Nigeria Becoming Destination for Africa’s Promising Tech Startups

In February, the Nigerian technology startup CrowdForce announced a big break: It had received $3.6 million from investors to expand its financial services operations to many more underserved communities.   Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Tomi Ayorinde said new funding will boost its mobile agent network from 7,000 to 21,000 this year. “We were looking to scale faster and really gain market share,” Ayorinde said. “And what we’re doing is also very impact-related because we’re creating jobs, avenues for people to make extra income in their communities. So, it was also very interesting for impact investors to be part of what we’re trying to do.”  When Ayorinde helped launch CrowdForce seven years ago, he intended it to be a data collection company. But after about two years, the company overhauled its business model when Ayorinde realized it could fill a need for bank accounts.    “When we collected data of 4.5 million traders what we saw was, a lot of them didn’t have bank accounts and the ones that have bank accounts had a very tough time accessing the cash that was sent to them,” said Ayorinde.”That’s when we kind of realized that there’s a bigger problem to solve here.” Experts say about 60% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people lack access to banks or financial services. Technology startups in Africa are trying to fix that, said the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association known as AVCA.    In a recent report, the industry group said African startups attracted $5.2 billion in venture capital …

Musk: Doubt About Spam Accounts Could Scuttle Twitter Deal

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his deal to buy Twitter can’t move forward unless the company shows public proof that less than 5% of the accounts on the social media platform are fake or spam. Musk made the comment in a reply to another user on Twitter early Tuesday. He spent much of the previous day in a back-and-forth with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who posted a series of tweets explaining his company’s effort to fight bots and how it has consistently estimated that less than 5% of Twitter accounts are fake. In his tweet Tuesday, Musk said that “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be much higher. My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.” He added: “Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of 5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.” Twitter declined to comment. It’s Musk’s latest salvo over inauthentic accounts, a problem he has said he wants to rid Twitter of. At a Miami technology conference Monday, Musk estimated that at least 20% of Twitter’s 229 million accounts are spam bots, a percentage he said was at the low end of his assessment. The battle over spam accounts kicked off last week when Musk tweeted that the Twitter deal was on on hold pending confirmation of the company’s estimates that they make up less than 5% of total users. Also at the All In Summit, Musk gave the strongest hint yet that he would like to pay …

Convicted Killer Turned Tech Whiz Confronts His Sordid Past

When he was 20 years old, Harel Hershtik planned and executed a murder, a crime that a quarter of a century later is still widely remembered for its grisly details. Today, he is the brains behind an Israeli health-tech startup, poised to make millions of dollars with the backing of prominent public figures and deep-pocket investors. With his company set to go public, Hershtik’s past is coming under new scrutiny, raising questions about whether someone who took a person’s life deserves to rehabilitate his own to such an extent. “When I was young, I would say that I was stupid and arrogant,” said Hershtik, now 46. “You can be a genius and yet still be very stupid and the two don’t contradict each other.” Today, Hershtik is the vice president of strategy and technology at Scentech Medical, a company he founded in 2018, while behind bars, which says its product can detect certain diseases through a breath test. In a three-hour interview with The Associated Press, he repeatedly expressed remorse for his crime. Hershtik was convicted of murdering Yaakov Sela, a charismatic snake trapper he met when he was 14. The two had a bumpy relationship. Sela was known for having numerous girlfriends at once, one being Hershtik’s mother. Hershtik said he felt uneasy with how Sela treated some of the women, including his mother. In early 1996, Sela discovered that Hershtik had stolen 49,000 shekels (about $15,000 at the time) from him, and the two agreed that instead of …

IBM: 6 Black Colleges Getting Cybersecurity Centers

Six historically Black universities in five Southern states will be getting the first IBM cybersecurity centers aimed at training underrepresented communities, the company said. The schools are Xavier University of Louisiana, that state’s Southern University System, North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State, Clark Atlanta and Morgan State universities, according to a news release Tuesday. “Technology-related services are in constant demand, and cybersecurity is paramount,” said Dr. Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System based in Baton Rouge. The centers will give students, staff, and faculty access to modern technology, resources, and skills development, said Dr. Nikunja Swain, chair and professor of the Computer Science and Mathematics Department at South Carolina State, in Orangeburg. “It will further enhance our ongoing activities on several key areas, including cybersecurity, data science analytics, cloud computing, IOT, blockchain, design thinking, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence,” he said. IBM said it plans more than 20 such centers at historically Black colleges and universities nationwide. The company said each school will get customized courses and access to company academic programs. They also will be able to experience simulated but realistic cyberattacks through IBM Security’s Command Center. The company said it also will provide faculty and students free access to multiple SaaS IBM Cloud environments. Xavier is in New Orleans, North Carolina A&T in Greensboro and Morgan State in Baltimore. …

US, China Vie for Africa Mobile Phone Sector

Africa, in recent years, has become the new frontier where China and the United States, the world’s two biggest economic superpowers, are competing for influence in a key industry: telecommunications. This week, Ethiopia celebrated the launch of a 5G network powered by China’s telecom giant Huawei in Addis Ababa. Just before that, on a visit to the continent last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited U.S. mobile company Africell’s offices in Angola, where the firm has amassed some 2 million users since it was launched just over a month ago.   “Today in Luanda, I visited @AfricellAo, an innovative, state-of-the-art U.S. company expanding 5G access in Angola with trusted technology components,” she wrote in a tweet. Asked in a subsequent press briefing whether the tweet wasn’t a dig at Huawei – which already has a huge digital foothold in Africa but which was sanctioned in the U.S. in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump – Sherman was unequivocal.   “It’s not about throwing shade (being critical) on Huawei. We’ve been very direct. We believe that when countries choose Huawei, they are potentially giving up their sovereignty,” she said. “They are turning over their data to another country. They may find themselves bringing in a surveillance capability they didn’t even know was there.”   Washington has long expressed concern that Beijing is trying to monopolize networks and possibly use them for espionage, while Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.   “So, we’ve been very public about our concerns about …

Musk Says $44-billion Twitter Deal Temporarily On Hold

Elon Musk said on Friday his $44-billion deal for Twitter Inc was temporarily on hold, citing pending details on spam and fake accounts. “Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk said in a tweet. Shares of the social media company fell 20% in premarket trading. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company had earlier this month estimated that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users during the first quarter. It also said it faced several risks until the deal with Musk is closed, including whether advertisers would continue to spend on Twitter. Musk, the world’s richest man and the chief executive of Tesla Inc, had said that one of his priorities would be to remove “spam bots” from the platform. …

Bill Gates Says He Has COVID-19, Experiencing Mild Symptoms 

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms.  Via Twitter, the billionaire philanthropist said he will isolate until he is again healthy.  “I’m fortunate to be vaccinated and boosted and have access to testing and great medical care,” Gates wrote.  The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the most influential private foundation in the world, with an endowment of about $65 billion.  Bill Gates has been a vocal proponent for pandemic mitigation measures, specifically access to vaccines and medication for poorer countries. The Gates Foundation in October said it will spend $120 million to boost access to generic versions of drugmaker Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill for lower-income countries.  …

Elon Musk Says He’d Reinstate Trump’s Twitter Account

Elon Musk on Tuesday said he would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account.  The Tesla CEO who’s vying to buy Twitter and take it private for a reported price tag of $44 billion made the comment at the Financial Times Future of the Car conference.  “I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump,” Musk said. “I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.”   Musk added that Trump’s ban was “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”  Trump’s account was permanently banned after the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, with Twitter saying his continued presence on the platform was a “risk of further incitement of violence.”   Musk added that permanent bans should be “extremely rare” and reserved for “bots, or spam/scam accounts.”   “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said in a recent statement.   Trump has said he does not intend to rejoin Twitter and will focus mostly on the social network he launched called Truth Social.  Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.    …

Biden Starts Program to Provide Discounted Internet Service in US

The Biden administration announced on Monday that 20 internet companies have agreed to provide discounted service to people with low incomes, a program that could effectively make tens of millions of households across the U.S. eligible for free service through an already existing federal subsidy. The $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year included $14.2 billion funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides $30 monthly subsidies ($75 in tribal areas) on internet service for millions of lower-income households. With the new commitment from the internet providers, some 48 million households will be eligible for $30 monthly plans for 100 megabits per second, or higher speed, service — making internet service fully paid for with the government subsidy if they sign up with one of the providers participating in the program. Biden, during his White House run and the push for the infrastructure bill, made expanding high-speed internet access in rural and low-income areas a priority. He has repeatedly spoken out about low-income families that struggled finding reliable Wi-Fi, so their children could take part in remote schooling and complete homework assignments early in the coronavirus pandemic. “If we didn’t know it before, we know now: High-speed internet is essential,” the Democratic president said during a White House event last month honoring the National Teacher of the Year. The 20 internet companies that have agreed to lower their rates for eligible consumers provide service in areas where 80% of the U.S. population, including 50% of the rural population, …