TikTok and the Digital Diadochi Wars

In June 323 BCE, as Alexander the Great lay on his deathbed, surrounded by his anxious generals, his Eurasian empire stretched from Greece’s Mediterranean Ocean all the way to India’s Indus River Valley. They asked him to whom should they bequeath his empire?   Many versions exist of what he might or might not have said, but one of them is “Krat’eroi” (“to the strongest”). Some think it might have been “Krater’oi” (“to Creterus”, one of his senior-most generals).   But such was the absolute and unquestioned leadership of Alexander that there was no one who was a clear successor or heir. So, the generals, known as the Diadochi, fought each other. For nearly three decades and across continents.    The wars were known as the Wars of Succession or the Wars of the Diadochi. By the end of the wars, Alexander’s massive empire was divided roughly into three parts, in Europe, Egypt, and Asia.
Wikimedia Commons
TikTok, the Alexander the Great of “middle India” with over 200 million users, died unexpectedly in its prime on Monday. The Indian government banned it, along with 58 other apps of Chinese origin.  And this was an official press release sent out yesterday by Roposo, an Indian short video sharing app.
ROPOSO IS INDIA’S NO.1 SHORT VIDEO APP AFTER TIKTOK BAN   With the Indian government on Monday banning 59 Chinese apps over concerns that these apps were engaging in activities that threatened “national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India”, Byte Dance’s TikTok has had to say goodbye to India.    Roposo, the leading Made In India short video app with more than 65 million downloads has become the undisputed leader of social video apps in India. The app has been the number one social app on the Google Play Store in recent times. Many leading personalities such as Sonam Wangchuk had earlier come out in support of Roposo on social media.    TikTok users, including influencers with huge fan followings, have started switching to Roposo in large numbers after the ban. Influencers who have switched to Roposo include Prem Vats and Noor Afshan who had fan followings of 9.5 million and 9 million respectively on TikTok. MyGov, the citizen engagement platform founded by the Government of India has already been present on Roposo.   With Roposo, users finally have a way to enjoy responsible entertainment while showcasing their talent. Roposo is available in 12 Indian languages and has more than 14 million video creators and 80 million videos created monthly
And here’s one from Trell, an app I hadn’t ever heard of.
Lifestyle Community Commerce Platform, Trell has witnessed more than 1 million downloads after India banned 59 Chinese apps   India’s fastest-growing Lifestyle community-commerce platform Trell has witnessed a huge upsurge in the app downloads with more than 1 million downloads so far, just after the bold decision made by India to promote Atmanirbhar Bharat.   […]   Commenting on the new initiative, Pulkit Agarwal, Co-Founder – Trell said, “We thank and congratulate Narendra Modi Sir for taking this bold step. We welcome all the Tiktok and Chinese Apps content creators with open arms to come and engage on Trell which is 100% Indian App. As the largest Indian Lifestyle Social App we will continue to ensure that the privacy and data of users will be protected and will remain within the boundaries of our nation. Jai Hind!”.
The Diadochi Wars for Indian users have begun. When they do end, will they end like the original wars?
Whilst none of the Diadochi, nor their successors were ever able to unite Alexander’s Empire, domestically Greek Culture flourished. The Diadochi rulers prudently promoted the intermingling of Greeks with the local peoples in their Kingdoms, leading to a fusion of East with West. Many Greeks settled in the Near East and Egypt, and Greek became the Lingua Franca of the Eastern Mediterranean. The city of Alexandria in Egypt, with its Great Library, became the world center of learning. This period of Greek cultural expansion is known as the Hellenistic Age.
Hobson’s Choice   Arundhati   Break your retirement fund for solving short-term stress, or dilute your retirement savings in the long-run?    It’s a hard choice many Indians had to make until yesterday. Retirement fund body Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), in March, allowed its 60 million members to make a one-time premature withdrawal from their nest egg to meet coronavirus-related financial emergencies.    The retirement fund settled more than 80,000 claims every working day worth around Rs 270 crore (US$35.7 million). In April and May alone, the EPFO settled 3.6 million claims worth Rs 11,540 crore (US$1.5 billion), the retirement fund body said early June. And in the 20 days of June, two million more Indians broke their savings.    The people making this hard choice of putting their present needs ahead of their future is telling.    74% of the claimants were those who earned less than Rs 15,000 (US$200) per month. With most job cuts impacting this section, this is hardly news. About 24% of the claims were from those who earned between Rs 15,000 and Rs 50,000 (US$662). Only 2% of the claims came from the section that earned more than Rs 50,000.    To top this, these withdrawals will also reduce the ability of the EPFO to eventually pay the promised interest rates to the members. There’s already talk of lowering the declared interest rate of 8.5% on these schemes for the current financial year.    This is the case world over, though.
In 2017, the World Economic Forum warned the retirement savings gap — or shortfall between what people currently save and what they need for an adequate standard of living when they retire — would balloon from $70tn to $400tn in 2050, in just eight countries. That gap has only got larger as a result of the pandemic.   Allowing people to access their retirement savings early seems like an easy solution to the Covid crisis, but it places pressure on people doing it by forcing them to choose between their present and their future,” says Kirstin Hunter, who runs Future Super, one of Australia’s leading pension funds. Raiding the pot: Pandemic deepens pensions crisis, Financial Times
And it is not like these people can simply choose to work for longer, as there is a growing bias towards the younger working population. This is most likely to impact healthcare spending in the future.    The pandemic has likely sealed all exits.
Singapore’s loss of foreign talent   Ben   Singapore’s expatriate community has been hit hard by job cuts, as the city-state moves to safeguard local jobs. Singapore’s government announced wage support for local workers, paying up to 75% of their wage for three months.   This has left expats out in the cold, as companies started to pare down on foreign workers, cutting their pay, moving them back to their western offices or laying them off.    The brain drain could lead to the business hub being less competitive. Already, Singapore has lost the crown of being the best place for expats to live.    As populism calls for saving locals’ jobs, there is a case for foreign talent making the island republic better off economically:
Quote Imagine that, back in 1965, if we were to adopt a policy of not appointing foreign applicants, then by now in 2018, we would have virtually all of our top jobs occupied by Singaporeans only.   However, we would almost certainly be a much more backward country with all, including top jobs, paying much less than half those of the current levels.   This would be the case if, for instance, we lose 1.5 percent of GDP growth each year over 53 years – a back-of-the-envelope estimate which is not unreasonable when you consider that the real GDP per capita of Singapore since independence grew at an average annual compounded rate of about 5 percent.   Almost certainly, if a no-foreign-talent policy were pursued instead, Singapore’s average growth rate would be less than half of this. Ng Yew Kwang, Professor of Economics at the Nanyang Technological University
Gambling on the future   Seetharaman   The pandemic may have ravaged its finances, but Andhra Pradesh, the southern Indian state, is sticking to its plan of gradually closing its liquor stores. The government has shut nearly a third of the state’s outlets since last October.    Excise duty on alcohol accounts for 10-15% of states’ tax revenue. At a time when tax collections are badly hit, alcohol offers a slim ray of hope for states, which have imposed levies on it to make up for the revenue shortfall during the lockdown.    But prohibition is a key poll promise of the ruling party in Andhra, so it cannot afford to reverse that. How does it plug the hole left by the declining alcohol sales and an eventual ban? Tap another contentious product, lottery tickets, which account for 5.5% of states’ non-tax revenue.    Lotteries are legal only in 10 states and Andhra is not one of them. Now, the state is exploring allowing them. It has been left with little choice but to take a gamble on this.
India’s first plasma bank has a tough test   Savio   India’s first plasma bank to help Covid-19 patients will be set up in the national capital, Delhi. Plasma from the blood of a recently recovered patient is believed to be rich in virus antibodies, which boosts the immune system’s response to the disease. Delhi’s clinical trials of plasma therapy have shown encouraging results.   There are, of course, guidelines, the most important of which is that only a doctor can recommend plasma therapy. The government also said it would make it easier for donors by setting up a helpline soon and paying for their conveyance.   The biggest hurdle has been getting donors, though, even for state officials conducting trials. Imagine how tough it would be for patients. One patient’s daughter said she contacted 300 leads, but most turned her down.   Publicly outing oneself as a Covid-19 patient (or even a recovered case) has led to social stigma. A lack of awareness and the morbid fear of the disease has led to many cases of neighbours and locality residents threatening patients and their families.   So, what are the ramifications of this supply and demand imbalance, if left uncontrolled?
The hospitals are not involved but I have seen deals happen in front of me,” said a doctor at a government hospital in Islamabad, who asked not to be named. “Usually a patient’s attendants or family will approach someone who has recovered, asking them to donate blood. When a certain amount is agreed as payment, usually between 200,000 and 800,000 rupees (£950-£3,800), they go to a private lab and extract the plasma, which is then ‘donated’ to the patients. Pakistan Covid-19 doctors witness black market deals in blood plasma, The Guardian
It’s happening in other countries too, like Egypt.   There is already a thriving darknet in India for buyers and sellers of Covid-19 drugs. But the demand for blood plasma is much lower given only select hospitals can conduct trials. As more plasma banks open, let’s hope Pandora’s box stays shut.
Ready, set, copy   Olina   On the first day of July, it’s out with the old, in with new. ish.   Yesterday, social media and news outlets were rife with indulgent platitudes. “Indian” app makers are finally having their moment. Chinese apps, like TikTok, have already made a swift exit from our online ecosystems.   All this anti-China frenzy means we’re going to need new apps—to communicate, to entertain and send annoying texts to our family WhatsApp groups. What struck me, though, is that we’re simply replacing the medium, not the message.   A few academics I follow on Twitter and Linkedin reinforced this growing belief.   Both called upon Indians to build and use “replacement” apps.
But the Indian app ecosystem doesn’t need to wait for academics, to tell them what to do…
Welcome to the “Replacement Economy”. Leave your creativity at the door.
Africa’s zombie plague   Savio   A plague of zombie appliances, that is. (You didn’t think of actual zombies, did you?)   Each year, hundreds of thousands of discarded air conditioners and refrigerators, mainly from Europe, land up on African shores to meet growing demand as temperatures soar. But the continent is not so hot on the trade anymore, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.
“They come in branded as new, but when they’re off-loaded it’s mostly near-end-of-life e-waste,” said Leslie Adogame, executive director of SRADev, a Nigerian nonprofit environmental health research group.   “They’re certainly cheaper to buy, but they use a lot more energy, don’t meet environmental standards and usually have a very short shelf life,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation
So, why not just stop it, especially since there are laws against exporting or dumping non-working electronic products? Well, you scratch my back …
Europeans say “Oh my God, it’s going to cost so much to recycle the refrigerants and refrigerators,” said Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network.   Africans, meanwhile, want affordable devices to keep cool

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