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Bebo chief reveals plan to take on Facebook and Twitter

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micheal birich

Bebo’s co-founder plans to relaunch the social network with a focus on profiles and “real-time” interactions between friends rather than the news feeds at the core of Twitter and Facebook.

Michael Birch says his aim is to provide a “refreshing break” from the misinformation spread elsewhere.

In an exclusive interview, he told the BBC he was coding the effort himself.

And while he has high hopes, he acknowledges the odds are stacked against him.

Bebo – an acronym for “blog early, blog often” – was once the most popular network in the UK, as well as being big in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. At its peak it had more than 40 million members.

In, 2008 Mr Birch and his wife Xochi sold the site to AOL for $850m (£623m).

They later bought it back for $1m and tried to revamp it in several ways, most recently as an e-sports streaming service, before finally selling the business on to Amazon’s Twitch in 2019 for $25m.

However, the couple retained the rights to the brand.

And with time on his hands during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Birch began thinking about what kind of gap there might be in the market.

“We’re calling it live social networking – when you’re logged into Bebo, you are aware of which other friends are online,” he says, explaining his plan from his home in the British Virgin Islands.

“You can interact with them in real-time. You can comment on their photo on their profile. They’ll get notified, they’ll come to the photo, and they may even have a conversation under the photo.

“It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it how it actually does. But we think it’s a more exciting way of actually connecting.”

Even before he had announced plans for a relaunch, Mr Birch said Bebo’s web address was attracting about one visit every three seconds despite the service being offline.

He hopes a mix of nostalgia and curiosity will attract enough early adopters to let people find friends on the regenerated site to interact with.

But the entrepreneur says he is spending about 100 hours a week coding the platform, and plans to let the first invite-only members start trying it out before the month’s end.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity:

How will Bebo distinguish itself?

Now is a good time to launch another social network. Covid has had a lot of detrimental effects, but I think it sort of opened people’s eyes to new things in new ways. And people are craving interaction.

We’re going to do some nods to the past, but you’re not going to log in and see the original Bebo as it was. But what we want to do is go back a little bit to this idea of a profile. That you have an identity you sort of take pride in. That you can visit a profile and see things that aren’t just the latest news articles being shared.

On Facebook, if someone posts something to their news feed, they may have done it one minute ago – but you don’t feel you’re online, in this experience with that person. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve.

However, some of those familiar with the original Bebo are sceptical about its prospects.

“It’s probably brave to launch a new social network in this climate when there are concerns about potential harms from misinformation spread on social media, so I hope Bebo will take its responsibilities to look after its members and their data seriously,” says Kate Bevan, computing editor at Which?.

“But there’s also something delightfully optimistic about this plan.”

Mr Birch is not yet willing to share screenshots of the new Bebo, and for now its only online presence is a “coming soon” page advising prospective users that they will not be able to access their old accounts, and a promise that Donald Trump will be banned.

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Uganda Businesses paralyzed as Kenya Riots spill over

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As the protests hit high in Kenya, businesses in Uganda especially at the boarder points in Busia and Tororo are paralyzed. The eye witnesses informed that, at all the Uganda-Kenya border points, businesses have slowed down unearthing the spark factor as being the “Skyrocketing Cost of Living and Stealing of Elections strike’’.

Since Monday 20th March, no trucks of goods crossing over to and from Kenya to Uganda have been observed. Many business people are worried about the negative outcomes of the skyrocketing cost of living strike that has come to hit them out of business.

Truck drivers have been instructed to pack at the borders and those from Kenya to Uganda were ceased from traveling.

“I reached here yesterday at around midday and I would have been in Nairobi by now. But because of the situation which is taking place in Kenya, we are told to pack here,” Abdallah Muhina, one of the truck drivers who got stuck at Uganda- Kenya borders, cried out.

The resident commissioner of Busia, Micahel Kibwika stressed that the traffic flow has been reduced and no vehicles were getting into and moving out of Kenya per the released report on Monday 20th.

However to guarantee the peace and stability at the Uganda-Kenya borders, the Uganda police deployed the security personnel mostly in the areas or Busia and Tororo.

From the over view of the business lenses, any disruptions in the movement of goods from Kenya to Uganda have a negative impact on both the countries’ business activities.

About the strike, Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, claims that the recent Kenya Presidential election was stolen from him to President William Ruto. Odinga also throws the blame on the current Kenyan Government for hiking the living costs in Kibera, Nairobi.

However, in response to the riots, President William Ruto’s Government has vowed to take tough measures to manage the protesters. And to observe what has so far happened, the police in Kenya deployed tear gas against the protesters who had gathered near the government offices in Nairobi City- the very place where the Odinga rally was scheduled.

President Ruto declared that opposition demonstrations would not intimidate his government in service. He said, “You are not going to threaten us with ultimatums of chaos and impunity. We will not allow that”.

On contrary to the police orders, Odinga threatened to proceed with the protests, he said to his followers on Monday 20th that, “ I want Kenyans to come out in large numbers and show the displeasure of what is happening in our country”. Odinga added that he called the rallies to protest the skyrocketing costs of living and stealing of votes.

Currently, the plights faced and hitting up Kenya range from the hike of prices for basic necessities, drop in Kenya shilling against the U.S Dollar, and the drought that has hit the country especially since the last months of last year, 2022 leaving millions of people in a big hunger strike. The youth on their lips are complaining that the government hasn’t fulfilled the promise to offer them with jobs.

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Ruto commits to attend Uganda’s 28th International Trade Fair.

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The new President of the Republic of Kenya, William Ruto commits to grace the 28th launch of the International Trade Fair that will run from October 3rd to 10th at Uganda Manufacturer’s Association (UMA) Show Grounds in Lugogo.

UMA Executive Director, Daniel Birungi, made this pronouncement while signing a memorandum of understanding with the sponsors of the International Trade Fair.
‘’The expenditure incorporates hosting presidents and heads of state of different countries who are going to visit the trade fair. At the opening of the ceremony, we anticipate having His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya Dr. William Ruto, to open the event and closing ceremony will be presided over by President Museveni alongside other heads of state,’’ Birungi said.

President Ruto’s visit to Uganda will commence a tight trade tie between the two countries. This will also breed life in many Uganda’s exports such as milk and maize that were stopped from entering Kenya.

Beside, President Ruto, the Trade fair will interest about 20 other heads of state around Africa to visit Uganda, according to the speech from the UMA Director and other officials.

The theme of the trade fair is, ‘’ Harnessing Economic Recovery through local sourcing and deepening value chain of integration.’’

Any member of the public anticipated to join the trade show is expected to pay Ug.shs.10,000 each.

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Local Government Workers announce strike over delayed salary increment

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The Local Government Workers under their Umbrella, the Uganda Local Government Workers’ Union (ULGWU), vow to begin their strike by July 6th if the government fails to increase their salaries.

how it started
In the press release dated July 1st, 2022, ULGWU General Secretary, Hassan Lwabayi Mudiba indicated that Uganda Local Government Workers’ Union together with other Public Service Labor Unions concluded a collective Bargaining Agreement 2018 to increase the salaries for all public servants that include local government workers. However, the government has never replied to the agreement. “We have taken all steps to engage government with a view of peacefully resolving this dispute but all in vain. And a Statutory 90 Days Notice was issued to government as the law requires, in April 7th, 2022 and is expiring in July 6th, 2022 midnight,” wrote Mudiba.

In the signing of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) 2018, the Salary of the local government workers is proposed to increase ranging from the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) down to the support staff. In the agreement, the salary of the CAO is proposed to raise to shs.15million from shs.2.3 million current pay, Deputy Director to increase to shs.14.5m from shs.2m , Commissioner to increase to shs.14.3m and shs.14m to the Assistant Commissioner from shs.1.8m and 1.6m they earn currently. The support staff is proposed to earn shs.1.7m from shs.187,600-/.

In the press release, ULGWU General Secretary, Hassan Lwabayi Mudiba, informed that the local government worker’s right to strike is provided for in the 1995 Uganda Constitution in addition to the other legal steps they have taken to engage the government but not attended to. “Local Government Workers’ right to strike is not only protected by the constitution of the Republic of Uganda and applicable laws but also they have complied with all the legal requirements, regulations, and instruments for example concluded a collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 2018 and have made efforts to amicably resolved this dispute but all in vain and statutory 90 Days Notice was complied with through our letter to the Minister of Public Service,” informed Mudiba.
The secretary also warned that they do not expect the government to interfere with their Industrial Action process by threatening local workers since dialogue has failed.

Local Government Workers’ proposed Industrial Action plan by July, 6 the, will join the arts teachers’ strike that started June 15th for salary increment.

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