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Winners Emerge in NCDMB Local Content Hackathon

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NCDMB NCI Fund

By Adedapo Adesanya

Five teams have emerged as winners in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Technology (NOGTECH) Hackathon sponsored by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).

At the event, which was held over the weekend in Lagos, the panel of judges picked projects from Fuel Intellisense, Homefort Energy, Gricd Mote, Kiakia Gas and Airsynq as the most innovative and bankable.

During the grand finale of the programme, which specifically took place on Saturday, 15 semi-finalists made presentations on their innovations.

Each of the five winning teams received a cheque of $10,000 equity-free grant and will proceed to participate in a 3-month incubation programme during which they will get workspace, expert mentors, global partners and market access to the nation’s oil and gas industry, ensuring they become commercial and investor-ready.

Speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr Simbi Wabote, announced that the board will support the five firms in their product development phase, drawing from the $50 million Nigerian Content Research & Development Intervention Fund.

The board’s support, he said, will go into helping the companies get patents for their innovations and produce prototypes, supporting them to conduct field trials, business start-up as well as provide industry linkages.

He, however, confirmed that the board’s funding would depend on the success of the product incubation phase, stressing that “the goal is to fund bankable businesses, not charities.”

He explained that the sponsorship of the NOGTECH Hackathon is within the board’s mandate, hinting that section 70 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act empowers “the board to engage in targeted capacity and capability development interventions and conduct studies, research, investigation, workshops and trainings aimed at advancing the development of Nigerian content.”

In May 2020, during the height of COVID-19 lockdown, the board announced the event because it saw the opportunity to create a platform for local creation of digital technologies to solve problems for the Nigerian society.

He added that NCDMB was also keen to stimulate the participants to channel their intelligence and become successful entrepreneurs.

Mr Wabote counselled the five winning teams to be clear about their vision and strategy and retain their passion, stressing that their motivation should not be on making quick financial gains, rather on innovating solutions, making a difference and contributing to the society.

According to him, “All the greatest inventors, particularly in the technology space did not start by looking for money as the objective. They started because they wanted to make a difference and create a change. The prize money is not the key factor. It was meant to bring people together.”

“Once you have a passion for anything that you do, you will be successful. But once you put money first, you will be chasing money and it will be running away.”

He also advised other participants of the programme to stay committed, passionate and driven by value, stressing that there were many other routes to push their ideas to the market and the real winners are defined by the marketplace.

One of the winning teams is Fuel Intellisense, a project that will help fuel stations to get accurate data and avoid loss of revenue through syphoning underground fuel or stealing of fuel from different outlets. The project proposes to install a system that can be viewed remotely from anywhere, showing how much fuel was dispensed per day and what is left. The system will be installed on existing pumps and tanks.

Another project is Homefort Energy, which seeks to make cooking gas affordable and accessible to low-income families, whereby they can pay for gas using the pay as you go model. The initiative seeks to help millions of Nigerians, especially the rural poor to switch from using firewood or kerosene to cooking gas.

Another winning project is Gricd Mote and the proponents explained that it would provide cool shade transportation for temperature-sensitive items in the health sector and the oil and gas space and store them in correct conditions. The product will also provide monitoring for temperature humidity and locations of these items.

Kiakiais is another winning product and it seeks to get gas to the end-users while enabling them to know the quantity of gas left in their cylinders so that they don’t run out of gas in their homes. The system will also be used to order for gas and can be deployed by gas plant owners to manage sales in their plant.

The fifth project is Airsynq, a novel idea of balloon lifted satellite that uses helium to stay in flight up to about 2160 hours or about 90 days and having to come down for 24 hours routine maintenance. This technology can provide a year continuous area surveillance, with an artificial intelligence software that can help international oil companies and security teams monitor all the activities around areas where the balloon is deployed. The balloon goes through a routine of checking each image in real-time and then reports every activity that is happening with sensors that are able to pick out images from an altitude of about 3000 metres and with the balloon lifted satellite operating at about 3000 feet above the ground.

NOGTECH is the first-ever technology Hackathon in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry and it was organized by the NCDMB in partnership with Learners Support Consultancy Company.

The General Manager, Capacity Building Division NCDMB, Mr Ama Ikuru explained that call for entries was made in June in seven thematic areas: health, asset security, tackling cyber threats, renewable energy, skills and talent management and supply chain. He said that a total of 630 entries were received at the close of submission in the third week of July.

The entries were subjected to two stages of review, first from internal NCDMB Judges and then from external judges, before the top 15 teams were selected for the three-day Hackathon.

He revealed that the board was also working on other projects in support of technology development and innovations in the Oil and Gas Industry. Some of the initiatives include the sponsorship of ENACTUS – Science and Technology Innovation Challenge; Establishment of modern Research & Development Centres of Excellence; Upgrade of Laboratories in Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training; Active participation in  Technology Expos and NCDMB Research Product Development framework to help inventors attain market penetration.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Biometrics Player iiDENTIFii Secures $15m to Fund Expansion

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iiDENTIFii

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The goal of an innovative biometrics tech firm, iiDENTIFii, to expand its operations across Africa is coming to fruition as it has obtained a funding package worth $15 million for this purpose.

iiDENTIFii is a world leader in biometric authentication. Its advanced face authentication technology securely authenticates users within seconds via their cellphones or PCs.

The company operates across several industry verticals and its services are used by the largest pan-African banks, insurers and mining houses for customer and employee authentication.

Its customers include Standard Bank, ABSA Bank, and Investec Bank. Investors in the round alongside Arise are growth-stage private equity firm Sanari Capital and veteran US tech entrepreneur Bill Spruill.

The major contributor of the new $15 million injection was an African investment company, Arise, whose cornerstone investors include Rabobank Partnerships, Norfund, NorFinance and FMO.

In a statement, iiDENTIFii said it would use this investment to fund its expansion across Africa, especially at a time cybercrime within the financial sector is a growing threat to the continent.

The consequences of attackers exploiting security vulnerabilities are particularly severe for financial services and banking apps that process sensitive financial information.

The use of iiDENTIFii’s biometric authentication to protect access to this sensitive financial information makes iiDENTIFii’s solution an integral part of financial inclusion, digital inclusion, and identity inclusion on the continent.

“I’m incredibly proud of our engineering team and our growth as a company over the past three years,” says iiDENTIFii Founder and CEO, Gur Geva. “This investment validates our central business thesis that we are the preferred partner for enterprise-grade identity in Africa. We’re excited to put the investment to work as we close in on our goal of authenticating every face in Africa. With this new funding and the networks of Arise, Sanari, and Bill – we confidently continue our mission of stopping identity theft in Africa.”

“In addition to complementing Arise’s portfolio of bank investments across Sub-Saharan Africa, this investment heralds our foray into the African fintech market,” says Arise CEO Gavin Tipper. “We are excited about our partnership with iiDENTIFii, which will allow us to offer their unique technology to banks in Sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening digital anti-money laundering practices and advancing financial inclusion.”

“At Sanari, we place a strong emphasis on digital and human enablement to unlock business potential,” says Sihle Gumede of Sanari Capital. “iiDENTIFii is, therefore, a great addition to our investment portfolio and we look forward to being part of its ongoing growth journey. We are excited about co-creating a scalable and sustainable pan-African biometrics business.”

“As an entrepreneur and investor, I’ve had a significant amount of experience with transformative technology,” says Bill Spruill “The work being done by iiDENTIFii is particularly exciting and I am excited to see the impact it has on the African continent.”

iiDENTIFii recently won KPMG’s Tech Innovator in Africa award and will compete for the global title in Lisbon, Portugal in November 2022.  It has previously, amongst other awards, won MTN App of the Year and Microsoft Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner of the Year.

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Financial Phishing Cyberattacks Jump 79% in Nigeria

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financial phishing

By Adedapo Adesanya

The number of financial phishing attempts in the African regions increased significantly with Nigeria recording a 79 per cent jump in the second quarter of the year.

According to Kaspersky’s Financial Cyberthreats report, attacks in the financial sector are becoming increasingly corporate-oriented and shifting away from consumers as banks, payment systems, and e-commerce websites were attacked massively.

Imperfections in the transition to remote/hybrid work continue to pose a huge threat to businesses. On top of that, economic issues caused by the pandemic have further aggravated the problem. Driven by poverty and unemployment, cybercriminals have continually intensified malicious activities against customers and bank infrastructure.

Financial phishing is a deceptive way of stealing information and is gaining momentum in the region. Phishing is a type of online fraud where the scammer sends fake alerts from banks, e-pay systems and other organisations to trick consumers into sharing their financial details.

The alerts sent by the scammer can be related to loss of data, update credentials or system breakdown, which results in theft of passwords, credit card numbers, bank account details and other confidential information.

According to the Kaspersky telemetry, in Q2 of 2022, a total of 61,344 financial phishing attacks aimed at organisations were detected, an increase of 79 per cent compared to the first quarter.

Giving a breakdown, the largest share of attacks was mostly directed at e-commerce websites with 52 per cent, with payment systems hit by 42 per cent, while banks received about 6 per cent.

It was higher in Kenya, one of Africa’s booming economies, as a total of 100,192 financial phishing attacks aimed at organisations were detected in Kenya, a 201 per cent increase compared to Q1.

The largest share of attacks was directed at e-commerce websites (58 per cent), with banks (21 per cent) and payment systems (also 21 per cent).

Speaking on the report, Mr Emad Haffar, Head of Technical Experts at Kaspersky, said, “A life without the Internet is strange to us. So much so that our financial life is now digital. This is the magic of digitisation. But we also need to be aware of an unprecedented wave of challenges.

“Financial threats are one such challenge which is becoming more advanced in exploiting human behaviour and will only continue to grow. Businesses trying to stay ahead of such evolving, complex cyberattacks should make fraud prevention a focal point to control fraud transactions, eventually reduce fraud risk in the future and avoid reputation damage.”

Kaspersky highlighted certain recommendations to help businesses stay ahead of financial threats and phishing attacks, including companies needing to educate employees as they are considered the first line of cyber defence. This needs to be a continuous learning experience as well as teaching them about the red flags they need to keep an eye out for.

Similarly, organisations need to extend the dos and don’ts of cybersecurity to customers to protect themselves against phishing fraud.

It called on companies to capitalise on the Kaspersky Fraud Prevention solution, which proactively analyses and detects whether a customer’s device is infected with malware in real time.

Organisations were also charged to rely on Kaspersky Threat Intelligence to increase visibility and feed their security operations with advanced insights.

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Meta Introduces WhatsApp Call Links to Rival Zoom, Google Meet

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WhatsApp Call Links

By Adedapo Adesanya

WhatsApp is rolling out a new feature that allows users to share a direct link to a call, just as it is planning to allow up to 32 users during a call session in a move that can see the Meta-owned platform rival other platforms.

The Call Links feature will start appearing on WhatsApp this week and can be accessed through a banner at the top of the Calls tab. WhatsApp users who want to try the Call Link feature will need the latest version of the app, which can be updated through the app store.

Mr Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, while announcing the feature on Facebook, said WhatsApp users will be able to share a link to a call with “a single tap.”

The ability to share a call link with up to 32 users was teased in April during the announcement of another upcoming feature, WhatsApp Communities.

The WhatsApp Call Links feature will support both audio and video calls. Mr Zuckerberg also confirmed that encrypted video calling is currently being tested for group calls with up to 32 people, which is notable, as WhatsApp currently caps video calls at eight users.

The expanded call capacity sets up WhatsApp as a competitor for Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom. These rival offerings have a far greater caller capacity (100 for Google and Microsoft Teams and 300 for Zoom).

However, they include restrictions like call duration for free accounts and might not be the first choice for the billions of people already chatting for free on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp did not mention any restrictions on call duration, which could place it as one of the best free video calling applications for smaller teams and personal networks once the feature is widely available.

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