CIO SA tech news round-up: Microsoft unveils new AI-powered Bing and Edge browsers, African tech startup funding surpasses R53 billion in 2022, and more

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Microsoft unveils new AI-powered Bing and Edge browsers

According to Microsoft, the new version of Bing and Edge are meant to empower people to unlock the joy of discovery, feel the wonder of creation, and better harness the world’s knowledge. “Today, we’re improving how the world benefits from the web by reinventing the tools billions of people use every day, the search engine and the browser,” the company says.

Microsoft launched an all-new, AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser this week, which are now available in beta at Bing.com, to provide better search, more complete answers, a new chat experience, and the ability to generate content. Microsoft considers these tools to be an AI copilot for the web.

“AI will fundamentally change every software category, starting with the largest category of all – search,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “Today, we’re launching Bing and Edge powered by AI copilot and chat, to help people get more from search and the web.”

Microsoft claims to have combined search, browsing, and chat into a single unified experience that can be accessed from anywhere on the web, delivering better search, complete answers, a new chat experience, a creative spark, and an enhanced Microsoft Edge experience.

African tech startup funding supasses $3 billion mark in 2022

In 2022, investment in the African tech startup ecosystem surpassed the $3 billion (R51 billion) mark for the first time, with the space overcoming global economic headwinds to post a record year.

This is according to the eighth edition of Disrupt Africa’s annual African Tech Startups Funding Report, which is available free to all as part of an open-sourcing initiative with Flat6Labs, MarketForce, 4Di Capital, Mercy Corps Ventures, Newtown Partners, and InsiderPR.

The report describes an impressive 2022, in which more startups raised more funding than ever before, despite a global downturn in investments, particularly in riskier asset classes like venture capital. In total, 633 startups raised $3.3 billion (R57 billion) in 2022. This represented tremendous progress. In 2021, the number of funded startups increased by 12.2 percent to 564, while total secured funding increased by 55.1 percent to $2.1 billion (R35 billion).

Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya remain Africa’s “big four” in terms of funding, but they received a smaller share of total funding than in 2021, with startups from more African countries securing investment than ever before. However, Nigeria remained the undisputed leader, with 180 startups raising a total of $976,146,000 (R16 million).

Though Nigeria and the other “big four” countries continue to be the clear leaders, there is still plenty of activity elsewhere on the continent, with startups supported in 27 African countries.

In 2022, the fintech sector was once again the most appealing to investors, with more startups securing funding than any other sector and a total that dwarfed all others. The sector received nearly $1.5 million (R26 million) in funding.

Other sectors, such as e-commerce and retail-tech, e-health, logistics, energy, agri-tech, and transportation, also had strong years.

Aviation CIOs increase digital technology investments to meet the demands of a quick recovery

Aviation CIOs want to ensure operations are as agile and resilient as they are efficient, with IT solutions seen as critical to their success. This is according to the 2022 Air Transport IT Insights report, published last week by SITA, a multinational information technology company specialising in providing information technology (IT) and telecommunications services to the aviation community. Because of this goal, digitalisation has accelerated, with airlines and airports looking to key technology solutions to fortify their operations against disruption while automating the passenger experience.

To support this push for digitalisation, the industry’s IT spend is expected to continue its steady year-on-year growth trend since 2020, with 96 percent of airlines and 93 percent of airports expecting their IT spend to remain the same or increase in 2023 compared to 2022. Last year, estimated airline and airport IT spending increased to $37 billion (R634 billion) and $6.8 billion (R117 billion), respectively.

“Air travel has recovered faster from the pandemic than anyone in the industry had initially expected, particularly in Europe and the US. While the recovery is welcome, airports and airlines have found themselves on the back foot with staff and resource shortages. This has put strain on operations, resulting in an increased risk of congestion, delays, cancellations and mishandled baggage. Digitalisation is seen as key to addressing these challenges, providing more scalability and flexibility,” says SITA CEO David Lavorel.

Digitalising operations to achieve more with less

Airlines are relying heavily on IT tools to manage irregular operations and provide the best possible passenger experience, even in the face of staff shortages. Ninety percent or more of airlines will invest in IT service management enhancement and disruption warning systems over the next three years, as well as business intelligence initiatives for aircraft turnaround management, passenger processing, and baggage processing.

Business intelligence solutions are also at the top of airport IT investment priorities, with 93 percent or more planning asset management and flight operations initiatives by 2025. The emphasis is clear on agility, adaptability to disruption, and timely communication with customers and stakeholders; by 2025, half of airports plan to implement automated predictive alerts prior to flight disruption events, as well as business intelligence initiatives to enable demand-based scaling of operations.

Streamlining the passenger journey with smart technologies

Both airlines and airports are investing in key technologies to improve the passenger experience at every stage of the journey, reduce bottlenecks, and allow key staff resources to be redistributed to focus on more complex tasks. Biometrics and self-service technologies are receiving a lot of attention.

Airlines have identified self-service technologies as critical to assisting with irregular operations, and this will remain their top investment priority in 2022, closely followed by touchless solutions and biometric ID management.

Following a period of significant disruption, the majority of airlines plan to provide real-time baggage tracking information to passengers by 2025 in order to support effective baggage management and empower passengers.

Airports are similarly prioritising self-service initiatives, with 86 percent planning implementation by 2025 and a strong emphasis on self check-in and self-bag drop. Airports’ adoption of a secure single biometric token across all touchpoints has increased from three percent in 2021 to 39 percent in 2022, with more than half planning to implement within the next three years. This demonstrates a strong commitment to providing passengers with a next-generation travel experience in which they can breeze through the airport using their face as their boarding pass.

Italy warns hackers targeting VMware ESXi servers

Thousands of computer servers have been targeted by a global ransomware hacking attack targeting VMware (VMW.N) ESXi servers, Italy’s National Cybersecurity Agency (ACN) said last week, warning organisations to take action to protect their systems.

According to ACN director general Roberto Baldoni, the massive hacking attack sought to exploit a software vulnerability.

According to a VMware spokesperson, the software company is aware of the report and that it issued patches in February 2021 when it discovered the vulnerability that is now being exploited, urging customers to apply the patch if they have not already done so.

According to the ACN, servers in other European countries such as France and Finland, as well as the US and Canada, have been compromised.

Dozens of Italian organisations were affected, and many more were warned to take action or risk being locked out of their systems.

Customers of Telecom Italia (TILT.MI) reported internet problems earlier on Sunday, but the two issues were not thought to be related.

Officials in the US said they were assessing the impact of the reported incidents.

“CISA is working with our public and private sector partners to assess the impacts of these reported incidents and provide assistance where needed,” said the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

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