Electronic Trade Helps Cameroonian Farmers

Information technologies are changing the lives of some Cameroonian farmers who previously depended on brokers to market their goods. Now, these farmers can use the internet to find customers directly, cutting out some intermediaries and increasing their own profits.

Loic Domguia raises poultry, selling almost entirely online and through phone apps. Through electronic sales over the last year, he says he has increased his income.

Domguia uses Jangolo Farmers, an application that links producers and buyers.

“It reduces the stress on the producer,” Domguia says. “The producer no longer waits until the end” worrying about getting customers. Producers “sleep well knowing they already have orders.”

Designer Rose Ngameni says Jangolo enables producers to line up customers before bringing goods to market.

“The farmer has a higher profit margin by selling through our application,” she says. The app even enables producers to get paid in advance.

Ngameni says the app also benefits the customer. Reducing the number of intermediaries means producers hold down marketing expenses, so they can offer lower prices to customers.  

Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics reports that a fourth of the country’s 25 million residents connect daily with the internet.

Users increasingly are buying agricultural items online.

One of those e-commerce customers is Pierre Freddy Ngoudi. He says he places online orders for chicken because his work all day at a gym leaves too little time to shop. He has chicken delivered to his workplace.

Cyprain Tankeu, a specialist in electronic trade, says it’s smart for agribusinesses to develop online sales platforms. But he cautions that online sales may not always give customers sufficient information about purchases.

“If a company does not own stores, it would be difficult for buyers to evaluate the product they are buying,” he says. “… The lack of a store is an obstacle to the development of this type of e-commerce.”

The African Development Bank estimates the continent has more than a billion mobile phone subscribers, creating a huge potential market for farmers to use e-commerce.  

Electronic Trade Helps Cameroonian Farmers

Information technologies are changing the lives of many Cameroonian farmers, who previously were dependent on brokers, who charged fees to serve as middlemen to purchasers. Now they can use the Internet to find customers more easily and increase their income. Moki Edwin Kindzeka narrates this report by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu from Douala in Cameroon.

Smart Technology Gives Old Infrastructure New Life

Extreme weather and rising sea levels are putting pressure on the natural world and on the infrastructure we have put in place to manage waste water. Rebuilding aging infrastructure is expensive so National Science Foundation research is teaching old infrastructure new tricks to handle new problems. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

Google to Restrict Huawei From Android Operating System

The giant U.S. internet search engine Google said Monday it is restricting China’s Huawei from access to its Android operating system in compliance with the Trump administration’s blacklisting of the world’s second biggest smartphone maker as a national security threat.

Google said it is “reviewing the implications” of last week’s order requiring export licenses for technology sales to Huawei.

The U.S. and Chinese companies said millions of Huawei phones already in use around the world would continue to have access to such popular Google services as Gmail, YouTube and maps.

But last week’s U.S. order would curb the future transfer of hardware, software and services to Huawei, possibly limiting the Chinese company’s expansion globally and its efforts to overtake South Korea’s Samsung as the world’s biggest smart phone manufacturer.

Google services were already banned in China, so analysts say the impact of the curb on technology sales could mostly affect Huawei’s international sales, making its phones less attractive to customers if they do not have Google features. Last year, Huawei sold nearly half of its production of 208 million smart phones overseas and the rest in China.

“Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally,” a Huawei spokesman said.

The Chinese firm is at the center of ongoing trade disputes between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. contends that Huawei’s technology could be used to spy on Americans, allegations Huawei has repeatedly denied.

China and the U.S. are in the midst of months-long trade talks with the world’s two biggest economies engaging in tit-for-tat tariff increases on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each other’s exports.

Boeing Admits Flaw in 737 MAX Simulator Software

Boeing acknowledged it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots, after two deadly crashes involving the aircraft that killed 346 people.

“Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” it said in a statement Saturday.

The company did not indicate when it first became aware of the problem or whether it informed regulators.

Its statement marked the first time Boeing acknowledged there was a design flaw in software linked to the 737 MAX, whose MCAS anti-stall software has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

According to Boeing, the flight simulator software was incapable of reproducing certain flight conditions similar to those at the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March or the Lion Air crash in October.

The company said the latest “changes will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel,” a rarely used manual wheel to control the plane’s angle.

“Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” it added.

Southwest Airlines, a major 737 MAX customer with 34 of the aircraft in its fleet, told AFP it expected to receive the first simulator “late this year.”

The planes have been grounded around the world, awaiting approval from U.S. and international regulators before they can return to service.

Radio Telescope Explores Cosmic Mysteries

Every year astronomers are seeing farther and more clearly into the cosmos than ever before. One of the ways they are doing it is by linking telescopes together to make them more powerful. The Very Large Array in New Mexico supported by the National Science Foundation is one incredible example. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

Scientists Use DNA of Dust to Trace Where an Object’s Been

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists.

Researchers are analyzing the microorganisms in dust particles that land on surfaces and are using artificial intelligence to read and classify the unique genetic codes of the microbes that vary from place to place.

“It is the collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa that are present in any environment,” said Jessica Green, microbial systems expert and co-founder of Phylagen, a company that is building a microbial map of the world. Phylagen is collecting dust from different places and turning it into data by studying the DNA of the microscopic organisms in the particles.

​Exposing labor abuses

Phylagen says its findings will provide real world applications. The California-based company says one application involves companies that outsource the manufacturing of products, such as clothing.

According to Human Rights Watch, unauthorized subcontracting of facilities in the apparel industry occurs often, and it is in these places that some of the worse labor abuses happen.

Phylagen is digitizing the genome of different locations by working in more than 40 countries and sampling the dust in hundreds of factories. The goal is to create a database so the microbes on each product can be traced.

“We sample the DNA of the products, and then, we use machine learning algorithms to map what is on the product with the factory, and can therefore verify for brands that their goods are made by their trusted suppliers in factories where you have good labor conditions, good environmental conditions versus unauthorized facilities which can be really detrimental,” Green said.

Tracking diseases, ships

With a database of distinct microbial DNA, Green said other possible future uses could include predicting the outbreak of disease and helping law enforcement track the movement of ships, since shipping logs can be falsified. Even counterfeit medicines could be traced as the database of microbial information grows, she said.

“We can sequence the DNA of seized counterfeit pills, cluster together pills that have similar microbial signatures and then use that to help both pharmaceutical companies and the government, the U.S. government, gain some intelligence about how many different sources of these manufacturing facilities are there,” Green said.

Vietnam’s Tech Futurists Lay Out Economic Alternatives

Nations racing to develop 5G technology that is fast enough to power the next stage of innovation range from South Korea to Finland, but a young contender wants to jump into the game: Vietnam.

The Southeast Asian country announced with much fanfare this month that a test of fifth generation telecommunications technology, in the form of a phone call, was successful.

The call to test 5G matters, not just for the internet, but for Vietnam’s goal of building a digital economy.

That future economy could be filled with deliveries by drone, machine learning to detect cyber attacks, and digital health records — or the economy could stick to traditional businesses like agriculture and tourism, as a new government report lays out.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology jointly launched a report on the digital economy with its Australian counterpart Wednesday, laying out four possible scenarios. Each scenario is at a different level of digitalization, depending on how thoroughly Vietnam adopts new technology.

“I request industries and provinces to improve their awareness of, and responsibility in, steering the science and technology development, and continue to strengthen the relevant legal and policy framework,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a speech.

“It is critical to focus on the development of the national innovation system,” he added, “putting the businesses at the heart of this system while promoting the linkages among research institutes, universities, and businesses to create and accumulate intellectual assets to fuel economic development in a rapid, inclusive, and sustainable manner.”

In the report titled “Vietnam’s Future Digital Economy: Toward 2030 and 2045,” the four scenarios offer a blueprint for policymakers.

In the first option, the country reaches its full technological potential in the next two decades, with smart cities, high productivity, and high-skilled talent in an economy geared toward services.

In the second scenario, little has changed in that time, with the economy relying on cash and low-wage labor to export farmed goods and natural resources.

Those are the two extremes, while the two remaining scenarios fall somewhere in between, depending on whether Vietnam is more technology consumer or exporter.

“The next wave of digital technologies — artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things, and platforms and cloud-based services — has the potential to transform Vietnam into Asia’s next high-performing economy,” said Lucy Cameron, the lead author of the report. “Vietnam will need to seize these substantial opportunities while carefully navigating a number of risks.”

There are signs the digital technology is already catching on in Vietnam.

Besides the research and development of 5G, companies are using robots in their warehouses, like the country’s largest dairy, Vinamilk, and DB Schenker, a German logistics firm operating in Vietnam. FPT, a domestic electronics business, used artificial intelligence to create a chat bot and made it available to third-party software developers. The gaming startup VNG is introducing virtual reality to its players.

It is not all good news. The rise of ride-hailing apps has been linked to a drop in the use of public transit around the world, and that is happening in Vietnam, too. Local press recently reported a decline in bus use, while the increase of ride hailing has led to clogged city streets.

Even in a best case scenario, there are four potential drawbacks to an increasingly connected Vietnam, according to the report, which is supported by CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency. They include more threats to cyber security, higher borrowing to fund infrastructure and technological spending, a shortage of technical talent, and reliance on external companies for products and services.

How far Vietnam takes its technological evolution, of course, is up to Vietnam.

Scientists Build Microbial Map to Trace Where an Object Has Been

Scientists say they have new ways of tracking where clothing, medicines and other items are made, making it harder for unscrupulous businesses to sell items that don’t work or violate laws. The new tools are made possible by using machine learning to profile the unique DNA combinations of invisible microbes that vary from place to place. This technology was highlighted at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, as VOA’s Elizabeth Lee reports.