India drops plan to place PCs on restricted import list

PLUS: TSMC chips away at export restrictions; Singapore's COVID model challenged; Japan's banking and ID systems wobble

India's government has stepped away from its plan to require manufacturers of PCs, tablets, and servers to secure an import license.

The plan was announced in early August without prior consultation. Apple and Samsung reportedly responded by halting shipments to India. US-based tech trade associations later chided India's government for its lack of advance notice or consultation.

Last Friday, Indian commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal reportedly told a press conference that laptops will be exempt from the regime, and that work on a new import monitoring scheme had commenced. It's hoped those rules will be in place by November 1.

Secretary Barthwal said the proposed scheme was never about restricting imports to encourage manufacturers to do more work in India, but was merely a monitoring scheme.

Barthwal's remarks aren't the end of the matter, though. He only mentioned laptops – but the government order announcing the license scheme also listed servers and even mainframes.

– Simon Sharwood

Private model claimed to have bested Singapore's COVID predictor

Wai Mun Lim, CEO of Singapore-based telehealth biz Doctors Anywhere said his modelling of COVID-19 better predicted the virus than the country's health ministry.

"We have a model that is as accurate, if not more accurate than our own Ministry of Health (MOH)," declared Wai, speaking at a Tech Week in Singapore last Thursday.

Prior to COVID, the wait time for patients to see a doctor on the online telehealth app sat at an average of 38 seconds. During the pandemic, as both doctors and patients grew sick, that extended to between seven to eight minutes. This unpredictable nature led Doctors Anywhere to build a prediction model of the disease with historical data.

According to the CEO, the model was able to predict the end of a wave accurately as coming in October, despite the health minister declaring it would go on until November. The minister eventually conceded he had overestimated the length of the COVID wave.

"It used to be we were buying medication at more than one week in advance and so forth. But today, we don't do that anymore because, based on our predictive model, we are able to tell what type of demand we have, for certain types of events," Wai explained.

TSMC chips away at China restrictions

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) has received an extension of a waiver to supply semiconductor equipment to its Nanjing, China factory, according to Taiwan's official news agency.

The Nanjing factory manufactures works on a 28-nanometre process and produces run of the mill products that don't use TSMC's most advanced tech.

The chipmaker is also reportedly in the process of applying for permanent authorization of China operations in what is known as the Validated End-User (VEU) program. The semiconductor giant expects to get the waiver, reported Focus Taiwan, based on being advised to undergo the process by the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security.

India Stack advances

India has approved a Memorandum of Agreement with Papua New Guinea (PNG), allowing the latter nation to access the India Stack digital governance tools. The deal will see PNG consider use of India's Aadhaar national digital identity system.

"Over the last few years, India has demonstrated its leadership in implementation of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and has successfully provided delivery of services to the public even during COVID pandemic," reads the statement on the government website. "As a result, many countries have evinced interest in learning from India's experiences and entering into MoUs with India."

Sure enough, the same week, both France and the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago also signed MoUs with India. Trinidad and Tobago's agreement also involves the use of India Stack while France aims to foster digital cooperation and information exchange.

China to provide AI training model source naughty list

China's government last week suggested a ban on content used as AI training material that contains over five percent illegal and harmful information.

The "Basic Security Requirements for Generative Artificial Intelligence Services" – issued jointly by several entities, including the Cyberspace Administration of China (CaC) – also proposed requiring security checks on firms that will offer services that rely on generative AI.

Japan's banking system takes unplanned vacation

Japan's key payment clearing network, Zengin, last Thursday experienced a malfunction that disrupted all banks in Japan. Eleven banks were even unable to carry out transfer transactions.

Zengin said the disruption, which lasted two days, was ended by 3:30pm, presumably Japan time, on Thursday when all transaction were finally completed.

The cause of the outage was a "glitch" in the computer system transferring data between financial institutions and Zengin.

Local media reported over five million transactions were affected – including some child allowance payments and insurance payouts.

Japan's My Number Card joins unplanned vacation

In the same week banks were disrupted across Japan, the nation also experienced outages with its digital ID, My Number Card, according to local media.

Ten municipalities nationwide experienced the system failures, which delayed renewal of an electronic certificate registered on the card when used. The issues have reportedly been fixed.

In other news …

The Reg's Asia-Pacific coverage last week kicked off with China publishing a sort-of update to its national technology plan that included a greater focus on current trends like edge computing, but still mentioned legacy optical storage like Blu-ray Disc.

South Korean industrial heavyweights Samsung and SK hynix got some good news, with the US continuing their exemptions from the sanctions that would have prevented them doing business in China.

Speaking of sanctions, the CEO of the organization tasked with promoting RISC-V has warned that if the US tries to stop Chinese businesses having access to the standard it would damage the openness that RISC-V replies upon.

Meanwhile the Biden administration is reportedly looking at ways to tighten the restrictions even further, to stop Beijing getting its hands on advanced AI chips.

And a former US Navy member pled guilty to selling US military secrets to China for $15,000 – not a great return for the next 20 years of his life.

Meanwhile Chinese manufacturer Bitmain, the world's biggest maker of cryptocurrency mining hardware, has reportedly laid off staff in response to a serious downturn in demand for crypto – hardly surprising given the news from that sector over the last year or so.

Key staff from the Chinese limb of chip design firm Arm have left to form their own startup, with support from Beijing, building server chips – and parent company Softbank is not thrilled.

Speaking of Softbank, CEO Masayoshi Son has predicted that we could be as little as a decade away from Artificial General Intelligence – and that ten years after this AI will be far smarter than humans. And he for one welcomes our new machine overlords.

If you ask Chinese citizens what they think of their government's surveillance program – among the most extensive in the world – they'll tell you it's all fine and dandy. Because it keeps them safe, you see. Happy thoughts.

India demanded that all social networks have to clamp down hard on child sexual abuse material on their platforms – and fast – or they will face severe penalties.

Japanese multinational Canon has developed a lithography process it claims can deliver 5nm chips – and with a bit more development could get down to 2nm. That would put it on par with the best in the world.

And the PM of Japan announced that G7 leaders are working on international guidelines for the use of AI, and they might be ready by the end of the year.

The Philippines health insurer PhilHealth revealed it was the target of a ransomware attack – and admitted it hadn't even been using security software on its systems. ®

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