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Thursday, May 31, 2018

African media icon, PUNCH chairman, Wale Aboderin, dies at 60

An African media icon and chairman of Punch newspapers, Mr. Wale Aboderin, has died on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, at 6.05am, at the age of 60 after a brief post-surgery ailment, reports ITRealms.
His death, ITRealms gathered, is coming barely a year after Mr. Aboderin was elected the Board chairman of the African Media Initiative (AMI) in Nairobi, Kenya.
Late Mr. Aboderin, ITRealms also gathered, was a trained commercial pilot at the Burnside-Ott Flying School, Florida, United States. The former student of Government College, Ibadan, Wale, was appointed chairman of the company’s board of directors in 2012.

His tenure witnessed groundbreaking changes in the editorial quality, management and fortunes of PUNCH, including a hugely successful redesign, the launch of several digital initiatives and the newspaper’s win of several local and international awards.

A popular sports enthusiast in Nigeria, late Mr. Aboderin is the founder and owner of Dolphins Basketball Club, a leading African female basketball club, with local and continental honours. He is a former chairman of the Lagos State Basketball Association and a former member of the Nigerian Handball Federation.
Late Mr Aboderin, ITRealms gathered, passed away after a heart surgery at the First Cardiology Consultants, Ikoyi-Lagos and was the older brother of actress and singer, Wunmi Obe. He is survived by a wife, Titilayo, and two children.

 Ayo Midele/GEE

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Inkjet market sees growth as Lasers misfire continues


The overall Egyptian hardcopy peripherals (HCP) market, which comprises single-function printers, MFPs, and single-function digital copiers for both office-based and production segments, experienced a year-on-year decline of 19.2% in Q1 2018 to total 26,139 units, according to the latest insights International Data Corporation (IDC), reports ITRealms.

The global technology research and consulting firm's recently published Quarterly Hardcopy Peripherals Tracker shows that the inkjet segment once again recorded strong growth in Q1 2018, with shipments rising 26.5% year on year to total 12,725 units worth $1.16 million.

"The stellar growth seen in the inkjet segment can be attributed to the improved performance of the retail sector and a steady easing of inflation rates since August 2017," says Samar El-Sayed, a senior research analyst for imaging, printing, and document solutions at IDC Egypt. "Vendors also supported the market's growth by introducing affordable new inkjet models targeted at consumers and small office/home office users in an attempt to boost their own shipments and compensate for declines in the laser market."

Shipments of ink tank devices increased 72.0% year on year in Q1 2018 to total 3,049 units, accounting for almost one-quarter of the overall inkjet shipments for the three-month period. "The growing uptake of ink tank printers was driven in large part by increased awareness among end users of the lower costs per page offered by such devices when compared with traditional cartridge-based inkjets," says El-Sayed.

The mono laser segment continued its decline in Q1 2018, with shipments down 44.0% year on year to total 12,265 units and revenue falling 30.9% to $6.09 million. In contrast, the color laser market recorded year-on-year shipment growth, spurred by the government's relaxation of color laser device import rules.

In the 21-30 ppm A3 mono laser segment, shipments increased 27.2% to 1,526 units, although the value of these shipments declined 5.3% to $2.39 million, which indicates a decrease in average selling prices. IDC expects the A3 laser segment to see steady growth over the coming years, driven by increasing interest in print service contracts from both the public and private sectors.

In terms of vendor unit rankings for the Egyptian HCP market in Q1 2018, HP Inc. and Canon remained in first and second place, respectively, together accounting for around two-thirds of overall shipments. However, both vendors suffered declines in the quarter, with HP Inc.'s overall HCP shipments down 9.9% year on year to 10,140 units and Canon's shipments falling 23.0% to 6,827 units.

While Xerox ranked third in terms of unit share, it placed first in value, accounting for around 41% of the market's total. Xerox's shipments and revenues more than doubled year on year in Q1 2018 to reach 3,386 units worth $4.28 million, spurred by strong sales of its midrange mono and color laser devices.

Chuks Egbune/GEE

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Freshworks delivers Artificial Intelligence-powered experiences

Against a background where market disruption is key to creating new opportunities, Freshworks has embraced Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help keep their clients relevant, competitive and profitable, reports ITRealms.

Having identified Twitter as a key channel through which customers often engage companies, Freshworks has developed a social AI entity called Social Signals. This AI tool helps filter relevant and important messages from the volume of Twitter messages that may be directed at any one company. Social Signals works by going through a company’s entire feed, where it understands and filters out tweets asking for help. These tweets are then converted to a task for a customer support agent to remedy, while disregarding all other tweets.

By filtering tweets, the Social signals AI seamlessly enhances Freshworks’ cloud-based engagement platform, Freshdesk. This integration empowers businesses of all sizes with the kind of next-generation customer experience and innovation that modern society demands. To further refine the effectiveness of Social Signals, support agents can train the AI to recognize new types of communication thus improving its learning, resolution and decision-making skills.

In an extensive research, Freshworks found that smart automated programs called chatbots, responded to a significant 40% of questions asked through Freshdesk. Furthermore, chatbots could dramatically improve the quality of exchanges between customers and support agents. This was achieved by the chatbots requesting basic information first to collect necessary customer data. Significant benefits from time and cost savings were also recorded with increases of 15% to 20% more customers being helped.

Arihant Jain, Business Head - Middle East & Africa at Freshworks commented, “AI has immense potential to add real value to the customer experience journey irrespective of the industry. However, AI must be viewed as a complement rather than as a replacement for people. This is something we are passionate about at Freshworks, where we look to technology to combine the ingenuity and efficiency of automated solutions with the irreplaceable empathy of the human touch. Freshworks prides itself in offering its growing number of customers and partners, solutions that enhance their service offering without negatively impacting the bottom line.” 
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DigitalSENSE Forum 2018: Igbalajobi, Sesan, Amana to speak on IPv6, GDPR

A cyber security expert and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of CyberCode, Mr. Olatunji Igbalajobi and President of the Nigeria Internet Group, Mr. Destiny Amana would be leading speakers at this year’s Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum (NDSF) series slated for Lagos on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, reports ITRealms.

The Nigeria DigitalSENSE Forum (NDSF) on Internet Governance for Development (IG4D) and Nigeria IPv6 Roundtable 2018, slated to hold at  Cooperative Hall Oshodi-Isolo Secretariat, Oshodi-Lagos, would also have the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Mr. Gbenga Sesan; as part of the panel on IPv6 and GDPR: Issues and Challenges in Nigeria.

Disclosing this, the Executive Director, Operations at DigitalSENSE Africa Media, the organisers of NDSF series, Mrs. Nkemdilim Nweke, said that 2018 edition would be presided over by the chief executive officer, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) Mr. Muhammed Rudman.

She noted that Mr. Igbalajobi is also the national programme director and membership coordinator of the Cyber Security Expert Association of Nigeria (CSEAN).

A seasoned information security specialist, Igbalajobi, she said, specializes in security assessments, vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, as well as Information Technology (IT) risk management. Even as he is a certified ethical hacker, QualysGuard certified specialist, and a qualified ISO 27001:2013 lead auditor cum implementer.

Further, she said Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, Gbenga Sesan of Paradigm Initiative, who originally trained as an Electronic & Electrical Engineer at Obafemi Awolowo University, would join the panel.

Sesan, she pointed out is had completed Executive Education programmes at Lagos Business School, New York Group for Technology Transfer, Oxford University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Santa Clara University and University of the Pacific.

His consulting experience includes assignments completed for numerous institutions, including Microsoft, Harvard University and United Nations agencies, among others, in over 30 countries; and former member of the United Nations Committee of eLeaders on Youth and ICT, he is a CyberStewards Fellow, Crans Montana Forum Fellow, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, Our Common Future Fellow and Cordes Fellow.

Equally, Gbenga served as a member of the Presidential committees on Harmonization of Information Technology, Telecommunications and Broadcasting Sectors (2006) and Roadmap for the Achievement of Accelerated Universal Broadband Infrastructure and Services Provision (2013), and was listed by CNN as one of the Top 10 African Tech Voices on Twitter and by Ventures Africa as one of 40 African Legends Under 40; Gbenga, is a member of the Freedom Online Coalition Advisory Network.

NDSF series is hosted in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Galaxy Backbone, Teledom International, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) among others.

Uj. N. Dominic/GEE

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Ramadan: Muslim faithful reaffirm commitment

The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; where Muslims refrain from taking any morsel of food or a sip of water the entire day until sunset in the evening. It is a period of reflection, patience, self-restraint and generosity that is intended to bring Muslims closer to Allah. 

ITRealms notes that Ramadan is a very significant month in Islamic faith, it is said that during this pious month, the gates of heaven are open while the devils are chained behind the closed doors of hell.

Also, it was believed that God revealed the first verses of the Qur'an, Islam's sacred text to Mohammed on a night known as "The Night of Power (Laylaf al-Qadr).

The practice of fasting serves several spiritual and social purposes to Muslims of human fragility and total dependence on Allah for sustenance, to demonstrate what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty thereby having compassion for the poor and needy, also to reduce distraction in life so one can be more clearly focus in relating with God.

In essence, Muslims eagerly look forward to Ramadan each year because it is one of the five pillars of Islam along the testimony of faith, prayer, charitable giving and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

All Muslims faithful are required to take part every year though with an exceptions to those  that are ill, pregnant or nursing mothers, menstruating or travelling or for young child and the elderly.

A quick check on the time Ramadan was held last year revealed that, it was observed between 27 May-27 June 2017, while this year Ramadan started on the evening of 16 May, 2018. Contrary to public beliefs that it might commenced on 15 May, 2018. However, the dates vary each year depending on the moon sightings. Muslims waited to start fasting until small silver of crescent moon became visible for the commencement of the Holy Month.

ITRealms gathered from some Muslims faithful how the economic situation in the country has affected their purchasing power for food items and essential commodities as against the previous year.

Commenting on this, Mr Taofeek Ridwan said that he was able to stock up his home last year even in recession unlike this year when he cannot even afford to get enough money to buy in bulks.

Alhaja Memunat Oyedun, a civil servant, said the economy has not been favourable which has affected her family,there is no money in circulation unlike last year.

However, with the fear of inadequate money in circulation expressed by many interviewed this has not affect Muslims faithful in observing the Ramadan as they sees it as one of the pillars of Islam.

Mr Suraj Oyetunde, an oil dealer said this is the best time to exercise one's faith as a true believer of Islam, so as to place the economy in Allah's care.

However, during Ramadan, a Muslim is expected to refrain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, gossiping, backbiting, smoking and engaging in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Doing any of those things invalidates your fast for the day.

Also Muslims are to focus on prayer and recite the Qur’an, while generosity and giving to good causes or neighbour or less privilege is expected. And as noted by Zainab Adadeji, Muslims normally break fast with water, dates or fruits, of which the dates or fruits must be in odd numbers, for instance, 3, 5, 7 etc; after which they would pray then take pap, rice etc. While in the early morning between 4am-5am they opt for solid meals.

A market survey conducted,  revealed that the economy downturn has affected the purchasing power of most families, just as the prices of food items have not increased contrary to what usually happens during Ramadan period.

In some of the major markets visited by our correspondent, gathered that essential commodities usually taken by families during Ramadan remain unchanged.

At the Mile 12 market in Lagos, ITRealms gathered that there is an increase in the prices of goods including a bag of rice which is between N13,500 and N14,000, as against the former price of N12,500 and N13,000 being sold early this year. While a bag of beans is between N40,000 and N42,000

Mr Ifeanyi, a foodstuff seller informed that current high prices are not attributed to the Ramadan period. 

A quick view of other food items and essential commodities remained the same. A 25litres, for instance, of sealed groundnut oil is between N9.800 and N10,000, while five litres is N2,100. Also 10 tubers of yam is between N3,500 and N4,000 for the small sizes while the big tubers of yam is between N10,000 and N13,000.

The survey showed that the prices of perishable foods like tomatoes which was on a high price has drastically reduced while Bell pepper(Tatashe) and scotch bonnet(Rodo) remains stable.

 A big basket of tomatoes is now between #15,000-#17,000 while the small basket is #7,000  against the former price of #27,000-#30,000 sold last week. Also onions price remain static despite the Ramadan. 

However, some traders complained of low patronage especially as Ramadan approaches unlike in the past where people troop-in to stock up their home with bulk purchasing.

In his words, Mallam Habeeb of Kantargabas (onions section) at Mile 12 said that patronage for onions was not high this year as many people where buying in small quantities.

In the same vein, Mrs Odunayo Ibrahim, a business woman, said it is a normal sale despite the commencement of the fasting claiming people are no more buying in bulk but in pieces.

Mr Mojeed Abidoye, a hotelier said, "there is little money in circulation in the country, therefore there is no way I can give my wife a large amount of money to buy food items in bulk. We will manage with whatever we can afford during this Ramadan, probably something bigger can happen in my business then we can stock the home in bulk purchasing."

However, the people frowned at the epileptic power supply especially during Ramadan, as this sometimes hinders their “wake up" in the early hours 4am-5am to observe their prayers and meals.

At Ladega market,Ikorodu (popularly known for beverages and provisions), there is a slight increase in the purchase of beverages and provision by people unlike last year  where there is a large influx of people buying in cartons however the prices of beverages remains stable. 

Contrary to some beliefs that economic situation in the country may affect people participation in this Holy month of Ramadan. According to Alhaji Jelili Olabisi, who said, that being involved in more than one job does not affect ones participation in the fasting once Nigerians are used to hard labour. 

For Alhaja Azeezat Oni, the change in the economy may affect the numbers of Muslims because some artisans engage in more than two jobs to make ends meet thereby discouraging their full participation.

Imam Abdulsalam Taofeek, therefore enjoined all Muslims to see this period as a time of reflection, in which good deeds done to the less privilege or ones neighbour is rewarded by Allah between 70-700 depending on your ‘giving,’ adding that Muslims should not desist from Zakat-a giving to the poor and needy.

*Contributed by Gbemi Omotosho/ED, Ops

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Vodacom supports next generation ICT girls

The Vodacom Business Nigeria has organized a one-day industrial visit for female students from Grace High School, Gbagada and Lagoon Secondary School, Lekki as part of planned activities for the celebration of the recently concluded 7th Edition of the International Girls in ICT Day, reports ITRealms.

Female students from the schools participated at the celebration where they won the Coding and STEM quiz competitions, respectively.

The International Girls in ICT Day Celebration was organized by e-Business Life Communication Limited, publishers of e-Business Life Magazine at the Oriental Hotel in Lekki, was part of a global campaign that seeks to encourage young girls to consider ICT as a profession and to contribute their quota to the growth of the industry in Nigeria while also actualizing self-development.

International Girls’ in ICT Day is an initiative launched through the Information Technology University (ITU) with the idea of creating a global environment that will empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the ICT field. With the number of school girls opting to study technology-related disciplines in decline in most countries worldwide, ITU has committed itself towards championing the mindset change required to open the minds of young women to the role a career in tech can play in creating exciting, far-reaching opportunities for women.

In fulfilment of goal five of its Sustainable Development Goals, Vodacom Business has created various empowerment programs such as the Women in Leadership Programme aimed at creating leadership and personal capacity in women across all employee levels; the #ConnectedSheCan campaign, a socially driven campaign aimed at celebrating the accomplishments of women within the Vodacom Business Nigeria workforce; and the youth empowerment program, the ‘Power to You’ project under the umbrella of which the Girls in ICT Day is activated, to enable both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.

Speaking at this year’s Girls in ICT Day, Vodacom Business Nigeria’s Senior Manager for Product Development, Funke Atanda said: “Vodacom is committed to accelerating the change needed to create relevant opportunities for women through the use of ICT.”
“By supporting ICT skills acquisition for young girls, bringing them into our organizations and opening their minds to new technologies that exist and continue to develop, we are able to encourage more girls to choose courses in the ICT sector. This will help increase the number of women in the ICT sector in the near future,” Atanda said.

Moreover, Atanda alluded that “Initiatives like the ITU Girls in ICT Day would go a long way towards encouraging this change, thus strengthening the sector while continuing to improve social and economic progression in the country.”

By providing donations, training and support to ICT driven programs, Vodacom Business Nigeria is accelerating the removal of barriers for girls and women in the ICT industry.

Uj. N. Dominic/GEE

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mCoin set to debut with virtual SMS wallet

The chief executive officer (CEO) of ONEm Communications, Mr. Christopher Richardson, has disclosed the company readiness to unveil its mCoin’s Virtual SMS Wallet, reports ITReaLms.

The mCoin, is the world’s first cryptocurrency which works on any mobile with or without the internet, is pleased to announce the release of the virtual SMS wallet to thousands in the mCoin community globally who are keen to participate in this new technology.

According to Richardson, connecting people with financial services is a key challenge in Africa, but with this wallet innovative service allows people to use an ordinary mobile for business and complex financial transactions. 

“Soon we will be announcing significant government partnerships in Africa regarding support for the ONEm ecosystem,” he said.

Unlike other tokens and cryptocurrencies, mCoin is taking a completely new approach with a technology that works outside the domain of the internet. mCoin's Virtual Wallet provides the 3 billion who are unconnected, a way to participate in the cryptocurrency revolution.  mCoin is already integrated with the ONEm ecosystem services for Pseduo Mining, a novel method of mining to earn mCoins.

Anyone with a mobile phone will be able to access the Virtual Wallet and interact via SMS interface. mCoins can be transferred to another virtaul wallet owner by using ONEm’s global identity names instead of the traditional long cryptocurrency addresses. This approach will make trading more feasible and user friendly. 

mCoin's Virtual Wallet creates credit card-like transactions that lets users build their own credit history. These credit histories can be used for lenders to determine lower lending rates based on transaction merit.

To get a virtual wallet, customers will be able to join mCoin's Airdrop Program and earn free mCoins. Anyone willing to own more will have to join the ICO and wil be able to acquire mCoins at 3¢ now before the price increases to 5¢ on 3rd of June.  Any customer can from now on sign up on mCoin website and get a refferal link to share with their network so that they can get an additional 5% bonus.

Ayo Midele/GEE

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2019: INEC delivers 123,848 voters cards to Plateau State

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has delivered some 123,848 permanent voters cards to Plateau State INEC, reports ITRealms.

According to INEC, reports from its field officers have revealed a smooth exercise in all the 17 Local Government Area in Plateau State.

The Head of Publicity and Voter Education Department in Plateau INEC, Osaretin Imahiyereobo, told journalists in Jos that the distribution of the PVCs commenced in the 17 LGAs on May 21.

According to him, the PVCs were for those voters who registered with INEC between April and December 2017.

He said, “The exercise was flagged off at  the Jos South Local Government office of INEC by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mallam Hussaini Halilu Pai. This was followed by the monitoring of the  exercise in Barkin Ladi and Riyom LGAs by the National Commissioner supervising Plateau State,  Prof. Anthonia Simbine.

“A breakdown of the PVCs received in Plateau State shows that Jos South LGA has 21,045, followed by Jos North with 15, 113; Wase, 11,118; Shendam, 10,990. Jos East LGA has the least number of PVCs.

“Reports from the various LGAs is mixed with response in the  collection of the PVCs. While reports from Jos North, Jos South and Wase LGAs showed initial enthusiasm in the number of PVCs collected, other LGAs has not shown marked improvement.

“So far Jos North has the highest rate of collection with 625, followed by Jos South, 520; Kanam, 485. Other available figures are Quan'Pan, 143, Riyom, 20, Langtang North, 96, Wase, 44, Shendam 144, Barkin Ladi, 300 and Pankshin, 36.

“Apart from the distribution of the new cards, others who registered before the 2015 elections are also collecting their cards. Other CVR activities such as registration, transfers, corrections and replacements are going on simultaneously.“

Uboshe Uboshe/GEE

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STEM: African women in ICT can boost continental GDP - Celine Bremaud

The Sales, Marketing and Operations Vice President at Microsoft  for Middle East and Africa,  Celine Bremaudrecently spoke to Victor Onyeka-Ben,  on the company’s STEM education in Africa. Excerpts:

Q: What is the level of acceptance of STEM education in Africa? How has your program impacted on women in the continent? Has enough been done by your organization to improve the situation on the ground in Africa?

It’s estimated that by 2020, 80 percent of all jobs will require some sort of STEM qualification but Africa is lagging behind the rest of world in terms of investments in STEM education and workforce development.

Microsoft has a long history of supporting STEM education on the continent with a particular focus on the “T” for technology and computer science education. Our work has primarily focused on closing the “digital divide” - helping students, educators, and young adults gain the basic digital literacy and learning skills required in today’s technology-driven world.

When it comes to women, Microsoft also realizes that women of all ages are underrepresented in STEM fields. It’s a well-known fact that globally, only 14 percent of the STEM workforce consists of females. Having more women enter the STEM workforce will in turn drive economic growth, equality and innovation. In fact, bringing 600 million additional women to the ICT sector can boost the GDP of developing countries by an estimated US$13 billion. We therefore want to create a culture where more women are attracted to STEM and see themselves having a career path in the technology industry.

With this in mind, Microsoft is actively empowering young girls on the continent to study STEM subjects at school and university and encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM fields. We have many programmes aimed at increasing participation of women in STEM fields across the continent.

Our most recent programme is our annual #MakeWhat’sNext campaign in celebration of International Women's Day. On an annual basis, Microsoft launches an awareness campaign globally and regionally to encourage young women to pursues careers in STEM with a particular focus on computer science. This year, the campaign covered 14 countries in the Middle East and Africa reaching over 23 million young women and parents. We also upskilled over 293, 600 young girls with the main goal of the campaign being to address the stereotypes and misconceptions that discourage women from pursuing careers in STEM.  The campaign ran from International Women's Day on 8 March and culminated on International Day for Girls in ICT which falls on 26 April.

Q: How have the programs assisted in advancing the ideals of STEM especially in bridging the gender gap particularly in the region(s) that you cover?

Microsoft is involved in a wide range of programs aimed at attracting, recruiting, retaining, and developing women from around the world in the field of computer technology and STEM subjects. We have embarked on a variety of initiatives in the in MEA region to that effect. Here are some of our flagship programs:

Microsoft Digital Skills program is a global program that seeks to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to learn digital skills and computer science through unique programs and partnerships with governments, business, and non-profit organizations such as Code.org.

Under this initiative, we also sponsored a number of programs dedicated to empowering women such as:

à Technology for Social Change and Development Initiative
The Technology for Social Change and Development Initiative will partner with the Federal and State Ministries of Women Affairs across 12 states in Nigeria to establish the Nigerian Women Techmakers program, an experiential learning program aimed at building digital literacy, coding and analytical skills in young women. The Nigerian Women Techmakers program will train 2,400 young women through a three-month program that includes technical training, mentoring, hackathons and workshops.

à The African Centre for Women, Information & Communications Technology
The African Centre for Women, Information & Communications Technology (ACWICT) creates opportunities for youth from poor and disadvantaged areas in Kenya to pursue careers in the technology industry. 9,000 young women are introduced to digital skills training, including introduction to computer systems, hardware and software components, computer applications, and programming and coding.

à FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalist)
Microsoft has also supported FAWE since 2016 in 10 African countries to train youth, teachers and students to adopt and use STEM curricula, teaching and learning materials and classroom practices that are gender-responsive. This is conducted through at least 30 schools per country with each center reaching over 1,000 girls directly. In 2017, two teams per country presented their innovations at a Pan-African Innovation competition in Lusaka Zambia.

à Aspire Women
Aspire Women is an Egyptian initiative to help underserved women realize their career dreams, by breaking the barriers hampering their socio-economic development. The three-year program was designed to empower 25,000 young women in Egypt through access to technology.

à Leveraging our employees
Microsoft ran mentorship programs in Kenya and Egypt benefitting 600 young women with skills development and career enablement in technology and business.

à Cloud Startup Academy
Microsoft also launched the Cloud Startup Academy to help women entrepreneurs launch businesses with the help of cloud technology. Since launching the program, 22 new cloud-based startups have been created and 19 women have been placed in permanent jobs.

Q: Are you willing to partner with NGOs in taking the program closer to women? Will you for instance, have a working partnership with Africanewscircle.com or other NGOs known to it to take the STEM program closer to women across Africa?

Microsoft does most of its philanthropic work on the continent either with or through nonprofits. We rely on our nonprofit partners to share learnings and bring opportunities to the most underserved populations and we have multiple partners across the Middle East and Africa. We’ve mentioned a few of them above but we also work with many others across the region.

Q: What do you think should be done to get more women involved in STEM education? Are you doing that already or have done anything in that direction?

At Microsoft, we believe diversity fosters greater innovation. With this belief in mind, we strive to be a leader in attracting women to careers in technology. We start early in the pipeline by sparking girls’ interest in technology careers. We promote the study of computer science at traditionally women’s colleges and other universities. We also invest in women-focused organizations, seek out women-owned suppliers, and provide support to women once they are employees at Microsoft.

Understanding the need to invest in a future workforce that is diverse and inclusive, we’ve created specific programs around the development and hiring of diverse talent, including high school internship programs and college recruiting efforts such as YouthSpark, DigiGirlz and Explore Microsoft internships.

Our annual #MakeWhatsNext initiative aims to increase the number of girls interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers by introducing them to lesser-known female inventors. We believe that by expanding these young girls’ imaginations by showing them what's possible in STEM fields will attract more women to STEM fields.

Q: How widespread or accessible, is your digital program to women in Africa? Can you give specific examples of where you have implemented the digital program in Africa? Do you have plans of expanding the program?

We have implemented programs in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Cote D ‘Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Uganda.

One example is DigiGirlz, a Microsoft YouthSpark program that gives middle and high school girls’ opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. In the last 4 years, Microsoft has hosted DigiGirlz Days in 7 countries and in 2018, events have been planned for 10 countries including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda.

As part of our YouthSpark cash grants, Microsoft has also partnered with the Zariah Elizabeth Foundation which empowers women through education. With support from Microsoft, 50,000 young women will receive digital skills training in the next year through a train-the-trainer program in UNESCO community centers. 2,000 teachers and trainers will receive training and support to effectively teach digital skills.

Q: Is there anything that has been done differently that makes women in the Middle East earn more STEM degrees than their counterparts in the rest of the world. 

According to the World Bank, 13 of the 15 countries with the lowest rate of female participation in the workforce are in the Arab world; however, the UAE is a notable exception.

Diverse perspectives are vital to developing and scaling 21st-century technologies. Women in the UAE for example make up 66 percent of the public sector workforce, of which 30 percent are in leadership roles. The 27.5 percent of women who make up the UAE cabinet all play key roles in supporting technology and innovation in the country. Here, women are not a stark minority in technology sector—they’re a part of all the major tech initiatives and, in many instances, leading them. We in the Africa region can learn many lessons from the region in terms of attracting more young girls to study STEM subjects and encouraging more women to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Democracy Day: No better time to Konga Me

As Nigeria marks 19 years of democracy today after the return to civilian rule, opinion is divided on how well the country has harnessed the dividends of democratic governance.

While a school of thought holds that the dark days of military dictatorship and autocratic rule, which the return to democracy in 1999 put paid to, remains a high point worth celebrating; there is a contrary view in many quarters that, in spite of the switch from jack-boots to civilian attire, Nigeria remains mired in a seemingly unending struggle to enthrone the values of true and all-inclusive democracy.

On May 29th 1999, Nigerians had witnessed a momentous change of guard; one which finally saw the country shed its well-worn toga of a pariah state when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo took office as President of Nigeria, the first elected and civilian head of state following 16 long years of military rule.

Nineteen years after, the jury is still out on whether our nascent democracy is thriving…

One area in which a sense of democracy has thrived and continues to thrive, however, is the Nigerian e-commerce sector.

For long regarded as a potential cash-cow, e-commerce in Nigeria has seen the influx of a number of entrants or players, foreign and local, all of whom capitalized on the freedom and democratization of access to take roots, spread their tentacles and attempt to reap the windfall from an industry that has been severally predicted to explode.

And why not?
With a booming youthful population, growing internet access and an aspirational mindset among the majority of its populace, e-commerce in Nigeria is widely regarded as the next big thing; an industry that could transform even the most hopeless start-up to a multi-million-dollar company in a couple of years.

Experience, nevertheless, tells a different tale.

A tale of false starts, of shattered dreams, of the untold stories of many who came, saw and quietly exited the scene.

The Nigerian business terrain, democratic though it may be, is a tough one to successfully navigate. Aside the near-absence of any form of government support for the technology sector, in which e-commerce is firmly situated, start-ups in this industry face a herculean battle to stay afloat. It is a battle akin to swimming against a strong tide.

In addition to being a cost-intensive venture, cracking e-commerce in Nigeria requires a large dose of local knowledge; not only of the peculiar business terrain but also of the cultural nuances and predilections that shape the shopping behavior of the average Nigerian.

One of these shopping traits is the uncompromising desire of every Nigerian for genuine quality.

You may claim to offer the best prices unmatched anywhere else but as long as the item or product in question is fake or sourced from a grey channel, you had better not waste that marketing budget.

Here in Nigeria, e-commerce is democracy; a democratic rule governed by offering the average shopper a range of shopping platforms, online and offline; a multiplicity of payment options: cash, online payment, e-wallet, etc. and delivery solutions that guarantee no late delivery stories.

Above all, you must provide access to genuine products and take responsibility for it.
In reality though, a pertinent question worth asking: how many e-commerce companies in Nigeria can claim absolute responsibility for the quality of products they carry? How many can trace the source of their items to the Original Equipment Manufacturers? And how many can boast of owning warehouses for stocking large volumes?
Perhaps, only one stands out…

Recently, smart Nigerians have begun pushing a movement to enthrone quality democracy in their shopping activities; a democratic insistence on quality.
It began like a whisper that started catching on in social circles and has now gained currency among many.

ITRealms recalls that Konga Me, is a phrase that brings to life the determination of every Nigerian shopper to get only the very best quality. Put in another way, Konga Me is a new universal language for genuine products only. It is a term that has become popular, not only among young ones, but among adults and trendy youths to differentiate quality products from fake ones sourced from unreliable platforms.

Used to refer quality-minded shoppers to Konga, the e-commerce giant that emerged from the merger between Yudala and Konga after the latter’s acquisition by the Zinox Group, Konga Me is also used to request for quality gifts or favours from friends, family and associates.

As Nigeria marks 19 years of democracy today, Tuesday May 29th 2018, there is no better time to insist on quality product democracy… Indeed, no better time to Konga Me.

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Osinbajo, Shittu, others @ premiere of Airtel Touching lives Season 4

Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of the Vice President, and Minister of Communications Technology, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, will lead high-profile guests who have confirmed they would attend the premiere of Airtel Touching Lives season four, reports ITREALMS.

The premiere, which is billed to hold on Sunday, 3rd June, 2018, at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, is also expected to have Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Chairman Senate Committee on Science and Technology and Senator Solomon Olamilekan, Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications.

According to Airtel, Hon. Saheed Akinade Fijabi, Chairman, House Committee on Communications; Hon. Ujam Chukwuemeka, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Communications and Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, Senator, Olabiyi Durojaiye, amongst many others, will also grace the premiere.

Captains of industry, heads of agencies, non-governmental organisations, philanthropists and notable media proprietors are also expected to attend.

Airtel Touching Lives is an inspiring corporate social responsibility initiative that seeks to offer practical relief, succour, hope, opportunities and credible platforms to liberate and empower the underprivileged, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach persons in the society.
The activities of Airtel Touching Lives are recorded and produced for national television with a view to promoting the spirit of giving, self-sacrifice and love among Nigerians.

Speaking at a press conference in December to announce the kick-off of nominations for Season 4 of the programme, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, said the company is committed to helping the less privileged in the society in line with its vision of creating empowerment opportunities and making life better for Nigerians.

“Together, we all can make our society a better place if we join hands and collaborate to uplift the downtrodden around us.

“While the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) cannot do it all, we have a responsibility to contribute our quota to making Nigeria a better place for all,” he said.

He urged Nigerians to participate in the 4th edition of the Touching Lives programme by nominating causes and persons who require help.

According to him, “the nomination process is simple. Once you nominate an individual or cause, our team will review and assess the situation and determine if a follow-up visit will be required.

“You can nominate individuals or projects in your communities by dialling 367 or by sending an SMS to the Shortcode, 367. Also mail can be sent totouchinglives@ng.airtel.com” 

Since Airtel launched the  Touching Lives initiative three years ago, it has achieved remarkable successes having restored hope of despaired individuals and families, saved many from the throes of death and empowered many underprivileged Nigerians.

One of the major highlights in Season 3 of Airtel Touching Lives was the story of Olusegun Aina family, who lost three children and was rendered homeless by a devastating fire incident. Through the Touching Lives platform, Airtel built and donated a multi-million Naira, ultra-modern 2-bedroom apartment for the family and also paid for all outstanding medical bills incurred by the surviving family members. 

In 2017, Airtel Touching Lives was voted the most outstanding intervention in Stakeholders’ Management by the jury of the prestigious Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS).

Aside Touching Lives, Airtel Nigeria has continuously embarked on several philanthropic initiatives aimed at impacting lives positively. Some of these key CSR initiatives include the Adopt-a-School programme, Employee Volunteer Scheme, Airtel Five Days of Love Christmas programme and other interventions on health and the environment.

Chuks Egbune/GEE

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