Is Ethics the Kryptonite of 10x – Book Reviews & The Great Hack

Netflix’s documentary “The Great Hack“, I hope, is an eye-opener to the infliction point the tech industry is at. How far should a business grow-fast-and-break-things, when breaking things equals invoking genocide and supporting illegal tampering in sovereign nations, empowered by a systemized lack of transparency and rampant lack of responsibility.

I could not sympathize with Kaiser (Cambridge Analytica’s BD Director), even though I felt the documentary narrative was subtly attempting to. What’s frustrating time and time again is that the unethical misuse of technology against “others” seems to always be justified with no thought to how that can come back and harm the perpetuator… a combination of ego-mania, aloofness and entitlement.

Coincidentally, I happened to have just finished reading three books that tackled the state of unethical practices of design and product development in today’s business world (technology and all).

P.S. I did not realize these books would converge in such a manner before reading them, but they did end up being quite complementary and reinforcing or each-others narrative.

Ruined by Design

by Mike Monteiro

This book is must read for anyone responsible for making, developing, researching, designing (in the exact sense), and bringing to life in any way a product that could impact the lives of individuals beyond their comprehension. Mike makes a passionate and compelling plea for product makers around the world to be held more accountable for the products they unleash into the wild. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have more people thinking before breaking the “internet”.

Below are some thoughts and snippets from the book:

When we look at the social media influenced world around us it’s worth noting that: “Either by action or inaction, through fault or ignorance, we have designed the world to behave exactly as it’s behaving right now. These are our chickens coming home to roost.”

We have reached here because “Companies ask designers to move fast and break things. How has become more important than why.”

“We [now more than ever] have to be ready for any tool we build to have a global impact. But even if it only impacts the area around you, chances are it is going to hopefully, reach people who are different from you…Don’t you want all of those people using your tool? Don’t you want them to be able to participate in what you’re making? …And, for the capitalists …don’t you want their money? If we intend to build successful tools, we need to expand our definition of we.”

Some may argue that ethical considerations makes their work less-innovative and more constrained. Innovation has long flourished “not in spite of constraints, but because of them.”

Amazon | Website

Technically Wrong

by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

This book is among the wave of female voices calling out the “frat” culture flourishing in tech companies for its lack on inclusion and intolerance of diversity. Sounding an alarm towards data-powered “intelligence” that these companies monopolize and are being given reign to make life altering decisions, from facial identification to bank loans! Sara makes a timely argument: “People need to understand that data is not truth. It is not going to magically solve hard societal problems for us”, and it’s our responsibility, not the data’s, to build better solutions.

Meritocracy can sometimes mean training algorithms on existing data, which is far from ideal and while considered “pattern recognition” by some, it’s also “profiling or stereotyping”.

And this: “Default settings can be helpful or deceptive, thoughtful or frustrating. But they’re never neutral. They’re designed…[by] designers and developers who’ve been told that they’re rock stars, gurus and geniuses, and that the world is made for people like them.” Who also happen to be generally from similar cultures, upbringing, maybe race, ethnicity, political affiliation, belief and education.

Amazon | Audible | Website

Mismatch

by Kat Holmes

I happened to read this book during a trip to Tokyo last spring, which made me appreciate the city in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise; Tokyo is an awe-inspiringly accessible city (besides the language barrier).

Kat’s tone is less pessimistic, but still critical of the limited vision of products. Mismatch highlights a reality we rarely address in our blanket of assumptions about “accessibility”: “Many of us are temporarily able-bodied and will face new kinds of exclusion as we age. When we design for inclusion we are designing for our future selves. Not just for the changes in our bodies but for our ability to contribute to society. It is designing how the next generation will treat and care for us. It’s making solutions to uphold the human connections that are most important to our lives. Our dignity, health, safety, and sense of being at home.”

“If inclusion isn’t explicitly part of that leadership, exclusion will be default.”

Amazon | Website

So it’s no surprise that when I watched the documentary over the weekend I was not surprised nor sympathetic. Cambridge Analytica was commercial product that was designed be destructive, with intentions stemming straight out of military intelligence. Facebook was designed to be irresponsible for user-generated content; plain-old-trolls and systematic-war-machines alike, and grew to a disproportional size by simply getting away with it. A match made in heaven.

Twitter, Google, Uber, Amazon, Apple, etc are making ripples across supply-chains, financial systems, news outlets and media, climate, social dynamics, politics and probably facets of life we are not aware of even. Being ethical and inclusive in how they impact our world should no longer be a stock-price driven decision.


I understand that making choices about whom and how you work may seem like a privilege to many, but I echo Mike’s call for designers and developers taking oaths of good conduct. You wouldn’t want a doctor that has not sworn their oath designing a medical treatment for you nor an uncertified lawyer arguing your case in court, then why would you want people that have no accountability designing every other living facet of our increasingly connected lives?

MENA’s Digital News, Week #42

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and the public sector.

Investments & Acquisitions

SOS Credit, Casablanca-based fintech startup, has received an undisclosed investment from the SEAF Morocco Growth Fund (SMGF) http://bit.ly/2Y9hgFb

CODED, Coding education platform, raises $1.3M Pre-series A funding led by KISP, and joined by 500 startups, Sijam Ventures, Sirdab Lab, Sharq Capital and Abdullah Al-Zabin http://bit.ly/2GoYGmo 

Zid, Saudi-based eCommerce infrastructure provider, raises $2M led by Elm Ventures and joined by Arzan VC & MSA Capital http://bit.ly/32Mk9PJ

PushBots, Saas add-ons provider for startups, sells two SaaS API products to Apilayer from Austria for undisclosed amount http://bit.ly/2GqeQfh

Mubadala Ventures, joins investors in funding InCountry, US based data-residency startup, in a series A round of $15M https://tcrn.ch/2XVlwI9 

Sector News

Swvl, Egypt’s on-demand shuttle service, expands into Pakistan’s Lahore http://bit.ly/2Y9O05b

Huobi and CASHU, crypto-payment platforms, announce partnership and expansion to North Africa http://bit.ly/2GiRKHe 

Careem launches new service in Dubai in joint-venture with the Road and Transportation Authority (RTA) called ‘Hala’ which further integrates RTA Taxis into Careem’s app http://bit.ly/32ALZOJ (the partnership was announced in Dec, 2018)

Property Finder and the Dubai Land Department (DLD) sign a partnership to launch an official sales and rental price index for Dubai available through Data Finder platform, and Mo’asher http://bit.ly/2SyLqQR

Iflix, Mayalsian VOD service, halts operations in the Middle East. They had just closed a $50M investment round. https://tcrn.ch/2yfGV4h 

BIGO, Singapore holding company of IMO messenger and BIGO Live, to establish an office in Jordan (BIGO Live is a popular live streaming platform in SEA) http://bit.ly/2MdR2Ps 

SoftBank Vision Fund II has commitments from Apple, Goldman Sachs Group, and Kazakhstan’s government https://on.wsj.com/2YwXVSJ 

UAE x China

SenseTime, Chinese AI startup, to open an EMEA R&D center in Abu Dhabi http://bit.ly/2GvB0g5 

Jollypay, online payment arm of China’s Jollychic, receives license to operate in the UAE http://bit.ly/2M3lhse (Alipay, Alibaba’s payment service, has been operating in the UAE since 2018) 

Fang, China’s #1 real-estate platform, launches in the UAE http://bit.ly/2Y2blBO

Didi, China’s leading ride-hailing service, signed a joint-venture with Symphony Investors and other unnamed investors to establish a regional presence http://bit.ly/2OaulOP 

Neolix, Chinese autonomous vehicle company, signs agreement with Noon.com to trial their vehicles in Saudi Arabia and UAE http://bit.ly/2Z7C691 

Further Readings (Economic)

CooperFitch publishes salary guide for Saudi Arabia (AR) http://bit.ly/32MDzE0 

Lebanon issues New Commercial Law to improve ease-of-business, clauses are very positive for startups. Unofficial english translation is here: http://bit.ly/2Z2k5ZS and full draft (much longer) in official gazette here (AR) http://bit.ly/2SpE5D4 

Worldbank releases new report “Promoting a New Economy for the Middle East and North Africa” http://bit.ly/30SgP3L 

Investcorp, Bahrain-based “alternative investment manager”, announces a $142M for its Private Equity Fund for India http://bit.ly/2SEmUxR 

AJ Capital and Investment LLC (AJCI), Al Jallaf Family Office, acquires a 51% stake in Kenyan micro-insurer, Insurance For All (IFA) Ltd http://bit.ly/2OhHu8Q

Long Reads

Saudi authorities issue a “Fintech Access Guide” that includes: regulations and frameworks for companies that wish to setup or expand into the kingdom http://bit.ly/2MhJriI 

IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report is out and MENA (UAE & Saudi as per their research) remain the second highest regions for average cost of breaches for entities at $5.97M! The average cost per breached record in MENA is $173. Full Report here: https://ibm.co/2YiJxx7 and a more interactive cost calculator can be found on their website here: https://ibm.co/2YahdZF 

Visa’s eCommerce in the UAE Report on the state and projections of eCommerce in the UAE. Market is estimated at $8.3B in 2018 and growing 23% annually, UAE consumers spend per transaction is one of the highest globally at $100+ per transaction http://bit.ly/2YqClyS

Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 is out, MENA countries don’t rank very high globally, but are on par in some categories. Excerpt is 20 pages, Full report is 400+, pick your weekend read! both can be found here http://bit.ly/2M9QVnX 


To get your daily dose subscribe to MENA’s Digital News Telegram channel here or on Whatsapp. Follow the Arabic “MENA’s Digital News” Channels on Telegram & Whatsapp!

MENA’s Digital News, Week #41

A weekly round up of the top headlines from the digital sector in MENA, covering startups, corporate and the public sector.


If you haven’t joined the daily updates, here’s a reason you should: consider:

One of the best if not the best signal to noise ratio channels in the middle East tech scene. Prepared by a team that has been covering tech for years. If you had one channel to add to your radar, start with this one

Kamal Mugahid, former Innovation lead @ du and Currently founder of SuperNode

To get your daily dose subscribe to MENA’s Digital News Telegram channel here or on Whatsapp. Follow the Arabic “MENA’s Digital News” Channels on Telegram & Whatsapp!


Investments & Acquisitions

COLNN, Egypt based school management Saas, raises seed round of $100k from Edventures http://bit.ly/2Y5GZ5k 

AlgoDriven, Dubai-based automotive data platform, raises $625k in pre series A funding from Oman Technology Fund, Dubai-DTEC Ventures, 500 Falcons, and Social Capital http://bit.ly/2Sgpxpj / http://bit.ly/2keMnkH

FineDine, Turkish SaaS management platform for F&B and hospitality, have secured investment from Savour Ventures (undisclosed amount) http://bit.ly/2YMZGYF 

Cryptyd, Alexandria-based mobile game development studio, raises pre-series A funding from Cairo Angels and Alexandria Angles http://bit.ly/30AmBXy 

Loay Academy, Bahrain-based online classes and accreditation platform, raises ~$1.1M from undisclosed investors (AR) http://bit.ly/30FtTJH 

Weego, Moroccan mobility startup, join’s Cape Town’s Startupbootcamp AfriTech accelerator http://bit.ly/30zrUXw

Capital Investment LLC, AbuDhabi, joins series F round (announced in May) with an additional $10M invested into Grofers, India’s grocery delivery startup. The round was led by Softbank Vision Fund and valued at $200M http://bit.ly/2Y6xXVJ 

Sector News

Careem launches Careem Now (food delivery) in Amman, Jordan http://bit.ly/2Y2Y3Zz 

Oasis500, Jordan, launches second investment fund: “Oasis Venture II Fund”, joined by the King Abdullah Fund for Development (KAFD), the Innovative Start-ups and SMEs Fund (ISSF) and Arab Bank http://bit.ly/2YTQoKj

Al Baraka Islamic Bank, Bahrain, launches a “Global API Marketplace” inviting startups to tap into their system http://bit.ly/30BAZij (regionally, Jordan’s Arab Bank (Aug 2018) and UAE’s EmiratesNBD (Nov 2018) have launched such offerings) 

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Free Zone (DMCC) registered companies will now be able to establish a presence & operation in mainland Dubai under a facilitated DED license http://bit.ly/2JQM4VU

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has issued a new regulatory framework for robo-advisors, “digital investment managers”, operating in ADGM http://bit.ly/2XTHb3m 

Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, announces establishment of the Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems Institute (AI Institute) http://bit.ly/2JyhIsm (Jordan’s Princess Sumaya University also launched a Bachelor in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AR) last month)

UAE’s Ministry of Economy announced amended fees and fines prices for over 110 services including: Trademark registration, issuing and renewal of work permits and alteration of labor contracts, as well as labor transfer costs, “sale, merger and acquisition of foreign companies”, among others http://bit.ly/2XKeSJF (AR) http://bit.ly/2SbYGe8 (Full list should be available in the official gazette next month)

Saudi’s Ministry of Commerce and Investment issued new eCommerce Law last week, no official translation is available yet, but here’s a trusted unofficial one: http://bit.ly/2xIViOy

Long Read

Magnitt publishes “MENA Venture Investment Summary” report for H1 2019 http://bit.ly/2Gemp8E