Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt on Women in Tech

During a public talk held recently in Washington DC, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, said that the impression that the tech industry advances minorities and women is because the hidden biases that drive white male behavior are difficult to hide in the tech industry.

IMG_0117

Continue reading

Google Glass: Computer in your Eye

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | March 13, 2014

My first encounter with Google Glass came on a Thursday in March when I responded to a call for a demonstration of the wearable device at the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library. Yitzy Paul, the tech sherpa, wore the glass beaming and explaining everything that he was doing on a large television screen.

IMG_0161

“I think it’s pretty great. It’s a really interesting device. It puts the computer at your face which is something that you don’t usually have. It helps with ease of use. When I’m in a meeting it’s really inappropriate to look down at your phone when you get an email et cetera but its perfectly fine when its in your line of sight,” he said.

Continue reading

Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, On Shared Leadership

By Chief K.Masimba | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 28, 2014

Leadership is highly rated in population imagination and typified through individuals that supposedly have amazing skills. But, according to Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, an appropriate leadership model is one that regards leadership as a shared effort.

He said that the idea of an omnipotent, brilliant single leader and decision maker is a wonderful myth.

Image
Continue reading

Google+ Google’s Golden Goose

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 17, 2014

Google Plus, the social networking and identity service operated by Google Inc, pales in significance compared to Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter but there’s more to it than meets the eye – all in favor of Google. Through Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus /ˈɡɡəl plʌs/) which has approximately 540 million monthly active users, Google harvests critical information about users’ online behavior.

google_plus_bloggiks

According to the New York Times, though Google+, which has 29 million unique monthly users on its website and 41 million on smartphones,  is not much of a competitor to Facebook, the platform is central to Google’s future because it provides a way to understand users’ digital lives. It’s a collection basket of user data, so to speak. Continue reading

A Question of Social Media Etiquette

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | January 01, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

Many a time I find myself thoroughly outraged by social media. My blood boils. I cringe, gritting my teeth. My frustration is not at the technology itself but the way some users post half-formed, uninformed, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, narcissistic, splenetic comments. Even if you try to comment, what I have realized is that many of these postings have little engagement value or quickly degenerate into rants.

To save myself, I breathe in and out – slowly. Thank God, social media’s ephemerality helps to calm my nerves.  I don’t mean to be censorious. It’s just that I find myself scouring the social web for discussions of value, spending precious amounts of time, to only come up with zilch. As a firm believer in freedom of expression, I am aware of the deep and sweeping vista of opportunity to free expression opened up by social media.

In fact, the power of social media has been evident in dislodging dictatorships and giving goose bumps to those cloistered in corridors of power. With social media information is moving at a faster pace making the world flatter. It’s a great connector. It has helped me to connect with friends and relatives, some of whom had fallen by the wayside.

Maybe social media’s global capacity to connect everyone is also its source of banality. As New York Times’ columnist, Frank Bruni, puts it, “it feels at times as if contemplation has given way to expectoration with speed overtaking sense and nuance exiting the equation.” He even suggests reading fiction as a counter to the rit-tat-tat nature of social media conversations.

Lack of civility and decorum in many social media conversations is certainly undermining the medium’s value as a connector, town crier or public square. Instead of serving the common good, social media has fast become a poster for a rapid succession of inconsequential conversations, escapism, pandering to the base and vulgar. At  worst, it provides a false sense of participation – a voyeuristic fetish – in causes that more often than not need foot soldiering.

Even the role of social media in the Arab spring was not merely in relentless postings and rants but in people taking to the streets to fight for a new political order, risking life and limb. Everything happens too quickly on social media, maybe a tad too quick for sensibility which is essential for engagement.

As long as its used a megaphone for self-centeredness, rants and diatribes, social media’s full potential will never see the light of day. That is why its important to have a sense of decorum next time you make a posting social media. A bit of etiquette on your part can help to build a social media universe that advances humanity.

Why the Internet Matters

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | January 01, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

With an estimated 2 billion people now connected to the internet, and the number growing by 200 million each, the internet is changing everything from business, politics, education, communication to how we find love and everything else in between.

By 2016, there will be 3 billion Internet users globally – almost half of the world’s population, according to Boston Consulting Group, adding that the internet economy will reach $4,2 trillion in the G20 economies.

Fully capitalizing the potential of the internet is increasingly a must for individuals and governments around the world. The good news is the internet is still evolving with prospects for greater power and reach.

In two decades, the internet has changed the way we live, the way we work, the way we socialize and meet, and the way our countries development and grow, according to McKinsey & Company, a global research firm.

The medium has opened up new and unprecedented opportunities to the world, improving the instant exchange of ideas, facilitating communication and closing the gap between inspiration and action when it comes to launching things. It is also opening up access to information in a way never seen in human history, in the process, making the world flatter.

It’s global capability to connect anyone with anything is literally and figuratively redefining modern lives and livelihoods.

It facilitates new ideas to show up that no-one would have ever thought of thereby giving birth to new products and services that have a potential to makes our lives easier and the world a better place. In a word, the internet is changing everything.

“The Internet embraces all of us: businesses, individuals, governments and entrepreneurs. The Web has made possible new models of business models and entrepreneurship but has also led to radical innovations for accessing, using, and delivering goods and services for everyone. It has transformed industries and governments through innovative approaches and changed how users engage the world,” states McKinsey and Company in a report titled, “Internet matters: The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs and prosperity.”  

A study of 13 countries that account for 70 per cent of the global GDP revealed that the internet accounts for an average of 3.4 per cent of the GDP. In Africa alone, the upsurge in internet usage could add could add $300bn a year to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, according to McKinsey and Company.

“The leapfrogging effects of the Internet make it the most interesting development on the African continent since the wide-scale adoption of mobile phones,” says Armando Cabral, a Director at McKinsey & Company.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the internet has become an essential tool for creating an environment that nurtures the technological and service innovation, and triggering positive change in business processes as well as in society as a whole.

Twitter.com Stock Seen As Overrated

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | December 30 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

The 140 character-limit micro-blogging platform, Twitter, which launched on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to much aplomb in November has been in the news headlines recently for being overrated with its rise seen as largely a product of speculation.

There are fears among analysts that the company’s shares, currently trading at $60.27, are overpriced. Twitter’s stock has been on an upward trend ever since it went public on November 6 at $26, reaching a high of $74 before taking a huge shed.

“At $45 billion, the company may have the highest market value of any firm that isn’t generating any earnings since the dotcom bubble of 1999-2000,” New York Times quoted Barron’s, an investment advisory publication.

It is estimated that are 230 million active users on Twitter who post an average of 500 million Tweets every day but questions abound over its rating ahead of other tech companies with more robust models.

“Twitter, which has triple-digit revenue growth but no profits is trading at a much higher valuation than proven Internet powerhouses like Facebook and Google. The company has released no major news or financial information since its initial public offering that would shape invest or perceptions about the company,” New York Times reported.

Because Twitter is mobile friendly, there are expectations that it will benefit “from the shift of the Internet use to mobile devices and the migration of television advertising budgets to the Internet.” There is expectation that Twitter’s best days are still ahead; it is regarded as a potential advertising behemoth.

Created in 2006, Twitter is a global real-time communications platform with 400 million monthly visitors to twitter.com.  With that number of users and growing daily, Twitter is sitting on a goldmine, that is, if it can deliver advertising in a way that does not irk its huge user base.

Related articles

How to Be A Social Media Superstar in 2014

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | December 30, 2013

Social media is not going away anytime soon whether you like it or not. It’s now the staple food of the Net, multiplying on a daily basis. While it’s virtually impossible to jump on every social media junket out there fact is you can ignore the phenomenon at your own peril especially if you’re in trying to reach huge volumes of people at the lowest cost possible.

The caveat though is with social media platforms getting clogged by the day, it’s becoming harder to be noticed or get your voice heard. To rise above the fray requires astuteness, creativity, hard work, playfulness, consistency and user sensitivity.

Ultimately, the content you produce is the currency that will define your success in the social media universe. Content is the lynchpin to cut through the noise. To help with framing your content, remember the principle of Five Ws and one H. But you need to add a B. to that, that is, short for budget.

That content needs to be on target and to the point. It does not magically come out of thin air, you need budget for it and devote time to producing it. Attention spans are short-lived in the social media space. Only highly-engaging, interesting, funny, thought-provoking content will attract audiences and provoke interaction with a brand, issue or cause. But it’s always to say it. Often times, sharing on social media is self-serving; after all, social media platforms tend to promote narcissism.

If you want to get more value out of the medium especially for marketing or promoting a cause, you’ll have to be adopt a more nuanced approach. You’ve to cut all the narcissistic crap and put your audience first: informative, engaging, and shareable content that is relevant to a user’s location will be a winner. Understanding user location will drive greater ROI in social media efforts. That’s why it’s important for your content to speak directly to a specific target audience.

“Understanding customers’ location patterns will help companies better predict the behavior of their users, thus a chance to market to them in the right place at the right time,” says Kevin Alansky, CMO at SocialRadar.

Micro videos have great engagement power if executed properly. People like video. But it has to tell a good story. Other visual tools such as images and infographics have potential to increase engagement.

Because of the ephemeral nature of social media, it’s important to adopt a constant and consistent strategy. This will help to build rapport with target audiences. Otherwise you risk becoming a victim of out of sight, out of mind. In the social media world, for you to matter, you’ve to keep showing up.  Real engagement takes time and attention on a daily basis. Most important, don’t forget to measure and report on your efforts: it’s what will tell you whether your are succeeding or not.

Security Versus Privacy in Tech Age

By Masimba Biriwasha | OpEd | December 29, 2013

When you make a telephone call, just remember you’re not alone. It’s not really a surprise, when you’re on a telephone network, you can never be sure who is listening in.

In the US, there is a growing storm over revelations that the government harvests information about every telephone call to, from or within the country. That information otherwise known as “metadata”, includes the phone numbers involved, when the calls were made and how long they lasted.

It’s a pretty daunting and amazingly breathtaking task at best. At worst, it invokes images of Orwellian prying. Think, Big Brother is watching you.

The rationale is to prevent acts of terrorism, either in the US or somewhere else in the world. By sifting through huge troves of telephony metadata, patterns can emerge and suspects hunted down or preventive actions put in place, so the argument goes.

In the era of big data, it is becoming increasingly difficult where to draw the lines between personal privacy and security. US’ National Security Agency’s collection of huge troves of telephony metadata in the name of security revealed by the agency’s estranged contractor Edward Snowden hits at the nerve of how much government snooping ought to be in line with civil liberty, in this case, the right to privacy.

While the idea of maintaining security is noble, what is frightening is the “unknown unknowns” which the data can be used for. The bulk storage of telephone records by the government is antithetical to privacy, and without privacy there can be no democracy.

As the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, succinctly put it: “Without the right of privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and so there is no actual democracy.”

The ultimate challenge is not so much that the US government should not collect information but how to define the parameters of how this is done. Is it necessary for government to engage in what New York Times refers to as ” … a daily, indiscriminate sweep of hundred of millions of phone records?” Or should that data be kept by private providers or by a private third party and only accessed if there is a court order.

At the least, there is a debate about this in the US but one shudders to think what some pariah states with call-log technologies can do to silence opponents and further aggrandize their powerbases all in the name of maintaining security.

Whatever the case, it is clear that advances in technology – instead of furthering progress – have a potential to erode human freedoms that we have for long taken for granted.

Africa’s Smartphone Future

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобильных телефонов (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Editor At Large | December 27, 2013

 Africa’s future as things look will undoubtedly unravel on the screens of smartphones, mobile phones built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability and connectivity.

In the not so distant future, the smartphone’s screen will play a greater role in the trajectory of the continent. Though feature phones largely dominate the market, the continent is increasingly becoming ripe for a disruption. Feature phones contain a fixed set of functions beyond voice calling and text messaging; they may offer Web browsing and e-mail, but they generally cannot download apps from an online marketplace.

Increased connectivity and a drop in the price of smartphones is making it possible to build a content ecosystem on mobile phones that has potential to radically reshape the way African do things from commerce, health, education and – even finding love. Whoever will succeed on the African market has to think of how to deliver a smart ecosystem to complement devices.

While traditional mobile phone giants – think Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry – have a grip on the market – whoever will deliver a mobile specifically designed to address Africa’s unique challenges will emerge the winner.

According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to approximately 650  million mobile phone subscribers, a number that surpasses the United States  and  European Union, and represents an explosion of new communication technologies  that are being tailored to the developing world.

Mobile phone adoption on the continent from 2000 to 2010 accelerated at an  impressive 30 per cent compound annual growth rate powered by affordable feature phones sold at mass market price points.

While just 16 percent of the continent’s one billion people are online, that  picture is changing rapidly.  According to International Data Corp (IDC), a  tech  research group, smartphones account for 18 percent of all mobile phones in Africa.

The continent’s smartphone market is expected to double in the next four years and device manufacturers who dominated the narrative over the past decade such as Nokia are making big bets on the continent’s smartphone future.

Falling wireless data prices, the extension of high-speed networks and a burgeoning middle class are driving a sharp rise in smartphone use.

According to IDC, 52 percent of all smartphones sold on the continent in the second quarter of 2013 were Samsung phones and the company  has quickly ascended in a short period of time to become Africa’s smartphone leader.

As mobile broadband infrastructure continues to develop and as the cost of  smartphones and other technologies continues to fall, new technologies will have an even  greater economic and social impact on the lives of Africans.

A key challenge will be developing applications that improve and simplify the daily lives of Africans. As smartphone penetration grows, more people will increasingly using their mobile devices to manage their lives on a daily basis – anytime, anywhere. The good news is that the marketplace is open (well, not exactly, you’d still need to have the skills and knowledge) and whoever is creative enough to satisfy needs will emerge the winner.

The mobile revolution is taking off. And a lot of work needs to be done to determine what services Africans prefer on their smartphones and that could be via an app, SMS text or mobile browser. In a word, it’s open game. But Africa’s smartphone is coming, and coming fast.