June 5, 2020

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

The Seattle Times London doctors use Microsoft’s augmented-reality goggles to reduce coronavirus exposure
London hospitals are testing Microsoft’s HoloLens technology to reduce the number of doctors exposed to patients with COVID-19, in a program that could be expanded across the National Health Service if it’s successful.

Microsoft News Data sharing, pandemic response and closing Asia’s data divide for the post-COVID recovery
Driven by the rapid adoption of digital technology, the datasphere is growing exponentially. The world now generates more data in one day, than all data that was generated until the year 2000; and unsurprisingly, Asia is leading the charge. Compounded with the fact that our technological capability of analysing, understanding and using that data is accelerating by the second, it is clear that data will play a more important role than ever across the region, and globally.

Roll Call Remote devices for telehealth see surge in demand
Smartphone apps and connected devices that largely have seen niche use in the telemedicine context are likely to see a significant growth as online and remote consultations with doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic become more routine and established in the months to come.

Nextgov Technology for the Next Phase of Pandemic
Most municipalities, even ones that were ravaged by the initial wave of the COVID-19 virus, are at least starting to drift into the beginning phases of their reopening plans. While the rules for phase one vary from place to place, generally it means that people can eat at outdoor restaurant tables, visit stores that severely limit shoppers on premises or have curbside pickup.


Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Chaos in primary elections offers troubling signs for November
Sometimes-chaotic primary elections across eight states and the District of Columbia foreshadowed challenges that could undermine the security and legitimacy of the general election in November.

Politico Coronavirus Still Rattling Election Security
Multiple states hold their primaries today, two of which present potential election security challenges. In Pennsylvania, some counties are using new electronic voting machines for the first time, even as election officials have had to devote time and resources to mailing absentee ballots, reorganizing polling places and training nervous poll workers.

Politico Snapchat stokes GOP ire for refusing to promote Trump’s account
Snapchat drew a wave of repudiations from top Republicans but praise from Democrat Joe Biden after becoming the latest social media platform to penalize President Donald Trump for threatening violence against protesters. The multimedia messaging company’s decision to stop promoting Trump’s account to other users instantly pulled the app’s parent company, Snap, deeper into the Washington political-speech fight that has mainly focused on its peers.

Financial Times TikTok becomes political platform ahead of US election
Before the start of this year, Madisyn Bukoski used TikTok just like any other 18-year-old: to fill the time by scrolling through fun viral videos. But at the end of January, she answered an ad calling for TikTok videos from people who were “Republican, funny and outgoing [and] love America”.

Vox Tech billionaires are plotting sweeping, secret plans to boost Joe Biden
Joe Biden has a problem. Silicon Valley billionaires think they have a solution. Election Day is less than six months away, and Democrats are scrambling to patch the digital deficits of their presumptive nominee.


Washington Post Tech group files first lawsuit against Trump over executive order targeting social media
A Washington-based tech group supported by Facebook, Google and Twitter filed a lawsuit against President Trump on Tuesday, alleging that his executive order targeting social media giants threatens to “curtail and chill constitutionally protected speech” during the presidential election.

Politico Trump Goes Global with Tariff Threat over Digital Services Tax
U.S. lawmakers, business leaders and leading tech industry groups were quick to welcome the Trump administration’s decision on Tuesday to launch investigations into 10 trading partners that have or are looking to adopt digital services taxes.

Bloomberg FCC Chief Is Taking on the Pentagon … and DOT, NOAA, Energy
In his quest to expand U.S. mobile broadband capacity, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai hasn’t been afraid to anger colleagues in government. He’s taken on the Pentagon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the departments of Transportation and Energy.

Reuters Chinese telecom firms urge FCC not to block U.S. operations
Pacific Networks Corp and its wholly owned subsidiary ComNet (USA) LLC on Monday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to shut down its U.S. operations. In April, the FCC issued show cause orders to three state-controlled Chinese telecommunications companies, including Pacific, citing national security risks.


Business Insider Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addresses the protests across the US in an employee town hall: ‘My ask to each of you is to come together’
Nadella called on employees to embrace its “model, coach, care” management framework, used by managers to model Microsoft culture, coach team members to reach objectives, and show they care about employees. “We can model that behavior we need to see, coach others on how they can be better allies, and care for each other in times of crisis,” Nadella said. But, Nadella said, empathy is not enough, and it’s incumbent on Microsoft to use its position and resources to drive systemic change. He called out Microsoft’s work on an initiative it launched in 2019 to drive reforms in policing.

The Verge Reddit and Twitter join the fight against US demands for visa applicants’ online handles
Reddit and Twitter have filed supporting evidence in a lawsuit against the US government, which challenges the requirement that nearly all visa applicants submit their social media handles for scrutiny.

Reuters Google faces $5 billion lawsuit in U.S. for tracking ‘private’ internet use
Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode.

Harvard Business Review Digital Transformation Is About Talent, Not Technology
Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. You can pretty much buy any technology, but your ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.

Bloomberg Inside Microsoft’s Mission to Go Carbon Negative
A profile of Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer, and the past and future of Microsoft’s carbon neutral and carbon negative targets.

GreenBiz It takes a village to succeed in climate tech
Solving climate change depends, to some extent, on technological innovation. The world’s leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published a landmark 2018 report highlighting the urgency of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Waste Dive New waste-to-hydrogen processes could contribute to a carbon negative future
As more U.S. states pursue aggressive greenhouse gas and waste reduction goals these problems should be looked at as interconnected systems. Using promising next-generation technologies that haven’t yet been scaled up and utilized to their full potential can help address climate change, waste issues and air quality.

Forbes Balancing Privacy Concerns Around Facial Recognition
There has been recent global uproar around facial recognition technology and whether it’s ethically sound. Its use without citizen consent could have potential safety benefits but is undoubtedly a violation of privacy and does in fact need stronger policy reinforcement.

Science Magazine Eye, robot: Artificial intelligence dramatically improves accuracy of classic eye exam
The classic eye exam may be about to get an upgrade. Researchers have developed an online vision test—fueled by artificial intelligence (AI)—that produces much more accurate diagnoses than the sheet of capital letters we’ve been staring at since the 19th century. If perfected, the test could also help patients with eye diseases track their vision at home.


American Enterprise Institute

  • Blog on federal funding for R&D, and a proposal to reorganize the National Science Foundation
    Of particular importance is the basic research slice of all that Washington research spending. Almost all basic research — the open-ended, curiosity-driven scientific exploration that creates the foundational knowledge for invention and innovation — is funded by government. And as a share of GDP, it’s declined sharply in the 21st century, particularly since the Global Financial Crisis. … All of which brings us to a new piece of bipartisan congressional legislation, The Endless Frontiers Act. The name is derived from FDR science adviser Vannevar Bush’s 1945 report arguing for permanent and expanded government support for science. The bill would reorganize the National Science Foundation — the government agency dedicated to funding basic research — and alter the NSF’s mission to focus more on applied research, while also giving it a whole lot more money. (AEIdeas – If Washington wants to boost federal R&D, let’s do it the right way, June 3, 2020)

MIT Technology Review

  • Blog on technology’s role in systemic racism
    We often call on technology to help solve problems. But when society defines, frames, and represents people of color as “the problem,” those solutions often do more harm than good. We’ve designed facial recognition technologies that target criminal suspects on the basis of skin color. We’ve trained automated risk profiling systems that disproportionately identify Latinx people as illegal immigrants. We’ve devised credit scoring algorithms that disproportionately identify black people as risks and prevent them from buying homes, getting loans, or finding jobs. So the question we have to confront is whether we will continue to design and deploy tools that serve the interests of racism and white supremacy, (Tech Policy – Of course technology perpetuates racism. It was designed that way, June 3, 2020)

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on federal privacy legislation
    Despite a promising start in the 116th Congress, comprehensive information-privacy legislation appears stalled on Capitol Hill. Response to the COVID-19 pandemic has necessarily consumed most of the current bandwidth in Congress. Yet the pandemic has raised issues surrounding access to mobility and proximity data, health information, and other forms of personal information that may—and in some cases may not—be useful for public health. These are a reminder of the gaps in the U.S. system of privacy protection. (Report – Bridging the gaps: A path forward to federal privacy legislation, June 3, 2020)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.