New ICT regulations could limit innovations

For many, social media taxing has turned out to be a big blow towards their day to day online lifestyle. From an innovator’s point of view, online media taxing and the current proposed ICT regulations may clearly hinder any future ICT innovations.

Many successful startups in Uganda including the popular Boda hailing service Safeboda have all grown support and exposure through the old tax free system. But, with the new proposed ICT regulations, innovators may seize to have a broad ground to showcase and develop new brilliant solutions.

During last year’s Uganda Communications Commission’s (UCC) hack for transport Hackathon. Hackers used opensource tools like the IBM cloud-based Bluemix platform to develop and come up with fresh new solutions. Which is, by the way, an online opensource tax-free developers tool.

While Quick Tap emerged winners of UCC’s three-day hackathon after successfully pitching the best transport solution with a whole lot of support promised to them by UCC. We have never received takeover news about the startup in this daily age even when it was a Safeboda sort of competitor.

UCC through this expressed support for innovations in Uganda. But then, with the proposed ICT regulations young innovators may ditch their ideas since the internet is a core tool for research and development. With taxation of some of the core services that turn the internet into a fun spiced research zone. Innovations in Uganda can turn into a historical kind of progression with only uptown developers paving way for better solutions.

According to a new study about the financial technology sector.The financial deepening sector (FSD) has grown to about 65% in the last 7 years in East Africa alone.

However, with factors limiting the rate of innovations and development. The rate will depreciate hence limiting the number of creative minds willing to put their skills at stake for better innovative ideas. Therefore, while Government is set to Tax social media and online media platforms. Innovators will no longer have greener pastures to develop new startups in Uganda.

 

~Techjaja

Travis Kalanick resigns as Uber CEO

Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick has resigned, capping a series of controversies that have rocked the world’s largest privately backed start-up.

The company confirmed Mr Kalanick’s departure from the top executive’s role on Tuesday, after the New York Times reported major backers including Benchmark Capital demanded he resign. Mr Kalanick will remain on the board of directors, the newspaper said.

While Uber has become the world’s most valuable start-up, it has been dogged by drama including allegations of sexual harassment and the use of software to bypass regulators.

The resignation of the man who founded Uber in 2009 comes after a series of controversies shone a light on problems with the famously aggressive start-up’s culture and governance.

As Uber’s public face, Mr Kalanick has embodied its success. Earlier this month, he told staff of plans for a leave of absence, handing the running of the company over to a management committee. It followed the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident.

In a statement reported by the New York Times, Kalanick said: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors’ request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”Despite recent turmoil, Uber’s business is growing. Revenue increased to $3.4bn (£2.7bn) in the first quarter, while losses narrowed – though they remain substantial at $708m.

The company’s board said:  “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.

“By stepping away, he’s taking the time to heal from his personal tragedy while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history. We look forward to continuing to serve with him on the board.”

-Telegraph

You can limit who sees your new whatsapp snapchat-ish status, here is how

Well, Status updates launched with Whatsapp recently and the feature borrows a lot from SnapChat stories just like other apps in the Facebook eco-system namely Instagram and to a smaller extent Messenger and the main Facebook app.

Whatsapp introduced a new tab called status where anyone with the updated app can tap to add photos or videos for his desired contacts to enjoy only viewable for 24 hours.

The caveat though! All people in your contact list can view the shared stories by default which is rather annoying. Whatsapp doesn’t use handles like SnapChat but instead uses phone numbers in your contact lists by default. So any Tom, Dick and Harry with your contacts can view your status updates not forgetting the controlling parents.

And Parents are the reason we migrated to SnapChat in the first place, right?. Away from jokes, with SnapChat, someone asks to follow you and you only choose so if you deem it appropriate for them to follow you. In other words you have control on who follows you but Whatsapp’s stories are so far in default mode that anyone with your contact can follow you.

How to solve this menace?

In your new Whatsapp status window, tap the drop down menu button at the extreme upper right corner and then choose Status privacy.

Whatsapp will greet you with who can see your status updates. My contacts is chosen by default but this window displays two other options:

My contacts except……. Here you can exclude contacts that  you don’t want to see your cool status update.

Only share with……. This allows to choose whom amongst your contacts who should see your status updates.

However Whatsapp warns that changes to your privacy settings won’t affect status updates that you’ve sent already. So you might have to reconsider visiting these status privacy options before you tap the send button of your status updates.

 

 

 

-Techjaja

MPs whine over the functionality of their Ipads

Parliament skipped some items lined up for discussion on Wednesday following complaints by legislators on their Ipads.

Parliament was expected to discuss and adopt findings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Auditor General’s report on the 2014/2015 financial year Health sector Budget.

No sooner had the PAC Chairperson Angeline Osegge started presenting the report, than the Bwamba County MP, Richard Gafabusa rose on a matter of procedure.

Gafabusa told the house chaired by the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga that he couldn’t follow the report, since it wasn’t available on his Ipad.

He was supported by Joseph Ssewungu, the Kalungu West MP who pleaded with the speaker to ensure the Ipads are worked on to improve their efficiency.

William Nzonghu, the Busongora North MP, said his Ipad has been dysfunctional for the last two months.

The Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga rejected the proposal to distribute hard copies to the legislator, saying they ditched them because of the costs involved.

She directed the Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige to investigate the functionality of the Ipads and internet in the house and file a report by Thursday.

Parliament forked out Shillings 3.6 million to procure Ipads for each of the 427 legislators in the tenth parliament. The speaker introduced the use of Ipads in the house during the Ninth parliament hoping to cut down on stationary costs.

However, a year after the introduction of the Ipads, the printing, stationary and binding budget of parliament shot from Shillings 383 million to a whopping Shillings 1.5 billion.

-URN

 

Apple unmasks plans to have self drive cars

In a letter to US transport regulators, Apple said it was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation”.

It added that there were “significant societal benefits of automated vehicles” to be realised.

There have long been rumours about the firm’s plans but it has not publicly admitted them.

However, Ford, which itself plans to have self-driving cars on the road by 2021, has said it was working on the basis that Apple was building one.

The tech firm has already registered several car-related internet domains, including apple.car and apple.auto.

Sharing data

A company spokesman for Apple said that the letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was prompted by its “heavy investment in machine learning and autonomous systems” and that it wanted to help define best practices in the industry.

The five-page letter, written by Apple’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner, urges the regulator to not introduce too many rules on the testing of self-driving cars, saying that “established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally.”

It also proposes that companies in the industry share data from crashes and near-misses in order to build a more comprehensive picture than one company could manage alone, and therefore enable the design of better systems.

However, it adds that an individual’s privacy should not be compromised by the sharing of such data. It suggests that the industry and regulators “address privacy challenges associated with the collection, use, and sharing of automated vehicle data”, with collaboration from privacy experts outside the automotive industry.

Google is already testing self-driving cars on the roads. In October, electric carmaker Tesla announced that all the cars it now builds will have the hardware installed to drive on their own.

In the UK, an autonomous vehicle was test-driven in Milton Keynes in the summer, with further trials in London planned.

 

 

 

-BBC

The blind can now use smart phones, thanks to these young men who made Visual+ app

These young Ugandans;  David  Lwangwa Mwesigwa 22  – Graphics Designer and Team Lead, Mubiru Joel  22– In charge, Research, Chemyolei Paul  22– Business Development Guy and Moris Atwine 21 – Software Development Lead have come together to develop a mobile phone app that seeks to help the blind people use their mobile phone without any assistance.  David’s brother became blind when he was 10. This unfortunate incident turned into questions that David sought to solve. He felt bad that even as his brother grew older and owned a mobile phone, there are those basics that his brother could not enjoy. He met amazing friends at Makerere university that he has worked with to create Visual+. Visual+ is a gesture based interaction and voice commands mobile application that helps a visually impaired person to manage the frequently used applications on phones as making calls and accessing music files.

What in the world is Visual+?

Many times, human rights are echoed in our ears about how it’s our right to have freedom of speech, right to life and more often we hear that major right, a right to education.

Visual+ is simply an easy to use gesture based interaction and voice commands mobile application that manages the most frequently used applications on a mobile device.

 How does doe this awesome app work?

Visual+ works in such way that, a user (visually impaired person) is required to be putting on headsets at the time of initiation to clearly listen to the voice prompts and to enhance your interaction with the app as it uses voice.

To initiate, the user shuffles the mobile device which activates the application.

There are four features on the home screen which include phone, music, notes and personal.

So,

  • By swiping to the right, the gesture helps the user to access prerecorded audio notes that are stored on the mobile device as audio books, quotes and many more.
  • A user swiping down, this gesture brings a lot of personalization tools that can be used by the user such as recording their own notes or speeches. A user is then prompted to swipe the screen to a given direction for app to register their choice for example swiping screen to the right to make a recording of their own.
  • By swiping to the left, the gesture helps the user access his or her music, reading material. A list of all these choices is displayed on screen, also echoed in user’s ear piece. The user will then swipe to the left in order to listen to the music list, or swipe to the right to play the stored music.
  • By swiping up, this gesture displays the phone menu where a user can add a phone number and be able to make a call of his/her choice using voice prompts. For example call Moris, once it’s saved, it processes the call automatically.
  • For a user to go back to a previous screen as well exit the application, he / she simply double taps the screen.

What problems does it seek to solve?

World health Organization (1997) estimated the number of visually impaired people worldwide to be 135 million.

Focusing on Uganda as a country, the number of visually impaired people has gone up to 1 million from 700,000 people (National Union of Disabled Persons, 2008). This group of people also has the required facilities that are not readily accessible in various parts of the country. More to this, the students with these facilities also have a challenge in accessing reading material for the blind, printing notes in brail or even playing educative games. Visual impairment is a great challenge worldwide.

What other opportunities do you think this app is likely to create?

Yes, Partnerships with telecom companies as well as phone companies!

Where do you draw your inspiration?

One of our team members, David has a brother who is blind, he has seen him fail to achieve most of the things and so thought he would really change such pressing problem through innovation. He then teamed up with Joel, Paul and Moris and that was the birth of Visual+.

What is your greatest achievements so far?

We were able to pitch it at the Humanitarian Innovation Exhibition Last Month, the feedback was promising, basically how it would be of great help to people in refugee camps and disaster affected areas.

Mainly, we haven’t really achieved much with this mobile app, we are still testing it with different groups to clearly understand how the blind or people with low vision can interface with these smart phones.

Does tech have a future in Uganda? 

Technology in Uganda is like a child, ambitious and inquisitive. That’s why it’s really growing very fast

 Are there times you have wanted to give up?

Not on the Visual+ app because passion is all we have for technology and there is a lot to be solved really. All in all, We are  not about to give up.

 What keeps you going during tough times?

We have the best solutions to most of these social problems affecting us, this may not necessarily be through technology, innovation as a process can have a considerable effort in changing most of problems we face, and in the end become our businesses.

What other projects have you worked on?

As a group, we haven’t worked on other mobile applications but some of the members Moris and David are among the brains behind the timely response and early diagnosis breast cancer management app called “BreastIT”. More info to this app is available on the project’s blog site www.thehyphengloveproject.wordpress.com

 Any last words to the reader?

We have never set out  to become  founder or co-founders of a great innovation, we always seek to tackle most of these pressing problems in and around our community” – Moris Atwine, Co-Founder and Software Development Lead, Visual+.

 

Screenshot of the visual app
-ThisisUganda

Samsung to recall note 7 worldwide over reports that the phones are catching fire

Samsung is expected to announce a global recall of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone after an internal investigation into reports of batteries catching fire, according to reports.

Samsung refused to comment on the claims, made on Friday by South Korea’s Yonhap News and in the Korea Herald, but confirmed it was conducting the inspection with its partners.

“We will share the findings as soon as possible. Samsung is fully committed to providing the highest quality products to our consumers,” the company said in a statement.

Samsung is due to hold a news conference later on Friday about the findings of its investigation and plans for the Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung launched the Note 7 at the end of August in some markets, including South Korea and the US. Shipments were delayed in South Korea this week for extra quality control testing after reports that the batteries of some of the jumbo smartphones exploded while they were being charged.

Samsung’s stock plunged by about $7bn over Wednesday and Thursday, barely a week after the phones launched to critical acclaim and the company’s market value reached a record high. The tests follow multiple reports from customers, some posted in online videos and images, of phones that caught fire or exploded while charging. In one video posted earlier this week, a YouTube user named Ariel Gonzalez showed off his phone, its screen charred and partially melted.

 

 

 

 

-Guardian

Museveni okays ICT park construction

By Moses Kindandi
President Yoweri Museveni has allowed Malaysian tech plant BSmart Technology Limited to proceed with plans to construct  an Information Communication Technology Park in Uganda.
The company, whose headquarters are in Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, is an industrial plant that manufactures a variety of machinery such as telemetry devices and user-machine interface tools.
When the project is complete and functional, it will be expected to employ over 1,000 people and feature a combination of a monitoring center for traffic, government data, research and development center among others.

Don’t you cheat on your sleep with technology

Here is an all-too-common scenario: Jeff and Mary put the kids to bed and settle down for the night to watch television. Jeff has his smartphone at his bedside and keeps checking email, social media, texts and the baseball scores while Mary checks her work emails, plays Words With Friends and checks her Facebook. At 11 they decide to turn out the lights and both of them place their phones next to the bed. Mary puts hers on silent but Jeff keeps his on vibrate in case he gets an important message during the night. Both have a tough time getting to sleep. John awakens several times during the night and checks his phone and answers an email or two. He has trouble falling back to sleep each time. They both awaken feeling exhausted. This goes on night after night after night. On the weekends they park the kids in front of the TV in the morning and try to sleep as long as possible but they are still tired come Monday.

We all know how important it is that we get a good night’s sleep. What does that mean? Well, for young college-age adults the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours per night. For younger children the recommendation is even more nightly sleep. For adults like Mary and Jeff the recommendation is usually around 7 to 8 hours per night.

Sadly, most children, teens and adults are not getting close to the recommended night’s sleep and you can see this clearly in futile attempts to sleep in on the weekends to pay off our mounting “sleep debt.”

Before I talk about why I feel this is happening and the role that technology plays in getting a bad night’s sleep, it is important to understand what happens while you sleep. If you are a normal, well-rested person, your sleep is quite patterned. When you fall asleep you enter the first of several sleep cycles. In each cycle, which lasts about 90 minutes, your brain evidences four phases of deeper and deeper sleep until you reach a fifth stage called REM or rapid eye movement sleep. This is where your flickering eyelids indicate you are dreaming. The first sleep cycle dream is quite short and as the night progresses the REM phases get longer culminating in your last dream, which lasts about an hour, give or take. This is why, by the way, that most well-rested people wake up amidst a dream as that fourth sleep cycle is usually around hour 7 to 8 of sleep time.

During the night your brain is doing a variety of housekeeping functions including “synaptic rejuvenation” which involves consolidating information that you learned or experienced during the day and pruning away information that your brain feels is irrelevant or not worthy of consolidating and keeping. In addition, spinal fluid sweeps through your brain to wash out the sometimes-toxic by-products of thinking including bits of used proteins. Among these proteins are beta amyloids. If these beta amyloids are not removed they eventually build up into “plaques” which inhibit cell-to-cell communication and, sadly, are seen in abundance in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

When you do not get a good night’s sleep these phases do not proceed as they would if you were well rested. This means that your brain does not get to do its synaptic rejuvenation and other housekeeping actions including washing out toxic remains from a day’s mental experiences. Add in days and days of poor sleep and you will soon have a a brain that does not function at its optimal level.

You can see the effects of lack of sleep by looking at what happens when you are so tired that you decide to take a nap. Naps are not inherently bad for you and in fact some research shows that they can be beneficial to your brain functioning. However, if you are exhausted you most likely lapse right into dreaming when you start your nap. This means you are skipping over the normal sleep phases where most of the housekeeping takes place.

My colleagues and I recently published a study where we tested a model that examined the role of technology in getting a good night’s sleep. 734 college students [our college students were a bit older than the norm averaging nearly 26 years old] completed surveys that assessed sleep problems, smartphone use (both during a typical day and night as well as preference for multitasking as opposed to completing one task at a time), and two critical variables concerning our brain’s performance: executive functioning and anxiety. Executive functioning encompasses how well you make decisions, avoid impulsive responses, work on problems, and attend to your world. Anxiety, in this study, was a special type of anxiety sometimes referred to as FOMO or fear of missing out. Our measure asked about how anxious you get when you do not have your phone or cannot access the Internet and also a personal assessment of how dependent you are on technology.

The model we tested proposed that after controlling for all demographic characteristics of our sample, the cognitive issue (executive functioning) and the affective variable (anxiety/FOMO) would predict overuse of technology and multitasking which, in turn, would predict sleep problems. Before talking about the how the model worked it is important to point out that half the participants kept their phone close by while they slept (nearly all with it on vibrate or ring) and 49% checked it during the night for something other than the time at least once (32%) or two or more times (17%). Not surprisingly our students averaged only 6.68 hours of sleep per night over the previous four weeks with two-thirds averaging 7 or less hours of nightly sleep.

So, how did we do in predicting sleep problems? Poor executive functioning predicted sleep problems and also predicted more nighttime awakenings, which, in turn, predicted sleep problems. Anxiety, however, was the stronger predictor. People anxious about missing out on technology used their smartphone more each day, preferred to multitask more, and awakened more often to check their phone. Each of those predicted a poor night’s sleep.

So what do we think is happening? There are two ways to look at this: biochemically and psychologically. Both are relevant. Biochemically, when you awaken in the morning your brain sees blue wavelength light, which releases small amounts of the hormone cortisol, which serves to slowly awaken you. At the other end of the day, when you approach dusk your eyes take in more red wavelength light which then allows melatonin to be released over a period of several hours which eventually leads to sleep. Technological devices emit light at multiple wavelengths to produce the white light you see with a substantial amount in the blue wavelength part of the light spectrum. This blue wavelength light serves to increase the secretion of cortisol (and wake you up) and inhibit the release of melatonin (which makes you not sleepy). Luckily, light at all wavelengths dissipates by the inverse square law which means that as long as you keep your device a substantial distance from your face you are not getting much blue light. How far away do you keep your phone or your iPad? The Mayo Clinic says that if you are planning to use a device in bed that you hold it 14 inches away from your face and dim the brightness which further reduces the blue wavelength light from reaching your retina. The National Sleep Foundation goes one giant step further and recommends that you not use any device within an hour of attempting to fall asleep. Given their research showing that 90% of American adults use their electronic devices within an hour of bedtime at least a few nights a week, this may be difficult.

Psychological issues are quite a different story. Remember that both executive dysfunction — primarily poor decision-making and lack of ability to attend — and FOMO anxiety predicted a poor night’s sleep. These are fixable. First, we need to learn to practice metacognition by gaining a better understanding of how our brain works. If we know that we are not making good decisions about using technology prior to bedtime that is the first step to being metacognitive; if we can make behavioral changes that is even better. One metacognitive change would be to recognize that we are all responding to alerts and notifications like Pavlov’s dogs and realize that at a minimum we should silence our phone or turn off all alerts. An even better metacognitive change would be to put our phone away an hour before bedtime but if that is too extreme consider starting small by putting the phone and tablet in another room 15 minutes before bedtime. Then when you get used to 15 minutes of time away from your devices start increasing the time until you get to an hour.

The impact on sleep of FOMO — anxiety about missing out on technology use, particularly communication-based technologies like email, texts, social media, etc. — was pronounced in our study (and has been shown to be a strong predictor of problematic behavior in other studies). The first step is metacognitive in that you will need to understand what this anxiety is doing to you, your brain and your body. We are not meant to be a bubbling pool of anxiety-laden chemicals. Their constant presence can lead to mental and physical health issues. Once that information becomes part of your understanding of the impact of technology on sleep you must begin the process of uncoupling the alerts and notifications with a knee-jerk response model.

Just because you got a text message does not mean you have to respond a.s.a.p. The problem with our obsessive behavior has been building for a long time and will not go away quickly. I suggest starting small again and alerting people in your virtual worlds — those you regularly text, email, and connect with through social media — that you are going to be learning how to not be such a quick responder. We know that this is difficult as a slow or nonresponse to a message leads to assumptions about the other person (“he must not like me or he would text right back” or “she must be angry with me” are common reactions to a delayed response). It will help if you use the auto respond function wherever you can to remind people that you may take a bit of time to get back to them. Start by waiting for 15 minutes to respond to messages and when that is working start increasing the time until you can get to at least 30 minutes. If you have trouble ignoring the alerts you can silence your phone during that time or use one of the many smartphone apps that will only allow calls or messages from certain people (in case of emergencies).

I am sure that many of you are wondering what you will do if you can’t use your smartphone prior to bedtime. I suggest any activity that is repetitive and doesn’t require communication. For example, most of your favorite television shows are fairly predictable so watching one can be calming to your brain as long as the device is not close to your face. Another option is to build a playlist on a device with only your absolute favorite songs, ones that you can sing in your sleep. If that device is a smartphone make sure you silence any alerts as even a slight vibration or beep will start the cortisol and stop the melatonin. Third, you might consider reading an actual [gasp] paper book, particularly if the author is one who you know well as the plots will often be predictable. Predictable means less activation of the neurons and biochemistry of your brain, which will allow you to fall asleep more easily.

The bottom line is this will not be an easy road but it is not too late to save your brain. I always prided myself on being able to be wide awake and productive with only 5 hours of sleep but over the years I see that that has taken its toll on my ability to process information. I have been following my advice in this post for about a year and already feel better and more prepared to be productive on a daily basis. You can do it, too!

 

-Huffington post

West Africans create new Afro emoji app

A new app from Nigeria is here to help in the quest for more diverse emojis, and this time the wacky characters have been designed with West Africans in mind.

“Afro Emoji” launched Wednesday for free download on Android and Apple devices. The West African-themed “stickers” in the app consists of a diverse array of characters dressed in traditional African clothing and accompanied by familiar pan-African phrases in pidgin English, including “Abeg no vex” (please, don’t be annoyed), “Chai!” (an exclamation of surprise) and “Akwaaba” (“Welcome” in the Ghanaian language Twi). Ayoola Daramola, the Nigerian-American team lead of the app, said he believes that the idea is plugging into a key demographic that’s been largely ignored in the tech world. In a press release, Daramola explained the desire behind creating the Afro Emoji app:

We, as Africans, definitely have an idiosyncratic way of communicating with one another, and Afro Emoji is really a fun, accessible graphic depiction of that. We are building a modern African hieroglyph that represents us.

While the economies of African countries like Nigeria and Ghana surge, the tech and mobile industry on the continent is also continuing to grow. Over 400 million smartphones are projected to be use on the continent by 2020.

“Mobile is king in Africa,” Dramola said. “It is the tool for communication and media consumption, so we expect the Afro Emoji to become a key component in how Africans message and chat.”

Much like actor Jesse Williams’ recently launched app Ebroji, Afro Emoji is fulfilling a much needed gap in the market. It brilliantly fulfills the growing need for apps designed for us, by us, which authentically capture the way black people throughout the diaspora communicate with each other. Bravo.

-Huffington post