Tag Archives: Africa

Celebrity Cyber Report – Oprah Winfrey, Akon,

Apple, making a push into the streaming television market, scored a major coup by signing Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year deal to produce streaming content. The Wall Street Journal reported that Winfrey is expected to become part of Apple’s billion dollar push into direct-to-consumer video streaming.  Although what Oprah will produce has not yet been determined the programming is expected to debut in 2019.  

Apple stated to Reuters, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Apple is in stiff competition with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to produce original streaming content. Apple has signed other big name celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Durant to produce shows for their platform.

Even with this huge deal Apple is in hardball competition with Netflix and Amazon. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a deal to produce content for Netflix. Netflix and Amazon have both invested heavily in their streaming content by spending $6.3 and $4.5 respectively in 2017 alone.  

Akon

Singer Akon (Courtesy Dagency)

Singer Akon is jumping into the cryptocurrency game. The singer announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  the launch ofAkoin” to finance his “Akon Crypto City,” a 100 percent crypto-based city in Africa.

According to the Page Six website Akon said  “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people, and brings the security back into the currency system, and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves, and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.”

According to the Akoin website Akon Crypto City is being developed in African on land donated by the President of Senegal. The city will be modeled on the fictional country of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.” According to Akon the new city will offer everything any normal city would including homes, retail businesses, parks, universities and schools.

The singer, who is of Senegal-descent, has moved his career efforts to giving back to African communities in recent years. In 2015 Akon  launched Akon Lighting Africa in an effort to solve chronic shortages of electricity in African nations.

 

App of the Week – Life Pocket

Inspiration is a powerful force. Understanding a problem and how it impacts you and those you love is even more inspirational. One teenager from Kenya possessed this inpiration and understanding and used it to make a change in the world. That is why Life Pocket is the App of the Week.

The Kenyan teenager we speak of is Caroline Wambui. Wambui was deeply affected by the loss of her uncle to kidney failure. No one in Carolines’s family was a match for a donation. There is also a cultural taboo against organ donation in Kenya. The country, like so many other African nations, does not have a national organ donor program.

Caroline Wambui with smartphone

Kenyan’s and other Africans die needlessly because of the lack or a donor database. Many others are forced into extremely dangerous organ markets.

But fortunately Kenya has a robust technology program that is bringing technology education to schools. The Kenyan government has instituted a laptops for schools policy. Contributions from numerous multi-nationals and local startups are working to improve Kenya’s educational system by introducing technology.

Caroline, because of this effort, used her education in technology to find a solution to the problem that led to her uncle’s death. It took two years but this young lady created the app Life Pocket.

The Life Pocket app registers and links patients with organ donors, doctors and hospitals for the purpose of making life saving organ donations possible.

Damaris and Caroline working on the app in a computer lab at the Embakasi Girls School.  (Photo by Guillaume Bonn/ Getty Images Assignment for intel)

Life Pocket  was just a dream until Damaris Mutati, Caroline’s teacher at the Embakasi Girls Secondary School became involved. Mutati introduced technology to her students. She understands that technology education is vital to the young people of the African continent.

Caroline enlisted the help of her fellow students to develop Life Pocket. Mutati demonstrated a burning passion for tech education. She participated in two programs run by U.S. chipmaker Intel in Kenya. Intel’s programs, Teach, and She Will Connect, assisted teachers seeking to introduce IT knowledge to African children.

But Intel did not stop there. The company’s staff volunteered to teach a coding workshop at Caroline’s school introducing the students to Intel XDK a unified development environment that enabled the students to design, create, test and deploy HTML5 apps.

Because of the efforts of Mutati and the involvement of multi-national corporations like Intel technology education has taken hold in Kenya and across Africa. One student, Caroline Wambui, has already changed the world because of it.

Ime Archibong Hooking Up Facebook

Ime

Ime Archibong

Facebook, the world’s biggest and most powerful social network, hooks up people with people.  Ime Archibong hooks up Facebook with the world. As Facebook’s director of product partnerships Archibong has a dual mission, one, making sure Internet access is affordable and two, raising awareness of the benefits of being online.

Mark Zuckerberg launched Internet.org two and half years ago in a Herculean effort to connect everyone in the world to the web. Zuckerberg calculates that nearly 4.9 billion people are not connected. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of these people live in hard-to-reach places completely without access. Another major obstacle is Internet affordability. Many impoverished people simply have a hard enough time eating every day.

Archibong is leading the effort to change this. “If your mission is to create a world where people are more connected and people have the power to share, and you’re aiming to connect everyone, you can’t just stop at the folks that are here in North America or the folks that are on the Internet right now, because we are actually in the minority worldwide,” said Archibong. “The question is how do you get those next 4 billion people, who have never been connected, online and make sure they can get the same benefits, tools and experience that you and I are privy to, as a result of having connectivity.”

Internet.org has a varied strategy to get everyone online. Facebook has cut deals with phone carriers in various countries to make over 300 basic web services available for free; Facebook included. Through a research and development  group called the Connectivity Lab, Facebook is developing futuristic methods to deliver the net, including lasers, drones, and new artificial intelligence enhanced software. The technology, once perfected, will be open source allowing others to commercialize it.

Connectivity Lab’s work is a top priority for Zuckerberg.  Among his plan is to launch a satellite above sub-Saharan Africa by year’s end. Drone testing is also scheduled to begin soon. Facebook’s artificial intelligence mapping software will help determine where people need their phones to work. Facebook has deployed a team of developers to inland villages in an effort to hack together methods for getting people online.

Zuckerberg has been roundly criticized for his effort. Critics have accused him of an attempt to colonize the Internet believing he can do a better job than governments and major corporations of connecting people to the Internet.

Among Archibong’s responsibilities is traveling the world meeting with Facebook’s community of 9,000 developers spread out across 136 companies.

“One of the things we spend a lot of time doing is trying to think about the platforms we can build that ultimately will serve global entrepreneurs and developers, because we do think that they are the ones, they have the context, they understand the nuances, they understand what they should be building that’s going to best serve the local communities,” said Archibong.

“Meeting and talking with a lot of these folks trying to get context about what’s special to them, what’s special about their region … and what we can do from a Facebook perspective to arm them with the tools, the data, with the information to help serve their community a little better.”

Archibong is optimistic about Facebook’s  efforts to give billions more people access to the Internet. “I have this notion that people create special things when they’re able to connect with each other and understand each other,” said Archibong. “Some of these future platforms that we’re leaning into are truly going to unlock that value for people around the world, and change the way that we interact with each other, change the way that we interact with devices and actually change the way that devices connect with devices.”

Ime Archibong was born the child of Nigerian immigrants in Kansas and raised in North Carolina. Both his parents are professors. He graduated from Yale where he played on the basketball team and double majored in electrical engineering and computer science.

Archibong previously worked at IBM as a software engineer.

 

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series- Mining Coltan

Congolese miners dig at a gold mine in Montgbawalu, Ituri district, eastern Congo, September 8, 2005. The Democratic Republic of Congo's government will renegotiate the existing gold exploration venture it has with AngloGold Ashanti, the world's number two gold producer, the head of Congo's state mining agency OKIMO said on Thursday. Picture taken September 8, 2005. REUTERS/Jiro Ose

Young miners digging coltan

Technology makes for a convenient life. Easy communications. Easy shopping. Easy at home and easy at work. We depend on technology for our new electric and hybrid cars, more efficient appliances and dependable access to information. Technology makes life easy…for most people.

The world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life. They are exploited, poisoned then buried under mountains of technology trash. These people are resigned to accept it as the way life is. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry starting with the mining of the raw materials.

Modern technology manufacturing begins with the extraction of certain raw materials from the earth. Cellphones and computers have inside them rare and hard to come by minerals and metals. These are often mined in African countries by people working in conditions and for wages that are simply inhuman.

The mineral coltan is found almost exclusively in Africa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Refining coltan creates a metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. This electrical charge is crucial to the tiny circuit boards that power our iPhones, laptop computers, tablets and many other high-tech devices. The men who mine this rare and vital mineral dig using simple picks and shovels and sometimes their bare hands sometimes for 12 hours a day.  Workers often carry the heavy sacks of raw coltan out of the mine on their backs. Working conditions are abysmal and dangerous and there is no safety equipment or procedures.

Even though this mineral is vitally important to the technology industry wages are shockingly low for this crippling labor.  We may pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for our electronics.  Yet these miners toil under the hot sun daily earning just $5 a day for a 12-hour day. The minimum wage is $3 a day. Living in the horrific poverty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo these men have no choice but to endure these grueling and dangerous conditions. But it is not always men suffering in these conditions. Children as young as ten are employed in the mines and deaths are a regular occurrence.

Not only are people suffering for our technology products but the land is suffering as well. Mountains are often ripped apart to mine coltan leaving the land scarred and polluted. Rivers are often filled with silt from mine runoff  that sometimes contains mercury, cyanide and other dangerous chemicals. Large tracts of forests are wiped out in search of the minerals destroying wildlife habitats.

To compound the dangers and back breaking labor is the fact that these mines are often the prize among warring groups. The wealth created by the mines have fueled repeated wars not only among rebels and warlords but also with the government of the Congo for more than 20 years.

The National Congress for Defense of People or CNDP militia have used revenue from the sale of coltan to buy weapons and ammunition in their armed struggle against the army of the DRC. Thousands of innocent miners and civilians have been killed or driven from their homes as a result of these wars. As with all wars atrocities are frequent including rape, mutilations and the use of child soldiers.

A searing 2001 United Nations Report on the ‘Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources’, laid blame squarely on the sale of coltan and other precious minerals to multi-national corporations as the “engine of conflict in the DRC.”

Apple, Samsung and other electronics manufacturers admit they use coltan from these mines to make the smartphones we depend on everyday.  Without shame, these companies say they will will continue to do so.

In 2015 Apple reported to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission “that it is committed to driving economic development and creating opportunities to source conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries.”’

The company went on to say that its suppliers must adhere to its code that; “every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

In a statement Samsung said it “recognizes the seriousness of human rights violations and environmental pollution problems of mineral mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The U.S. Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act has led to a crack down in the use of so-called “conflict minerals.” The law requires western corporations to certify the origins of suspicious resources used in technology manufacturing such as coltan thus shutting off the cash financing warlords.

Apple, aware of the hardships suffered by those mining the mineral,  says it is dedicated to using only conflict free minerals in their products.

An Apple spokeswoman added: “The simplest path to calling Apple products conflict-free would be to redirect our demand through a small subset of smelters that are either conflict-free verified, or aren’t sourcing from Central Africa. But this approach would do little to influence the situation on the ground, something we care deeply about. That’s why we have been working to expand the number of verified sources in this region, so that more people can earn a good living, in better conditions.”

Samsung Electronics also supports the ban on conflict minerals saying,; “As a global manufacturer of consumer electronics, we understand the moral and ethical responsibility we have to our consumers and broader society. We remain committed to proactively participating in conversations and actions around the world to ban the use of conflict minerals and ensure responsibly source, conflict-free products.”

Now you know.