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Meta to provide Rs125 million for flood victims

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As the floods triggered by historic monsoon rains wreak havoc across the country, Facebook’s parent company Meta announced on Wednesday that it would donate Rs125 million to flood victims.

The tech giant will contribute the amount to Unicef, Hands and Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) to help communities impacted by the floods, the company said in a press release.

The donation will support emergency aid, food, water and sanitation as well as help children get back to school in Sindh, Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

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“Pakistan is going through one of the worst natural disasters we have seen to date. Millions of people are affected and the entire nation is rallying to support them during this difficult time. We hope that our contributions help the communities impacted by the catastrophe and our thoughts are with these communities and families as they try to recover,” said Jordi Fornies, director for Emerging Markets, APAC at Meta.

Read more: Railway track between Lahore, Quetta and Karachi ‘unfit’ for use

The company said that prior to the donation when the flooding began, Safety Check was activated on Facebook as it allowed people to let friends and family know they were safe. A crisis page was also established where people could use the Community Help feature to enable people to ask for and offer help from different communities.

Additionally, Meta’s ‘Data for Good’ activated its Disaster Maps programme and is providing data to regional response partners. One of those partners, CrisisReady (a collaboration between Direct Relief and Harvard University), has focused on combining data sources into situation reports being used daily by thousands of on-the-ground first responders.

“The torrential monsoon rains over the past weeks have damaged or completely washed away people’s houses, critically affecting millions of people, including children. With winter just weeks away in some parts of the country, we need urgent help to continue our relief efforts in Pakistan and support for children and their families. We express our gratitude to Meta for all the support,” said Michael J Nyenhuis, president and CEO of Unicef USA.

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Communities across various Meta-owned platforms have raised more than a million dollars for non-profits supporting flood relief efforts. Leading NGOs across the globe have also raised substantial amounts via Facebook and Instagram.

Commenting on the development, Baela Raza Jamil, CEO, ITA, said: “We will rehabilitate schools, ensure 2nd Chance Accelerated learning programs with life skills (psychosocial support, climate change and digital literacy), and provide hygiene and health with dignity kits. This is a comprehensive and inclusive approach to #BuildingBackBetter by reaching homes, communities, schools, parents, children, and especially adolescent girls and teachers embedded within government systems for effective emergency response and preparedness.”

The official statement also said that Meta is continuously exploring further avenues to facilitate not just families in the devastated regions but also supporting NGOs and other causes in their efforts.



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Shaping a robust ecosystem for

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With a burgeoning youth population and an increasing emphasis on education, the demand for diverse employment opportunities has intensified in Pakistan. This demand is met by a vibrant startup culture that has taken root across the nation, offering a dynamic alternative to traditional employment avenues.

However, navigating the entrepreneurial landscape poses its own set of challenges – from securing initial funding and managing cash flow uncertainties to cultivating a viable market strategy.

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Entrepreneurs wrestle with the constant pressure of decision-making, adapting to market dynamics, and fostering a resilient team. The ever-present risk of failure, coupled with the need to stay agile in the face of evolving industry trends, demands tenacity.

Regulatory hurdles, establishing a unique value proposition, and building a robust network further add complexity. Successful navigation requires a delicate balance of innovation, perseverance, and strategic thinking to overcome the multifaceted challenges inherent in entrepreneurship.

All of this necessitates the guidance of visionaries who can steer fledgling businesses toward success. In this evolving scenario, incubation initiatives led by Jehan Ara via Katalyst Labs serve as nurturing grounds for nascent ideas and startups.

The company hosts various initiatives, programs, and events to help innovators with potential make their business dreams come to life. One such endeavour, +92Disrupt, Pakistan’s flagship startup conference held in Karachi, Pakistan on November 11 and 12, 2023, stands as a testament to the importance of fostering innovation. It serves as a melting pot of ideas, bringing together visionaries, industry leaders, and budding entrepreneurs.
 

In the midst of economic uncertainty in the country, Pakistani startups are in dire need of a program that will help them hone their skills, become leaders in their fields, and gain an understanding of the startup ecosystem in the country. The startup ecosystem required a catalyst, and the Katalyst event +92Disrupt emerged as the essential spark.

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Serving as the inaugural ignition, it provided a much-needed platform for budding entrepreneurs to connect, learn, and innovate. Katalyst not only initiated dialogue but also nurtured the growth of the startup landscape, fostering collaboration and idea exchange.

By offering a space for diverse talents to converge, +92Disrupt became the starting point for a vibrant ecosystem, propelling visionary ideas into actionable ventures. Katalyst’s role transcended mere initiation; it laid the foundation for a dynamic and sustainable startup culture, symbolising the crucial beginning of a transformative journey.

With insightful discussions on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, the event uplifted the spirits of the participants and attracted some of the nation’s brightest minds.

Leading visionaries, such as Amir Paracha of Unilever, Uzair Gadit of Gaditek, and Ehsan Sayaof Daraz, contributed significantly to the event’s aim with their empowering stories about their journey toward building the ecosystem and bridging the gap between the established industry and the startup ecosystem.

Their insights and experiences, shared at +92Disrupt, provide invaluable guidance to those navigating the complexities of entrepreneurship. Moreover, the inclusion of founders from prominent startups like Cloudways, Sadapay, and Daraz emphasises the collaborative spirit that is vital for the ecosystem’s success.

In a dynamic showcase of innovation and collaboration, the +92Disrupt startup conference also unveiled various groundbreaking deals, injecting a renewed sense of hope and optimism into Pakistan’s burgeoning startup ecosystem. This not only signifies substantial financial support but also underscores the collective belief in the potential of pioneering ventures such as BusCaro, MedIQ, Umrah Companion, Metamorph, Truckistan, Edufi, Kravemart, Voyage, Shake the AI and Northern Treasures.

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Each of these startups brings a unique value proposition to the table, ranging from healthcare solutions and travel companionship to educational technology and artificial intelligence.
 

At a star-studded panel session hosted by Spotify, featuring renowned figures like Faisal Kapadia, Taha G, Natasha Baig, and Maria Unera, the artists praised Spotify for revolutionizing the Pakistani music industry.

Figures like Faisal Kapadia, Taha G, Maria Unera, Shehzad Ghias, Ali Gul Pir, and Amtul Baweja bring the creative perspective to the forefront, underscoring the symbiotic relationship between the arts and entrepreneurship. During this star-studded panel hosted by Spotify, these renowned figures praised the platform for its transformative impact on artists’ financial recognition.

Taha G highlighted Spotify as a game-changer, amplifying global visibility and financial opportunities for Pakistani musicians. Natasha Baig and Maria Unera echoed the sentiments, emphasising Spotify’s role in creating a more equitable music ecosystem. The panel collectively celebrated Spotify’s commitment to reshaping the industry and empowering artists.

Another panel that garnered significant audience engagement focused on “The Art of Content Creation,” skillfully moderated by Hassan Rizvi, CEO of Bodybeat PR. Rizvi brought together a prominent lineup of Pakistan’s leading content creators, including Ali Gul Pir, known for his roles as a comedian, rapper, and producer; Amtul Baweja, Co-founder and CEO of Patangeer; Bilal Hasan, distinguished writer and photojournalist; and Maleeha Jawaid, Consultant Dermatologist.

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Whereas, the marketing panel, moderated by the Chief Executive at BBDO, also provided invaluable insights as it brought together e-commerce and SaaS-based brands. Their collective expertise addressed critical aspects of brand establishment. Similarly, the content creator, SaaS, and AI panel resonated with this notion, acknowledging the pivotal roles these functions play in shaping successful businesses.

By converging industry leaders and innovators, these discussions emphasised the interconnected nature of marketing, content creation, SaaS, and AI, underscoring their collaborative significance in the multifaceted journey of building and sustaining a thriving business.

The power of narratives

Storytelling serves as a compelling medium through which the experiences, challenges, and triumphs of both established industry leaders and startup entrepreneurs can be communicated. These narratives humanise the often complex world of business, making it more relatable and accessible to a diverse audience.

Whether it’s the journey of a corporate giant navigating market shifts or a startup founder grappling with the uncertainties of entrepreneurship, stories have the unique ability to resonate with individuals at different stages of their professional journeys.
 

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How established industries can benefit from the storytelling approach?

Established industries, often viewed as traditional and resistant to change, can benefit significantly from the narrative approach. By sharing their own stories of adaptation, evolution, and resilience, industry leaders can demystify their operations and illustrate a commitment to innovation.

This, in turn, fosters an environment where startups perceive established players not as insurmountable entities but as entities with narratives of growth, learning, and adaptation.

On the flip side, startups often bring a fresh perspective, agility, and disruptive ideas to the table. Their stories of innovation and resilience can inspire established industries to embrace change, take calculated risks, and remain relevant in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

How the wealth of experience and insights can be invaluable for startups navigating uncharted waters?

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For startups, storytelling becomes a powerful tool for conveying their vision, mission, and unique value propositions. By articulating their narratives, startups can establish an emotional connection with potential investors, partners, and customers.

These stories go beyond mere data and statistics, offering a glimpse into the passion, determination, and creativity that drive the entrepreneurial spirit.

The collaborative potential of storytelling becomes evident in the shared narratives of success and failure. Learning from each other’s stories fosters an ecosystem where established industries and startups complement rather than compete.

The cross-pollination of ideas, experiences, and perspectives nurtures an environment where innovation thrives, and both sides contribute to the growth of the entire business ecosystem.

In a rapidly changing global landscape, the importance of a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem cannot be overstated. Visionaries and incubators act as catalysts, propelling Pakistan into the forefront of innovation and economic development.

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Platforms like Katalyst Labs and events like +92Disrupt serve as a reminder that the collaboration between visionaries, incubators, and entrepreneurs is not just beneficial; it is imperative for steering Pakistan toward a future where innovation thrives, businesses flourish, and the job market becomes a beacon of opportunities for all.

Beyond funding

The +92Disrupt conference didn’t just stop at funding announcements; it served as a platform for fostering strategic collaborations. One noteworthy partnership unveiled during the event is between Chikoo and Bank Alfalah, showcasing the convergence of fintech and innovation. This collaboration holds the promise of unleashing innovative financial solutions to the Pakistani market, enhancing the financial landscape for businesses and consumers alike.

A glimpse into the future of Pakistani Startups

Misbah Naqvi of i2i Ventures and Mubariz Siddiqui of Carbon Law revealed the ‘Startup Governance Toolkit’ on behalf of the Venture Capital Association of Pakistan.

This toolkit aims to serve as a comprehensive guide for startups, providing invaluable insights into governance practices essential for their growth and sustainability. It reflects a concerted effort to empower startups with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the complexities of governance, setting a benchmark for industry best practices.

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These announcements at +92Disrupt go beyond mere financial transactions; they represent pivotal moments that have the potential to reshape the entrepreneurial landscape in Pakistan. The collaboration between Chikoo and Bank Alfalah opens doors to innovative financial solutions, while the Startup Governance Toolkit introduces a framework for responsible and effective business management.

As the startup ecosystem continues to mature, events like +92Disrupt serve as catalysts for progress, bringing together visionary minds, fostering collaborations, and propelling promising startups into the spotlight.

These announcements not only symbolise financial backing but also signify a collective commitment to nurturing and uplifting the innovative spirit that defines Pakistan’s startup landscape. Furthermore, the inclusion of interactive sessions underscored the conference’s commitment to not just dialogue but also tangible skill-building.


 

As +92Disrupt continues to evolve, its holistic approach ensures that participants leave not only inspired but also equipped for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The event ignited a spark of optimism that reverberates through the hearts of entrepreneurs and investors alike, paving the way for a future where Pakistani startups stand tall on the global stage.

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Europe agrees landmark AI regulation deal

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STOCKHOLM/
BRUSSELS,/
LONDON,:

Europe on Friday reached a provisional deal on landmark European Union rules governing the use of artificial intelligence including governments’ use of AI in biometric surveillance and how to regulate AI systems such as ChatGPT.

With the political agreement, the EU moves toward becoming the first major world power to enact laws governing AI. Friday’s deal between EU countries and European Parliament members came after nearly 15 hours of negotiations that follow

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Europe on Friday reached a provisional deal on landmark European Union rules governing the use of artificial intelligence including governments’ use of AI in biometric surveillance and how to regulate AI systems such as ChatGPT.

With the political agreement, the EU moves toward becoming the first major world power to enact laws governing AI. Friday’s deal between EU countries and European Parliament members came after nearly 15 hours of negotiations that followed an almost 24-hour debate the previous day.

The two sides are set to hash out details in the coming days, which could change the shape of the final legislation.

“Europe has positioned itself as a pioneer, understanding the importance of its role as a global standard setter. This is yes, I believe, a historical day,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton told a press conference.

The accord requires foundation models such as ChatGPT and general purpose AI systems (GPAI) to comply with transparency obligations before they are put on the market. These include drawing up technical documentation, complying with EU copyright law and disseminating detailed summaries about the content used for training.

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High-impact foundation models with systemic risk will have to conduct model evaluations, assess and mitigate systemic risks, conduct adversarial testing, report to the European Commission on serious incidents, ensure cybersecurity and report on their energy efficiency.

GPAIs with systemic risk may rely on codes of practice to comply with the new regulation.

Governments can only use real-time biometric surveillance in public spaces in cases of victims of certain crimes, prevention of genuine, present, or foreseeable threats, such as terrorist attacks, and searches for people suspected of the most serious crimes.

The agreement bans cognitive behavioural manipulation, the untargeted scrapping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage, social scoring and biometric categorisation systems to infer political, religious, philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation and race.

Consumers would have the right to launch complaints and receive meaningful explanations while fines for violations would range from 7.5 million euros ($8.1 million) or 1.5% of turnover to 35 million euros or 7% of global turnover.

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Business group DigitalEurope criticised the rules as yet another burden for companies, on top of other recent legislation.

“We have a deal, but at what cost? We fully supported a risk-based approach based on the uses of AI, not the technology itself, but the last-minute attempt to regulate foundation models has turned this on its head,” its Director General Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl said.

Privacy rights group European Digital Rights was equally critical.

“It’s hard to be excited about a law which has, for the first time in the EU, taken steps to legalise live public facial recognition across the bloc,” its senior policy advisor Ella Jakubowska said.

“Whilst the Parliament fought hard to limit the damage, the overall package on biometric surveillance and profiling is at best lukewarm.”

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The legislation is expected to enter into force early next year once both sides formally ratify it and should apply two years after that.

Governments around the world are seeking to balance the advantages of the technology, which can engage in human-like conversations, answer questions and write computer code, against the need to put guardrails in place.

Europe’s ambitious AI rules come as companies like OpenAI, in which Microsoft (MSFT.O) is an investor, continue to discover new uses for their technology, triggering both plaudits and concerns. Google owner Alphabet on Thursday launched a new AI model, Gemini, to rival OpenAI.

The EU law could become the blueprint for other governments and an alternative to the United States’ light-touch approach and China’s interim rules.

 

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Microsoft does not own any portion of OpenAI

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WASHINGTON:

Microsoft said in a statement on Friday that it does not own any part of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence powerhouse.

“While details of our agreement remain confidential, it is important to note that Microsoft does not own any portion of OpenAI and is simply entitled to share of profit distributions,” said company spokesman Frank Shaw.

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