Nigeria Ready To Lead In Digital Technology – Buhari

L-R ( Minister of Communication and Digital Economy Mr Isa Pantami meets with President Muhammadu Buhari and Microsoft President, Brad Smith).

 

President Muhammadu Buhari says Nigeria is ready to lead in digital technology and is poised to welcome more initiatives and investments in the sector.

The President said this on Friday at the statehouse in Abuja when he received the President of the Microsoft Corporation, Mr Brad Smith, in the company of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy Mr Isa Pantami.

Buhari also appreciated Microsoft for the $200 million African Development Centre set up in Lagos.

Giving his remarks, the Microsoft President said the company plans to train five million Nigerians in the future, noting that 60,000 people have already enrolled for the courses while another 300,000 have completed some courses.

“I have been informed that the African Development Centre in Nigeria is Microsoft’s first engineering hub in Africa as the current investment stands at about $200 million.

“I have also been informed of Microsoft’s skilling initiative that aims to train five million citizens and provide 27,000 jobs over the next three years. These initiatives are commendable and I urge you to expand them and continue to prioritize Nigeria as you roll out your global initiatives,” President Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

President Buhari told the visiting Microsoft team that as the largest economy and most populous country in Africa, Nigeria was positioned to play a strategic role in the global technology ecosystem and seek the right partnerships to harness the potentials.

He said one of such key partnerships was in the area of capacity building.

This administration, according to the President, has shown great commitment in providing a conducive environment for investors and the massive jump in the Global Ease of Doing Business Ranking was proof that the efforts were yielding positive results.

“Our emphasis on the development of our Digital Economy has also positioned the sector as a prominent factor in the Nigerian economy. As the fastest growing sector of the Nigerian economy in 2020, the Information and Communications Technology sector played a very important role in supporting our country to exit the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are keen to build on the momentum as we continue to implement our National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, along with other related policies,” the President said.

See the photos below.

 

FG Restates Commitment To Transform Economy Through Digital Innovation, Tech

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami (File Photo)

 

The Federal Government has restated its commitment to transform the country’s economy through digital innovation and information technology.

Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isah Ali Pantami, disclosed this on Tuesday when he commissioned the newly established Muhammadu Buhari Information Technology Innovation Hub in Katsina State.

Pantami who described the hub as an incubation centre where ICT talented youths will be trained and mentored on new innovations in ICT for them to become job providers and contribute to the nation’s economy explained that the project is part of the Federal Government’s policy on the National Digital Economy Policy on strategy.

Read Also: Focus More On Talents Not Certificates, Pantami Tells Youths

Pantami further described digital innovation and digital entrepreneurship as two major prerequisites to digital economy and requirements for establishing and building a successful digital economy globally.

He observed that all the leading nations of today which comprise Europe, Switzerland, Asia, South Korea, China, USA and UK excelled, became stronger and successful with digital innovation and Digital entrepreneurship, adding that the world economy had moved from being dominated by those in the oil and gas sector to those in Information and Communication Technology.

“Katsina State is blessed with talents because its indigenes had on several international occasions or competitions been emerging as the global best.

“What we need is to provide them with enabling environment, the mentorship, and the support they need to be successful and by extension make the country more successful,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari assured people of the state of the government’s readiness to continue to encourage youths to embrace Information Technology, adding that 60 per cent of the current population of the state (7 million) are under the age of 30.

He announced that the civil servants now consume nothing less than 90 per cent of whatever federal allocation is coming to the state hence the need to engage youths in the area of ICT.

He, therefore, assured residents that the newly commissioned IT hub would be put into good use under the state Institute of Science and Technology.

Infinix Empowers Young Talents, Breaks Records In Smartphone Market

 

Infinix is Empowering Young Talents, Setting and Breaking Records in the Smartphone Market.

As smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life today, consumers are actively searching for the best brand to suit their daily tech needs, thanks to technology’s growing advancement. Infinix mobility has been rolling out products ranging from mid-end to high-end devices with carefully crafted designs and unique selling points. With every new device rolled out being a step further in keeping consumers on-trend and up-to-date.

The brand set out to empower several young entrepreneurs in the #EmpoweredByInfinixNote8 campaign. The campaign winner won a million naira for business investment while other entrepreneurs had access to free business training programmes. This grant and initiative helped these young business owners upscale and brand their businesses.

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Taking advantage of the Turn Up Friday Show to empower young talents once again, Infinix rewarded a dance challenge winner with the sum of ₦200,000.

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As a way of rewarding fans for their loyal support through the years, Infinix rewarded fans in the Mega Jackpot Promo with amazing prizes from raffle draws after purchasing select models in their product range. The Mega Jackpot winner turned out to be a welder from Ilorin state who went home with a car worth 7 million naira.

 

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The mobile market seems to be expanding, but Infinix is steadily setting the pace in Nigeria and even in Africa. In May last year, Infinix unveiled the Note 7 in a peculiar online launch featuring celebrities in the entertainment industry. The event was marked with humour and fun while still maintaining focus on the distinctive features of the phone. It was what you could probably call the best online smartphone launch in Africa.

Not too long after that, Infinix launched the first celebrity limited edition device with Davido Note 8 Limited Edition. The launch of this device was another record set as the device was the first to be launched on a celebrity talk show, Rubbin Minds with Ebuka, in Nigeria.

 

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Infinix broke the Guinness World Records for the most people in an online rapping video relay towards the tail end of last year. It involved several entries from various rap enthusiasts across the globe displaying their talents and incorporating punchlines around Infinix in their lyrics.

              First celebrity Smartphone in Sub Sahara Africa: Davido’s special edition of Infinix NOTE 8 First celebrity Smartphone in Sub Sahara Africa: Davido’s special edition of Infinix NOTE 8

 

Shortly after the launch of Infinix Hot10, Twistberry Labarbian, the Storm X Infinix Hot 10 star challenge winner, topped with the highest number of votes in the social media challenge designed to discover and empower young musical talents. She featured the sensational music artist, Davido in her song and video titled “The Code”, as promised by the brand. The song was later used to promote the Infinix Hot10T challenge on social media, equally designed to discover young musical talents. Her song was well received by fans and gained a lot of traction with features on MTV Base, Beat FM, City FM, and Sound City FM.

 

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The Note 10 series boasts of being the world’s first centre punch screen smartphone. Its online launch featuring favourite celebrities held in June of this year and was laced with exciting experiential booths that showcased the phone’s features. In short, the launch left all that were involved feeling utterly thrilled.

Following the first edition and unveiling the Hot10i (a partnership with Android Go), the Storm X 2.0 edition is ongoing with the hashtag #PowerYourFunWithInfinixHot10i.

The campaign is seeking 6 music talents to reward with ₦500,000 each.

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Another way the brand supports the young generation is by employing young and youthful staff to join their workforce in fulfilling the brand’s mission. Infinix continues to show outstanding commitment to the young generation through their various activities all year round.

 

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With Infinix gaining fast popularity, receptiveness, and more ground in the market, it is safe to say that the brand is living up to its promises of empowering users to own innovative technologies and experience intelligent lifestyles. Having this in mind, we’re keeping fingers crossed for what Infinix has for us in the coming year.

Bezos To Step Down As CEO Of Amazon This Year

In this file photo taken on September 19, 2019, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company’s sustainability efforts in Washington,DC. Eric BARADAT / AFP

 

Jeff Bezos said Tuesday he would give up his role as Chief Executive of Amazon later this year as the tech and e-commerce giant reported a surge in profit and revenue in the holiday quarter.

The company said Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon Web Services, would take over as CEO in the third quarter.

The announcement came as Amazon reported a blowout holiday quarter with profits more than doubling to $7.2 billion and revenue jumping 44 per cent to $125.6 billion.

Bezos, who has become the world’s richest person based on his stake in Amazon, said he will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter to hand over the CEO role to Jassy.

“Amazon is what it is because of invention,” Bezos said in a statement.

“Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

Jassy joined Amazon as a marketing manager in 1997 and in 2003 founded AWS, the web division of the company which has been one of the most profitable but least-known units of the tech colossus.

Massive US Tech Show Becomes A Digital Event

This undatde handout photo released on January 11, 2021, courtesy of Consumer Technology Association(CES), shows behind the scenes on the set of the all-digital CES 2021. (Photo by Handout / Consumer Technology Association(CES) / AFP)

 

Several autonomous disinfection robots are being shown at CES, and other gadgets include wearables that monitor vital signs and could provide early detection for coronavirus infections.

– Wearables, companions –

Other devices aim to help cope with the isolation of coronavirus lockdowns including companion robots and monitoring systems for the elderly living alone.

CES has more than 300 speakers lined up, and a heightened focus on sessions diving into issues such as privacy and 5G internet.

Speakers include chief executives Mary Barra of General Motors, Hans Vestberg of Verizon and Corie Barry of Best Buy.

Sessions will be immediately available for replay on demand, and remain accessible until mid-February, according to CES organizers.

When the virtual show floor opens on Tuesday, attendees will be able to click into online exhibition booths for demos and chats.

Some unveilings that would normally draw crowds in Las Vegas are going ahead in the virtual space: Audi is set to launch its electric sports car, while other companies will be releasing gadgets adapted to superfast 5G wireless networks which are gaining traction.

But some analysts say the lack of in-person events has pushed many participants to the sidelines.

Show organizers said they hope to deliver a new kind of experience which can be useful to the expected online crowd of 100,000 or more.

“CES is one of the most experiential events in the world, where attendees can actually see and touch and experience the latest innovations,” CTA spokeswoman Jean Foster said during a briefing ahead of the show.

“And while we can’t recreate that magic that happens in Las Vegas, we can bring our audiences a new and unique whole digital experience.”

Twitter Investigating Global Platform Outage

In this file photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Microblogging and social networking service, Twitter says it is working to resolve a global outage of the platform used by hundreds of millions worldwide.

The outage which started on Thursday evening marked a new setback for the network, which is fending off accusations of bias over the decision to block a news report critical of Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden.

“We know people are having trouble tweeting and using Twitter. We’re working to fix this issue as quickly as possible,” a company spokesperson told AFP at 2225 GMT.

Read Also: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Backs Nigeria’s #EndSARS Protest, Calls For Bitcoin Donations

Repeated attempts to post a tweet were greeted with the message: “Something went wrong, but don’t fret — let’s give it another shot.”

According to downdetector.com, users on every continent had reported being unable to use the platform, but the outages were concentrated on the east and west coasts of the United States, as well as Japan.

The outage appeared to have started around 21:30 GMT.

“We are continuing to monitor as our teams investigate. More updates to come,” Twitter’s application programming interface site said.

itel Picks New Brand Slogan, ‘Enjoy Better Life’, Unveils S16 Series

 

itel Mobile, the foremost customer-centric brand on Monday presented her new brand direction and slogan, Enjoy Better Life at a grand virtual launch event in Lagos.

The event also heralded the introduction of the S16 series, the brand’s latest selfie series and a batch of new products – itel TVs and smart accessories.

Enjoy Better Life is a product of painstaking consumer research conducted in 2019 across African markets, including Nigeria, where itel Mobile has established presence for about 13 years.

The research provided fresh insights on serving consumers better in markets across Africa.

 

 

From the insights, demands for electronic products – TV, TWS earbuds and smart band ranked as the most important concern. The brand subsequently made use of the insights to design electronic products with user-friendly features and specifications.

Commenting on the new brand direction and products, Marketing Manager (West Africa 1), itel Mobile, Oke Umurhohwo said: “The Enjoy Better Life slogan expresses our commitment to listening to consumers and meeting their most pressing needs with value-driven offerings. Enjoy Better Life is an open invitation to everyone for an amazing user experience with the new category of products.

“The S16 series, itel TV, TWS earbuds and smart bands come with customized features and they are affordable. With the products, our consumers are getting convenience, comfort and a better life filled with love and happiness.”

 

 

AI Selfies for Everyone – S16 and S16 Pro

Features on the S16 series help users up their selfie game. The Triple Rear Camera setup consists of an 8MP main camera, 2MP Macro camera, and depth sensing camera. The collaborative effort managed by the refined AI Selfie 2.0 captures great moment with details no longer blurred out. Now clear and vivid photos can come from the budget-friendly devices. The sharpened AI Selfie 2.0 has mastered several new modes to make the pictures shout louder than ever before.

 

 

Both S16 and S16 Pro come packed in a Super Slim 8.3mm Unibody design culminating in curved glass edges on the display. The 2.5D screen provides both an aesthetic and an ergonomic advantage to the user. Making swiping around the edges smoother than ever before and the grip in hand, more secure. Thus, one-handed operation will remain comfortable despite the wide-screen displays.

The itel S16 Pro comes with a 6.6-inch dot-notch design, and the itel S16 with 6.5-inch waterdrop design. The two large displays take full advantage of the minimal presence of front cameras to make watching videos and playing games a bigger and more enjoyable endeavour. The radial texture of colours on both phones creates a refreshing feel. Whether you are a fan of the chilly S16 Ice Crystal Blue, or the uplifting S16 Pro Gradient Green – both natural colours are crafted to create an invigorating impact on sight. To stay cool and look fashionable.

 

 

itel TV, TW earbuds & Smart bands – Smart access to the Better Life
itel TV – S321 and S431 is fitted with the user-friendly i-cast feature, allowing users to enjoy a bigger viewing experience by projecting the smartphone screen (S16 Pro only) to itel TV without wi-fi router or cables. Both devices come with A+ grade panel and DVB-T2/S2 decoder. This is a digital satellite transmission technology, offering more channels for user’s TV transmissions.

The itel D243 TV is covered by an extra glass made from tempered glass materials which better protects against shocks.

 

 

itel true wireless earbuds ITW-60 comes with a Bluetooth V5.0 and pop-up pairing function. It also offers 18hours playtime and the case provides 6 full charges to ensure users can enjoy with the smart pop-up pairing function. A single tap on the smartphone connects users to the earbuds. Ensuring music all day long and erasing worries around running out of power.

 

 

Smartband IFB-11 is colourful and light. The smartband comes with an HD colour display that keeps track of time without needing to take out the phone. The smartband pairs with the smartphone to give gentle notifications from phone to watch, and upload activity and sleep monitor data from watch to phone.

The health and fitness accessory is IP67 certified (splash and sweat resistant), has 3 training modes, and the battery can last up to 20 days. itel’s IFB-11 tracker is an accessible way to join social sharing of fitness activities.

The new products are on sale at itel dealer shops and mobile phone stores across Nigeria. Visit @itelMobileNG on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate in the giveaway activities and win freebies!

For Media Inquiries, Contact:
Name: Oke Umurhohwo
Tel: +234 8171901960
Mobile: [email protected]

TikTok Rejects Microsoft Offer, Oracle Sole Remaining Bidder

This photo illustration taken on September 14, 2020 shows the logo of the social network application TikTok (L) and a US flag (R) shown on the screens of two laptops in Beijing. – US tech giant Microsoft said on September 13 its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, leaving Oracle as the sole remaining bidder ahead of the imminent deadline for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

 

American tech giant Microsoft said Sunday its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, leaving Oracle as the sole remaining bidder ahead of the imminent deadline for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations.

TikTok is at the center of a diplomatic storm between Washington and Beijing, and President Donald Trump has set Americans a mid-September deadline to stop doing business with its Chinese parent company ByteDance — effectively compelling a sale of the app to a US company.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Oracle had won the bidding war, citing people familiar with the deal, although the company did not immediately confirm that to AFP.

But two Chinese state media outlets — CGTN and China News Service — said Monday that ByteDance will not sell TikTok to Oracle either, citing unnamed sources.

The Oracle bid would need approval from the White House and Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a source told the Journal, with both parties under the belief it would meet US data security concerns.

Microsoft had indicated at the beginning of August that it was interested in acquiring TikTok’s US operations, but announced Sunday that bid had been rejected.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” it said in a statement.

“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests.”

In early August, Trump issued an executive order stating that if a purchase agreement was not reached by September 20, the platform would have to close in the United States.

Trump claims TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

– Disputed dangers –

In late August, China’s commerce ministry published new rules potentially making it more difficult for ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US entity by adding “civilian use” to a list of technologies that are restricted for export.

ByteDance had vowed to “strictly abide” by the new export rules.

“We believe Microsoft would only buy TikTok WITH its core algorithm which the Chinese government and ByteDance was not willing to budge,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note.

“Given the need now to get a green light from Beijing after its export rules were changed a few weeks ago, TikTok’s days in the US likely are numbered with a shutdown now the next step,” the analyst said.

Downloaded 175 million times in the United States, TikTok is used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short videos on their cellphones. It has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

Microsoft said it would have “made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation.”

A deal with Microsoft could also have included Walmart, which joined forces with the tech giant during negotiations.

Ives said that even with Microsoft out of the picture, “while Oracle is technically the remaining bidder, without willing to sell its core algorithm we see no TikTok sale on the horizon.”

“Oracle could be a technology partner, but a sale/divestiture of the US operations for TikTok remains the focus.”

TikTok meanwhile has filed a lawsuit challenging the US crackdown, contending that Trump’s order was a misuse of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act because the platform is not “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”

Controversially, Trump has demanded that the US government get a cut of any deal, which critics contend appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

The bidding for TikTok comes during a broader deterioration of relations between the world’s top two economies in recent months, with both exchanging fierce recriminations over trade, human rights, and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN human rights chief called Thursday for a “moratorium” on the use of facial recognition technology during peaceful protests, stressing that it could increase discrimination against people of African descent and other minorities.

Michelle Bachelet’s appeal came as her office published a report about the impact of new technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests.

“There should be a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in the context of peaceful protests, until states meet certain conditions including human rights due diligence before deploying it,” Bachelet said in a statement.

The report was requested by the United Nations Human Rights Council two years ago, but it comes as demonstrations have erupted in a number of countries.

READ ALSO: EU Body Recommends Use Of Remdesivir To Treat COVID-19

“New technologies can be used to mobilise and organise peaceful protests, form networks and coalitions, and help people to be better informed about demonstrations and the reasons they are happening, thus driving social change,” Bachelet said.

But, she stressed, “as we have seen, they can be — and are being — used to restrict and infringe on protesters’ rights, to surveil and track them, and invade their privacy.”

The UN report pointed out that technology-enabled surveillance had been a major factor in shrinking civic space in a range of countries, with some states using intrusive online surveillance and the hacking of social media accounts used by protest organisers and demonstrators themselves.

It voiced particular concern over facial recognition technology, “which allows for the automated identification, surveillance and tracking of protesters.”

Facial recognition has numerous uses that could simplify people’s lives, as seen with Apple using it to unlock smartphones.

But the technology has a dark side, with facial recognition integrated into China’s massive public surveillance system and its social credit experiment, where even minor infractions of public norms can result in sanctions.

As protests about police violence and racism spread across the United States, pressure mounted on the tech firms behind the technology.

Microsoft and Amazon announced they would suspend sales of facial recognition software to police forces, while IBM said it would quit the business.

– ‘Amplify discrimination’ –

Thursday’s report warned that the use of facial recognition technology had left many people feeling wary of demonstrating in public places or publicly expressing their views for fear they could be identified, with negative consequences.

“Moreover, facial recognition technology may also perpetuate and amplify discrimination, including against Afro-descendants and other minorities,” the rights office warned.

Protesters have marched in a number of countries in 2019 and this year on issues including racial discrimination, as with the recent global protests over the killing of George Floyd by a US police officer who has since been charged with murder.

“As people gather worldwide to protest against racism, including by law enforcement officials, the right to peaceful assembly has never been more important,” Bachelet said.

“Facial recognition should not be deployed in the context of peaceful protests without essential safeguards regarding transparency, data protection, and oversight in place.”

AFP

Pandemic Gives Dubai Chance To Put Tech To Test

Police officers monitor the streets and receive calls from citizens at the Command and Control Center of Dubai Police in the Gulf emirate, on February 24, 2020. – The novel coronavirus has given the Gulf emirate of Dubai an opportunity to showcase its technological and scientific clout as it seeks to shape its own model for approaching the pandemic. KARIM SAHIB / AFP.

 

From smart police helmets to research labs, the novel coronavirus has given Dubai an opportunity to test its technological and scientific clout as it shapes its approach to the pandemic.

A key part of the glitzy Gulf emirate’s fight is its COVID-19 Command and Control Centre, set up to coordinate the efforts of Dubai’s doctors, epidemiologists and other professionals.

It is hosted within the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in Dubai’s Healthcare City, also home to state-of-the-art hospitals, labs and research centres.

“For several years, Dubai has endeavoured to put in place solid digital infrastructure, and this has contributed to the fight against the coronavirus”, said Amer Sharif, who heads the multidisciplinary centre.

It was established at the start of the health crisis by Dubai Crown Prince and social media star Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

In one room, young mask-wearing men and women sit at carefully separated desks crunching data on laptops and coordinating with workers on the ground.

The initiative includes a scientific team whose role is “to stay abreast of the latest advances in research and scientific evidence, both in the country and elsewhere in the world”, team head Alawi Alsheikh-Ali told AFP.

– ‘Data and science’ –

The United Arab Emirates has carried out more than 1.6 million coronavirus tests, and has officially declared over 28,700 infections, including 244 deaths.

This high-tech approach, Sharif said, including “the complete digitisation of the health system”, has prevented a greater spread of the virus and made the lockdown easier.

Tom Loney, associate professor of public health and epidemiology at MBRU, said the coronavirus was an opportunity for Dubai to put its capabilities to the test.

“It’s the ability to react, to make quick decisions based on data and science” that sets Dubai apart, said Loney, who is also an adviser to authorities in the city-state.

According to him decisions were made by order of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, whose portrait is featured on the MBRU building.

Dubai is one of seven emirates in the UAE, a key Gulf state with big technological and scientific ambitions.

The emirate lacks the oil wealth of its neighbours, but has the most diversified economy in the Gulf, building a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub.

The UAE sent an astronaut into space last year, and in July is set to launch the first Arab probe towards Mars, a project sponsored by the emir of Dubai.

– ‘Own model’ –

Many tech options were already at Dubai’s fingertips when the pandemic struck, and the emirate was quick at putting its technology to a variety of uses during the virus crisis.

Police wear smart helmets that take the temperature of passers-by while laboratories make protective masks using 3D printers.

When a night-time curfew begins, Dubai residents — 90 percent of whom are expats — receive a reminder message on their mobile phone in Arabic, English or other languages.

The UAE has regularly announced research advances into the COVID-19 illness, developing several apps to help manage the pandemic.

One of them, Alhosn, which the government has encouraged residents to download, helps track people who are infected with the virus or who may have come in close contact with confirmed cases.

But the use of technology to fight the pandemic has raised concern across the world over government surveillance and privacy risks.

Tech experts and the media have highlighted this issue in the UAE, where some foreign websites and applications are already blocked.

But Sharif pushed back against scepticism.

“Dubai and the Emirates respect privacy, whether it is a question of patient records or smart applications”, he said.

The emirate was creating its “own model” of responding to the health crisis, Sharif added, though authorities were also looking at countries such as South Korea, seen as a positive policy response to the crisis.

“We must follow the developments… but also add to them,” he said.

AFP

‘We Can Get It Done Here’: Africa’s Tech Scene Tackles COVID-19

Fidel Mukatia (R), an electrical engineering student from Kenyatta University, stands with a group of students who made a ventilator, at the university’s facility (Chandaria Business Innovation Incubation Centre) in Nairobi on May 8, 2020, to mitigate the shortage experienced in the country and fight against COVID-19 coronavirus. SIMON MAINA / AFP.

 

Watching from afar as much of the world was brought to its knees by the coronavirus, African scientists, engineers and innovators have turned to homegrown solutions to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

By the time the virus hit Africa, where cases have risen relatively slowly, images of overwhelmed hospitals and stories of health workers strapped for protective gear had been streaming in for weeks.

Mehul Shah from Ultra Red Technologies, a 3D printing company in Nairobi, said he and his partner Neeval Shah quickly realised they could be “first responders” in producing locally-made equipment.

In only three days they put together a working design for 3D-printed face shields made up of a visor that clips onto a plastic sheet. They currently produce around 500 a day.

“It’s very important that we can show Kenyans that we can do this here and we don’t need to rely on importation. We have got the innovative know-how and the means to get this done here,” he told AFP.

The team is also helping produce components that would allow ventilators to be used on more than one patient, as well as printing parts for locally-made ventilators.

While Kenya only has 912 cases and 50 deaths after a little over two months, “we are preparing for the worst-case scenario,” Mehul said.

READ ALSO: Scientists In China Believe New Drug Can Stop Pandemic ‘Without Vaccine’

He said it was “a first” to see manufacturers in Kenya and even worldwide collaborating so much.

“All the companies are looking at how they can use their resources to help out. All the competitors who would be fighting against each other are all coming together.”

In Benin, the start-up Blolab — a digital fabrication laboratory – has also been printing 3D face shields.

– Contact-tracing apps –

Developers in Kenya’s thriving tech scene are among several on the continent working on contact tracing apps.

FabLab, an innovation hub in western Kisumu has developed an application called Msafari (Safari means journey in Swahili) which can track passengers on public transport.

With it, passengers entering a minibus taxi — known as a matatu — can input a simple code on their phone along with the vehicle registration number.

“If one of those passengers tested positive we are now able to trace all the contacts who checked in on that particular vehicle, ” said Tairus Ooyi, the lead app developer and data scientist at FabLab.

– Low-cost ventilators –

Another busy area of innovation has been the production of ventilators, which have been in short supply even in rich countries as COVID-19 patients needing oxygen have swamped hospitals.

Most African countries have only a handful of the machines and 10 have none at all, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kenya, engineering students in collaboration with the medical department at the Kenyatta University, produced a low-cost ventilator at a tenth of the price of an imported machine — estimated at $10,000.

Doctor Gordon Ogweno, a medical professor at the university said Kenya had about 50 working ventilators for a population of more than 50 million.

“We are making machines with locally available material … pandemics can come and go but other conditions also require critical care,” he said.

The ventilator is undergoing clinical trials.

In Ghana, the Academic City College in Accra and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi managed to produce a ventilator costing between $500 and $1,000 which takes only an hour to assemble.

A group of Rwandan biomedical scientists at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College in Kigali have also been testing a locally made prototype ventilator.

Meanwhile in Somalia, which has limited capacity to respond to its growing caseload, 21-year-old Mohamed Adawe has invented an automated resuscitator.

While doctors normally need to pump oxygen via an Ambu bag valve mask by hand on patients struggling to breathe, Adawe’s contraption — made up of a wooden box, pipes and an electric system — pushes oxygen from an air tank into a mask placed over the patient’s mouth.

“I saw people having difficulties in breathing and many have died because they could not get a machine to help them provide vital oxygen,” said Adawe, who is studying public health.

– Drones and robots –

Aside from locally-made items — African countries are also employing other technology to tackle the virus.

Rwanda last week began using four humanoid robots in coronavirus treatment centres to minimise human to human contact. They can screen temperatures and monitor the status of patients.

In Ghana, the US-based company Zipline which uses drones to ferry medicines, blood and vaccines to avoid poor roads, has begun to transport coronavirus tests.

“The government told us that their biggest challenge is that the virus has spread out of the cities, they have suspected cases popping up in the rural areas and the logistics from the rural areas to the cities are very difficult,” said Zipline CEO in Ghana, Daniel Marfo.

AFP

Big Tech Acquisitions Over Past Decade To Face Fresh US Scrutiny

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 4, 2019 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joe Simon speaks during a press conference at the FTC headquarters in Washington, DC. AFP

 

A US regulatory agency said Tuesday it would look into acquisitions made by five Big Tech firms over the past decade — opening the door for potential antitrust reviews.

The bombshell announcement by the US Federal Trade Commission opens the door to possible investigations of deals made by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet since 2010.

The FTC said in a statement it ordered the five firms “to provide information about prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies” between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of tech platforms which have dominated key economic sectors, and calls by some activists and politicians to break up the Silicon Valley giants.

Antitrust experts have debated the legal and practical issues of attempting to “unwind” past acquisitions.

The FTC, one of the regulatory agencies that conduct antitrust reviews, said it would examine whether some of the deals “might have raised competitive concerns.”

“This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

The US Justice Department has already said it is reviewing potential anticompetitive actions by major tech platforms, and attorneys general from the majority of US states have launched antitrust investigations of Google and Facebook.

The actions come against a growing “techlash” reflecting declining public trust in big online firms, and fines levied against Facebook and Google over privacy violations.

AFP