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Nigeria Uses Android App with Facebook to Beat Ebola

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When Nigeria was hit by its first outbreak of the Ebola virus, health workers monitoring suspected cases armed themselves with mobile phones and an Android app that cut the time it took to report the onset of symptoms.

The app and most of the phones were provided by eHealth & Information Systems Nigeria, a Santa Ana, California-based non-profit research company that operates in the northern city of Kano, according to Bloomberg’s report. 

Ebola Alert, a group of volunteers, used Facebook and Twitter to educate Nigerians about the illness.

Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Nigerian unit organized training sessions for journalists on how to use Google Trends to identify top questions most people wanted answered about the disease.

The phone app helped reduce reporting times that would normally take 12 hours by half initially, then 75 percent, before becoming almost real time, according to Daniel Tom-Aba, senior data manager at the Ebola Emergency Operation Centre in Lagos.

Information previously written on forms by hand before being sent to databases could be updated immediately, he said.

Ebola Scourge

“With Ebola, time is very important,” Adam Thompson, the chief executive officer of eHealth & Information Systems, an organization that had gained experience fighting the polio virus in northern Nigeria, said by phone from Kano. “If there’s a two or three-day lag in order to get a contact to the list, this could be a problem. The person could be in a different country by that point.”

Outbreak Contained

After a two-month campaign, during which more than 800 people who came into contact with infected persons were placed under surveillance, Nigerian officials are confident the outbreak has been contained.

The Health Ministry isn’t monitoring anyone at the moment and expects Nigeria to be declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization about Oct. 20, spokesman Daniel Nwomeh said by phone on Oct. 3 from Abuja, the capital.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with about 170 million people and the continent’s biggest economy, recorded 19 cases, with seven confirmed deaths and 12 recoveries, according to the Health Ministry. That’s a 40 percent fatality rate for a disease that could kill as much as 90 percent of those infected.

The latest Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 3,400 people, according to the WHO, making it the worst in history.

Bloomberg reported that eHealth is exporting its app-loaded mobile phones and other tech-based tools to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the three worst-hit countries in West Africa.

Instant Tracking

“We’ve established three operations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea,” Thompson said in an Oct. 4 e-mailed response to questions from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. “We’re managing about $14 million of private foundation funds to support emergency operations.”

The main lessons in Nigeria were the importance of fast communication and instant tracking.

“One of the key things that worked for Nigeria was the fact that we knew the index case and we were able to trace all the contacts back to him,” Tom-Aba said. “Every contact tracer had a GPS incorporated in their phones so we knew that they had gone to the contact’s house. That built accountability.

Liberian civil servant Patrick Sawyer introduced the virus into Nigeria when he arrived on July 20.

Sawyer and four of the health workers who treated him also died of Ebola. Contact tracers made 18,500 home visits to check on people who may have been exposed, according to a Sept. 30 report on the website of the Center for Diseases Control.

Tablet Scans

Laboratory technicians conducting tests were given tablets to scan and upload results to the emergency center data base.

Field teams in turn got text-message alerts on their phones informing them of the results, he said.

Journalists were also shown how to create visuals using Google Maps and Google Earth to better tell the story.

“From the beginning of August to mid-September, about two terms in the top five searches were Ebola-related,” Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, Google’s communications manager for West Africa, said in a phone interview from Lagos on Oct. 6. “We noticed journalists were missing the story because people were asking questions as simple as, what is quarantine?”

Lawal Bakare, a 31-year-old dentist, corralled Facebook friends at home and abroad to create Ebola Alert, which educated Nigerians about the disease online.

Within a week, they formed a partnership with the government to operate a helpline that took 600 calls a day.

The group’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have more than 30,000 followers combined as of Oct. 6, and its website, www.ebolaalert.org, had 4 million hits in August alone, Bakare said.

U.S. Interest

As Nigerians’ interest in Ebola wanes, a growing amount of traffic is now coming from the U.S., which diagnosed its first case of the disease in Dallas last week.

The patient had traveled from Liberia. Bakare estimates that about 21 percent of the group’s followers are now from the U.S.

Fast communication in a country where they are 130 million mobile-phone users had its downside: unsubstantiated rumors.

Some text messages circulated saying that drinking a salt solution would prevent the infection.

At least two people were confirmed dead from drinking too much salt by the Health Ministry.

 “As the rumor mongers are generating their rumors, we are countering almost real-time on Twitter especially to manage panic,” Bakare said.

He cited the example of a Lagos church that put up a poster advertising “free immunization” from the virus.

For Nigeria, the next target in the fight against Ebola is to halt its spread in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to Alex Okoh, the director of Port Health Services in Lagos.

“We may be Ebola free, but as long as there’s still an outbreak in the sub-region, we’re still at risk,” she said in an interview. “We can’t let our guard down because we still have people criss-crossing the continent,” Bloomberg reported.

 


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Microsoft Moves into 5G Race with Azure Cloud for Telecom Operators

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Microsoft Corp unveiled a new cloud platform on Monday aimed at enabling telecom operators to build 5G networks faster, reduce costs and sell customised services to business clients.

After banning China’s Huawei from its telecom network, the U.S. government has been pushing big American companies such as Microsoft to get more involved with 5G – a technology which promises to enable everything from self-driving cars to remote surgery and more automated manufacturing.

The new platform will be on Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud computing business, and the company says it will reduce infrastructure costs, give flexibility to add services on demand and use artificial intelligence to automate operations.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, told Reuters that it could cut costs by 30%-40% in some cases.

The developer of Windows and Office software entered the 5G arena after its acquisition of cloud networking companies Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch earlier this year.

“The telco DNA was obtained through those acquisitions and we went from a small number of engineers in this space to literally hundreds of engineers,” said Khalidi. “On the other hand, the foundational pieces, including edge compute, we have had in a pipeline for many years.”

The company has already partnered with companies ranging from telecom operators such as Verizon VZ.N and AT&T T.N to network equipment firms such as Samsung 005930.KS and Mavenir to either use or sell the new platform to clients.

Microsoft’s move will increase competition for existing 5G service vendors like Nokia NOKIA.HE and Ericsson ERICb.ST, said CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire.


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Interior Ministry Boosts Digitization Process with New ICT Projects

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Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, over the weekend commissioned the e-Library, e-Law Library, CCTV Surveillance network services and other projects in his office in Abuja to digitize work processes and procedures in the Ministry.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Georgina Ekeoma Ehuriah, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said that the projects were part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at repositioning the Ministry for better performance in line with its mandate of providing internal security and citizenship integrity for Nigerians and foreigners alike.

According to him, the e-Library will avail officers the opportunity to access the right information, in the right form and time.

“The e-Library gives our legal and other officers 24/7 access to a wide range of online resources, which can be updated in real time and we believe this will enhance the quality of their work to the benefit of the Ministry”, he said.

The Minister further assured of government’s commitment to putting in place measures that will boost staff capacity and also ensure self-development, with a view to ensuring proper implementation of projects, policies and programmes that will improve the lives of Nigerians which would lead to economic transformation in line with the present Administration’s policy thrust.

Aregbesola emphasized that crime and criminality has become complex to handle, the world over, hence the need to deploy modern technology to fight it.

He therefore called on staff to see the projects as morale booster for self-development and urged them to continue to support the efforts of government towards improving the lives of its citizens.

Earlier, Lanre Adesuyi, the Chief Executive Officer, Havillah Merchants Limited, thanked the Minister for giving them the opportunity to provide workers with state of the art equipment for efficient service delivery.

On his own part, Mr. Mohammed Mustapha, the Managing Director, Aliph Technologies, called on government at all levels to see the deployment of modern technology as one of the best ways to tackle security challenges in the contemporary world.


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Heritage Bank, PWC, Deloitte Canvass Use of Tech to Tackle Fraud & Rescind Effects of Covid-19

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Service provider has called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and annul the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the financial ecosystem.

Ifie Sekibo, managing director/CEO of Heritage Bank, speaking at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), disclosed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures.

Raising the alarming impact of fraudulent activities in the banking sector, Sekibo quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC’s) Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, revealing that that the total cost of cybercrimes is worth an eye-watering $42 billion, which was cash taken straight off companies’ bottom line, whilst 13% of those who had experienced  fraud said they had lost $50 million-plus.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” organised virtually and hosted by the Heritage Bank, urged, “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he must become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

In her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep the business running and delivering services to the customers but there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Quoting 2018 Financial Stability Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria, she stated that Banks recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion. More than 90% of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud.

She, however, advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations as reflected around the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role.

Beecroft warned that the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete.

According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated.

Yetunde Oladeji, director Internal Audit Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC), who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic, prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies as these would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.


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