Is This Nigeria’s Future Tech Star?

 

 

When he was about four years old, Basil Okpara was already fascinated with computer screens. His father noticed this obsession and decided to buy him a tablet.

The device wasn’t connected to the internet but it had a variety of offline games. The boy dug in deeper. Today, nine-year old Basil is not just playing games, he is building them. Using programming tools such as Scratch and Construct 2, Basil has built more than 30 games.

“Myself and my wife, we are very proud of him,” Basil’s father, Mr Basil Okpara Snr., told Channels. “We didn’t expect that he would be so passionate about it, but we are glad that he is.”

Some of Basil’s games are already being prepped for the Google Play Store, a process being managed by his parents.

Meanwhile, the budding tech wonderkid has told his parents he wants to, one day, be able to build robots and make them do his chores and maybe even go to space.

A Towering Inspiration

Basil’s precociousness has been carefully managed by his father, who understands the importance of digital technology in a changing world.

“I think parents should let their children access phones and tablets, in a more
supervised way; you don’t let them do whatever they want, You just have to supervise what they are doing on the gadgets,” he said.

But Mr Okpara didn’t stop at just buying the gadget. After noticing Basil’s growing affinity for the games on the device, he talked to his son about building his own.

“I encouraged him to develop this attitude of being a builder, instead of being a consumer,” he said. “So he has to think of building things that will benefit people instead of consuming what people produce. I tried to make him know that everything he sees is something that somebody made.”

And young Basil quickly caught on. He started with Scratch, before moving on to Construct 2, which is more sophisticated, according to people familiar with programming tools.

Basil has even started teaching other kids how to start building games at a summer code camp in Lagos.

‘An Exceptional Achievement’

Basil’s achievement is an “exceptional thing” because technology is still very recent in Nigeria, a technology writer and editor, Victor Ekwealor, told Channels.

He also noted that it is a story that makes it easier to encourage Nigerian parents to expose their children to technology at an early age.

For Chibuike Goodnews, a technology entrepreneur, Basil’s skill is an indication of what the future will look like.

“Gone are the days when we have kids learning only the things that are taught in school and waiting to get jobs,” he said. “The next economy is going to be driven by creativity, innovation and people doing things outside the norm. Someone like Basil is an indication that Nigeria can compete with the rest of the world in terms of creativity and knowledge.”

But Mr Goodnews worries whether Nigeria has the right template to groom outliers like Basil.

“Basil has done something that other (gifted) kids in parts of the world do,” he said. “At this point, the boy is knowledgeable. But does he have the adequate environment to grow to be the best he can be? Does he have the same opportunities with somebody in San Francisco, in London, in Japan? That’s the question we need to answer.”

Next Steps

Basil’s parents want him to continue schooling while he improves his software building skills.

They “try to balance the whole thing for him, in such a way that he will go to school, come back from school, do his school work, house chores, use his laptop for like one or two hours, depending on how many hours that he has left, and then he goes to bed by eight, eight-thirty,” Mr Okpara said.

“So he has to balance his school and his passion. And we will guide him through the process.”

Trump Uncorks French Wine Threat In Digital Tax Retaliation

 

US President Donald Trump vowed “substantial” retaliation against France on Friday for a tax targeting US tech giants, hinting he may slap tariffs on French wine and blasting President Emmanuel Macron’s “foolishness.”

“France just put a digital tax on our great American technology companies,” Trump tweeted about the law, which targets US giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.

“We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly,” he said.

A proud teetotaler who says he has never even drunk a beer, Trump heavily hinted that the countermeasure might hit one of France’s export crown jewels: wine.

“I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!” the president said.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire indicated that Paris was not intimidated.

“Universal taxation of digital activities is a challenge for us all. We want to reach an agreement within the G7 and the OECD. In the meantime, France will implement its national decisions,” Le Maire said.

Sour grapes

Trump has generally got along well with Macron, avoiding some of the more stormy episodes marring traditionally stable relations with other close US allies in Europe and Asia.

But his drive to correct what he sees as unfair trade practices by allies and rivals alike has stirred unprecedented discord.

And this is not the first time that he has mused about taking aim at France’s renowned wine industry.

In June, he told CNBC television that domestic wine makers had complained to him about the difficulties of entering the European market.

“You know what? It’s not fair. We’ll do something about it,” he said.

The current row, however, is linked to a law passed by the French parliament this month on taxing digital companies for income even if their headquarters are elsewhere. This would aim directly at US-based global giants like Amazon.

Britain has announced plans for a similar tax.

Deputy White House spokesman Judd Deere noted that France’s digital services tax was already the subject of an investigation at the US Trade Representative’s office, potentially opening the door to economic sanctions.

Washington is “extremely disappointed by France’s decision to adopt a digital services tax at the expense of US companies and workers,” Deere said.

“The Trump administration has consistently stated that it will not sit idly by and tolerate discrimination against US-based firms,” he said in a statement.

“The administration is looking closely at all other policy tools.”

Transatlantic drinks tab

Wine from the likes of California does face higher barriers than European imports in the other direction.

Depending on the type and alcohol content, imported wine faces US duties of 5.3 cents to 12.7 cents (5 to 12 euro centimes) a bottle, according to the US International Trade Commission. Sparkling wines are taxed a higher rate of about 14.9 cents a bottle.

US wines shipped to the European Union face duties of 11 to 29 cents a bottle, according to the Wine Institute, a trade body promoting US exports.

According to France’s Federation for Wine and Spirit Exporters, a bottle of American white wine with an alcohol volume of 13 percent will be subjected to an 11-cent tax, while an equivalent bottle of European wine would pay about half that to enter the US.

The EU is the biggest importer of US wines. However, American wine exports are dwarfed in volume by the far bigger output from France, Italy, and Spain.

AFP

Grants To Fund Study On Technology’s Impact On Democracy

 

New research programs at US universities will focus on the impact of technology on democracy, including the role of misinformation, a foundation announced Monday.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation said it would offer $50 million in funding for research “to better understand how technology is transforming our democracy and the way we receive and engage with information.”

The initiative is the latest in response to concerns about declining trust in traditional media and influence campaigns on social networks which may be sponsored by intelligence services.

The Knight Foundation will fund new, cross-disciplinary research at 11 American universities and research institutions, including the creation of five new centres of study.

READ ALSO: US Senator Calls For Investigation Into FaceApp

“We’re living the most profound change in how we communicate with each other since Gutenberg invented the printing press,” said Alberto Ibarguen, Knight Foundation president.

“The internet has changed our lives and is changing our democracy. We have to take a step back and a step forward. To understand what is actually happening, we need independent research and insights based on data, not emotion and invective. To go forward, citizens must be engaged, and including university communities in the debate is a step in that direction.”

Internet platforms have been credited with fueling democracy movements such as the Arab Spring, but have also been subject to manipulation in the 2016 US election and Brexit campaign.

In recent months, US President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on the mainstream media, and some surveys have shown many Americans have lost confidence in fact-checkers which aim to verify the claims of politicians and others.

The new research initiative is part of a $300 million commitment made by Knight Foundation in February to strengthen journalism and democracy, which has been joined by other foundations.

The grants will go to new projects including Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cyber-Security; George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics; New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics; University of North Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life, and University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public.

Existing research centres getting funding include Indiana University, Stanford University, Yale University, the University of Texas, University of Wisconsin and the Data & Society Research Institute.

AFP

Tech Company Develops Machine That Produces Water Out Of Air

 

Imagine you could quench your thirst with water that doesn’t originate from a river, spring or lake but comes directly out of the blue sky, from the air that surrounds you.

What sounds like a science fiction movie is already a reality, and it is potentially for everyone.

The new technology, developed by Watergen, an Israel-based tech company, is currently being showcased in Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi. And this is how the air-to-water magic happening inside the machine works: The atmospheric water generator takes in ambient air through a filter, and cools at its dew point, extracting water through condensation.

The water is then purified, mineralized, and is ready and safe to drink.

Drinking water for homes, buildings and whole villages

 

AFP

 

Watergen’s medium scale generator GEN-350 can produce an average of 600 litres of clean drinking water per day. It comes with a built-in reservoir and a water treatment system.

In Vietnam, with its high air humidity, the machine can extract even more water, says Watergen’s President Michael Mirilashvili: “Here in Vietnam, in the three locations where we tested the technology, it performed even better than we expected.”

A large-scale unit can extract up to 5000 litres per day. It is designed to provide water to approximately 2500 people per day, and it can be installed on a rooftop and connected directly to the building’s water grid.

A small generator, GENNY, can provide drinking water for homes and offices, it generates 25 to 30 litres per day. The machines only need electric infrastructure to operate and can be installed anywhere.

Watergen wants to take its technology even further: “Our scientists already developed the technology that implements the Watergen core technology inside cars, buses, trains and all kinds of transportation”, Mirilashvili says.

The running vehicle will generate the power for the atmospheric water generator, to provide drinking water on the go anywhere at any time.

Mirilashvili also points out that the use of atmospheric water generators could drastically reduce plastic waste.

Access to safe water during droughts

In Vietnam, a country still suffering from water shortages and poor water quality, the demand for clean water solutions is increasing, says Ambassador of Israel to Vietnam, Nadav Eshcar: “Vietnam is one of the countries most affected by global warming, suffering from droughts in the South and Central region in recent times. In Israel, we already have solutions, which we are introducing here”.

Watergen’s generator has already been in use in numerous countries around the globe, in India, the United States, Latin America, China, Russia and several African countries, to name a few. It is also being listed as one of the Technology Pioneers in 2018 by World Economic Forum.

The water generator presented at the event “Israel in the heart of Hanoi” is a gift from Watergen to the Hanoi People’s Committee. It will be on display in Ly Thai To square in the city centre for a month, allowing Hanoi’s citizens to take a sip from the sky.

The exhibition coincides with a celebration of 25 years in diplomatic relations between Israel and Vietnam.

AFP

South Africa Enters Technical Recession

 

Africa’s second largest economy, South Africa has entered a technical recession in the second quarter as it contracted 0.77 per cent.

Latest data released on Tuesday by the South African authorities’ shows President Ramaphosa’s six-month-old government posting a negative start like his immediate predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

The country’s Gross Domestic Product was reported at a decline of 2.6 per cent in the first quarter and is the first recession since 2009.

On a year-on-year basis, the South African economy grew 0.4 per cent , but the second quarter GDP came in below Bloomberg’s median estimate for 0.6 per cent expansion

The currency rand falls 2.3 per cent to 15.2094 on the US Dollars near lunchtime in Johannesburg on the latest GDP report.

FG Will Continue To Create Right Environment For Technology, Innovation To Thrive – Osinbajo

We Must Create Opportunities For Young People – Osinbajo
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo (file photo)

 

The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has said that the Federal Government will continue to create the right environment for technology and innovation to thrive in the country.

He said this on Wednesday during his visit to Ventures Platform Hub, Abuja, alongside the British Secretary for Africa and International Development, Rt. Hon. Harriett Baldwin.

He also commended the entrepreneurial drive of the youths to create value in the technology sector, noting that the Federal Government is supporting technology and innovation because it is the “future starting today”.

“The fact is that a lot of these entrepreneurs actually started while we were in recession, and it is not just evidence of their resilience, hard work and creativity; but also, the fact that there is so much opportunity and so much talent here; and there is so much that can be done,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesperson, Laolu Akande.

Osinbajo added, “I think just looking at what has happened with some of the startups that we’ve seen today, many of them actually started in the recession, while the recession was on, and they proved, by just the number of jobs they have created, the value and wealth they’ve created, that this is really the future starting today.

“They’ve done so much work and innovation, so for us, it is a no-brainer (why the Federal Government is supporting technology hubs); because obviously what we need to do is to create the right environment for these technology companies and for innovation to thrive, which is why we have started up first with the creativity and technology advisory group”.

The Vice President also stated that a lot of young start ups are members of creativity and technology advisory groups where they help to formulate policies with federal government policy makers.

“They help also to formulate policy in many of these new areas, especially in Fintech, which are some of the new areas where we need to formulate new policies.

“I think that, again, underscores the fact that technology, especially the startups that we are seeing, is the future of business in Nigeria and will lead us to the Nigeria, which is an excellent place, to do a lot of very creative and innovative things. We’ve seen so much already, I think we are in a very good place to make the real difference in those things that we want to see,” he said.

The Vice President then thanked the UK government for its cooperation in boosting technology and innovation in the country through its partnership.

“I just want to say a very big “thank you” to the UK DFID for all the great support that we are getting and to say that, as they say, ‘the sky is no longer the limit,’ because technology seems to have gone way beyond the skies and we are very prepared as a government to support innovation in every way,” he said.

In the same vein, the British Secretary for Africa & International Development, Harriett Baldwin, said the UK was going to invest more in Nigeria’s technology sector because it “has seen a wide range of different ways in which the technology sector can really drive the economy forward, raise the income of people and also create jobs.”

Accompanying the Vice President to Ventures Park were the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola.

The Lord Mayor of London, Mr. Charles Bowman, was also at the event.

FG Will Partner With Google, Others To Boost Internet Connectivity – Osinbajo

We Must Create Opportunities For Young People – Osinbajo
File photo: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

 

The Federal Government will work with Google and other technology companies in the country to ensure that Nigerians have improved access to the Internet.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said this in Lagos on Thursday at Google for Nigeria.

According to him, this will enable Nigerians benefit fully from the great power the Internet offers them as creators and co-creators.

“We will be partnering with Google and other technology providers to achieve the level of connectivity that will match the creativity of our people,” Professor Osinbajo said.

The Federal Government has repeatedly stressed the importance of technology to the development and growth of the country.

In his speech, the Vice President explained various efforts the government had made in the area of technology.

For him, with Nigeria expected to have the 4th highest population in the world by 2045, technology has a huge role to play.

“We cannot train nearly 200 million young people in 2045 in classrooms alone,” he said.

“We need to connect young people to technology … We have to use the Internet.”

Although Professor Osinbajo expects this century to be “Africa’s century” – for good or bad, he explained that the continent is currently facing existential challenges.

“Today, 60 per cent of the population of Africa are young people,” he said, stressing that unless young people are properly engaged, they would not be as productive as they can be.

Among other concerns, he believes such a situation will continue to encourage a brain drain.

“If social foundations remain tenuous, even the well educated will be tempted to migrate,” he said.

The Vice President who praised Google for its activities in the country and globally, expects that the use of technology will play a key role in bettering the fortunes of Nigerians and Africans.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the provision of food and health care will depend on technology,” he said.

FG To Improve Healthcare System With Technology, Says Osinbajo

Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo has said that the Federal Government is targeting the use of technology to improve the nation’s healthcare system.

He made this known on Thursday while giving a keynote address during the 58th Annual Delegates Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).

“We believe that the next phase of health-care development in Nigeria is going to depend a great deal on technology and innovation,” the VP said.

Speaking on the theme: ‘Quality Healthcare, an Indication for Good Governance’ he stated some of the Government’s plans to “incentivise private sector investment in healthcare”.

According to him, while it has become clear that the Federal Government must improve the levels of immunisation coverage in Nigeria, among other things, he said “a robust national health insurance scheme will be required alongside private sector and donor partnership funding in order to truly move the needle in healthcare funding in Nigeria.”

Among some of the steps the Federal Government is currently taking in that direction, he said it has launched an aggressive strategic plan to attain 80 per cent immunization coverage by the year 2020 through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

He also noted that they have, “through the National Sovereign Investment Authority invested 20 million dollars in three of our tertiary hospitals, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano and the Federal Medical Centre in Umuahia, Abia state to establish world-class cancer treatment and medical diagnostic facilities.

“We intend to follow these with targeted interventions in the treatment of heart and kidney disorders in particular,” he stated further.

Osinbajo also noted that already, the CBN Hospital Intervention Fund has helped fund some hospitals especially some of those that have shown track-records for game-changing activity in health-care.

Other speakers at the event were the President of the NMA, Mr Mike Ogirima, the President of the Senate Bukola Saraki, a former Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd).

FG Partners Vatican For Science And Technology Development

In a bid to enhance the development of science in the country, the Federal Government has partnered with the Vatican to establish an international standard science centre in Imo State.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, stated this on Saturday in Mbaitoli area of the state.

“The Federal Government entered into a relationship with the Vatican,” he said during a facility tour on the just-completed science centre.

“We are interested that our young people are interested in their studies; to embrace Science and Technology.”

According to him, the science centre will soon be inaugurated and will admit students from other parts of Africa.

Students will be taught Chemistry, with complementary subject areas in Biology, Physics and Mathematics, according to the minister.

The Minister also reiterated the commitment of the Buhari administration to reposition the nation’s technological space to meet global standards.

The decision to set up the centre for children from all African countries was influenced by a study conducted by the Vatican.

In its findings, the Vatican discovered that the difference between developing and developing countries is the level of Science and Technology, a country embraces.

Consequently, the government’s mission is to engage young Africans in studying science and technology aimed at developing the continent that would create jobs, wealth, fight poverty and diseases.

FG Moves To Develop Science, Technology In Nigeria

Ogbonnaya Onu

The Federal Executive Council has declared a state of emergency in the science and technology sector.

The development is part of Federal Government’s efforts to boost local production in line with its Economic Recovery and Growth Plans.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Wednesday after the Council’s meeting in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The minister stressed the need for Nigeria to reduce its dependence on imports and encourage technological advancements in the country through a technology acquisition policy.

According to him, the initiative will help Nigerian firms to produce what the country needs as well as boost foreign investment in science, technology and engineering to develop local content.

On his part, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, hinted that the Council approved N20.6bn for the construction of roads in Kwara and Plateau states.

PHOTOS: Celebrities Turn Up In Style At Google For Nigeria Event

Denrele Edun and friends.

Nigerian celebrities turned up stylishly at the #GoogleForNigeria event which held in Lagos.

The event brought together personalities from the music, fashion and even travel industries.

Also present at the event was the CEO of Google Inc., Sundar Pichai who announced that the tech giant would be training about 10 million Africans in the next five years.

Read Also: Google CEO Visits Lagos, Announces Training For 10 Million Africans

On-Air personalities, Idia and Ebuka

At the #GoogleForNigeria event today. It’s been so fun. #GoogleForNigeria #SocialPrefecttours

A post shared by Chiamaka Ngozi Obuekwe (@socialprefect) on

Google CEO, Sunday Pichai dancing on stage with Nigerians. #GoogleForNigeria

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Google CEO Announces Training For 10 Million Africans

The Chief Executive Officer of Google Inc., Sundar Pichai says his team would be training 10 million Africans in the next five years.

He revealed this on Thursday at the #GoogleForNigeria program held in Lagos.

READ ALSO[PHOTOS] Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, Visits Lagos

Google CEO, Sunday Pichai dancing on stage with Nigerians. #GoogleForNigeria

A post shared by Channels Television (@channelstelevision) on

Pichai also stressed the need for individuals and businesses to leverage the digital space and subsequently transition into a digital economy.

He said: “Last year we set out to help bridge the digital skills gap in Africa when we pledged to train one million young people in the region and we’ve exceeded this target. Through either in-person or online training, we help people learn to build a web presence, use Search to find jobs, get tips to enhance their CV, use social media, and so on.

“Now we’re expanding this program and committing to prepare another 10 million people for jobs of the future in the next five years. We’ll also be providing mobile developer training to 100,000 Africans to develop world-class apps, with an initial focus on Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa”, he said.

PHOTOS: Celebrities Turn Up In Style At Google For Nigeria Event

Speaking further, the Google boss noted that Africa is expected to have the world’s largest working-age population of 1.1 billion by 2034; yet only 3 to 4 million jobs are created annually.

According to him, this means that there is an urgent need to create opportunities for the millions of people on the continent who are creative, smart and driven to succeed.

“The internet, and technology as a whole, offer great opportunities for creating jobs, growing businesses and boosting economies. But people need the right skills, tools and products to navigate the digital world and to make it work for them, their businesses and their communities”.

A statement released by Google at the end of the event read in part: “Our charitable arm, Google.org, is committing $20 million over the next five years to nonprofits that are working to improve lives across Africa. We’re giving $2.5 million in initial grants to the nonprofit arms of African start-ups Gidi Mobile and Siyavula to provide free access to learning for 400,000 low-income students in South Africa and Nigeria. The grantees will also develop new digital learning materials that will be free for anyone to use.”

“We also want to invite nonprofits from across the continent to share their ideas for how they could impact their community and beyond. So we’re launching a Google.org Impact Challenge in Africa in 2018 to award $5 million in grants. Any eligible non-profit in Africa can apply, and anyone will be able to help select the best ideas by voting online.

“We want to do more to support African entrepreneurs in building successful technology companies and products. Based on our global Launchpad Accelerator program, this initiative will provide more than $3 million in equity-free funding, mentorship, working space and access to expert advisers to more than 60 African start-ups over three years. Intensive three-month programs, held twice per year, will run out of a new Google Launchpad Space in Lagos; the program’s first location outside of the United States.

Making Our Products Work Better In Africa

“For people to take advantage of digital opportunities, acquiring the right skills and tools is only part of the equation. Online products and services – including ours – also need to work better in Africa. Today, we’re sharing news about how we’re making YouTube, Search and Maps more useful and relevant for Nigerian users. Designed from the ground up, YouTube Go lets you discover, save and share videos you love in a way that’s transparent about the size of downloads.

“Designed to be “offline” first, the app improves the experience of watching videos on a slower network and gives control over the amount of data used streaming or saving videos. It’s a full YouTube experience, with fresh and relevant video recommendations tailored to your preferences and the ability to share videos quickly and easily with friends nearby.  In June, Nigeria became the second country where we started actively testing YouTube Go. Later this year, we’ll be expanding this to a beta launch of the app, available to all Nigerian users.

Lagos Now On ‘Street View’ In Google Maps

“In the last few months, we’ve improved our address search experience in Lagos, by adding thousands of new addresses and streets, outlines of more than a million buildings in commercial and residential areas, and more than 100,000 additional Nigerian small businesses on Google Maps. Today we’re launching Lagos on Street View, with 10,000 kilometres of imagery, including the most important historic roads in the city. You can virtually drive along the Carter Bridge to the National Stadium or across the Eko Bridge, down to the Marina; all on your smartphone.

Faster Web Results

“When you’re on a 2G-like connection or using a low storage device, pages can take a long time to load. We previously launched a feature that streamlines search results so they load with fewer data and at high speed.  Today we’re extending that feature to streamline websites you reach from search results, so that they load with 90 percent fewer data and five times faster, even on low storage devices. We’ve also made several updates to Search to bring more useful, relevant answers and information to people in Nigeria:

Knowledge Panels: We’re connecting people with easy access to the answers to things they care about, displaying knowledge cards for everything from local football teams to Nigerian musicians and actors.

Health Cards: Later this year we’ll launch more than 800 knowledge cards detailing common symptoms and treatments for the most prevalent health conditions in Nigeria. We’ve partnered with the University of Ibadan to ensure that answers have been reviewed by Nigerian doctors for local relevance and accuracy. Nigeria is one of the first countries where we’re providing locally tailored health answers on Search.

Posts on Google: Posts makes it possible for musicians, entertainers and other public figures to share updates, images and videos directly on Google, for people to see while they explore on the web. Nigeria is the third country where we’ve made this feature available and some of the country’s popular musicians are already using it.

“The things we’re announcing today are what drive us; building platforms and products that are relevant and useful for billions, not just the few, and helping people to succeed in the digital economy. That’s why we hope to equip more people, in Africa and elsewhere, with digital skills and tools. We’re excited to be part of Africa’s evolving digital story,” the statement added.

The event also brought together personalities from the music, fashion and even travel industries.