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IBM Research-Africa, RTI Int’l Partner for Data-Driven Development

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RTI International, – a leading nonprofit research institute – and IBM’s Africa research lab, have announced a partnership to deploy big data analytics and cognitive technologies to help transform development approaches in Africa and around the world.

In one of the first projects, IBM and RTI are developing and testing intelligent systems to capture data about schools in Mombasa County, Kenya.

Through the partnership, RTI and IBM Research – Africa will explore ways of using advanced technologies to capture accurate data about challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, water and education.

Drawing on the power of big data analytics, researchers will provide insight to governments, aid agencies and other organizations who are looking to make more informed decisions about investment and development while having greater visibility of results.

“A dearth of data on Africa in the past has led to misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the continent’s history, economic performance and potential. Over the past few decades, even simple facts have been misrepresented – the size of a country, its economic performance, the amount of poor people, the volume of exploitable resources,” said Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, vice president IBM Research – Africa. “The latest advances in mobile, big data and Internet of Things technologies have the potential to change that so that we have an accurate and dynamic understanding of Africa’s challenges, rising opportunities and incredible potential.”

The partnership comes as a rapid rise in mobile and Internet of Things technologies are producing unprecedented amounts of data. In developing countries, mobile phones, digital devices and low-cost sensors connected to improving cellular networks are reaching previously disconnected communities with the potential to produce new insight about how people live and the challenges they face.

“Rapid advancements in technology and open data initiatives mean more data is available now than ever before, offering significantly greater insights to improve lives through smarter development programs,” said Aaron Williams, executive vice president at RTI. “By combining our expertise in data science and development, RTI and IBM will apply the information newly at our fingertips to accelerate improvements in literacy, respond rapidly to the spread of infectious diseases, and discover and apply new innovations for improving the human condition in the developing world.”

Big Data for Education in Mombasa County

In one of the first joint projects, RTI and IBM are developing and testing intelligent systems for data capture and decision support to improve accountability and transparency in more than 100 schools in Mombasa County, Kenya.

The project is designed to support the Kenyan Ministry of Education Science and Technology data collection initiative.

Teachers, head teachers, school principals and administrators will be equipped with tablet devices to capture data about students, classrooms, and school resources.

IBM and RTI scientists will use big data analytics and cognitive technologies to analyze the data and provide indicators that establish school profiles and progress and provide actionable recommendations about the county’s education system at a granular level.

The activity is part of the United States Agency for International Development’s Education Data for Decision Making (EdData II) project.

“In the past, head teachers, government officials and aid agencies across Sub-Saharan Africa have struggled to make informed decisions about how to invest in and improve education,” said Dr. Kommy Weldemariam, Research Scientist, IBM Research – Africa. “Often education data is incomplete, inaccurate and sometimes even deliberately misreported.  Using analytics and cognitive technologies, we are creating a school census hub which will minimize the effort, expense and error in collecting valuable data about attendance, performance and resources at schools. It has the potential to completely change our understanding of the situation on the ground and what needs to be done to improve it and improve the outcomes for children.”

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Applying insights and actionable evidence from data will be key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, ambitious universal targets that will be confirmed by a United Nations Summit in September 2015.

They include ending poverty and hunger, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education.

“By adding analytical value and insight to data production, curation and integration, RTI and IBM will help lay the paving stones for the ‘data revolution for development’ to lead the way in achieving the sustainable development goals,” said Dr. Luis Crouch, vice president and chief technical officer in RTI’s International Development Group, who has worked with various UN processes on the formation of these goals.

The sustainable development goals raise numerous global challenges for which innovative data science solutions, such as predictive analytics, sifting of massive amounts of evidence, and more agile use of citizen-sourced information and citizen feedback could help provide solutions.

For instance, in the education sector, initiatives can provide insight on building early childhood development programs that predicate success in later education and life; design early grade reading and math programs using the best instructional approaches and curricula; and inform policymakers on policies needed to support sustainable improvements in education and the data systems needed to track progress in systemic reform.

In the health sector, initiatives can help track the spread of infectious diseases faster and more efficiently; provide a better understanding of the underlying causes of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer; and improve the knowledge management, oversight and accountability needed to strengthen health systems.

RTI International, a leading nonprofit research institute with expertise ranging from laboratory sciences to international development, has more than 50 years of development experience worldwide. Specialties include global health, international education, governance and economic development.

The Institute’s work on more than 70 current development projects is supported by regional offices in Kenya, Indonesia and El Salvador.

IBM Research – Africa is IBM’s 12th global research lab and the first industrial research facility on the continent of Africa. With facilities in Kenya and South Africa, IBM Research – Africa is driving innovation and socio-economic development by developing commercially-viable solutions to transform lives and enable new business opportunities in key areas such as water, agriculture, transportation, healthcare, financial inclusion, education, energy, security and e-government.


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TikTok Picks Oracle to Provide ‘Secure’ Cloud Tech

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Enterprise software giant Oracle announced that it has been chosen to become TikTok’s “secure” cloud technology provider.

According to Oracle, this technical decision by TikTok was heavily influenced by Zoom’s recent success in moving a large portion of its video-conferencing capacity to the Oracle Public Cloud.

Oracle’s announcement comes after TikTok parent ByteDance last week said it will not be selling the video-sharing app’s US operations to software giant Microsoft.

This after US president Donald Trump signed an executive order on 6 August, blocking all transactions with ByteDance in an effort to address “national emergency” issues.

On 14 August, the US president issued an order that gave ByteDance 90 days to divest the US operations of TikTok.

Since then, US companies such as Microsoft and Oracle have been lining up as potential buyers for the popular short video app.

As the trade war between the US and China rages on, the US government has accelerated its efforts to purge Chinese apps and technology companies that it deems untrustworthy.

Trump and his administration raised national security issues, alleging the Chinese-owned company will share sensitive user data with the Chinese government.

“TikTok picked Oracle’s new Generation 2 Cloud infrastructure because it’s much faster, more reliable, and more secure than the first generation technology currently offered by all the other major cloud providers,” says Oracle chief technology officer Larry Ellison.

“In the 2020 Industry CloudPath survey that IDC recently released where it surveyed 935 infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) customers on their satisfaction with the top IaaS vendors including Oracle, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, IBM and Google Cloud…Oracle IaaS received the highest satisfaction score.”

“As a part of this agreement, TikTok will run on the Oracle Cloud and Oracle will become a minority investor in TikTok Global,” says Oracle CEO Safra Catz.

“Oracle will quickly deploy, rapidly scale and operate TikTok systems in the Oracle Cloud. We are 100% confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok’s American users, and users throughout the world.

“This greatly improved security and guaranteed privacy will enable the continued rapid growth of the TikTok user community to benefit all stakeholders.”


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Inq. Acquires Vodacom’s Business in Nigeria, Others

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inq. Holdings Limited, artificial intelligence service provider, has acquired Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire.

Inq. Acquires Vodacom’s Business in Nigeria, Others

It plans further acquisition in Cameroon subject to regulatory approvals.

Mr. Valentine Chime, managing director, inq. Holdings Limited, said the 100 per cent acquisition of the Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in the three countries was in pursuit of the company’s dream of building pan-African network that will help in creating better future through digital solutions.

Domiciled in Mauritius, inq. Holdings Limited is a subsidiary of Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund, a fund dedicated solely to communications infrastructure and related services and technologies across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Formerly known as Synergy Communications, the latest acquisition has grown inq.’s regional footprint with operations in 12 cities in seven countries across Africa. It has existing operations in Botswana, Malawi and South Africa with an additional investment in Mozambique.

“Under the inq. banner the company will embark on the next phase of building a unified Pan-African cloud and digital service provider, bringing to market a very relevant suite of next generation technology solutions in the fields of Edge AI, SD-WAN/NFV and Cloud,”Chime said.

According to him, with operations in major African cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Gaborone, Lusaka, Ndola, Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Abidjan and Johannesburg, the inq. team prides itself on global best practice methodologies customised to local customs in each of the 16 cities, covering different sectors including banking, oil and gas, fast moving consumer goods, mining, health, real estate, information technologies, public sector and logistics.

“Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation, and inq. is perfectly positioned to deliver intelligent connectivity through seamless delivery of cloud and digital services and  technologies to our clients. We are about simpler, seamless solutions,” Chime said.

 

 


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HP Lauds TD Africa, Says Tech Experience Centre will Unlock New Wave in Nigeria

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As Nigeria looks forward to the official launch of the Tech Experience Centre, globally renowned tech giant, Hewlett Packard Inc. (HP) has heaped praises on the management of TD Africa for spearheading the project, noting that the centre will herald a new technological wave in Nigeria.

This was disclosed by Ife Afe, managing director – Nigeria and District Manager – Central Africa (CAF).

Equally important, HP is one of the global Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that will be represented in the Tech Experience Centre located within Yudala Heights at 13 Idowu Martins, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Consequently, Afe has expressed delight with the development, even as she disclosed that the launch of the centre will bridge the gap to complete technology adoption for millions of Nigerians.

She said: ‘‘I do believe Nigerians are early adopters of new and exciting technology. Having a dedicated space where people can view and experience cutting-edge technology across rich and diverse portfolio is an important step towards complete Adoption.

‘‘Technology is about transformation. This tech centre will serve as a bridge, taking people from the imaginative stage to the experiential stage, thereby unlocking a new technological wave.

“I am very glad that TD Africa is taking this bold step and I look forward to the great collaborations that will flow out of this initiative.’’

Furthermore, the HP Senior Management Executive reiterated the strong interest in Nigeria by the tech brand.

‘‘We are strong believers in the Nigerian project and the boundless potential inherent in the population when exposed to cutting-edge technology.

“We also value the foresight and vision of our long-time partner and co-developer – TD Africa. We are proud of this project and are confident of its success and positive impact not just in the sphere of business but also in human capital development,’’ Afe enthused.

On what to expect from HP in the Tech Experience Centre, she revealed that a lot is in store for every visitor.

‘‘HP is in the business of making life better for everyone, everywhere, hence revolutionary innovation in Health care, Security, Gaming and Printing Solutions will be showcased in the Technology Centre.  Cutting- edge, sustainable, diverse and relevant innovation in technology.

‘‘This brings technology closer to home. I believe that the ambience of the Tech Centre will cater to a wide spectrum of users: CEO’s, Government officials, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, students, gamers etc. It will be the crucial meeting point of people and technology.

“Our wide spectrum of products and solutions will cater to all demographics – from first time users to specialists, professionals, gamers to moviemakers, work or play,’’ she affirmed.

The revolutionary Tech Experience Centre, the first of its kind in Africa, is set for launch on Thursday, October 1st 2020, incidentally the occasion of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary by 12noon, with the launch streamed live online for the benefit of tech enthusiasts.

Expected to officially commission the centre is the Minister of Communica99tions and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.

The Tech Centre is widely expected to boost Nigeria’s relevance in the global technology race and shore up the country’s march to technology independence.

For the first time, Nigeria will play host to the latest global technologies including those not normally available in Africa, offering all classes of visitors a first-hand experience of new gadgets, solutions and infrastructure that would have previously required a visit abroad, thereby saving corporate organizations, government establishments and individuals money or scarce foreign exchange expended on these trips.

 

 


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