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Main article: Jakarta

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Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 23

Google Cloud opens its Seoul region

20:43 | 19 February

Google Cloud today announced that its new Seoul region, its first in Korea, is now open for business. The region, which it first talked about last April, will feature three availability zones and support for virtually all of Google Cloud’s standard service, ranging from Compute Engine to BigQuery, Bigtable and Cloud Spanner.

With this, Google Cloud now has a presence in 16 countries and offers 21 regions with a total of 64 zones. The Seoul region (with the memorable name of asia-northeast3) will complement Google’s other regions in the area, including two in Japan, as well as regions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but the obvious focus here is on serving Korean companies with low-latency access to its cloud services.

“As South Korea’s largest gaming company, we’re partnering with Google Cloud for game development, infrastructure management, and to infuse our operations with business intelligence,” said Chang-Whan Sul, the CTO of Netmarble. “Google Cloud’s region in Seoul reinforces its commitment to the region and we welcome the opportunities this initiative offers our business.”

Over the course of this year, Google Cloud also plans to open more zones and regions in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Jakarta, Indonesia.

 


0

Relocating Indonesian capital will impact nation’s startup ecosystem

02:13 | 9 November

Hugh Harsono Contributor
Hugh Harsono is a former financial analyst currently serving as a U.S. Army officer.

Recently reelected, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a desire to move the nation’s capital from Jakarta to the East Kalimantan region, citing environmental concerns, the most exigent of these being the fact that Jakarta is literally sinking due to the uncontrolled extraction of groundwater. Widodo said he wished to separate Indonesia’s government from its business and economic hub in Jakarta.

However, what would a move from Jakarta do to Indonesia’s burgeoning startup economy?

Shifting administrative governmental hubs

According to Widodo, studies have determined that the best site for the proposed new capital is between North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara, both located in East Kalimantan. The basis of this selection is due to studies highlighting the region’s relative protection from natural disasters, especially when compared to other regions. This would definitely be a benefit for the governmental heart of Indonesia, ensuring continuous administrative functions in a disaster-prone region. Other governments have separated administrative centers from their economic hubs with varying degrees of success, with some examples being Brazil’s creation of Brasília, as well as Korea’s projected move from Seoul to Sejong.

What is most interesting to note from prior examples is that these newer branched-out cities are non-surprisingly, heavily government-centric. In Brasília, roles tied to the government make up nearly 40% of all jobs, while in Sejong, a lack of facilities like public transit and commercial mall space cause many to commute into Sejong for government work, instead of permanently settling in the area. Given the semi-undeveloped nature of East Kalimantan, these anecdotes are quite troubling if the government is actually moving to North Penajam Paser or Kutai Kertanegara.

These facts raise the question of economic impacts of such governmental moves. In fact, one may even opine that while these moves do allow for governmental growth, ultimately, they may hurt the country economically due to a divestment between both government and economic hubs. In this specific instance, it is most important to analyze the impact of such a move on Indonesia’s startup economy, as the nation is one the world’s leaders in startup growth.

Indonesia’s startup economy

Indonesia has emerged as a startup hub within Southeast Asia in recent years, with its population of over 260 million marking it as the world’s fourth-most populous country. Additionally, Indonesia’s mobile-first population has enabled the full embrace of the internet era, with 95% of all internet users in Indonesia connected to the web via a mobile device.

Similarly, startup growth has boomed in the island archipelago, with several Indonesian-based unicorns disrupting local, regional, and global economies. Softbank-backed ecommerce giant Tokopedia is currently in talks for a pre-IPO funding round, while emerging super-app Gojek controls significant portions of the ride-sharing industry in Asia, simultaneously expanding into separate industries to include digital payments, food delivery, and even video-streaming. Additionally, online travel portal Traveloka (in which Expedia has a minority stake) has recently entered the financial services space, furthering its impact within Asia. These specific examples of high-growth startups demonstrate a population hungry for innovation, further driving the developing startup economy.

 


0

SoftBank pumps $2B into Indonesia through new Grab investment, putting it head to head with Gojek

11:32 | 29 July

Grab — the on-demand transportation app that is the Uber of Southeast Asia — today announced yet another investment on top of the $7 billion that it has raised to date. SoftBank is putting another $2 billion into the business, earmarked for a specific use: Grab is going to invest $2 billion into its operations in Indonesia — the biggest economy in Southeast Asia — over the next five years.

Specifically, it will be using the money to modernise the country’s transportation infrastructure with the development of an electronic vehicle “ecosystem”, new geo-mapping solutions, and the establishment of a second headquarters for Grab in Jakarta focused on R&D for Indonesia and the wider region, to sit alongside its existing HQ in Singapore.

“With our presence in 224 cities, Indonesia is our largest market and we are committed to long-term sustainable development of the country,” said Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab, in a statement. “We are delighted to facilitate this SoftBank investment, as we believe by investing in digitizing critical services and infrastructure, we hope to accelerate Indonesia’s ambition to become the largest digital economy in the region and improve the livelihoods of millions in the country.” Indonesia accounts for the lion’s share of Grab’s business in terms of total footprint: its in 338 countries overall, meaning this country accounts for two-thirds of the whole list.

The deal will put Grab head to head with another big on-demand transportation startup Gojek: the two were already rivals in the region, but GoJek is based out of Jakarta and has been the dominant player in that specific market up to now.

Indeed, the deal is notable not just for the size of the funding, but for how it casts both Grab and SoftBank as allies of the government, not just accepted as businesses but endorsed as key players in helping improve the Indonesian economy and how the country is able to deliver critical services like healthcare and transportation, as well as give more services to drive the growth of “micro-entrepreneurs” by way of Grab-Kudo, the payments startup in the country that Grab acquired in 2017 for less than $100 million.

Given the track record that companies like Uber have had in locking horns with regulators, this puts Grab immediately into a strong position in terms of introducing and running with new services in the future. Its restaurant delivery business, GrabFood, is already the largest in the region, it claimed today.

Grab said the investment was the result of a meeting between Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group, Anthony Tan, CEO of Grab and Ridzki Kramadibrata, President of Grab Indonesia, at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta.

“Indonesia’s technology sector has huge potential,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank Group, in a statement. “I’m very happy to be investing $2 billion into the future of Indonesia through Grab.”

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan also had words supporting the deal: “Supported by the growing economy, Indonesia has a good investment climate where we are working together to boost the ease of investment in Indonesia,” he said. “This investment is evidence that Indonesia has been on the radar of investors, especially in the technology sector. We look forward to working with Grab, the fifth unicorn in Indonesia, and SoftBank to empower SMEs, accelerate tourism, and improving health services.”

We have asked Grab how and if this investment affects the company’s valuation. It last raised money just four weeks ago, $300 million from Invesco as part of a larger, ongoing Series H that it wants to use in part for acquisitions. That round is already at around $4.5 billion, with SoftBank having already put in just under $1.5 billion. This $2 billion is on top of that previous round, the company said today.

The company’s last reported valuation from a couple of months ago was around $14 billion.

This deal is a win on a couple of levels for Grab.

Most obviously, it’s giving the company a huge injection of capital to continue expanding its business aggressively in what is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, with GDP of around $1 trillion annually.

A well-worn strategy by on-demand transportation companies — typified by others like Uber, Lyft and Didi — is to go big and go fast in order to establish a market presence among drivers and passengers, which can be used as a foothold to expand into other areas like food or package delivery and to then increase prices to improve margins.

Given that Indonesia is Gojek’s home country, and given that Indonesia is one of the biggest markets in the region, this makes it one of the most important territories for Grab to — err — grab.

“Grab is an Indonesia-focused company,” said Ridzki Kramadibrata, president of Grab Indonesia, in a statement today. “Having our second headquarters in Jakarta will allow us to better serve the needs of all Indonesians and those from emerging economies in the region. As a technology decacorn, Grab very well understands the needs and challenges we have here. We are also well positioned to support more high tech industries and infrastructure companies originating from Indonesia.”

On another front, this is an important strategy for the company on the regulatory and government front.

In a climate where it’s not unusual to see companies banned from operating in markets where they have run afoul of officials and the public, Grab is essentially buying its way into working with the state, and actually taking a commercial role in building its infrastructure. This — offering help with building infrastructure and simply passing on some of its experience and learnings — is a route that Didi has also been taking to make its way into new markets.

Grab said that it has invested $1 billion to date in Indonesia before now, and it said that its contribution to the economy in 2018 was $3.5 billion (48.9 trillion Indonesian rupiahs).

 


0

Google’s Indigo subsea cable is now online

18:43 | 30 May

Google and its partners today announced that the 5,600-miles-long INDIGO subsea cable, which connects Sydney and Perth with Jakarta and Singapore, is now ready for service. To build the cable, which will significantly strengthen the connectivity between Australia and Southeast Asia, Google partnered with AARnet, Indosat, Singtel, SubPartners and Telstra.

The cable, which features about 110 repeaters, will have a total design capacity of 36 terabits per second with the option to expand in the future. Google says that’s more than enough to handle a few million simultaneous Hangout (or Meet) video chats between Singapore and Sydney.

The cable was first announced in 2016, when it was still called APX-West and didn’t include the extension to Sydney, which is now called Indigo Central. Google joined the efforts in early 2017 and construction started in 2018.

Indigo is a good example of Google’s expanding network of submarine cables. Typically, the company builds those with partners — and even occasionally competitors — but last year, for example, it also announced that it would build its own cable between the U.S. and France, the company’s fourth private cable.

Quite a few of the cables Google invested in in recent years are scheduled to go online in 2019, so chances are we’ll hear a bit more about the company’s efforts in this area in the coming months.

 

 


0

Indonesia restricts WhatsApp and Instagram usage following deadly riots

12:12 | 22 May

Indonesia is the latest nation to hit the hammer on social media after the government restricted the use of WhatsApp and Instagram following deadly riots yesterday.

Numerous Indonesia-based users are today reporting difficulties sending multimedia messages via WhatsApp, which is one of the country’s most popular chat apps, while the hashtag

is trending among the country’s Twitter users due to problems accessing the Facebook-owned photo app.

Wiranto, a coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, confirmed in a press conference that the government is limiting access to social media and “deactivating certain features” to maintain calm, according to a report from Coconuts.

Rudiantara, the communications minister of Indonesia and a critic of Facebook, explained that users “will experience lag on Whatsapp if you upload videos and photos.”

Facebook — which operates both WhatsApp and Instagram — didn’t explicitly confirm the blockages , but it did say it has been in communication with the Indonesian government.

“We are aware of the ongoing security situation in Jakarta and have been responsive to the Government of Indonesia. We are committed to maintaining all of our services for people who rely on them to communicate with their loved ones and access vital information,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

A number of Indonesia-based WhatsApp users confirmed to TechCrunch that they are unable to send photos, videos and voice messages through the service. Those restrictions are lifted when using Wi-Fi or mobile data services through a VPN, the people confirmed.

The restrictions come as Indonesia grapples with political tension following the release of the results of its presidential election on Tuesday. Defeated candidate Prabowo Subianto said he will challenge the result in the constitutional court.

Riots broke out in capital state Jakarta last night, killing at least six people and leaving more than 200 people injured. Following this, it is alleged that misleading information and hoaxes about the nature of riots and people who participated in them began to spread on social media services, according to local media reports.

For Facebook, seeing its services forcefully cut off in a region is no longer a rare incident. The company, which is grappling with the spread of false information in many markets, faced a similar restriction in Sri Lanka in April, when the service was completely banned for days amid terrorist strikes in the nation. India, which just this week concluded its general election, has expressed concerns over Facebook’s inability to contain the spread of false information on WhatsApp, which is its largest chat app with over 200 million monthly users.

Indonesia’s Rudiantara expressed a similar concern earlier this month.

“Facebook can tell you, ‘We are in compliance with the government’. I can tell you how much content we requested to be taken down and how much of it they took down. Facebook is the worst,” he told a House of Representatives Commission last week, according to the Jakarta Post.

 


0

Vertex Ventures hits $230M first close on new fund for Southeast Asia and India

18:30 | 16 May

Tis the season to be raising in India and Southeast Asia. Hot on the heels of new funds from Strive and Jungle Ventures, so Singapore’s Vertex Ventures, a VC backed by sovereign wealth fund Temasek, today announced a first close of $230 million for its newest fund, the firm’s fourth to date.

Vertex raised $210 million for its previous fund two years ago, and this new vehicle is expected to make a final close over the coming few months with more capital expected to roll in. If you care about numbers, this fund may be the largest dedicated to Southeast Asia although pedants would point out that the Vertex allocation also includes a focus on India, echoing the trend of funds bridging the two regions. There are also Singapore-based global funds that have raised more, for example, B Capital from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Back to Vertex, it’s worth recalling that the firm’s third fund was its first to raise from outside investors — having previously taken capital from parent Temasek. Managing partner Chua Kee Lock told Bloomberg that most of those LPs signed on for fund four including Taiwan-based Cathay Life Insurance. Vertex said in a press release that it welcomed some new backers, but it did not provide names.

The firm has offices in Singapore, Jakarta and Bangalore and its most prominent investments include ride-hailing giant Grab, fintech startup InstaRem, IP platform PatSnap and Vision Fund-backed kids e-commerce firm FirstCry. Some of its more recent portfolio additions are Warung Pintar — which is digitizing Indonesia’s street kiosk vendors — Binance — which Vertex backed for its Singapore entity — and Thailand-based digital insurance play Sunday.

One differentiator that Vertex offers in Southeast Asia and India, beyond its ties to Temasek, is that there are connections with five other Vertex funds worldwide. Those include a new global growth fund, and others dedicated to global healthcare as well as startups in Israel and the U.S.

Others VCs operating in Southeast Asia’s Series A/B+ bracket include Jungle Ventures, which just hit first close on a new fund aimed at $220 million, Openspace Ventures, which closed a $135 million fund earlier this year, Sequoia India and Southeast Asia, which raised $695 million last year, Golden Gate Ventures, which has a third fund of $100 million, and Insignia Ventures, which raised $120 million for its maiden fund.

Growth funds are also increasingly sprouting up. Early stage investor East Ventures teamed up with Yahoo Japan and SMDV to launch a $150 million vehicle, while Golden Gate Ventures partnered with anchor LP Hanwha to raise a $200 million growth fund.

 


0

Brankas wants to bring Southeast Asia’s banks and e-commerce into the digital era

10:04 | 7 May

Fintech continues to be among the biggest topics driving startups and investment in Southeast Asia. The region’s ‘internet economy’ is forecast to grow massively as its 600 million people increasingly come online — already Southeast Asia more internet users (350 million) than the U.S. has people but developing a robust payment landscape underpins those heady growth forecasts.

Beyond the most prevalent consumer brands — such as ride-hailing giants Grab and Go-Jek — and the outsiders pouring money into the region — including Tencent and Alibaba — fintech startups take a different approach to other parts of the world. Unlike Europe or the U.S, where disruption is the name of the game, Southeast Asian fintech is about third parties working with the system to make it more efficient and wide-ranging. That’s because credit card ownership is low double digits, and transfers from bank accounts — which aren’t universally operated by all consumers — represent an estimated [PDF] half of all online purchases.

The most visible niches attracting investor attention and capital is the data-play — companies that operate as super aggregators of financial services, such as insurance or loans — but there’s also an increasing number of startups that enable banks to kickstart their digital strategy.

Brankas, an Indonesia-based startup that operates regionally, is one such young company — it operates a platform that gives banks and financial companies the tech to roll out digital products and embrace online services.

The company takes its cue from Western success stories — U.S-based Plaid (a Disrupt alum no less) is valued at $2.65 billion while, in Europe, Tink and Bud have both raised big sums from investors — to offer a service that essentially provides the digital plumbing to ease Southeast Asia’s financial incumbents into the digital era.

“What we’re doing is similar to banking API infrastructure,” Brankas CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer told TechCrunch in an interview. “The difference being that in Southeast Asia it is very early days and little to no regulation.”

A selection of the Brankas team with CEO and co-founder Todd Schweitzer (seated fourth from right)

Former management consultant Schweitzer founded the startup in 2016 with Kenneth Shaw, his former classmate in California who had been CTO of Southeast Asian online marketplace Multiply.com. They describe themselves as “now longtime Southeast Asia residents.”

Brankas — which means safe in Indonesia’s Bahasa language — graduated Plug And Play’s first incubator in Southeast Asia and it grew from being a service managing multiple bank accounts to a platform that digitizes banking. Today, it is headquartered in Jakarta with 25 staff — 15 of whom are engineers — across that office and another in Manila, Philippines.

The company raised an undisclosed investment from investors, including Singapore fintech fund Dymon Asia, earlier this year and now its founders have their eyes on growth.

The service is currently operational in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Schweitzer said the plan is to expand to Thailand and Malaysia around the middle of 2019.

“We are excited to partner with Todd and Kenneth as they build out open banking infrastructure in the region. Brankas enables seamless connections between financial institutions, merchants and fintechs. This is critical for the next stage of growth of the digital ecosystem in Southeast Asia,” Dymon Asia partner Chris Kaptein told TechCrunch.

So what does the plumbing service for financial organizations actual entail? Brankas focuses on two distinct audiences at this point: banks and financial companies, and companies providing online services, predominantly e-commerce.

For banks, Brankas uses its APIs and systems to essentially slot new services into their platform.

Schweitzer said banks are aware that they need to offer “more open” services. Even in the event that they can figure out what that means in terms of product, they typically don’t have the in-house team to build and manage the tech stack, let alone make it “productized” — i.e. usage by their customers.

“Banks here in Southeast Asia aren’t investing in consumer banking,” he explained,” because the bulk of their revenue comes from traditional corporate lending.”

Brankas co-founder Kenneth Shaw (left) and Todd Schweitzer (right)

For those using banks and collecting money from consumers, the end play is different. The challenges are often similar. For example, most consumers in Southeast Asia use bank transfers to pay for online. That works for collecting payment in theory, but there is no system that optimized for that — actually making sure the correct amount money is in from the correct customer.

Schweitzer recalled a story of how he visited an unnamed (but high profile) e-commerce company’s office and noticed “a whole floor of people who hit refresh on online banking systems to figure out who had made the transfer.”

The Brankas system helps handle that local complexity, and other areas like direct payouts without middlemen, or batched and real-time payments for gig workers and others who receive daily payouts. Other products in the pipeline include credit scoring, a much-needed resource across the region.

To date, Brankas has picked up partnerships with six banks in Indonesia, three in the Philippines and one in Vietnam, where it is in talks to add others. Schweitzer said it has “dozens” of customers across e-commerce, consumer finance and insurance verticals. The startup is also a part of Indonesia’s Open API Sandbox hosted by the country’s Central Bank.

“Today, we address the domestic, non-card payments market in ASEAN,” he told TechCrunch. “That includes everything from bank transfer fees to domestic remittance fees, POS merchant fees, payment aggregator fees and more.”

That alone, he estimates, is worth $7.8 billion in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Then there’s the rest of the region to factor in, too.

 


0

Ride-hailing firm Grab is losing its CTO

15:46 | 24 April

Grab is once again on the hunt for a CTO after Theo Vassilakis, the former Microsoft and Google executive who currently occupies the role, announced that he will leave the ride-hailing company this summer.

Vassilakis became Grab CTO in October 2017, ending a very long search to fill the job, but he explained in a LinkedIn post that he is leaving the Singapore-based firm, and Southeast Asia, for family reasons.

My family and I moved to Singapore in late 2017 when I joined Grab. Living and working in Southeast Asia has been an adventure that broadened our horizons and will always be in our hearts. Unfortunately, our personal circumstances have changed unexpectedly and we’ll need to spend most of our time outside the region — mostly in the south of China for the foreseeable future.

Following his exit on June 30, Vassilakis will remain an advisor to Grab, with a specific focus on “coaching our senior tech leaders and shepherding our ongoing AI and marketplace optimization efforts.” He said that he will be involved in finding and hiring his replacement.

While it will lack a ‘group CTO,’ Grab does have CTOs for its transport and financial business units — Mark Porter and Vikas Agrawal, respectively — while head of product and design Jerald Singh will be involved in filling the void. Grab’s first CTO was Wei Zhu, who is credited with creating Connect with Facebook, but he left in 2015 after just a year and later sued over alleged unpaid earnings.

Under Vassilakis’ leadership, Grab massively increased its tech presence. The company now has seven R&D offices — Bangalore, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Seattle and Singapore — and it claims to have doubled its headcount in 2018. Grab said in December that it is projected to add a further 1,000 “tech roles” this year.

The company has also expanded from merely transportation services to on-demand services, apps from third-parties via its ‘platform’ strategy, and payments and financial services.

Grab has also become the largest tech company in Southeast Asia by some margin in the eyes of investors. The company was most recently valued at $14 billion when it raised nearly $1.5 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in March. To date, Grab has raised and the company said earlier this month that it plans to pull in $2 billion more from investors this year to battle rival Go-Jek, make acquisitions and develop its ‘super app’ strategy.

 


0

Boeing is moving to address potential issues in new 737s as Europe bans its plane

22:54 | 12 March

In the wake of the second fatal crash in six months involving Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes, the European Aviation and Safety Administration is grounding the planes as Boeing said it was taking additional steps to address an issue that may have contributed to the crash.

On Sunday, a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed just minutes after takeoff killing all 157 on board the flight. Last October, a Lion Air flight departing from Jakarta crashed in similar circumstances killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved was also a 737 Max 8.

Responding to the incidents, the European Union Aviation and Safety Administration has banned the plane from operating in European airspace.

Here’s the statement from the EASA:

Following the tragic accident of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is taking every step necessary to ensure the safety of passengers.

As a precautionary measure, EASA has published today an Airworthiness Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all flight operations of all Boeing Model 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX aeroplanes in Europe. In addition EASA has published a Safety Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all commercial flights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU of the above mentioned models.

Meanwhile, Boeing has issued a statement saying that it has been developing a software update following the Lion Air crash. “This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training.”

Essentially, faulty sensors may have been to blame for the Lion Air crash. “The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority,” Boeing said in a statement about its software update.

Essentially, the sensors think the plane is stalling and they apply an opposite remedial action which trims an airplanes down, Flying Magazine columnist and small-plane pilot Peter Garrison tells me. It then takes enormous force from the pilots to hold the nose up, rendering them unable to address the problem, he adds.

“Once you are holding on to the controls for dear life you don’t have any hands left to correct the problem,” says Garrison. “You expect that confronted in an emergency the pilot will analyze what’s happening and act accordingly. Human beings don’t necessarily panic, but they lose their ability to reason clearly and to weigh alternative hypotheses when they are under basically what is a threat of death. Even though it may seem obvious that all you have to do is interrupt the autopilot, amazingly that may not occur to a pilot who is hundreds of feet off the ground and has to pull back on a control yoke with hundreds of pounds of force.”

According to Garrison, the blame on Boeing may be misplaced.

“People like to talk about this as the airplane is defective and they’re correcting it with software,” he says. “That’s all nonsense. Planes today are a mix of automatic systems — and by automatic I of course mean digital electronic systems and mechanical ones — and the natural aerodynamics of the airplane and you can’t separate these.”

If Boeing had made any mistakes, Garrison believes it was in the company’s inability to adequately communicate the problem to pilots and get them ready for taking action in the event of a malfunction.

Even in perfectly designed systems, the transition from automated controls to manual manipulation is difficult to achieve, says Garrison. “It’s not that hard to understand that automation does not make a smooth interface with human control. There’s a break there and it’s a dangerous break,” he said.

Here’s an explanation from Business Insider over the latest thinking around the Lion Air crash that provide further detail.

At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 Max is MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. To fit the Max’s larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737. This change disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the Max to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.

Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation, however, indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off. Observers fear that a similar thing may have happened in Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines flight.

“Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks,” the company said in a statement. “The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.”

Boeing expects the update to be completed across its fleet by April.

In the interim, U.S. politicians have been pleading with the Federal Aviation Administration to take the same steps that countries including the entire European Union, China, Ethiopia, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the operators Norwegian Air, Aeromexico, Gol Airlines from Brazil, the South Korean airline Easair, the South African airline, Comair, and others from around the globe.

No less an authority on aviation than President Donald Trump has also weighed in on the crashes and attendant controversy.

Setting the President’s calls to return aviation to the early part of the 20th century aside, several aviation administrations and airlines have grounded the Boeing 737 Max.

So the FAA is among the only civil aviation administrations in the world to keep the Boeing 737 Max 8 airborne.

“An FAA team is on-site with the NTSB in its investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available,” the FAA said in a statement yesterday.  “The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the safety performance of U.S. commercial aircraft.  If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

A spokesperson for the administration said there were no other statements from the Administration available at this time.

Earlier today, politicians from both sides of the aisle — including the Republican Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Democratic Senator and Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren — pleaded with the FAA to reverse their decision, according to Politico.

“Today, immediately, the FAA needs to get these planes out of the sky,” Warren said Tuesday.

Even former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who grounded the 787 Dreamliner back in 2013 is calling for the FAA to pull the new 737s out of service.

That’s not just the view of this columnist. It’s also the opinion of Ray LaHood, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation who grounded the 787 Dreamliner following fires in its lithium-ion battery packs in 2013.

“The flying public has to be assured that these planes are safe, and they don’t feel that way now,” LaHood told Bloomberg. “The Secretary of Transportation should announce today that these planes will be grounded until there is 100 percent assurance from Boeing that these planes are safe to fly, because unless they can give that assurance they’re not holding up their promise to be the top safety agency in the U.S.”

Such a move could be bad for Boeing. The 737 is Boeing’s most popular aircraft and the heart of the company’s fleet.

The company has been struggling to keep up with demand for its newest model of the 737, according to reports in the Seattle Times. And the new plane was Boeing’s best seller, keeping the stock buoyant.

A report from National Public Radio showed just how robust sales were for the new aircraft. It’s the fastest-selling plane that Boeing has ever produced. Expectations from executives were for the Max model to account for 90% of all 737 deliveres in 2019, according to a statement from the company’s chief financial officer, Gregory Smith, NPR reported.

Boeing stock is down nearly 6% in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

 


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CEO of Rappler, a media company critical of the Philippines government, is arrested

07:02 | 14 February

There’s serious concern around press freedom in the Philippines after Maria Ressa, the CEO of independent media company Rappler, was arrested last night.

Ressa, who was CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and then Jakarta prior to starting Rappler in 2011, was arrested on cyber libel security charges for an article published in 2012, according to Rappler. The article in question centers around alleged links between Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona and wealthy businessmen around the time of his impeachment.

Wilfredo Keng, a Chinese-born Filipino named in the article, filed a lawsuit in protest at reports that he lent the justice a vehicle and allegations linking him to illegal activities. The National Bureau of Investigation last year concluded it had grounds to file a criminal complaint around the libel claim. That’s despite the fact that the law used to prosecute Rappler and Ressa was passed months after the story was published.

Rappler reports that Ressa, a Time Person Of The Year, was denied bail and spent the night in prison.

Rappler has made its name for its forward-thinking digital-first reporting but also, in no small way, for reporting criticism of controversial President Rodrigo Duterte. Elected in 2016, Duterte has made international headlines for policies that include a violent war on drugs while his diplomatic controversies have included homophobic slurs against diplomats and calling then U.S. President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.”

Duterte has clashed with Rappler regularly. He has accused it of being funded by the CIA and regularly referred to its reporting as ‘fake news’, while Ressa has regularly spoken out against the President in international circles. In a 2016 Bloomberg interview, she detailed how the Duterte administration had turned Facebook into a “weapon” and utilized “patriotic trolling” to silence critics online.

This is far from the first threat to Rappler’s business. Last year, the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked its registration for an alleged breach of the country’s constitution.

The SEC’s issue centered around the ownership of Rappler. The company has taken investment from Omidyar Network, the philanthropic fund from former eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and North America-based media fund North Bridge Media, which counts Quora and Disqus among its portfolio.

Philippines law forbids any overseas ownership of media companies, but Rappler claims its investors used a Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) to invest. PDRs don’t provide voting equity or board membership, making them a vehicle for media investments in the country. National broadcaster ABS -CBN is among others to have used them.

There’s plenty of cause for concern over media freedom in Southeast Asia. Two Reuters reporters in Myanmar were arrested in December 2017 and later sentenced to seven years in jail for handling state secrets. The duo, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, published an investigation that exposed the execution of 10 Rohingya men by Buddhist villagers and members of the national army.

 


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