" ITREALMS: February 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How search engine companies ‘manipulate votes’ – US

The American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT) has revealed in a study how search engine companies could indeed manipulate votes during electoral or democratic processes.

In the top 10 search engines globally Google leads with 82.80 per cent, followed by Yahoo with 6.42 per cent, Baidu 4.89 per cent, Bing 3.91 per cent, Yandex 1.7 per cent, Ask 0.52 per cent and AOL 0.3 per cent as at May 2011.

ITRealms recalls that experts at Wikipedia described a web search engine as a software code that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web (www).

Notable is that the search results are generally presented in a line of results often referred to as search engine results pages (SERP's). Hence, the information may be a specialist in web pages, images, information and other types of files. While some search engines also mine data available in databases or open directories.

They also explained that unlike web directories, which are maintained only by human editors, search engines also maintain real-time information by running an algorithm on a web crawler.

However, the AIBRT claim is given weight with the growing number of search engines and Internet adaption globally, which currently stood at about 2,405,518,376 internet users on June 30, 2012 with Africa recording 167,385,751 Internet users as at December 31, 2012.

ITRealms gathered that the researchers led by Dr. Epstein Robertson noted that even more worrisome is the fact that these search engine companies lead by Google as most outstanding could probably be pushed to almost 100 per cent of votes in any electoral process with adequate resources available to the company.

According to him, about 75 per cent of participants in democratic process were unaware that any manipulation could take place in the first instance.

He pointed out that in a second experiment, his team discovered that the manipulation could be masked, boosting the number of people who were oblivious to the manipulation to over 85 per cent, a figure that Dr. Epstein says, could be advanced to the highest figure.

“These results are really shocking,” Dr. Epstein said, adding that his team knew that voters are exposed to a large variety of influences during political campaigns: television advertisements, rallies, debates, and newspaper support.

However, search ranking manipulation could exert a disproportionately large influence over voters for a number of reasons.

“Most sources of influence are explicit and obvious in their support of one candidate or party, for example a newspaper article might be clearly one sided, making it easier to see the manipulation. Ranking changes are, in theory, undetectable and those searching don’t know that they are only being presented with one side of the story.

“People approach Google from the perspective that what it tells you is unbiased or neutral.  But as a business, that company or any company, will certainly favor some candidates over others – candidates that are good for the business.”

The study was conducted under the auspices of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California (USA), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization.

Remmy Nweke 

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

BON advocates special fund for digital migration in Nigeria by 2015

The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) has advocated for a special fund to fast track Nigeria’s digital migration by January 1, 2015, according to a report monitored on Africa Independent Television (AIT) Tuesday, in Lagos.

BON is the umbrella body of the corporate broadcasting entities in Nigeria, but unfortunately, the issue of digital migration was not key to the body as at the end of 2011, since it has to face an election year.

Sources close to BON confirmed to ITRealms that the special fund when created and made available to stakeholders, especially members of BON, it will go a long way in alleviating the challenges of funding digital migration by private sector organisations.

But following the clamour by stakeholders for Nigeria to take visible action to ensure that over 200 broadcast outlets that form its membership, and call for release of the white paper on the Presidential committee on Digital Migration in Nigeria, Nigeria last year set up what was tagged 14-man DigiTeam led by Engr. Edward Amana as the chairman.

Other members of Digiteam include Barr. Efere Ozoko, Mr. Bruce Ayanote, Capt.Talba Alkali, Engr. F.Y.N.Daudu, ACG Umar Iya Abubakar, Mr. Godwin Iheabunike, Engr. Dr. Bashir Gwandu, Mr. Guy Murray Bruce, Mr.Maxwell P.Loko, Engr.Friday Ekwela, Mrs. Veronica Adeyemo, and Dr.(Mrs) M.A. Abu.
ITRealms recalls that in order to catch-up with the deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for digital migration, that is, 2015, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, on Thursday, December 20, 2012, inaugurated the Digiteam; a digital committee charged with driving the process of transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television transmission in Nigeria.

The SGF had told the committee that its task was a unique and an important national assignment upon which Government placed a very high premium.

Stressing that modernisation of infrastructure and services is an integral part of President Goodluck Jonathan administration’s priorities, hence he emphasized that the process for selecting the members of the DigiTeam took cognizance of their individual capacities and contributions to the industry.

“This is a date we cannot afford to make any adjustment towards rescheduling. It is expected that you complete your assignment much earlier than January 2015 because we must catch up with the international requirement.

In his response, the Committee chairman, Engr. Edward Amana, expressed thanks to the Federal Government for the inauguration, noting that it was an enormous responsibility that was being placed on them.

He promised that the work of the Committee on completion would change the face of broadcasting in Nigeria and usher in a new era of better quality broadcasting, nationwide.

“The resultant save in spectrum would also generate a lot of funds for government,” Amana said.

He, however, admitted that it was not an easy task as the committee was starting work two years behind schedule and has two years to deliver; Thus, requested support from all stakeholders and promised to deliver on this special national assignment on schedule.

Engr. Edward Amana commended the NBC for piloting the ship for transition from analogue to Digital broadcasting. 
While the inauguration was attended by Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson; Permanent 
Secretary in the Office of the SGF; the Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Engr.Yomi Bolarinwa; Members of Management of the Commission; and Senior Officers in the Office of the SGF.

The question waiting for an answer by industry watchers is that given the bureaucracy evident, it may not likely meet with the January 1, 2015, deadline.

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Etisalat renews sponsorship deal with FC Barca

EtisalatGroup, the leading telecommunications operator in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, today Tuesday, renewed a four-year partnership deal with and FC Barcelona.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress 2013, soon after the contract was renewed with a signing ceremony, the group chief executive officer (GCEO), Etisalat Group, Ahmad Julfar, explained that the deal means the UAE-based company is FC Barcelona official partner in the region, including countries where it has operations such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Niger, Gabon and Central Africa Republic.

According to him, this agreement is a major event for the telecommunications industry This signing took place precisely in Barcelona at FC Barcelona’s stadium, Camp Nou, between Mr Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar of Etisalat Group and Sandro Rosell, the president of FC Barcelona.
Present at the ceremony include Mr. Steven Evans, Etisalat’s CEO for Nigeria, Khalid Al Kaf, CEO for Mobily, which operates in Saudi Arabia, Nagi Abboud, CEO for Atlantique Telecom, its Chief Regional Officer for Africa, Essa Al Haddad and Rainer Rathgeber, Etisalat Group’s Chief Commercial Officer.

“As a global telecommunications operator, it makes sense for us to partner with a world-class football club interested in expanding its international fan base,” the group CEO said. 

This partnership, he also said, presents a unique opportunity for the mobile company to demonstrate Etisalat Group’s capabilities as a telecommunications operator, while allowing FC Barcelona to engage new fans in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“We very much look forward to sharing the talent of FC Barcelona with our customers,” he said.
Commenting, Mr. Evans of Etisalat Nigeria noted that football is a major past-time in Nigeria and across Africa.

“People from all walks of life enjoy this sport and other activities associated with it. By partnering with FC Barcelona, we’re able to allow our customers and Nigerians especially, to extend their support to the world's most famous football team,” he said.

As said by him, the FCB partnership creates a suitable platform to connect with customers across segments that are passionate about international football, stressing that Etisalat will continue to support the development of sports in Nigeria and provide platforms such as this to key into the passion of Nigerians.

For Sandro Rosell, the president of FC Barcelona, they want to attract new fans from around the world and ongoing partnership with Etisalat has created another way for this to be achieved thereby enhancing FCB image and presence in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“Our team looks forward to playing for Etisalat Group’s customers and is excited about how easy they are making it for committed and potential fans to view our matches,” he submitted.

Remmy Nweke 
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FG creates national single window portal, call Gov centre

Mrs Omobola Johnson, CommTech Minister for Nigeria
 The Federal government has created a national single window portal that will ensure that all government information is domiciled in one portal, according to the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson.

This is coming as government call centre will be launched in April this year.

She made this disclosure at the just ended Social Media Week in Lagos, tagged ‘’Showcase: Technology in Governance,’’ stressing that the primary objective of deploying a National Portal, an initiative of the Ministry of Communication Technology in collaboration with the Ministry of Information is to create a single point of entry for Nigerians to access government information and services online.

The National Portal which will be launched in March, would showcase all the Ministries Departments and Agencies MDAs of the Federal Government of Nigeria on a single Window portal that would enable Nigerians at the click of a button to view and engage any desired agency of government.

Also, she disclosed that a government Call Center with vanity number ‘’0700 CALL GOV’’ is set for launch in April. 

She explained that the call center will facilitate enquiries, complaints cum problem resolution where possible. In addition to helping in building a knowledge management database and help support Servicom desks.

The portal,  Mrs Johnson she further said,  was created with the latest technology  with more intuitive domain names (finance instead of fmf, environment instead of Fme) that makes it easier for citizens to view what they want from a single window.

The portal currently has twenty processes and by 2015, two hundred and fifty processes of government will be online. Twenty simple citizen facing processes of the Ministry of Communication Technology, Education, Health, Agriculture and Trade and Investment have already been automated on the portal for the benefit of Nigerians.

The Portal will be multi-featured and have collaborative channels that deliver core content management capabilities in a single, extensible platform and will provide a consistent approach to managing traditional and social content. It will also have live twitter feeds and links to state government websites.

eGovernance according to the World bank is the use by governnment agencies of informaiton technologies (WANs, internet, mobile computing) that have the ability to transform the relationship with citizens, businesses and other arms of government. 

These technologies can serve a variety of different ends; better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interaction with business and industry; citizen empowerment through access to information or more efficient government management. 

The resulting benefits can be less corruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth and/or cost reduction.  

The Portal will bring government closer to the people by improving access of citizens to accurate, timely and relevant government information; as well bring government closer to the people by making available government information and government services for the benefit of Nigerians.

The Ministry of Communication Technology has already designed new standardized and secure web templates and guidelines that conform to global web and security standards for MDAs to adopt in the re-design of their websites before the launch. Thus all MDAs of Government will be mandated to migrate before December 2014 to the new security and design standards.

The National Portal has several key benefits which includes improved access to government information for citizens and improved efficiency in the delivery of government services to the citizenry.

Reiterating the role of the new Ministry of Communication Technology, Mrs Johnson stressed that the creation of the Ministry resulted in a better focus on the ICT industry and egovernance.  She added that though egovernance was already happening, but in silos. Government had publish and inform websites of 420 MDAs (not standard, not updated regularly).  

Nigerians she disclosed, could get Customs HS Codes, NIPOST post codes, file for passport issuance, register for exams and check exam results online via JAMB.
"But the National portal with a single window will have all that and more," she said.

She disclosed that processes like the Evaluation and Accreditation of Certificates, School Inspection Report, Registration of a Trademark, Registration of an Industrial Design, Registration of a Patent, Application for Product Certification, Application for SONCAP Certificate, Web-based Drug Authentication, Application for full registration of drugs, Farmers registration, Mega suppliers / distributors of fertilizer registration, Registration of seed importing and exporting companies and Application for non-commercial spectrum license are near completion for automation on the National Portal.

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