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Layoffs Hitting Alexa Unit at Amazon Fails to Disrupt Project

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The ongoing layoffs at e-commerce giant company Amazon, which has seen most of its employees at the Alexa unit affected have not in any way disrupted the cloud-based voice service project.

Amazon is currently laying off employees in its corporate and tech workforce, as the company has let go of workers in several divisions such as Alexa and the Luna cloud gaming unit.

The company’s devices and services organizations which oversee the development of products such as Echo Smart speakers, Kindle E-readers, and Alexa were among the group majorly affected.

However, despite the mass layoffs of workers at the aforementioned units, Amazon’s hardware chief David Limp has disclosed that the company is still committed to Alexa despite the wave of job cuts at the unit.

Speaking on the Alexa project, its hardware chief said,

“What we did is we looked at projects that were probably, in this uncertainty, the risk-reward for those projects and what they might deliver for customers wasn’t quite there. Part of that was in Alexa, part of that was in other parts of my organization.”

“Still, Amazon remains fully committed to the Alexa unit despite the company taking steps to be more disciplined with costs in a very uncertain economy. There are still thousands and thousands of people working on this project. It’s a big project.”

Amazon Alexa, also known simply as Alexa, is a virtual assistant technology largely based on a Polish speech synthesizer named Ivona, bought by Amazon in 2013.

The cloud-based voice service can control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system.

Users are also able to extend the Alexa capabilities by installing skills (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps) such as weather programs and audio features.

It uses automatic speech recognition, natural language processing, and other forms of weak AI to perform tasks.

As of November 2018, Amazon had more than 10,000 employees working on Alexa and other related products. In January 2019, the company’s devices team announced that they had sold over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. On September 2019, if announced that Alexa will soon be able to mimic celebrities’ voices.

Meanwhile, Investors King understands that Amazon plans to inform employees who will lose their jobs starting January 18, 2023.

Last year in November, Amazon initially planned to lay off 10,000 workers, but as the global economic outlook continues to worsen, it disclosed that it has been forced to increase the number of its workforce that will be laid off.

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Telecommunications

Telecom Giants Invest in Data Centers to Meet Soaring Internet Demand

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Telecommunications - Investors King

Nigeria’s telecommunications industry is experiencing a surge in data center investments as companies strive to accommodate the nation’s rapidly increasing internet consumption.

This move became imperative after a report by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) showed that monthly internet usage has skyrocketed by 502% since 2019.

Monthly internet usage grew from 125,149.86 terabytes (TB) in December 2019 to 753,388.77 TB in March 2024.

This dramatic increase is primarily driven by the growing appetite for streaming services and other online activities, necessitating a robust infrastructure to manage the escalating demand.

MTN Nigeria and Airtel, which together control 66.28% of the country’s mobile subscriber base, are at the forefront of this infrastructure expansion. Both companies have announced substantial investments in new data centers to enhance their service delivery capabilities.

MTN Nigeria’s Expansion

In June, MTN Nigeria unveiled plans to construct a 1,500-rack, Tier 4 data center. According to Mohammed Rufai, MTN’s Chief Technical Officer, this facility will be instrumental in meeting the burgeoning data demands and digital needs of businesses and consumers alike.

“Our facility will provide the space and services needed, enabling companies to digitalize their operations and improve efficiency,” Rufai said.

“With sufficient headroom, we can cater to growth and sudden demand rise, ensuring a seamless experience for our subscribers.”

Airtel’s Groundbreaking Initiative

In March, Airtel broke ground on its first data center in Lagos, marking the beginning of a major investment drive in digital infrastructure.

The Nxtra by Airtel data center will be the first of five hyper-scale data centers to be developed by Airtel Africa. These centers aim to improve the speed of access to digital services and reduce the cost of managing data.

Industry Significance

These investments are poised to significantly enhance Nigeria’s position in the digital economy. Bosun Tijani, the Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy Minister, emphasized the critical role of data in the country’s economic growth.

“Data is a key driver in our economy. Not only do we need to connect our people, but we also must invest in the digital economy. Through the investment that companies like Airtel have made in our economy, we are fully able to participate in the digital economy,” Tijani said.

Despite these efforts, Nigeria still lags behind other African countries such as South Africa and Kenya in terms of data center capacity. South Africa, for example, has attracted investments from global tech giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Future Prospects

According to a report by Arizton Advisory and Intelligence, Nigeria’s data center market, valued at $230 million in 2022, is expected to reach $415 million by 2028. Industry experts highlight a significant data center gap, with current infrastructure falling short of the necessary capacity.

Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Open Access Data Centers (OADC), noted, “We do not have enough data centres. Analysis shows we need around 700 data centres but only have about 100. However, we expect significant progress in the next 12 months, with new data centres being launched.”

Economic Impact

The development of new data centers is expected to localize more content from international companies, improving user experience and network efficiency. These investments will also contribute significantly to economic growth, making Lagos a key hub of digital infrastructure on the continent.

“Lagos is going to be the key hub of digital infrastructure in Africa. Right now, South Africa has 50 percent of installed data center capacity, but Lagos is starting to shift in the implementation of digital infrastructure,” Coker added.

With these strategic investments, Nigeria is well on its way to bolstering its digital economy, ensuring it remains competitive in the increasingly data-driven global landscape.

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Fintech

Nigeria Sees 31% Increase in POS Fraud Amid Rising Terminal Adoption

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Moniepoint

The prevalence of fraud and forgery in Nigeria’s payment system has shown a significant shift in the first quarter of 2024, with Point-of-Sale (POS) transactions experiencing the highest increase in fraudulent activities.

According to the “Fraud and Forgeries Report in Nigerian Banks” for Q1 2024 by the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), POS fraud cases surged by 31.12%.

In Q4 2023, there were 2,683 reported cases of fraud associated with POS terminals. However, this number escalated to 3,518 cases by Q1 2024.

POS fraud cases made up 30.67% of the total fraud cases (11,472) recorded in the quarter under review.

Financial Impact of POS Fraud

While there was a rise in fraud cases, the amount of money involved in POS fraud declined. In Q4 2023, the total amount involved in POS fraud was NGN604.91 million.

This amount decreased by 37.74% to NGN376.59 million by Q1 2024.

Also, the amount of money lost to POS fraud saw a significant decline, falling from NGN14.62 million by 68.34% to NGN4.63 million on a quarterly basis.

The decrease in financial losses may indicate improved detection and prevention measures, but the overall rise in fraud cases highlights the need for continued vigilance.

Adoption of POS Terminals

The rise in POS fraud cases is attributed to the widespread adoption of these terminals by merchants and consumers alike.

As a cash-driven Nigerian economy, the convenience and efficiency of POS transactions have made them a popular choice.

However, this widespread adoption has also made them a target for fraudsters seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in the system.

In Q1 2023, the number of registered POS terminals increased by 218,475, from 2,318,947 in January 2023 to 2,537,422 by March 2023.

By the same quarter in 2024, the number of registered POS terminals had increased by 289,154, from 3,441,287 in January 2024 to 3,730,441 by March 2024.

Overall, between the end of Q1 2023 and Q1 2024, Nigeria witnessed an additional 1,193,019 POS terminals, marking a 47.02% increase.

Despite this increase in the number of registered POS terminals, the first quarter of 2024 saw POS transaction volumes reach 314 million, which is a significant drop of 73.81 million, or 19.03%, from the 387.81 million transactions recorded in the first quarter of 2023.

Regulatory Measures and Industry Response

The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) recently stated that POS agents of major fintechs in Nigeria, including OPay, Palmpay, and Moniepoint, among others, must have registered their businesses by July 7, 2024.

However, it extended the deadline by 60 days, giving operators until September 5, 2024. The CAC said the registration is aimed at safeguarding the businesses of fintechs and customers, as well as strengthening the economy.

Meanwhile, the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria (AMMBAN) condemned the mandated registration, describing it as an attempt to tax more Nigerians to generate revenue for the government.

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Technology

Apple Aims for 10% Growth in iPhone 16 Shipments in 2024

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inside apple company

Apple Inc. is setting its sights on a significant increase in iPhone 16 shipments for the latter half of this year as it targets at least 90 million units, according to sources familiar with the matter.

This represents a 10% growth compared to the 81 million iPhone 15 devices shipped in the same period last year, reflecting the company’s confidence in the demand for its new lineup powered by advanced AI services.

Despite a challenging 2023, particularly in the Chinese market, Apple is optimistic that the integration of new Apple Intelligence features will drive consumer interest and boost sales.

The company’s projections suggest a potential rebound in 2024, even as it faces stiff competition from AI-enhanced smartphones by rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co. and Xiaomi Corp.

The upbeat forecast comes after a tough year where Apple struggled to maintain its foothold in China, a market disrupted by Huawei Technologies Co.’s Mate 60 Pro, which gained popularity due to its advanced, locally-produced 7-nanometer processor.

However, recent trends indicate a resurgence in demand for Apple’s iconic handsets, aided by a series of strategic discounts and promotional activities, especially around major shopping events like the “618” festival in June.

Apple’s projections have already had a positive impact on its stock, which surged as much as 1.8% to a record high of $232.74 following the news.

The stock has seen a 19% increase this year to date, underscoring investor confidence in the company’s growth strategy.

In the broader smartphone market, overall shipments declined by 3.2% last year, according to IDC. Yet, Apple managed to buck the trend with a 3.7% increase in sales.

This resilience, coupled with the anticipated AI enhancements in the iPhone 16, is expected to further strengthen Apple’s market position.

The integration of AI is a critical component of Apple’s strategy to differentiate its products and enhance user experience.

The company has been playing catch-up in the AI domain, recently announcing a partnership with OpenAI to incorporate AI features into its devices.

However, challenges remain, particularly in navigating stringent AI policies in China, where the availability of services like ChatGPT is restricted.

Beyond AI, Apple faces broader challenges in its largest market outside the US.

Chinese government agencies and state-backed firms have increasingly mandated the use of local devices over foreign alternatives, reflecting Beijing’s push to reduce dependence on imported technology amid escalating US-China tech tensions.

In addition to market dynamics, Apple is contending with legal and regulatory hurdles in China.

The company recently petitioned the Supreme People’s Court to remove references to its “dominant position” in a lower court decision related to app revenue disputes, highlighting the complex regulatory environment it operates in.

Despite these challenges, Apple remains committed to its growth targets and innovation-led strategy. By leveraging AI and continuing to enhance its product offerings, the company aims to sustain its competitive edge and achieve its ambitious shipment goals for the iPhone 16.

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