Items filtered by date: Friday, 12 October 2018
Amazon worked on building an AI to help with hiring people, but the plans backfired when it discovered the system discriminated against women, Reuters reports.
 
Citing five sources, Reuters said Amazon set up an engineering team in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2014 to find a way to automate its recruitment.
 
They created 500 computer models to trawl through past candidates' resumes and pick up on around 50,000 key terms. The system would crawl the web to recommend candidates.
 
"They literally wanted it to be an engine where I'm going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we'll hire those," one source told Reuters.
 
Amazon scraps AI recruiting tool showing bias against women
 
Amazon.com's machine-learning specialists uncovered a big problem: their new recruiting engine did not like women.
 
A year later, however, the engineers noticed something troubling about their engine - it didn't like women. This was apparently because the AI combed through predominantly male resumes submitted to Amazon over a 10-year period to accrue data about who to hire.
 
Consequently, the AI concluded that men were preferable. It downgraded resumes containing the words "women's," and filtered out candidates who'd attended two women's only colleges.
 
Amazon's engineers tweaked the system to remedy these particular forms of bias, but couldn't be sure the AI wouldn't find new ways to unfairly discriminate against candidates.
 
Gender bias was not the only problem, Reuters' sources said. The computer programs also spat out candidates who were unqualified for the position.
 
Remedying algorithmic bias is a thorny issue, because algorithms can pick up on unconscious human bias. In 2016, ProPublica found a risk-assessment software used to forecast which criminals are most likely to reoffend exhibited racial bias against black people. Over-reliance on AI for things like recruitment, credit-scoring, and parole judgements have also created issues in the past.
 
Amazon reportedly abandoned the AI recruitment project by the beginning of last year after executives lost faith in it. Reuters' sources said that Amazon recruiters looked at recommendations generated by the AI, but never relied solely on its judgement.
 
Amazon declined to comment when approached by Business Insider, but said it is committed to workplace diversity and equality.
 
 
 
Source: WorldPress.com
Published in World

A recent World Bank report showed that Somalia has one of the most active mobile money markets in the world, outpacing most other countries in Africa. It’s even superseded the use of cash in the country of 14 million people.

Victor Owuor asked Tim Kelly, an information and communications technology policy specialist at the World Bank and the report’s author, to explain the findings and what they mean for the country.

Why is mobile money so successful in Somalia?

Mobile money initially started as a simple exchange of airtime credit between users. Over ten years ago, mobile network operators formalised this by offering mobile money services. It was quickly perceived as a convenient and safe way of making transactions and storing money.

Unlike Kenya’s famous Mpesa mobile money transfer services, Somalia’s transfers are mainly available in US dollars. Though the companies offering mobile money services are mobile network operators, as in Kenya, they are increasingly forming part of large conglomerates that also offer banking and money transfer services.

In Somalia mobile money transactions are worth about $2.7 billion a month.

Several factors have encouraged the impressive uptake of mobile money:

Many Somalis own mobile phones – about nine out of ten Somalis, above the age of 16 own one.

Nearly 60% of Somalia’s population is nomadic, or semi-nomadic, and move around a great deal, to find adequate grazing and water for their livestock. So mobile money suits their lifestyle and is also used to facilitate trade.

Concerns over the high prevalence of fake money, absence of monetary regulation, capacity, and limited access to traditional banking services also make mobile money an effective substitute for cash.

Today, mobile money also facilitates vast remittance flows which are critical to most Somali households due to a lack of opportunities in the Somali labour market. Taking advantage of this trend, remittance companies are increasingly partnering with mobile operators to transfer funds directly to recipients’ mobile money accounts.

How many people are using it and what is it mostly used for?

Our household survey data suggests that about 73% of Somalis above the age of 16 use mobile money services at least once a month – though most use it a few times a month, and high income earners use it a lot more. About 155 million mobile money transactions take place every month.

It’s used for a wide range of things.

One of the most common is to pay bills – for purchases between $2 and $300. Mobile money is thus far more widely used than cash. Two thirds of those surveyed use it to pay for items like water, electricity and charcoal. A third claim to use it to buy groceries, durable goods and livestock.

Close to 40% use mobile money to pay their children’s school fees. It’s also frequently used to send money to friends and family.

We also found that it’s being used to save.

Currently, transactions made are mainly person-to-person payments, but there is growing uptake among businesses. We have seen that receiving salaries through mobile money has, for example, been an important factor encouraging further uptake.

What have the benefits and the risks of this growth been?

Somalia lacks a strong formal banking system. Only about 15% of the population has a bank account. Mobile money has helped to expand financial inclusion.

For vulnerable groups, it’s a convenient and fast way to access money quickly. And because it’s viewed as faster and safer than cash handouts, many aid agencies use it to reach remote villages.

As most shops accept mobile money, it also offers beneficiaries more flexibility, and avoids a requirement to travel, which can in turn minimise risk of security incidents.

Nevertheless, there are some considerable risks in the mobile money system. The biggest is a lack of regulation which makes the system fragile and fragmented.

It is also vulnerable to money laundering and terrorism financing. This is because there is a weak “know your customer” compliance, in line with global banking standards, meaning few SIM cards and mobile money accounts are registered using a valid form of identification. Ultimately, this results in limited accountability and tractability.

Another risk is the fact that there’s no assurance that the funds will always be available, as they would be in a normal bank account. That’s because there’s no guaranteed parity between the mobile money balances held by mobile operators and those held in individual and business accounts.

Transfers in Somalia are predominantly available in US dollars, which isn’t healthy for the country’s economy. This is changing – for example, Somaliland obliges that sums under $100 be made in Somali shillings.

The industry also remains largely untaxed, meaning it fails to help raise critical government revenue.

How is mobile money in Somalia different from other African countries?

A few things are different.

Banking, telecommunications and money transfers are so closely intertwined that its resulted in the emergence of two large conglomerates, with partnerships between a mobile network operator, bank and money transfer organisation. This is not really the case elsewhere in Africa.

Also, operators have adopted a different business model, based on indirect revenue generated from other services – like the sale of airtime. They are therefore able to offer mobile money between users as a “free” service (without transactions charges or taxes). This is not the case in many other countries in the region.

Another factor that’s different is the virtual absence of regulatory supervision despite the fact that mobile network operators control vast sums in circulation.

Operators also rely on their own distribution network, not external agents (as they do in Kenya). This means that coverage is more limited.

 

An earlier version of this article carried an incorrect number for total mobile money transactions in Kenya. It has been removed.The Conversation

Victor Odundo Owuor, Senior Research Associate-One Earth Future Foundation, University of Colorado

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Bank & Finance
China's government has hit back at the Trump administration, accusing the US president of "bullying" over his aggressive tactics in the escalating trade conflict between the two nations, saying it will "rise up" should a full-scale trade war break out.
"China doesn't want a trade war, but would rise up to it should it break out," Zhong Shan, China's minister for commerce said in a statement.
 
So far, the Trump administration has placed tariffs on $250 billion (R3.7 trillion) worth of Chinese goods, affecting more than 5,000 products. The president, however, has said he is willing to "go to 500"- a colloquial term for placing tariffs on all US imports from China.
 
What was initially seen as an empty threat is now viewed by many observers as a genuine possibility after the latest round of tariffs were announced in late September, after which Trump doubled down on his threats to tax all Chinese imports. Such threats, Zhong said, will not lead China to back down and offer the US concessions.
 
"There is a view in the US that so long as the US keeps increasing tariffs, China will back down. They don't know the history and culture of China," he said.
 
"This unyielding nation suffered foreign bullying for many times in history, but never succumbed to it even in the most difficult conditions," he continued.
 
"The US should not underestimate China's resolve and will."
 
Zhong's comments came just a few hours after President Trump once again accused China of taking advantage of the US over trade.
 
"We can't have a one-way street," Trump said during a press conference to discuss the resignation of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday afternoon.
 
"It's got to be a two-way street. It's been a one-way street for 25 years. We've got to make it a two-way street. We've got to benefit also," he told reporters.
 
Alongside increasing tariffs, communications between the two sides have become more and more strained in recent weeks. China in September called off planned talks between mid-level officials, and this week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo exchanged displeased words with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during a trip to Beijing.
 
"Recently, as the US side has been constantly escalating trade friction toward China, it has also adopted a series of actions on the Taiwan issue that harm China's rights and interests, and has made groundless criticism of China's domestic and foreign policies," Wang said at a press conference.
 
"We demand that the US side stop this kind of mistaken action."
 
Pompeo hit back, saying the US has "great concerns about the actions that China has taken."
 
A currency war brewing?
Away from the escalating tensions over trade, the US Treasury has shown new concern about China's devaluation of the renminbi, an action it believes Beijing is using to strengthen its hand with regard to trade by making Chinese goods cheaper.
 
"As we look at trade issues there is no question that we want to make sure China is not doing competitive devaluations," Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday.
 
"We are going to absolutely want to make sure that as part of any trade understanding we come to that currency has to be part of that."
 
Trump has frequently criticised China for his belief that Beijing is artificially weakening its currency to make Chinese exports more competitive, something he believes Beijing is doing to hurt the US economy.
 
In August, he claimed that Beijing is a "currency manipulator."
 
 
Source: Business Insider
Published in Business

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