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What’s a Supercomputer? How US will decide who to punish with China tech curbs

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Supercomputers

Choosing who gets hurt by sweeping new U.S. curbs on selling technology to China will drop in part to what is considered a “supercomputer,” experts told.

Across the Globe, the semiconductor firm on Friday, 7 October started to wrestle with wide-ranging U.S. restrictions on selling chips and chip-making equipment to China.

Shares of chip equipment makers drooped, but industry experts said a new U.S. definition of a supercomputer could be crucial to the new rules’ impact on China.

Supercomputers can be used in developing nuclear weapons and other military techniques, and experts say how to define them has long bedeviled regulators trying to pin down an ever-advancing technological target.

The new American rules define supercomputers broadly in terms of computing power in a defined space: a machine with 100 petaflops – the ability to carry out 100 trillion operations per second – in 41,600 cubic feet, with some other caveats.

Senior government officials said in a media briefing that their intention was to target only China’s most advanced systems that could represent a national security threat to the U.S. rather than commercial activity.

But experts wondered whether Chinese tech giants’ densely packed data centers owned by the likes of Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) or TikTok-owner ByteDance might soon reach supercomputer status based on the new definition, even if that is not what U.S. regulators intended.

“Data center build-outs like Alibaba or ByteDance would have the potential to reach petaflop build-outs,” said CCS Insight chip analyst Wayne Lam.

The new meaning is unlikely to change as industry technology improves. Current-day Chinese supercomputers may one day become the corporate standard, but they will still face the limits imposed Friday to stop any chip made with U.S. equipment or technology from going into China. Companies “may very well run into supercomputing limitations within the next couple of years,” Lam said.

Jack Dongarra, an expert in computer science who helps lead a group called TOP500 that ranks the world’s fastest supercomputers, said he disagreed with the static definition.

“The issue is that the definition of a supercomputer will change over time,” he said by email.

Major Chinese companies with big data centers such as Baidu, Alibaba and ByteDance did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Tencent declined to comment.

The meaning of computing power per cubic foot also may offer room for creative workarounds. For instance, said one expert, use fiber optic cables to tie together immense computing power over a larger space.

“They could spread their supercomputers out over a larger space,” said one chip and data center expert who requested anonymity due to the politically charged nature of the new rules.

“The average supercomputer architect would say, ‘That’s not how things are done!’ But not being able to do it another way breeds a lot of creativity, and willingness to do things differently.”

 

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Economy

Dhaka, New Delhi Forge Vision for Digital and Green Partnership: PM Sheikh Hasina

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sheikh hasina

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced today (June 22) that Bangladesh and India have agreed on a shared vision for a digital and green partnership aimed at ensuring a sustainable future for both nations.

In a joint statement before the media following her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Hasina said, “Both countries endorsed the ‘Vision Statement’ to guide us toward a peaceful and prosperous future. We agreed to have a shared vision for ‘Digital Partnership’ and ‘Green Partnership for a Sustainable Future.'”

The bilateral discussions covered a broad range of topics, including water sharing from common rivers, security, and trade. Hasina emphasized the importance of India as Bangladesh’s major neighbor, trusted friend, and regional partner, highlighting the deep historical ties since Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971.

“Our relations with India are ever-growing at a fast pace,” Hasina noted. “Today, our two sides had very productive meetings where we discussed politics and security, trade and connectivity, the sharing of water from common rivers, power and energy, and regional and multilateral cooperation, among other issues of mutual interest.”

The Prime Minister added, “We agreed to collaborate with each other for the betterment of our people and countries.” She outlined a future course of action aimed at ensuring a smart Bangladesh by 2041 and a Viksit Bharat (Developed India) by 2047.

Hasina mentioned that several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were concluded and renewed, with announcements made for future collaboration. She noted that recent years have seen sustained high-level engagements between the two countries, including visits by the Indian president and prime minister to Bangladesh in 2021 to celebrate significant milestones in Bangladesh’s history.

Reflecting on her own diplomatic engagements, Hasina recalled her last bilateral visit to India in September 2022 and her attendance at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023 as the leader of ‘Guest Country’ Bangladesh. “I am now visiting New Delhi for an unprecedented second time in the same month, June 2024,” she remarked.

Earlier this month, on June 9, Hasina attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new cabinet alongside other world leaders, further underscoring the close engagement between the two nations.

During her current visit, Hasina will also meet with the Vice President and the President of India. She expressed optimism that these meetings will provide deeper insights into enhancing bilateral cooperation.

“This is my first bilateral visit to any country after Bangladesh’s 12th Parliamentary Elections and the formation of the new government in January 2024,” Hasina noted, thanking the Indian government for their warm hospitality.

In her concluding remarks, Hasina paid homage to the Indian heroes who sacrificed their lives during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971, expressing gratitude for India’s contribution to Bangladesh’s independence. She also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Bangladesh at his earliest convenience.

 

 

 

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Govt Aims for Complete Financial Inclusion and Digital Access by 2041

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Smart Bangladesh 2041

The government is committed to achieving complete financial inclusion and fostering a fully inclusive society, ensuring universal access to digital resources by 2041, as part of its vision for a Smart Bangladesh.

An official document presented in Parliament outlines the plan to ensure 100% financial inclusion for all societal groups to build a smart society. The document also envisions the creation of Climate and Disaster-Resilient Smart Villages and Smart Cities, providing equitable access to civic amenities for both urban and rural populations.

The government emphasizes promoting digital access for individuals of all ages, religions, physical abilities, and social classes. It highlights the importance of fostering a digitally tolerant, fair, and inclusive society that embraces diversity.

A key objective is to rank within the top 20 of the Global Cyber Security Index. Last year, Bangladesh advanced 27 places in the National Cyber Security Index (NCSI), prepared by the Estonia-based e-Governance Academy Foundation, rising to 36th position from 85th in December 2020. The NCSI evaluates nations on cyberattack preparedness, cyber events, criminal activity, and major crisis management efforts.

Currently, Greece holds the top spot on the NCSI with a score of 97.10, while the United States and the United Kingdom rank 18th and 19th, respectively. Among Asian countries, Singapore ranks 16th, Japan 34th, Sri Lanka 69th, and Pakistan 70th.

The government is also taking steps to promote a culturally rich society through active participation in economic and governmental activities. Initiatives have been launched to make the languages of Bangladesh’s ethnic groups and the Bengali language more technology-friendly.

One such initiative is the development of ‘Sathik,’ the first Bengali spell checker for AI-based misspelling detection and accurate word suggestion. Additionally, ‘Janamat,’ a Bengali sentiment analysis software, has been created to analyze daily news and public opinion on social media.

A smart universal keyboard for writing all languages, including minority languages, has been developed, along with a conversion software to prevent the breaking of Bengali words across different platforms.

In honor of International Mother Language Day 2024 and in memory of language martyrs, three AI-based Bengali language software—Bangla Text to Speech ‘Uchcharan,’ Bengali Speech to Text ‘Katha,’ and Bengali OCR ‘Barna’—along with a new Bengali font ‘Purno,’ have been introduced.

These initiatives reflect the government’s commitment to leveraging technology for inclusive development and cultural preservation as part of its vision for a Smart Bangladesh by 2041.

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NBR loses hope of receiving returns from 40% of TIN-holders!

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As the gap widens between the number of Bangladeshis with Tax Identification Number (TIN) and those who have actually submitted returns, the country’s revenue authority seems to have accepted the fact that around 40% of TIN-holders may not file their returns this fiscal year.

Currently, there are 1.4 crore TIN-holders in the country, but a significant number of them – about 67 lakh – have not submitted tax returns as of 31 May, according to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) data.

A senior official from the NBR’s income tax department, wishing not to be named, told the news reporter, “We believe that around 40 lakh TIN-holders will not submit their returns.”

The official said, “Two months ago, we submitted a report to NBR Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, explaining the reasons for the decline in return submissions.”

The NBR appears uncertain about how to address these non-compliant TIN-holders. When asked, the official said no decision has yet been made regarding them.

“Once a TIN is registered, it cannot be cancelled arbitrarily. The provision for suspending someone’s TIN due to a lack of income in the 2023-24 budget has had limited impact,” he added.

The income tax department’s report, reviewed by the news reporter, identifies various reasons for many TIN-holders not submitting tax returns. It suggests that out of 67 lakh people with TIN who did not file returns, 54 lakh likely refrained due to these reasons.

Those who obtained TIN solely for purposes for which TIN is mandatory such as land sales and specific services are unlikely to submit their returns. Similarly, marginal traders who acquired a mandatory TIN for trade licence but whose businesses have since ceased are also unlikely to file returns.

Additionally, factors contributing to non-submission include death, extended periods of no taxable income, lack of awareness, situations where there is no requirement to show proof of submission of returns, and the extension of tax-free income limits which exempt many taxpayers from their tax obligations.

Besides, permanent departure from Bangladesh, closure or dissolution of companies, taxpayers residing abroad, issuance of duplicate TINs to the same individual, and insufficient information in the TIN database were also identified as major factors.

Taxpayers can submit their returns at any time during the fiscal year. The NBR extended the return submission deadline to 31 January this year.

Those who do not meet this deadline may still submit their returns later, either by paying a fine or by applying for an extension.

An analysis of the NBR report reveals that approximately 10 lakh TIN-holders have acquired new TINs and are required to file their returns in the upcoming fiscal 2024-25.

About 5.28 lakh obtained TINs due to requirements related to land sales. Additionally, 3.75 lakh were compelled to obtain TINs for services from various offices.

Approximately 3 lakh individuals did not file returns due to lack of awareness, and over 2.5 lakh belong to the marginal trader category who obtained TINs for trade licences but whose businesses went bust later.

There are around 2.5 lakh TIN-holders who are deceased, and more than 2 lakh people with TIN with no taxable income also did not file returns.

Over 2 lakh individuals who purchased savings instruments up to Tk2 lakh did not submit returns.

Returns for more than 11 lakh TIN-holders are unavailable due to various other reasons mentioned above.

Approximately 1.37 lakh companies registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC) have not submitted returns.

Experts recommend removing TINs from the NBR database for individuals who will not be able to submit tax returns due to logical reasons.

Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute (PRI), told the news reporter, “TINs belonging to individuals unlikely to file tax returns, such as those deceased or with other logical reasons, should be excluded from the NBR database.”

Additionally, for individuals without taxable income but who are required to file returns, there should be a straightforward and efficient filing process, he said.

Highlighting the need for a legal solution, Mansur said, “In other countries, although cancellation of TINs is challenging, automated management systems facilitate streamlined processes through established procedures. However, achieving similar efficiency is considerably difficult in our country.”

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