Things That Matter

14-Year-Old Latina Student Developed Technology Allowing People To Ask Alexa Immigration Questions In English And Spanish

Alexa, am I allowed to get a driver’s license? Alexa, how long does it take to get a visa? These are the kinds of questions immigrants are now able to ask the virtual Amazon assistant in Spanish and English, thanks to “Immigration Bonds,” an Alexa Skill created by a 14-year-old Latina.

Suguey Carmona, a high school student at KIPP Brave High School in Austin, Texas, developed an Alexa Skill that allows English- and Spanish-speaking immigrants to get answers to questions related to their rights.

Carmona first developed an interest in coding after taking a computer class in the sixth grade. She then joined Hello World, a K-12 computer science program based in Austin and San Francisco. She became exposed to different programming languages and discovered a way to meld her love of coding with an idea to help out immigrant families in her community.

The 14-year-old set out to help her own friends and family with this app.

I chose to work on this technology because I see my own friends and family who have questions and who are struggling to make a living, and I thought maybe I should do something about it,” Carmona, whose family is from Mexico, told NBC News.

Carmona’s technology helps create a judgement-free safe zone for people to ask questions freely.

Language barriers and lack of access to information can be a major source of confusion for immigrants and can prevent them from accessing the services they need, according to numerous studies. Carmona’s technology addresses those challenges by providing a judgment-free zone to ask questions at people’s pace and in their own language.

The teen worked on everything, from research to coding, to develop “Immigration Bonds.”

After interviewing people about their most pressing immigration questions and conducting research on the logistics of obtaining paperwork, finding employment and navigating other areas of life as an immigrant, Carmona began working on the technology, which she named “Immigration Bonds.” And so began a monthslong process paved with coding challenges. “I’d work on it for hours each day,” Carmona said. “I’d start a new paper and it would crash and break and I’d be like, ‘Oh, shoot. Now I have to start over again.”

Sabina Bharwani, the founder of Hello World, said that her team assisted Carmona on her app but they also let her struggle, which “made all the difference” when the teen was successful.

“Suguey struggled to use the Alexa interface, which is usually used by developers with 10-15 years of experience,” Bharwani said. “It was a steep learning curve, but when she mastered it, it meant more.” Throughout this time, Carmona experimented with different ways to present the technology. She said she wasn’t sure if she wanted it to be a video game for children or a phone app, but she ultimately decided on issuing it as an Alexa Skill because she liked “how you didn’t need certain keywords for it to work.”

Alexa would reply no matter what you respond,” Carmona said. “The problem with text boxes is that if you don’t put in certain words or phrase things a certain way, it won’t read it and that can make it really complicated for people who are trying to use it to get answers.”

After developing a prototype, Carmona tested the technology with her friends and family and made adjustments as she saw fit.

Once Alexa users download ”Immigration Bonds,” they can ask Alexa questions directly, as they would for Apple’s Siri or other voice-automated technology. For example, if a person wants to know whether they can apply for a driver’s license depending on their immigration status, the app will respond by asking them where they live, for example, so that it can provide the user details based on their geographical location, as laws differs by state.

Latinos are vastly underrepresented in computer science.

Latinos in computer science (aka. coders) only make up 7 percent of the STEM workforce, according to a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center. And at Google — one of the largest tech companies — only 1.4 percent of its new tech hires in 2019 were Latina and less than 4 percent were Latino. This is why stories like Carmona’s  draw attention to the importance of endeavors like Hello World and Computer Science Education Week — which recently took place globally from Dec. 9-15 — which foster students’ interest in computer science.

Those who are interested can download the “Immigration Bonds” app on the Alexa Skills store on the Amazon website.Though the technology was published in the Amazon app store earlier this year, Carmona plans to keep adapting it and eventually publish it as an Apple app too.

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Parler Is Back Online But All Traffic Is Being Routed Through Russian Servers

Things That Matter

Parler Is Back Online But All Traffic Is Being Routed Through Russian Servers

Photo Illustration by Thiago Prudêncio / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Parler, the alt-right social media platform, is back in business. Of course, the app is not supported by American companies. The app is now running all of its information through Russian servers.

Parler is running again thanks to the help of Russian servers.

Parler faced quick discipline after the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The social media platform was one of the key tools organizers of the riot used to organize and mobilize. Amazon, Apple, and Google all stopped carrying Parler, essentially ending the social media platform’s ability to keep running. Parler tried to sue Amazon Web Services to pick up the app again to allow it to continue but a judge ruled against the platform.

“The court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in,” U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote in the order. “At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favors granting an injunction in this case.”

The Russian-backed servers are only providing partial support but it’s a slippery slope.

Parler has hired DDoS-Guard, is a Russian digital infrastructure company that threw the platform a lifeline. While the server is only providing a defense against denial-of-service, critics are concerned that it still poses a significant risk. All of the traffic on Parler is going through those servers leaving the users vulnerable to Russian surveillance.

“Now seems like the right time to remind you all—both lovers and haters—why we started this platform,” reads Parler’s current homepage. “We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential … We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon.”

DDoS-Guard has a history of working with racist and far-right groups.

CEO John Matze is confident that the app will be fully restored by the end of January. The social media app has been banned and dropped from major American tech companies after the insurrection. Amazon will not restore the app but the app has said that they retrieved their info from Amazon.

READ: Latino Congressman Lou Correa Fights Back at Insurrectionist Trump Supporters Who Harassed Him at a D.C. Airport

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A Brazilian Photographer Is Documenting Indigenous Tribes In The Amazon

Culture

A Brazilian Photographer Is Documenting Indigenous Tribes In The Amazon

ricardostuckert / Instagram

Indigenous tribes are the most important connection between man and nature. These tribes have lived off the land before modern society and many have never interacted with modern society. Ricardo Stuckert is going through and documenting the indigenous Amazonian tribes in Brazil.

Ricardo Stuckert is photographing indigenous tribespeople in the Brazilian Amazon.

The indigenous community is something sacred that most people agrees should be protected. They are more connected to the land than we are. Their customs and traditions are more ingrained in this world than ours are and it is so important to protect them.

The indigenous community of Brazil has been subjected to horrible attacks and conditions from the Brazilian government.

One of the most widespread attacks against the indigenous Brazilians living in the Amazon has been for the land. President Jair Bolsonaro has tried to take land away from the indigenous communities to allow for logging and mining. A bill he sent to the congress sought to exploit the land for commercial purposes, even legalizing some of the attacks we have seen on indigenous people since President Bolsonaro took power.

Stuckert wants to preserve the indigenous culture and customs through photos.

“I think it is important to disseminate Brazilian culture and show the way that native peoples live today,” Stuckert told DailyMail. “In 1997, I started to photograph the Amazon and had my first contact with the native people of Brazil. Since then, I have tried to show the diversity and plurality of indigenous culture, as well as emphasize the importance of the Indians as guardians of the forest. There are young people who are being born who have never seen or will see an Indian in their lives.”

The photographer believes that using photography is the best way to share culture.

“I think that photography has this power to transpose a culture like this to thousands of people,” Stuckert told DailyMail. “The importance of documentary photojournalism is to undo stigmas and propagate a culture that is being lost. We need to show the importance of indigenous people to the world, for the protection of our forests.”

You can see all of Stuckert’s photos on his Instagram.

Stuckert’s work to documented the indigenous community is giving people an insight into a life many never see. Brazil is home to about 210 million people with around 1 million having indigenous heritage. The diverse indigenous community of Brazil is something important to showcase and that’s what Stuckert is doing.

READ: Indigenous Photographer Diego Huerta’s Photos Of Oaxaca’s Indigenous People Celebrates Their Beauty

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