Alibaba Cloud offers AI, cloud services to help battle COVID-19 globally

Alibaba Cloud, the data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, says it has offered medical personnel around the world advanced cloud-based technology applications in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The artificial intelligence-enhanced innovations are based on learnings and insights garnered during the initial outbreak of the virus.

The series of cloud-native anti-coronavirus solutions stem from joint efforts of Alibaba Cloud’s solution experts, scientists and researchers from Alibaba DAMO Academy and the technical team at DingTalk, one of the platforms UNESCO has tabbed as facilitating distance learning during the coronavirus outbreak.

While DingTalk might be better-known for supporting more than 120 million students across China with their live-streamed online classes, the team has taken it up a notch to launch DingTalk’s International Medical Expert Communication Platform, hosted on Alibaba Cloud.

 It provides a means of free communication for medical workers all over the world to directly contact doctors from medical institutions such as the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University and others in China, who have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 battle.

Through video conferencing and real-time AI translation into 11 languages (Arabic, Bahasa, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese), Alibaba Cloud aims to build a virtual community, inviting Chinese doctors to share their experiences and answer questions from global peers.

From Alibaba DAMO Academy, a global research initiative by Alibaba, three proven solutions are being made available via free trial for medical professionals and research institutes worldwide. Alibaba Cloud will work with local partners to deploy relevant services and solutions in accordance with local laws and regulations.

Epidemic Prediction Solution models epidemic characteristics of COVID-19 in a particular region, providing estimates of size, peak time and duration of the epidemic, as well as the spreading trends under three conditions – optimistic, neutral, and pessimistic.

Based on machine learning, the algorithm was already tested on 31 provincial data in China and averaged 98% accuracy. It can serve as a reference to policymakers and medical researchers on prevention and control measures, medical resource allocation and travel advisories.

CT Image Analytics Solution is a CT image analytics technology service that can significantly improve testing accuracy and detection efficiency for diagnosing COVID-19. With deep-learning algorithms trained by data in China, the trained model can predict the probability of different pneumonia types, including the variety associated with COVID-19.

It also performs computations of the proportion of lesions and the affected volume ratio to the entire lungs, by using the lung segmentation method. The whole test takes about 3 to 4 seconds to run and 15 to 16 seconds of transmission time, making it nearly 60 times faster than human detection. More than 160 hospitals in China are currently using the solution.

Genome Sequencing for Coronavirus Diagnostic Solution, an AI algorithm from Alibaba DAMO Academy and running on Alibaba Cloud, is a virus genome sequencing solution for coronavirus analytics, including viral genetic data screening, evolutionary analysis, protein structure analysis, and diagnostic reporting. It can complete the diagnosis of new coronavirus within 14 hours, which is five times faster than other available sequencing solutions in China.

 It can screen more than 20 people simultaneously, making the averaged time for each sample just around half an hour, much shorter than the normal two hours with the PCR method. The solution helps disease control centers, hospitals and clinics, and laboratories to address challenges such as insufficient nucleic acid detection capacity, high false-negative rates of the PCR method, and possible virus mutations.

Supporting advanced innovations during emergencies like COVID-19 requires extremely scalable supercomputing power. For this, Alibaba Cloud offers Elastic High-Performance Computing (E-HPC) Solution for Life Sciences, a cloud-native high-performance computing cluster solution designed for researchers working on life sciences applications, especially for Computational-Driven-Drug-Design (CDDD) and AI-Driven-Drug-Design (AIDDD).

The solution already supports 20 research groups in China. For example, the intelligent CT diagnostic system on COVID-19 pneumonia developed by Tsinghua University can complete diagnosing in 10 seconds, and the performance of gene assembly by Sun Yat-sen University is accelerated by 25% utilizing the solution. Alibaba Cloud has also partnered with Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI) in Beijing to launch an AI-driven-drug-discovery platform based on E-HPC.

www.alibabacloud.com

[Kenya] Oracle showcases its Cloud and Artificial Intelligence technology solutions

Oracle recently showcased its latest Cloud led digital solutions to top business and government leaders at the International Modern Business event in Nairobi. This according to the company is in line with its sustained commitment to help Kenya achieve its strategic socio-economic objectives as identified by the country’s Vision 2030 framework,

“Digital transformation is a key priority for Kenya’s public and private sector entities as organisations look to deliver transparent citizen services; drive business growth with high ROI; introduce new products and deliver an exceptional customer experience in a highly mobile and digital economy of the future”, said David Bunei, Managing Director of Oracle Kenya.

“At Oracle, we have delivered an incredible amount of innovation to our customers in Kenya including the Oracle Autonomous Database, AI embedded Business Applications and the Generation 2 cloud infrastructure.”

“The International Modern Business event is an opportunity for us to highlight the true impact of these technologies and showcase how Kenyan organisations can unlock unprecedented growth with cloud led digital transformation”, added David.

Oracle has recently announced plans to launch 20 new Oracle Cloud regions by the end of 2020, for a total of 36 Oracle Cloud Infrastructure regions. South Africa will host one of these cloud regions to support seamless cloud transition for customers across the African continent. Oracle has also recently unveiled the world’s first Autonomous Operating System; AI Voice for the enterprise and the world’s fastest database machine.

www.oracle.com

[Kenya] Multi-Cloud, AI, IoT to Pave Way for Digital Transformation

Dell Technologies is now banking on Multi Cloud Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things to provide enterprises with enhanced solutions as Kenya gets into the digital transformation era.

Dell Technologies is now banking on Multi Cloud Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things to provide enterprises with enhanced solutions as Kenya gets into the digital transformation era.

As businesses get into the fourth industrial revolution, data is becoming an increasingly valuable currency for businesses; and Dell Technologies is investing in data management systems through its multi-cloud services to ensure businesses transact in a secure, reliable and convenient ecosystem.

“These technologies share a common thread: each of them is fueled by data. And as we continue to embrace the growing digital economy, the true value of data as currency will become increasingly clear. We at Dell Technologies keep our commitment to deliver world-class solutions and services for the betterment of the community. We are here to help organizations embrace this world of change and align with Kenya’s Vision 2030 which aims to provide a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030.” said Habib Mahakian, Vice President of Dell Technologies – Emerging Africa.

Dell Technologies has combined its innovation of Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware, all in one family of businesses, each acting independently, but working closely—and better together.

“This is a unique structure that allows us to innovate like a startup, but with the scale of a global powerhouse. We at Dell Technologies help organizations, whether big or small, to unlock the value of their data.” he added.

Speaking during the Dell Technologies Forum in Nairobi, Habib noted that the era of human-machine partnership is here to stay and that business using robots are now experiencing increased efficiency and effective delivery.

There is a lot of hype around IoT and in Dell Technologies view, despite its name, it’s not a thing, IoT is as a concept, and that concept can be very simply expressed as: gathering and processing data from connected things to create value. IoT is going to be big, and according to a new update to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide, worldwide spending on the IoT is forecast to reach $745 billion in 2019, an increase of 15.4% over the $646 billion spent in 2018. IDC expects worldwide IoT spending will maintain a double-digit annual growth rate throughout the 2017-2022 forecast period and surpass the $1 trillion mark in 2022.

“When it comes to Internet of Things, we believe that organizations have to do more than simply connect things. They have to be able to transform the data into business values as it flows from the edge to the distributed core and into the cloud. Our distributed core solutions can ingest and store massive amounts of data, analyze the data in near real-time and deliver actionable insights while it matters.” Said Nazih Moufarrej, General Manager & Regional Director – South East Africa, Dell Technologies.

“We are also focusing on offering Artificial Intelligence solutions coupled with ML Algorithms, it is estimated that by 2025, 60% of AI will run on optimized silicon. Dell Technologies has invested in numerous semiconductor startups developing new processor models to accelerate machine learning use cases. These innovations will all reside within enterprise-class servers.” Nazih added

Dell Technologies is the leading provider of infrastructure software used to power the modern enterprise with VMware, but has also taken a lead in delivering different models of handling new types of code that will power cloud-native and IoT environments.

With systems such as Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF), Pivotal Container Service (PKS) and new tools such as Pivotal Function Service, Dell Technologies recognizes that new business and technology models will require new infrastructure software capabilities to deliver the best outcomes.

At this one-day event, taking place on April 9th at Villa Rosa Kempinski, Dell Technologies’ executives highlighted the importance of achieving Digital Transformation via four major pillars: Application, IT, Workforce and Security Transformation. In addition, the Forum showcased a wide range of Dell Technologies’ solutions, services and products.

www.delltechnologies.com

[Column] Mariam Abdullahi: Building the Intelligent Telco Enterprise -growth opportunities for African telecoms operators

While the telco industry may have seen its traditional revenue streams decline further in 2018, thanks in part to the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp that offer low-cost alternatives to messaging and voice calling, the industry is still set for growth. According to the Africa Digital Outlook 2019 report by Ovum, mobile revenue in Africa is set to grow from $54.9-billion in 2017to $68-billion in 2022. While voice revenues are predictably declining as cheaper OTT services continue to gain popularity among cost-conscious consumers, mobile broadband and digital services revenue are set to more than double over the same period (from $13.1-billion in 2017 to $32.1-billion in 2022).

The pressures on traditional revenue streams has initiated an industry-wide goldrush for new innovations that can leverage the extensive infrastructure and data sets most telcos have access to. Modern consumers are demanding greater convenience and improved experiences from the brands and companies they support at a time when those same consumers are permitting brands to become more intimate with them through increasingly sophisticated omni-channel marketing initiatives. 

However, without a well thought-out and future-focused digital strategy in place, Telcos will struggle to adapt to their changing consumer and business landscape. In fact, I’d be so bold as to say that, unless Telcos can move fast to drive operational efficiencies, modernise and update their business models, we may very well see some of those slower on the uptake exit the market soon.

For African Telcos that have the correct digital tools and strategies in place, there are immense growth opportunities. In 2019 we will see more focus in four key areas, namely Digital Experience Management, Artificial Intelligence, Data and Analytics, and Cloud.

Digital Experience Management 

Customer experience will play a leading role in shaping the 21st century Experience Economy. Walker research even found that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiators by 2020. 

To meet the modern customer’s expectations regarding customer experience, Telcos should integrate the back-office with the front office and deploy the technology tools that will enable them to marry experiential data with operational data. In 2019, Telcos need to ensure they have a holistic view of their customers across the marketing, sales and service departments, and develop a deeper understanding of individual and B2B customers, their needs and expectations. 

Measuring end-to-end experiential data is an emerging discipline, with new innovative tools giving organisations unprecedented access to measurable experiential data. Qualtrics, which was acquired by SAP in 2018, is an experience management platform that enables the integration of operational and experiential data to give organisations real-time feedback from customers on key activities. Callidus Cloud’s DataHug, a forecasting and pipeline management solution that provides data insights into the likelihood of success in a sales cycle, also tracks the engagement levels of prospects to give sales teams actionable intelligence about how and where they can optimise sales activities.

Artificial Intelligence

The world witnessed an acceleration in artificial intelligence capabilities in 2018 as the much-hyped technology finally entered the mainstream. With AI now widely available and its maturity levels making it suitable for a range of industries, organisations are now faced with the task of determining where AI can add the most value, how to deploy and integrate it, and how to build toward a long-term horizon. To truly harness the power of AI, organisations need to set goals and objectives as well as continuously measuring effectiveness rigorously. 

In the telco industry, AI is useful in areas such as network optimisation (using AI to analyse the network status and implement predictive maintenance when needed); customer service (AI-enabled chatbots such as those on the SAP Conversational AI platform easing operational pressures by assisting customers with a range of well-defined interactions); and customer experience (an exciting and emerging application of AI, which can assist with integrating front-office and back-office records, pulling in external data sets, and developing offers – such as device or contract upgrades – tailored specifically to an individual customer’s preferences). 

AI can also point the way to new, non-traditional revenue streams. Kenya’s Safaricom has started setting itself up as a platform for a range of consumer and business services, for example by launching a new ride-hailing service called Little Cab that offers free Wi-Fi for passengers and offering M-Pesa users to access credit lines via Fuliza, an overdraft facility in partnership with banks which reported a borrowing of 6.2B Kenyan Shillings in just one month. By leveraging customer data and behaviour, the telco can introduce a broad range of non-traditional telco services that add value and convenience to the customer experience.

Big Data and Analytics

Mobile handsets are arguably the greatest sources of individual customer data available today. And Telcos are at the forefront of Big Data custodianship as subscribers use an array of data-generating apps and services all linked to their mobile phone. These present huge opportunities to Telcos who can quickly analyse vast amounts of individual customer data, build complex and multidimensional customer profiles, and develop individualised customer offers and experiences to deepen brand affinity and increase share of wallet. 

The Vodafone Group is a great example of a telco taking advantage of its Big Data opportunities following a recent partnership with SAP to co-innovate in a Big Data Margin Assurance project. By using value proposition, customer usage data and analytics, Vodafone operating companies are now able to identify margin leakages on products and services and optimise margin instead of following the older ‘Average Revenue Per User’ metric. 

However, it is worth noting the importance of trust. If Telcos are to take advantage of their Big Data opportunities, they must give customers assurance that they fully appreciate the responsibility of being custodian to customers’ most personal habits and preferences and take the necessary measures to protect and manage their data.

Cloud Computing

Cloud market giants had phenomenal 2018s, with Amazon cloud revenue up 49% in Q2 2018, slightly lagging market-leader Microsoft. This year looks no less exciting: Gartner predicts the global public cloud services market will grow by 17.3% in 2019 to reach $206.2 billion. Organisations are accessing more SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and other as-a-service offerings than ever before as they shift away from capital expenditure and reorder their IT spend as operational expenditure to enjoy cloud’s cost containment and convenience benefits. 

One of the key challenges of cloud adoption in Africa is related to the matter of data residency vs data sovereignty; in other words, who owns that data, and where is it allowed to be stored? This has made it critical that cloud services providers have in-depth in-country experience of the data sovereignty and residency laws of various African countries and regions. 

Telcos have a mandate to provide near-100% uptime, have extensive infrastructure and understanding of the various regulatory aspects that could impact cloud services. There is immense potential for Telcos to become private-managed cloud providers for data that is bound by data residency and sovereignty laws and enable Africa’s high-growth businesses to more easily scale to new markets or geographies without transgressing any local laws.


Mariam Abdullahi is the telco industry Lead at SAP Africa