Tanzanian firm moved money before SVB collapsed
African start-ups are waiting to see what happens after the collapse of the US-based Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).
The bank, which specialised in lending to technology companies, was shut down by regulators who seized its assets on Friday.
It came after SVB was scrambling to raise money to plug a loss from the sale of assets affected by higher interest rates.
The bank was a partner with start-up firm Y Combinator, which reportedly has more than 80 African start-ups in its portfolio.
Y-Combinator’s president Garry Tan tweeted: “30% of YC companies exposed through SVB can’t make payroll in the next 30 days.”
Founder of Tanzania fintech NALA, Benjamin Fernandes, told BBC Focus on Africa radio that they had banked with SVB.
“I got a call from one of our investors saying we should move the money as this bank will collapse. We immediately wired the money to another bank account that we work with.”
“I don’t think as many African start-ups were affected compared to what we initially thought because not as many start-ups bank with SVB. Having an African start-up and getting a US bank account is very tough,” he said BBC
YouTube reinstates Donald Trump’s channel
YouTube has reinstated Donald Trump’s account following a two-year suspension from the video-sharing platform.
The move follows similar decisions taken by Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and Elon Musk-owned Twitter.
The former US president was banned from posting YouTube videos in January 2021, with YouTube saying at the time that his channel had broken its rules over the incitement of violence.
But his account is now back online, according to YouTube’s press account.
“Starting today, the Donald J. Trump channel is no longer restricted and can upload new content,” Google-owned YouTube wrote on Twitter.
“We carefully evaluated the continued risk of real-world violence, while balancing the chance for voters to hear equally from major national candidates in the run-up to an election.
“This channel will continue to be subject to our policies, just like any other channel on YouTube.”
YouTube previously banned Mr Trump from posting videos on its platform days after his supporters stormed the US Capitol in Washington DC, on 6 January 2021. BBC
ChatGPT-style tech brought to Microsoft 365
The technology behind the world’s most talked about artificial intelligence (AI) system, ChatGPT, is being added to its most ubiquitous work software, Microsoft 365.
Microsoft is calling the system Copilot and says it will be embedded into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
Microsoft boss Satya Nadella said it would “fundamentally change the way we work.”
However, the firm admitted Copilot would sometimes make mistakes.
The functions of Copilot include:
- Summarising the key discussion points of a conversation held on meeting software, Teams, and providing recaps for someone who joins late or misses the whole event
- Creating PowerPoint presentations, including images, from prompts
- Drafting emails
- Analysing long email threads and documents
- Creating summaries and graphs of data on Excel spreadsheets
Chat GPT has captured the world’s attention with its ability to quickly provide human-like responses to questions, even very complicated or abstract ones.
However, those replies are sometimes inaccurate or provide completely invented information. BBC
Chinese researchers develop graphene-based intelligent, wearable artificial throat
Chinese researchers have devised a graphene-based intelligent, wearable artificial throat (AT), sensitive to human speech and vocalisation-related motions.The AT’s perception of the mixed modalities of acoustic signals and mechanical motions enables it to acquire signals with a low fundamental frequency while remaining noise resistant.
The study showed that the mixed-modality AT could detect base speech elements (phonemes, tones, and words) with an average accuracy of 99 percent.
It can recognise common words vaguely spoken by a patient with laryngectomy with an accuracy of over 90 percent through an ensemble AI model. The content was synthesised into speech and played on the AT to rehabilitate the patient for vocalisation. The research team added there is still ample room for optimization, such as sound quality, volume, and voice diversity. The study, conducted by researchers from Tsinghua University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, was published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence. Xinhua
TikTok: UK ministers banned from using Chinese-owned app on government phones
British government ministers have been banned from using Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on their work phones and devices on security grounds.
The government fears sensitive data held on official phones could be accessed by the Chinese government. Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden said the ban was a “precautionary” move but would come into effect immediately.
TikTok has strongly denied allegations that it hands users’ data to the Chinese government.
Theo Bertram, the app’s vice-president of government relations and public policy in Europe, told the BBC it believed the decision was based on “more on geopolitics than anything else”.
“We asked to be judged not on the fears that people have, but on the facts,” he added.
The Chinese embassy in London said the move was motivated by politics “rather than facts” and would “undermine the confidence of the international community in the UK’s business environment”.
Mr Dowden said he would not advise the public against using TikTok, but they should always “consider each social media platform’s data policies before downloading and using them”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been under pressure from senior MPs to follow the US and the European Union in barring the video-sharing app from official government devices.
But government departments – and individual ministers – have embraced TikTok as a way of getting their message out to younger people. Use of the app has exploded in recent years, with 3.5 billion downloads worldwide. BBC
Facebook owner to cut 10,000 staff
Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs. It will be the second wave of mass redundancies from the tech giant, which laid off 11,000 employees last November.
Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the cuts – part of a “year of efficiency” – would be “tough”. In addition to the 10,000 jobs cut, 5,000 vacancies at the firm will be left unfilled, he told staff.
In a memo, Mr Zuckerberg told employees he believed the company had suffered “a humbling wake-up call” in 2022 when it experienced a dramatic slowdown in revenue.
Meta previously announced that in the three months to December 2022, earnings were down 4% year-on-year – though it still managed to make a profit of more than $23bn over the course of 2022.
Mr Zuckerberg cited higher interest rates in the US, global geopolitical instability and increased regulation as some of the factors affecting Meta, and contributing to the slowdown.
“I think we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that this new economic reality will continue for many years,” he said.
The latest job cuts come as companies, including Google and Amazon, have been grappling with how to balance cost-cutting measures with the need to remain competitive.
At the start of this year, Amazon announced it planned to close more than 18,000 jobs because of “the uncertain economy” and rapid hiring during the pandemic, while Google’s parent company Alphabet made 12,000 cuts.
According to layoffs.fyi, which tracks job losses in the tech sector, there have been more than 128,000 job cuts in the tech industry so far in 2023. BBC
TikTok says US threatens ban if China stake not sold
The US government says TikTok should be sold or else face a possible ban in the country. The video-sharing app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is accused of posing a national security risk through data gathered from millions of users.
A request for a change in ownership, first reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was confirmed to BBC News by TikTok. The company said a forced sale would not change its data flows or access.
The White House has not yet responded to a BBC News request for comment. For years American officials have raised concerns that data from the popular app could fall into the hands of the Chinese government.
According to the WSJ, US President Joe Biden’s administration wants ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok to create a clear break from China. The newspaper said the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), which oversees national security risks, unanimously recommended ByteDance divest from TikTok. A spokesperson for TikTok said it did not dispute the WSJ’s reporting and confirmed it had been contacted by CFIUS.
However, the spokesperson said the reporting was overstated and it was not clear what “divestiture” meant in practice.
“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access,” the spokesperson said. BBC
Baidu wins permit to offer driverless robotaxi service in Beijing city
Chinese search engine giant Baidu (9888.HK), said on Friday it had won a permit to provide a fully driverless ride-hailing service in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
With the permit, Baidu’s Apollo service will deploy 10 fully autonomous vehicles in a technology park developed by the government of Beijing, it said in a statement.
The permit marks a step forward from December, when Baidu said it had been granted a license to test the service. Baidu will now operate driverless robotaxi services in three Chinese cities including Wuhan and Chongqing.
The Beijing-headquartered company, which generates most of its revenue from its internet search engine, has been focused on self-driving technologies over the past five years as it looks to diversify. Reuters
New Zealand to ban TikTok on devices linked to parliament, cites security concerns
New Zealand said on Friday it would ban TikTok on devices with access to the country’s parliamentary network due to cybersecurity concerns, becoming the latest nation to limit the use of the video-sharing app on government-related devices.
Concerns have mounted globally about the potential for the Chinese government to access users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.
The depth of those concerns was underscored this week when the Biden administration demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes or the app could face a U.S. ban.
In New Zealand, TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to parliament’s network by the end of March.
Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said in an email to Reuters that the decision was taken after advice from cybersecurity experts and discussions within government and with other countries. Reuters
Meta launches subscription service in US
Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) on Friday launched its subscription service in the U.S., which would allow Facebook and Instagram users pay for verification in the same vein as Elon Musk-owned Twitter.
The Meta Verified service will give users a blue badge after they verify their accounts using a government ID and will cost $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 a month on Apple’s iOS system and Google-owned Android, Meta said in a statement.
The service, which Meta said it was testing in February, follows in the footsteps of Snap Inc-owned (SNAP.N) Snapchat as well as messaging app Telegram and marks the latest effort by a social media company to diversify its revenue away from advertising.
After a $44 billion buyout by Musk last year, Twitter had rolled out its Blue subscription service which lets people pay for the blue check mark previously limited to verified accounts of politicians, journalists and other public figures.
The initial launch of Twitter Blue in November had led to a surge in users impersonating celebrities and brands on the platform, which prompted the company to halt the service and reintroduce it with different colored checks for individuals, companies and governments. Reuters