Not so much theatre shows as exercises in tedium, these new pieces from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh would never have seen the light of day if they didn’t have his name attached. An audience expecting the skanky wit and vim of Trainspotting will be disappointed by this duo of tired and clumsy plays.
Performers, written with Dean Cavanagh, is potentially the more interesting of the two. Apparently, when making the 1970 movie Performance, which starred Mick Jagger and James Fox, directors Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell wanted to hire real villains to play the gangsters. Their quest for authenticity sees low-life criminals Alf (Perry Benson) and Bert (George Russo) turning up at the production offices. But with slack direction from Nick Moran, it has all the tension of a used teabag. The comic tour de force that is supposed to ensue when a pretentious young assistant director persuades Alf to take off his clothes is embarrassingly limp.
Set in 1969, it would have looked dated and if it had actually been written that year, and – in their own quest for authenticity – Welsh and Cavanagh appear to have copied out a cockney rhyming slang dictionary lock, stock and barrel.
If Performers aims for comic grittiness and misses by a mile, Creatives is all bland, slick shininess; straight out of the Fame mould. It’s a musical, written with Don de Grazia, about a group of would-be songwriters attending a Chicago course run by former punk Paul, whose career has nosedived and whose personal life is complicated.
The students are all stereotypes, ranging from moody goth girl to (bizarrely) a redneck Trump supporter, and the entire thing starts to resemble an audition for the X Factor but with less convincing back stories, until a violent plot twist pushes it into outright melodrama.
The US cast are game, and Laurence Mark Wythe’s music and lyrics cry out for a better vehicle than this cliched attempt to explore the price of creativity and the pressures to sell out for a quick buck. One imagines that is exactly what Welsh has done with these abysmal efforts.
The government has played a key role in the digitisation of cash in India
Digital payments went down in February but are rising again
Upcoming payments firms will have to expand reach via new channels
Most accounts of successful digitisation feature technology providers or tech-hungry consumers in the lead role. But in the story of digital payments in India, it is the government that is the unlikely hero.
In his budget speech this year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley set the nation a target of 25 billion digital transactions for 2017-18. And enabling this, we have the creation of a new category of financial institutions, namely the Payments Banks. Telecom/ e-commerce companies have turned into payments banks, and are processing huge numbers of low-value transactions via digital wallets and other electronic prepaid instruments for their subscribers and customers, many of whom never had the benefit of formal financial services.
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In August 2014, India’s financial inclusion agenda got a huge boost with the launch of the “Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana”, devised to provide every Indian easy access to basic banking services. In just over two and a half years, the Jan Dhan Yojana has garnered a record breaking 282.3 million “no-frills” bank accounts and deposits worth Rs. 640 billion. From here, the next step is to enable these accounts to make and receive digital payments. Aadhaar, India’s unique identification program, is the perfect platform for that because it links to bank accounts to enable both Direct Benefit Transfer (of government payouts) and a host of simple financial transactions via the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System.
Another government initiative that ended up promoting digital payments, even though that was not its primary intent, was the overnight demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes in November 2016. With about 86 percent of cash instantly going out of circulation, consumers from all segments, and even tiny, unorganised businesses were forced into digital transactions, shooting that number from 672 million in November 2016, to 958 million just a month later. Even after the new notes flowed into the system and digital transactions dipped considerably, they remained at higher than pre-demonetisation levels at 763 million in February 2017, and were at 844.7 million in June 2017, as per the RBI.
But arguably, the government’s crowning achievement is the Unified Payments Interface, which has transformed the fragmented mobile payments landscape with an environment where money can move from any bank or financial provider to any other, instantly, cheaply, securely and transparently.
The path ahead
Although the average Indian consumer is way more financially empowered today than a few years ago, as a nation, India still has a long way to go. Getting the one billion plus largely feature phone subscribers to use their device for simple financial transactions is one thing, educating them into financially responsible, informed consumers, quite another. Although India’s payments infrastructure is looking solid, there is a need for a massive effort to build awareness about basic financial management as well as safe financial practices to protect customers from fraud. The fact that India is deemed a favourite target for cyber-attack underlines the seriousness of the problem.
Viability is a big challenge for India’s niche digital payment providers, who are pouring large sums of money into acquiring customers and keeping them happy. At present, almost all digital payment services are being offered free of cost or with attractive incentives – for instance Paytm Payments Bankcharges no fees on any online transaction, while Airtel Payments Bank offers free talktime. Once the honeymoon is over, providers will certainly look at charging these services, which might put the brakes on growth.
One way to keep costs (and hence fees and charges) down is to leverage Blockchain and other open source technologies to facilitate digital payment transactions. Actually, Blockchain fells several challenges in one go – it collapses transaction time and cost, improves transparency, and provides virtually impenetrable security. It can also scale up to meet India’s requirements with ease.
The last point is crucial because it is also the key to viability. Niche payment providers will need to extend their services down to the very last mile and feature phone to sustain the business; banks, although under less pressure, should also look at expanding reach via mobile and other channels, such as micro ATMs and business correspondent agents carrying handheld devices for delivering digital payments to the doorstep.
On exam results day, education correspondent Jamie McIvor asks a fundamental and unfashionable question: is it a good thing that more youngsters than ever before stay on at school or go to college and university?
Exam passes are high by historic standards, more youngsters are staying on at school and going to college or university.
Is this a good thing in itself? Or is the education system simply having to adapt to the fact that in the modern world there are fewer good jobs for young people, and that unskilled jobs are disappearing?
It is an interesting philosophical question to contemplate – one quite distinct from the question of ensuring all young people can achieve their potential in education, regardless of wealth or family background.
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The suspicion of some has always been that the education system has had to soak up youngsters who might otherwise have been unemployed – either because of economic problems or the gradual disappearance of some unskilled jobs.
In the 1970s the school leaving age was raised from 15 to 16 but it took a further 10 years for a qualifications system which had been designed with the more academically-able in mind to evolve.
For many years, youngsters who were not able to study for a full suite of O grades filled their third and fourth year timetables with “non certificate” courses – seen by some as a waste of effort. The boredom these students experienced was blamed by some teachers for indiscipline.
Standard grades were designed to make sure all youngsters could get a meaningful qualification. This underlying ethos has been carried into the current National qualifications.
But in the 1980s it was still unusual for a youngster who was not studying for Highers to stay on until S5. When someone who was not doing Highers stayed on past their statutory leaving age, again the suspicion of some was that the youngster was only at school to “stay off the dole”.
In Scotland the official school leaving age is still 16, but the majority of pupils, regardless of their academic ability, stay on until S6. It is now unusual to leave at the end of S4 and schools would be genuinely concerned if a youngster wanted to leave early without a good reason for doing so.
S4, S5 and S6 are now classed as the “senior phase”. The emphasis is on the qualifications a youngster has at the time they leave – not on what they have achieved by a particular stage.
The number of so-called Neets – youngsters who are not in education, employment or training – is at a very low level by historic standards.
The Scottish government guarantees youngsters who are not in a job a place in education or training. It is often the case that a pupil classed as a Neet has a long back story which helps explains the situation.
If a pupil leaves school before the end of S6 because they have secured an apprenticeship or a place at college or university it would be deemed to be a “positive outcome”; if a youngster simply wanted to leave school for a dead-end job a school might worry this was a failure on their part as the pupil may not have been enjoying their education.
The senior phase is designed to offer a flexible system where any youngster can achieve something of value.
For the most academically-able, the question may be what Highers or Advanced Highers they leave school with. For others, it might be about the number of National 4s and 5s they obtain – even one Higher might represent a big personal achievement.
Colleges have been through a huge shake-up in recent years and now concentrate primarily on full-time courses which lead to a recognised qualification – these are mostly taken by students in their teens or early 20s.
Privately, some in the college system warn that colleges are having to accommodate youngsters who might otherwise have been unemployed, as well as those who positively want to be studying a subject. This may be reflected in the drop-out rate for some courses.
So we return to the question: is a school system where it is unusual for a youngster to leave early and a college system which has to find places for those who would otherwise be unemployed achieving something positive in itself?
Or is it merely parking the youth unemployment problem, just like non certificate S4 classes in the 1970s?
Few in the mainstream would seriously argue that educational opportunities should not be as widely available as possible.
But the issue touches on an intriguing question. Once, it was possible to leave school with O grades and get a job with prospects. Not so long ago, many good jobs were available to youngsters with good Highers.
Today, other than modern apprenticeships, most good jobs for young people require a college or university qualification first.
So is the education system having to deal with the practical effect of economic change?
De-industrialisation and automation mean many of the unskilled, entry level jobs once filled by school-leavers no longer exist.
Or are the changes positively helping to provide the workforce the economy needs?
The argument is that Scotland, like every advanced country, needs as skilled a workforce as possible to compete internationally and fulfil its potential.
A skilled workforce does not just mean turning out scientists and surgeons – it means hairdressers and staff for the hospitality industry too.
Once, fewer people in those industries would have received any formal college training and might simply have learned on the job or served a traditional apprenticeship. But the argument is that a proper course and training raises standards and allows the best to shine.
Anecdotally, of course, many of the genuinely unskilled jobs which those with few qualifications may once have done – say stacking shelves in the supermarket – are now done by students or those with college or university qualifications who find themselves “underemployed” .
Indeed, while the number of young people at university is close to a historic high, a significant proportion of graduates do not secure what would be seen as graduate-level jobs even if few would do unskilled work for long.
None of this is to suggest a good education is not of value in itself – even if it does not lead to someone getting a better job than they may have got otherwise.
But perhaps it is interesting to reflect on how in the space of barely 40 years, the time someone routinely spends in education has increased. Once, a basic education ended at 15; now few teenagers are completely out of the system.
We are focusing on four vertical markets -utilities, public sector, large enterprises and transportation, Rajeev Suri said.
From making LTE-based drones that can save people from drowning to developing T-shirts that can predict tumours in humans, Finnish company Nokia has come a long way from being just amobile phone giant. In an interview with TOI, Rajeev Suri, president & CEO of Nokia -who led the company through a series of major transformations including the 15.6 billion euro acquisition of Alcatel Lucent, the divestment of HERE, the acquisition of digital health company Withings -talks about the 150-year-old company’s goals in areas of networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), digital healthcare and mobile phones. Excerpts:
In most markets, Nokia is synonymous with phones.With new direction the company has taken, how would you best define Nokia in one sentence?
We create the technology to connect the world. We are a large network company and not restricted to just the telecom space. For instance, we have routers that power all the internet in the world. B2B is 90% of our business today. We are focusing on four vertical markets -utilities, public sector, large enterprises and transportation. And, we are building a software business as well that includes analytics, security, IOT platforms and AI.
How do you plan to grow consumer business?
We want to choose the areas that are the hottest and fastest-growing areas of technology from an IoT standpoint.If you look at the digital healthcare business, it is growing at around 40%. VR could be very big in next 10 years.For instance, we have launched Ozo, a 360-degree VR camera that is being used in Hollywood, Wimbledon and UEFA. It has streamed live neurosurgery operation in VR that doctors can learn from.In digital healthcare, we have introduced connected devices, including thermometers and blood pressure monitors that are connected through a common app. For instance, our weighing scales can measure your arterial stiffness and warn you. We have an agreement with HMD for Nokiabranded smartphones.
Your vision about IoT…
Billions of devices or things will be connected. This is where 5G comes in. Homes will have sensors and functions, including gesture control. We are working on solutions to make smart homes but are not limiting ourselves.IoT could also mean seamless critical and elderly care. For instance, when a patient is in ICU, the monitoring level is typically 100%. In a general ward, it drops to 20% and at home it drops to zero. Now imagine a scenario, where devices can be miniaturized, connected to the hospital through the cloud and give feedback on the patient’s health proactively instead of waiting for somebody at home to alert the hospital. This could save lives.
What are the innovations taking shape at your IOT lab in Bengaluru?
There are many things.Among them, some interesting ones are anti-collision software and an app that can warn and fine commuters for crossing railway signals.And, we don’t have to wait for driverless cars for the application to take place. The mobile app will warn commuters about a train and will have a way to slap a fine if they don’t heed the warning and still cross the tracks.
Could there be privacy issues with Aadhaar being linked to mobile number?
It’s a great idea and like China’s WeChat, many things could be done through it in future. Maybe it can curtail movement of black money. But you must make sure that the encryption is there because privacy matters and there are risks, as mobile malware is also growing.