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Congo-Gabon: Toward Regional Digital Integration

MD Staff

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A student of the Faculty of Sciences at the Université Marien Ngouabi, Brazzaville, Marinette Moyo Photo: Franck Bitemo/World Bank

A student of the Faculty of Sciences at the Université Marien Ngouabi, Brazzaville, Marinette Moyo cannot imagine how she would be able to complete her studies without the internet. Like her classmates, whether she is in class or at home, she does not let go of her mobile phone or laptop. How could she do without online search engines to give a presentation or study for an exam?

It is the same for Gilles Massamba, a young, tech-savvy film promoter, and for numerous other Congolese nationals for whom the internet has become an indispensable social, administrative, and professional tool. The problem is that when the connection lags and is sporadic and expensive, you lose time, patience, and money. It is difficult to wait for 20 minutes to download a document or to be constantly disconnected during a Skype conversation with a relative living in the country’s interior.

High-speed internet through fiber optics

“For the majority of Congolese people, fiber optics remained an abstract notion,” Gilles says. “Until a ship sailing along the coast of Pointe-Noire accidentally severed the submarine fiber-optic cable. Then, everyone made the connection because no one had internet in Brazzaville anymore. It’s scary to think that it is all hanging by a thread, both literally and figuratively.”

In many ways, development of the digital economy and the achievement of regional integration in Central Africa are “hanging by a thread.” More specifically, they are hanging by the fiber optics that are in the process of being installed under the Central African Backbone (CAB) project, the first phase of which was completed on April 6, 2018 with the interconnection of the fiber-optic backbone between the Republic of Congo and the Republic of Gabon.

Becoming an interconnected region

Launched in April 2007 by the countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), during the summit in Ndjamena, Chad, the Central African Backbone (CAB) project aims to promote subregional integration and reduce the digital divide through high-speed, fiber-optic terrestrial infrastructure. The aim is to boost the capacity of the digital link among the 11 CEMAC countries.

“It is the culmination of a decade of ongoing efforts and the fulfillment of the strong ambition expressed by the leaders of the subregion to anchor the countries in the digital economy and thus promote regional integration,” explains Yvon-Didier Miehakanda, coordinator of the CAB project in the Republic of Congo.

The first phase of this project was launched in the Republic of Congo in July 2011 with $30 million in joint financing from the Government and the World Bank. The goal? Build a 521-kilometer fiber-optic backbone (reduced later to 504 kilometers) between the Matombi landing station (from the ocean city of Pointe-Noire) and the border landing station in Mbinda. The work was completed by the Chinese company Huawei, a global telecommunications leader, in collaboration with  the Congo–Ocean Railway (CFCO), which facilitated installation of the fiber-optic cable along the railway.

The Congolese backbone continues up to the border city of Lekoko where it connects to the 1,100 km of the Gabonese terrestrial network, which runs up to Libreville.

This new interconnection infrastructure with Gabon gives the Republic of Congo a second fiber-optic connection point that will allow the country to ensure a relay connection in the event of a new breakdown of its submarine cable, which was commissioned in 2012, or of the Matombi connection point in Kouilou.

The first phase of the recently completed CAB project gives way to the second phase, which involves the construction of two new fiber-optic networks in the north of the country in order to connect the Congolese network to the Cameroonian and Central African networks by 2020. Cofinanced by the African Development Bank and the Congolese Government to the tune of 66.56 million euros, this second phase includes, among other activities, the construction of a national “Datacenter” to host data and a technology hub to develop new technologies and the digital economy.

Finally, the third phase of the project, financed exclusively by the World Bank for $5 million, is expected to create a digital economy development fund aimed at financing the development of start-ups and job creation in this sector.

Faster, cheaper internet service

“If this new infrastructure effectively helps enhance internet service in the country, the logical consequence should be the lowering of connection costs for users,” states Aymar Kodia, a young, seasoned internet user. “And that is good news, because the current rates charged by both public and private operators are simply exorbitant (1 Mb costs CFAF 65,000 or $122!).”

On the heels of installing the fiber-optic network, the CAB project also equipped the public university with software tools and interconnected the 11 higher education establishments in Brazzaville. The students are now waiting for the national telecommunications operator, Congo-Telecom, to activate high-speed internet so as to fully benefit from the new technological environment available to them. “I can already see myself having access to unlimited documentary resources, downloading huge files freely, doing research or taking online courses like students in developed countries. That would be really great!” says Marinette.

“Studies conducted in Africa, particularly by the World Bank in 2010, prove that a 10% increase in the number of high-speed internet connections leads, among other things, to an increase in economic growth of 1.3%,” explains Jérôme Bezzina, World Bank task team leader and telecommunications specialist. “In the Republic of Congo, it is estimated that the ICT sector represents 4% of GDP. With better infrastructure, its contribution is expected to be even greater, especially in the services sector where it already figures prominently.”

World Bank

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Deloitte Unveils 2018 North America Technology Fast 500™ Rankings

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Deloitte today released the “2018 North America Technology Fast 500,” an annual ranking of the fastest-growing North American companies in technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech sectors. SwanLeap claimed the top spot with a growth rate of 77,260 percent from 2014 to 2017.

SwanLeap, is a leading end-to-end transportation technology provider for logistics managers and supply chain decision-makers. Founded in 2013, SwanLeap uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce costs for corporate shippers and improve their supply chain performance. Its new technology is helping clients secure an annual average transportation savings of 27 percent. SwanLeap is one of the two Madison, Wisconsin-based companies in the top 10 this year.

Awardees are selected for this honor based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2014 to 2017. Overall, the 2018 Technology Fast 500 companies achieved revenue growth ranging from 143 percent to 77,260 percent over the three-year time frame, with a median growth rate of 412 percent.

“Congratulations to the Deloitte 2018 Technology Fast 500 winners on this impressive achievement,” said Sandra Shirai, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. technology, media and telecommunications leader. “These companies are innovators who have converted their disruptive ideas into useful products, services and experiences that can captivate new customers and drive remarkable growth.”

“It is both humbling and validating for SwanLeap to be listed as the No. 1 fastest-growing company on the Deloitte Fast 500,” said Brad Hollister, CEO and co-founder of SwanLeap. “Our team has worked relentlessly to deliver unprecedented clarity and control to a fragmented shipping market through technology powered by artificial intelligence, curating cost-effective and personalized supply chain recommendations in real time. We are grateful to our employees and customers for making this achievement possible.”

The Technology Fast 500’s top 10 include:

2018 Rank Company Sector Revenue Growth (2014 to 2017) City, State
1 SwanLeap Software 77,260 percent Madison, Wisconsin
2 Justworks Software 27,150 percent New York, New York
3 Shape Security Software 23,576 percent Mountain View, California
4 Periscope Data Software 23,227 percent San Francisco, California
5 Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. Biotechnology/
pharmaceutical
17,847 percent Pasadena, California
6 Viveve Medical Inc. Medical devices 16,887 percent Englewood, Colorado
7 iLearningEngines Software 14,848 percent Bethesda, Maryland
8 Exact Sciences Corp. Biotechnology/pharmaceutical 14,694 percent Madison, Wisconsin
9 Podium Software 13,381 percent Lehi, Utah
10 Markforged Electronic devices/hardware 12,687 percent Watertown, Massachusetts


Silicon Valley has largest share of winners

Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 winners represent more than 38 states and provinces across North America.

California’s Silicon Valley continues to produce fast-growing companies, leading regional representation with 18 percent of this year’s Fast 500. The New York metro area also fared well with 14 percent of the companies; New England and Greater Washington, D.C., areas followed with 7 percent each, and Greater Los Angeles accounted for 6 percent. Following is a summary of the 2018 ranking by regions with a significant concentration of winners:

Location Percentage of List Fastest-Growing Company in the Region Overall Company Ranking Dominant Sectors in Location
Silicon Valley 18 percent Shape Security 3 Software 77 percent
New York Metro Area 14 percent Justworks 2 Software 56 percent; Digital content/media/entertainment 23 percent
New England 7 percent Markforged 10 Software 40 percent; Biotechnology/pharmaceuticals 29 percent; Medical devices 20 percent
Washington, DC iLearningEngines 7 Software 75 percent
Greater Los Angeles Area 6 percent Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. 5 Software 65 percent

Software continues to dominate the list for the 23rd straight year
Software companies continue to deliver the highest growth rates for the 23rd straight year, representing 64 percent of the entire list and six of the top 10 winners overall. Of the private companies on the list, 34 percent identify themselves as part of the software as a service (SaaS) subsector, 17 percent in the enterprise software subsector, and 9 percent in fintech. Since the creation of the ranking, software companies have consistently made up the majority of winners, with a median growth rate of 412 percent in 2018.

Digital content, media and entertainment companies make up the second most prevalent sector in this year’s rankings, accounting for 12 percent of the Fast 500 companies and achieving a median growth rate of 385 percent in 2018. Biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies rank third at 11 percent of the list with a median growth rate of 411 percent.

The Technology Fast 500 by industry sector:

Sector Percentage Sector Leader Median Revenue Growth (2014 to 2017)
Software 64 percent SwanLeap 412 percent
Digital content/media/entertainment 12 percent Remark Holdings Inc. 385 percent
Biotechnology/pharmaceutical 11 percent Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. 411 percent
Medical devices 5 percent Viveve Medical Inc. 396 percent
Communications/networking 3 percent xG Technology Inc. 394 percent
Electronic devices/hardware 3 percent Markforged 410 percent
Semiconductor 1 percent Aquantia Corp. 206 percent
Energy tech 1 percent Momentum Solar 693 percent

Four out of five companies received venture backing
In the 2018 Fast 500 rankings, 80 percent of the companies were backed by venture capital at some point in their company history. Notably, 25 of the top 30 companies on the Technology Fast 500 in 2018 received venture funding.

“Software, which accounts for nearly two of every three companies on the list, continues to produce the most exciting technologies of the 21st century, including innovations in artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and robotics,” said Mohana Dissanayake, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP and industry leader for the technology, media and telecommunications industry, within Deloitte’s audit and assurance practice. “This year’s ranking demonstrates what is likely a national phenomenon, where many companies from all parts of America are transforming the way we do business by combining breakthrough research and development, entrepreneurship and rapid growth.”

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Quantum Technologies Flagship kicks off with first 20 projects

MD Staff

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The Quantum Technologies Flagship, a €1 billion initiative, was launched today at a high-level event in Vienna hosted by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Flagship will fund over 5,000 of Europe’s leading quantum technologies researchers over the next ten years and aims to place Europe at the forefront of the second quantum revolution. Its long term vision is to develop in Europe a so-called quantum web, where quantum computers, simulators and sensors are interconnected via quantum communication networks. This will help kick-starting a competitive European quantum industry making research results available as commercial applications and disruptive technologies. The Flagship will initially fund 20 projects with a total of €132 million via the Horizon 2020 programme, and from 2021 onwards it is expected to fund a further 130 projects. Its total budget is expected to reach €1 billion, providing funding for the entire quantum value chain in Europe, from basic research to industrialisation, and bringing together researchers and the quantum technologies industry.

Andrus Ansip, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Europe is determined to lead the development of quantum technologies worldwide. The Quantum Technologies Flagship project is part of our ambition to consolidate and expand Europe’s scientificexcellence. If we want to unlock the full potential of quantum technologies, we need to develop a solid industrial base making full use of our research.”

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, added: “The Quantum Technologies Flagship will form a cornerstone of Europe’s strategy to lead in the development of quantum technologies in the future.  Quantum computing holds the promise of increasing computing speeds by orders of magnitude and Europe needs to pool its efforts in the ongoing race towards the first functional quantum computers.”

In the early 20th century, the first quantum revolution allowed scientists to understand and use basic quantum effects in devices, such as transistors and microprocessors, by manipulating and sensing individual particles.

The second quantum revolution will make it possible to use quantum effects to make major technological advances in many areas including computing, sensing and metrology, simulations, cryptography, and telecommunications. Benefits for citizens will ultimately include ultra-precise sensors for use in medicine, quantum-based communications, and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) to improve the security of digital data. In the long term, quantum computing has the potential to solve computational problems that would take current supercomputers longer than the age of the universe. They will also be able to recognise patterns and train artificial intelligence systems.

Next steps

From October 2018 until September 2021, 20 projects will be funded by the Flagship under the coordination of the Commission. They will focus on four application areas – quantum communication, quantum computing, quantum simulation, quantum metrology and sensing – as well as the basic science behind quantum technologies. More than one third of participants are industrial companies from a wide range of sectors, with a large share of SMEs.

Negotiations are ongoing between the European Parliament, Council and Commission to ensure that quantum research and development will be funded in the EU’s multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2028. Quantum technologies will be supported by the proposed Horizon Europe programme for research and space applications, as well as the proposed Digital Europe programme, which will develop and reinforce Europe’s strategic digital capacities, supporting the development of Europe’s first quantum computers and their integration with classical supercomputers, and of a pan-European quantum communication infrastructure.

Background

Since 1998, the Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme has provided around €550 million of funding for quantum research in Europe. The EU has also funded research on quantum technologies through the European Research Council (ERC). Only since 2007, the ERC has funded more than 250 research projects related to quantum technologies, worth some 450 million euro.

The Quantum Technologies Flagship is currently supported by Horizon 2020 as part of the FET programme, which currently runs two other Flagships (The Graphene Flagship and the Human Brain Project Flagship). The FET programme promotes large-scale research initiatives to drive major scientific advances and turn them into tangible innovations creating benefits for the economy and society across Europe. Funding for the Flagship project comes from Horizon 2020, its successor programme Horizon Europe and national funding.

The Quantum Technologies Flagship is also a component of the Commission’s European Cloud Initiative launched in April 2016, as part of a series of measures to support and link national initiatives for the digitisation of Europe’s industry.

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Russiagate and the current challenges of cyberspace: Interview with Elena Chernenko

MD Staff

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PICREADI presents an interview with a prominent Russian expert in journalism and cybersecurity Elena Chernenko, Deputy head of Foreign Desk at the Kommersant daily newspaper in Moscow. The talk is about hackers, Russiagate and current challenges of the cyberspace.

 

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