‘Stop cheating telecoms subscribers’

Telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has asked service providers in the industry to desist from act capable of inflicting pains and worries on subscribers in the country.

Specifically, NCC wants operators including MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9Mobile, among others, to desist from acts that amount to cheating the about 150 million active subscribers in Nigeria via the services rendered.

This call came at the weekend, when the NCC took its Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM), the 37th edition, to Epe community, a suburb of Lagos. The theme was “Information and Education as a Catalyst for Consumer Protection.”

Majority of consumers in the area, which attended the meeting, complained bitterly about the poor quality of service in the region, which to them has become a menace and gradually making them lose interest in telecoms services.

The disgruntled subscribers lodged complaints such as data and airtime depletion, unauthorised auto renewal, call drops, unresponsive customer care, illegal deductions and poor quality of service.

Major complaints from MTN subscribers are poor network connections, unauthorized auto renewal and illegal deductions of airtime.

Read More: Nigerian telecoms operators connect 237m lines despite dip in investments

For Airtel, consumers complained of unauthorized automatic subscription to value-added services without their approval and continuous deduction of airtime for auto-renewal despite opting out.

A Globacom subscriber, Suraju Alao, who spoke in Yoruba, lamented that the service was nothing to write home about in Epe, adding: “they also remove my money without my permission. Thank God for today (weekend) that we can talk and say our mind. Glo needs to change for the better.”

One of the chiefs, who don’t want to be named, complained to The Guardian, at a post event briefing that he suffered airtime depletion from Globacom without making calls or receiving notifications from them as to what the deductions were meant for.

It was the same fate for 9Mobile. A subscriber, who simply gave his name as Omole, complained of data depletion, saying “is a subtle corruption when you have to subscribe to data, your money is taken but you can’t even use the data at all. This is so pathetic.”

In all, the Epe Community wants telecom service to improve greatly in the suburb, with a subtle call on the regulator to do its work as required by the law, “so as to guarantee the money we are spending.”

Though, they appreciated NCC for bringing the town hall meeting to Epe, but appealed to them to stop operators from cheating them.

Three of the operators, including MTN, Airtel and 9Mobile, whose representatives were on ground, appealed to the subscribers, with a promise to address all listed challenges as fast as possible. No Globacom representative was on ground at the event.

Addressing the community, the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau at the NCC, Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, thanked the traditional leaders and their subjects for turning out in their large numbers to lodge their complains about telecoms services in the community.

Onwueguchulam, who promised that NCC would look into all the issues raised, appealed to service providers to stop every activities capable of eroding the confidence of telecoms subscribers.

At a post even interview, the NCC director, urged the operators to look into activities, which amount to cheating of subscribers.

She explained in her welcome address that the forum was one of the initiatives of NCC to bring together, telecoms consumers in the rural areas, network operators and the regulator to discuss and proffer solutions to consumer related issues and ensure they have value for money through effective service delivery.

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mSurvey secures $3.5 million series A Investment to deepen African expansion

mSurvey secures $3.5 million series A Investment to deepen African expansion

Kenfield Griffith, Co-founder mSurvey

In order to scale and expand into more African countries, mSurvey, the mobile-first consumer feedback platform for businesses and consumers in Africa, has secured a series A round of $3.5m, led by Africa focused venture firm TLcom Capital with investment from Social Capital, Kapor Capital, Golden Palm, and Richard Owen; founding team of Net Promoter Score (NPS).

This follows Seed Investment rounds from Cross Culture Ventures, Alpha Angels and Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund and will enable the company to continue building out its infrastructure and partnerships for expansion.

Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, and with a recently launched office in Lagos, Nigeria, mSurvey leads the way in developing in-depth understanding into the African consumer, gathering real-time insights via mobile SMS conversations with its Voice of the Customer and Consumer Wallet products, as well as through its successful launch of Net Promoter Score [NPS] in Africa.

With over 66% of Africa’s economic activity takes place in the informal sector, making it challenging for any business to understand who their customer really is, and hindering the analysis of feedback, mSurvey has been able to map a customer’s journey through every single touchpoint, allowing businesses to identify any weak spots that exist within their product or service delivery, directly from the source; the customer.

Commenting on the secured funds, Dr. Kenfield Griffith, mSurvey co-founder and CEO says, “Completing our Series A round allows us to tackle this difficult, yet enormous opportunity that exists in connecting African consumers with businesses to develop trust, and ensuring that millions more two-way conversations can take place each year. African consumers will be spending $2.1 trillion a year on consumer goods by 2025, a growth rate of at 4.5%. We see mSurvey as a strategic partner for thousands of companies who are part of this growth trajectory.”

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Cambridge Analytica says it is ‘no Bond villain’

Cambridge Analytica claimed Tuesday it was “no Bond villain” as it vehemently denied exploiting Facebook users’ data for the election campaign of US President Donald Trump.

The marketing analytics firm stressed it had deleted data about Facebook users obtained in breach of the social network’s terms of service.

The information had been gathered via a personality prediction app developed by academic Aleksandr Kogan’s research firm Global Science Research (GSR).

Cambridge Analytica (CA) insisted it did not use the data during Trump’s 2016 campaign and did not support the pro-Brexit side in Britain’s referendum on its European Union membership that same year.

Spokesman Clarence Mitchell claimed the company had been portrayed like the enemy in a James Bond film.

“Cambridge Analytica is no Bond villain,” he said.

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“While no laws were broken, we have acknowledged where mistakes have been made.”

He convened a press conference in London “to counter some of the unfounded allegations and, frankly, the torrent of ill-informed and inaccurate speculation”.

CA suspended chief executive Alexander Nix on March 20 after recordings emerged of him boasting that the firm played an expansive role in the Trump campaign, doing all of its research, analytics as well as digital and television campaigns.

In undercover filming captured by Channel 4 television, he is also seen boasting about entrapping politicians and secretly operating in elections around the world through shadowy front companies.

Speaking of Nix, Mitchell said: “At worst he’s guilty of over-zealous salesmanship in an attempt to apparently win a contract.

“Staff that saw that were horrified and did not recognise the Cambridge Analytica they worked for.”

He said the data CA acquired from GSR was for up to 30 million respondents in the United States only, irrespective of how many GSR was able to get information on.

The data that Kogan managed to collect through the app was tested in 2014 and 2015, before Facebook complained about it, and was “shown to be virtually useless in that it was only just above random guessing, in statistical terms,” said Mitchell.

“Cambridge Analytica did not use the data further. The firm did work for Donald Trump for five months.”

But, Mitchell insisted: “Any suggestion that the GSR Kogan data was used in that campaign is utterly incorrect. Its effective uselessness had already been identified by then.”

Mitchell said CA was “extremely sorry” that it ended up in the possession of data that breached Facebook’s terms of service.

On the Brexit referendum, he said CA pitched to Leave.EU, before it lost out on becoming the officially designated Leave campaign, but its bids to them, and to other referendum campaigns, were unsuccessful.

He said an independent investigation into the company, being carried out by a senior lawyer, was close to conclusion.

Kogan, who teaches at Cambridge University, told a British parliamentary committee Tuesday that criticism of his work by Facebook showed the US social media giant was in “PR crisis mode”.

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Globacom begins work on Glo 2

Globacom Tuesday said it has commenced work on its second submarine cable, Glo 2, which is expected to be completed by October 2019.

The plan for Glo 2, was unveiled at a contract-signing ceremony between Globacom, and global telecom solutions vendors, Huawei, in Lagos.

Giving details of the project at the event, Globacom’s Regional Director, Technical, Sanjib Roy, said the submarine cable would be built along the Nigerian coast from Alpha Beach in Lagos, where Glo 1 landing station is located, to the Southern part of Nigeria.

The facility will enable ultra high capacity connection to South-South Region and provide capacity to offshore oil platforms and the communities.

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Google parent Alphabet profit leaps on ad growth

Google parent Alphabet reported a surge in quarterly profits Monday, lifted by strong growth in the digital advertising segment it dominates along with Facebook.

Profit in the first three months of 2018 soared more than 70 percent from a year ago to $9.4 billion, Alphabet said in an earnings report that was well above forecasts.

Revenue at the California-based internet giant during the first three months of this year was $31.1 billion, up 26 percent from the same period last year.

Alphabet shares slipped slightly in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings report, evidently on investor concerns about growing costs.

“The all-important advertising revenues came in ahead of Street expectations although the bulls were hoping for a bigger beat,” GBH Insights head of technology research Daniel Ives said in an analyst note.

“While fundamental worries coupled by regulatory black clouds continue to be overhangs on the name, we believe 1Q advertising and ‘bread and butter’ search revenues were healthy and a good barometer of potential strength heading into the rest of 2018.”

The first-quarter profit included one-time gains of $3 billion on its equity investments, believed to have come mainly from a rise in the value of its stake in leading smartphone-summoned ride service Uber.

– Raising ‘other bets’ –
Revenues from its “other bets,” which include the self-driving car unit Waymo and life sciences firm Verily, amounted to $150 million from $132 million.

“We have a clear set of exciting opportunities ahead, and our strong growth enables us to invest in them with confidence,” said Alphabet chief financial officer Ruth Porat.

She noted that high-speed cable internet unit Fiber and Verily were mostly responsible for the money taken in by “big bets.”

Alphabet plans to keep up investment in new areas its core search service, as well as keep pumping money into undersea data cables, artificial intelligence, data centers and its line of consumer electronics devices including Pixel smartphones.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said that he will share what the company is “up to next” at its annual developers conference in Silicon Valley next month.

Bright spots at Alphabet included YouTube, where executives are focusing on original video content and live streaming to mobile devices in the competitive market.

Early this month, an Iran-born animal rights activist with a vendetta against the company shot three people before killing herself at YouTube’s California headquarters.

“It’s been a particularly tough few weeks for the Google family, especially at YouTube,” Pichai said.

“I’m so proud of the resilience that our employees shown and I’m so grateful for the support we’ve got across our industry and from the community.”

During the past year, the number of YouTube channels making more than $100,000 has grown by 40 percent, according to Pichai.

While investing in content such as a hit live stream of Beyonce at Coachella music festival, Google is also working to filter out content that violates its policies, he added.

“We also changed our monetization requirements to better identify creators who contribute positively to the community and drive more ad revenue to them,” Pichai said.

– EU data privacy rules –
Google said it is collaborating with regulators in Europe to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which becomes effective May 25.

“We started working on GDPR compliance over 18 months ago and have been very, very engaged on it,” Pichai said.

“It’s really important and we care about getting it right.”

Google is also working with publishers and advertisers to get in tune with the EU privacy law.

Alphabet is the first major Silicon Valley firm to report first-quarter earnings, and the report comes amid heightened concerns over how private user data is protected in light of the hijacking of data on millions of Facebook users.

With their platforms allowing targeted ads, Google and Facebook dominate the online advertising ecosystem although there have been signs the “duopoly” is weakening slightly.

According to the research firm eMarketer, the two companies will capture a combined 56.8 percent of US digital ad investment in 2018, down from 58.5 percent last year, as smaller players such as Amazon and Snapchat are experiencing faster-than-expected growth.

Monday’s report showed the Google segment still accounting for the overwhelming majority of revenues with $30.99 billion, up from $24.6 billion last year.

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Facebook unveils appeal process for when it removes posts

Facebook unveils appeal process for when it removes posts

This illustration picture taken on April 19, 2018 in Paris shows the tablet and smartphone app for Facebook. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE

Facebook said Tuesday it will give users the right to appeal decisions if the social network decides to remove photos, videos or written posts deemed to violate community standards.

Plans to roll out an appeals process globally in coming months came as Facebook provided a first-ever look at internal standards used to decide what posts go too far in terms of hateful or threating speech.

“This is part of an effort to be more clear about where we draw the line on content,” Facebook public policy manager in charge of content Siobhan Cummiskey told AFP.

“And for the first time we’re giving you the right to appeal our decisions on individual posts so you can ask for a second opinion when you think we’ve made a mistake.”

The move to involve Facebook users more on standards for removing content comes as the social network fends off criticism on an array of fronts, including handling of people’s data, spreading “fake news,” and whether politics has tinted content removal decisions.

California-based Facebook already lets people appeal removal of profiles or pages. The appeal process to be built up during the year ahead will extend that right to individual posts, according to Cummiskey.

The new appeal process will first focus on posts remove on the basis of nudity, sex, hate speech or graphic violence.

Notifications sent regarding removed posts will include buttons that can be clicked to trigger appeals, which will be done by a member of the Facebook team. While software is used to help find content violating standards at the social network, humans will handle appeals and the goal is to have reviews done within a day.

“We believe giving people a voice in the process is another essential component of building a fair system,” vice president of global product management Monika Bickert said.

“For the first time, we are publishing the internal implementation guidelines that our content reviewers use to make decisions about what’s allowed on Facebook.”

Some 7,500 content reviewers are part of a 15,000-person team at Facebook devoted to safety and security, according to Cummiskey, who said the team is expected to grow to 20,000 people by the end of this year.

“It’s quite a tricky and complex thing drawing lines around what people can and cannot share on Facebook, which is why we consult experts,” said Cummiskey, whose background includes work as a human rights attorney.

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EU probes Apple plan to buy music app Shazam

The EU on Monday launched an in-depth probe of tech giant Apple’s plan to buy leading song-recognition app Shazam because of fears the deal may reduce choice for consumers.

Apple announced the deal with London-based Shazam, worth a reported $400 million, in December last year in a fresh bid to secure an edge in the intensifying battle of streaming services in which Sweden-based Spotify dominates.

The investigation of Apple’s Shazam buyout becomes yet another source of contention between Brussels and Silicon Valley as the European Union adopts tougher regulation of the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon.

The European Commission said in February it would consider an inquiry into Shazam at the request of EU states Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden, and non-EU Norway and Iceland, which form part of the affiliated European Economic Area.

“The Commission is concerned that the merger could reduce choice for users of music streaming services,” it said in a statement.

On its own, the deal was too small for the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm and anti-trust enforcer — to launch a probe by itself.

Instead it had to wait for Austria to lodge an initial request, which was followed by the other states.

The commission said it was concerned that the takeover would allow Apple to gain access to commercially sensitive data about customers of its rivals.

Apple could then use this data to better target customers of other streaming services and help develop its own offer, which has struggled to gain traction since launching to great fanfare in 2015.

In addition, the EU will also investigate whether Apple Music’s competitors would be harmed if Apple were to discontinue links from the Shazam app to rivals.

Shazam, which was founded in 1999 in the early age of online music, has offered a solution to a longtime agony of listeners — putting a name to elusive songs. With a click, the app identifies tracks playing on the radio, at parties or as background music.

But Shazam has struggled to find a way to make money off its technology, even as it said that it had reached one billion downloads on smartphones last year.

Shazam only recently announced it had become profitable, thanks to advertising and steering traffic to other sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.

The technology is also no longer quite as novel, with Shazam facing rivals such as SoundHound and with smartphones capable of ever more advanced recognition functions.

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Abuja hosts Africa at the 2018 Internet Freedom Forum

Abuja hosts Africa at the 2018 Internet Freedom Forum

From April 24 to April 26, 2018, the city of Abuja will play host to the annual Internet Freedom Forum organized by Paradigm Initiative. The forum comes at an important time when many Africans fear for their freedom online. According to Paradigm Initiative, the Lagos-based organisers of the Forum, “the Forum helps bring attention to important issues confronting digital rights such as data privacy, internet shutdown, access to the internet, among others”

The Forum, over the years, has gained the reputation as the platform where experts deliberate on issues relating to digital rights and inclusion. The Forum, now in its the sixth edition, will welcome delegates from some thirty countries, including Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Cameroon, Togo, United Kingdom and the United States. The Forum will also be live-streamed to the whole world to encourage virtual participation.

Speakers at the Forum will include Ayisha Osori, the author of Love Does not Win Elections, Tolu Ogunlesi, Nigerian President’s Special Assistant on Digital Media, and Titi Akinsanmi, Head, Government Relations and Public Policy at Google. Others are Dapo Olorunyomi, the publisher of Premium Times, Akua Gyekye, Facebook’s Public Policy Manager, and Afef Abrougui of Ranking Digital Rights.

According to Tope Ogundipe, the Director of Programs of Paradigm Initiative, “IFF2018 provides an important platform to discuss issues that bother many Africans. The sessions and side-sessions at IFF 2018 cover some of the most pertinent themes relating to digital rights and inclusion in Africa. These include, “How to Ruin Elections in Africa”, “Cybercrime Laws and Freedom of Expression”, “Bridging Gender Knowledge Gap in Wikipedia”.”

“The forum will also discuss the state of internet in various African countries with report from scores of , “Gender, Open Data and AI: Intersecting for Digital Equality”, “Empowering Human Rights Defenders in Digital Era In Africa” and “Building a Healthy Internet in Africa.”

The Forum, which holds at NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, is supported by organizations including Microsoft, Ford Foundation, Google, Facebook, Premium Times, The Guardian and Civicus. Session organisers at the Forum include Amnesty International, Web Foundation, BudgIT, and Mozilla.

“The range and depth of the discussions which have taken place at previous editions of the IFF has positioned the IFF as one of the premier platforms for shaping the conversations and policy outcomes on the Internet in Africa. The diversity of conversations also caters for the diverse range of participants within the continent and beyond, and across civil society, private sector, academia, government and other stakeholders,” Ogundipe concluded.

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MTN picks Chapel Hill, RMB, others for planned IPO

MTN picks Chapel Hill, RMB, others for planned IPO

Stakeholders expect biggest offer in market

South African telecoms firm, MTN, has appointed a Nigerian investment firm, Chapel Hill Denham, as lead manager for the planned sale of $500 million shares in its Nigerian business during the first half of this year.

A source said South Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank, Renaissance Capital and Vetiva Capital were picked as joint issuers. The telecoms firm also appointed seven placement agents that would help market the shares.

MTN met with local and foreign analysts in Lagos at the weekend to help them understand its business and operations, ahead of the forthcoming listing, even as the company declined to comment, the sources said

MTN Group Chief Executive, Rob Shuter, told Reuters last week that the telecoms firm aimed to list its Nigerian unit on the Lagos bourse via an Initial Public Offering (IPO) this year.

Shuter said that the IPO plans were well advanced and the company would provide exact terms in the next few months.According to pre-IPO documents seen by Reuters in February, MTN aims to list its Nigerian unit worth $5.23 billion by July and raise funds to cut debt.It plans to raise at least $400 million from the IPO to pay preference shareholders and go on a roadshow between May and June.

The telecoms firm is working with Stanbic IBTC Capital, Standard Bank of South Africa, Standard Advisory London and Citigroup Global Markets, as joint advisors and global coordinators, with Stanbic acting as lead issuer.MTN had planned to list its Nigerian unit in 2017, as part of a settlement with the Nigerian government over unregistered SIM cards for which it was fined $1.7 billion. It subsequently delayed the IPO due to market conditions.

Capital market analysts, operators, and Nigerian investors are full of expectations that the sign is a step towards the firms’ overdue listing, which had been anticipated in the past few years.
 
The Chief Executive Officer of Capital Bancorp Plc, Aigboje Higo, in an interview with The Guardian said: “The signs we get is that they are coming in the second quarter and it will be the biggest IPO in the history of the market. They will try and sell to as many as possible domestic and foreign investors.

“It will further put the Nigerian market in the world scale; it will give Nigerians another opportunity to invest in a company that has benefited so much from this country. The last offer in the market was from Seplat in the oil and gas sector. This one from MTN is in the telecoms sector and it could be followed by other offers.

“If MTN is quoted, maybe other firms in the sector could join and be quoted. So it is something we are all looking forward to with excitement because it will change the landscape of the stock market for good.
 
“We need them because we need more equities, we need more securities, we need increased capitalisation, we want more activities in the stock market and we want more investors. As big as Nigeria is, only five to seven million investors play the market. Their coming will attract people that have never looked at the stock market,” he said.

The Head, Research and Strategy of Codros Capital Limited, Christian Orajekwe, said it was a welcome development for the market because “MTN is a company with strong values and fundamentals.”
 
“More Nigerian investors would have the opportunity of participating in the company’s wealth creation. MTN is known to be profitable, and Nigerian investors would benefit from the capital appreciation and robust dividend that the company is bringing to the table.”
 
The President, Constant Shareholders Association, Shehu Mikail, said the listing would help deepen the market. He urged other telecoms and oil firms to join the league.“It is a very welcome development. It is to the advantage of operators. We expect other telecom firms as well as major oil companies, and companies in the power sector to join the train,” he added.

The Managing Director, High Cap Securities, David Adonri, said the shares, which are expected to be over-subscribed, would deepen the market if listed on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).“It is positive for the market. It would help to stimulate other telecom and oil giants to be listed on the floor of the exchange.”

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FG lauds pre-colonial technology in Nigeria 

FG lauds pre-colonial technology in Nigeria 

Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu

The Federal Government has called on Nigerians to improve the science and technology bequeathed on them by their forefathers long before the country’s emergence.Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, made the call at the public presentation of a book entitled, “Ogiamien and the Illusion of Kingship in Benin” written by the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri in Benin City, Edo State
   
He commended the level of advancement in technology by the Benin in bronze casting and said there was no doubt that science and technology originated from Benin.“I long visited the museum and I also went to Igun Street to see the technology in the casting of these bronze works of arts so as to draw the attention of Nigerians to the importance which our ancestors attached to science and technology so that we no longer have any reasons to think that science and technology innovation is not for us but for other people.
   
“We need to work harder and improve even on the achievements of our ancestors,” he said.On his part, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, commended the author for setting the record straight with his book adding that the author has continued to be a limelight to the people of Benin.He called on other Nigerians to emulate his kind of person and contribute to the survival of the country.
   
In his opening remarks, the author, Edebiri, said non-teaching of history in secondary schools has created wide space for “Charlatans” to thrive disseminating distorted information to the public.He called on the Federal Government to hasten the process of reinstating the teaching of history in secondary schools.
   
According to him, “I am saddened with our growing lack of historical sense.“In this regard, I wish to use this opportunity to call on the Federal and State Governments to, as a matter of deliberate national policy, accelerate the process of teaching Nigerian history in all secondary schools across the country. 
     
“in a similar vein, I wish to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to institute a policy of celebrating books in Nigeria by organising book – fairs that will attract international participation.
 
To revive reading culture in the country, the Benin chief called on the Edo Government to revive moribund state and  communities library services across the state. 
Speaking on the book, Edebiri said it is a timely effort to document for posterity the facts of the subject matter that has been of public concern in recent times. 
     
“Either for lack of knowledge or a deliberate effort at distorting the facts, the Ogiamen phenomenon in Benin history suddenly assumed a dangerous center stage in our traditional and indeed, national discourse. 
   
“I followed the development with keen interest and was amazed at the monstrous falsehood that we being peddled by some of our people. “Given my knowledge of this matter, I considered it a duty to intervene and set the record straight. “I have therefore by this publication, put at the disposal of the misinformed and indeed the general public, the true position which the Ogiamen title occupies in the Benin system,” he stated.

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