launched on 12 December 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal and is now owned by Hike Private Limited. Kavin Bharti Mittal is the son of Sunil Mittal, founder of Bharti Enterprise.
  • Airtel is one of the largest mobile network operators in the world with over 400 million subscribers. Airtel was named India’s 2nd most valuable brand in the first-ever Brandz ranking by Millward Brown and WPP plc.