Technology

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An eclipse of the sun

The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), on Wednesday advised that Nigerians should not panic over the annular eclipse due to occur in different parts of the country.

In a statement signed by the agency’s Head of Media and Corporate Communication, Mr. Felix Ale, in Abuja, said the eclipse will be experienced between the hours of 7:15am and 10:03am with slight variations in actual timing across the country.

An annular eclipse, the agency explained, occurs when the sun and the moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the moon is smaller than that of the sun, hence the sun appears as a very bright ring or annulus surrounding the dark disk of the moon.

He said: “The agency has arranged a viewing centre at the Obasanjo Space centre, along airport road, Abuja, to enable members of the public, pupils and students from various schools to view the eclipse.

Ale, said the agency will provide specially designed viewing instruments for Nigerians who wish to watch the eclipse between those hours.

According to him, eclipse is an astronomical event, and an occurrence of nature for man to behold but cannot be viewed with the naked eyes as this can cause permanent damage to the human eyes.

He said: “The eclipse will be experience at varying obscurities, with the southern part of the country having the highest degree of obscurity of eighty per cent, and in the north the lowest obscurity of fort-five per cent.

“In the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, there will be a partial eclipse, with an obscurity of sixty per cent, and the first contact at about 7:17am, with maximum eclipse at 8:32am and end at 10:00am.”

According to him, Lagos will also experience its first contact with the eclipse at 7:15am, with a maximum eclipse occurring at 8:32am and ending at about 10:00am.

He advised the public not panic or attach any spiritual connotation to this appearance of the eclipse, as this is a natural occurrence which has been accurately predicted by science.

“The National Space Research and Development Agency has developed necessary capacity to accurately make these predictions.

“The viewing centre which has been set up by the agency will be open to the public on Thursday 1st September, 2016 from 6:45am for school pupils and students to observe the annular eclipse as part of its continuous programmes to expose Nigerians and students to matters concerning astronomical environment.”

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The foremost energy company and concessionaire of Kainji and Jebba hydro-electric plants has launched a foundation to coordinate its humanitarian interventions. This was introduced at the inauguration of its members of the board of trustees at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

Called “Mainstream Charity Foundation,” the aim of the foundation, according to the MD/CEO, Engr. Lamu Audu, is to give the company the “leverage to focus on its core business of generating electricity” while the foundation takes over its Corporate Social Responsibility. “This occasion therefore symbolizes a form of formal homecoming as (Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited) has been over the years actively involved in evolving solutions and collaborating with the various communities towards solving crucial communal problems,” he said.

Speaking shortly after the MD/CEO, the Chairman of the Board of MESL, Colonel Sani Bello RTD, traced the conception of the charity to a consensus of shareholders. He said, “The shareholders wanted a focused and sustainable approach to Corporate Social Responsibility, hence the idea to set up a foundation that will pursue this objective separate from the Company’s main activity, which is power generation.”

The Chairman further revealed four “key areas” – education, health, the environment and community empowerment – in which the Foundation will provide “meaningful interventions.” He also introduced seven members of the board of trustees of the Foundation, which he commended as a reflection of “the diversity of our country and also to ensure representation of the communities within our catchment areas.”

Members of the committee introduced were Mosun Bello-olusoga (Ogun State), Chairman of Access Bank; Ayisha Osori (Kogi State), lawyer and social commentator; Alhaji umar Farouq Bako (Kebbi), retired Civil Servant; Colonel Ayegbeni Peters RTD (Edo State), non-executive Director of MESL; and Alhaji Nuhu Abdullahi (Niger State), community leader and the Wazirin Borgu. Others were Alhaji Dunmoye Suleiman, a seasoned businessman from Kwara State and Siraj Abdullah, the Executive Director of MESL who represents the management of the company.

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Understanding the way technology works and thinking out of the box is the way to go in the world of today, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo declared over the weekend while delivering the second Foundation Lecture of the Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, entitled “The Future is Here Earlier Than We Thought,” submitting that the path to greatness, and development is in critical thinking, and also coming up with innovative ideas.

Speaking to an audience parked largely with students, and academics, but also consisting a number of leading traditional rulers from Ondo and Oyo States, business and political elites, the Vice President said “whatever you choose to do, be technology savvy and understand its best uses in your chosen discipline.”

He gave a long list of major and global advancements attained through technology and innovative ideas including how some Nigerians have also taken due advantage and called on Nigerians to be even more creative and inventive

Said he “create a network of peers where participants interact and share in the value creation,” adding that people can no longer just be, for instance, an economist, an accountant, a graduate of international relations, Mass Communication or Performing Arts, rather observing that “Multi-skilling is crucial today.”

Continuing he said “you must learn to be a versatile operator not a mono-skilled graduate…everyone has a right to be rich, age is not a barrier.” He also noted that the old way of doing things are gone with the advance of technology.

According to the Vice President it is in recognition of the central role of innovation and technology in national economic growth plan that the federal government in the current budget provided extensively for technology and innovation .

“This year we are establishing technology hubs across the country. Two super hubs in Abuja and Lagos and 6 regional hubs in the six geopolitical zones. In partnership with several technology companies the hubs will be fully resourced with infrastructure and capacity building,”he said.

Starting in the next several weeks, according to Vice President Osinbajo, the federal government will also be training a pool of 100,000 software developers, hardware service professionals, animators, graphic artists, building services professionals, artisans and others.

He intimated further that the federal government in its quest to make the country the technology hub in Africa, had launched a special presidential initiative on technology and start-ups, adding that “50 of the most innovative technology start-ups would soon be invited to the Presidential Villa to meet with major technology and innovation companies as well as collaborating with the federal government.”

Citing examples of the marvels of technology and innovative ideas, the VP stated that the closest position to that of the confidential secretary now is an executive assistant who is expected to have strong technology skills.

During the question-and-answer session, Osinbajo also said “we are not earning enough from oil and taxes anymore, the nation is blessed, every state can feed itself and also export if we engage in agriculture,” he stated.

Answering a question on restructuring, Prof Osinbajo noted that calling for restructuring of the country simply because the federal government controls a bigger portion of the resources may not be helpful or make a difference.

According to him, “even if states are given half of the resources of the federal government, the situation will not change, the only change is to diversify the economy.”

While in Ilara-Mokin, the Vice President Osinbajo paid a courtesy call to His Royal Majesty, Oba A. A. Adefehinti, the Alara of Ilara-Mokin. He also commissioned a Divisional Police Station in the town.

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SystemSpecs Limited, one of Nigeria’s leading software houses and owner of Remita, the software powering the implementation of the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA), has chosen to respond to growing inquisitions from the general public over its continued performance of the TSA service terms of contract with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), despite being owed all of its legally earned fees on e-collections since March 2015.

The statement reads thus:

• In 2011, SystemSpecs signed an agreement with the CBN to deploy its wholly homegrown Remita software for the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy. Remita has the capacity to send and receive funds from all the 24 commercial banks, over 400 microfinance banks, and other payment channels such as debit cards, mobile wallets and e-wallets to name a few.

• Remita is a wholly indigenous e-payment and e-collection software that harmonises inflows, remittances and expenditure for enhanced transparency and increased efficiency. The software has enabled government recoup over N3 trillion from about 17,000 accounts of MDAs, and instilled much needed fiscal discipline that allows the Ministry of Finance to have effective control over budget allocations, whilst providing multiple entry points for collections. The implementation of TSA by Remita has significantly reduced the government’s debt servicing costs; lowered liquidity reserve needs; and aided effective use of surplus cash.

• On October 27, 2015, the CBN Governor directed SystemSpecs to return the earned fees on e-collections into TSA from March 2015, due to the spike created by the Presidential directive for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to comply with the TSA policy, which led to a huge flux of funds through the Remita/TSA platform. In deference to the office of Governor of the CBN, SystemSpecs complied.

• It should be noted that the global rate of commission on e-transactions varies between 1.5% to 3.5%, but the three parties – Deposit Money Banks (40%), the CBN (10%) and SystemSpecs (50%) – agreed to a 1% only commission with the CBN for the TSA e-collection services.

• Unfortunately, yet understandably, some bank branches have started to turn down collection of government deposits due to the non-payment of these agreed fees.

• From our end, we have continued to provide and support the Remita platform, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, for use by citizens for all their payments to the Federal Government. Our continued support for the TSA is fueled by our belief in the enormous benefits the Remita software brings to the implementation of TSA to the average citizen. We must admit that though we are excited and further driven by the fact that our indigenous Remita software has succeeded in powering the technological backbone for such a successful and strategic national initiative, along with other well meaning Nigerians, we do not want this to fail.

• We are encouraged by the support from Nigerians, home and abroad, who take pride in the knowledge that, for the first time in our history, an indigenous company is responsible for the development of a payment software that seamlessly powers a sensitive national policy such as the TSA. This is against the usual situation where a huge amount of scarce foreign exchange is lost to international companies for our national projects as seen in the case of German BVN at Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System; Canadian ITAS at the Federal Inland Revenue; American IPPIS at Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Swedish RTGS at CBN and many such others.

• We hope that the Federal Government will speedily bring the ongoing negotiations on our payment to an end as the continued withholding of our earning is putting a financial burden on our operations.

• SystemSpecs is headed by Mr John Obaro, an expert software engineer with 37 years unblemished reputation and chaired by veteran integrity campaigner, Dr Christopher Kolade, with many other reputable Nigerians on our Board of Directors.

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The Senate has admitted as an error, the N25 Billion fraud allegation leveled against SystemSpecs Limited, the indigenous technology company engaged by the Government to provide its Remita platform for the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account project.

The admittance of the gaffe was contained in the report of the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and Public Account set up to investigate the matter after an allegation of TSA fraud was raised on the floor of the Senate by Sen. Dino Melaye who represents Kogi West Senatorial district.

According to the Joint Senate investigative committee, “the committee could not ascertain the deduction/collection of twenty five billion (N25 billion) by SystemSpecs as 1% fee charged for the use of its Remita platform within the period under investigation.” This was stated in section 6.1.16 on pages 16 and 17 of the committee’s report.

The committee was also able to establish that the fees for providing the TSA payment platform and associated services is shared by the Central Bank, Commercial Banks and SystemSpecs, contrary to the allegation that SystemSpecs, the Remita platform provider, was the only entity earning the TSA transaction fees.

Commenting on the report, a legislative aide who pleaded for anonymity, said rather than castigate the Senate, it should be commended for owning up to the information gap and making attempts to correct it. He said this is the hallmark of the new Senate under the leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki.

Many Nigerians had considered the Senate’s fraud allegation a veiled attempt to frustrate the anti-corruption stance of the president who was seen as a major promoter of the TSA initiative. It would be recalled that the president has continued to praise the TSA initiative for curbing corruption, saving the country trillions of Naira, and giving visibility to government’s cash assets.

When contacted for his view, Debo Adeniran, a civil society activist, wondered whether the Senate was attempting to “frustrate the TSA project, still at its infancy, as an excuse to exempt the Senate from compliance with TSA to which President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently pledged commitment.”

Adeniran added that “all well-meaning Nigerians should not sacrifice patriotism on the altar of petty politics but join President Buhari to build up local capacity in diverse areas that have potentials of helping the nation become less dependent on foreign sourced input.”

According to the Accountant General of the Federation, the implementation of TSA has revealed that federal MDAs were operating over 17,000 bank accounts in different banks, a situation which made it impossible for government to be in control of its funds and led to high operational cost.

Latest information from the Office of the Accountant General however indicates that 976 federal MDAs have now complied with the TSA directive and the success is leading Government to undertake other anti-corruption initiatives including the audit of serving military and pensioners’ payroll which is alleged to be riddled with massive fraud.

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Twitter Inc. will soon stop counting photos and links in their 140-character limit for tweets, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.

It’s one step in a larger plan to give users more flexibility on the site. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said in January that the company was looking for new ways to display text on Twitter, and would experiment based on how the people use the service. For example, some people tweet screenshots of longer text in articles, or send many tweets one after the other to tell a story.

Twitter’s 140-character limit was originally adopted because it was a way to send Tweets while fitting all the information within a mobile text message — a common way for sending Tweets when the service debuted in 2006, before the proliferation of smartphones.

The company earlier this year considered raising the limit to as many as 10,000 characters. But the quick, concise nature of Tweets has helped set the site apart from the competition. Executives have spent the last few months emphasizing how Twitter is a destination for live events and discussion. Removing the character requirement for links and photos may encourage users to add more media to their posts.

Credit: Bloomberg

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Facebook announced at its annual F8 developer conference, held in San Francisco on 12 and 13 April, that the company partnered with many African developers to launch products for the global market. Facebook, with its global reach and scale, is including African developers in its beta testing programme for the launch of new global products and features as it increases its presence and deepens its partnerships on the continent.

F8 hosts more than 2,600 people and hundreds of thousands of people watching via Facebook Live for two days of new products, tools, interactive demos and speakers to help developers build, grow and monetize their apps. And, more than 70% of Facebook’s developer partners are located outside the United States and about a third of the attendees at F8 joined from abroad.

“We believe that local entrepreneurs and developers will be the ones to meet the needs of their immediate community, and we are working with developers to know how we can support them in doing so,” says Emeka Afigbo, Strategic Product Partnerships Manager at Facebook. “We are listening to our developer partners in Africa, and the strong showing for F8 is a reflection of our commitment to doing more with our partners across the continent to help them build products and businesses.”

African developers who partnered with Facebook to launch products at F8 include Afrinolly (Entertainment, Nigeria), GumTree South Africa (Classifieds, South Africa), Zikoko (Entertainment, Nigeria), Jobberman (Jobs, Nigeria/Ghana), The Net (Entertainment, Nigeria) and My Music (Media, Nigeria).

In addition, this year Facebook brought F8 to developers around the world through F8 Meetups hosted with tech hubs around the world. In Africa, Facebook hosted F8 Meetups in Nairobi, Lagos, Cape Town and Morocco where participants watched the sessions in San Francisco.

Two developer teams from Malawi won a developer challenge supported by mobile operator TNM Malawi and Facebook, and were featured on F8’s international stage. Maternitech, founded by three 22-year olds – Walter Moyo, Thandie Magasa, and Daniel Mvalo, provides educational information aimed at combating Malawi’s high under-18 pregnancy rate. The team was featured in an international livestream interview.

Talk To Me, an app was created by 10-year old Panashe Jere, who learned to code at a Coding for Kids session at Malawi Hub. This app converts input text into voice so children always have someone to talk to. Both teams were congratulated by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg personally for their achievements.

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VATEBRA, a new technology company positioned as the backbone of major industries in Nigeria and beyond has unveiled its new corporate identity. Formerly known as Fleet Technologies Limited, VATEBRA was recently launched at the Grand Ball Room of the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos amidst pomp and pageantry.

Speaking as the guest speaker of the event, Dr. Doyin Salami of the Lagos Business School who delivered a lecture titled: Beyond Now-Nigeria without Oil, Prospect for Technology and Innovation said Nigeria needs Information Communication Technology (ICT) to drive the much desired national development we all crave.

Vatebra

According to Dr. Salami, “Technology has become arguably, the fastest growing sector in Nigeria. In 2016 alone, ICT accounted for 10% of the total Nigerian Revenue, the highest in a decade and half.”

The erudite scholar added that recently, Nigeria ranked 121 out of 148 in the Global Innovation Index. With this in mind, he said Nigeria needs to create necessary infrastructures to accelerate technological innovations if truly the country is serious about matching up with the pace of growth and development around the world. He also, noted that the launch of VATEBRA is a great step towards achieving technological innovation in Africa.

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The high point of the event was the transition of the old Fleet Technologies corporate logo to a new, dynamic and futuristic global brand identity called VATEBRA, which means backbone. With the emergence of VATEBRA therefore, the economy of Sub Saharan Africa now has a backbone upon which it can ride.

Mr. Kunle Akinniran, Managing Director of the company, in his welcome speech stated that, “as a company, we have seen the evolution of thoughts and ideas. Ideas that simplify the way we conduct business to how our students register for examinations and check their results, we have seen how the mobile device has become the first and last touch point for virtually every young person in Nigeria today.”

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He also explained that as one of Nigeria’s most innovative ICT companies, VATEBRA has been at the forefront of championing innovative ICT solutions that have helped automate many manual processes both in government and private organizations.

On the part of the Deputy Managing Director of company, Mr. Mike Aigbe, the organization is just getting started. “It is a common knowledge that we as a nation depend on a mono source of revenue. The current plummeting oil prices and the high level of volatility in that sector continue to strain our economic prosperity. We must begin to explore means of converting our social-capital, creative- capital and human-capital for economic prosperity. Above all, seek ways to convert the opportunities available in technology and innovation to solutions that benefit our people”, he said.

The event attracted influential personalities from federal government Agencies, multinational bodies and regulatory institutions like Registrar/CEO, NABTEB, Dr. Olatunde Aworanti; Registrar, West African Examination Council (WAEC), Dr Iyi Uwadiae, The Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi  and chairman of Chams Group, Demola Aladekomo   amongst other notable figures.

 

 

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The Nigerian Communications Communication, NCC, said on Saturday that inactive mobile telephone lines on its networks dropped to 62.61 million in February, 2016.

This is contained in the commission’s “Monthly Subscriber Data” released in Lagos and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria.

The document showed that the inactive Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards reduced by 523,233 in the month from 63.13 million recorded in January.

It said that “connected numbers’’ figure was 214.23 million during the period, reducing by 260,644 from 214.49 million recorded in January.

“The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks connected 3,677,676 subscribers as against 3,678,068 recorded in the month of January, thereby losing 392 customers in February.

“The Fixed Wired/Wireless operators recorded 353,923 connected numbers in February as against 351,625 in January, adding 2,298 numbers to their networks.

“Furthermore, the active subscribers on the telecommunications networks in the month of February stood at 151,620,358, increasing by 262,589 from the 151,357,769 telecommunications users in January.

“The GSM networks had a share of 149,288,370 from the February 151,620,358 active lines as against 149,022,919 functional numbers in January, adding 265,451 active lines in February,” it said.

The commission added that CDMA operators shared a total of 2,147,322 active subscribers in February, losing 660 from 2,147,982 active lines recorded in January.

It also said that Fixed Wired/Wireless networks recorded 184,666 active lines in February, losing 2,202 customers from the 186,868 active subscribers in January.

It explained that February subscriber data which showed a reduction of 260,644 from the connected lines in January implied that telecommunications operators were not eager to accumulate more subscribers.

“The reduction in the inactive line showed that telecommunications subscribers were now responding to the ongoing SIM cards revalidation exercise,” it stated.

(NAN)

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Whenever Facebook launches a new feature or service, I’m often asked when an advertising opportunity will be available for it. As the ad product marketing lead at Facebook, I expect this question and am happy to answer it. But it has a longer answer than I think most people expect.

Mark got this question during our latest earnings call in January and, in response, shared our philosophy for building advertising solutions: “First, you build a great consumer experience…that helps people share in a new way that’s really important. Then, after that, you can start to introduce organic ways that people can interact with businesses…Only once you have that ramped up to a good scale can you really start dialing up advertising, having that feel good and be a good part of the experience.”

Mark’s points are even more important today as platforms like Messenger and Oculus, and products like 360 Video and Live video gain traction. So, as our advertising partners wonder when new opportunities will be available on our platforms, it’s worth sharing more on our philosophy for building ad products.

In short, our focus is on value. Value for people and value for businesses. And we’ve learned that when we create value for people, we create value for businesses. Our ads team’s mission is to create meaningful connections between people and businesses, and we try to do that by making people’s interactions with businesses additive to their experience on the platform.

So, in a few steps, this is how we develop advertising solutions:

1. Build great experiences for people
2. Study people’s behaviors on the platform
3. Help businesses connect with people organically
99. Introduce a new advertising solution

Steps 4 through 98? Those are pivots, backtracks, failures and sometimes big leaps forward. They are focus groups with people and conversations with advertisers. They are A/B tests, polls and studies to determine if the product is delivering real business value for different advertisers with different goals in different verticals in every corner of the world.

Only after we’ve proven to ourselves and our partners that the new ad product improves people’s experiences, rather than hinders them, do we introduce that product.

And then there’s figuring out how to offer the right ads to the right people at the right time. When ads are highly relevant they’re not only more effective for businesses but they’re also more valuable to the people who see them. So we don’t just invest in building ad solutions that are both suitable to the platform and the way people use it. We invest in building the technology that powers ad relevance too.

This philosophy guides us through every platform and product we build. We launched News Feed in 2006 but didn’t introduce ads in News Feed until 2012. We launched ads on Instagram slowly and methodically, taking the time to gauge people’s responses and the effect for advertisers. We made auto-play video available to advertisers only after product usage and survey responses told us that people enjoyed the auto-play experience. Overall, we choose sustainability over immediacy, and both the people who use our services and the marketers who advertise in them have better experiences because of that choice. And we’re never really “done” with a product, because we’re always working to make them better for people and for advertisers.

This isn’t the fastest way to build products, nor is it the best way to maximize revenue in the short term. But with over 1.59 billion people using Facebook every month, we think it’s worth the investment.

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NB: Matthew Idema is the Vice President of Monetization Product Marketing at Facebook. He was former VP, Local at Yahoo and VP, Business & Corporate Development at Yoodle, Inc.