Friday news roundup March 12, 2021
Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee warned of a growing digital divide. Berners-Lee is calling on governments to provide universal broadband by 2030. He says coronavirus has highlighted the importance of internet connectivity as a basic right. Over the last 12 months he says, the web “has proven to be a lifeline that allows us to adapt and carry on.” But, one-third of young people do not have any internet access and many more lack the quality of connection needed to work or learn from home, the need for which has made the digital divide between the haves and have-nots much clearer. Berners-Lee warns it is a global problem, not just a developing world issue.
The UNDP called for a temporary basic income to help the world’s poorest women cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. A new UNDP report says a temporary basic income (TBI) given specifically to hundreds of millions of women in the world’s developing countries could prevent rising poverty and widening gender inequalities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Women have been hit harder than men by the pandemic, losing income and leaving the labor market at a greater rate, while also taking on a greater share of care work. The UNDP report says a TBI, financed by a monthly investment of 0.07% of developing countries’ GDP, could provide reliable financial security to 613 million working-aged women living in poverty, alleviating the economic pressures they face day-to-day. By supporting women in this way, the authors argue the TBI could also help narrow the gap between men and women who live in poverty by providing women with economic independence and a more even balance of the control of economic resources within the household.
Exports and imports from Britain to the EU plunged during the first month of the country’s new trade relationship with the bloc, according to data published by the ONS on Friday. Exports of goods to the EU, excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals, slumped by 40.7% in January, the ONS said. Imports fell by 28.8%. The ONS says the weak figures likely reflected a lull after stockpiling in November and December ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period, while a new national coronavirus lockdown also started in Britain in January. “All of these are potential contributing factors to the fall in January trade in goods,” the ONS said. Britain’s overall goods trade deficit, including non-EU countries, narrowed to £9.826 billion ($13.70 billion) in January from £14.315 billion in December.
Compulsory romance lessons for college students were mooted at a political conference in China. Other social proposals such as punishing people who abandon their pets and ending compulsory English lessons were made by delegates at the Chinese people’s political consultative conference (CPPCC). While much of the focus at the conference was on high-level geopolitical and national announcements, the suggestions for social policies drew online attention. With China facing an aging population, declining birth and marriage rates, and rising divorce rates, CPPCC delegate Yu Xinwei proposed compulsory lessons in colleges to strengthen “emotional education” in relationships. “Most college students’ understanding of emotions and sex stays at the physiological sexual health knowledge,” says Yu. “When facing emotional or romantic setbacks they are prone to be rabid, get out of control, even commit crime.” A related hashtag on social media has been viewed almost half a billion times, and reposted 22,000 times.