Can you give us a short introduction?
My name is Emeka Okoye. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Port Harcourt, just as the personal computer revolution was starting in Nigeria, circa early 90s. I started out as a programmer/analyst with a software house, SSL, just as the world wide web was taking off. I got fascinated by the internet and delved deeply into it. I even created lots of experimental internet apps that allowed me to understand what the internet was all about. I developed my first website for my office in 1995, when most of the world had yet to know the web..
I started developing software on my own and thereafter I created the Nigeria’s first financial website for IBTC bank, at the launch of their Nigerian Equity Fund in 1996. Soon after, I co-founded Nigeria’s first internet start-up, Nigeria Exchange (ngex.com) in 1997 and grew the company. My team equally built the first e-commerce site in Nigeria for Xerox in 2000.
In 2006, I started my own software consulting firm, Vikantti. We offer consultancy services and develop bespoke software for business organizations. We are a lean outfit, but we support many organizations. I built the first mobile app to crowd source election data during the Nigeria’s 2011 elections. I also did same for Ghana and Senegal. My firm just deployed our ATM Journal management software which we developed locally, in Ecobank’s 36 countries, where it has been managing transactions from 2012 till date.
I just launched a new company, Cymantiks, that will be solely focused on Semantic Web technologies in Africa. I am an advocate for the Semantic Web and I am pushing for organizations and governments to embrace it.
Why did you choose the IT field?
While I was doing my industrial training in Shell Petroleum, I came in contact with a pocket computer by Casio, the FX-880P. I became fascinated by it and had to borrow it from the owner. After a sleepless night learning how to program the BASIC computer language in it, you can say the rest was history.
You specialised in the development of Web Semantics, can you explain the process?
First, for an existing organization, we need to assess their online reputation (expertise, authority, social media presence and content) . We also need to understand the organization’s goals and objectives on the web, which could be any of the following: to improve their website click-through-rates (CTR), create a deeper understanding for your users on your products or services, improve digital marketing and communication, create a linked open data for strategic value creation opportunity, etc. Depending on which option it is, we will create a narrative in natural language that best describes what we want to achieve. We shall also study their business overview, their target audience and geography.
We will now scope, study and map all concepts and entities that is associated with the defined narrative. These entities and concepts will be disambiguated or be given their identities. We would also model the data around these entities and concepts clearly defining the connections and relationships between them in a natural language. We would also fashion out a content marketing strategy which will be based on the concepts and entities we have generated. We would then create and centralize the organization’s online identity and footprint.
Thereafter, we will either inject structured snippets of data into their website or create an app that will consume the modelled data or publish the data in natural language.
What are the benefits of using these Web Semantics? Why is it so important? How will it change our society?
Benefits include improving the economy, improving the bottom line of business organizations and enriching the knowledge of the citizens, that will result in socially positive actions. Presently, data are stored in silos, unlike the Semantic Web where data is linked in the cloud as connected points on a massive global graph. This graph allows computers to read it, understand it, infer meaning and produce an answer to whatever the searcher is looking for. The value of data on the web increases when they are connected to other data sources and since the Semantic Web is in a machine readable language, this helps computers to understand more information on the Web so that they can support richer discovery, data integration, navigation, and automation of tasks.
Other than a far better Web experience, it tremendously increases knowledge, understanding, Click-Through-Rate (CTR), conversions, opportunities and intelligent decision making.
Do you think this will make it easier for hackers to steal private information?
It is advisable not enter private information online because so far, you have no control on who can have access to this information. In fact, the security of your data is in the hands of silo monsters like Facebook, Google, etc and may become compromised.
We are advocating for users to take back control of their personal data using a security protocol named WebID-TLS. For instance, a bank can ask a user “can we have access to your call logs” and the user could grant or deny access to the bank. Until then, it is too risky to put up private information online.
Don’t you think, slowly but surely, machines will replace humans and the human race will become obsolete? Isn’t it dangerous to depend on machines? We have all seen the movies where humans become preys to machines!
That is not possible because humans are naturally gifted in cognition. They can create, conceptualize or reuse things, data, information from simple or complex situations unlike machines who can only discover or infer based on logic created or fed by humans. Machines are meant to be helpers of humans. The machine is just to transform words of a page into entities that really mean something and have related attributes.
There is no cause for alarm. It’s pure fiction.
How can Web semantics be of use to artists and their work? And what are the benefits to organisations like Mokolo
When you need to find information today about any artist or film in Africa, you will be required to go to multiple websites to get all the information you seek, but that’s the problem. The solution is to aggregate these multiple data sources, unify them and build profiles, building a giant graph of film entities (Actors, Directors, Films, Genres, etc.) and then provide additional services (such as search and recommendations) on top of this aggregated data using semantic web technologies.
Semantic Web technology also provides new ways to explore the cultural universe of actors and directors, and lets them discover other connected ones, based on a rich set of connections that can exist. This will offer an enriched online discovery user-experience via browsing actors, film titles or directors, or by combining these features together to find new ones.
For instance, when you enter an actor’s name, it will serve up biographical information, films, and other related entities.
You can also enter multiple search terms and search in combination. For instance, “Show me all the films directed by Tchidi Chikere that was shot in Asaba, Nigeria”.
Mokolo will become an answer engine for user’s enquiries on movies or movie related things. Structured data increases trust for the provider organization like Mokolo on the web which helps validate content by search engines. Mokolo’s data can be leveraged by all sorts including movie recommendation apps, movie prediction apps, intelligent organizers, Big Data for movie analysis researchers, etc.
How do you use this in your personal life?
I use Google Now, Assistant and IFTTT apps on my android phones. I search the web with my Google Now, which notes the websites I visit with structured data and notifies me if new contents are available. My flight information sent to my Gmail, and picked up and managed by Google Now.
I use the Assistant app to do some heavy lifting like reading out loud my mail, commanding via voice to post on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, search for information on the web on my behalf and lots more. I also use the IFTTT app to automate entering my missed calls onto my to do app.