Is interoperability another word for competition? Tech magazines have been taking note of moves made by Safaricom(under considerable pressure) to open up Kenya's M-Pesa system by enabling transfers between distinct mobile money operators. Previously, M-Pesa was only transferable to another Safaricom customer. "If other African regulators follow Kenyan regulators' lead and allow inexpensive cross-company and cross-border transactions between Africa's leading mobile networks, including MTN Mobile Money, Orange Money, and Airtel Money, local banking and the international remittances market could be completely transformed by M-Pesa," writes Quartz. In fact, African regulators already recognise that mobile money cannot be a distinct and discrete pool of money and works best when interoperability allows money to move between banks and mobile money networks, as recognised by new ventures such as Ghana's GHIPSS network. It seems likely that one giant will dominate in many markets, from Vodacom to MTN, but the previous rationale for that — which is the ease of sending money within one mobile money system — will no longer prevail.
Readers of Lafferty News will know that we follow Silicon Valley news with interest, for obvious reasons, and few spaces promise more right now than self-driving cars. Reading the allegations (alleged theft of IP), it is little surprise that Uber has fired Adam Levandowski, the engineer it hired from Alphabet's self-driving division Waymo. In short, Mr Levandowski stands accused of downloading thousands of documents from Waymo before leaving and setting up self-driving truck business Otto. Six-months old and with no revenue, Otto was acquired by Uber for $680 million. Could Waymo be the source of the Otto magic? The court case revolves around the number of light-detecting sensors used by self-driving vehicles. Lewandowski has refused to hand over his personal computer and hard drives to the court, and had been warned by Uber that a continued refusal to do so would endanger his position: "William Alsup, the judge who is hearing the case, has repeatedly accused Mr Levandowski of obstructing the discovery process, and has suggested on several occasions that Uber should fire him if he does not co-operate," writes the FT. So it has turned out. Mr Lewandowski's lawyers argue that their client has been placed on the horns of a fifth amendment dilemma.
How are those lean systems running, eh? British Airways is the latest airline to generate reams of newsprint following the collapse of its IT systems last weekend. As the FT wrote yesterday, redundancy has two meanings: one has a negative connotation, and means firing staff, and another has a positive connotation, meaning layers of resilience built in to systems to enable them to continue functioning when a main system fails. Fly by wire systems in planes have double and sometimes triple redundancies built it. It seems BA did not pay enough attention to its ground-bound systems. BA chief Willie Walsh is known as a cost-cutter, and he's kept his head down these past few days. But, what is it with the recent flurry of bad incidents on airlines? First of all, air travel is expected to double in the next twenty years, so expect those airports to get even more packed. But here's the kicker: everyone is raging on the plane. It's a cross-section of our class system. "In fact," writes the Guardian, "a study of air rage and class published last year suggested that economy passengers feel the most rage when they walk through first class: it reminds them of their diminution. But first-class passengers weren't any calmer: those subjected to the indignity of having the unwashed walk through their space, rather than boarding out of their sight though a middle door, were even angrier."
Lafferty News was in Milan recently, where Deutsche Bank is on trial for its dealings in derivatives that hid spectacular losses at Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena. Berlin and Rome have been lobbing insults at one another for several months now as Germany seeks to keep a lid on Italian attempts to recapitalise its banks while the latter are aggrieved at perceived double-dealing on the part of Deutsche Bank. Among the mind-boggling things happening at the trial is a request by prosecutors to brand Deutsche Bank as an international criminal organisation. Italian laws, written with the Mafia in mind, are designed to reduce pressure on prosecutors from 'criminal organisations' and have enabled prosecutors to hone in on a frightening piece of evidence that suggests Deutsche Bank employees manipulated an index that then impacted on prices. "A 2014 confidential audit commissioned by German regulator Bafin said that Deutsche Bank employees may have manipulated internal indexes to help ensure the success of the deal, Bloomberg previously reported. The study, requested by Bafin, said an internal Deutsche Bank review described 'abnormalities' in the values of proprietary indexes used to set the price for the Monte Paschi deal in December 2008." This piece from Bloomberg is from earlier this month but still worth a read, and there's a lot more to come from this story.
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