By My Colleagues and Me Yesterday: How Air Workers are Using Drones and Crowdsourcing Following the Nepal Earthquake

The story begins:

Relief workers in quake-stricken Nepal say they are using drones and crowdsourced maps offered by volunteer groups as they seek to get emergency supplies to stranded survivors.

Indian and Nepalese authorities are using drones to search areas inaccessible by land, while the American Red Cross is among the agencies providing aid workers with maps that have been updated by thousands of Internet users who examine online satellite imagery and other sources.

S.S. Guleria, deputy inspector general of India’s National Disaster Response Force, which has deployed hundreds of search-and-rescue personnel to Nepal, said two unmanned aerial vehicles are being used in operations in Katmandu and its outskirts. Purchased from Mumbai-based drone company ideaForge, they are operated by pilots in a Katmandu control room.

By Me Today: How Tech Companies Like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Viber are Helping Connect People Following the Nepal Earthquake

UPDATE: Embedded above and online here: a video I recorded with WSJ Live about the story.

The story begins:

Global technology firms are pitching in on earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal with services such as free calls to and from the country to functions that track survivors and relay the news to worried relatives and friends overseas.

Search giant Google Inc. on Saturday launched its Person Finder service, which allows users to post and search for information about missing friends and loved ones. The feature, which Google created in response to the destructive 2010 earthquake in Haiti, showed it was tracking 5,100 records as of early Monday afternoon Asia time.

Facebook Inc. activated Safety Check, which allows users in areas affected by the earthquake to select a notification alerting friends on the social network that they are OK.

“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote Saturday in a post on his Facebook page, referring to the feature developed last year. “It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters.” The post was shared more than 41,000 times and received more than 263,000 likes.

By Me Yesterday: Cyberdefense Spending is On the Rise in Asia

The story begins:

Spending to defend against cyberattacks is picking up speed in Asia, and the growth rate could outpace the global average this year.

The latest development underscoring the trend: the US$810 million acquisition of U.S.-based cybersecurity provider Trustwave Holdings Inc. by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom company by revenue.

The deal, announced Wednesday, follows recent high-profile breaches of companies such as Home Depot Inc., health insurer Anthem Inc. and Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Hackers also targeted Malaysia Airlines’ website in January. In March, South Korean investigators said state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. and its business partners were targeted in cyberattacks aimed at stealing internal data that included plant blueprints and employees’ personal information. Korea Hydro operates South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors.

Executives and analysts in Asia say they are increasingly contemplating their digital defenses in light of more-frequent attacks.

Recent Stories Round-Up: Telcos in Myanmar; InMobi, Snapdeal, Facebook in India

It’s been a busy week or so.

Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.

Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):

YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.

Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.

The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.

Google in Early Talks to Buy Indian Mobile Ad Firm InMobi (March 11):

BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.

“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.

Google declined to comment.

The Economic Times first reported the news.

InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.

Snapdeal Considers Acquisitions in India, CEO Says (March 17):

NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.

Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

India Is Requesting More Data About Facebook Users (March 17):

Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.

That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.

Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.

I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.

By Me Yesterday: Google Access Disrupted in Vietnam

The story begins:

Access to Google Inc. ’s Vietnam website was disrupted briefly Monday, the company said, with some users redirected to a website appearing to sell a service used for cyberattacks.

“For a short period today, some people had trouble connecting to google.com.vn, or were being directed to a different website,” a Google spokesman said. “We’ve been in contact with the organization responsible for managing this domain name and the issue should be resolved.”

The spokesman stressed that users’ searches and Google services, like Gmail, weren’t compromised. Users within Vietnam reported that service disruption lasted several hours.

In an apparent hijacking of domain name system servers, which act as virtual address books and help direct Internet traffic, users who tried to visit Google’s Vietnam site were sent to the website, which showed a man facing a mirror taking a photo of himself with an iPhone.

By Me Today: Google Capital’s Coming to India

The story begins:

More evidence of global investors’ growing interest in India’s startups: Google’s new investment arm is setting up shop in the country.

In what will mark the first such expansion outside the U.S., Google Capital — a wing of the tech giant that invests in mid-stage technology companies — is interviewing candidates for a position to lead their efforts in the populous nation.

“It makes a lot of sense to focus on India right now,” Google Capital partner David Lawee told The Wall Street Journal. He noted that the country of 1.2 billion recently surpassed the U.S. in terms of its number of Internet users, and that local entrepreneurs “are responding” with “innovative” offerings for the domestic market and thinking about global growth, as well.

By Me Yesterday: Singapore’s Reviewing Airbnb-Related Regulations

The story begins:

Singapore is reviewing guidelines governing the kind of short-term rentals used by home sharing companies like Airbnb, underscoring the regulatory uncertainties the fast-growing startup faces as it expands abroad.

At question in wealthy, tightly controlled Singapore: Should home owners be allowed to rent out their residences for short periods of time, as Airbnb users typically do?

It’s a legal gray area that the San Francisco-based company — one of the world’s hottest startups, valued at $10 billion — has faced in various markets as it has expanded throughout Europe and Asia.

In Singapore, where Airbnb provides listings for hundreds of properties, the city-state’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, or URA, late last month began soliciting feedback from the public regarding existing regulations.

By Me Yesterday: Google Street View Comes to Bangladesh

It begins:

The newest country available on Google Street View: Bangladesh.

The tech titan on Thursday unveiled 360-degree panoramic images of streets around the teeming capital, Dhaka, the port city of Chittagong and dozens of other locations in the densely populated country sandwiched between India and Myanmar.

Bangladesh, home to some 150 million people, is the 65th nation for which the Google Maps feature is available.

By Me Yesterday: China’s Renren Invests in U.S. Startup FiscalNote

The story begins:

Renren has led a $10 million investment in a Washington, D.C.-based startup that uses big data to forecast legislation, the latest move by the Chinese social network to fund innovative companies that could further the company’s growth.

FiscalNote, founded in 2013, uses data-mining software and artificial intelligence to predict legislators’ votes and the success or failure of bills. Among its clients, the company says, are JP Morgan Chase, software firm VMWare, and ride sharing company Uber, which has faced some notable regulatory hurdles of late.

“I see them as a disruptive company because the space they’re going after is huge,” Renren Chief Executive Joe Chen told The Wall Street Journal. “I think just from a pure business point they’re going to be tremendous going forward,” he said.

By Me Today: Facebook Denies ‘Lizard Squad’ Hacking Claim

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. on Tuesday denied being the victim of a hacking attack and said its site and photo-sharing app Instagram had suffered an outage after it introduced a configuration change.

The disruption “was not the result of a third party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems,” a Facebook spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. “We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”