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Facebook, AI Researchers Create most Detailed Population Density Maps of Africa

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Facebook is working closely with key non-profit and research partners to use artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to address large-scale social, health and infrastructure challenges in sub Saharan Africa. These efforts range from rural electrification in Tanzania to vaccinating people in remote corners of Malawi.

Facebook is applying the processing muscle of its compute power, its extensive data science skills and its expertise in AI and machine learning to create the world’s most detailed and accurate maps of local populations. Facebook also partners with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN (http://www.ciesin.org/)) to ensure that this effort leverages the best available administrative data for all countries involved.

The Boston-based Facebook team uses advanced computer vision and machine learning to combine satellite imagery from Digital Globe with public census data and other sources to create detailed population density maps of Africa. Using Facebook’s machine learning capabilities, Facebook started developing population density maps to provide better tools to support connectivity efforts around the world. No Facebook data has been or will be used in the project and the census and satellite data used contain no personally identifiable information.

High-resolution satellite imagery already exists for much of the world. However, prior to Facebook’s mapping project, it would have required countless hours for volunteers to comb through millions of square miles of pictures to identify which contained a tiny town or remote village.

The Facebook team used AI to solve that problem, efficiently crunching through data at a petabyte scale. For Africa alone, for example, the computer vision system examined 11.5 billion individual images to determine whether they contained a building. The team found approximately 110 million buildings in just a few days.

“Having started my career at USAID working on malaria control, I have witnessed first-hand the critical role that accurate data plays in the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts,” says Laura McGorman, a public policy manager at Facebook. “What’s exciting about projects like these that they provide an opportunity for our company to contribute to these efforts through our expertise in data and machine learning.”

In Malawi, the Missing Maps Project used these AI-powered maps to filter out the 97% of the terrain that is uninhabited. This helped to coordinate the efforts of 3,000 Red Cross volunteers in Malawi who visited roughly 100,000 houses in just three days to educate people about measles and rubella vaccines.

“The maps from Facebook ensure we focus our volunteers’ time and resources on the places they’re most needed, improving the efficacy of our programs,” says Tyler Radford, executive director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, which is part of the Missing Maps Project.

In addition to assisting the Red Cross and Missing Maps Project in Malawi, the maps have been used by aid groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. In Tanzania, Facebook’s AI-powered maps helped kick-start efforts to bring renewable electrification to rural areas.

To understand which locations would benefit most from decentralized energy solutions, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team collaborated with the Reiner Lemoine Institut and Integration Environment and Energy to combine Facebook’s population maps with detailed data on settlement locations and structures from OpenStreetMap.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team personnel then travelled to villages identified as high priority and conducted surveys to understand the populations’ electricity needs. The results of these surveys were provided to agencies involved in rural electrification, helping mini-grid operators choose the most appropriate locations to begin the work.

The Facebook population density maps project now aims to keep adding new continents and countries.

 

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E-Business

Konga Eyes Profitability as Turnover Rises by 800 Per Cent

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Konga, Nigeria’s number one composite eCommerce giant, has set its sights on the path of profitability after achieving an increase in turnover by over 800 per cent and a huge reduction in losses over the past 18 months since its acquisition, according to Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, co-CEO.

 

Prince Ekeh revealed that the new management of Konga has succeeded in reversing losses and growing the business to the delight of its new investors.

 

The development has further raised expectations of the company hitting the path of profitability by 2022.

 

He said that “We have reduced cost by over 45% and also achieved growth of over 800% in the past 18 months. We are working very hard to meet investors’ expectations. It is true we are incurring huge losses now based on the e-commerce business model. However, we have 36 months’ cash reserve to build Konga as a success.

 

“We are ambitiously scaling Konga and that is why we launched a successful Konga Travels and Tours that is currently making huge waves in the travel booking industry. In addition, we have other approved projects and new lines of businesses that are set to be unveiled soon.”

 

 

Prince Ekeh recently spear-headed a major Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project anchored by the company.

 

Konga had visited three orphanages in Lagos and Abuja where it donated to the needy and less-privileged. The initiative, carried out under the auspices of Konga Kares – its social investment programme – is also set to hit other states in the country.

 

According to him, the company has put in so much work behind the scenes and is now ready to take the lead.

 

“We have spent the last year restructuring the business and positioning it on a very solid footing. This is evident from the huge strides we have recorded over the period and the several other viable business units and subsidiaries that have taken flight within the Konga Group. Indeed, we are preparing to lead in this space,” he ventured.

 

Prince Ekeh cites a lack of local know-how and huge losses as pitfalls that have encumbered businesses in the e-commerce sector – areas in which Konga stand out.

 

Konga currently operates over 16 physical stores and hubs in Lagos alone. Further, the company has more than tripled the number of strategic stores and mega warehouses nationwide in less than 18 months of the acquisition.

 

Continuing, Prince Ekeh affirmed that e-commerce is a complicated business requiring tact, world-class strategies and creative nous.

 

“E-commerce is not just an extremely expensive project anywhere in the world with initial huge losses. It is a very complicated business.

 

“At Konga, we are locals with a network of quality foreign service providers. We understand the implications of not positioning infrastructure first. This is why we spent the last 18 months indirectly building our own facility nationwide and restructuring technologies to accommodate our ambition. Nigeria will experience the full scale of the Konga retail revolution in the coming months,” he concluded.

 

 

 

 

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Cars45 enhances access to vehicle ownership, rolls out 2 more franchise lots in Lagos

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L-R: Olajide Adamolekun, CFO, Cars45, Oludare Adewale, CEO, Auction.com, Mohammed Iyamu, VP Trading, Cars45 and Head Operations, Carsbazr, John Egwu at the unveiling of the Carsbazr Franchise location in Egbeda, Lagos
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In a bid to take its products and quality of service closer to the consumers, Nigeria’s leading automotive trading platform, Cars45 has unveiled two more Carsbazr franchise lots located in the Egbeda and Shogunle areas of Lagos in partnership with Auction.com Ltd.

 

Speaking at the launch of the franchise outlet, Jide Adamokelun, CFO, Cars45 noted that “for us at Cars45 and Carsbazr, we are always seeking out opportunities to fulfill our brand promise to consumers, that is, providing end-users with a rich variety of verified cars at affordable prices.”

 

“The roll out of these new franchise locations also ties in strongly with our vision to enhance accessibility of the consumers to affordable car sales channels, transform Nigeria’s automotive industry and deepen the values of transparency and integrity that we have brought to that space,” Adamolekun said.

 

It will be recalled that Cars45 provides a detailed 200-point inspection report as well as a grade ranking on all vehicles bought or sold in a manner that reveals the true condition of the cars and empowers the consumer to make a well-informed buying decision.

 

Oludare Adewale, CEO Auction.com, the latest franchise beneficiary said,” considering the brand’s preeminent status, we are very happy to partner with Nigeria’s number one automotive trading platform to enable the public have more convenient options when it comes to buying cars.

“In the few years that we have done business together, we have seen the value they provide to dealers like us in terms of value, volumes and profit margins.

 

“It’s a win-win for everyone and we will work hard to ensure that the current target of 50 franchise locations before the end of year is surpassed.”

 

Speaking on the driving force behind the franchise rollouts, Head Operations, Carsbazr, John Egwu said, “what we are bringing to the market with our franchise rollouts is transparency to the car selling process, driving affordability in a way that says that there is a car for every wallet size and lastly delivering great consumer experiences that is consistent with what you’ll get at any of our Carsbazr retail lots across the country.

 

“We’ll like to encourage other dealerships to take up our franchises even as we create value and enrich the lives of Nigerians with quality services.”

 

With an interesting bouquet of products and services, Cars45 is currently leveraging its partnership with CFAO Motors to sell brand new cars – the Suzuki car models in addition to the foreign used and locally verified used vehicles which the business has been well known for.

 

With its entire vehicle inventory listed on the Carsbazr website, www.buy.cars45.com which records over 6,000 unique visitors every day, consumers can locate vehicles across its lots and franchises.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stakeholders to Partner Ministry to Curb Technology Importation

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IT experts, relevant stakeholders in the communication ministry and ICT related sectors in the country at the weekend advocated for advancement in the digital future of Nigeria.

 

This is in line with consolidating Nigeria’s position on the global internet governance forum.

 

The Nigeria Internet Governance Forum 2019 which was centered on policy dialogue on issues of internet governance held at Muson Center, Lagos and had different IT experts in attendance with the theme as ‘Enabling digital commonwealth for development’.

 

It would be recalled that the Ministry of Communication disclosed that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government would partner with stakeholders in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector to curb the loss of billions of Naira to importation of technology by ensuring digital inclusion for local internet initiative.

 

Istifanus Musa Mik Fuktur, permanent secretary, Ministry of Communications, represented by Moni Udoh, director of ICT at the ministry, while speaking at the event disclosed that the ministry in conjunction with other parastatals especially the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was set to curb billions of Naira loss to technology importation.

 

She stated that the target was to ensure digital inclusion for local internet initiative through education by discussing ways the internet can be used to address the development in achieving the SDGs.

 

Also speaking at the event, Professor Umar Danbatta, executive chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), represented by Engr. Chidi Diugwu, stated that the Internet Governance Forum was established in July 2006 for policy dialogue on issues and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

 

At the panelist workshop session, information Technology (IT) experts urged internet users to be mindful of what they post online so as to ensure their safety.

 

The experts deliberated on “Cybersecurity and Trust: Enabling People-centered Data Protection and Privacy Regulations” during the workshop session.

 

Dr. Dimie Wariowei, director, Cybersecurity of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said that what one uploaded online could be used for criminal acts.

 

Wariowei said that people were now using digital means to transact businesses, accessing banking activities through the phones every day.

 

He said that there were a lot of challenges associated with such actions; hence, users had to be careful.

 

Mr Emmanuel Edet from the Federal Ministry of Justice said that personal data protection was key to being safe online.

 

Edet said that there were different laws in Nigeria that protected people’s data, hence, should be leveraged on.

 

He said that personal data should be protected so that they would not be misused by others.

 

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