The AI Paradox

This article from MIT Technology Review talks about how engineers don't fully understand how deep learning algorithms work their magic.

The legal world believes that we should be able to query this problem. If a deep learning algorithms is used to determine such life and death issues like who gets parole or not (or who benefits from health insurance or not), then we should know how that algorithm was able to make its determination.

The obvious answer to this conundrum is that engineers must design other algorithms, call them 'monitor algorithms' to study and decide these deep learning algorithms just like neuroscientists study the brain, but hopefully with better results!

Bamboo: Home Construction Material of the Future

Bamboo: Home Construction Material of the Future

Bamboo is an excellent, fast-growing, low-cost replacement for wood. It is a renewable, self- regenerating resource that is often called the 'poor man's timber'.  Bamboo is already popular as a building material in Asia.  This article discusses why we should take a second look at bamboo as a primary building material in Africa.

Read More

Rural-Urban Food Supply Chains for Prosperity

A joint study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has identified ways in which rural farming communities can benefit from rising food demand in urban centers of the developing world.

Meeting the rising urban demand for food can increase the incomes of the rural poor, most of whom derive their livelihoods from small and family farm agriculture, said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “This could generate much-needed employment and development prospects for the people who will remain in the countryside of developing countries while also making healthier food easier to access in cities.”


In order to achieve this, there must be greater investment to develop the value chain, which in plain english means that we have to build "Better roads, reliable and extensive electrification, refrigerated transportation and better storage facilities".

The report also references countries where this is already taking place: Bangladesh, China, India and Ethiopia.  In these countries, farmers have access to inputs like high-yielding sees, new farming techniques, fertilizer and pesticide, cold storage facilities and even credit facilities.

Some of these innovations are available in some parts of Nigeria but what we need is more deliberate policy formulation and implementation to ensure a direct pipeline of food supply from rural farmers to dinner tables of urban households.  

We will be able to reverse the rural-urban drift If farmers can increase their income dramatically through a well-designed and sustainable rural-urban value chain.

A Family Tree of Literary Detectives

All detective novel addicts will love this amazing infographic by the comedian and artist Doogie Horner.

Yes you heard right- he's a comedian AND an artist.

That's certainly an unusual combination. But it speaks to his unique set of talents with which he's crafting an eclectic body of work.

Here's another great chart about how to explain the internet to a 19th-century street urchin.

Doogie Horner was a semi-finalist in the 2009 edition of America's Got Talent. He was the guy who famously tamed a hostile audience in this youtube video.

Some Useful Websites

I remember the early days of the internet when you could spend hours navigating the nascent web looking for the occasional new website that might pop up.

There were so few websites back then- even the most inane ones easily captured our attention. This was long before the days of social media.

If you are bored already with Facebook and Twitter, this post on Johnny Lists offers a great collection of 100 useful websites.

My favourites (in no particular order) are:

  • – Check to see if your brand name is available as a .com and on various social networks.
  • – The easiest way to make a personal page.

Body Talk

Here are the introductory words to a useful info graphic for anyone who wants to improve their visual communication cues.

It will walk you through situations where your visual signals are especially important, and the key ways to adjust your mannerisms for success. Trying to win that new client? Mirror his or her behavior. Want to disagree without making enemies? Smile and nod frequently.

The long and short of it? Be open, sincere and receptive.

Do-It-Yourself Solar Panels

Wikihow is a great resource for interesting weekend projects for the hobbyist. Here is an article that gives details of how to build your own solar panels from solar cells which can be bought online. You will also need non-conductive boards, tabbing and bus wire, soldering equipment, plywood, paint, diodes, a charge controller and batteries.

This article is particularly intriguing in light of the rapidly falling cost of solar cells. Are we moving towards a time when we can be energy-independent? Imagine a farm settlement that builds and maintains its own solar power arrays!

Pro-Ndume protesters at National Assembly

There's a comment at the end of this article about whether the protesters were rented ot not:

A PREMIUM TIMES’ correspondent at the scene said the protesters did not immediately appear like the usual “rented crowd”.

Many of the protesters said they were natives of southern Borno, Mr. Ndume’s district, but mostly live in Mararaba and Masaka areas of Abuja.

It's usually not hard to determine this- just hang around until after the protest and see whether they start sharing money. How do you know when they're sharing money? Look out for the dust clouds, curses and howls of pain as they descend into fisticuffs.

National Directorate on Employment wakes from deep slumber

A statement released, Monday, by the Deputy Director, Information and Public Relations of the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Edmund Onwuliri, said the registration was aimed at collecting up-to-date data of unemployed Nigerians.
Mr. Onwuliri said the registration was in compliance with NDE’s mandate to obtain and maintain a data bank on unemployment and vacancies in the country.
The deputy director, according to the statement, said the exercise would enable the directorate to serve as a clearing house linking job seekers with existing vacancies in government agencies and the private sector.

Why would they be doing this when it seems their primary responsibility has already been taken over by the Office of the Vice-President through its various social intervention programmes?

We need to think twice about whether we actually need this agency.

Supercars in the Desert

This is a nice context specific innovation coming from the emirates. It's an off-road supercar built for racing on sand dunes. I would like to see a more affordable, stripped down version for off-road use in developing countries. Come to think of it, what stops us from developing an off-roader here in Nigerian, one built for navigating rural roads and farming communities? Now that would be interesting.

From the Forbes article:

The initial plan of the startup, which is first-of-a-kind in the Middle East, was to launch an off-road championship to support the development of motorsport in the UAE, explains Al Qadi. “Laffite wanted to organize a single-make racing series, as the ones that exist in the U.S. and Europe, while Mardell and I wished to bring the racing series from the tarmac to the sand.”

But soon the idea progressed to finding an ideal high-performance off-roader, as, according to Al Qadi, the Dakar prototypes and existing European and American off-road vehicles are not suitable for desert driving. “Since the car of our dreams did not exist, we decided to build it,” says Al Qadi. “The off-roader has been designed keeping the UAE’s terrain in mind, and can legally be driven on-road as well.”

FAO Newsroom: 108 million people affected by food insecurity

There is rising global insecurity due to crisis and extreme weather conditions. Various international development agencies are trying to make a difference. These include the European Union, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF.

The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño.

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the Global Report on Food Crises 2017 report.

Like many other African nations, Nigeria is not carrying her weight in the global food production. We prefer to take the easy way out and import from Asia, Europe and the United States.

Its time to treat our underperformance as a major crisis. We need to invest more in large scale agriculture. This investment has to extend to improved infrastructure including roads into rural areas and rail transport to bring produce to market.

We also need to build better air cargo facilities to export perishables to markets in Europe and the Middle East. These are just a few of the many requirments.

Right now it seems the government is doing the least it can in order to gain momentary acclaim. Its a shame.

Commentary: Whistleblowing Policy in Nigerian Institutions

Paper: Effect of System Factors on Whistleblowing Attitude of Nigerian Banks Employees: A Conceptual Perspective - Covenant University Repository

Whistleblowing has become a central topic of discussion with the recent publication of the Federal Government's whistleblowing policy.

A research article published last year by sociologists at Covenant University has identified the need for Nigerian institutions to encourage whistleblowing among their staff as a deterrence to unethical practices.

Here is the abstract

Whistleblowing provides a self-correcting mechanism for an organization to prevent unethical practices. Lessons from collapsed businesses around the world show that organisations do not just collapse, but rather it is a gradual process resulting from a series of inappropriate acts left unaddressed. This paper is based on a conceptual perspective. Past studies on whistleblowing were reviewed, gaps and weaknesses identified to develop a conceptual framework on whistleblowing reporting attitude of bank employees in Nigeria. The conceptual framework is anchored on the Resource Dependence (RD) and Planned Behaviour (PB) theories. The paper provides important lessons for promoting ethical practices in organisations and the society at large. Based on the gaps in literature, this paper recommends among others a performance review system that is tied to rewarding whistleblowing; ways to protect whistleblowers and the need to strengthen organizational support structures for whistleblowing.

The paper can be downloaded for free here.

Many organisations in Nigeria already have whistle-blowing policies in place. For example, First Bank of Nigeria has a whistleblowing policy which is available online. I'm sure that many Nigrian organisation are in the process of developing whistle-blowing policies. Scholarly works such as this would be a valuable resource.