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Vivatech Opens in Paris with Focus on African Startups

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Vivatech, a major international event for innovation and digital technology, has just inaugurated its sixth edition in Paris.

More than 400 startups from around the world have gathered to present their latest innovations.

The Africa Tech Awards were launched this year by Vivatech in collaboration with the IFC. An effort that recognizes three of Africa’s most creative firms.

Africa is receiving more and more attention as a result of the global warming crisis. Karen Bosman, strategic advisor to Wesgro, the official tourism, commerce, and investment development agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape region of South Africa, sees this as a major growth opportunity for the continent.

“It has been the main driver of foreign direct investment over the past ten years. Green tech has attracted the most foreign investment and it’s only just begun.
We are heading towards a world of green hydrogen and I think if Africa is able to harness it, it has everything to gain and it is an incredible opportunity”, said the advisor.

When it comes to energy transition, digital innovation comes at a price.
So, how are we going to pay for it?

According to Maurice Lévy, head of Publicis Groupe and co-founder of Vivatech, Africans must take control of their own destiny.

“We need billionaires and the powerful in Africa to start investing in African startups. It’s up to them to do the job. And I call on them to do so! It’s in Africa’s interest, it’s in startups’ interest and it’s in their own interest”, concluded Lévy.

The location of the infrastructure that stores and processes millions of gigabytes of data is a major issue in the age of the “cloud” and “nearly everything” digital.

The subject of digital sovereignty has been raised by some countries. Countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has just issued a request for proposals for the development of its own data center.

“Creating data is one thing, but being in control of this data is another,” explains Eberand Kolongele, DRC’s digital minister. “And to be in control of this data today, you need to have infrastructures that can ensure the storage but also the sharing of this data. I think that our African countries, in particular the DRC, have taken the measure to ensure this digital sovereignty by setting up its own infrastructures which are housed on its soil, on its territory and which are controlled by its own  engineers”.

In 2021, investments in African startups were approximately $5 billion, more than double what they were in 2020.

The trend is unlikely to slow down, as African tech has already raised over a billion dollars by 2022.

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Instagram Testing New Tool for Age Verification

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According to parent company Meta, Instagram is developing a new feature to stop minors from impersonating adults. Instagram will request identification if a user whose account indicates they are under 18 tries to manually change their date of birth on the platform.

A valid ID or driver’s license, “social vouching,” in which three adult users are asked to verify the age, or a video selfie are the three methods that people can demonstrate their age.

With social vouching, the three adult users must answer to the request within three days and cannot be vouching at the same time for anybody else. Instagram sends a video selfie to Yoti, a business whose technology can determine someone’s age based on their facial traits. Instagram explains how to take the video and claims that the selfies are erased once the verification process is over.

Younger users who have already informed Instagram that they are adults will not be caught by its new tool. Although Meta’s blog post does not specifically mention it, the new tool will be used to verify that users of the app are at least 13 years old in order to join up. 

Over the past year, Instagram has been the subject of inquiries questioning the app’s influence on teenagers. Attorneys general from a number of jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, Florida, and California, started scrutinizing Meta, claiming the firm was aware that Instagram could be harmful to children’s physical and emotional health. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal ran a series based in part on hacked papers, one of which claimed that Facebook was aware of Instagram’s “toxic” effects on teen girls’ body image and mental health.

Meta disputed the claims made by the states and added that the Journal had incorrectly described the leaked documents. The business said that some internal studies had revealed that using Instagram had improved some youngsters’ perceptions of their bodies.

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Alexa Could One Day Speak in Your Dead Loved One’s Voice

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One day, Amazon Alexa might be able to speak to you in the voices of departed loved ones. At Amazon’s re:MARS conference on Wednesday, the new voice assistant feature was noted as a method to “make memories last.”

Alexa would be able to mimic a person’s voice when speaking after less than a minute of listening to that person’s speech. According to Sky News, a child in a video of the feature asked Alexa to read them a story, and she agreed before changing her voice.

It’s unclear how far along the feature is in development or when Alexa voice assistants might start receiving it. We might not see this functionality any time soon because the re:MARS (for machine learning, automation, robots, and space) event highlights what Amazon is doing in ambient computing, including developments in Alexa.

The capacity to replicate a voice pattern precisely raises security concerns as well, but we’ll reserve judgment until we know how well Alexa can imitate a voice after only hearing it briefly. We’ll also watch how the function is accepted; even though it appears to require consent from users, there are ethical concerns over the rights of the deceased’s voice and how long they should be preserved.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the voice-imitating tool isn’t specifically designed for family members who have passed away. It is based on recent developments in text-to-speech technology, which are detailed in an Amazon white paper from this year. The team applied a voice filter to produce high-quality voice with much less data than was required when hours-long voice recordings in a professional studio were used to create the voice files.

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Twitter Tests Long-Form Notes That Let People Go Beyond the Character Limit

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Twitter said on Wednesday that it is testing Notes, a tool similar to a blog post that lets users publish longer pieces of writing on the social network.

By eliminating the need to use the Twitter thread and divide their views across numerous tweets, the functionality makes it simpler for people to publish long-form work. The content of notes can also contain images, videos, tweets, or GIFs.

“As the platform for writers, it’s clear that Twitter is essential — from the proximity to an engaged audience, to the conversation around a writer’s work, to the community of readers (and, often, cheerleaders) that Twitter provides, to the critical role it plays in the livelihoods and careers of writers, on and off Twitter,” Twitter’s editorial director, Rembert Browne, said in a Note on the platform.

Both on and off Twitter, users can read Notes, and you can see all of a person’s Notes on the new tab on their profile. According to Twitter, the Notes test is being conducted by a small number of writers in the US, Canada, UK, and Ghana. When Notes might be made more readily available is not yet known by the company.

A long-requested feature from anyone who has ever made a typo in a tweet, an edit button was finally being tested by Twitter in April. The website has now launched Twitter Blue, a paid subscription service that enables users to edit tweets, submit longer videos, and read news without advertisements.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is in the middle of a proposed $44 billion acquisition of the platform. Musk has said he wants to quash bots on the platform and get 1 billion users on Twitter.

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