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Nigerian Students, Others Participate in Africa’s Largest Inter-university Hackathon

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Nigerian Students Others Participate in Africa’s Largest Inter-university Hackathon, SiliconNigeria

Students from 21 African countries joined the event, representing Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in UmojaHack Africa 2021 held in South Africa.

The hackathon was an unprecedented success, bringing more than 1000 students from 126 universities across Africa to compete on Zindi (www.Zindi.africa) in a virtual machine learning hackathon on the weekend of 27-28 March.

More than $10 000 USD in prizes were awarded to data science students from 9 African countries, and more than 8500 submissions were made to solve three real-world machine learning challenges on Zindi.

They participated in three different machine learning challenges: a financial resilience prediction challenge, a logistics challenge for African B2B service provider Sendy (www.Sendyit.com), and a computational biology challenge using the DeepChain™ (www.DeepChain.bio) platform developed by InstaDeep. The winning solutions developed by Zindi users will be shared with these organisations and deployed in real-world applications.

Winning words

In winning second place in the Sendy Delivery Rider Response Challenge, Tony Mipawa, a data science student from the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, epitomised the spirit of Zindi and of UmojaHack A year ago, Tony was a data science novice until he participated in Zindi’s first ever Mentorship Programme in 2020. He has grown in leaps and bounds since then, as evidenced by his prize-winning submission in this hackathon, less than a year later.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” Tony said at the awards ceremony. “My advice is, whenever there is an opportunity to learn, you should take it. Learning is all about passion; whenever there is an opportunity to learn, put your whole effort into it, do it well. Try to learn from anyone you meet. I would like to thank Zindi for what that mentorship programme gave me.”

Global support

UmojaHack Africa 2021 was sponsored by some leading names in the global and African tech, AI and financial sectors, including InstaDeep (www.InstaDeep.com), Standard Bank Group (www.StandardBank.com), Microsoft (www.Microsoft.com), DeepMind (www.DeepMind.com), NVIDIA (www.NVIDIA.com), and Old Mutual (www.OldMutual.com). They were integral in making the event a success by offering financial and professional development prizes, contributing their expertise and excitement to the event, and supporting UmojaHack Africa 2021 through their own channels.

“We are incredibly excited about this event spanning over 100 African universities and helping thousands of African students leverage their data science and AI skills to solve African problems,” says Chris Lwanga, Principal Director for Software Partnerships at Microsoft.

“At Microsoft we believe in empowering every organisation and person to do more.”

“Standard Bank is deeply invested in funding and implementing critical data science skills development programmes, such as Zindi’s UmojaHack Africa 2021 hackathon, to position Africa as a serious competitor in the world’s rapidly emerging data-driven sector,” says Adrian Vermooten, Chief Innovation Officer, Standard Bank Group.

“We are delighted to support UmojaHack Africa again, an incredible initiative close to our hearts. Seeing students from more than 120 universities come together to collaborate on real-world machine learning challenges is truly inspiring,” says Karim Beguir, Co-Founder and CEO of InstaDeep. “This is, in our opinion, the best way to accelerate AI growth on the continent. Hackathons like UmojaHack bring us one step closer to achieving InstaDeep’s mission: building an AI-first world that benefits everyone.”

 According to Celina Lee, CEO of Zindi, “UmojaHack Africa has proven to be a game-changing event, especially when so many young people have been impacted by the global pandemic. This is a chance for students from across the continent to come together to learn, compete, and have fun. UmojaHack is about building skills, creating new machine learning applications to solve problems that really matter, while forging new connections among the students as well as with industry. We are incredibly excited to see what the students come up with in just one weekend.”

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Nigeria Extends NIN-SIM Verification Deadline to June 30 As Enrolment Hits 54 Million

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Nigeria Extends NIN-SIM Verification Deadline to June 30 As Enrolment Hits 54 Million, SiliconNigeria

The federal government has approved the extension of the deadline for National Identity Number (NIN)-Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) data verification to the 30th of June, 2021.  

The extension was as a result of the virtual meeting chaired by the minister of communications and digital economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami and attended by the chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Adeolu Akande, the executive vice chairman/CEO of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Dambatta and the director-general/CEO of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Engr. Aliyu Azeez. 

A statement jointly signed by Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, director, Public Affairs,

NCC and Mr. Kayode Adegoke, head, Corporate Communications, NIMC stated that the postponement of the deadline was also based on the request by stakeholders for an extension till 30th of June, 2021 in order to make it easier for  all citizens and legal residents to register.  

It stated that significant progress has been made in the NIN-SIM verification process. For example, almost 54 million people have obtained their NIN and this can translate to up to 190 million mobile numbers, since empirical evidence suggests that each unique NIN maps to three to four phone lines. 

Accorifng to the statement, the much-awaited Android enrolment system is now ready for deployment and this has the potential to significantly accelerate the speed and ease of enrolments.  

Furthermore, the telecom providers and other enrolment agents have also opened several centres across the country to make it easier for eligible citizens and residents to obtain and link their NINs.  

“It is noteworthy that Sections 27 and 29 of the National Identity Management Commission Act 2007 provides for the mandatory use of NIN for accessing several government services. This is similar to the use of Social Security Number and National Insurance Number for accessing services in the United States of America and the United Kingdom respectively.

“The federal government has approved the extension as part of its effort to make it easier for its citizens and residents to obtain the NIN and it is important to take advantage of the extension. 

“Dr. Pantami wishes to thank Nigerians for their patience and compliance with the Federal Government’s directive on the NIN-SIM registration exercise.  

“He again reiterated government’s commitment to continually taking decisions aimed at easing the pains of the citizens with regard to issues related to NIN and SIM registration,” the statement ended.

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Stakeholders Restates Support for Young Nigerian Girls in ICT

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Stakeholders Restates Support for Young Nigerian Girls in ICT, SiliconNigeria

The recent event to celebrate the global campaign, the International Girls in ICT Day, organised by eBusinesslife in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and other stakeholders in the industry, has placed more emphasis on grooming more young girls that will take up the challenge of exploring ICT-related careers.

The event which held on Thursday in Lagos, was part of a year-long campaign instituted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to sensitize young girls to explore career options in ICT and related fields, which prior to now have been male-gender dominated.

Introducing the event, the Convener and Publisher, e-Business Life Communication Limited, Mrs. Ufuoma Emuophedaro, aligned with a report by the ITU stating that the ICT sector remains a buoyant and growing sector for employment, and a key economic factor reinforcing both national and international development.

According to her, “Any professional job we can think today has a strong tech component. Technology has become a critical tool in fields as diverse as art, history, archaeology, law, primary teaching, to mention but a few. As such, tech qualifications will give an advantage in a competitive job market, earn a high salary and give career mobility.”

While encouraging the students to tap into the future, Mrs Emuophedaro stated: “The future of the ICT sector promises to be an exciting one. It is estimated that within the next 10 years, there will be more than 2 million technology jobs that cannot be filled because of lack of qualified ICT specialists.”

In quoting a statement by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, she said, “Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all. There is overwhelming evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies and countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous… Gender equality is the unfinished business of our time.” She noted that that given the rising need for software engineers and web developers, and coupled with the projection that advances in gender equality can result in a $12 trillion boost to the global GDP by 2025, it is hardly surprising that the world is making more space for women in STEM.

She applauded female mentors with whose efforts more girls have and will dare to pursue careers in STEM in the near future. “On a global scale, we are heading towards 40% of women in tech positions in the next 5 -10 years. Let’s hope that in the future years, there will be more and more females in IT and science. We also don’t want companies to hire women because they have to, or because they feel pressured by society. Hire women because it’s worth it!”

Deputy Director, New Media and Information Security at NCC, Mrs. Olatokunbo Oyeleye, in her address, recalled that the ITU on April 8, 2011 announced the establishment of an International Girls in ICT Day to be held yearly on the fourth Thursday in April, which was a direct result of the adoption of its Resolution 70 – “Gender mainstreaming in ITU and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).”  The Resolution was to incorporate a gender perspective in the implementation of all ITU programmes and plans.

Mrs. Oyeleye, who represented the NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Prof. Umar Danbatta cited examples of young girls that broke the gender barrier with exploits in STEM fields, noting: “And they are a proof that breaking gender norm should become the norm.”

He continues: “For gender norms to be broken, there needs to be a deliberate and intentional promotion in the field of STEM in our schools for girls, and this must start at a young age. This is vital when attempting to promote gender diversity within STEM. The STEM industry is crying out for more female talents to balance the gender inequality.”

Prof. Danbatta noted that the NCC has a series of initiatives to promote Child Online Protection (COP) within the nation. Educating children on ways they should keep themselves safe online, and avenues to report if they fall victim. Therefore the NCC invites participants to share their experiences and proffer solutions by sending an email to COP.

Nigeria, being a member state adopts the outcomes of ITU resolutions including Girls in ICT, which is celebrated across the nation.

Since the birth of Girls in ICT Day in 2011, over 377,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 11,400 International Girl in ICT Day celebrations in 171 countries.

Speaking on the opportunities open in the field of ICT, General Manager, IT Operations, MTN Nigeria, Mrs. Yetunde Ojo enumerating that there is a wide variety of jobs in the industry noting that IT skills are transferable across industries and continents. She also observed that despite each job requiring a distinctive set of skills and personal traits, almost all IT jobs depend on strong technical knowledge. “But each has a different emphasis, whether the job centres on coding, managing hardware, applying software, data science or managing systems or people. In some companies one person performs multiple roles, in larger companies focus on a specialised skillset is expected. Technology is consistently evolving. There are always skills shortages in the latest Technology.”

She advised the young girls, to among other things, to practice using Technology, starting with simple tools such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint, then going through tutorial, identifying all the capabilities, and trying them out. “Self-develop, train, do certifications; Remain open minded; Attend free classes; Learn from friends;  Keep researching and find out how you can be part of evolving Technology; Training and personally evolving is key. Self-training, company sponsored training, certification, use material on the internet, tutorials on Youtube, join communities.”

While noting that opportunities are always being created in this dynamic, growing field of ICT, Mrs. Ojo further advised the students to make the most of the opportunities and develop their knowledge and skills wherever they find themselves. “There’s always something you didn’t know before.”

President of Caleb Ayanwusi Foundation (CAF), Dr. Caleb Ayanwusi, in his speech stressed on the necessity to support the critical need for more girls and young women to have “important roles in the striving innovations and creativities in the ICT world.”

Represented by its Project Manager, Mrs. Ejiinkeonye Nice, Ayanwusi noted that the Foundation, in collaborating with eBusinesslife in creating awareness about the gender digital divide and supporting technology, education and skill training, is encouraging girls and young women to actively seek careers in ICT with interest in STEM, thereby improving their problem solving abilities in general.

“Indeed we are proud to be part of this global event & would be very happy, if every one of these girls/young women will further from here to become the best ICT professionals the world will know in the future.”

In her speech, Quality Assurance Engineer, SystemSpecs, Jane Amaife,  noted that gender roles are the makings of a society developed and practised over time, but today, although held back by societal models of the past, stereotypes are being shattered.

While assuring the girls that they could be whatever they desire, Amaife frowned at the challenges that still need to be surmounted in the sector. These she said include the fact that more than half of university graduates are female, yet only a handful venture into ICT, with only about 4 in 10 female graduates in STEM, a number which she said reduces as they progress in their education.

Also with gender segregation in the labour market, females occupy less than 30% of jobs in ICT with few of the women in decision-making roles. Other challenges, she said, include insufficient female role models; lack of awareness and resources and societal roles imposed on women.

Amaife, however lined up some career opportunities to include in fields such as Informatics, Web and multimedia (Arts, graphic design, UI/UX design), Hardware development and medical informatics, which includes scientific informatics, ERP systems, supply chain management systems (SCM) and CRM systems.

In her presentation that demonstrated practical issues around the challenges that women face in a career in ICT, Voice/Edge Specialist, Inq Digital Nigeria, Olanrewaju Justice-Anyi noted that one of the major challenges include opportunities in workplace. She however encouraged that this can be overcome by the young girls by trying to be the best in the ICT field they have chosen because when they are good, they cannot be overlooked.

Justice-Anyi challenged the students to be innovative and be dogged in their chosen career despite challenges they may face because they can do as good as any other person on the career path.

The event attracted support from the nation’s telecommunication regulatory body, NCC, MTN Nigeria, Galaxy Backbone, VDT Communications, Inq Digital, SystemSpecs and Caleb Ayanwusi Foundation.

With the theme, “Expand Horizons, Change Attitudes: Breaking Gender Norms in Career Choices”, the event featured graphic Design Competition among participating schools; quiz competition among students, Roundtable discussion by students and outstanding achievement Awards to the NCC, VDT Communications, and the Founder and Executive Director, Cybersafe Foundation, Constance Staveley for their contributions in the growth of ICT and support for Girls-In-ICT campaign.

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SystemSpecs Unveils 2021 Children’s Day Essay Competition Judges, Extends Deadline

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SystemSpecs Unveils 2021 Children’s Day Essay Competition Judges Extends Deadline, SiliconNigeria

SystemSpecs, Africa’s leading financial and human capital technology powerhouse, has revealed the list of inspiring personalities who will serve as judges in this year’s edition of its annual Children’s Day Essay Competition.

They include Bayo Adekanmbi, MTN Nigeria’s Chief Transformation Officer; Jumoke Lawoyin, techpreneur and Chief Executive Officer at Lucy.ng; and Emeka Okoye, Chief Semantic Architect and Knowledge Engineer at Cymantiks Nigeria.

This disclosure comes as the deadline for the submission of entries into the essay competition was also extended till April 30th, 2021. The extension is in response to requests by schools and students affected by the irregular school terms regime across Nigeria, to enable them participate in the competition.

Meanwhile, other judges appointed to the evaluation panel are Wale Fatade, accomplished journalist and country commissioning editor at The Conversation; Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr., technology entrepreneur, business coach and returning judge of the competition; Jide Ayegbusi, a social entrepreneur and founder of the tech-led education-focused platform, Edusko; and Funmi Oyatogun, celebrated travel experience creator and environment crusader.

“At SystemSpecs, we are convinced that a strong technology foundation is necessary to reposition Nigeria to compete favourably in the comity of nations and thrive in contemporary times. Through our Children’s Day Essay Competition, we seek to stimulate young Nigerians to become more technologically aware and better positioned to creatively apply technology as a natural response to everyday challenges around them,” said ‘Deremi Atanda, an Executive Director at SystemSpecs.

Bayo Adekanmbi, the Chief Transformation Officer of MTN Nigeria, also doubles as the convener of Data Science Nigeria, a non-profit that seeks to build a local AI-led ecosystem that will position Nigeria as a global outsourcing hub for Big Data projects.  At MTN, he leads the team that proactively introduces specific measures to help accelerate the company’s business performance and innovations. Before then, he was the firms’ Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer.

A lawyer by training and a tech entrepreneur, Jumoke Lawoyin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lucy.ng, arguably Nigeria’s largest online gift store. She is a graduate of the University of Ibadan and the University of London. At Lucy.ng, she combines her cherished experiences in procurement, research, business development, management, and critical thinking to drive the day-to-day operations of a business that powers the gift procurement needs of a large number of organisations in corporate Nigeria.

Emeka Okoye is the Chief Semantic Architect and Knowledge Engineer at Cymantiks Nigeria. He helps governments, private organisations and cities become smarter by using semantic technology to harness their data and information assets through contextual data modeling, knowledge representation and ontology engineering to exploit the opportunities possessed by data, AI and analytics for digital transformation.

Other judges on the evaluation panel are from various walks of life including technology, security, law, media, and the arts. They are financial and tech journalist, Abubakar Idris; media consultant and author, Ayodele Arowosegbe; co-founder of LeedsNG, Dr. Hafis Bello; tech content provider of repute and returning judge of the competition, Ifeoluwa Ogunfuwa; UK-based IT Governance, risk and control advisor, Dewale Otolorin; health law and bioethics enthusiast, Olo Egbokhare; and Chief Communications Consultant at The Comms Avenue, Adedoyin Jaiyesinmi.

It is the duty of the distinguished panel of judges to evaluate and select winning entries for the top prizes in the junior and senior categories of the competition. They have the responsibility of bringing to national consciousness and recommending implementation options of the bright ideas espoused by participants from across the country.

SystemSpecs, the organiser of the annual competition, is the 29-year-old software giant known for its innovative payment solution – Remita, payroll and HR solution – HumanManager, and Paylink – an e-commerce platform for SMEs, non-profits, and individuals.

Winners of the 2021 edition of the SystemSpecs Children’s Day Essay Competition will be announced on Children’s Day, May 27, 2021.

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