Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Entrepreneur: ‘Anyone Can Play a Role’ in African Innovation

While working for a big consulting firm in Lagos, Nigeria, Afua Osei repeatedly encountered women who wanted to advance professionally but didn’t know how. They needed guidance and mentoring.

So, Osei and her colleague Yasmin Belo-Osagie started She Leads Africa, a digital media company offering advice, information, training and networking opportunities to help “young African women achieve their professional dreams,” according to the website.

Launched in 2014, it now has an online community of over 300,000 in at least 35 countries in Africa and throughout the diaspora.

“I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur,” Osei said this month at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual festival of music, film and tech innovation. 

Anyone can be an innovator, Osei said in an interview, after co-hosting a meetup on starting and investing in African businesses. “You don’t have to look a certain way. It’s not just for one type of person. Anybody can play a role, and there is so much work to be done.”

​Opportunities in Africa

The Ghana-born entrepreneur — who grew up in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and once worked for first lady Michelle Obama — has lived in Nigeria for roughly five years. From there, she sees “so many opportunities and potentials in Africa to innovate and help improve people’s lives.”

The continent has some fast-growing economies — including Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia — and the world’s fastest-growing population. With more than 1.2 billion people, it’s projected to top 2.2 billion by 2050. At least 26 African countries are likely to double their current populations by then, the United Nations reports. 

Africa also holds challenges for entrepreneurs, from finding funding to untangling bureaucratic red tape, Osei acknowledged. “Dealing with polices and governments can be hard. Also, distributions: How can I get a product that I made in Lagos out here to Austin?”

But, Osei insisted, “Every single challenge and opportunity also presents a space for an innovator and entrepreneur to solve that problem.”

Accelerator gives edge

She Leads Africa deals with problem-solving. In its first year, the company started the SLA Accelerator, a three-month development program to assist female-led startups in Nigeria. It gives entrepreneurs business training and opportunities to meet potential investors.

Entrepreneur Cherae Robinson won a spot in the accelerator program’s first year — and $10,000 in seed money to start a specialty travel company. Now called Tastemakers Africa, it has a mobile app to help users “find and buy hip experiences on the continent.”  

The mentorship “provided a wealth of knowledge I did not have,” said Robinson, a 33-year-old New York native living in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I was a few months into developing the model. She Leads Africa helped us not only refine the model, but it continues to be a source I can tap into. They continue to support the entrepreneurs in their network.”

She Leads Africa recently began working with a New York-based Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger who goes by the single name Kukua. She started africaboutik, an online store of modern African designs.

“At Africa-themed events in NYC [New York City], I see a lot of so-called ‘Made in Africa’ items that are 100 percent made in Beijing,” Kukua wrote in an Instagram post. With SLA’s help, she’s identifying new textiles and designers in Africa to change the fashion narrative.

​Navigating rules, regulations

At several SXSW Africa-focused events, Osei was asked how entrepreneurs could navigate complicated government regulations and licensing requirements. She suggested finding key government personnel who understand technology and want to help new businesses.  

“It is important for technology leaders to take the lead and be innovative in the way we communicate to government, because they [government staff] are learning as much as we are,” Osei told VOA.

Osei and Belo-Osagie are learning through She Leads Africa, and their efforts have drawn recognition. Forbes magazine named them among “the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” in 2014. 

They don’t plan to slow down, Osei said, noting their goal is at least 1 million subscribers for their website. As the site says, it’s for “the ladies who want to build million-dollar companies, lead corporate organizations and crush it as leaders.”

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Entrepreneur: ‘Anyone Can Play a Role’ in African Innovation

While working for a big consulting firm in Lagos, Nigeria, Afua Osei repeatedly encountered women who wanted to advance professionally but didn’t know how. They needed guidance and mentoring.

So, Osei and her colleague Yasmin Belo-Osagie started She Leads Africa, a digital media company offering advice, information, training and networking opportunities to help “young African women achieve their professional dreams,” according to the website.

Launched in 2014, it now has an online community of over 300,000 in at least 35 countries in Africa and throughout the diaspora.

“I didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur,” Osei said this month at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual festival of music, film and tech innovation. 

Anyone can be an innovator, Osei said in an interview, after co-hosting a meetup on starting and investing in African businesses. “You don’t have to look a certain way. It’s not just for one type of person. Anybody can play a role, and there is so much work to be done.”

​Opportunities in Africa

The Ghana-born entrepreneur — who grew up in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and once worked for first lady Michelle Obama — has lived in Nigeria for roughly five years. From there, she sees “so many opportunities and potentials in Africa to innovate and help improve people’s lives.”

The continent has some fast-growing economies — including Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia — and the world’s fastest-growing population. With more than 1.2 billion people, it’s projected to top 2.2 billion by 2050. At least 26 African countries are likely to double their current populations by then, the United Nations reports. 

Africa also holds challenges for entrepreneurs, from finding funding to untangling bureaucratic red tape, Osei acknowledged. “Dealing with polices and governments can be hard. Also, distributions: How can I get a product that I made in Lagos out here to Austin?”

But, Osei insisted, “Every single challenge and opportunity also presents a space for an innovator and entrepreneur to solve that problem.”

Accelerator gives edge

She Leads Africa deals with problem-solving. In its first year, the company started the SLA Accelerator, a three-month development program to assist female-led startups in Nigeria. It gives entrepreneurs business training and opportunities to meet potential investors.

Entrepreneur Cherae Robinson won a spot in the accelerator program’s first year — and $10,000 in seed money to start a specialty travel company. Now called Tastemakers Africa, it has a mobile app to help users “find and buy hip experiences on the continent.”  

The mentorship “provided a wealth of knowledge I did not have,” said Robinson, a 33-year-old New York native living in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I was a few months into developing the model. She Leads Africa helped us not only refine the model, but it continues to be a source I can tap into. They continue to support the entrepreneurs in their network.”

She Leads Africa recently began working with a New York-based Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger who goes by the single name Kukua. She started africaboutik, an online store of modern African designs.

“At Africa-themed events in NYC [New York City], I see a lot of so-called ‘Made in Africa’ items that are 100 percent made in Beijing,” Kukua wrote in an Instagram post. With SLA’s help, she’s identifying new textiles and designers in Africa to change the fashion narrative.

​Navigating rules, regulations

At several SXSW Africa-focused events, Osei was asked how entrepreneurs could navigate complicated government regulations and licensing requirements. She suggested finding key government personnel who understand technology and want to help new businesses.  

“It is important for technology leaders to take the lead and be innovative in the way we communicate to government, because they [government staff] are learning as much as we are,” Osei told VOA.

Osei and Belo-Osagie are learning through She Leads Africa, and their efforts have drawn recognition. Forbes magazine named them among “the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” in 2014. 

They don’t plan to slow down, Osei said, noting their goal is at least 1 million subscribers for their website. As the site says, it’s for “the ladies who want to build million-dollar companies, lead corporate organizations and crush it as leaders.”

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Adobe New Service Aims to Follow Users Across Multiple Devices

Visiting Subway’s website on a personal computer might not seem to have anything to do with checking the NFL’s app on a phone. But these discrete activities are the foundation for a new service to help marketers follow you around.

Adobe, a company better known for Photoshop and PDF files, says the new initiative announced Wednesday will help companies offer more personalized experiences and make ads less annoying by filtering out products and services you have already bought or will never buy.

But it comes amid heightened privacy sensitivities after reports that Facebook allowed a political consulting firm to harvest data on millions of Facebook users to influence elections.

And Adobe’s initiative underscores the role data plays in helping companies make money. Many of the initial uses are for better ad targeting.

Adobe says no personal data is being exchanged among the 60 or so companies that have joined its Device Co-op initiative already. These include such well-known brands as Allstate, Lenovo, Intel, Barnes & Noble, Subaru, Subway, Sprint, the NFL and the Food Network. Adobe says the program links about 300 million consumers across nearly 2 billion devices in the U.S. and Canada.

Under the initiative, Adobe can tell you’re the same person on a home PC, a work laptop, a phone and a tablet by analyzing past sign-ins with member companies. With that knowledge, Sprint would know Bob is already a customer when he visits from a new device. Bob wouldn’t get a promotion to switch from another carrier, but might get instead a phone upgrade offer. Or if Mary has declared herself a Giants fan on the NFL’s app, she might see ads with Giants banners when visiting NFL.com from a laptop for the first time.

All this might feel creepy, but such cross-device tracking is already commonly done by matching attributes such as devices that from the same internet location, or IP address. Consumers typically have little control over it.

Adobe says it will give consumers a chance to opt out of such tracking. And it’s breaking industry practices in a few ways. Adobe says it will honor opt-out requests for all participating companies and for all devices at once. It’s more typical for such setups to require people do so one by one. All companies in the initiative are listed on Adobe’s website, a break from some companies’ practice of referring only to unspecified partners.

“We’re doing everything we can not letting brands hide themselves,” Adobe executive Amit Ahuja said.

But in taking an opt-out approach, which is common in the industry, Adobe assumes that users consent. And it places the burden on consumers to learn about this initiative and to figure out how they can opt out of it.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Adobe New Service Aims to Follow Users Across Multiple Devices

Visiting Subway’s website on a personal computer might not seem to have anything to do with checking the NFL’s app on a phone. But these discrete activities are the foundation for a new service to help marketers follow you around.

Adobe, a company better known for Photoshop and PDF files, says the new initiative announced Wednesday will help companies offer more personalized experiences and make ads less annoying by filtering out products and services you have already bought or will never buy.

But it comes amid heightened privacy sensitivities after reports that Facebook allowed a political consulting firm to harvest data on millions of Facebook users to influence elections.

And Adobe’s initiative underscores the role data plays in helping companies make money. Many of the initial uses are for better ad targeting.

Adobe says no personal data is being exchanged among the 60 or so companies that have joined its Device Co-op initiative already. These include such well-known brands as Allstate, Lenovo, Intel, Barnes & Noble, Subaru, Subway, Sprint, the NFL and the Food Network. Adobe says the program links about 300 million consumers across nearly 2 billion devices in the U.S. and Canada.

Under the initiative, Adobe can tell you’re the same person on a home PC, a work laptop, a phone and a tablet by analyzing past sign-ins with member companies. With that knowledge, Sprint would know Bob is already a customer when he visits from a new device. Bob wouldn’t get a promotion to switch from another carrier, but might get instead a phone upgrade offer. Or if Mary has declared herself a Giants fan on the NFL’s app, she might see ads with Giants banners when visiting NFL.com from a laptop for the first time.

All this might feel creepy, but such cross-device tracking is already commonly done by matching attributes such as devices that from the same internet location, or IP address. Consumers typically have little control over it.

Adobe says it will give consumers a chance to opt out of such tracking. And it’s breaking industry practices in a few ways. Adobe says it will honor opt-out requests for all participating companies and for all devices at once. It’s more typical for such setups to require people do so one by one. All companies in the initiative are listed on Adobe’s website, a break from some companies’ practice of referring only to unspecified partners.

“We’re doing everything we can not letting brands hide themselves,” Adobe executive Amit Ahuja said.

But in taking an opt-out approach, which is common in the industry, Adobe assumes that users consent. And it places the burden on consumers to learn about this initiative and to figure out how they can opt out of it.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

3 Facebook Messenger App Users File Lawsuit Over Privacy

Three Facebook Messenger app users have filed a lawsuit claiming the social network violated their privacy by collecting logs of their phone calls and text messages.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in northern California, comes as Facebook faces scrutiny over privacy concerns.

Facebook acknowledged on Sunday that it began uploading call and text logs from phones running Google’s Android system in 2015. Facebook added that only users who gave appropriate permission were affected, that it didn’t collect the contents of messages or calls, and that users can opt out of the data collection and have the stored logs deleted by changing their app settings.

The suit seeks class-action status.

A message seeking comment from Facebook on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

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3 Facebook Messenger App Users File Lawsuit Over Privacy

Three Facebook Messenger app users have filed a lawsuit claiming the social network violated their privacy by collecting logs of their phone calls and text messages.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in northern California, comes as Facebook faces scrutiny over privacy concerns.

Facebook acknowledged on Sunday that it began uploading call and text logs from phones running Google’s Android system in 2015. Facebook added that only users who gave appropriate permission were affected, that it didn’t collect the contents of messages or calls, and that users can opt out of the data collection and have the stored logs deleted by changing their app settings.

The suit seeks class-action status.

A message seeking comment from Facebook on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

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Techno Teachers: Finnish School Tests Robot Educators

Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question, and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance.

Elias is also a robot.

The language-teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application, one of four robots in a pilot program at primary schools in the southern city of Tampere.

The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. In this trial, however, it communicates in English, Finnish and German only.

The robot recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.

Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning.

“I think in the new curriculum, the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riika Kolunsarka told Reuters.

“In that sense, I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open-minded about.”

Elias the language robot, which stands around a foot tall, is based on SoftBank’s NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots.

The mathematics robot — dubbed OVObot —is a small, blue machine around 25 cm (10 inches) high and resembles an owl. It was developed by Finnish AI Robots.

The purpose of the pilot project is to see if these robots can improve the quality of teaching, with one of the Elias robots and three of the OVObots deployed in schools. The OVObots will be tested for one year, while the school has bought the Elias robot, so its use can continue longer.

Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years — but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3-D printing are allowing smaller startup companies to enter the sector.

“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot.

Despite their skills in language and mathematics however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline amongst a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Techno Teachers: Finnish School Tests Robot Educators

Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question, and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance.

Elias is also a robot.

The language-teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application, one of four robots in a pilot program at primary schools in the southern city of Tampere.

The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. In this trial, however, it communicates in English, Finnish and German only.

The robot recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.

Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning.

“I think in the new curriculum, the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riika Kolunsarka told Reuters.

“In that sense, I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open-minded about.”

Elias the language robot, which stands around a foot tall, is based on SoftBank’s NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots.

The mathematics robot — dubbed OVObot —is a small, blue machine around 25 cm (10 inches) high and resembles an owl. It was developed by Finnish AI Robots.

The purpose of the pilot project is to see if these robots can improve the quality of teaching, with one of the Elias robots and three of the OVObots deployed in schools. The OVObots will be tested for one year, while the school has bought the Elias robot, so its use can continue longer.

Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years — but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3-D printing are allowing smaller startup companies to enter the sector.

“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot.

Despite their skills in language and mathematics however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline amongst a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!