Technology
Digital India must be accessible to people with disabilities
The increasing focus on digital governance and the availability of assistive technologies have proven to be both empowering and frustrating for persons with disabilities, who would number around 150 million in India. Government initiatives like Digital India are increasingly delivering basic government functions through information technologies, but many of these are still inaccessible for users with visual or other disabilities.
 
"Research has revealed that many Indian government websites, Indian government apps, and privately owned apps are completely or partially inaccessible to persons with disabilities, resulting in their exclusion. With app usage growing over 40% every year, Indians with disabilities are at risk of being excluded from society as everyday activities such as managing their finances, keeping in touch with friends, or staying in touch with their government representatives becomes impossible," says a press release from the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS).
 
"Digital technologies have the potential to empower every person in the world and make it a better place to live in," said Nirmita Narasimhan, of the CIS. "We just need to ensure that we put accessibility standards and universal design at the core of all technology development and use."
 
For instance, consider EPathshala. This app, created by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), lets students, educators and parents access educational e-books and other content from their mobile phones. However, the app is completely unusable for persons with disabilities. The first screen that allows language selection is not labelled properly - only the Hindi and English buttons are correctly announced. Many of the options that are available on the screen are not labelled with text, only graphics, which a screen reader cannot parse. Furthermore, the books themselves are PDF or JPEG images, which cannot be read using a screen reader, and the reading mode available for the books is also inaccessible. 
 
Other widely used apps, such as BHIM, Ola and Swiggy, also have similar problems, effectively locking out a significant section of people from enjoying the country's digital revolution.
 
With the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act in December 2016, India granted new rights and protections to citizens with disabilities. These include equal access to education, employment, social welfare and participation in everyday society.
 
While previous legislation such as the Guidelines on Indian Government Websites (2009) or the National Policy on Universal Electronic Accessibility (2013) also mandated equal digital access for persons with disabilities, the implementation of these policies leaves much to be desired.
 
To raise awareness around these issues, Prakat Solutions, in partnership with CIS and the Mitra Jyothi Trust, have organised the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on 18th May. 
 
"GAAD is a wonderful initiative to foster thought provoking conversations and drive initiatives to build Inclusive software and workforce to provide equal opportunities to people from all walks of life, including the differently abled," said Anuradha Biswas, founder and CEO of Prakat Solutions. "The event focuses on bringing eminent speakers and achievers in this field and share their success stories and thoughts for making this a bigger reality."

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COMMENTS

V Ramesh

6 months ago

It is not just people with disabilities who have problems coping with the digitization. There was a recent directive that PAN and Aadhar must be linked. My 91 year old mother in law does not have Aadhar. After a lot of effort, we found somebody who came home and enrolled her for Aadhar (on payment, of course). It was a big effort to get her finger prints (I understand that the finger prints are blurry for the aged). Npow, after we went to all this trouble, they exempted people over 80 years from this Aadhar-PAN linkage. The government does not think of the implications and inconvenience while passing rules.

Dinesh

6 months ago

Poor accessibility due to lack of focussed information and political will has led to social exclusion of people with disabilities, exacerbating the negative impact of the existing digital divide.
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/digital-push-must-be-disability-inclusive/article17763248.ece

Aditya G

6 months ago

We have a long, long, long, long, long way to go when it comes to general accessibility, nevermind digital accessibility. I'm embarassed to say this, but Indian lawmakers don't care.

For example, in America, accessibility solutions are ENFORCED by the American Disabilities Act. Every building HAS TO have a ramp to get regulatory approval. Netflix has voiceover for the blind. CNN has closed captioning in its broadcast, et al.

In India, it's very very very rare to see accessibility solutions discussed or even enforced. It's a joke. Really. Take an example of ramps -- these are easy to build but you don't even seen them in railway stations for some reason. Digital accessibility is even harder to design & build. I don't harbour much hope of any tangible progress or outcome. Sure, people do talk about accessibility issues and try to raise "awareness" by using buzzwords like "inclusivity", "differently-abled" (and other cringe-worthy adjectives), but I only gawk and smell a waft of condescension. Soon everything will be forgotten, and we'd move on.

On the plus side, at least some people are talking about it. Ten years ago, no one talked about it. For the rest of us, it's just an uphill battle everyday. Something is better than nothing. So, that's some progress.

Good luck on digital accessibility. The only corporate, IMHO, serious about digital accessibility is Apple. They just realeased this: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/apple-accessibility-videos-disability/#H18gmMzOxiqC

(and not everyone can afford an Apple product, so there...)

EU fines Facebook over misleading WhatsApp data
The European Union (EU) on Thursday announced it will fine Facebook 110 million euros ($122 million) for providing incorrect or misleading information in connection with the 2014 purchase of mobile messaging service WhatsApp.
 
At the time of the acquisition, Facebook told European Commission (EC) competition monitors that it was not technically possible to automatically link WhatsApp user data with Facebook profiles but this later transpired to be incorrect information that Facebook staff had knowingly handed over, Efe news reported.
 
"Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information," European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said in a statement.
 
"And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers' effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts," she said.
 
In order to review mergers efficiently and in a timely manner, the EC said, companies were obliged to provide accurate information.
 
During the $19 billion takeover of WhatsApp in 2014, Facebook staff told the EC, both in an official form and in response to an information request, that it would not be able to match WhatsApp and Facebook user identities.
 
However in 2016, WhatsApp updated its terms of use, implementing changes with the possibility of linking profiles, prompting the EC to lodge a statement of objections in December of that year.
 
The Commissioners found that not only was it technically possible to fuse user profiles in 2014, but that Facebook staff had been aware of this at the time.
 
According to EU merger regulation, the EC can impose a fine totalling 1 per cent of a company's aggregated turnover if it has provided misleading or incorrect information.
 
A Facebook spokesperson said: "The errors we made in our 2014 filings were not intentional and the Commission has confirmed that they did not impact the outcome of the merger review. Today's announcement brings the matter to a close".
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Nearly 17 mn Zomato users' stolen data now being sold online
With the popular online food delivery service Zomato admitting on Wednesday that nearly 17 million records of its registered users were stolen from its database which include email addresses and hashed passwords, the data is now being sold on a popular Dark Web marketplace.
 
According to information shared on Hackeread.com, a user by the name of "nclay" claimed to have hacked Zomato.
 
"The database includes emails and password hashes of registered Zomato users while the price set for the whole package is USD 1,001.43 (BTC 0.5587). The vendor also shared a trove of sample data to prove that the data is legit," the report said.
 
"The data was stolen this month and this year, May 2017," hacker told HackRead.
 
Zomato, that has over 120 million users, however said that all the payment records were safe.
 
"No payment information or credit card data has been stolen/leaked. Payment related information on Zomato is stored separately from this (stolen) data in a highly secure PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) compliant vault," the company wrote in a blog post.
 
"So far, it looks like an internal (human) security breach -- some employee's development account got compromised," the post said.
 
Zomato said it has reset the passwords for all affected users and logged them out of the app and website. 
 
"The hashed password cannot be converted/decrypted back to plain text -- so the sanctity of password is intact in case users' use the same password for other services," the blog post read.
 
But users who have a habit to apply the same password at many places are at major risk as hackers can also get into other accounts like on social media or emails, experts warned.
 
In general, when someone hacks and copies the data of a website, he copies much more than just the email and the password as in most cases, it's the same database that is used to store other personal identifiable information (PII) of a user. 
 
"It is a good thing to see that Zomato was following a good practice of hashing the passwords before storing it on their database, but saying "The hashed password cannot be converted/decrypted back to plain text" is misleading," Saket Modi, CEO and Co-founder of Delhi-based IT risk assessments provider Lucideus, told IANS. 
 
"Technically what they are saying is correct, i.e. a hashed password cannot be decrypted, but what they aren't saying is -- it is technically possible to break the hashing algorithm to guess the passwords. This has happened in the past," Modi informed.
 
Over 170 million LinkedIn accounts that were hacked were actually hashed and stored, however, the hashing function used there was the weak Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA1) without the usage of any modification (salting). 
 
Hence, almost all the hacked and hashed accounts were broken. 
 
"In fact, this is the probable reason why Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Twitter and Pinterest account was also compromised in 2016 as he apparently was using the same password as his LinkedIn account whose password became public after the hack," Modi told IANS. 
 
"Zomato must tell its users the hashing algorithm it was using before the hack happened," the cyber security expert suggested.
 
According to Zomato, the team was actively scanning all possible breach vectors and closing any gaps.
 
"Over the next couple of days and weeks, the company will further enhance security measures for all user information stored within our database and will add a layer of authorisation for internal teams having access to this data to avoid the possibility of any human breach," Zomato said.
 
This is not the first time that Zomato has been hacked. 
 
In 2015, the company was hacked by a white hat hacker who reported the details back to the company which later addressed the weaknesses.
 
This time, the details have gone online.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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