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Crowdsourcing – collecting data to combat COVID-19

Inside Telecom Staff

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Crowdsourcing

The majority of us are not healthcare workers or scientists and so may be feeling a little helpless at the moment. We can of course do out bit by staying inside and washing our hands, but is there anything else we can do? Luckily technology once again, provides an answer. Thanks to the internet, social media, and Big Data-driven analytics, there are a number of projects anyone can get involved with from home. And they could play an important part in limiting the loss of life caused by the pandemic.

The majority of these projects are powered by data and also demonstrate how crowdsourcing can crunch through masses of data can improve our chances of fighting the disease. Crowdsourced data acts as a honeypot for medical technology and pharmaceutical companies. The process of collecting enough data to create vaccines and cures through traditional methods takes time and costs money.

During past epidemics and pandemics, these initiatives were not available for us as our ability to collaboratively collect and analyse data was much less developed.

If you have even the slightest experience and knowledge of data science, then you will find numerous things that you can help out with at Kaggle, Google’s own crowdsourced data science portal.

With live datasets from the World Health Organization collated by Johns Hopkins University, as well as a library of 29,000 published articles, you can put your skills to work by taking on tasks including predicting the spread of the virus, how long it is likely to affect certain parts of the world, or what the impact of factors such as weather, economy, etc. will be on overall statistics.

If you are not too familiar with data science, there are other organisations offering ways to support the fight against the pandemic.

Folding@Home has become hugely popular and is a long-running crowdsourced initiative using donated computing power to simulate protein folding, and tackle other medical data problems. It has been using the spare power of ‘idle’ computers in people’s homes to go through data since the beginning of the outbreak. By doing this, it hopes to identify proteins in the virus that could be treated with medicine. To get involved, all you need to do is download the programme and run it on your computer. Since the project began, the amount of power donated has been over one exaFLOP (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 computing operations per second!)

If spare computer power is not something that you have, then another option is to donate your data. Kings College London has developed an application called the C-19 Symptom tracker. The application collects anonymous information to help match symptoms and diagnosed cases of COVID-19. It establishes which symptoms mean you probably have a cold and those that mean you should be tested, also helping people know the right time to isolate. The project uses machine learning and over 2 million people have signed up for it. This data has helped to confirm that a loss of smell and taste are some of the most common indicators. This was not well known at the beginning of the outbreak.

For a crowdsourced collection of information designed to be parsed by humans rather than machines, look no further than the Coronavirus Tech Handbook project, led by Edward Saperia. This started as a collection of medical information intended for doctors and other healthcare professionals, but it has quickly become a collection of knowledge and advice on subjects from hygiene and staying safe, to coping with home working and schooling. If your own unique situation has led you to develop some specialist knowledge or strategies, this is an ideal place to share them.

Innocentive’ is yet another crowdsourcing portal that has come up with a number of initiatives aimed at gathering data on the best way to fight the virus. Information is currently being collected to make freely-available databases of solutions and services that have emerged in response to coronavirus around the world, and to highlight areas where more investigation is needed into the impact of the virus.  These projects and initiatives would not have been possible during previous pandemics and epidemics – simply because the infrastructure to collect and process data was not there.  There were not as many ways to encourage people to become involved. A challenge after this pandemic is over, will be to maintain the momentum to develop new solutions that will hopefully stop anything like this from happening in the first place.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

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Telefónica and Allianz partnership, Spanish media reports

Inside Telecom Staff

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Telefónica and Allianz partnership

Spanish telecom giant Telefonica is aiming to strike a partnership with the private equity branch of German insurance company Allianz that would see them enter a joint fiber optic venture worth around €5bn (£4.5bn, $5.8bn).

According to a report by Spanish publication Expansion, the joint venture, half-owned by each, will look to invest in fiber optic network infrastructure in remote areas and regions within Germany.

Should this deal come to fruition, it’ll aim at building a network covering up to two million homes with fiber connectivity in small cities, the newspaper said while citing unidentified sources.

This is the second time a deal between the operator, which runs one of Germany’s biggest mobile operators, and the German insurer comes to light in recent weeks; Reuters had earlier reported that Telefonica was in late stages of negotiating a deal with banks and an unidentified investor to build the infrastructure.

Both companies have refused to comment on the venture as of yet.

Earlier in June, Telefonica Deutschland announced that it will commence its multi-million Euro efforts of constructing its 5G core mobile network in Germany using equipment by Swedish telco Ericsson and data residing on AWS serves in Germany, through AWS Outposts.

According to the company, the core network will integrate full cloud compatibility, which would allow it to handle increasing traffic and data volumes.

Should this venture become a reality, it would expand Telefónica’s footprint in Germany at a time when its competitors are venturing into service beyond traditional mobile.

Back in September, Deutsche Telekom launched an upgraded fixed-mobile tariff, as part of a wider push around convergence. Vodafone Germany, meanwhile, has also made a major push using cable assets it acquired in the country from Liberty Global in 2019.

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IoT sector prospers amid Covid-19 pandemic

Yehia El Amine

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IoT

The Covid-19 pandemic has left no stone unturned, heavily impacting most industries into forced slowdowns, projects on pause and has forced companies far and wide to reconsider their practices and business models moving forward.

However, the tech sector, specifically related to the Internet of Things (IoT), has massively increased in value and development. Businesses across the board are looking to structure their business models with an IoT base.

“Almost 84 percent of IoT adopters found that the technology was key to maintaining business continuity during the pandemic,” Vodafone’s 2020 IoT Spotlight research said, adding that, “the majority of adopters now viewed the integration of IoT devices with workers as a higher priority, and 73 percent agreed that the pandemic would accelerate their adoption plans.”

Closing the digital gap

Apart from the terrible reality of what the virus brings, its outbreak has accelerated companies’ digital migration to stay competitive, while looking for innovative applications and software to avoid being drowned in a sea of restrictions and precautions caused by the virus.

According to a report by McKinsey, before the COVID-19 outbreak, 92 percent of companies had been considering digital transformation of their business models, but the crisis revealed how vulnerable most companies are and how urgently they require transformation.

“COVID-19 crisis is likely to significantly accelerate the shift to digital and fundamentally shake up the business landscape,” the report added. 

According to Vodafone’s findings, enterprises consider IoT to be an essential element for being future-ready that could enable much smoother and cost-effective strategies; so much so that 73 percent of firms said that organizations that failed to embrace IoT will have fallen behind within five years.

“It’s giving companies an opportunity to re-design their operations and future-proof their business model. This research proves IoT is an essential technology for businesses that want to be resilient, more flexible and quicker to adapt and react to change,” said Erik Brenneis, IoT Director at Vodafone Business.

And rightly so, since 87 percent of decision makers surveyed by Vodafone agreed their core business strategy has changed for the better as a result of adopting IoT; in parallel, 95 percent said that they have achieved ROI, and 55 percent of adopters have seen operating costs decrease by an average of 21 percent.

IoT leading the line

While the pandemic has pushed employers to enact work-from-home policies, IoT was at the forefront of it, used to overcome social isolation and enable their businesses to stay afloat.

“[Due to the pandemic] the IoT global market is expected to increase from $150 billion to $243 billion by 2021, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.7 percent,” another report by MarketsandMarkets stated.

The technology is not only key for future strategies, but IoT deployments have been reported to boost employee productivity, while improving customer experience by more than twofold. 

“IoT has grown up. It’s no longer just about increasing return on investment or providing cost savings to businesses – it’s about changing the way they think and operate,” Brenneis added. 

What IoT brings to the table

  1. Cost reduction: During an outbreak, demand and slow production take the biggest hit, which is why IoT sensors synced with analytics allow companies to efficiently operate remotely, without hindering production or shipping.
  2. Automation: This year has showed that the process of automation needs an upgrade; IoT has an important role to play here, since it can streamline automation and shipping areas of a business, while allowing it to become more competitive and efficient during a crisis. 
  3. Remote working: Covid-19 posed a challenge toward decision makers with regards to changing needs of their staff, customers, suppliers and the like, all while complying with government restrictions. The integration of IoT software, tools, and applications have opened up a whole new working system, and this could prove valuable to people with certain disabilities to access the job market. 

While, from a business perspective, the pandemic has negatively affected most major industries, the tech sector has taken the opportunity to accelerate its projects and aspirations. 

Whether it concerns accelerating 5G rollout, or developments in the IoT sphere, the results of this year will lay the cornerstone for tech to aid companies not only to keep functioning, but also succeed in this time of uncertainty.

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Free WIFI in Madagascar to boost digital inclusion

Karim Hussami

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In order to provide internet coverage for Africa’s young population by 2030, the telecoms industry, governments, and economic institutions will need to invest over $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report by the Working Group on Broadband for All

Accessibility is an essential first step in bridging the digital divide. 

According to Datareportal, Madagascar’s number of internet users increased by 11% between 2019 and 2020. In January 2020, the total number of internet users reached 3.84 million which accounts for 14% of the population. 

Although internet is available through complimentary WIFI in hotels, restaurants and cafes in major towns and cities, internet is still not accessible to those living in more remote locations, which is why plans to launch free WIFI hotspots started last June, according to Madagascar’s Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Digital development Andriamanohisoa Ramaherijaona.

Approximately fifty terminals should be operational across Madagascar by the end of the year with more in the pipeline; 130 terminals are expected by 2023.

Citizens who are currently at the margins of the digital arena, will get free access to wireless internet, in 22 regions of the country. Vatovavy-Fitovinany, in the province of Fianarantsoa in south-central Madagascar, will be the first to get access to the new WIFI hotspots. 

The government-led digitization process aims to empower communities and foster growth in eCommerce, online learning and digital health. 

Other countries in Africa prioritizing internet connectivity is Nigeria, where Fiam WiFi is rolling out public hotspots to underserved communities in Lagos. While in South Africa, Project Isizwe, an award-winning, non-profit organization, is bringing free public WiFi access to low-income communities across South Africa.

“In those regions, the project has succeeded in improving access by residents to services that have transformed their day-to-day life, thus bridging the digital divide not only between the different regions of Madagascar, but also between urban and rural populations, and between disadvantaged groups and others,” Coralie Gevers, World Bank Country Manager in Madagascar said. “This project has therefore contributed to democratizing mobile telephony and the Internet in Madagascar, and has without a doubt had an impact on the economy.”

Digitization will also boost financial inclusion; WiFi connection made available in remote parts of the country will help unbanked citizens access online payment platforms. Ultimately, the move will support community development pre- and post-pandemic. 

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