NITI Aayog recently announced the establishment of a Frontier Technologies Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC) with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Objective: To address societal challenges through digital innovation
It is the first of its kind in India.
It is a part of the AWS CIC Global Programme.
The programme provides an opportunity for government agencies, non-profits and educational institutions, to come together on pressing challenges, apply design thinking, test new ideas, and access the technology expertise of AWS.
The NITI Aayog Frontier Technologies CIC will be a great enabler to budding innovators and start-ups.
It shall help in piloting state-of-the-art, cloud-centric digital innovations by making use of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet Of Things, robotics, blockchain.
India’s First-Ever Multi-Modal Logistic Park in Assam
The first-ever multi-modal logistic park shall come up in Assam on October 20, 2020.
Ministry: Ministry for Road Transport and Highways
The Rs 694 crore park will provide direct connectivity to air, road, rail and waterways to the people.
It will be developed under the ambitious Bharatmala Pariyojana of the Government of India.
Framework For Regulatory Sandbox introduced
The International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has introduced a Framework for Regulatory Sandbox to tap into innovative FinTech solutions.
Under this Sandbox framework, entities operating in the capital market, banking and insurance and financial services space shall be granted facilities to experiment with innovative FinTech solutions in a live environment with a limited set of real customers for a limited time frame.
These features shall be fortified with necessary safeguards for investor protection and risk mitigation.
The Regulatory Sandbox shall operate within the IFSC located at GIFT City.
The creation of an “Innovation Sandbox” is proposed as an additional step towards creating an innovation-centric ecosystem in the IFSC.
The Innovation Sandbox will be managed and facilitated by the Market Infrastructure Institutions (MIIs) operating within the IFSC.
IFSCA has an objective to develop a world class FinTech hub at the IFSC in GIFT City, Gandhinagar (Gujarat).
Thus, it endeavors to encourage the promotion of financial technologies (‘FinTech’) initiatives in financial products and services across the fields of banking, insurance, securities and fund management.
“Regulatory Sandbox” is a step towards attaining this vision.
Malabar 2020 Naval Exercise to see Australian Navy participation
This year Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy as well.
Objective: To increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain; To increase defense cooperation with Australia
The participants of Exercise Malabar 2020 shall engage to enhance safety and security in the maritime domain.
They collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order.
The Malabar series of Naval exercises started in 1992.
It started as a bilateral Indian Navy-US Navy exercise.
Later on, Japan joined the Naval exercise in 2015.
This annual exercise is expected to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea later this year.
SCO Startup Forum to be launched
The first-ever SCO Startup Forum will be launched on 27th October 2020.
The forum will lay the foundation for multilateral cooperation and engagement among the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States.
Objective: To develop and improve startup ecosystems collectively.
The Forum shall identify areas of cooperation by launching multiple entrepreneurial activities like startup showcases through a dedicated virtual platform, mobilizing capital for startups, sharing of best practices, procuring social innovations etc.
Also, Innovation and Startups will be the key focus area of SCO Heads of Government meeting on 30th November 2020 to be hosted by India.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
SCO or Shanghai Pact is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance.
Its formation was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Current Members: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan
Headquarters: Beijing, China
India is currently the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world with over 35,000 startups.
Close to 25% of Startups, are core technology based operating in areas of AI, Robotics, Cloud Computing, IoT, Digital Health, and Financial & Education Technology.
The ‘Startup India’ has launched 10 bilateral bridges since its inception and has helped many technology-based startups to expand their businesses to global markets.
Ghar Tak Fibre Scheme inaugurated in Bihar
Recently, Indian Prime Minister inaugurated ‘Ghar Tak Fibre’ scheme in Bihar.
Implemented by: Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
Aim: To connect all 45,945 villages of Bihar with high-speed optical fibre internet by 31st March 2021.
Under the scheme, Bihar has to provide at least five fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections per village and at least one WiFi hotspot per village.
The Scheme will lead digital services including e-Education, e-Agriculture, Tele-Medicine, and other social security schemes in Bihar.
It shall boost the local employment generation with the implementation of Bharat Net initiative which will be done by recruiting local workers.
Dolphins make a comeback in Pearl River Estuary
According to a recent report, Chinese pink dolphins/Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are making a comeback in the Pearl River Estuary (PRE).
Dolphins use echolocation to find their way in the water.
The ships often disturb them in finding their way and even kill them.
However, dolphin numbers in the waters between Hong Kong and Macau have seen a rebound in 2020 because Covid-19 pandemic has stopped ferries and hence reduced their traffic.
The number of pink dolphins in the waters has roughly increased by a third according to scientists.
Pearl River Estuary
It includes Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland Chinese cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dongguan.
The Pearl River Delta is the low-lying area which surrounds the PRE where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea.
The Delta is one of the world’s most densely urbanised, heavily industrialised and busiest shipping lanes on Earth.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin
Scientific Name: Sousa Chinensis.
Habitat: Coastal waters of the eastern Indian and western Pacific Oceans.
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has seen a decline in their numbers in the past 15 years by 70-80%.
(1) Agricultural, industrial, and urban pollution;
(3) Marine construction;
(5) Selling into captivity at marine entertainment parks and aquariums
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Echolocation is a technique used by bats, dolphins and other animals to determine the location of objects using reflected sound.
This allows the animals to move around in pitch darkness, so they can navigate, hunt, identify friends and enemies, and avoid obstacles.
Zoological Survey of India lists 62 species of Skinks
A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) reveals that India is home to 62 species of skinks.
Title of the publication: Skinks of India.
It gives a phylogenetic (evolutionary development) and bio-geographical analysis of distribution of these species in all the 11 bio-geographic zones of India.
India is home to less than 4% of the skinks across the globe.
62 species of skinks are found in India.
About 57% of them (33 species) are endemic.
The four genera of skinks which are endemic to India are:
(1) Sepsophis punctatus is endemic to the northern part of Eastern Ghats;
(2) Barkudia are limbless skinks found in the hills and coastal plains of the eastern coast;
(3) Kaestlea, also known as blue-tailed ground skinks, are endemic to the Western Ghats;
(4) Ristella, also known as Cat skinks, are endemic to the southern part of Western Ghats.
It is the largest family of lizards.
There are 1,602 species of skinks across the world.
It has long body relatively small or no legs, no pronounced neck and glossy scales.
It is found around homes, garages, and open spaces such as sparks and school playgrounds, and around lakes.
Skinks are non-venomous, highly alert, agile and fast moving.
They actively forage for a variety of insects and small invertebrates.
They have a prominent role in maintaining ecosystems.
However, not much is known about their breeding habits, and ecology because identification of the species can be confusing.
In India skinks are found in all kinds of habitats in the country, from the Himalayas to the coasts and from dense forests to the deserts.
Barkudia insularis is believed to be found only in the Barkud Island in Chilka Lake in Odisha.
Barkudia melanosticta is endemic to Visakhapatnam.
Important Bilateral and Multilateral Defense Exercises