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Nigeria hosts maiden edition of Digital economy regional conference

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Nigeria has recorded another landmark achievement by hosting the maiden edition of the Digital economic regional conference (DERC).

The conference is a convergence of all the ministers of digital economy in the sub-region and it is aimed at providing an opportunity for countries in the West Africa sub-region to discuss the growth and development of their various digital economic sectors including the gains, challenges, and opportunities, and also allow for peer review to identify key performance metrics that can form the foundation for the region’s equivalent of the Digital Economy and Society Index utilised by countries in the European region.

While welcoming his colleagues from other West African sub-region, the Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami disclosed that the conference has become imperative because digital inclusion cannot be achieved without collaboration.
He maintained that “no country can do it alone; our strength is in our collaboration and the unity we forged among ourselves,” adding that digital technologies are no respecter of borders, an axiom the sub-region can leverage for brainstorming and idea sharing.

Describing the African economic situation as worrisome, Prof. Pantami disclosed that the conference will beam a searchlight on the sub-region’s strengths and weaknesses and identify areas that needed development.

The Minister, who described the theme of the conference, “Positioning West Africa Digital Economy for the Future” as very apt, averred that the sub-region in particular and the continent, in general, lost out in the first to third industrial revolutions which accounted for the continent’s developing and under-developed status.

“The world economy is growing. Countries that prioritise the fourth industrial revolution are the leading economies. And if you look at all these countries that are doing well economically, you will discover they prioritised the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

While challenging the continent to be proactive because “that is the only key to achieving a very successful digital economy’’, the Minister noted that it is only in the Fourth Industrial Revolution that some African countries are actively involved.

The Minister decried that the entire African Economy, with a population of almost 1.5 billion people, is less than the economy of Japan. “If you look at our economic growth, it is lower than our population growth, and by implication, if care is not taken, poverty will continue to increase in the African continent.”

He said, “Our population is very important, particularly if we leverage on the potentials we have, definitely, we will be able to achieve a lot, particularly by being very proactive in our approach to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

While quoting the African Development Bank ADB, the Minister described as alarming, the over 420 million unemployed or unemployable youth in the continent, saying it is a time bomb waiting to explode if care is not taken. He added that by developing the digital economy sector, there are abundant opportunities for the West African youth to leverage on.

“And this is why we are here to discuss our strength. In the South of West Africa, we have a country that has the largest economy in Africa. Within the West African sub-region, we have the most populous country among us. Within the sub-region, we have the country with the youngest population. These are the things that are driving the economy, and most importantly the digital economy that we are here to discuss. So, failure is not an option, he averred.

While thanking the delegates from different West African countries for honouring the invitation, Prof. Pantami advised that building on the pedestal the conference has afforded is necessary in order to promote the digital economy of the sub-region in specific, and the region in general.

He said, “I do hope that we will continue to expand this conference to cover the entire African continent in the subsequent events to be organized, but starting with this, I think it is indeed a very good idea.

The conference which is supported by the World Bank had in attendance, the Nigerian World Bank Country Director, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri; Cape Verde’s Secretary of State for Digital Economy, His Excellence, Pedro Lopes; Gambian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ousman Bah; Nigerien Minister of Post and Information Technology, Mr. Moussa Hassan Basara; Liberian Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Mr. Cooper Kruah; the Senegalese Minister of Digital Economy and Telecommunication, Mr. Ndeye Diop. Other dignitaries at the event were Chief Executive Officers of the Nigerian Digital Economy sector, and their counterparts across the West Africa sub region

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PalmPay unveils first set of winners in Eid mobile bonanza

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PalmPay has announced the first set of winners in its ongoing Eid campaign tagged PalmPay Eid Bonanza, which kicked off on April 10th and will run until April 30th, 2024.

Since the start of the bonanza on April 10th, 5 lucky winners have been emerging daily simply by performing tasks on the PalmPay App such as transferring funds, airtime and data purchases, bill payments, and savings.

Comfort Udoh from Lagos, one of the proud recipients of an iPhone 15 Pro, expressed her sheer delight. “I simply won by recharging my phone with airtime on the PalmPay app. I received the exciting news via a call from PalmPay Nigeria. I thank them for the generous reward of a brand new iPhone 15 pro”

Also, Mr. Abegurin Patrick Segun’s winning entry came about when he placed a N100 bet using his PalmPay app. It was a delightful surprise for him to receive a call from PalmPay Nigeria, informing him of his victory in the daily raffle draw, and he’s now the proud owner of an Infinix Hot 40i.

To participate in the remaining weeks of the campaign, download the PalmPay App from Google Play or App Store. Sign up for an account and include your BVN or NIN to complete the process and click on the Eid Bonanza Feature.

There are still numerous phones to be won daily, along with the added bonus of daily free transfers to any bank via the PalmPay App.

Enakeno Umuteme, the Head of Marketing and Communications at PalmPay Nigeria, notes that, “Our primary objective is to reward and acknowledge our loyal customers. This campaign stays true to its promise of appreciating Nigerians who are PalmPay users”

PalmPay offers an array of services including money transfers, bill payments, credit services, and savings on its app and via its mobile money agents. Since its inception in Nigeria in 2019 under a Mobile Money Operator license, the platform has amassed over 30 million app users as part of its cashless payment ecosystem.

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Minister announces groundbreaking partnerships with Cisco, others

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The Minister for Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani has announced strategic partnerships with Cisco, 21st Century Technologies like Awarri and DataDotOrg.

Tijani made the announcements while speaking at a dinner to mark the end of a four-day National Artificial Intelligence Strategy (NAIS) Workshop in Abuja.

The workshop was themed: “Developing the High-Level Strategy and Implementation Plan for a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Nigeria”.

He informed that the partnerships would drive technological innovation and boost Nigeria’s digital Economy.

Tijani said that the workshop was to formulate a strategy focused on addressing the needs of Nigerian citizens and communities.

He noted the increased attention on AI across the world and growth in investments in the technology in Nigeria saying: “Over one Petabyte of storage is already being allocated to AI projects in Nigeria by Galaxy Backbone Limited.

“The Pilot Compute Programme that we are undertaking, which is seeing 21st Century Technologies invest over 2 million dollars in Graphics Processing Unit (GPU).

“It is also going to put us in a position to start building and narrating the story for why we need to invest in our computing power as a nation.

“We all know that the strength of a network is determined by the value that each node on the network brings to it.

“If our world is truly connected, you are not helping Africa or Nigeria by ensuring that we can come to the table and participate.

“By partnering with us, you are only ensuring that our world is stronger because we have something significant to contribute to the network.”

The minister outlined a number of strategic partnerships and projects facilitated by the Ministry to fast-track Nigeria’s growth in the field of AI.

He listed them to include the National Centre for Al and Robotics (NCAIR) relaunch, Nigerian multilingual large language model, Nigeria’s computing infrastructure pilot and the AI collective, accordingly.

Tijani explained that the NCAIR relaunch of new and improved capacity was to better fulfill its mandate.

“The Centre is a special purpose vehicle created to promote research and development on emerging technologies and their practical application in the areas of Nigerian national interest.

“As a digital innovation and research facility, NCAIR focuses on Al, Robotics and Drones, Internet of Things (loT), and other emerging technologies, aimed at transforming the Nigerian digital economy.

“The capacity building imperative is undertaken with support from global technology company, Cisco.

”For the Nigerian multilingual large language model, Tijani said it aimed to build the most robust Nigerian large language model,” Tijani said.

He said in order to achieve this, the project would leverage the support of the 3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT) programme Fellows to collate high quality Nigerian language data and fuel the development of some of the most sophisticated AI models.

Tijani explained, “The project is developed by Awarri in partnership with NITDA and DataDotOrg.”

He explained that Nigeria’s computing infrastructure pilot would accelerate the development of Al projects of national interest.

According to him, Galaxy Backbone Limited will partner 21st Century Technologies to develop Nigeria’s national computer project.

“The Compute will be available to local researchers, startups, government entities working on critical Al projects that are of national interest.

“It will reside at the Galaxy Backbone Data Centre and be accessible through NCAIR,” the minister added.

Tijani said,”The AI Collective is a community of practice collaborating towards accelerating the nation’s collective prosperity through an inclusive Al Ecosystem.

“The collective will harness the power of Al to drive economic prosperity, accelerate innovation and social development, and position Nigeria as a leading force in AI for good globally.”

The minister expressed appreciation to all the stakeholders for making the workshop possible, while stating the benefits of adopting cutting-edge technologies.

They include Artificial Intelligence (AI) in raising the productivity of users for our collective prosperity.

The workshop was supported by local and international organisations such asq Luminate, Google, Meta, Microsoft, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).

Others include Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Galaxy Backbone Limited, and Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems capable of performing complex tasks that historically only a human could do, such as reasoning, making decisions, or solving problems.

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War against piracy: NCC parades three seized containers of pirated book in Rivers

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… We’ll prosecute perpetrators, accomplices — DG

Barth Ndubuwah, Port Harcourt

The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has Friday conducted journalists round the three containers seized by the Commission in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at Onne Port,Area 2, containing about 3,000 cartons of pirated books, estimated  over N100m at market value.

 Addressing the Press and other stakeholders in the book industry in Port Harcourt, the Director General (DG) of NCC, Dr John Asein said henceforth the Commission will not hesitate “to seal premises, go after the proceeds of crimes and deal with the suspected materials summarily,” courtesy of the stronger Copyright  Statute with stiffer penalties for criminal  infringement.

The DG added that “the Commission  will hold anyone found with copies of pirated books accountable and presumed to be complicit in crime of piracy either as primary or secondary suspects.”

He said the renewed commitment to tackle piracy in all sectors complements government’s high level policy intervention to turn around the economy and grow the country’s creative industry. This,the DG said is in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu led Federal Government of Nigeria.

He thanked the Nigeria Customs Service, the Department of  State Services (DSS) and other stakeholders whose  cooperation he said has made the seizures possible.

Dr Asein assured that henceforth NCC will be stepping up its enforcement  drive to decimate copyright piracy in Nigeria until it is reduced to a single digit number.

“With the support of partnering agencies and the cooperation of rights owners ,this is a task that must be accomplished. I invite landlords, transporters, warehouse owners, school proprietors,market authorities and the general public to report any suspicious activities in the book chain to the Nigerian Copyright Commission or any of the  partnering agencies,” the DG said.

Also speaking, the Area Comptroller of Customs, Onne Port, Babani Imam, who spoke through, CC Epundu said there is every need for  Federal Government Agencies to collaborate, noting that Customs Area 2 Onne has been intercepting drugs, arms and other contraband  products and handed them over to the appropriate agency handling such issue. He appealed for the  sustenance of the inter-agency partnership.

On his part, the President of Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), Chief Uche Anoke, who was represented by his Vice and CEO of Africans First Publishers Plc, Austin Onwubiko lauded  NCC for the excellent job they have been doing in combating piracy. He pointed out that the fight no doubt will allow the patent right owners to enjoy the fruit of their labour. He urged NCC to sustain their collaborative activities with other agencies, for optimal results.

He lamented that Publishers struggle to produce books, but pirates would not allow them to reap from their sweat.

He called on the Federal Government to liaise with the Chinese Embassy to stop the unholy trade from that country.

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