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Nigeria’s #StopRobbingUs campaign could spur tech advocacy group, CEOs say

Nigeria’s #StopRobbingUs campaign to curb police harassment of techies could grow into a formal lobbying group for the country’s tech sector, according to founders Bosun Tijani and Jason Njoku.

Tijani, the CEO of Lagos based innovation center CcHub and now Kenya’s iHub, helped spearhead the movement last month in response to detainment and extortion of tech workers by local authorities.

He joined Njoku — CEO of Nollywood VOD venture IROKO — and 29 other Nigerians to release a statement condemning police abuse of the country’s tech workers.

The language called for “an end to the common practice where Nigerian police stop young people with laptops and unlawfully arrest, attack or, in extreme circumstances, kidnap them, forcing them to withdraw funds from their bank accounts in order to regain their freedom.”

The campaign coined the #StopRobbingUs hashtag as a digital rallying point.

The statement went on to say the #StopRobbingUs movement would “consider a Class Action Lawsuit on police brutality.”

Energy for the campaign reached critical mass after Toni Astro, a Lagos-based software engineer, was reportedly beaten, arrested, detained and then extorted out of money by Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] the last week of September. He tweeted about the ordeal.

Stoprobbingus Nigeria

On the impetus for forming #StopRobbingUs, “We just got tired of [the harassment]. I personally got tired of it, which is why I spoke out and with other people decided to take action,” Tijani told TechCrunch on a call.

He described the shakedown of techies as the best and worst of Nigeria colliding, when it comes to shifting perceptions and stereotypes of the country.

“They’re taking one of the most positive things that’s happening on the continent, but also Nigeria in the last 10 years, and turning it into self-destruction,” Tijani said of the law enforcement maltreatment of tech sector workers.

“It’s a gross abuse of police stop and search…The people that are supposed to protect use are ultimately harassing us and robbing us,” iRoko CEO Jason Njoku said of the profiling and extortion of young Nigerians with laptops and smartphones.

He characterized the theft of laptops as taking away the means for techies to earn a living.

“A lot of people can work around not having a laptop, but if you’re a developer, how do you code without a laptop,” he said.

Njoku, Tijani and members of #StopRobbingUs have been talking to senior members of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s Enabling Business Environment task force and the Governor of Lagos State — the geographic district in Nigeria where much of the country’s tech activity takes place.

“We’re looking to set up some kind of fund, which does advocacy and…also lines up lawsuits…to force the issue in a more formal way,” said Njoku.

“It’s also an education thing. We’re reaching out to the powers that be, to engage and educate them to find some kind of solution to this.”

Both Njoku and Tijani see the #StopRobbingUs movement as a forerunner to an innovation industry advocacy group in Nigeria to speak to the broader needs of the country’s tech community.

The West African country is home to the continent’s largest economy and largest population of 200 million.

In addition to still being known for large-scale and petty corruption, Nigeria has made strides in improving infrastructure and governance and has one of Africa’s strongest tech scenes.

The country is now a focal point for VC, startup formation, and the entry of big global tech companies in Africa.

“I still see a bright future for fintech and internet companies in Nigeria. I think it makes sense for use to be much more vocal on the things that may or may not make sense to us. Technology, media, and entertainment right now is the hope for a lot of young people in this country,” Njoku said.

He added his company, IROKO, and startups he’s invested in account for roughly 1000 jobs.

“We’ll get to the point where tech will become one of the biggest drivers of employment in this country,” Njoku said.  “It makes sense for us to demand the respect and recognition from government to…do the right thing to give us that fertile ground to keep building these companies.”

CcHub’s Bosun Tijani is in accord with Njoku on the necessity of an tech industry advocacy group in Nigeria.

“We do need a voice at the table, a voice that can contribute to getting what we need from government…and the #StopRobbingUs campaign may be the trigger,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association warns that restricting online access would be ruinous for the region

After Hong Kong’s leader suggested she may invoke emergency powers that could potentially include limiting Internet access, one of city’s biggest industry groups warned that “any such restrictions, however slight originally, would start the end of the open Internet of Hong Kong.”

While talking to reporters on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam suggested the government may use the Emergency Regulations Ordinance in response to ongoing anti-government demonstrations. The law, which has not been used in more than half a century, would give the government a sweeping array of powers, including the ability to restrict or censor publications and communications. In contrast to China’s “Great Firewall” and routine government censorship of internet services, Hong Kong’s internet is currently open and mostly unrestricted, with the exception of laws to prevent online crime, copyright infringements and the spread of obscene material like child pornography.

In an “urgent statement” addressed to Hong Kong’s Executive Council, the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA) said that because of technology like VPNs, the cloud and cryptographies, the only way to “effectively and meaningfully block any services” would entail putting all of Hong Kong’s internet behind a large-scale surveillance firewall. The association added that this would have huge economic and social consequences and deter international organizations from doing business in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, restricting the internet in Hong Kong would also have implications in the rest of the region, including in mainland China, the HKISPA added. There are currently 18 international cable systems that land, or will land, in Hong Kong, making it a major telecommunications hub. Blocking one application means users will move onto another application, creating a cascading effect that will continue until all of Hong Kong is behind a firewall, the association warned.

In its statement, the HKISPA wrote that “the lifeline of Hong Kong’s Internet industry relies in large part on the open network,” adding “Hong Kong is the largest core node of Asia’s optical fiber network and hosts the biggest Internet exchange in the region, and it is now home to 100+ data centers operated by local and international companies, and it transits 80%+ of traffic for mainland China.”

“All these successes rely on the openness of Hong Kong’s network,” the HKISPA continued. “Such restrictions imposed by executive orders would completely ruin the uniqueness and value of Hong Kong as a telecommunications hub, a pillar of success as an international financial centre.”

The HKISPA urged the government to consult the industry and “society at large” before placing any restrictions in place. “The HKISPA strongly opposes selective blocking of Internet Services without consensus of the community,” it said.

Here’s how to set up a VPN and protect your data

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On today’s internet, having at least some level of protection is essential.

A VPN or virtual private network is a tool to get an extra layer of protection — it essentially masks your connection while encrypting your data. The best part is you don’t need to get any physical hardware to use one; using a VPN is usually as simple as downloading and launching an app

Once you have a VPN setup, you can use it on your home WiFi, public networks, over LTE, and even while traveling. 

Certainly, the internet is a great way to connect with others, but users need to be careful now more than ever. A VPN will mask your IP address and give you a bit more security, especially for your viewing history — not to mention it makes using public WiFi networks much safer and can stop hackers from accessing data. Read more…

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Major ISPs now say they won't sell your browsing history. Yeah. Right.

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Internet service providers are in an awkward spot. After getting all dressed up for the sell-your-data dance, it turns out they’ll be staying home. 

Or so they claim.

Reuters reports that representatives from Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T all came out today to assure worried consumers that the companies will not in fact sell customers’ browsing histories to the highest bidder. 

“We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history,” writes Comcast Chief Privacy Officer Gerard Lewis on the company’s blog. “We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so.”   Read more…

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“Debate Me”: parody of internet manliness gurus/dorks

Something Awful has a guest column from one of the manosphere types netizens cannot fail to be familiar with in 2017.

DEBATE ME.

That’s right. I’ve been powering up these logical brain lasers for hours now just to tear through your fallacies like so much tissue paper. Let me set the stage: my house, seven hours, a webcam, and you and me, duking it out with truth-fists. A jury of my choosing, made up of my peers. The loser gives $10,000 to whatever charity deals with the most tragic of cancers.

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Fancy a Facebook Live at 17,000 ft? It might soon be possible at the Everest base camp

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Soon you will have internet access in the Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Visitors will be able to tweet, chat, email and share  from the Lukla-Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Base Camp with the help of free Wi-Fi offered by Nepal.

Its state-run regulator, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), announced on Wednesday that it plans to set up free W-Fi zones along the Everest base camp, a hugely popular destination for trekkers and mountaineers. 

The service will operate on the “Okumura Model,” which uses low-cost optical fiber cables for high-speed internet. Special cold-and-ice-resistant optical fibers will be used, and if they don’t work in the high altitudes, other technologies such as micro-wave will be used.   Read more…

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There are now as many internet users in China as there are people in Europe

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China now has 731 million people online — or nearly the entire population of Europe, according to a global survey.

The China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) says that the majority of the country’s internet users are online via their smartphones, at 695 million. 

And of those, a huge proportion use their phones for payment, both online and in real life stores. 470 million of them, or 67.5 percent, used their phones to pay for goods online, and half used their phones to pay in real life. Read more…

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