American multinational technology company Meta has announced the launch of its universal speech translator (UST), which aims to create AI systems that enable real-time speech-to-speech translation across all languages.
Following the launch of its first speech translator, Meta seeks to enable ease of communication among people who speak different languages, even those that are not commonly written.
Speaking on the launch of its first AI-Powered speech translator, the CEO of Meta Mark Zuckerberg said, “Meta AI built the first speech translator that works for languages that are primarily spoken rather than written. We’re open-sourcing this so people can use it for more languages.”
The company disclosed that the newly launched AI-powered speech translation system was for the unwritten Chinese language ‘Hookkien’, a language spoken in the southeastern part of China and Taiwan.
The system allows Hokkien speakers to hold conversations with English speakers, which is a significant step towards breaking down the global language barrier and bringing people together wherever they are located.
The company said in a blog post, “Until now, AI translation has focused on written languages. Yet, of the more than 7,000 living languages, more than 40 percent of languages are primarily oral and do not have a standard or widely known writing system.
“We plan to use our Hokkien translation system as part of a universal speech translator and will open source our model, code, and training data for the AI community to enable other researchers to build on this work.”
Meta further disclosed that this model is still a work in progress as it is a positive step towards the future where simultaneous translation between languages is possible.
The company disclosed that it is releasing the speech matrix, a large corpus of speech-to-speech translations mined with Meta’s innovative data mining technique called Laser, which will enable researchers to create their speech-to-speech translation.
As the world rapidly advance digitally, Artificial speech translation has become a rapidly emerging technology with top technology companies such as Microsoft and Alphabet rolling out speech-to-speech AI translation model.
NCC Announces Airtel as the Sole Bidder for the Second 5G Spectrum Auction
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has announced Airtel Network Limited as the sole bidder for the 5G spectrum scheduled for auction on December 19, 2022.
Airtel has since deposited $27.36 million ahead of the auction.
According to the NCC, only two telecom companies, Airtel Africa and Standard Network & Connections Limited expressed interest in the auction as of the stipulated deadline which was Monday, December 5, 2022.
Therefore, the NCC noted that there would be no auction as Airtel would be assigned one of the available lots of 100 MHz TDD Spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band.
Investors King understands that the $27.36 million deposit is 10 percent of the reserve price for the spectrum fixed at $273.6 million. The same price was paid by MTN and Mafab Communications before the 5G spectrum was allocated to them individually.
MTN on its part has since launched its 5G network in some cities which include Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan. The 5G network promised to enhance connectivity and stimulate broadband penetration in Nigeria.
NCC further stated that an extension sought by Standard Network can not be granted owing to the auction timetable which had earlier been published.
The statement by NCC partly read “Only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas, Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by 12 working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable”.
“Having met all the provisions in the IM, Airtel has, therefore, emerged as the sole bidder. Consequently, there shall be no further bidding and the Commission will proceed to the assignment stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process,” the statement added.
M-Pesa Rallonge, Financial Inclusion Takes Another Step
M-Pesa Rallonge service, M-Pesa is simultaneously facilitating the process of financial inclusion for all while also improving lives for the better
VodaCash, in partnership with Access Bank, launched its new service M-Pesa Rallonge this Tuesday, December 6th, 2022.
A joint press conference was hosted at Silikin Villag before officially launching the product. Pamela Ilunga, Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, and Hashim Mukudi, Managing Director of VodaCash, were present along with Access Bank Commercial Director, Adrien Chensham Mbele.
With the M-Pesa Rallonge service, M-Pesa is simultaneously facilitating the process of financial inclusion for all while also improving lives for the better. Currently, over 20% of the daily transactions are canceled due to insufficient balance. For customers, this can be frustrating, especially in emergency situations.
In her opening speech, Pamela Ilunga, Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo, stated, “M-Pesa has been on a journey since its introduction in 2012. Undeniably, M-Pesa has been a solution to financial inclusion for the population of the DRC as well as complementing our different customers’ lifestyles. This has made us the mobile financial institution of choice.”
This partnership with Access Bank allows VodaCash to advance on its mission to provide accessible financial services to remote areas and ensure all Congolese have access to basic necessities. Initially, the focus was providing fundamental services such as domestic money transfers and the purchase of airtime. Over time, M-Pesa has expanded to include services such as forex, paying TV, and bills.
Hashim Mukudi, Managing Director of VodaCash, also announced that “several more collaborations with M-Pesa are coming up, each tailored towards advocating inclusivity and improving customers’ lifestyles, aligning with the 2030 SDGs ‘No poverty’ and ‘reducing equality’. “
Pamela Ilunga added, “At Vodacom, we believe that ‘Together We Can’. We can make an impact on the economy. We can participate in and promote the digital revolution that is currently taking place in the DRC. M-Pesa Rallonge is only the first of several more services we are developing to improve lives and facilitate access to financial services using eco-responsible processes.”
The Deputy Managing Director of Vodacom Congo closed her speech by commending their partner, Access Bank, for sharing the same vision of “responding to the real needs of the Congolese population to financial inclusion and providing a platform that will allow its customers to use this new product.”
Airtel Africa Receives $194 Million Loan Facility From IFC
Airtel Africa partners with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group to connect even more Africa
Africa’s leading telecommunications and mobile money services, Airtel Africa has signed a new $194 million credit facility with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank.
According to the telecommunications giant, the new financing facility is in accordance with the company’s strategy to improve debt within its operating firms and support operations in key African markets.
The eight years tenor credit facility will help Airtel Africa support operations and investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Republic of Congo and Zambia.
Also, it would help provide more diversified access to local funding, the company stated in a statement signed by Simon O’Hara, Group Company Secretary and obtained by Investors King.
In line with IFC requirements for a loan facility, Airtel Africa is expected to deepen its Social and Environmental Sustainability and has put in place a dedicated Environmental and Social Action plan.
This, Airtel said would deepen its commitment to changing the lives of people in the communities in which it operates and provides clarity on how the Group can help address inequality and support economic growth in these communities.
Commenting on the facility, Segun Ogunsanya, Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Africa said: “I am very excited to announce the signing of this new facility with IFC. Not only does it align with our focus on improving our balance sheet through localising debt within our OpCos, but as we make progress on our sustainability journey it also supports our commitments and ability to meet strong ESG criteria. I look forward to working closely with IFC in the coming years as we explore further opportunities to support the economies and communities where we operate.”
On the part of IFC, Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa, has this to say: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made mobile connectivity even more urgent for both social and economic development. Helping more people connect to affordable and fast internet networks is a priority for IFC in Africa, especially in the continent’s lower-income countries. The partnership with Airtel Africa will help achieve this.”
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