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The 5G Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Takes a Dark Turn

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New data seen by Wired UK has revealed that dozens of mobile phone masts are still being attacked by arsonists on a daily basis because of a conspiracy theory linking 5G to the spread of coronavirus.

The 5G Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Takes a Dark Turn

Though social networks have pledged to take more concerted action against it, the theory has continued to spread, inspiring a surge of attacks.

According to Wired UK, conspiracy theorists are targeting both infrastructure and key workers in the misguided belief that they are somehow spreading coronavirus.

In one incident, a broadband engineer was spat at in the face by an enraged member of the public. The engineer is now ill with suspected coronavirus.

Since March 30, there have been 77 arson attacks on mobile phone masts across the UK, with staff working on mobile infrastructure also reporting 180 incidents of abuse.

There have been 13 additional incidents of sabotage reported, ranging from failed arson attacks to attempts to damage mobile network infrastructure in other ways.

From April 20 through May 5, more than a week after the supposed peak of attacks in early April, there were 16 arson or sabotage attacks on mobile phone masts. When failed or attempted attacks are added to the tally, that number increases to 74.

The figures from the mobile phone sector are mirrored by Openreach, which is responsible for maintaining much of the UK’s broadband infrastructure.

The company has recorded 63 incidents of abuse directed towards its staff while out working since April 1, with conspiracy theorists often filming such encounters while shouting and swearing at terrified key workers.

Footage of these confrontations is then shared on social media. In the last two weeks of April, Openreach recorded 20 incidents of this nature.

The conspiracy theory linking 5G to coronavirus has spread rapidly through Facebook and YouTube in recent weeks.

It was given further prominence when a number of celebrities—including TV star Amanda Holden, Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson, and boxer Amir Khan—shared it on social media.

The online spread of the conspiracy theory is still having dangerous real-world consequences. Openreach engineers, none of whom are even involved in installing 5G infrastructure, have been exposed to a barrage of abuse.

One person threatened to throw a brick at an Openreach engineer’s head, returning several minutes later shouting and wielding a bottle. In another incident, an engineer was told they would be in “fucking trouble” if it turned out they were installing 5G, with the abuser then punching their van door and walking off.

Elsewhere, a woman shouted that 5G was “more dangerous than Covid-19,” called an Openreach engineer “fucking mental” and said she would get her brother and six friends over to “do him in.”

While angry shouting and threats typify many of these incidents, some have resulted in physical acts of violence.

Michael, an apprentice network engineer working for Openreach in London, was spat at in the face by an angry member of the public. Michael has since had to self-isolate after becoming ill with suspected coronavirus.

He was too unwell to be interviewed for this story. Another Openreach engineer has been stabbed and put in hospital.

Dylan, an engineer working for Openreach in Leicester, who was verbally abused while driving his van, describes the incident as “quite intimidating.”

In Dylan’s case, a man got out of his car while at a red light on a dual carriageway and started shouting abuse and banging on his van.

“He put his head against my window, he’s saying, ‘Don’t you ignore me, stop trying to cover up what you’re doing, 5G is killing us all, you’ve got no morals,’” Dylan says.

“You’ve got someone right there and you’re on your own. You wonder if he’s going to smash the window, what’s he going to do if he does get in, is he going to attack me? I seized up and just waited for the light to go green.” While this was happening, another individual remained in the parked car and filmed everything. Dylan says the incident has left him shaken.

“When I’m on my own I feel a bit cautious, a bit on edge. And I can’t fully focus on the task at hand because I’m always keeping an eye on what’s happening.”

Tiffany, another Openreach engineer, experienced similar intimidation from a member of the public who went on a “power trip,” lecturing her about the apparent dangers of 5G while she was trying to fix broadband infrastructure on a residential street.

He was saying, ‘I’m a reporter, I’m going to be putting this everywhere.’ He was going to put out this thing saying I was spreading coronavirus when I was just doing my job. I felt really vulnerable while it was happening and really intimidated by him. I was shaking all day after.” Tiffany later found the video on Facebook and YouTube, though it has since been removed.

The continued abuse of key workers and attacks on critical infrastructure hint at how widely this conspiracy theory continues to circulate online. In the last seven days alone, more than 54,000 posts referencing 5G and coronavirus have appeared on Facebook, generating over two million interactions. The most popular of these posts, featuring an image of Bill Gates with devil horns, has received more than 4,600 shares, comments and interactions. Two posts protesting the removal of conspiracy theorist David Icke’s Facebook page have together generated more than 7,000 shares, comments and other interactions.

The response from social networks has been spasmodic at best. While figures such as Icke have been banned, other Facebook groups with huge followings that peddle similar conspiracy theories are still active. Earlier this week, Twitter introduced a feature that prompts people posting about the conspiracy theory to read fact-checked advice. At the same time, David Icke’s Twitter profile is still active. On YouTube, conspiracy theory videos revealing “the truth” about 5G and coronavirus are still getting tens of thousands of views.

The worry for industry figures is that despite a widespread and concerted effort to debunk the dangerous 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory, it continues to thrive both online and in the real world. “It’s deeply frustrating and saddening that our engineers are facing abuse of this kind,” says Catherine Colloms, managing director of corporate affairs and brand at Openreach. “We’ve seen a worrying surge in incidents where our engineers are being subjected to mindless verbal abuse or intimidation linked to the bogus 5G theory. It really needs to stop.”

 

This story originally appeared on WIRED UK.


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Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

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The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), has started to broadcast a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signal over Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI), providing its first open service in the region via NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite managed and operated the by Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd., under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

This early open service is provided as part of the programme, which pursues the autonomous provision SBAS services in Africa, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.

With improved accuracy to within a meter, and boosted integrity, availability, and continuity of safety-related applications, these SBAS services will improve flight safety and efficiency in Africa, and also benefit the economy in many areas as land, sea, and rail transport, as well as mass-market applications, supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development.

The launched open service essentially aims to carry-out technical trials, and to undertake partner airlines field demonstrations for aircraft and rotorcraft, to demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024. It will also include early Precise Point Positioning (PPP), and emergency warning service to populations, which performance will be proven through other demonstrations.

The signal-in-space is generated by a dedicated system tested, developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” preliminary design phase, financed by the European Union, and awarded to Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 per cent), and Leonardo (33 per cent).

The “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” is based on the European EGNOS (1) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), acting under the delegation of the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency GSA.

The system prototype uses as reference stations the SAGAIE network deployed by CNES and ASECNA with the support of Thales Alenia Space.

The signal is broadcasted via the SBAS payload on NigComSat 1R GEO satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite, and an uplink station deployed in Abuja, Nigeria.

It is compliant to the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the minimum operational performance standard developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) organisation.

It will be visible in the whole of Africa and the Indian Ocean, up to the West Australian coast, and also in Europe.

Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director/chief executive officer of NIGCOMSAT, said: “we are proud to be part of this ambitious program to provide satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region. The use of our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to broadcast the first signal will be Africa’s premier contribution to SBAS as a regional satellite-based augmentation system for the continent.”

On his part, Benoit Broudy, vice president, Navigation Business at Thales Alenia Space in France, said the longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe, and KASS SBAS in Korea, combined with the new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies make Thales Alenia the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently.

“The equatorial region represents also a key engineering challenge for such a system due to difficult ionosphere conditions, for which Thales Alenia Space has developed a proven solution,” he stated.

Mohamed Moussa, director-general of ASECNA, said the provision of the first African SBAS early service is a crucial major step forward in the development of satellite navigation in the AFI region, and in the deployment of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa.

He said: “It demonstrates the ambition and commitment of ASECNA to enhance air navigation safety for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”


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ipNX, USTDA Ink Partnership Deal to Develop Nigeria’s ICT Infrastructure

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ipNX, Nigeria’s pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed a partnership deal that will further support the development of Nigeria’s ICT and broadband infrastructure and help ipNX expand its fibre-optic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt.

A virtual signing ceremony that signalled the beginning of this far reaching relationship between the two parties was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.

Through this innovative initiative, the USTDA is supporting ipNX to promote inclusive, secure and sustainable connectivity across the nation.

The agreements were made possible as a result of several engagements between the USTDA delegation to Nigeria and the leadership of ipNX; and will advance the goals of the recently updated Nigerian Broadband Plan.

At the Signing Ceremony, Ejovi Aror, group managing director of ipNX, said: “We believe that world-class connectivity and broadband internet access will be pivotal to the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

‘We are very positive that this project will play a crucial role in making our belief a reality.”

Aror added that with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for a vibrant ICT sector has never been stronger and the new partnership will bring ipNX a step closer to achieving its mission to continually leverage technology to create innovative solutions that help mankind thrive, while making a crucial impact to the lives of Nigerians across the country.

Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, said’ “These projects will support the development of Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure and help to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

“The U.S. Government has committed significant resources to improving telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria and this support is crucial as we believe that investment in critical ICT projects will strengthen the resiliency outlined in Nigeria’s economic sustainability plan.”

Also present at the virtual event, the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Bako Wakil, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said: “The support this grant will provide to the telecommunications sector, in particular broadband, is in line with the National Digital Strategy and the National Broadband Plan.

“The NCC would like to congratulate ipNX as it shows the company’s integrity and commitment to be selected for this grant”.

ipNX also revealed that it intends to continue to work with USTDA beyond the preliminary stage, to execute many more projects into the future that will bring about the digital transformation and socio-economic development of major cities in Nigeria in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.

With their partnership, both parties fully agree that further development of the nation’s broadband infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential promised by Nigeria’s digital economy.

According to the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report’ released in 2019, Broadband is a key enabler to harness the digital economy transformation and high-speed broadband has the potential to accelerate Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

 


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Manfa, ANSICTA Boss Pledges to Collaborate with NITDA for Establishment of Zonal Office in Anambra State

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Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA) has hinted that they are ready to collaborate with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) for the establishment of the agency’s South-East Zonal office in the State.

 

He stated this when he led ANSICTA delegation to NITDA’s head office in Abuja recently.

 

Mr Manfa explained that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”

Dr Vincent Vincent Olatunji, Director E-Government and Regulation NITDA receiving an award on behalf of the DG from Theo Manafa MD ANSICTA

He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.

 

He requested NITDA’s partnership with ANSICTA in building an ICT Hub in Anambra State; hosting a NITDA regional office; hosting NITDA events and programs as a State and region; trainings and Skills development programs of NITDA where the State hopes to train 40,000 residents in the next 2 years in Digital skills; establishment of cooperation on the Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and the provision of the Unity Board where 150 units were requested for a program for secondary schools in Anambra.

 

ANSICTA also presented an award to the Director General for his “Outstanding Achievements in Driving theDigital Economy” which was received by Dr. Vincent Olatunji on behalf of the DG.

 

Dr. Olatunji responded along with comments from some of the Directors and said NITDA would be glad to cooperate with the State.

L-R: Theo Manafa, MD/CEO of ANSICTA, Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, DG of NITDA and Michael Orekyeh, COO of ANSICTA

He said it was gratifying to note that Anambra State now has an ICT Agency as Gov Willie Obiano had visited NITDA 6 years ago and the agency had worked with the State in developing an ICT policy for Anambra.

 

The success of that exercise is the take off of the agency (ANSICTA) which is the execution arm of the policy developed by NITDA.

 

He further said ANSICTA was by the speech of its MD really in tune with the affairs and mandates of NITDA and stated that ANSICTA should make a formal application for the things requested at this meeting will be looked into by Management for approval by the Director General.

 

He also thanked ANSICTA for recognizing the hard work of the DG through the award they presented, which he said was most encouraging.

Michael Orekyeh; chief operating officer of ANSICTA was part of the delegation from Anambra State. while the Director General of NITDA, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was represented by the Director E-Government and Regulation, Dr. Vincent Olatunji; Director Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship – OIIE, Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Sambo Magaji; Deputy Director of IT Infrastructure, Dr. Saidu Kumo; SA Technical to the DG, Dr. Mohammed Yahaya; Corporate Strategy Department, Dr. Taofik Yekini and other Directors and Key Management Staff.

 

 

 


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