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Cinq sujets passés sous le radar en 2018

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1. L’Afghanistan, une guerre oubliée

« C’est la plus longue guerre des États-Unis », rappelle François Brousseau, chroniqueur d’actualité internationale à Radio-Canada. Mais alors qu’on en a parlé abondamment pendant les premières années après l’intervention américaine, depuis quelque temps, il y a un phénomène de lassitude médiatique qui s’est installé, pense le chroniqueur.

Même si le pays est encore fréquemment secoué par des attentats meurtriers, c’est « une guerre oubliée » par la majorité des médias occidentaux.

Pourtant, quelque 16 000 soldats de l’OTAN et des milliers d’Américains sont encore sur place pour tenter de consolider la fragile démocratie afghane que les pays occidentaux soutiennent à coup de milliards de dollars.

L’Afghanistan est un des grands échecs des Occidentaux dans ce qu’on voulait être l’exportation de la démocratie et la fabrication de la paix après la guerre.

François Brousseau, chroniqueur d’information internationale à Radio-Canada

Les talibans ont repris une importante partie du territoire et contrôlent aujourd’hui près de la moitié du pays.

Cependant, croit Julien Tourreille, chercheur à la Chaire Raoul-Dandurand de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018 sera peut-être une année charnière. « Les autorités afghanes, et même l’administration Trump, sont un peu plus ouvertes que par le passé à l’idée que les talibans soient reconnus comme une force politique incontournable qu’on ne peut pas simplement chasser du pays. »

2. Le Mali, exemple des conflits à venir?

Un militaire malien, monte la garde, en treillis militaire, son arme à la main. Un soldat malien monte la garde devant le quartier général de la force conjointe du G5 Sahel, à Sévaré, le 30 mai. Photo : Getty Images / Sebastien Rieussec

« Le Mali et le Sahel représentent l’avenir tant des conflits que des interventions, croit Bruno Charbonneau, directeur du Centre FrancoPaix de la Chaire Raoul-Dandurand, dans la mesure où ce qui se passe dans cette région est directement lié aux effets des changements climatiques. »

L’Afrique de l’Ouest est fortement dépendante des pluies pour la culture et l’élevage du bétail. La sécheresse qui sévit depuis plusieurs années entraîne une diminution de la superficie des terres fertiles, alimentant ainsi les hostilités latentes, affirme le chercheur.

Dans un contexte où les mécanismes de résolution de conflit, c’est-à-dire les structures de l’État, sont absents, ça peut éclater à tout moment.

Bruno Charbonneau, directeur du Centre FrancoPaix de la Chaire Raoul-Dandurand

Pour la communauté internationale, il y a donc une leçon à tirer de cette situation, qui risque bien de se répéter dans d’autres régions fragiles : « il faut être proactifs plutôt que réactifs », croit-il.

3. L’inévitable montée en puissance de la Chine

Le président chinois Xi Jinping Le président chinois Xi Jinping Photo : The Associated Press / Mark Schiefelbein

Ce n’est pas un phénomène nouveau, mais il est devenu incontournable en 2018.

L’influence de la Chine dans le monde s’est encore amplifiée au rythme de ses investissements dans les ressources naturelles, en Afrique, mais aussi en Amérique latine, ce qui suscite des réactions du côté des Américains, qui n’apprécient guère de voir évoluer les Chinois dans ce qu’ils considèrent être leur pré carré.

En Europe aussi, les investissements chinois se multiplient, que ce soit en République tchèque, au Portugal ou en Grèce, notamment dans le port du Pirée, qui appartient à l’entreprise chinoise Cosco Shipping Ports.

La Chine s’affirme ainsi en tant que puissance planétaire.

« C’est l’illustration d’une vraie compétition », précise Julien Tourreille.

Parallèlement à cette grande ouverture commerciale, sur le plan interne, les autorités chinoises répriment toute dissidence d’une poigne de fer. « On revient dans les années Mao, croit François Brousseau. On surveille les gens et on les fiche en mettant à profit les récentes découvertes en matière de reconnaissance faciale. »

« Xi Jinping veut démontrer qu’on peut avoir la prospérité et le progrès économique jusqu’à être les premiers dans le monde, mais sans la démocratie », affirme M. Brousseau.

4. En Ukraine, une guerre gelée

Des hommes en tenue de camouflage blanche avancent dans la neige avec un char d'assaut en arrière-plan.Des soldats ukrainiens participent à des exercices tactiques près du village de Goncharivske, dans la région de Chernihiv, près de la frontière russe, le 3 décembre 2018. Photo : Getty Images / SERGEI SUPINSKY

Le récent incident maritime en mer d’Azov entre des navires russes et ukrainiens a brièvement remis dans l’actualité ce conflit, qui est au point mort depuis quatre ans.

C’était la première confrontation militaire ouverte entre Moscou et Kiev depuis l’annexion de la Crimée par la Russie, en février 2014.

Hormis cet accrochage, l’Ukraine a à peine fait les manchettes ces derniers mois, même si les escarmouches et les affrontements se poursuivent sans relâche.

C’est une guerre gelée et oubliée, jamais officiellement déclarée, mais qui a fait 10 000 morts.

François Brousseau

La souveraineté ukrainienne sur les régions de Donetsk et de Louhansk, qui ont proclamé leur indépendance en 2014, n’a jamais été rétablie.

5. Les améliorations mondiales

Une fillette accroupie par terre reçoit une dose de vaccin oral.Un travailleur de la santé afghan administre le vaccin contre la polio dans la banlieue de Jalalabad, en Afghanistan, le 6 novembre 2018. Photo : Getty Images / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA

Les médias ont tendance à ne rapporter que les catastrophes et les conflits, mais il faut aussi souligner ce qui va bien dans le monde, croit François Brousseau.

La faim recule un peu partout, tout comme la mortalité infantile.

Malgré tout, on vit mieux sur la planète qu’on n’a jamais vécu.

François Brousseau, chroniqueur d’information internationale à Radio-Canada

Selon les données du Programme des Nations unies pour le développement (PNUD), on observe une tendance globale à l’amélioration continue du développement humain depuis 1990. L’espérance de vie s’est allongée de presque sept ans à l’échelle mondiale et les enfants d’âge scolaire peuvent prétendre à 3,4 années de scolarisation de plus.

Les niveaux moyens de l’Indice de développement humain (IDH) ont augmenté de 22 % un peu partout dans le monde et de 51 % dans les pays les moins développés depuis 1990.

« C’est un drame pour chaque individu qui le vit, mais si on regarde les statistiques froidement, il y a moins de gens souffrant de malnutrition qu’auparavant », remarque François Brousseau.

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Canadian Tech Calling: Moon and Mars and Mobile Phones

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Canadian technological know-how is helping develop reliable mobile communications for next-generation space missions, including manned missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

With many eyes here on Earth now focused on Mars, following the successful journey of ‘Percy’, the roving space exploration vehicle more formally known as Perseverance that is now cruising the Martian landscape, the continued role of Canadian researchers and technologists in space exploration has also drawn more attention.

A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University is working to make LTE/4G and Wi-Fi communications systems on the Moon a reality, along with others in the U.S. and Canada, under the umbrella of the Artemis Program at NASA.

That project will see the return of human beings to the Moon by 2024, and then to the surface of Mars after that.

As part of those efforts, NASA selected Nokia Bell Labs to build a test network and communications infrastructure to build interoperability standards among future cellular and Wi-Fi networks, so that all types of devices can be connected and support Artemis.

The network must provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including command and control functions; real-time navigation and remote control of surface rovers; as well as the streaming of high definition video, applications that are all vital to long-term human presence on a lunar or planetary surface.

“It sounds like far-out stuff, building networks on the Moon, Mars and even further out in our solar system,” says Stephen Braham, the director of the PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking at SFU. “But we’re actually testing Nokia’s technology right now.”

SFU’s PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking is doing some of that work at its Exploration Wireless Communications testbed at Vancouver’s Harbour Centre, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

“(This is) what will allow us to build the ladder of technology standards needed to get cellular networks off Earth and into the solar system,” Braham said in a statement.

NASA and the CSA handed that critical testing to Braham and the scientists at PolyLAB, the Canadian component of what’s called the Exploration Wireless Communications (ExWC).

“Before space agencies can adopt these technologies, we need to prove we can operate between multiple vendors and different agencies, which is why NASA and CSA supports the ExWC testbed,” he continued.

The ExWC testbed launched back in 2018, testing high-speed wireless communications systems for space use, including 5G-forward LTE solutions and advanced Wi-Fi.

The SFU radio transmission systems, in the lab and on masts in the mountains in B.C. and the Yukon, are tested with various vendors and leading telecom providers, such including Vancouver-based Star Solutions and Sierra Wireless, another local company, as well as international telecommunications firms like Nokia.

Braham and associate professor Peter Anderson, who directs the SFU Telematics Research Laboratory that includes PolyLAB, both have extensive track records working on communication systems for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

It includes extensive research on very early cellular and Wi-Fi networks in the Canadian High Arctic, where advanced field communications systems were set up to support the SETI Institute and Mars Institute-lead NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) up on Devon Island. 

That’s where Braham and his team tested the technology (developed in Canada) that became a big part of modern Wi-Fi, LTE, and now 5G technology, in order to meet up-front needs on human lunar missions if not all manned space flights.

From those early beginnings, the SFU team has now worked with other collaborators for the ongoing design and development of Canada’s prototype lunar/Mars surface communication networking systems, specifically the ExoMars rover, including Canadian space technology company MDA and the Canadian Communications Research Centre.

Braham is also an Associate Member on the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), supporting CSA during discussions and development of international standards for computing, networking, and communications in space. He also worked for many years as a member of the CSA’s nine-member Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC), providing community leadership and representation in aspects of human space exploration in Canada.

But, when space agency officials announced recently that a Canadian will be aboard when NASA returns to the Moon in 2023, well, Braham was not named as that astronaut.

Nevertheless, with his and his team’s help, that astronaut will make Canada the second country in history to have someone travel into deep space and fly around the Moon.

And maybe use a mobile phone to call us and tell us all about it.

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Canadian Consumer Coalition Calls for Affordable Internet on National Day of Action

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 16, a national day of action will be staged by Canadian consumer advocates, social justice groups, telecom policy experts, digital activists, and independent ISPs, or Internet Service Providers.

In a series of scheduled virtual events, there will be calls for the federal government and telecom regulators to take action and ensure affordable Internet and wireless services are available to all Canadians.

The free online event is open to the public, and planners and scheduled participants in the Day of Action for Affordable Internet hope consumers themselves will them in urging a range of actions be taken by the federal government, the CRTC and the country’s Competition Bureau.

Advocating for a more affordable Internet will be: ACORN Canada; Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship; activist and author Cory Doctorow; Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law Michael Geist; The Internet Society Canada Chapter; OpenMedia; Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Ryerson Leadership Lab; Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic; and TekSavvy Solutions.

And while a lack of competition has long been cited as a reason for high prices in Canada, the fact that a majority of subscribers stick with the ‘Big Three’ is also a stumbling block to leveling the playing field, at  least price-wise.

Canada’s Competitive Network Operators, a trade organization made up of Internet and telecommunications service providers that own/operate telecommunications networks across the country, is also fighting for a fair Internet pricing and accessibility structure.

Pandemic Pressures

Affordable Internet activists point out that, throughout the current COVID-19 crisis, reliable and affordable connectivity became even more essential. So did many things, in fact: many we had never deemed as so important, relevant or even as noteworthy as high speed Internet.

“The affordability and accessibility of the [I]nternet has never been more critical,” says Franca Palazzo, one of the event participants and the executive director of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. “More than ever, we are being asked to work, learn and connect online.”

While it is true that many of our fellow Canadians are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic, and they struggle, the coalition says, to pay some of the highest telecom bills in the world (while others can’t even get high-quality reliable connections), it is also true that many of us are using our high-speed connections more than ever with no increase in cost or decrease in service as a result of our pandemic-related stay-at-home, work-at-home or school-at-home activities.

The big three providers in Canada – Bell, Rogers and Telus – are among those companies that lifted data caps on cable and fibre-based residential Internet services; it’s a corporate goodwill gesture made as a result of pandemic and public pressures. The caps have been lifted until the end of June, where and when possible. (The Liberal government has directed the country’s largest telecom providers to cut specific cellphone prices in general.)

Not everyone is eligible for the pandemic discounts, however: some folks still using cellular (where, for example, high speed networking is not available) for their Internet connections are unable to get discounts because, the telecoms say, bandwidth and capacity would be threatened if caps were removed from cellular service.

“The digital divide in Canada is sometimes portrayed as exclusively a rural-urban divide,” says Sam Andrey, the director of policy and research at Ryerson Leadership Lab, where research and analysis into Internet usage is conducted. “But even in Canada’s largest cities, there are persistent gaps in access to digital services, devices and affordable [I]nternet at sufficient speeds that map onto other socioeconomic inequities, including income, age, race and ability,” he adds.

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Brim Financial Raises $25M Series B to transform the way people bank and shop

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TORONTO, March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Brim Financial (Brim), a Canadian next-generation Fintech company and certified credit card issuer, today announced the close of a $25M Series B, co-led by Desjardins Group and US-based EPIC Ventures with strong participation from Canadian and US based investors including goeasy Ltd., White Owl and Impression Ventures.

Brim’s state-of-the-art technology stack and credit cards infrastructure leverages the company’s ability to directly access the payment rails as an issuer, enabling Brim to deliver a fundamentally transformative ecosystem of financial products for consumers and businesses.

The Series B financing will bolster Brim’s Platform as a Service (PaaS). Brim’s B2B2C strategy enables any bank, credit union, fintech or large commercial partner to seamlessly roll out Brim’s financial products platform, credit cards and integrated buy-now pay-later solutions, mobile and digital banking, and behavior-driven customer engagement, all embedded with a best-in-class globally open loyalty and rewards ecosystem available in real-time at all merchants worldwide. With Brim’s Platform as a Service, partners have the ability to customize every element of the platform and leverage Brim’s end-to-end services, on a modular and turnkey basis.

Our technology stack powers banking, loyalty and integrated e-commerce on a single platform, with the customer experience at the center of it all” said Rasha Katabi, CEO and Founder of Brim Financial. “Today’s digital environment has brought a new sense of urgency for institutions to assess how they will interact with their customers. We are well positioned to be at the forefront of this transformation that’s shaping the way we live, connect and engage for decades to come, and we’re excited to be working with investors who share the same vision.”

Brim has expanded beyond the direct-to-consumer space enabling large partners to leverage their digital first platform, suite of credit cards and financial products, and a globally open rewards and e-commerce ecosystem. Brim seamlessly integrates buy-now pay-later capabilities in all of its revolving consumer and business credit card products, providing ultimate flexibility for customers with a uniquely and strongly differentiated ecosystem.

“We’re thrilled to be part of Brim’s next chapter. There is tremendous potential in the industry, both in Canada and in the US, and Brim is uniquely positioned to deliver a significant and much needed transformation.” said Ryan Hemingway, Managing Director at EPIC Ventures. “Brim is combining banking and commerce like we haven’t seen in North America.”

Merged with its scalable technology platform, Brim has the largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem as Brim’s technology stack directly leverages the global payment network. Brim’s Loyalty and Rewards are live at all points of sale globally, both in physical stores and online.  Any merchant can be live and part of the ecosystem in less than 3 minutes.

“Brim’s platform delivers industry-leading payments technology to their customers at an astonishing pace,” Martin Brunelle, Vice-President, Growth, Acquisitions and Development at Desjardins Group.  “Desjardins has earmarked $100 M to invest in technology companies and investment funds who can support our different business units in their digital transformation needs.  We’re very excited to be partnering with Brim.”

With its platform built entirely from the ground up and directly on the global payment network, Brim is positioned to transform the future of the credit card industry and digital banking products with the world’s largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem. Brim has notably on-boarded hundreds of merchants to its rewards ecosystem since its launch, and rapid expansion will continue to be a key focus for the company going forward.

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