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‘Capital importation may fall further in telecoms sector’

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Capital importation of telecommunications companies, which fell by 94 per cent in second quarter, may fall further, if the economy continues its steep fall.

Capital importation is divided into three main investment types: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Portfolio Investment, and Other Investments, each comprising various sub-categories.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report for quarter two (Q2) ended June 2018, showed a downward slope in the sector’s capital importation.

But experts, who dissected the matter with The Guardian, called for immediate efforts channelled towards revamping the economy for improved productivity.

The Chairman, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said the Nigerian economy is still very much an oil dependent one, and heavily dependent on imports.

He said the telecoms sector is virtually 100 per cent dependent on capital inflow through FDI.

“Unfortunately, on the back of recession and uncertainty about government policies towards the sector, investors are no longer investing as they should.

This is coupled with a forex regime that does not provide any incentive for investors to increase their exposure.”

According to him, with the telecom sector being an important part of the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), data suggests that the growth is weak, and this is reflected in the increased use of Over The Top (OTT) applications used wherever possible by consumers.

This, he said, has tampered the impact of the industry’s revenue contribution to an economy that is struggling to get out of recession, and still heavily dependent on oil export receipts.

The fall in capital importation in the telecoms sector, confirmed an earlier report by The Guardian that there had been a 35 per cent drop in investment, which had subsequently hobbled rural telephony expansion in the country.

The development left about 200 communities, which house about 33 million Nigerians out of the telecoms revolution.

Like his counterpart at ATCON, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, agreed that access to Foreign exchange is a contributing factor.

He added that the impact of multiple taxes, and delay in receiving the necessary Right of Way (RoW) and other approvals from authorities compound the challenges for operators. (GuardianNG)

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How Non-Techies Are Breaking Into Tech Jobs

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Image credit: Tasnim Shamma/WABE

Technology startups are at the forefront of innovation. However, while there are plenty of opportunities to influence technological growth, many people lack the necessary training to succeed. This means people need to attend training programs designed to help acquire the skills needed to break into careers in tech. Many college graduates were prepared for jobs that no longer exist or will soon become antiquated.

A 2017 report by McKinsey found that around 50% of current work activities are “technically automatable”. With this in mind, the reason is clear why so many regular people are starting to consider jobs in technology. 

Whatever statistic you want to use, one thing is for certain: millions of workers are vulnerable to automation, and many future jobs are in the technology industry. 

As automation continues to take hold and disrupt new markets, there are a number of available programs to support people who want to transition into the tech industry. This article will discuss the three main paths being used to support workers in their transition: coding bootcamps, upskilling, and reskilling.

Coding Bootcamps as a Training Method

Coding bootcamps are short-term, intense training programs focusing on employment. Whereas college is focused on teaching a wide range of theoretical knowledge which builds the foundation for a career in Computer Science, coding bootcamps have one specific focus: to help people find jobs in tech. 

A recent report on the bootcamp market found that 33,959 people graduated from coding bootcamp in 2019 alone, a 4.38% increase from the previous year. 

Coding bootcamps, which have been around for about a decade, have grown in popularity because they promise to help people pursue specific careers in technology.

Bootcamps often position their courses in fields such as Data Sciencea and Web Development, both of which are expected to realize strong growth in the coming decades. Also, bootcamps bundle services such as career support and hiring partnerships together with offerings. These services assist people in their transition from a training program to a job.

Learning New Skills Through Upskilling

Often, a worker will be in a stable field but needs additional training to keep up with technological changes. For instance, a retailer may need to be trained in a few Sales tracking tools, or an Engineer may need to learn a new programming language. This type of training, called upskilling, is an important part of workforce training.

Upskilling refers to when people learn about new technologies to help them stay viable.  While a particular job may not be directly affected by automation, new technologies have emerged, allowing employees to be more productive and efficient.

Many companies looking to largely incorporate technology in their business have in-house upskilling initiatives. The Guardian Life Insurance Company, for instance, is training its workforce in new technology like sensors used to improve underwriting and risk management procedures.

Upskilling allows people who work in more traditional roles – like Marketing, Business Development, Sales, and Payroll – gain exposure to new tech ideas, and may act as a springboard to further training opportunities. For instance, a marketer may be trained in how to use SQL to analyze campaign data. Also, after finishing an upskilling program, an employee may decide to commit to pursuing a career in tech, capitalizing on the skills acquired during training.

Also Read: Chidi Nwaogu: Multi Award-winning Entrepreneur Launches Global Fellowship Program for Aspiring and Early-stage Entrepreneur

Reskilling Existing Workers

There is another training option in addition to coding bootcamps and upskilling which has become popular among technical training programs in recent years: reskilling programs. Reskilling programs are initiatives where a business invests in its workers and help build the skills employees need to remain viable.

In contrast to bootcamps, reskilling programs are designed for workers whose job is at risk of automation. An employer will create a training program in a field of growth within their business–the Cloud, for example–and offer some workers the opportunity to retrain in a new field. AT&T, for example, is investing $1 billion in workforce retraining. The telecom giant did so after learning only half of their employees had the skills needed to be protected from automation.

Reskilling programs have grown in popularity because they allow businesses to simply retrain existing employees instead of hiring a new workforce. Often, companies will work with external training providers such as Udacity to design a reskilling program and offer to retrain any employee whose job is likely to soon become obsolete.

Reskilling programs offer dedicated workers an opportunity to stay with a company while being trained for a job in tech. This is an especially worthy proposition for workers who do not want to invest months training beyond work hours. With a reskilling program, a worker can stay with an employer – and earn a paycheck – while being trained in the new skills they need.

Each training method mentioned above has the potential to support people who are breaking into tech from non-technical backgrounds. Upskilling, coding bootcamps, and reskilling options are only three of the many workforce training options being explored. Apprenticeships and education-as-a-benefit, among other programs, are being seen as additional ways for workers to gain new technical skills.

Automation presents a threat to millions of workers, but jobs in techare likely to keep growing and provide job security. But before workers can get a job in tech, they need to find the training, and that’s where coding bootcamps, upskilling, and reskilling have become crucial in the workforce development puzzle.

Written by: Artur Meyster

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Blockchain breakthroughs in Africa signal enterprise adoption readiness

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Technological breakthroughs such as blockchains and distributed ledger technologies are digital infrastructures that enable innovation. Businesses across the globe are already benefiting from blockchain-based technologies which are predicted to create over $3 trillion in business value by 2030 according to Gartner. Despite the huge potential, CIOs overestimate the capabilities and short-term benefits of blockchain technology to help them meet business objectives which creates unrealistic expectations when it comes to assessing offerings from blockchain platform vendors and service providers.

Companies such as IBM were early adopters of blockchain. “We have used it now to solve issues with the management of our supplier ecosystem and, most recently, we are working to use the technology to improve the way in which we onboard and manage the suppliers we work with (known as the Trust Your Supplier),” said Anthony Butler, IBM’s leader and CTO for blockchain services in Africa and Middle East.

Aligning blockchain projects to fit the overall business strategy of an organisation is key for companies looking to pursue blockchain-based implementations. “We are led by the market and we will build whatever capabilities we need in order to address market demand.  We see a lot of companies now wanting to implement blockchain networks at scale so helping them with this, as well as the associated business challenges, is a core part of our strategy. “We are seeing customers who look to us, the general contractor, for convening blockchain networks across different countries, industries, and technologies,” said Butler.

There are also increasing opportunities to create even more value by applying AI and IoT to blockchain networks. This is also an area of focus for companies like IBM. For example, integrating sensors with a blockchain network to gather real time and immutable data on the temperature and conditions under which a product has been transported through a cold chain; or using AI to make predictions based on the data that is sourced via the blockchain network. “There are many emerging cases now and our research organisation is focused on what comes next so we are looking at the implication of quantum or how technologies such as crypto-anchors can be used to further strengthen supply chains with blockchain for example,” Butler explained.

The role of Cloud in implementations of blockchain solutions for African enterprises

African based companies are making blockchain technological implementations. “We completed the Cranberry Cognitive Operational Management Engine which provides the most relevant real-time business service and operational data to the relevant individuals and business units across all service levels of client organisations through interactive dashboards,” said Stin Mulunda, CIO at Cranberry AB. The company has delivered a future-proof business management system which will run optimally 24/7 by leveraging all aspects and elements of data and the environment to ensure an accurate understanding of current realities and how to enhance the future. “We are now able to provide businesses with:

  • A single version of the truth through the implementation of smart contracts and the Business Node Consensus Ledger (BNCL);
  • Real-time and predictive SLA compliance with bottleneck and business node identification;
  • Customer, human resource, provider and operational trend analysis.

The scalability and reduction of total cost of ownership as energy consumption, system upgrades, hardware and software updates as well as infrastructure expert remuneration costs are axed from business expenses upon migration to cloud. The other benefit associated with cloud-based infrastructure is the myriad of software solutions which are compatible with an environment with the option to deploy remotely.

“Agility and service optimisation have become an essential trait for survival for businesses in every sphere of the economy, this has led to the mass adoption of enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT which are all fundamentally cloud-based (distributed infrastructure),” said Mulunda. Cloud platforms such Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS offer businesses the ability to leverage world-class infrastructure, artificial intelligence capabilities as well as blockchain and IoT solutions.

Also Read: Women In Big Data South Africa set to exhibit at AI Expo Africa 2020, amplify women in AI, Data Science

Cloud, automation, AI, machine learning, blockchain and advanced analytics are just some of the innovations being speedily implemented worldwide to combat business disruption. “The Cranberry Operational Engines’s machine learning and natural language processing algorithms provide organisational correlative analytics on all events, transactions and interactions across all business units and their underlying internal and external resources,” said Mulunda. “The business interaction module harnesses node data to calculate the business proficiency of all business units, individual human resources, and client interactions to provide business leaders a full view of the organization’s performance against set objectives, SLAs and targets at any given time.

This brings the unprecedented possibility to observe and predict current and future organisational efficiency, achievements, profitability, client sentiment, and customer experience by creating a seamless flow of information across internal and external business environments as is the case with a client such as Afrocentric, thereby future-proofing of every aspect of an organisation’s operations.”

“We’re currently in the final phase of the development of our neural analytic dashboards which will harness the Engine’s machine learning capabilities to provide executives with accurate real-time organizational correlative analytics,” Mulunda explained. These dashboards are programmed to analyse the most important/relevant metrics and KPIs to provide summarized intelligence on all events (i.e new customer vs returning customers, human resource punctuality vs revenue vs expenditure per province, store type, etc).

Written by: Heath Muchena, founder of Proudly Associated. Heath works with international companies looking to launch products and services in African markets. He is also the brains behind Block Patrol – a technology adoption and business development startup that pushes the value of advanced tech upstream. He is also the author of 15 books ranging from tech, political economy, business and finance.

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Women In Big Data South Africa set to exhibit at AI Expo Africa 2020, amplify women in AI, Data Science

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The Women in Big Data South Africa chapter, a forum which seeks to strengthen diversity in analytics and big data, is set to exhibit at AI Expo Africa 2020 Online with chairperson and strategic sourcing and research specialist Naomi Molefe also giving a talk on talent sourcing in artificial intelligence (AI) and Data Science at the show.

The expo which will this year be held as an online event on 3 and 4 September, is the continent’s largest trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Data Science business conference. 

Nick Bradshaw, co-founder of AI Media Group organisers of AI Expo Africa, stated “We’ve invited Women in Big Data South Africa to exhibit at this year’s show as part of our drive to make the AI and Data Science community more inclusive and diverse. AI will have direct social, economic and political impacts on our societies as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as such it is imperative that women be included in this field to avoid gender bias and to come to come up with technologies that progress digital equality”.

Also Read: Lindelwe Lesley Ndlovu, African Risk Capacity (ARC) CEO Shares Goals, Disaster Risk Solutions, COVID-19 and Future

“As we celebrate women’s month in South Africa this August, we should have more conversations, not only now — but all year round — on how to attract, encourage and support more women in AI and machine learning research, as well as in the big data and analytics field,” added Bradshaw.

The Women in Big Data Forum’s mission is to inspire and attract more female talent to big data roles and to help them connect, engage and grow. The organisation does this through networking events, professional development and by sharing industry related content with members.

Delegates to AI Expo Africa 2020 ONLINE who are passionate about the meaningful inclusion of women in AI should also visit Fliptin’s virtual booth at the show. The Johannesburg-based venture builder runs the AI in Africa social impact initiative — in partnership with the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation — which through a series of bootcamps exposes 15-18 year old female learners to AI concepts and ethics, as well as the design thinking process, pitching techniques and building chambers and image classifiers.AI Expo Africa 2020 ONLINE will also feature talks by prominent women working in the field. These include:

  • Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and ML, World Economic Forum
  • Renee Cummings, Criminologist and AI Ethicist, Columbia University
  • Alison B Lowndes, AI Devrel EMEA, NVIDIA
  • Ati Ngubevana, Group Executive HOD: Digital Process Engineering, Vodacom
  • Kathryn Malherbe, CEO and founder, MedSol AI Solutions
  • Kimara Naicker, PhD Researcher, UKZN Quantum Research Group
  • Lebogang Martins, Senior Project Manager, IoT.nxt
  • Lenore Kerrigan, Country Director SA, UiPath
  • Nella Oluoch, CEO and founder, Keypetbooks
  • Phumza Dyani, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Broadband Infraco; Chief Innovation Officer, Pan African Chamber of Commerce
  • Celina Lee, CEO, Zindi
  • Nazareen Ebrahim, AI Researcher, Socially Acceptable
  • Minda Marshall, Director, LectorSA
  • Vicki – 100% synthetic AI-powered host

Roy Bannister, Director Show Production at AI Expo Africa, stated “Not only do we have a superb line-up of regional and global female thought leaders, we uniquely also have a brand new addition to the show – Vicki.

Vicki is the first 100% synthetic AI-powered host of AI Expo Africa 2020. She is working at the show to introduce the main keynote speaker during the opening sessions of Day 1 and Day 2 of the show.

This technology has come a long way and will be showcased at the event. It’s becoming harder to tell the difference between real humans and synthetic actor, which is both an amazing innovation but also provokes interesting reactions, especially in the era of fake news and deep fakes. She is a testimony to how far this technology has come and we can assure our audience everything she says is true!”

Issued by AI EXPO AFRICA

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