THIS WEEK TECH
This week, we spotlight Oare Ehiemua-Ochui, a prominent figure in the tech industry. Oare is the CEO and visionary behind LaborHack, an innovative platform that seamlessly connects skilled artisans with households and businesses throughout Nigeria.
Oare’s motivation for establishing LaborHack stemmed from the realisation that a lack of prominent platforms consistently provided high-quality, vetted, and well-trained artisans with ongoing opportunities. This realisation propelled her to take matters into her own hands and launch LaborHack.
In 2019, LaborHack was born with a clear objective: to train and equip electricians, carpenters, and other skilled workers with the necessary expertise while securing apprenticeship placements that would expose them to innovative practices and advanced technologies. Despite the challenges of finding suitable job placements initially, they persevered and successfully trained several batches of talented individuals.
The primary mission of LaborHack is to establish a direct and efficient link between clients and dedicated artisans who excel in delivering on-demand services. These artisans are readily available whenever their expertise is needed, offering convenience and reliability to clients. The startup controls a pipeline of artisans, ensuring that only those who have undergone rigorous training and thorough vetting are utilised. Doing so guarantees that all work performed adheres to the highest standards with minimal room for error, prioritising clients’ safety within their own homes.
In addition to her role at LaborHack, Oare is also the founder of OPL Academy, an employment accelerator designed to address the talent demands of Nigeria’s construction industry. Her commitment to bridging the skills gap and providing sustainable solutions has earned her recognition, including an esteemed award at the World Summit Awards (WSA) in 2023.
Google’s Bard Expands Features, Languages, Wider Reach
In an exciting development, Google’s conversational AI service, Bard, has significantly expanded, bringing innovative features, extended language support, and a wider global presence.
This expansion includes forty new languages, marking a significant milestone for the tech giant. Notably, Swahili, the first African language to be incorporated, has found its place among the languages supported by Bard. With this remarkable move, Bard is now available in most countries across the globe, breaking barriers and fostering a more inclusive digital landscape.
The extended language support of Bard encompasses the world’s most widely spoken languages, such as Chinese, German, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi, enabling users to engage with the service in their preferred language. Additionally, Google has introduced text-to-speech functionality in eight languages, enhancing accessibility and ensuring a seamless user experience.
Head of Communications and Public Affairs, SSA, Google, Dorothy Ooko, expressed enthusiasm for the significant expansion, calling it Bard’s most extensive to date.
She stated, “That’s why we created Bard: to help you explore that curiosity, augment your imagination and ultimately get your ideas off the ground not just by answering your questions but by helping you build on them.”
As part of the expansion, Google has introduced various features to enhance interactivity and customisation. The “Listen to Responses” feature adds an auditory dimension to Bard’s responses, enabling users to grasp accurate pronunciation or comprehend scripts effortlessly.
Users can now personalise their interactions with Bard by modifying the tone and style of its responses. Five options are available, including simple, long, short, professional, or casual, ensuring a tailored and engaging experience. Although this feature is currently launched in English, Google plans to extend it to other languages, making it universally accessible.
To further enhance productivity, Google has introduced four additional features. Users can now pin and rename their conversations with Bard, making it easier to revisit valuable information or ideas later. Additionally, Bard enables the exportation of Python code to Replit, in addition to Google Colab, fostering collaboration and simplifying code sharing across platforms. Introducing shareable links allows users to collaborate on projects or seek feedback on their ideas effortlessly. Lastly, users can now upload images along with prompts to Bard, expanding the service’s capabilities and opening new avenues for creative exploration.
Elon Musk Unveils xAI: Bold Competitor to ChatGPT Emerges
Tech visionary Elon Musk revealed the formation of xAI, a dedicated company focused on artificial intelligence, following much anticipation and speculation about his plans to develop a ChatGPT competitor.
xAI, accompanied by a newly unveiled website and a talented team of twelve members, will be spearheaded by Musk himself, as stated on the company’s website. The venture aims to collaborate closely with X (Twitter), Tesla, and other organisations to drive advancements aligned with their shared mission.
The website emphasises xAI’s ambitious objective of comprehending the fundamental essence of the universe, echoing Musk’s previous descriptions of his AI aspirations. Notably, Musk had been an early supporter of OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, but eventually expressed discontent with the safeguards implemented by the company to prevent biased or sexist responses.
In a December tweet, Musk warned against training AI to be “woke”. It regarded it as perilous, responding to a user’s query about the possibility of disabling the “woke settings” on ChatGPT.
With the launch of xAI, Elon Musk sets his sights on pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence, seeking to carve a distinct path and make a substantial impact in the field.
Flutterwave Partners IATA to Streamline Payments for African Travel
Flutterwave, Africa’s leading payments technology company, has joined forces with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to enhance travel experiences in sub-Saharan Africa. By integrating with Flutterwave’s platform, airlines worldwide gain the ability to process payments from customers using various methods, including cards, bank transfers, mobile money, and alternative payment options.
IATA’s Financial Gateway (IFG) serves as an omnichannel payment orchestration and management platform exclusively designed for the airline industry. Its purpose is to enable airlines to receive local payments from diverse markets across all distribution channels.
Recognising Africa’s potential as one of the fastest-growing aviation regions, Flutterwave’s CEO & Founder, Olugbenga Agboola, emphasised the importance of facilitating seamless payment processes to foster the continent’s aviation industry.
He said: “According to the International Air Transport Association, Africa is set to become one of the fastest growing aviation regions in the next 20 years with an annual expansion of nearly 5%. How can we further accelerate this growth?
One way is to ensure airlines can easily set up operations across the continent and seamlessly receive customer payments. This partnership with IATA solves the problem of payments for global airlines venturing into Africa. We hope that this encourages more global airlines to expand into Africa.”
By utilising Flutterwave through IFG, airlines and travel agencies can effortlessly accept various payment methods when customers book their airline tickets. This integration eliminates the complexities of managing multiple connections to payment service providers in Africa. Instead, IFG offers a unified global connection, granting complete control over payment and settlement processes while seamlessly integrating with ticketing systems and distribution channels.
NITDA: Digitisation of MSMEs Could Boost Nigeria’s GDP by $53 Billion
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has highlighted the potential of digitising Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to significantly impact Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Director-General, NITDA, Mr. Kashifu Inuwa revealed during a recent visit to the GIZ/Digital Transformation Centre in Lagos that digitised MSMEs could contribute an additional $53 billion to Nigeria’s GDP.
Mr. Inuwa referenced recent research indicating that digitally transformed MSMEs have the potential to increase their revenue by 26 per cent while simultaneously reducing costs by 22 per cent. He further cited statistical data from 2018, which demonstrated that globally, digitally transformed enterprises contributed $13.5 trillion to the GDP. Projections indicate that by 2023, this figure will reach a staggering $53.3 trillion, accounting for over 50 per cent of the global GDP.
Highlighting the potential impact of digital transformation on Nigeria’s MSMEs, Mr. Inuwa stated, “If we can digitally transform our MSMEs in Nigeria, it could add 26 per cent to GDP or the revenue of the MSMEs. Currently, MSMEs contribute 43 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP, approximately $205 billion. A 26 per cent increase would mean that digitization of our MSMEs can boost our GDP by $53 billion.”
The DG emphasised the Federal Government’s commitment to digitally transforming the economy, underpinned by a seven-point strategic roadmap and action plan. The second pillar of this plan revolves around enhancing digital literacy and skills, as digitalisation, transformation, and the digital economy are all knowledge-based domains in which human capital holds paramount importance.
In line with this vision, NITDA aims to achieve 90 per cent digital literacy among Nigerians by 2030, enabling widespread access to digital services using digital devices. To date, NITDA has trained over 219,000 individuals in various technology-related disciplines, and in digital literacy, more than three million Nigerians have received training through diverse channels.
NCC Introduces Guidelines for Mobile Operators’ Advertising Transparency
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has rolled out new guidelines for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) such as MTN, Airtel, and Glo, which now require approval from the commission before launching advertising campaigns. These guidelines have been introduced to regulate promotional activities conducted by MNOs in Nigeria.
According to the guidelines, MNOs are obligated to submit a written request for approval of any promotional advertisements, ensuring they do so at least thirty working days in advance. The NCC will carefully evaluate these applications based on predetermined standards and requirements.
Furthermore, the NCC mandates that all approved advertisements must be registered with the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) within three days of their launch, reinforcing transparency and consumer protection measures.
The guidelines also specify several requirements for licensees. These include providing detailed reports on the advertisements, clearly indicating the products and target audience, and presenting reliable data that adheres to research principles. Adherence to established quality standards is also emphasised, ensuring that promotional activities meet the highest standards of professionalism and accuracy.
Regarding pricing, the NCC stipulates that all prices must be communicated clearly, prohibiting hidden adjustments, unrealistic comparisons, and exaggerated claims that may mislead consumers.
The NCC retains the right to reject applications, and if rejection occurs, the commission will provide detailed reasons within 14 days. However, licensees are granted an opportunity to rectify the situation or modify their applications within a specified period. The NCC also holds the authority to revoke approvals for promotions if they contravene specified conditions, such as network congestion, poor service performance, customer complaints, misrepresentation, or deviations from the original applications.
Licensees are responsible for ensuring that their networks can manage the increased traffic resulting from promotional activities while also adhering to the approved tariffs set by the commission. It is crucial that promotions accurately represent the goods and services provided by the licensees, maintaining integrity and transparency.
These guidelines establish a comprehensive framework that guarantees accountability, fairness, and adherence to industry standards in the promotional activities of MNOs operating in Nigeria.