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IBM puts $70m into digital Africa

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IBM today announced the $70 million dollar (approximately ZAR 945 million) investment in building digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to help support a 21st century workforce in Africa.

IBM is investing $70 million (approximately ZAR 945 million) in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills to help support a 21st century workforce in Africa. The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa”, provides a cloud-based learning platform designed to provide free skills development programs for up to 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa.

This is part of IBM’s global push to build the next generation of skills needed for “New Collar” careers.  “New Collar” is a term used by IBM to describe new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.

For the youth of Africa to be able to benefit from a cognitive future there needs to be a much higher level of digital literacy. At the top of the skills pyramid are developers, who need to know how to create solutions that can leverage the power of cognitive, and entrepreneurs who are aware of the potential. IBM Digital – Nation Africa is designed to help raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines and enable entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs grow businesses around the new solutions.

Through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix, the premier cloud platform for business, the initiative will provide a range of programs from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection.

Advanced users will be able to explore career-oriented IT topics including programming, cybersecurity, data science and agile methodologies, as well as important business skills like critical thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The initiative aims to empower African citizens, entrepreneurs, and communities with the knowledge and tools to design, develop, and launch their own digital solutions.

Based on Watson, the cognitive online system will adapt and learn. It will review the multiple interactions the education initiative will have with students, to help direct them to the right courses and help IBM refine the courses to better adapt the material for the needs of the users. Watson will also create a depth of knowledge using anonymous information gathered from interactions with the students. This will help entrepreneurs and developers understand which current Bluemix solutions best meet their needs and refine their idea to help them design a solution that has greatest market potential.

With the aim of equipping as many as 25 million people with sought after IT skills over the next five years, the program will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt. This will enable the expansion of the initiative across the continent.

Africa has approximately 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. By 2040, the continent is expected to be home to the world’s largest labor force, with an estimated working age population of 1 billion (*State of Education in Africa Report 2015). Yet many African companies cite a local skills gap as one of the major bottlenecks to growth. In South Africa alone, where more than a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, businesses struggle to find appropriate skills, particularly in the IT field.

“IBM sees effective, high quality IT education as a key driver of economic vitality in Africa. Through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools, and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development”, says Hamilton Ratshefola, country general manager for IBM South Africa. “In order to find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth.”

The initiative will provide access to thousands of resources, in English, free of charge, including:

  • Ready-to-use mobile apps
  • Guides – web guides, demonstrations, interactive simulations, video series, and articles
  • Online Assessments – A range of self-assessment tests to track the progress of individuals, together with industry recognized ‘Open Badges’ aligned to digital competencies. The badges can then be shared with prospective employers
  • Volunteers – Creation of a volunteer program to support and promote digital literacy within their communities
  • App Marketplace – Provision of a platform on which new applications can either be made freely available or sold.

 

The initiative will be supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has a special focus on fostering market-driven ICT skills in Africa and the Middle East. IBM will collaborate with UNDP on opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation. UNDP will work with their network of existing government partnerships to extend the program throughout Africa.

UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report highlighted that technology is affecting the nature of work by introducing new ways of communicating, new products and new demands for skills. New technologies are also reinforcing and deepening previous trends in economic globalization, bringing workers and businesses into a global network through outsourcing and global value chains.

“These processes are reshaping work and testing national and international policies. In an attempt to address this global challenge here in South Africa, as well as in other priority countries in Africa. UNDP is pleased to leverage its global presence, development knowledge, and long standing partnerships to provide context, traction and scale to this collaboration with IBM,” says Mr. Walid Badawi, UNDP Country Director in South Africa.

IBM has a direct presence in 24 African countries and has made several significant investments on the continent in recent years, including offices, innovation centers and other advanced facilities. The company has a research laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya and opened a second research facility in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016.

In 2015, IBM rolled out a major initiative to expand its Africa Technical Academy and Africa University Program, providing advanced skills in cloud, analytics, and big data technologies, reaching today to over 150 academic institutions, in the continent. In September 2016, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training and IBM Morocco, for the launch of P-TECH program (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) in Morocco. P-tech is an innovative global education model, designed by IBM, in close partnership with American educators. The company is also working with dozens of start-ups in South Africa.

IBM has been present in Africa since the 1920’s, and has a long history of collaborating with educational institutions and providing transformational solutions focused on providing value to higher education and its contribution to society.

IBM engages with communities around the globe by offering its technology, services, and expertise to solve some of the world’s most complex problems, applying technology and expertise to societal issues such as education development.

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Data journalism takes top prize in revamped awards

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The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The first co-winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second co-winning entrant is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”

Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever AwardShe has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).

The overall winners share the R100 000 main prize. National winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

SPORT

The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe’s fight for recognitionAge cheating in SA football, and Hansie Cronje revisited, the winner is Ronald Masinda, and the team of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.

Click here to see who won the awards for data journalism , CSI/sustainability and photography.

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Cons exploit Telegram ICO

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Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.

In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.

Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.

The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.

Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.

“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:

  • Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
  • Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
  • Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.

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