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Revert to type: how Goa’s last typewriter repair shop defied the digital age | Global development

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In Goa’s capital, Panaji, on Rua São Tomé, not far from the main post office, is a shop that offers packaging services. For a small fee, they will wrap your parcel in a sheet of muslin sewn with precise stitches to protect its contents from being damaged in the post.

It started as a sideline to the main business of the store, but now it is the main earner for Luis Francisco Miguel de Abreu as he struggles to maintain one of the last typewriter repair shops in this Indian state.

Inside the shop, several typewriters sit in various states of repair, looking much like museum pieces. There is a Hermes, a Remington and a Godrej Prima, from the Indian manufacturer that was the last company in the world to make typewriters.

Luis Abreu, son of Domingos Abreu and the shop’s current owner.
‘As long as the main door is open, I will have to do it. I prefer to go till the end,’ says Luis Abreu, the shop’s owner. Photograph: Chryselle D’Silva Dias

Abreu, 78, sits in a chair surrounded by paperwork, spare parts and memories. His father, Domingos Abreu, was employed by the US typewriter manufacturer Remington Rand in Mumbai before he moved back to Goa and started his own servicing and repair firm in 1938.

“My older brother wanted to study engineering and there were no schools or colleges here, so he had to go to Portugal,” says Abreu. “You needed good marks and money. I could have also gone but I stayed back to study and help my father in the shop.”

When his father opened the shop, Goa was still controlled by Portugal, which colonised the territory in 1510 and held power until 1961. “We moved here, to this location, I think, in 1953,” says Abreu. “At that time there was nothing here. We had one muddy road here with horses and bullock carts. There was one restaurant selling rice, curry and vegetables, no fish.”

Today the state is a busy tourist desitnation, where there is a trendy restaurant or fish curry joint on every street and selfies being taken at every colourful doorway.

In December 1961, the last ship left Goa for those who wanted to return to Portugal after it was annexed by the Indian military and the state became part of the republic. “We got the news that the João de Lisboa [a Portuguese warship] had come and whoever wants to go [to Portugal] can go,” says Abreu. “I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to leave my establishment and my father.”

The shop, named Domingos Abreu after Abreu’s father, was the bustling go-to place for typewriter sales and repairs. “All the big mining companies – the Dempos, the Chowgules – the government departments, even the military: they all came here,” says Abreu, “But business has stopped now.”

Typewriters were once the backbone of India’s famed bureaucracy. From government offices to law courts, they were the essential symbol of modernisation in independent India.

Professional typists work on a roadside near the stock exchange in New Delhi, India. The country has thousands of professional typists, most working outside the country’s courts and government offices.
Professional typists work in a roadside office near the stock exchange in Delhi. The country has thousands of professional typists. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

Typing and shorthand schools churned out thousands of graduates ready to take on secretarial work. Some of these still exist in rural areas, teaching shorthand along with keyboard skills for computers. “I feel it was a mistake to close the institutes,” says Abreu. “If they had remained open, things might have been different. Many people tell me that our children can’t type fast – they’re typing with one finger; the speed is just not there.”

In the Goan town of Ponda, Milagres D’Costa, 70, has been running D’Costa Commercial Institute since 1977. He offers classes in shorthand and typing for computers and manual typewriters; he has no takers for the latter. “Nobody wants to learn on typewriters now,” he says.

While brands such as Remington and Olivetti were popular in India, Godrej & Boyce made India’s first locally produced typewriters from 1955 until 2011, when the increasing reach of mobile phones and computers made that part of the business obsolete. The lack of new typewriters and spare parts, however, has not dampened the enthusiasm of those who love the sound of the keys. Abreu still gets requests to repair and service machines, and the business enjoyed an increase in customers after the first Covid lockdown was lifted in Goa.

The state is now in a second partial lockdown, which means the workshop is closed. Abreu says Covid has been “a boon and a bane” for his business.

“Everyone was cleaning things during the lockdown and we got several machines to look at,” says Natasha, Abreu’s daughter, who helps out at the shop. “We get clients from all over the country. Many are tourists who come across our shop while walking around. They go home and bring back vintage typewriters that they want to use or keep as showpieces.”

But there is little profit in typewriters. “To secure the dealership of one large company I lost a lot of money,” says Abreu. “The company took a deposit from me but they have now disappeared. There is no refund, nothing.”

Spare parts are also difficult to find, and Abreu’s fading eyesight and other health issues make repairs tricky. “I can do basic repairs,” says Natasha. “Things like changing the ribbon and oiling the parts. The rest is a little more intricate for me to do.” A local man, Anton Rebello, has also been trained to make some repairs.

Luis Abreu typewriter story
A typewriter at Domingos Abreu in Panaji. Spare parts are in short supply. Photograph: Chryselle D’Silva Dias

The parcel service is now the main earner. “What else could we do?” says Abreu. “There were no sales or service [work] so we started packaging. It was a good business at the beginning, but now they have introduced new rules, which mean you have to go to the post office, show what is in the package, declare it for customs, and then stitch and seal the package in their presence. My daughter does that work now.”

But the future is uncertain. “I am only one Luis Abreu. How long can a person continue? As long as the main door is open, I will have to do it. I prefer to go till the end.”

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Privacy proves elusive in Google’s Privacy Sandbox • The Register

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Google’s effort to build a “Privacy Sandbox” – a set of technologies for delivering personalized ads online without the tracking problems presented by cookie-based advertising – continues to struggle with its promise of privacy.

The Privacy Sandbox consists of a set of web technology proposals with bird-themed names intended to aim interest-based ads at groups rather than individuals.

Much of this ad-related data processing is intended to occur within the browsers of internet users, to keep personal information from being spirited away to remote servers where it might be misused.

So, simply put, the aim is to ensure decisions made on which ads you’ll see, based on your interests, take place in your browser rather than in some backend systems processing your data.

Google launched the initiative in 2019 after competing browser makers began blocking third-party cookies – the traditional way to deliver targeted ads and track internet users – and government regulators around the globe began tightening privacy rules.

The ad biz initially hoped that it would be able to develop a replacement for cookie-based ad targeting by the end of 2021.

But after last month concluding the trial of its flawed FLoC – Federated Learning of Cohorts – to send the spec back for further refinement and pushing back its timeline for replacing third-party cookies with Privacy Sandbox specs, Google now acknowledges that its purportedly privacy-protective remarketing proposal FLEDGE – First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment – also needs a tweak to prevent the technology from being used to track people online.

On Wednesday, John Mooring, senior software engineer at Microsoft, opened an issue in the GitHub repository for Turtledove (now known as FLEDGE) to describe a conceptual attack that would allow someone to craft code on webpages to use FLEDGE to track people across different websites.

That runs contrary to its very purpose. FLEDGE is supposed to enable remarketing – for example, a web store using a visitor’s interest in a book to present an ad for that book on a third-party website – without tracking the visitor through a personal identifier.

Michael Kleber, the Google mathematician overseeing the construction of Privacy Sandbox specs, acknowledged that the sample code could be abused to create an identifier in situations where there’s no ad competition.

“This is indeed the natural fingerprinting concern associated with the one-bit leak, which FLEDGE will need to protect against in some way,” he said, suggesting technical interventions and abuse detection as possible paths to resolve the privacy leak. “We certainly need some approach to this problem before the removal of third-party cookies in Chrome.”

In an email to The Register, Dr Lukasz Olejnik, independent privacy researcher and consultant, emphasized the need to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox does not leak from the outset.

It will all be futile if the candidates for replacements are not having an adequate privacy level on their own

“Among the goals of Privacy Sandbox is to make advertising more civilized, specifically privacy-proofed,” said Olejnik. “To achieve this overarching goal, plenty of changes must be introduced. But it will all be futile if the candidates for replacements are not having an adequate privacy level on their own. This is why the APIs would need to be really well designed, and specifications crystal-clear, considering broad privacy threat models.”

The problem as Olejnik sees it is that the privacy characteristics of the technology being proposed are not yet well understood. And given the timeline for this technology and revenue that depends on it – the global digital ad spend this year is expected to reach $455bn – he argues data privacy leaks need to be identified in advance so they can be adequately dealt with.

“This particular risk – the so-called one-bit leak issue – has been known since 2020,” Olejnik said. “I expect that a solution to this problem will be found in the fusion of API design (i.e. Turtledove and Fenced Frames), implementation level, and the auditing manner – active search for potential misuses.

“But this particular issue indeed looks serious – a new and claimed privacy-friendly solution should not be introduced while being aware of such a design issue. In this sense, it’s a show-stopper, but one that is hopefully possible to duly address in time.” ®

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Government plans €10m in funding for green and digital business projects

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The Government and Enterprise Ireland are providing two funds to regional Irish businesses in a bid to help them transition to a greener, digital economy.

The Government has today (29 July ) announced it will provide €10m in funding through Enterprise Ireland to projects supporting digitalisation and the transition to a green economy.

The Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme, worth €9.5m, will provide grant funding to regional and community-based projects focused on helping enterprises to adapt to the changing economic landscape due to Covid-19 and Brexit.

Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland said: “The Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme is aimed at supporting regional development and the regional business eco-system, helping to create and sustain jobs in the regions impacted by Covid-19.”

Grants of up to €1.8m or 80pc of project cost are available to businesses. The projects should aim to address the impact of Covid-19 and improve the capability and competitiveness of regional enterprises.

The call for the Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme will close on 8 September 2021. The successful projects will be announced in October and all funding will be provided to the successful applicants before the end of the year.

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A separate funding scheme, the €500,000 Feasibility Study fund, will provide financial support to early-stage regional enterprise development projects.

Launching the funding schemes, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD said the funds would “help stimulate transformational regional projects to support enterprises embrace the opportunities of digitalisation, the green economy as well as navigate the changed landscape arising from Covid-19.”

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD commented at the launch that the funds would help “build Covid-19 and Brexit resilience and enable applicants to support enterprises and SMEs to respond to recent economic and market challenges which also includes the transition to a low carbon economy, digital transformation and smart specialisation.”

The Feasibility Fund is open to new projects, with grants available of up to €50,000 or 50pc of project cost and will allow promoters to test their project concept and deliver virtual or site-based solutions to their target audience.

Applications for the Feasibility Fund close on 1st October 2021.

For more information and details on how to apply for the funds, see here and here.

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CEOs told to ‘think before they tweet’ after Just Eat spat with Uber | Twitter

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Chief executives are being warned to “think twice before they tweet” after the boss of takeaway company Just Eat Takeaway was told his Twitter spat with Uber threatened to undermine the firm’s reputation.

Jitse Groen this week became the latest in a growing list of chief executives to be rebuked by customers, investors and even regulators over ill-judged tweets.

Cat Rock Capital Management, an activist investor which has a 4.7% stake in Just Eat, highlighted Groen’s Twitter battle with Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi as an example of outbursts that damaged the brand. The investor said Groen’s tweets had partly led to the firm being “deeply undervalued and vulnerable to takeover bids at far below its intrinsic value”.

Earlier this year Groen had a rant at financial analysts on Twitter, claiming that “some can’t even do basic maths”. He tweeted that he was “amazed how bad these analysts have become … All of them mix up definitions. It’s unbelievable.”

Brand and marketing expert Mark Borkowski said Groen’s case highlighted the difficulty executives face when trying to engage with customers on the platform.

“Everyone sees Twitter as a huge marketing opportunity that can drive a business forward, and it really can,” Borkowski said. “But these bosses must stop and think twice before they tweet, as just one misjudged tweet can send their share price plunging.”

Possibly the most expensive tweets ever sent were posted by Elon Musk, the maverick boss of electric car company Tesla, in 2018. The US Securities and Exchange Commission fined Musk and Tesla $20m each after he tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take the company private at $420 a share. The regulator said the tweet, which sent Tesla’s share price up by as much as 13%, violated securities law. As part of the settlement, Musk was ordered to step down as Tesla’s chairman.

Musk’s tweets continued to anger some investors. Pirc, an influential adviser to shareholders including the UK’s local authority pension funds, last year recommended that investors voted against Musk’s re-election to the Tesla board because his tweets posed “a serious risk of reputational harm to the company and its shareholders”.

Pirc said his controversial outbursts on Twitter had cost Tesla millions of dollars in settlements, but Musk easily won the vote, and has continued to tweet several times a day to his 59 million followers.

“Twitter is all about personality,” Borkowski said. “While Musk’s tweets can be very controversial, they fit with his brand. Twitter is perfect for renegades, mavericks and disruptor brands. It’s much harder for well-established brands with solid reputations, if something goes wrong for them they risk damage to their hard-earned brand.

“People now think that to run a successful business, you have to be on social media and every brand has to have a Twitter account,” he said. “The chief executives see that the bosses of their rivals have a Twitter profile, and they feel they have to have one too.”

Borkowski said some bosses have been very successful at building a presence and personality on Twitter, and using their platforms to promote social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement (as well as promote their brand and products).

James Timpson, the chief executive of cobbler Timpson, this week celebrated passing 100,000 followers on his account on which he weaves photos of his colleagues working in shops with posts tackling tax avoidance and prisoner reform.

This week, he responded to Boris Johnson’s proposal to create “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs” of people found guilty of antisocial behaviour with a tweet suggesting offenders should be helped into work instead.

Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, has won praise for using Twitter to successfully pressure the governor of Indiana into revising proposed legislation that had threatened to allow discrimination against gay people on religious grounds.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and Duke University said Cook “effectively framed the debate using social media at a time when opinions were being formed and the impact went beyond the political”.

Borkowski suggested that before chief executives tweet they should “consider whether they have the personality and temperament to get the tone right each time”.

“There is nothing more inelegant than a chief executive going after rivals publicly on Twitter,” he said.

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It was exactly that sort of behaviour that Cat Rock had accused Groen of undertaking. When Uber Eats announced earlier this year that it would take on Just Eat in Germany, Groen lashed out in a tweet directed at Khosrowshahi, accusing him of “trying to depress our share price”.

Khosrowshahi replied that perhaps Groen should “pay a little less attention to your short term stock price and more attention to your Tech and Ops”. That sparked Groen to reply “thank you for the advice, and then if I may .. Start paying taxes, minimum wage and social security premiums before giving a founder advice on how he should run his business”.

Alex Captain, Cat Rock’s founder, said: “The response should not happen on Twitter. It should happen on a credible forum with the facts, data, and analysis that the company has at its disposal.”

A Just Eat spokesperson said: “Just Eat Takeaway.com has a regular dialogue with all its shareholders and we take all their views very seriously.”



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