Oct 16, 2017

Axios Login

Lots of interesting stuff this morning. Let's get to it.

Q&A: Bringing the internet back to Puerto Rico

When disaster strikes, a little-known group called NetHope springs into action. The group acts as the tech arm for a consortium of 53 major global charities, working with technology giants to restore communications in the wake of natural disasters. These days, of course, NetHope is focused on Puerto Rico and other places devastated by recent hurricanes.

"You can't really get food, water, shelter where it needs to go if you can't communicate, certainly not at scale" NetHope global programs head Frank Schott tells Axios.

The bottom line: The extensive devastation of the electric grid is making things especially challenging, though the U.S. government and big companies are pitching in on efforts to restore cell service and internet connectivity.

"They are probably much worse than what we are seeing in the press," Schott said, noting that much of the island has been without power for nearly three weeks. "The absence of electricity makes it hard to maintain perishable foods so there is a food problem. There is a lack of clean water...The longer that goes on the more trouble that will be."

Mounting troubles: Garbage is piling up and the rainy season isn't over yet, which could lead to follow-on problems like water-borne diseases. "It's a problem that has the potential to get a lot worse," Schott said.

On the plus said, Google parent Alphabet has offered to bring in its experimental internet-serving Loon balloons and NetHope has dozens of people on the ground, including volunteers from some of the biggest companies in tech.

Dig deeper: You can read more here in our Monday Q and A.

Twitter pledges (again) to do better on hate and harassment

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is once again promising the social network would do a better job of policing the hateful content that is all too common on its service. His comments followed a protest where women were encouraged to take a day off from using Twitter.

What's happening: "Today we saw voices silencing themselves and voices speaking out because we're *still* not doing enough," Dorsey said on Friday. He said the company plans to crack down on "unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies (sic) violence," promising the changes would begin over the next few weeks and more details would be shared this week.

The bottom line: As BuzzFeed points out, Twitter is often better at making pledges to improve than it is at actually improving. The real question is whether the coming changes will make a meaningful impact in reducing the hate speech and harassment that are all too common on Twitter.

Columbus shows glimpse of a diverse tech scene

Ohio's largest city has the makings of what should be a great town for investors and entrepreneurs: It's the state capital and also home to a top research university with 67,000 students. It's centrally located as it's 500 miles away from half of the U.S. population. Still, the city isn't typically seen as a hub of innovation.

Why it matters: Columbus is the 14th largest U.S. city, but it wasn't immune to the recession and is still figuring out how to position itself for the digital economy. Areas around Columbus have also been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. But its biggest asset may be something that many tech scenes, particularly in the Midwest, lack: diversity.

What it has going for it: Columbus was highlighted as a rising star among cities best positioned to take advantage of the digital economy, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the startup incubator 1776. It has:

  • a lower cost of living than other major tech-hub cities like San Francisco or New York.
  • a high density of a younger-than-average workforce, thanks to Ohio State University and other local colleges.
  • an engaged corporate community and supportive local government.

Diversity: Unlike other Rustbelt cities that have typically relied upon manufacturing, Columbus has a more diversified set of industries, such as health care, insurance and retail. The variety of industries has helped draw talent from many walks of life. That, in turn, led to efforts to integrate underserved citizens in the business community.

Capital challenge: While there's been a 46% increase of capital coming into the region over the last two years, California still gets more venture capital money in a week than Ohio gets in a year. Last year, nationwide, around 10% of venture capital went to women founders, and only 1% went to African Americans.

"Unfortunately, it does matter where you live, what you look like, and who you know" when it comes to getting investment backing for business ideas, said Steve Case, AOL co-founder and Revolution CEO who is concluding his "Rise of the Rest" tour in Green Bay, Wis., tomorrow.

Read more: Axios' Kim Hart has her full dispatch from Columbus here.

Gates Foundation giving away software to help developing world

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is freely offering software, called Mojaloop, needed to offer mobile wallets as part of an effort to bring more financial services to the developing world.

Why it matters: Mobile wallets have proved a huge hit in a few places, such as Kenya, but there are many places without access to phone-bases banking and the lack of interoperable software has kept a cross-border system from taking hold and left even successful efforts isolated."Today there are still two billion people on the planet not connected in any way shape or form to the financial system," Kosta Peric, the foundation deputy director in charge of its financial services efforts, told Axios.Read more of my story here.

NBA's AR app lets you shoot baskets anywhere

The release of ARKit has developers large and small experimenting with different ways to incorporate a dash of augmented reality into their mobile apps. While Major League Baseball is exploring ways of using AR to improve the experience for fans at the ballpark, the NBA has a new free app designed to let fans play virtual hoops in any open space.

Why it matters: Sports leagues are all about capturing a chunk of people's entertainment time and budget. If people are going to be spending time in AR or VR, it's important for the leagues to find the right opportunities to interact.

"We've always said that basketball can be played virtually anywhere – and today that takes on an expanded meaning," Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the league's senior VP of digital media, said in a statement.

How it works: A hoop, with the logo of your favorite team, can be placed just about anywhere and overlays on top of the real world, as seen through the smartphone camera. Shots can be taken with a flick of the wrist and the virtual court can go basically anywhere. It's designed for outside use, but works fine in indoor spaces too.

Take note

On tap: Netflix reports earnings after the close.

Trading places: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and several other groups have severed ties with security researcher and activist Morgan Marquis-Boire, following sexual assault allegations, The Verge reports.

ICYMI: Top lawmakers push for airwaves transfer to stay on schedule...The Verge describes KRACK, a new exploit that breaches Wi-Fi security, according to researchers...The whole idea of the USB-C connector was to create one cord to solve them all. Reality has been far from the case and Marco Arment has a good look at the problems here...Patent suits in an East Texas federal court district are down significantly after a Supreme Court ruling that limited venue shopping, per Ars Technica...A new study found that Uber and Lyft have increased traffic and reduced use of public transit...The New York Times traces how North Korea went from a cyber laughingstock to major hacker...Softbank is close to announcing a merger deal for Spring and T-Mobile, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

After you Login

New Orleans' Tulane University said it will offer university students in Puerto Rico a free guest semester at the New Orleans school provided they pay tuition to their home school.

"It's our turn to pay it forward," the university said, noting that lots of other schools took in its students following Hurricane Katrina.