In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
An MLM company that claims to be Asia’s largest online survey company, does not even have an office address or a telephone number but is offering to ‘pay’ $10 just for filling out online surveys
Speak Asia Online, which claims to be based in Singapore, is spreading its multi-level marketing (MLM) wings in India under the pretext of online surveys. As is usual in any MLM scheme, this company also makes big claims about earnings, but fails to provide any documentary evidence for the same.
The company asks new customers or subscribers to pay $120 (standard) or $220 (premium) for becoming a panellist for one year. However, it says the fee is for its e-bulletin for one year. It clearly says: "You can remain a panellist and earn from Speak Asia only as long as your subscription to E-Bulletin is in force." This means, before earning a single penny, you need to pay the company upfront. After the one-year period, one needs to renew the subscription. There is no mention of renewal fees.
Speak Asia Online sends its surveys mostly on Wednesday to all subscribers. Each survey takes around 40 minutes to complete. It says: "The first eight weeks are treated as a training period and the company provides you feedback on incorrectly filled surveys." After that period, any incomplete or incorrect surveys are rejected and the company does not pay for it.
The company assures that it will make the payment in local currency through direct bank transfers. The catch here is that one has to pay bank transfer charges of 3% or minimum $7.5 per payment. In case you have earned $10 for the month, you would get payment of $2.5 only, as $7.5 from the total payment would get deducted as bank transfer charges.
Speak Asia Online says it provides income in reward points (one reward point is $1). It awards up to seven reward points per week for a standard panellist and 20 reward points to a premium panellist. It offers survey income as well as passive income that one earns by adding more people into a down-line. However, for the next day's incentive calculations, it does not consider the weaker line. It says: "Weaker leg is flushed out whereas the stronger leg is always carried forward for next day's incentive calculation."
Although the company offers to pay for filling out surveys online, it fails to mention that for doing this job one requires minimum knowledge of English and the Internet.
Speakasiaonline.com is hosted in the US on the GoDaddy.com server and the hosting services will expire on 21 January 2011. Besides that, there is no information available on the domain, its owners, their addresses and contact details.
The company website does provide links for all countries and major cities but directs all queries to its Singapore address only, which neither has a telephone number nor any email ID. Except India, the so called 'good income business opportunity' does not exist for other countries.
According to a complaint posted on India-complaints.com, this company has changed its name three times over the past five years and is blacklisted for non-compliance in Singapore.
Its website, speakasiaonline.com does have a link for legal documents but provides the legal documents not of the company but generic documents from the Customs Department, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and so on.
Speak Asia Online shows no evidence about the legality of its business or any registration certificate issued by government authorities. All the company can show as evidence is a registration certificate issued by the Singapore government. The issuing authority of this certificate, Registrar of Companies and Businesses, however, has clearly stated that the certificate of good standing or any of its contents shall not be reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted or otherwise distributed in any way without prior permission of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), Singapore.
In addition, there is no mention of its promoter or top management on the site. In fact, there are no names on the website. All one can see is just names of its 'dealers' and their bank account numbers.
The Indian Railways is testing the anti-collision system with only two of the original four devices planned for each train, ostensibly to save money. But this could compromise its performance, preparing the ground for the purchase of expensive foreign technology
The Indian Railways is conducting field adoption tests for its indigenously developed and patented anti-collision device (ACD). But the man who invented the technology says that the manner in which the trials are being conducted, it appears there is a plan to scuttle the devices, in order to buy some new, perhaps more expensive technology.
It has been reported that with an aim to save costs, the Railways is planning to remove the ACD from the guard van and the mid-section of the locomotive, as well as doing away with the repeater ACD tower. According to Rajaram Bojji (better known as B Rajaram), former managing director of Konkan Railway who also invented the ACD technology, such a move would seriously compromise reliability and availability of inter-communication between ACDs, rendering them incapable of delivering assured protection to trains on double lines and at level crossing gates. Removing the ACDs from the guard van and the mid-section would affect the working principle of the system as it is a network of four ACDs combined. “With only two ACDs instead of four, the devices are compromised to a lower level of performance,” he said.
“Cutting down 50% of the ACDs in the network reduces the ACD functionality and integrity very severely. Rear-end collisions and upgrading to moving block systems, operational unpredictability of cutting and joining train units at stations, are scenarios that are addressed by the provision of the guard ACD,” Mr Bojji explained.
“Actually there are 550 dimensions in the software simulation and without taking into account the impact, administratively taking such a major decision is truly amazing. That means, what is being tested is not the proven ACD of the North Frontier (NF) Railway, but experiments for some new product with degraded functionality and performance,” he said.
The Indian Railways is relying heavily on the track circuits and not on the ACDs in the guard van. “A non-interlocked working system will seriously affect ACDs and its presence would be nullified. Latency in communication will also delay the decision-making in the ACD. So removing the guard ACD and building up reliance on track circuits seriously compromises the integrity of the ACD network,” the former chief of Konkan Railway said.
To adopt the proven ACD system on electrified multiple lines, two issues need to be studied: One is how to fit the equipment in locomotives and guard vans, and two is about how the locomotive electronics and ACD systems interact without interference with each other. Some shielding and earthing issues need to be addressed, Mr Bojji said.
He said that the reception of the global positioning satellite (GPS) under traction wires was already proven in surveys conducted in these areas earlier, but that could be one more item to look at again.
The ACD can be mounted on the locomotive using non-conductive fibreglass with self-locking. As far as fixing the track ID for the multiple electrified lines was concerned, he said, sometimes it could be challenged purely on the deviation count, but this could be solved with the supplemental RFID tags and mounted readers that was provided in the ACD software.
Anti-collision devices (ACDs) are microprocessor-based, communication-capable, GPS-enabled compact devices with special world-recognised, intelligent, self-deducing capability that require no human inputs, but draw strength from networking with each other—mounted on locomotives, at stations, the last vehicle, at level crossing gates and other vulnerable locations.
Earlier, the Indian Railways had decided to adopt the European technology Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) on busy rail routes to avoid collisions.
What is needed today to solve the problems of the poor is not so much esoteric technology but first and foremost clear logic as to where the problems lie. Most poor get deprived of what they should get because of corruption, and not lack of identity
The UID programme has been launched without any legal and constitutional sanction for it as yet. In the name of the poor, a huge amount of money is being spent.
And, in spite of severe criticism from rights organisations including warnings by eminent academicians such as Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, no action of reviewing the project has been taken.
The main argument of the UID that it will help plug leakages in NREGA and PDS is fallacious.
Consider these two videos from the ground:
(MREGA corruption video)
(Villagers expose corrupt dealer)
The first video shows how the supervisor who is in charge of the NREGA programme takes a bribe to mark the attendance of the workers.
It is not that the workers don't have a form of identification. They do have a job card. Their work does not fetch them anything unless their attendance is marked, and for that they have to depend on the supervisor. And the supervisor asks a bribe for it. UID or for that matter no amount of identification can solve this problem.
Consider the second video which is about PDS. Here the ration shop owner charges more money for the grain. Here too, lack of identification is not the problem, and hence UID will be of no good to solve this problem.
If one goes by estimates done by various sources, the leakage in the government schemes due to fake cards is about 8% to 10% - a miniscule part of the whole lot of leakages. In the case of PDS for instance, most leakages do not take place at the last mile as per the UIDAI hypothesis; instead it is the big corrupt sharks who are involved in siphoning grains before they reach the ration shop itself.
Thus, it is clear that not enough study is conducted by UIDAI in concluding that lack of identification is the real problem. No wonder, there was no independent impact assessment study of what the UIDAI project can lead to, which if done, the above problems would have been revealed. This begs the question - is the amount to be spent on UIDAI in the name of plugging of leakage of government aid justified?
A cost-benefit analysis would have given the right answers.
Jean Dreze, who conceived NREGA, has said that the UID project is a security project camouflaged as a welfare initiative.
The examples shown above reveal that the UIDAI project will not be able to plug other than minor forms of leakages from the government aid programmes; further, that too at huge costs and many other negative fallouts.
Also, some of the technological choices made by the UIDAI project may just be not the best ones available, but in fact could be counterproductive.
A recent report based on a multi-year study by the US-based National Research Council states that biometrics are inherently unreliable for authentication as a replacement for other forms of authentication.
The reasons given are as follows:
First of all, biometric authentication is called "inherently probabilistic." That is, the match between sample and master record will always include some uncertainty - no matter how good a sample, the sensor reading the sample and the information technology system matching the sample to a master record.
Among the reasons for that uncertainty is the nature of biometric identifiers themselves. Human bodies and the features on them aren't necessarily constant over time.
Also, biometric identifiers, while difficult to duplicate on the body of another person, are still available for surreptitious collection through fingerprint gathering, as per the report. It concludes that an imposter could be detected by a human operator administering the biometric authentication system, but that "significantly constrains remote or distributed applications of biometrics."
The report doesn't dismiss the possible usefulness of biometric authentication, however, noting that in combination with other methods, it can augment security at least in applications "where user cooperation can be inferred."
Interestingly in the case of UIDAI, none of the above cases apply. Specifically, the human operator says the ration shop owner administering the biometrics in the case of UIDAI should be considered an adversary as he would himself have interest in stealing the biometrics of the ration card holder.
Further, he operates in a remote area where what he does is not visible to the authorities unlike say in a setting such as an international airport.
Thus, he could probably design a number of ways of beating the authentication process of biometrics. It is precisely these kinds of use case scenarios that haven't been thought through thoroughly by the UIDAI folks.
Another argument given by the UIDAI authorities is that of inclusion, and that 120 million migrants have no form of identity.
Consider the following scenario: A genuine migrant with his home town from Azamgarh moves to Delhi and goes to a bank there for a loan. Since his permanent address is not Delhi, banks could deny him a loan. In fact, instead, he might be put on a terror watch list. Is there a guarantee that his UID won't be used against him, in fact to exclude him rather than for inclusion?
All the above issues point out that Aadhaar is using lack of identity as a myth to justify its spend. Remove the myth and Aadhaar stands bare, without any justification other than mainly as a national security project and for purposes of targeted marketing, linking data, tracking and surveillance, and yes, some amount of convenience due to easy check of one's identity.
What is needed today to solve the problems of the poor is not so much esoteric technology but first and foremost clear logic as to where the problems lie. Most poor get deprived of what they should get because of corruption, and not lack of identity. The bull of corruption needs to be taken by the horns and not by the tail which Aadhaar tries to do.
Secondly, the poor should be made aware of their rights, and empowered to tackle corruption. As is shown in the two videos (linked above), if at all technology should be used, it should be stealth cameras which should be given to the poor free; instead Aadhaar fetters the poor by taking their biometrics.
(The author has a B Tech from IIT Bombay, and a PhD from Columbia University, New York. He currently runs a start-up, Teknotrends Software Pvt Ltd that does cutting-edge work in the area of network security).