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Google Threatens Australia Over Payments for News Contents

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By Ahmed Rahma

An American multinational technology company, Google, has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia over a proposed media code that requires the tech giant to pay for news contents.

According to reports, the Managing Director of the firm’s Australian operations, Mel Silva, informed a Senate enquiry that the code was unworkable and the company was unable to calculate the financial risks.

The MD said, “Leaving the Australian market is the only rational choice if this law were to pass”.

Silvia compared paying news outlet for displaying links to their content to recommending coffee shops to a friend and then being billed by the coffee shops for mentioning them.

“When you put a price on linking to certain information, you break the way that search engines work and you no longer have a free and open web,” she said.

The company wants to pay publishers through its Google News Showcase programme rather than for links.

Nearly 200 publication have signed deals with the programme, Google said.

The news media bargaining code started with the Australian government on April 20, 2020, asking the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms, specifically Google and Facebook.

In December 2020, the bill aimed to force tech companies to pay news outlets for their content of face fines of up to 10 million Australian dollars ($7.7 million) was introduced to the parliament.

Google Search Engine is one of the most popular products from Google and the best search engine in the world. It controls almost 70 per cent of the search engine market and it is always evolving and looking to improve the search engine algorithm to provide best results to the end-user.

Although Google appears to be the biggest search engine, as of 2015, YouTube is now more popular than Google (on desktop computers).

Ahmed Rahma is a journalist with great interest in arts and craft. She is also a foodie who loves new ideas. She loves to travel and would love to visit other African countries someday. She is a sucker for historical movies and afrobeat.

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Buhari Foresees Nigeria Driven by Prosperous Cyberspace, Digital Economy

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Digital Economy

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed optimism that Nigeria will be great with the help of the internet and the digital economy.

However, he stressed that to achieve this, efforts must be made to sanitise the cyberspace and explore the internet for economic growth opportunities, enhancement of knowledge and mitigation of crime.

He, therefore, called for an overhaul of the national strategy on cybersecurity.

Speaking on Tuesday in Abuja at the launch of the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy (NCPS) 2021, the President tasked the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mr Babagana Monguno, to continue to “coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders to ensure that our internet and cyberspace are used for the enhancement of national security and economic progression.”

“I am confident that, together, we can pave the way for the creation of new opportunities to usher Nigeria into a bright future driven by a prosperous cyberspace and digital economy,” Mr Buhari said.

According to him, his administration has taken some major policy decisions to increase penetration of the internet in the daily lives of citizens, particularly for the utilitarian purpose, with the launch of the National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025 in March 2020; National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020 – 2030; National Identity Program, Treasury Single Account and  Bank Verification Number schemes.

He stressed that, “All these initiatives serve as enablers for tackling many of the economic and security challenges facing our country while also providing us with the platform to improve accountability and transparency in our unwavering resolve to tackle corruption.”

“However, like many other countries across the globe, the growth and development of the internet is accompanied by significant problems. We are witnessing a rise in threats posed by cybercriminals, online financial fraudsters and cyber terrorists who use the internet to cause apprehension,” he added.

The President noted that the internet and social media have witnessed a surge in the propagation of hate speech, fake news, seditious and treasonable messages, as well as the risks of breaches to personal information and government sensitive data.

“It is almost impossible to overstate the challenges. Some global events such as the rapid emergence of new technologies, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of 5G technology, have further widened the scope and diversification of these cyber threats.

“In October 2020, we all witnessed an escalation in the use of the social media for dissemination of subversive messages and incitement of violence which played a part in heightening tensions, causing unrest and spurring widespread acts of looting and destruction across the country,” he stated.

President Buhari said the federal government had been proactive, over the past couple of years, in taking steps to ensure progressive use of the internet and cyberspace.

“In 2014, the maiden National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy was developed to provide the necessary roadmap for the realisation of our national cybersecurity programme. This national effort paved way for Nigeria to reach numerous cybersecurity milestones over the past six years.

“Therefore, in order to build on this achievement and reposition ourselves for enhanced engagement in cyberspace, it became expedient to review the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2014 and develop a comprehensive National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy 2021 for the common good of our country,” he said.

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Opera Launches ‘Hype’ Inbuilt Mobile Browser Chat

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By Adedapo Adesanya

Norwegian app giant, Opera, has launched Hype, its new dedicated chat service built into the popular Opera Mini browser in Africa.

Set in the pilot market of Kenya, Hype is the first African inspired chat service built into a mobile browser.

With Hype, Opera reimagines the chat experience, with content sharing as a key feature; Opera Mini, with more than 100 million users worldwide, becomes the world’s first mobile browser with an integrated chat service.

With the introduction of Hype in the Opera Mini browser, Opera is rethinking the concept of mobile browsers providing its users with a personalized, engaging browsing experience that enables seamless surfing, chatting and sharing content– without compromising speed or driving increased data consumption.

Speaking on this, the Product Lead for Hype Mr Charles Hamel said, “Chat services and browsers are apps people use every day and feel very personal about.

“With the integration of Hype in Opera Mini, we are not only rethinking what a chat service should be like in 2021 but also changing the very definition of what a mobile browser should be.”

Hype is launching first in Kenya as a pilot market and starting today, users will be able to easily set up their Hype account and begin chatting with secure end-to-end encryption.

This launch is a facet of Opera’s emphasis on investing and growing its digital ecosystem in Africa, with the goal of bringing more people online; since 2018, Opera has grown its user base in Africa by 40 per cent.

Speaking further, Mr Hamel explained that, “Hype was developed first and foremost with African consumers in mind. Today, 40 per cent of the Kenyan population has access to smartphones, with younger generations dominating as 75 per cent of their 47 million inhabitants are under 30 years old.

“With such early adopter demographics at play, there is massive potential for the growth of Hype in Kenya. On top of that, we are also partnering with the leading telecommunication carriers in the country, offering daily free browsing to all Opera Mini users. We believe the combination of these factors will lead to the rapid adoption of Hype in the country.”

This announcement follows similar browser innovation from Opera, which was the first to integrate messenger services as part of their PC browser, in 2019.

Today, its more than 80 million users enjoy the integration of services such as Facebook messenger, Telegram, Whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter.

Looking further into the features, Hype infuses new formats like memes and stickers for users to express themselves, often relating to pop culture references and internet content they find. To make this easier and fun, Hype also adds WebSnap, a feature previously known from the Opera desktop browser, that allows users to take snapshots from the web.

Once a websnap is captured, users can edit it by adding colours, text, and emojis, making it fun and entertaining before sharing with others.

It also offers its users a series of stickers created by Kenyan artists Brian Omolo and Lulu Kitololo. These unique collections of stickers reflect everyday expressions used by Kenyans to provide users with a more engaging experience when communicating with others.

“This comes in handy as users no longer need to copy links from websites and switch between apps to share the content they want.

“We are extremely happy to celebrate African culture with Hype and we are very excited with the end result and the collaboration we had with Brian and Lulu.” added Mr Hamel.

“These unique stickers with original designs are something we are very proud of at Opera as we become the first major browser to integrate real African art and pop culture into our products.”

The introduction of Hype in Kenya is part of Opera’s Africa First business strategy, adopted three years ago by the Norwegian company. This strategy consists of four main pillars: 1) Develop products with African consumers in mind; 2) Invest and grow Opera’s digital ecosystem in the African region to bring more people online; 3) Partner with leading global and regional companies; and 4) Employ and collaborate with African colleagues and stakeholders.

The latest population census in Kenya, published in 2019, reported that the country is strongly youthful. Of Kenya’s 47 million inhabitants, 75 per cent are under 30 years old, with children and adolescents representing 63 per cent of the total population.

To this, Mr Hamel said, “Hype was developed first and foremost with African consumers in mind. Today, 40% of the Kenyan population has access to smartphones, with younger generations becoming early adopters of technology.

“With such demographics, there is massive potential for the growth of Hype in Kenya. On top of that, we are also partnering with Safaricom and Airtel, the leading carriers in the country, offering free daily browsing to all Opera Mini users.

“We believe the combination of these factors will lead to the rapid adoption of Hype in the country.”

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the Opera user base reached 380 million monthly active users worldwide, with nearly 150 million monthly active users (MAUs) based in Africa. Since the announcement of Opera’s Africa First strategy in Q1-2018, Opera has grown its user base by 40 per cent in the African region.

This rapid growth in the region gives Opera a unique position to scale its digital ecosystem infrastructure and leverage its brand awareness and recognition. Opera also gives more value to its users by introducing new products and features that truly address the needs of its users locally.

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Free NIN Enrolment at 9mobile Experience Centres Begins

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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The free registration for the National Identification Number (NIN) for linking to SIM cards of subscribers has commenced at select Experience Centres of 9mobile.

The decision to use its Experience Centre for enrolment of the NIN was taken by the management in order to enable customers of the company to physically register without hassles or payment.

9mobile is reputed as Nigeria’s customer-friendly telecommunications company because of the several initiatives it puts in place to make its customers happy.

When the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directed network providers in the country to disconnect any subscriber who fails to link his NIN with mobile number, subscribers rushed to the various offices of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for registrations.

The large crowd at the agency’s offices caused many people to lambast the government, especially because it contravened the COVID-19 prevention guidelines of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

9mobile was among the companies which pushed for hassle-free registration of NIN and when it was granted permission to do it, it came up with plans to make this happen.

In a statement, the company said the centres where customers can register effortlessly and free of any charges include the 43, Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island; 31, Marina Road, Marina and 23 Road by 402 junction, Festac Town, all in Lagos. The two Abuja Experience Centres are 8, Kikuyu close, off Aminu Kano, and Plot 1774, Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, both in Wuse 2.

With this development, subscribers don’t need to queue endlessly for their NIN registration or expose themselves to the risk of the ongoing pandemic.

Commenting on the development, the Chief Commercial Officer of 9mobile, Mr Stjepan Udovicic, said the telco was concerned about the large number of people clustering at NIMC centres, adding that the firm was happy to be of assistance to its esteemed subscribers and Nigerians in general.

“As Nigeria’s customer-centric telco, we understand the pressures Nigerians are going through in trying to obtain a valid NIN and link it to their SIMs and the possible exposure to COVID-19 in the process.

“So, we took this opportunity to collaborate with regulators in making the exercise easier and safer for our customers,” Mr Udovicic said.

He assured customers that the operator is always ready to go the extra mile and that the free physical registration at the designated centres will follow all COVID-19 protocols.

Mr Udovicic further disclosed that more 9mobile Experience Centres would commence NIN enrolment soonest.

Recall that 9mobile was the first to launch an Intelligent Portal for Instant Verification at the beginning of the NIN registration exercise.

The Online Self-Service NIN update portal is live on the 9mobile website. It enables subscribers to verify and update their NINs instantly.

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Glo Launches YouTube Time-Based Plans

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By Ahmed Rahma

A leading telecommunication company, Globacom, has launched YouTube time-based subscription plans for its subscribers to enjoy videos on the platform at an affordable price.

The new time-based plans will allow customers to stream their favourite YouTube videos for as low as N50 per hour, the telecom giant in a statement in Lagos.

“We are excited to launch these new plans to enable all our esteemed customers to enjoy exciting Youtube content at a much cheaper rate than they are typically used to.

“The launched plans will add to our bouquet of innovative and affordable price offerings and allow more subscribers to access our products and services,” the firm disclosed.

The Glo YouTube time-based plans come in four price packs of N50 for 1 hour, N130 for 3 hours, N50 for 5 hours (Night) and N200 for 7 hours (Night). A fair usage policy on each of the plans with fixed volume will be applied, the company stated.

“These new plans have been uniquely developed so that each price pack has a streaming time allocated to it. For example, on the N50 plan the customer can use the 1-hour streaming in sections of 10 minutes or 20 minutes, all within 1-day,” Globacom added.

Glo is one of the service providers in the country because of its cheap rates, making it very popular among internet surfing youths, who want to spend little for more on the web.

The company is owned by billionaire businessman, Mr Mike Adenuga. Glo one of the few telcos owned by a Nigeria. Its major coverage area in Nigeria.

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Kaspersky Alerts Users to Mobile Wallet Safety Issues

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By Adedapo Adesanya

Cybersecurity giant, Kaspersky, has stressed the importance of keeping mobile wallet safe in Africa as the continent continues to expand with many analysts considering the region to be the epicentre of the global market.

With more than $1.9 billion processed daily and over one billion registered accounts globally, mobile money is a massive industry.

Kaspersky, citing PayPal’s recent announcement that it will expand its Xoom money transfer service to more countries on the continent this year, makes it evident that there is still significant growth to come. But this also means that consumers must be aware of the security risks associated with mobile wallets and payments.

According to Kaspersky, as of 2019, there were 481 million registered mobile money accounts in Africa, making up 46 per cent of global accounts and with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in lockdown conditions in many countries, more people have turned to mobile wallets instead of cash, as a safer option – from a hygiene perspective at least.

While cash has long been considered “king”, mobile money and e-wallets have been growing exponentially in Africa over the past decade – and as the number of international and African players enter and expand into new markets across the continent.

These provide a more user-friendly alternative to processing micro-payments and reduce the amount of cash people need to carry with them. And the expectation is that the region would exceed half a billion accounts by the end of 2020.

Speaking on this, Mr Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa warned, “While there is ample benefit to be gained from mobile money, spam, phishing, social engineering, and fraud all form part of the cyberattack landscape when it comes to this innovation.

“Threat actors are constantly coming up with more innovative tactics to compromise people’s wallets whether these pertain to traditional bank accounts or mobile wallets.”

“It is, therefore, imperative that consumers remain vigilant and apply common sense to their transactions and engagements with mobile money services,” he adds.

“Considering the significant growth and potential for mobile money and e-wallets, these payment platforms must maintain a high level of security and keep improving on it.

He noted that given the financial and reputational risk, no provider can afford to have its systems compromised.

“Security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain d like all other digital solutions, this is often the end-user.

“Education is, therefore, the most critical component of mitigating the risk of social engineering compromises from people opening malicious links, sharing sensitive information, or falling foul of fraudulent schemes,” states Mr Opil.

To keep the mobile wallet safe, Kaspersky recommends that users should “avoid clicking on malicious emails, attachments, or other messages.”

“Users must lookout for red flags in communication from those purporting to be from service providers. For example, they need to be wary of grammatical mistakes, attempts to incite a sense of urgency or danger, e-mail addresses and links that differ from the official ones (even if just by one letter), and so on. Never trust messages unconditionally.

“It is imperative to check any potential issues through one’s personal account on the Website or in the mobile money app. This is especially important when it comes to messages confirming the crediting of funds,” it further recommended.

It also suggested that a user must also never use an unfamiliar delivery service especially when it comes to online purchases.

“Users must be careful of using alternative money transfer methods to the ones they are comfortable with. These are typically not covered by the protection programs of mobile money or money transfer applications.

“It goes without saying that users must never give out personal information beyond what is necessary for the transaction. This includes usernames and passwords.

“In many respects, it is still the ‘Wild West’ when it comes to mobile money and e-wallets. Even though the solutions are safely used by millions of people daily, hackers are always on the lookout for soft targets.

“Constant vigilance and education remain essential to safeguard against any potential compromises,” the cybersecurity firm said.

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Interswitch Unveils Quickteller Business to Boost SMEs

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

A new comprehensive corporate solution focused on empowering businesses of all sizes has been launched by Interswitch Group.

The Africa’s leading technology-driven company focused on the digitisation of payments in Africa said the new product called Quickteller Business will facilitate payments and manage transactions from anywhere in the world – through one, simple integrated platform.

In a statement issued by the firm, it was disclosed Quickteller Business will broaden its payment management capabilities to businesses and merchants of all sizes, allowing them to access a wide range of integrated payment offerings, ranging from disbursements to value financing.

It further said this new package will complementing Interswitch’s existing Quickteller platform as it would create a unique, differentiated offering with potential to accelerate value creation for large corporates, MSMEs and consumers.

This, it noted, would be done leveraging Quickteller’s significant existing consumer base with over 5 million consumers already using Quickteller for a variety of retail payments in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Gambia.

“The SME sector is a potential game-changer for economic growth and development in Africa. Interswitch has been at the forefront of digital payment innovation across the continent, enabling individuals, businesses, and governments to transact more efficiently over the last 17 years.

“The evolution of our payment and e-commerce offerings into Quickteller Business represents a significant long-term shift in both our business and merchant operating model.

“Through the integrated platform, SMEs, financial services agents and large corporates can better navigate the challenges around payments collections, allowing them to focus on their core business with their diverse transaction needs to be taken care of through the versatility of the new Quickteller Business offering,” the Divisional Chief Executive Officer, Payments Processing at Interswitch Group, Mr Akeem Lawal, said.

Speaking further, he said, “The platform offers a comprehensive, integrated, payment solution that allows businesses to receive and track payments, generate e-invoices, as well as dispute management.

“It is an innovative and exciting payment solution that will benefit all business owners. Through this new offering, we are continuing our mission to make payments a seamless part of our everyday lives.”

The Quickteller Business has further expanded the reach of Interswitch’s popular e-commerce solution to a broader audience of business users, helping to facilitate growth in the burgeoning SME sector across Africa.

In the last five years, Nigeria’s vast SME sector has contributed an average of 48 per cent to national GDP – according to a PwC survey – and accounts for about 50 per cent of industrial jobs and almost 90 per cent of activities in the manufacturing sector.

With one of the fastest-growing emerging middle classes in the world, Nigeria represents a significant growth opportunity. However, almost 40 per cent of the population remain financially excluded.

Furthering access to electronic payment systems for businesses has the potential to increase the contribution of SME commercial activity in economies across the continent.

According to a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the SME Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) in 2018, over 41.5 million MSME businesses operate in Nigeria. 55 per cent of this 41.5 million are retail and wholesalers which make up the market being targeted by Interswitch.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing disruptions to businesses of all sizes around the world, the new platform will help African business owners prosper, by enabling access to effective and convenient digital payment and transaction solutions and technologies. Quickteller Business will also offer a three-month zero transaction fee incentive for SMEs that sign up now, as part of its launch offer.

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