EyeWay Vision Names Google Exec Dr. Nikhil Balram to Head New US Subsidiary to Develop Immersive AR Products

SAN JOSE, Calif., Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — EyeWay Vision Ltd., an Israeli company developing a wearable augmented reality (AR) platform, today announced the formation of subsidiary company EyeWay Vision Inc. ("EVI") in Silicon Valley, with Google exec and renowned AR/VR expert Dr. Nikhil Balram as CEO. Located in San Jose, EVI will focus on bringing to market products based on advanced immersive AR technology developed by EyeWay over the past six years. The market for virtual and augmented reality is forecast to reach more than $67 billion globally by 2024, according to AR/VR analyst firm Digi–Capital.

"EyeWay has spent the last six years developing deep AR technology, and Dr. Balram has the strong product vision and business experience to bring to market products based on our strong technology," said Rani Cohen, co–founder and CEO of EyeWay Vision Ltd. "EyeWay's truly immersive AR experience is based on its unique approach of eye tracking, direct retinal projection, and foveated projection which yields super–bright images even outdoors, with an ultra–wide perceived Field of View. Dr. Balram's expertise in bringing complex high–quality display products to market will be invaluable to realizing a much–anticipated immersive AR experience."

Combining market–oriented technology development with go–to–market experience, Dr. Balram will head a team focusing on enabling new forms of immersive entertainment, digital learning, e–commerce and other enterprise applications. Dr. Balram joins EyeWay Vision from Google, where he was in charge of developing displays for all consumer products. An experienced technology executive, Dr. Balram's previous positions include CEO at Ricoh Innovations, VP & GM at Marvell, and CTO of National Semiconductor's Display Group.

With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Balram is widely recognized throughout the industry and academia as an expert and innovator in advanced information and display technologies. Dr. Balram has also won numerous awards including the Otto Schade Prize from the Society for Information Display (SID), an Industrial Distinguished Leader Award from APSIPA (Asia–Pacific Signal and Information Processing Association), and a Gold Stevie Award for Executive of the Year in the Electronics category.

"I am very passionate about AR, and have long believed it is the next big mobile platform. I became convinced that EyeWay Vision's AR technology approach is the right one, and am excited to realize my vision of future products built with their deep technology," stated Dr. Balram. "Silicon Valley is a natural fit for EyeWay Vision's presence in the US, putting us close to strategic partners, investors and industry talent."

Dr. Balram is also an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, a guest professor of design and innovation at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Gandhinagar, India, and a former visiting professor of vision science at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

"Dr. Balram is a highly regarded technology executive who has been responsible for many successful innovations in the consumer display market," stated Dr. Achin Bhowmik, President–elect of the Society for Information Display (SID). "I have been very impressed with EyeWay Vision's cutting–edge technology, and believe Dr. Balram has the expertise to bring it to market."

Chris Chinnock, CEO of display technology research firm Insight Media, added, "The AR market has great potential in both the enterprise and consumer spaces, in entertainment as well as improving job performance. Dr. Balram has been a pioneer in enabling the large successful high–definition display market. When combined with EyeWay's unique immersive technology, his business and technical expertise could play a key role in the emerging AR market."

About EyeWay Vision
EyeWay Vision develops innovative wearable augmented reality systems that provide a truly immersive experience on the go. EyeWay Vision Ltd. was established in 2014 in Israel, and is backed by strategic investors including Samsung Next, Verizon Ventures, Horizons Ventures, ICONIQ Capital, and OurCrowd. EyeWay's proprietary technology is protected by 17 patents published or pending. To learn more about EyeWay Vision, visit http://eyeway–vision.com.

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/185b7893–4948–495b–ab38–75b7b62391f7

Lithium Werks Achieves IATF 16949 and Renews ISO 9001

AUSTIN, Texas and ENSCHEDE, The Netherlands, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Lithium Werks is pleased to announce that it has renewed its long–standing ISO 9001 certification, now valid through late 2023, and upgraded the prior TS 16949:2009 Automotive Quality Certification to the new IATF 16949:2016 certification, registered with BSI (British Standards Institute), for the Changzhou Electrode Coating and Cell Assembly plants.

The International Automotive Task Force IATF 16949:2016 is the preferred Automotive Quality Management System and replaces ISO/TS 16949:2009 by integrating the many international Automotive Quality Management Systems like: VDA (Germany), AIAG and QS–9000 (North America), AVSQ (Italy), FIEV (France), and SMMT (UK).

Marcus Higginbotham, Global Quality Director for Lithium Werks, said, "IATF 16949:2016 is the most stringent quality standard in the automotive industry, and obtaining this certification shows the dedication and maturity of the personnel and the management's commitment to quality."

This IATF 16949 standard was implemented per customer requirements and was integrated into the Lithium Werks operating philosophies and the existing QMS.

Don Lenz, VP of Global Sales for Lithium Werks, said, "These certifications will give our customers confidence that these cells can be designed and used not only for transportation applications where Power, Safety, Life are important, but in all verticals that demand the lowest total cost of ownership."

Lithium Werks congratulates its Changzhou team on this milestone accomplishment.

Learn more about Lithium Werks at www.LithiumWerks.com


Flair Airlines Announces Garth Lund as Chief Commercial Officer

EDMONTON, Alberta, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines announces the appointment of Mr. Garth Lund as Chief Commercial Officer. A world–class Ultra Low–Cost Carrier (ULCC) executive, Mr. Lund will join Flair from Europe's highest–performing airline, Wizz Air. At Wizz Air, Mr. Lund was most recently the Head of Financial Planning and Controlling, with previous roles including Head of Pricing and Revenue Management and Head of Network Development.

Flair Airlines is Canada's only true ULCC with clear growth ambitions within domestic Canada and cross–border. The appointment of Mr. Lund continues the strengthening of the executive team which began in October with the appointment of a new CEO, Stephen Jones, also from Wizz Air.

As Chief Commercial Officer, Garth will be responsible for all of Flair Airlines commercial functions including network planning, scheduling, pricing and revenue management, ancillary revenue, sales and distribution, mobile and web channels, marketing, branding, customer experience, and communications.

"I am thrilled to have been able to attract a world class talent such as Garth to join the Flair Airlines team,” said Mr. Jones. "Garth's experience at the forefront of the extremely competitive European ULCC market will ensure that we bring the best possible products and pricing to Canadian customers, which will underpin Flair Airline's rapid growth in this market."

Mr. Lund stated, "I am very excited to join Flair Airlines at the beginning of its growth journey. Canadian customers have long been denied the benefits of a real ULCC and Flair Airlines has a compelling mission to fill this gap. I look forward to being a part of helping Flair Airlines reach its full potential."

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada's only independent Ultra Low–Cost Carrier with a mission to make travel affordable and accessible for all Canadians. With a fleet of 737–800 aircraft, Flair provides low fares across Canada to ten Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Kelowna, Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Prince George, Winnipeg, and Toronto.

For more information please visit www.flyflair.com

Media inquiries, please contact: Jamina Kotak 780.887.9209

Africa Readying for Free Trade, Come January 2021

Accra-based coffee and cocoa trader Meron Dagnew at the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Credit: Africa Renewal

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2020 – One day in February 2020, Accra-based coffee and cocoa trader Meron Dagnew visited the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to introduce herself, even before the Secretariat was fully operational.

“I couldn’t wait,” she told Africa Renewal in a recent interview “I need free trading in Africa to begin as quickly as possible; it will be so good for my business.”

The AfCFTA Secretariat officially opened in Accra on 17 August 2020, although, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, free trading will now begin on 1st January 2021 instead of the originally scheduled date of 1 July 2020.

Ms. Dagnew is eager to take advantage of reduced tariffs and a consolidated market — potential spinoffs from AfCFTA — to expand the operations of her company, BE Kollective that imports Ethiopian coffee to Ghana and exports Ghanaian cocoa to Ethiopia.

“I am hoping to not pay as much as 35 per cent tariffs on my goods; I am hoping that soon I can take my value-added cocoa and coffee to African countries without problems of rules of origin. I could then make more profit, expand my business and hire more people,” she says.

Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest coffee producers and Ghana is the world’s second-largest cocoa producer, after Côte d’Ivoire. Ms. Dagnew is particularly attracted to West Africa’s market of 380 million people.

High tariffs and non-tariff barriers such as customs delays and administrative bottlenecks at border posts underscore the challenges facing African traders and at the same time accentuate a strong desire by traders for a free trade zone.

Kingsley Ighobor

The AfCFTA eliminates tariffs on 90 per cent of goods produced on the continent, tackles non-tariff barriers to trade and guarantees the free movement of persons.

Ms. Dagnew’s business slowed down in March 2020 just as the pandemic began to rage. As African economies start to slowly open while adjusting to the realities of the pandemic, Ms. Dagnew intends to restart trading soon.

Yet, she frets about other structural challenges to intra-African trade, such as the competition with big global brands that compete on an uneven playing field. For example, BE Kollective, according to Ms. Dagnew, competes with Nescafé, which is imported into Ghana by retailers.

“The problem is that importers of Nescafé from countries in Europe or Asia pay much less tariff than I pay because those countries have favourable trade agreements with African countries,” she stresses. “Therefore, the odds are currently stacked against us intra-African traders.”

Ms. Dagnew is also concerned that countries’ customs services lack adequate information about the AfCFTA.

“Not long ago, I went to the customs service in Ghana and told them I wouldn’t need to pay tariffs at some point because of AfCFTA. They didn’t understand what I was talking about,” she recalls. “There are many traders who have no idea what AfCFTA is all about.”

She recommends a massive information campaign to raise awareness of AfCFTA among customs services, traders and other key actors in countries participating in the free trade area.

Lack of infrastructure

A lack of adequate modern transport infrastructure also impedes traders’ desire to reap the full benefits of free trade, studies show. With the right transport infrastructure and high integration, manufacturers of consumer goods could earn up to $326 billion per year, according to McKinsey & Company, a US-based management consulting firm.

And according to the World Bank, it takes about three and a half weeks for a container of car parts to be cleared by Congolese customs. While East African countries Tanzania and Uganda have established a one-stop border post to slash time for cargo movement between them, new delays in the form of divergent standards for goods have quickly emerged, underscoring the mutating nature of non-tariff barriers.

African countries could rake in $20 billion yearly by simply tackling non-tariff barriers that slow the movement of goods, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the UN entity that deals with trade investment and development issues.

The African Union (AU)’s efforts at boosting infrastructure through its Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) are expected to yield the Lagos-Abidjan transport corridor, the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya power transmission line, the Lagos-Algiers highway and the Brazzaville-Kinshasa bridge, among others.

But experts encourage individual countries to invest in modern port, airport and rail line infrastructure.

Women traders

Widely spoken about in intra-African trade conversations are the challenges that women traders face.

Women constitute 70 per cent of Africa’s informal cross-border traders, and according to a 2019 study by UN Women titled Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs in the Context of the AfCFTA, African women traders often confront corruption, insecurity and sexual harassment.

The AfCFTA agreement itself requires countries to protect the vulnerable, including women traders, and to address corruption.

African states with bilateral trade agreements with foreign countries or other regions such as the European Union will need to walk a tightrope in meeting prior commitments while implementing the AfCFTA.

In February 2020, for instance, East Africa’s economic giant Kenya began bilateral trade talks with the US, a move seemingly at odds with the country’s commitment to Africa’s free trade area.

Optimistic projections of the benefits of Africa’s free trade are, in theory, based on orthodox economic calculations — a linear demand and supply correlation that may not fully encompass externalities such as the availability of countries’ implementation capacity, requisite infrastructure, policy coherence and so on.

The World Economic Forum signals that AfCFTA’s full and effective implementation is what will lead to its transformative impacts, meaning that its touted benefits are by no means guaranteed.

The Secretary-General of AfCFTA, Wamkele Mene, acknowledges the enormous tasks ahead. “We have to roll up our sleeves and work,” he told Africa Renewal in an earlier interview.

Yet there is much to celebrate regarding the free trade agreement. The pact consolidates a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion. It would represent the world’s largest trading block by the number of participating countries if all AU member states were to ratify the agreement.

While some 30 countries have so far ratified the agreement, more countries are expected to join the bandwagon when free trading begins and its benefits become tangible.

Mr. Mene estimates that intra-African trade could increase from its current 18 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030.

It will boost earnings for traders, strengthen Africa’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, foster export diversification and enhance value addition to produce and transform natural resources.

Because of the AfCFTA, Africa’s manufacturing output is expected to double to $1 trillion, creating 14 million jobs by 2025, writes Landry Signé for Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

An industrializing continent will catalyze the agricultural sector. In the coming years, Mr. Signé anticipates, manufacturing will complement “agricultural production and agro-processing plants, which provide the food and energy to meet growing African and global demand.”

He adds that African youth engaged in computer software and apps development will seize the opportunity to produce “leapfrog” technologies to meet increasing domestic demand. In other words, good paying jobs will be created for the continent’s bulging youth population.

“Across all subsectors and countries, Africa’s industrial revolution appears imminent,” Mr. Signé declares, optimistically.

Meanwhile, African traders envisage the end of the COVID-19 pandemic or at least its receding soon. They hope the teething problems that arise will be tackled and that AfCFTA will be a shot in the arm for Africa’s development.

“It will be a dream come true for traders like me,” enthuses Ms. Dagnew.

Source: Africa Renewal, United Nations

*The Africa Renewal information programme provides up-to-date information and analysis of the major economic and development challenges facing Africa today. It examines the many issues confronting the people of Africa, its leaders and its international partners: economic reform, debt, education, health, women’s advancement, conflict and civil strife, democratization, aid, investment, trade, regional integration, rural development and many other topics. It works with the media in Africa and beyond to promote the work of the United Nations, Africa and the international community to bring peace and development to Africa.


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LeddarTech Joins STMicroelectronics Partner Program to Accelerate Customer Time-to-Market

QUEBEC CITY, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — LeddarTech , a global leader in Level 1–5 ADAS and AD sensing technology, announces that it has joined the STMicroelectronics Partner Program to collaborate with STMicroelectronics through joint development and the promotion of LiDAR solutions based on STMicroelectronics MEMS mirror–based laser–beam scanning solutions and LeddarTech's sensing components and software products.

LeddarTech believes that industry collaboration leads to greater end–customer value and that it is specifically needed to solve the challenges to deliver safer ADAS systems and deployment of autonomous driving. This belief led LeddarTech to establish and orchestrate the Leddar Ecosystem, which is comprised of industry–leading suppliers that support the customer development of automotive sensing solutions for ADAS and AD applications.

Designed with demanding automotive and industrial applications in mind, ST's MEMS mirror–based laser–beam scanning solutions are ideal for a broad range of high–performance, high–accuracy, and high–reliability applications. ST, as the industry–leading supplier of MEMS mirror–based laser–beam scanning solutions, provides a critical building block and key enabling technology for LeddarTech.

In tandem with LeddarTech, the Ecosystem delivers technical expertise, technology, components, software, tools, and services, leveraging LeddarTech's hardware–agnostic platform that is both open and scalable. Its members are prequalified for integration with LeddarTech's LeddarEngine and LeddarVision sensor fusion and perception software.

The addition of STMicroelectronics to the Leddar Ecosystem and LeddarTech's inclusion in the STMicroelectronics Partner Program maximizes design agility and reduces cycle time, costs, and risk, leading to a shorter time–to–market for customers.

"The ST Partner Program helps customers' design teams access extra skills and resources to aid engineering development and shorten time–to–market for new products," said Alessandro Maloberti, Partner Ecosystem Director, STMicroelectronics. "By selecting, qualifying, and certifying our program partners, we are taking yet another major step in helping customers accelerate design and development, and ship to market the most robust and efficient products and services."

"This partnership encompasses LeddarTech's delivery of fundamental sensing technology, software, and expertise in components that is combined with ST's proven MEMS mirror–based laser–beam scanning solutions. This approach enables ST's customers to develop and deploy LiDAR sensors and related ADAS & AD systems that meet their stringent performance and cost requirements," stated Michael Poulin, Vice–President of Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Development at LeddarTech. "ST has a proven track record of delivering the quality, predictability, and volume required in automotive. We are delighted to partner with them to enable mass deployment of LiDAR technology in the passenger car market," Mr. Poulin concluded.

STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, created the ST Partner Program to speed customer development efforts by identifying and highlighting to them companies with complementary products and services. Moreover, the program's certification process assures that all partners are periodically vetted for quality and competence. For more information, please visit www.st.com/partners.

About LeddarTech

LeddarTech is a leader in environmental sensing platforms for autonomous vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems. Founded in 2007, LeddarTech has evolved to become a comprehensive end–to–end environmental sensing company by enabling customers to solve critical sensing and perception challenges across the entire value chain of the automotive and mobility market segments. With its LeddarVision sensor–fusion and perception platform and its cost–effective, scalable, and versatile LiDAR development solution for automotive–grade solid–state LiDARs based on the LeddarEngine, LeddarTech enables Tier 1–2 automotive system integrators to develop full–stack sensing solutions for autonomy level 1 to 5. These solutions are actively deployed in autonomous shuttle, truck, bus, delivery vehicle, smart city/factory, and robotaxi applications. The company is responsible for several innovations in cutting–edge automotive and mobility remote–sensing applications, with over 95 patented technologies (granted or pending) enhancing ADAS and autonomous driving capabilities.

Additional information about LeddarTech is accessible at www.leddartech.com and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Daniel Aitken, Vice–President, Global Marketing, Communications, and Product Management, LeddarTech Inc.
Tel.: + 1–418–653–9000 ext. 232

Leddar, LeddarTech, LeddarEngine, LeddarVision, LeddarSP, LeddarCore, VAYADrive, VayaVision, and related logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of LeddarTech Inc. and its subsidiaries. All other brands, product names, and marks are or may be trademarks or registered trademarks used to identify products or services of their respective owners.

Helping Women to Step out of the ‘Shadow Pandemic’ of Women Abuse

By Fairuz Ahmed
NEW YORK, Dec 14 2020 – The United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign marked the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25 November to 10 December 2020) at a time when COVID-19 exacerbated the conditions women operate under.

The theme, Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!, was aimed at amplifying the global call to action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for the survivors of violence during the pandemic, prevent abuse and collect data that could lead to life-saving services for women and girls.

While the campaign rippled across social media, women’snetworking platform Fuzia www.fuzia.com) responded with several initiatives aimed at their 4 million followers.

Globally as countries implemented lockdown measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, violence against women, especially domestic violence, intensified. School closures and economic strains left women and girls poorer.

UN Women call the abuse against women during COVID-19 the “shadow pandemic” and in recent studies outlined shocking statistics. They estimate 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year. Meanwhile, less than 40 percent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.

Recognising the dire need for help Fuzia hosted a live session with a licensed clinical psychologist, Aastha Kapoor, talking about how to survive an abusive relationship. Kapoor, in conversation with Fuzia’s project manager Anjali Joshi, spoke about how difficult it is for abused women to confront their reality.

Kapoor said that her patients often take three or four sessions before talking about the abuse, and even then, it is often difficult to break ties with the abuser.

The women “have to communicate with themselves” to end these relationships and understand that while there is hope that people will change, this is seldom the case, she warned.

Joshi spoke about how abused women are often not believed, a phenomenon she termed ‘gaslighting’ and persuaded by family and others to return to abusive relationships.

Taboo topics like triggers of suicide, openly seeking mental health counselling, therapy, interpersonal relationship issues, dos and don’ts, manipulation, adolescence, and the boundaries of parent-child relationships formed part of the interview, with viewers getting their questions answered immediately.

“Abuse is not necessarily always physical abuse. Abuse also comes as manipulation, gaslighting, which might happen with friends, workplace, partners, and family,” Kapoor said. “So, it is important to have a safe space to come out and speak. A conversation and judgment-free platform can make the victim open up and seek guidance.”

Joshi remarked that people need to talk about these sensitive topics because these are evident in real life. Identifying and learning that the problem is here is the first step to cure the issue.

Fuzia works entirely on digital platforms and uses other exciting and innovative techniques to support its online community.

Its editorial philosophy includes supporting women as they handle matters at home, bringing up children, as workers – especially in healthcare fields.

Without support, it recognises that women could suffer from mental health issues and identity crises. This nurturing and societal support varies significantly from one country to another, and regional norms tend to have a strong influence.

Fuzia has understood and pinpointed these needs and came up with innovative ways to lend a supporting hand to females across the globe.

With a variety of followers and creative thinkers under one umbrella, they have created a space that is judgment free and nurturing. Any age, race, colour, ethnicity, and gender orientation are welcome on their platform.

Apart from domestic violence and abuse, their forums provide support for people experiencing workplace neglect, healthy and unhealthy relationship spectrums. It also tackles LGBTQ issues, teen and tween issues, self-care, healing a trauma and suicide prevention among others are discussed here, and guidance, along with region-specific information is provided.

In many countries where religion and societal stigmas play a central role, women are often side-lined. Their saying “NO” can be taken as a form of “YES” and personal opinions and choices are virtually ignored. Selfcare, matters of body and sexuality are highly negated and considered taboo topics.

Megs Shah, CEO of The Parasol Cooperative, in an exclusive interview with IPS, said that women often live in these abusive relationships because of societal pressure.

Thoughts like: “What will people say?”; “I am a helpless woman”; “My children will suffer if I leave a relationship”; “I will be financially constrained,” keep the abused women from asking for help.

Often these beliefs are articulated when she speaks to survivors and single mothers on a Facebook group.

Another, recently launched, Fuzia campaign, “Write out Loud”, encourages writers were to creatively express their views on women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Fuzia also has a blogger and podcaster who writes under the pseudonym “Zia”. She tackles women empowerment, gender equality, and activism.

Zia comments during the 16 days: “Compromises are required in all relationships, but women no longer need to be self-sacrificing. We now have to put our foot down. We now have to break the cycle of patriarchy. For that, we now have to raise the voices we were born with. The new norm in society should be EQUALITY. All relationships should strive for it. When we decide to break the norms when we stand up for ourselves, and that’s when we decide what’s right and what’s wrong.”

This article is a sponsored feature.


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SAFR® from RealNetworks and EPM Joint Touchless Access Control Solution is Implemented by UAE Federal Agency

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Computer vision developer, SAFR from RealNetworks, Inc. (NASDAQ: RNWK) and IT solutions provider, EPM have secured a high profile contract with a federal agency in the Government of the United Arab Emirates, to provide face–based authentication for secure access at entry points of their HQ. SAFR's face recognition and mask detection capabilities have been embedded in EPM's security platform to allow for registered users to be recognized at secure access points using just their face "" even while wearing virus–preventing face masks. The joint solution was implemented using the existing video surveillance infrastructure at the agency location after a successful three–month trial where SAFR from RealNetworks' face recognition was able to provide secure authentication for 15,000 employees with nearly 100% accuracy and no false acceptance of unregistered guests.

"Outdoor secure access points have unique challenges due to varying environmental conditions. We have been impressed by SAFR's ability to recognize faces even under changing light throughout the day and even at night "" including for drivers when they are inside cars," said Hadi Omer, Director – Systems & Solutions, EPM. "We're looking forward to a fruitful partnership and believe that adding SAFR's high–performance computer vision to our portfolio of AI applications will offer even more robust and convenient secure access options for our customers throughout the Middle East."

Face recognition is able to provide fast, accurate, contactless secure authentication. Benefits of using face–based authentication include:

  • No physical identification methods required (unless using dual–factor i.e. card + face)
  • Auditable
  • Frictionless
  • Integrates with existing platforms and hardware

SAFR's liveness detection and ability to program alerts upon spoofing attempts "" as well as 98.85% recognition accuracy for faces partially obscured by masks "" ensures real–world conditions are not able to compromise security or user experience.

"SAFR is committed to building a growing business in the Middle East, offering a range of computer vision solutions for secure access, watchlist monitoring, and more. We're gratified to be working with EPM and pleased that our joint solution has been trusted by a well–respected federal agency to provide authentication for their employees," said Walter Candelu, VP Middle East, SAFR from RealNetworks.

Learn more about SAFR and face–based, touchless authentication: https://safr.com/secureaccess

About SAFR
SAFR (www.safr.com) is"the world's foremost facial recognition platform for live video intelligence. It taps the power of AI to help the world get back to work. Whether it's used for occupancy counting, face mask detection, or touchless entry control, SAFR can be deployed on premises, in the cloud, or with a VMS. SAFR enhances security, heightens situational awareness, and delivers insights that improve operational efficiency and protect the health and safety of people everywhere.

About EPM
Started 35 years ago as a Kodak partner, today EPM (https://www.epmuae.com/) is a well–established IT solutions provider for large scale government projects specializing in identification for human resources & security. EPM provides customized software and innovative workforce solutions including attendance, mobile access control, online visitor registration, and digital identity verification. More than 100 governmental departments in the Middle East use EPM systems for critical projects "" including the UAE's first Federal Driving License ID system.

Discriminatory Laws Still Holding Women Back in the Middle East

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Dec 14 2020 – Decades of aggressive efforts to create equal opportunities for women, shatter the glass ceiling and build a more inclusive society only ends up in failure, when the key stake holders refuse to acknowledge discriminatory laws, socio-cultural and religious set ups that continue to threaten progress made by the female work force.

Yousra Imran

British Egyptian writer Yousra Imran’s book ‘Hijab and Red Lipstick’ gives a sharp insight into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sara, the protagonist in the book is torn between her father’s conservative interpretation of Islam, his need to control and protect her from everything he calls “haram”, a term used for ‘forbidden’ in Islam and her desperate bid for freedom from life under the guardianship system.

“The current challenges for women in the Gulf and some Middle Eastern countries is that despite modernization the law still sees women as minors when they are unmarried women, and if they do get married, legally they move from being under the guardianship of a father or brother to the guardianship of their husband.

“Women just want their own agency – the ability to make decisions without needing a written letter of permission or no objection letter from a male guardian”, says Yousra Imran to IPS. She is the author of the book Hijab and Red Lipstick.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG) that aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls still remains a challenge in many parts of the world.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), “In Arab region, women face high barriers to entry into the labor market and are at the risk of unemployment than men.”

The latest policy brief from the UN on The Impact of Covid-19 on Women, states that “The coronavirus outbreak exacerbates existing inequalities for women and girls across every sphere – from health and the economy, to security and social protection. The pandemic has also led to an increase in violence against women and girls – particularly domestic violence which has intensified.”

Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls, are crucial accelerators for sustainable development goals. Sexual violence and exploitation, division of unpaid care, local domestic work and discrimination in public offices, all remain huge barriers in the progress of SDGs, according to the UNDP.

It is important for the Middle East region to acknowledge women’s right as a human right and build an eco system that doesn’t lead to intensification of the authorities crackdown against women and women’s right defenders in the country.

In 2016, a historical attempt was made by 14,000 Saudi women when they handed over a petition to the government, calling for an end to the country’s male guardianship system. The women in Saudi Arabia refused to be treated as “second class-citizens” and demanded to be treated as “full citizens”.

It took almost three years for Saudi authorities to announce reforms to the discriminatory male guardianship system.

Among other things, women could travel without the permission of a male guardian, apply for and obtain passport over the age of 21, register a marriage, divorce or a child’s birth. While these efforts were welcomed, they were far from the abolishment of the guardianship system. Women still can’t marry without the permission of a guardian, or provide consent for their children to marry. Women can’t leave prison, exit domestic violence shelter or pass on citizenship to their children without permission from their guardian.

“There have been a few improvements in recent years “, says Yousra. Women in Saudi Arabia getting the right to drive, and greater emancipation of women into leadership roles and into the workforce across the Gulf, however, the legal system itself still needs addressing and laws need to be changed, she says.

The move towards greater freedom for women in Saudi Arabia were undermined and lost, when right after the driving ban was lifted, an apparent crackdown on women got dozens of activists detained and arrested, ironically partly for calling for these very reforms. A few who are still in jails fighting for their freedom.

All of these factors will perhaps remain in violation of Saudi Arabia’s human rights obligation and its inability to realize its Vision 2030, that declares women—half of the country’s population—to be a “great asset”.

While the UAE has made several moves to overhaul some of its strictest Islamic laws and bolster women’s rights, there are still questions in regards to its obligations under international human rights law and equality of women.

Qatar too has faced questions on obligations towards women’s rights, as family laws still continue to discriminate against women, including making it much more difficult for women to seek divorce, protection against violence, including within the family. Human rights organizations have continuously called on Qatar to stop criminalizing sex outside marriage and ends its agressive enforcement of “love crimes”.

The failure to continuously acknowledge regions heavily restricted freedom of expression and civil society activities, violations by security forces continue in the context of the criminal justice systems, including torture and other ill-treatment, especially towards its women.

Despite significant progress through reforms on paper towards the lives of Arab women that has been achieved over the years, the journey ahead is still long, complex and far from meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 5 and Vision 2030.

Sania Farooqui is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where she regularly interviews Muslim women from across the world on various topics.


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Safe Drinking Water Should Mean Safe Collection Too: How to Reduce the Risks

Women collecting water from a deep tube well in Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh. Credit: A.S.M. Shafiqur Rahman/IPS

By External Source
Dec 14 2020 – Globally, millions of people don’t have access to water in their home. They collect water from shared water supply points or surface water sources and physically carry water containers back home for household use.

The importance of accessing water that’s safe to drink and enough water for washing, cleaning and cooking is clear. But little attention has been given to the safety of water collection away from home, or to the health and safety of the people who typically do this work. It’s most often women and girls from low income households who must queue for, collect and carry water home.

Little attention has been given to the safety of water collection away from home, or to the health and safety of the people who typically do this work. It’s most often women and girls from low income households who must queue for, collect and carry water home

Three key pieces of research that we’ve done recently highlight the dangers of collecting water. The studies include many African countries and each report cites specific country level data.

The research included a systematic review of published studies, analysis of data from surveys in 41 countries and a survey of 6,291 people across 24 sites in 21 low and middle income countries. These respondents were asked whether they had ever been injured while collecting water.

First we looked for evidence that carrying water is associated with health problems. The literature review found evidence that water carriage is associated with pain, fatigue, problems accessing perinatal health care and violence against vulnerable people. We found strong evidence that water carriage is associated with stress.

Another analysis focused on the link with maternal and child health. An analysis of surveys found that compared to households with water access on premises, fetching water is associated with poorer maternal and child health outcomes. Water access on premises is associated with improvements to maternal and child health.

We also did a survey to find out who was getting injured while fetching water. The mean age of those surveyed was 37 years. Just over 72% were female and 43% lived in rural settings. Of our respondents, 845 (13%) reported one or more water-fetching injuries (879 injuries).

In estimating the global burden of disease from lack of access to safe drinking water, injuries from collecting water are often ignored. This means that problems associated with a lack of safely managed drinking water are likely to be underestimated.

Understanding why and how injuries occur can motivate action to provide water access on premises for more people. Where water collection away from home must continue, understanding how injuries occur can help find ways to make water collection safer.


Who’s getting injured and how

We found that the odds of injury were 50% greater for women compared to men, nearly five times higher for rural dwellers and 2.75 times higher for peri-urban dwellers compared to urban dwellers. Greater household water insecurity increased the likelihood of a water-fetching injury.

Each additional hour spent collecting water per week was associated with a 2% increase in the odds of injury. Off-premise water sources requiring queuing and surface waters almost doubled the odds of injury compared to on-premise sources.

In our survey, 554 people who talked about how their injury occurred revealed some of the dangers of water collection. Falls were most common (76.4%); people described slipping or falling while queuing or carrying water. Women were nearly twice as likely to fall as men (61.4% vs 33.7%). Nearly all “traffic accidents” – motorised vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents or while riding an animal during water fetching – occurred in Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. These were more likely to be reported by men.

Injuries which occurred directly from carrying water containers or collecting water from wells accounted for 6.5% of injury mechanisms.

Physical confrontation (6.9%) also caused injury, and men were more likely than women to report this (10.7% vs 3.5%). There were intimations of sexual assault, for example a woman from Kampala said:

The caretaker of the pre-paid meter wanted to fall in love with me, but I told him that I am married and have children which led him to hate me, and he has hit me before.

Other researchers have reported that gender based violence occurs when people access water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. We expect that interpersonal violence was under reported in our study. Respondents may not discuss it because of feelings of distress or shame, fear of punishment from attackers or family members, or the absence of support for victims.


Women are responsible for providing water for their families. Many spend hours travelling to the wells and back home every day, carrying heavy clay pots on their heads. Credit: Irfan Ahmed/IPS


Changes needed

There’s a clear need for water supply systems that prioritise personal safety alongside the traditional goals of improving water quality and quantity.

Our findings suggest several ways to manage and reduce the risk of water-fetching injuries through existing programmes. These include:

  • Collecting additional data on physical safety and accessibility.
  • Supplying water on premises, which can include schools and work places.
  • Maintaining numerous shared water points and supporting affordable delivery systems to reduce trip distance and time spent in queues.
  • Providing equipment such as wheelbarrows, to reduce pain and fatigue from carrying water containers.
  • Maintaining clear pathways along water collection routes. This would reduce the risk of injury due to slips, falls and traffic hazards.
  • Encouraging men to help with water carriage through public health campaigns, to reduce women’s injury risk and other adverse maternal and child health outcomes associated with water fetching.
  • Locating water points in visible, open, public places alongside campaigns to reduce gender-based violence and abuse.The Conversation

Dr Jo-Anne Geere, Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

R & D Expenditure: How to Raise It and Why

Raghbendra Jha, Professor of Economics and Executive Director, Australia South Asia Research Centre, Australian National University

By Raghbendra Jha
CANBERRA, Australia, Dec 14 2020 – Economic growth is the time-tested method of raising living standards and, if not accompanied by large increases in inequality, lowering poverty. Since World War II, economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, including in South Asia.

Raghbendra Jha

Now, economic growth is largely the result of three factors: physical and human capital accumulation, labour force growth and productivity growth. Clearly, the faster the rate of productivity growth the higher the rate of economic growth and the greater the reduction in poverty and improvement in living standards.

One of the surest ways of improving productivity growth is through Research and Development (R&D expenditure). The above table contrasts the 2018 experience of two major Asian countries in this regard: India and South Korea. Both countries had comparable per capita incomes in 1950. Now South Korea has attained high-income country status whereas India is a low middle-income country.

One of the reasons for this is the difference in the R&D expenditure of the two countries. As the above table shows, Korea spends more than 6 times India on R&D as percentage of individual GDPs. The absolute value of R&D expenditure is higher in Korea and this country has many more researchers per million population. Also interesting is the pattern of R&D expenditure in the two countries. The bulk of R&D expenditure in Korea is carried out by businesses whereas in India more than half of R&D expenditure is by government, through tax receipts.

This implies that when government finances are tight, as they will be during the current pandemic, R&D expenditure will be reduced. Also, government administered funds may not be as efficiently allocated as those in private business enterprises. Thus, in low-income countries there is a need to raise tax revenues for the purpose of subsidising R&D.

Also, agricultural productivity is not keeping pace with the speed of urbanization and growth in food demand and the demand for food is highly skewed making for an inordinate amount of food going for non-human consumption and wastage.

By 2050 more than two-thirds of the world’ population will be living in metropolitan centres. Concurrently, the population of the world is expected to rise from 7.7 billion in 2019–20 to around 9.8 billion in 2050. This growth is expected to be largely concentrated in Africa and Asia with stagnant, even declining, populations in many OECD countries.

Source: http://uis.unesco.org/apps/visualisations/research-and-development-spending/

Global urban population has grown by a staggering 411 per cent between 1960 and 2018—much higher than the growth of the total population. In Sub-Saharan Africa and the least developed countries urban population has grown more than ten-fold.

At the global level, cereal yield per hectare has grown by 285 per cent over the period 1961 to 2017 with much smaller increases in less well-off regions.

In many developing countries the total population has grown at a much faster rate than agricultural yield. These are some of the very countries that will experience the fastest pace of urbanization. Hence, there are genuine concerns for prospects for food security in these countries.

Although cereal yield has gone up, there is a substantial diversion of cereals for purposes other than human consumption, e.g. livestock. In the US, in 2015, 36 percent of corn was being used for feeding animals and 75 percent of global soya output was used to feed animals. Almost one third of the world’s arable land is being used to grow crops to feed animals.

In 2015, 70 billion farm animals were raised for the purposes of food. Over time, as world incomes grow, there is likely to be a further shift towards the consumption of meat and other animal products.

Trend rate of agricultural productivity growth is about 1.5 percent per annum whereas the rate of growth required to ensure food security for all by 2050 is about 1.75 percent. This significant gap needs to be closed. It is, therefore, imperative to boost agricultural R&D across the world, particularly in developing countries.

The diversion of grain to feed farm animals should be curtailed significantly. The consumption of crops by farm animals is creating an externality, i.e., reducing access to food for several millions. The market is unable to price this externality. A consumption tax on meat would serve this purpose. This is a market-based solution.

The diversion of crops to the production of biomass, ethanol and other products should be restricted by taxing such products. The revenue raised from both these taxes could be used for subsidising R&D in general and agriculture in particular to stimulate economic and food growth.


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