Coronavirus: NITDA targets creation, protection of millions of jobs in ICT sector

DG NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdulahhi speaking during virtual submission of NITDA Advisory Committee’s report on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Technology and Innovation Ecosystem

The Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa stated that the Agency is targeting to protect and create a million jobs in the ICT sectors this year.

He made this known on Monday during a virtual submission of the report of the NITDA Advisory Committee on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Technology and Innovation Ecosystem also known as Tech4Covid19.

Tech4Covid19 Advisory Committee was constituted at the wake of the pandemic in Nigeria, precisely on April 1st, 2020, at the instance of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to come up with measures to be taken to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on start ups, small and Medium businesses as well as the technology ecosystem in general.

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The 10 member Advisory committee was given the term of reference to, among others, device suitable strategies for the provision of affordable internet access to individuals and businesses; develop a framework to facilitate access to financing for tech and tech-enabled ventures, and device modalities for encouraging the development and adoption of digital technology, as well as support policies in line with the “Work from Home” directive of the federal government.

The NITDA boss maintained that based on the discussion he had with the minister, the government is targeting to create or retain one million jobs in ICT sector this year.

He stated that they are looking at many different areas in terms of start ups doing agricultural value chains, empowering hubs, developing and implementing the framework of business process outsourcing and other areas, to see how thousands of jobs can be created directly or indirectly.

“In doing so, I urge the committee to develop a business plan; stating facts and figures on how the IT sector will create and protect jobs. What I want from the committee are two things: One for example, you state that we have 100 thousand work force and if the government does not do anything to intervene during this pandemic we are going to loose the 100 thousand jobs or if government intervenes by doing some certain things we are going to retain all the 100 thousand jobs and create additional 30 thousand jobs.”

He affirmed that if we have the facts and figures to present to the government, they will intervene quickly as job creation is one of its top priorities.

Furthermore, Kashifu asserted that for the government to have full understanding and confidence that the IT sector will contribute greatly in terms of job creation, the facts and figures must be justifiable and accurate.

He emphasized that the committee is not to address the pre-COVID-19 issues, but to look into the issues and challenges of the In-COVID-19 and prepare the nation for the post-COVID-19 world.

“We all believe that a lot of things will change after these pandemic. As some believe that the 4th industrial revolution will take place. As such we need to unlock this hidden opportunities or identify the silver lining which are the Digital First and keep businesses up and running,” he added.

He said, “A lot of technologies will come on board and people will embrace them. A lot of things are going to change and a lot of businesses are going to be powered by technologies.”

Concerning the recommendations, Kashifu assured the committee that NITDA and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami will do everything possible in their capacity to see that all the highlighted recommendations in the 4 critical areas are tackled accordingly.

He further informed the members of the committee that in regards to the hubs intervention, the agency intends to provide them with a business opportunity where they can earn money, have start ups and create more job opportunities as it is the focus of the agency and the government.

He then urged the hubs to come up with a business proposal on how many job opportunities can be created and how much is needed.

On the business process outsourcing, Mallam Kashifu assured the committee that the Agency will fast track its process and bring out positive results soon.

He applauded the efforts of the committee in delivering a timely report despite the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, stating that the briefing from the chairman of the committee shows that everything is on track and ready for implementation.

The Advisory Committee however recommended the following; secure permit/approval to allow all technology enabled start ups with products and services that are categorized as essential to operate across the country during lockdown period; that NITDA, in conjunction with Nigeria Communication Commission and local telecommunication companies, secure a discounted uncapped data plan for all interested tech enabled businesses to facilitate remote working during the lockdown period and open a direct line of communication with businesses and ecosystem intermidiaries for continuous assessment of the impact of the pandemic on tech-enabled business for continuous assessment of necessary palliative to aid business continuity.

Amazon using thermal cameras for COVID-19 temperature checks

The e-tailing giant is using the cameras at some of its operations facilities to ease the process of screening employees for fever related to the coronavirus.

Thermal imaging in use at the entrance to a hospital in Spain. Amazon says it’s now using thermal cameras at some of its operations sites to help protect employees by screening for fever. David Benito/Getty ImagesFor the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Amazon is now using thermal cameras to do temperature checks at some of its operations facilities, another move by the company to increase worker protections during the COVID-19 pandemic, following criticism that it wasn’t doing enough.

The e-commerce giant first started doing checks in late March, saying in a blog post at the time that workers with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit would be sent home and “only come back to work after they’ve gone three days without a fever.” The temperature limit was drawn from US Centers for Disease Control guidance, Amazon said.

On Saturday, a spokesperson said the new camera-based checks are meant to make the process easier.

An Amazon worker being screened for fever last month, using a contactless thermometer. The company says it’s tapping thermal cameras to streamline the process.Amazon“We implemented daily temperature checks in our operations locations as an additional preventative measure to support the health and safety of our employees,” Kristen Kish said in a statement. “We are now implementing the use of thermal cameras for temperature screening to create a more streamlined experience at some of our sites.”

Amazon’s operations network includes its warehouses and delivery centers, as well as Whole Foods grocery stores. Kish didn’t specify which sites were using the cameras.

The temperature checks are part of a series of worker-protection measures Amazon put in place amid criticism about its handling of the coronavirus crisis. Several Amazon and Whole Foods employees, fearful and frustrated about having to work through the crisis, had earlier organized walkouts to call for better protections. And organized labor, which doesn’t represent Amazon workers in the US, along with advocacy groups and many politicians joined the push to get Amazon to do more for its employees.

A number of Amazon warehouse workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, with those infections occurring as consumers rely more heavily on the internet retailer for their basic needs. 

“With over 1,000 sites around the world, and so many measures and precautions rapidly rolled out … there may be instances where we don’t get it perfect, but I can assure you that’s just what they’ll be — exceptions,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s head of worldwide operations, said in the March blog post announcing the temperature checks and various other measures.

Amazon France workers will stay home until at least Wednesday

A court ruled that it hadn’t done enough to protect warehouse workers from COVID-19, and an appeal will take place on Tuesday.

Amazon is temporarily halting warehouse operations in France, as it waits to appeal a court ruling.Chesnot/Getty ImagesFor the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Amazon shuttered its French warehouses last week following a court ruling that it had to limit deliveries to products in the food, medicine and hygienic categories due to inadequate coronavirus protections at its warehouses. Workers have been asked to stay home until at least Wednesday, it said on Monday.

The e-commerce giant faced a fine of 1 million euros (around $1.1 million) per day if it failed to carry out the civil court order as previously reported by the New York Times. Its appeal will be heard on Tuesday, the company said in an emailed statement.

“Following the judgement of a French court on Tuesday, we have to temporarily suspend operations in our Fulfilment Centres in France,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement last week. “This is in spite of the huge investment we made in additional safety measures to keep our hard-working, dedicated colleagues safe, while ensuring they had continued employment at this difficult time.”

It criticized the unions that brought the court case, noting that “the decision will likely have consequences for many people in the country,” including employees, customers and small businesses that sell through Amazon. It deemed the “punitive” fine too high to ignore, and the warehouse workers will be asked to stay home during the closure.

Amazon France boss Frederic Duval told French news channel BFM TV that he hopes to “find a solution very quickly,” according to Reuters.

SUD-Commerce, the main union behind the lawsuit, told the Times that workers will be paid during the closures, which are expected to last five days as Amazon improves warehouse safety measures.

“We will be very vigilant today … that the court decision will be followed by Amazon,” a union spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We understand that people want to order goods in this difficult time of confinement, but in no way it should put in danger human health.”

Amazon in recent days fired three workers in the US who criticized warehouse conditions during the global pandemic.

The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December and has spread worldwide in the months since. As of Monday morning, it has infected more than 2.4 million people and caused nearly 166,000 deaths globally.

5G: LG Velvet phone’s ‘raindrop’ camera array teased in trailer

It uses Qualcomm’s 765 5G chipset, and you’ll have four color options to choose from.

After teasing its Velvet phone through concept images and explaining its naming convention, LG gave us our first close look at the device and its chipset in a trailer over the weekend. It’ll use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 5G 765 processor, instead of the higher-end 865.

The cameras descend in order by size, with the main lens sitting just above the surface, the other two lenses lying under the glass and the flash below them. The front camera sits dead center, with a small bezel.

The LG Velvet color options include green, purple-orange, black and white.LG/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNETThe color options include black, white, green and a striking purple-orange. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack, unlike Apple’s new iPhone SE.

We don’t get a launch date or price in the trailer, but CNET sister site ZDNet reported that the phone’s likely to launch next month in South Korea and that it’ll be an affordable “mass premium” model. LG didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

5 things not to do when coronavirus quarantine, lockdown end

Angela Lang/CNETFor the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

After weeks of coronavirus quarantine, shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, it’s no wonder millions of people are looking for an end in sight. This question of when life can go back to normal is on countless minds as countries, states and cities shift to indoor living to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Some of us are getting restless, imagining the people we’ll hug, parties we’ll throw and places we’ll travel.

Not so fast. As the first signs of easing are starting to play out around the world, it’s good to remember this is new territory for everyone and there’s much we still don’t know about the long-term behavior of this particular coronavirus strain. 

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Different governments and agencies are sure to have their own cadence for reintegrating and going back to business as usual, including taking a phased approach that slowly relaxes some measures while keeping an eye out for spikes in new COVID-19 cases. 

“The worst that can happen is that we make a misstep and let our emotions get ahead of the facts, and we have to go through this again,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his April 11 daily press conference.

One thing’s for sure — your lifestyle won’t return to “normal” all at once. While we won’t know for certain what will or won’t be allowed until those measures arrive, there are some common-sense codes that we don’t see going away any time soon. 

Don’t throw a party or hit the bars

Social distancing measures exist for a reason, and that’s to slow the spread of viral transmission from people who come into close contact. Hosting a party at home or crowding into a bar when they reopen will jam people together in a room, giving any lingering coronavirus on an asymptomatic host the prime opportunity to infect others, who then could pass it along.

“I will just remind the American people again. This is a highly contagious virus,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in an April 15 briefing. “Social gatherings, coming together, is always a chance that an asymptomatic person can spread the virus unknowingly … But for all of you that are out there that would like to join together and just have that dinner party for 20 — don’t do it yet.”

Don’t stop washing your hands

Of course you’ll continue to practice common hygiene, but remember that relaxed restrictions won’t necessarily mean that the coronavirus outbreak is over, even after a vaccine eventually arrives. There may be economic reasons for schools and businesses to reopen, while the virus continues to spread, albeit at slower rates than today.

Remember that the goal of stay at home orders and thorough handwashing is to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients in critical condition and minimize your risk for acquiring life-threatening symptoms.

Hopefully, the good hand-washing habits you’ve acquired during this time will stick around, including longer, more thorough washing, and more frequently after coming into contact with people and common surfaces. 

You may still need those face masks for a while.Angela Lang/CNETDon’t immediately visit high-risk people

There’s nothing I’d rather do when quarantine ends than rush out and give the senior citizens and immunocompromised friends in my life a big, warm hug. But that might not be the best move for them. Quarantine measures are likely to loosen before the vaccine arrives that will help protect people most at risk if they do acquire COVID-19. 

Though early vaccine testing is underway, an approved vaccine is still thought to be a year out, at the very least. That doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see your loved ones for a full year. 

Antibody testing is a promising method in development right now that could be able to tell you if you’ve already been exposed to the coronavirus. Unfortunately, we’re not at the stage where this test — which isn’t yet available — can confirm immunity.

For people who are in high-risk groups, keeping a healthy distance may still be the best way to keep them safe. That’s something you and your family will need to carefully evaluate.

Sorry, it’s probably not the best time to build up those frequent flyer miles.Kent German/CNETDon’t plan a big international vacation

I’ve already started a mental list of every place in the world I want to visit once restrictions lift. And I’ve already revised it to local gems, like a hiking trail and the beach, activities that are off the menu where I live. Like me, you’ll have to have a little patience. 

While I expect that hotel and airfare prices will be enticingly cheap when nonessential travel is first deemed acceptable again, it does well to remember intermingling is nearly impossible to avoid in airports and airplanes (though not because of the ventilation system, according to the WHO), which is one major reason flights have been canceled and international travel effectively banned in many countries. 

The international movement of people contributed to the coronavirus reaching pandemic proportions so quickly, through person-to-person transmission like coughing and sneezing. If a recurrence were to happen, the last thing you want is the stress of finding yourself quarantined in an unfamiliar country, without a clear or quick way home. 

Don’t toss out those face masks

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but as a global society, we can’t say for certain what will happen next — if a sudden surge in new coronavirus cases will make it necessary to reinstitute quarantine measures, as has happened in Singapore and Hong Kong, or, worse, if a new strain emerges.

When the time comes, the smart thing to do is remain cautiously optimistic about regaining your freedom to move, but remain realistic that we don’t know what the future holds. So keep those homemade face masks handy.

For more resources about the coronavirus pandemic, here are five ways to cope with coronavirus stress, eight of the biggest coronavirus myths that just aren’t true and what we know about the effects of coronavirus on your pets.

COVID-19: Galaxy Backbone continues to strengthen unified digital communications in govt

MD/CEO, GBB Professor Muhammad Abubakar

The Company does this through GBB COVID-19 Action TeamDeploys over 150 Unified Communication devices, from Video Conferencing terminals to Video Phones, have been installed in the offices and residences of top government officialsIn the last two weeks of the Federal Government shut down of business and social operations in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos & Ogun States due to the global pandemic of the Corona Virus which has also affected Nigeria, Galaxy Backbone (GBB), an organisation under the Federal Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy had set up a team made up of Senior Management, Network Engineers, System Administrators & Customer Operations Executives; the GBB Covid-19 Action Team.

Galaxy Backbone telepresence facility

Its main objective is to ensure the continuity of government operations through the provision and implementation of Video Conferencing, IP Phones and other communication services to the members of Presidential Taskforce Committee, Office of the Vice President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries of Federal Ministries, Security Operatives, Federal Ministry of Health, the National Centre for Disease & Control (NCDC) and other public sector essential service providers.

Several successes have been recorded through this initiative which has enhanced the operations of government officials during this COVID-19 times. Over 150 Unified Communication devices, from Video Conferencing terminals to Video Phones, have been installed in the offices and residences of top government officials.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive of Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Muhammad Abubakar, recently noted that these services has enabled the executive officers of the Government to communicate amongst themselves while maintaining the principles of social distancing; “We have deployed Video Conferencing facilities and IP Telephony to the State House to enable effective communication and possible online meetings of Mr President with members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19, Honourable Ministers, top government officials and other NEC members.”

Galaxy Backbone telepresence facility during deployment

Galaxy Backbone continues to maintain a 24hr operation to ensure that the services of government ministries and agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Health, National Centre for Disease Control and other relevant bodies and agencies helping to keep the nation healthy, function seamlessly in emergencies like this.

All GBB personnel at the frontline will continue to adhere strictly to all the guidelines set by the NCDC, Federal Ministry of Health & the World Health Organisation (WHO) as it discharges its essential services.

“GBB is primarily the Digital Infrastructure & Shared Services provider of network, communications and connectivity services to public organisations within the nation. It also runs the only TIER III Datacentre in the Nation’s public sector with a Back-Up Datacentre in Enugu.

Galaxy Backbone telepresence facility under usage

“We encourage MDAs and private sector to collocate or host their applications at Galaxy Backbone’s secure Datacentre which is operated and managed strictly under International Service Management standards”, the MD added.

CoVID-19 sparks uptake of WiFi as a Service in Middle East and Africa – Report

Middle East and Africa Wi-Fi-as-a-Service (WaaS) market size is projected to grow from USD 336 million in 2020 to USD 1,094 million by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26.6% during the forecast period.

The report “MEA Wi-Fi as a Service Market released by MarketsandMarkets by Solution – Access Points and WLAN Controllers; Service – Professional and Managed Services; Location Type – Indoor and Outdoor, shows that the major factors driving the growth of the MEA WaaS market include increasing trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation strategies adopted by enterprises.

Some of the prominent key players are:CommScope               (US)HPE                             (US)Huawei                       (China)Ubiquiti                      (US)Extreme Networks   (US)Cisco                           (US)Cambium                   (US)Juniper                       (US)Fortinet                      (US)Arista                          (US)ADTRAN                   (US)ALE                            (France)Linksys                       (US)Cradlepoint               (US)

The solutions segment to record a larger market size during the forecast period

MEA WaaS solutions comprise Access Points (APs) and Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) controllers. WaaS has been increasingly pervasive in enterprises across the MEA region. Enterprises are looking for cost-effective and secure Wi-Fi services, which help employees to become more productive and efficient while working on mobile devices.

The WaaS model has demonstrated significant benefits to businesses in terms of cost and network management. The as-a-service model helps businesses to offload their mobile traffic over Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). Hence, the demand for these solutions is high among enterprises.

By end user, the travel and hospitality segment to record the highest growth rate during the forecast period

Travel and hospitality is the most intensive and customer-centric end-user segment. It comprises a broad range of facilitators, including airlines (airports), cruise lines, private transportation, hotels, lodges, restaurants, and cafes.

Wi-Fi services play a key role in travel and hospitality organizations by offering guest Wi-Fi services to customers. In the digital era, the adoption of new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) has increased in this end-user segment.

United Arab Emirates to record the highest growth during the forecast period

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a politically and economically stable country and holds the 25th position globally in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 by the World Economic Forum.

The UAE, with visions, such as the UAE Continental 2071 and the UAE AI Strategy 2031, aims to make the use of emerging technologies, such as IoT, AI, big data analytics, and advanced robotics, under the Digital UAE initiative.

Smart city initiatives, such as Smart Abu Dhabi, Smart Dubai, Smart Sharjah, and Smart Fujairah, add intelligence to its current urban infrastructure and municipal services.

Wi-Fi UAE is an initiative by the Government of UAE to provide Wi-Fi access to all the users with a Wi-Fi-enabled device, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

Meet 5 five founding partners of ID2020 Alliance

You may have read or heard about the ID2020 Alliance that is setting the course of digital ID through a multi-stakeholder partnership, ensuring digital ID is ‘responsibly’ implemented and widely accessible.

In 2018, ID2020 Alliance Partners, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), drafted a formal articulation of the Alliance’s perspective on ethical approaches to digital identity.

The Alliance listed 10 items in its manifesto; one of which points out that “over one billion people worldwide are unable to prove their identity through any recognized means. As such, they are without the protection of law, and are unable to access basic services, participate as a citizen or voter, or transact in the modern economy. Most of those affected are children and adolescents, and many are refugees, forcibly displaced, or stateless persons”.

In September 2019, ID2020 Alliance launched a new digital identity program at its annual summit in New York, in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh, vaccine alliance Gavi, and new partners in government, academia, and humanitarian relief.

The program, according to a report by Biometricupdate.com to leverage immunization as an opportunity to establish digital identity was unveiled by ID2020 in partnership with the Bangladesh Government’s Access to Information (a2i) Program, the Directorate General of Health Services, and Gavi, according to the announcement.

So, who are the partners pushing the agenda?

Here are the five main partners in the Alliance that share the belief that “identity is a human right and that individuals must have ‘ownership’ over their own identity.

1. Microsoft

The American multinational technology company joined ID2020 in January 2018 as a founding partner.

Members of the Microsoft team sit on ID2020’s Technical and Program Delivery Advisory Committees.

2. Accenture

A global management consulting and professional services firm, Accenture joined as a founding partner in June 2017.

Accenture representatives participate in ID2020’s Executive Board and Technical Advisory Committee.

3. Gavi

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance brings together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.

The CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Seth Berkley, sits on the Executive Board of the Alliance.

4. Rockefeller Foundation

Since 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation has sought to improve the well-being of humanity around the world.

The Rockefeller Foundation provided ID2020 with seed funding in 2017 and has been an ongoing supporter of ID2020’s work.

5. IDEO

Created by IDEO, the international design and consulting firm, to design products, services, and experiences to improve the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities, IDEO.org joined ID2020 in 2018.

IDEO.org is represented on ID2020 Alliance Program Delivery and Ecosystem & Advocacy Advisory Committees.