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An Cosán wants to help tackle the digital skills gap with suite of new tools

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The CEO of the non-profit told attendees at a community webinar that almost one in two adults in Ireland has low digital literacy levels.

Dublin-based education non-profit An Cosán is introducing a new suite of digital tools in an effort to tackle Ireland’s digital skills shortage.

Several An Cosán team members addressed the issue and the centre’s plan to tackle it at a recent webinar on digital inclusion the organisation hosted for its community partners.

Heydi Foster, CEO of the non-profit, called for a “whole of society approach” to increasing digital literacy, which, she said is an essential requirement to participate fully in society and to thrive in the 21st century.

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Foster said: “Almost one in two adults in Ireland has low digital literacy levels, according to the Digital Economic and Society Index 2018. This is something that we all have a responsibility to address as a matter of urgency.”

She told the webinar attendees that a “collaboration between community, state and corporate sectors is urgently needed to ensure every adult has the necessary literacy, numeracy and digital skills to fully engage in society.”

Foster reminded the community partners of An Cosán’s founding principle “to leave no one behind” when it was first set up 35 years ago by co-founders Dr Ann Louise Gilligan and Dr Katherine Zappone.

The non-profit’s digital inclusion co-ordinator, Mark Kelly, then spoke about how An Cosán had been working with its partners to address digital exclusion in Ireland. Measures taken include a ‘Digital Stepping Stones’ tool developed with Accenture that allows people to evaluate their digital level competency. First rolled out in 2020, the tool identifies where people may need to upskill to fix any gaps in their digital skillset.

Kelly said the tool had been used by more than 5,300 people across the further education and training sector, including education and training boards, regional community training centres, local development companies, family resource centres and other community organisations.

To complement the success of the digital skills assessment tool, Kelly announced the development of a new suite of digital learning methods, using DigComp, the European digital competence framework.

Ariana Ball, corporate citizenship lead at Accenture, spoke during the webinar about the need for a growth mindset when it comes to teaching digital skills. The professional services company last year published a report on the digital skills shortage.

The report found that at least a quarter of the Irish population is excluded from an increasingly digital society because of socioeconomic reasons. This is leading to a “two-speed digital economy”, the report warned. It highlighted, in particular, the need for increased digital skills help for older people.

Recently, Vodafone Ireland partnered with charities Alone and Active Retirement Ireland to launch a new training programme to help those over the age 65 improve their digital skills. The Hi Digital programme aims to support 230,000 older Irish people as they overcome digital disenfranchisement.

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VC funding in Ireland rose in Q1, but not for deals under €10m

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A William Fry-commissioned report has found that funding deals under €10m have taken a big hit in the first three months of 2022.

Venture capital funding into Irish tech businesses was up by more than 50pc in the first quarter of this year, but there’s an unfortunate and potentially troubling caveat to that.

The Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA) has published today (15 May) its latest report on VC funding into tech start-ups and SMEs in Ireland, which found that the investments increased by 52pc to €379.7m in the first three months of 2022, compared to the same period last year.

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But the report, commissioned by Dublin law firm William Fry, also found that VC funding in deals valued less than €10m have taken a hit.

IVCA chair Nicola McClafferty said that the headline figure of a funding boost conceals a “potentially worrying fall” of 30 to 50pc across all categories of deals under €10m – including seed funding.

“All the growth came from eight deals worth over €10m each, including three over €30m. While the momentum carried over from last year has continued for more established companies raising large rounds, some of that impetus seems to have stalled for earlier stage companies.”

Even the total number of deals overall fell by almost a third to 50 from 74 in the same period last year.

McClafferty said that this could be related to international trends affecting the business world right now, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“While challenging market conditions may continue, we also know that many great companies are started and built in times of downturn, so we await with interest the data in the coming quarters,” she added.

Deals in the €5m to €10m range fell in value by more than half, while those in the €1m to €5m range also halved from €70.3m last year to €34.5m in Q1 2022. The value of deals below €1m dropped by 31pc to €8.9m.

Seed funding also took a hit, falling by nearly 40pc to €22.3m from €36.5m last year.

Nearly four-fifths of all funding came from overseas sources, according to IVCA director-general Sarah-Jane Larkin.

“While this is to be welcomed and emphasises the quality of Irish tech firms and their appeal to international investors, we have expressed concern before about where any shortfall would be made up if the global economy contracts,” she said.

Wayflyer, Ireland’s latest tech unicorn, led the way in terms of total value of funding received with a $150m in Series B funding valuing the start-up at $1.6bn. Flipdish, another Irish tech start-up that became a unicorn this year, raised $100m reaching a $1.25bn valuation.

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Taking his advice was like ‘chewing broken glass’: the short life of dating guru Kevin Samuels | Relationships

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As a source of dating advice, Kevin Samuels would seem a last resort for America’s Black women. On his YouTube show and podcasts, Samuels criticized Black women for being old and out of shape, and for having children out of wedlock. He sneered at “modern women” who flaunted their multiple college degrees and boasted of their independence. He dropped these bombs in the softest voice, in a tailored suit, and bathed in mood lighting with a funky kinetic energy sculpture on his desk.

Yet many women not only tuned in to Samuels in droves, they cued up to Zoom into his show – some in hopes of putting the self-made image consultant turned relationship expert in his place. When Samuels suddenly died last Thursday in Atlanta at 57, as his star was still rising (the Fulton county medical examiners office has not yet revealed a cause of death), his many detractors reacted like Munchkins at the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East. The overwhelming lack of sympathy for Samuels – whose mother reportedly found out about his death as speculation raged online – comes down to his profiting from dismissing single Black women over 35 as “leftovers” whose unrealistic desire for “high-value men” would doom them to a lonely death.

On a recent episode of the Fox Soul streaming show Cocktails with Queens, the actor Vivica A Fox called Samuels’ death karma payback. “This man was a hypocrite, in my honest opinion,” she said. “He insulted African American women on a consistent basis.” In a Mother’s Day sermon, the preacher-influencer Jamal Bryant indirectly singled out this “high-powered man” for allegedly needing “a GoFundMe for his funeral”. The many women in Bryant’s congregation ate this up.

Still, just as many Black celebrities have rushed to defend Samuels. “Love him or hate him,” said the actor Marlon Wayans, “he spoke his truth. If you hated [him] why tune in?” The rapper turned comedian TI scorned the gleeful reactions to his death as a “fucking travesty” while branding Samuels’ haters as “despicable” and “bullies”. “Whatever he did, he did it, and [he’s] gone,” said the Why You Wanna emcee. “He got away with it.”

Besides his mother and daughter, Samuels is survived by his legion followers in the online community known as the “manosphere”, a sort of digital bathhouse for naked pushback against feminist ideology and the reprisal of traditional gender norms.

Casually drawing on relationship and income statistics, Samuels delighted in playing the role of market adjuster and scolding “average” Black women for pursuing Black men in the Talented Tenth – good-looking men with minimum six-figure incomes, no kids, no priors, and no hangups in bed. According to Samuels, guys mainly wanted women who were “fit, feminine, friendly, cooperative and submissive”. He barely had patience for callers who defied that description, and regularly played those clashes with them for laughs. And this was against the backdrop of Black women having a tough enough time being taken seriously online, let alone settling down.

More than 30,000 people signed an online petition calling on YouTube and Instagram to de-platform Samuels, believing he had “galvanised a community of men of all races and nationalities in the outspoken hatred of women”. To many, Samuel’s polished and bespectacled presentation was little more than a pseudo-intellectual cover for misogynoir. “I think he has had an outsized impact on poisoning the social discourse between Black men and Black women around matters of love, dating and intimacy,” the Rutgers women’s studies professor Brittney Cooper wrote in a recent Facebook post, after Samuels used a clip of her talking about racism and fatphobia as an example of a low-value woman. “I hope that the Black women who liked Kevin’s work stop letting the latest brother with relationship advice exploit your pain.”

Samuels’ public persona wasn’t always such a troll. A chemical engineering major who segued into a career in marketing, Samuels established himself on social media as a self-improvement coach and tastemaker (“the godfather of style”, he called himself), hipping men to the coolest clothes, watches and fragrances.

But Samuels eventually saw the bigger audience for relationship content, and quickly distinguished himself by doubling down on the “negging” techniques that undergirded the pickup artist craze of the early aughts. It’s a blueprint that launched the mainstream success of Steve Harvey. Before he was widely known as the avuncular host of Family Feud and the Miss Universe pageant, Harvey was writing plainspoken relationship manuals for Black women and spinning them into the box-office topping Think Like a Man franchise.

After one video sizing up a woman as “average at best” drew millions of views, Samuels was essentially rebooted as a relationship expert. In another oft-shared video he writes off a proudly curvy Black female caller as “running back-sized.” Before his death, Samuels had amassed more than 1.4 million YouTube subscribers and more than 1.2 million Instagram followers. Mainstream renown wasn’t much farther off.

Already, Samuels was a fixture of the Black gossip blogs for his viral put-downs and for his interviews with Nicki Minaj, Future, and the social media influencer Brittany Renner. Those same blogs were quick to hypothesise about the chaotic circumstances of Samuels’ death and echo reports that the ultimate high-value man died broke.

But his village of YouTube peers have rallied to debunk those rumours and rebuff what they characterise as efforts to defame Samuels in death. Mostly, they claim he was a tireless worker and shrewd businessman who could be harsh, but all in the interest of uplifting the community overall. In a YouTube eulogy, Melanie King, a Samuels protege who credits him for helping her rebuild from an agonising divorce, likened taking advice from him to “chewing broken glass”.

“We needed that shock,” said King, who thought of Samuels more like a tough dad. “Because, let’s be honest, if he had not been so shocking to so many people, would you even know about him?”

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What’s driving the colocation feeding frenzy? • The Register

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Analysis Colocation facilities aren’t just a place to drop a couple of servers anymore. Many are quickly becoming full-fledged infrastructure-as-a-service providers as they embrace new consumption-based models and place a stronger emphasis on networking and edge connectivity.

But supporting the growing menagerie of value-added services takes a substantial footprint and an even larger customer base, a dynamic that’s driven a wave of consolidation throughout the industry, analysts from Forrester Research and Gartner told The Register.

“You can only provide those value-added services if you’re big enough,” Forrester research director Glenn O’Donnell said.

The past few months have seen this trend play out en masse, with the latest being private equity firm DigitalBridge Investment Management’s take over of datacenter provider Switch Inc in a deal valued at $11 billion.

Switch operates datacenters specializing in high-performance infrastructure. The company completed its fifth Prime datacenter campus in Texas last year, but this is only the latest colo acquisition in recent memory.

“There have been a pile of smaller colocation providers that have been coming together, either being acquired by the big boys, or they’ve been merging,” O’Donnell said.

There’s been a flurry of colocation mergers and acquisitions over the past few months. Here’s just a sampling: NorthC acquired Netrics, LightEdge bought NFinit, EdgeConnex made off with GTN, Unitas Global snapped up INAP, VPLS nabbed a Carrier-1 datacenter in Texas, and Digital 9 absorbed Finnish colo Ficolo and Volta’s London datacenters.

It’s the cloud! Except, it’s also not

So what’s driving this ramp in M&A activity? You might think it’s the cloud, and while there’s certainly some truth to that, O’Donnell says it’s not the full story.

“I always like to remind people that just because cloud is so big and growing does not mean the datacenter is dead,” he said, adding that to some extent cloud has actually driven people to colos more than it has hurt them.

“I won’t give cloud all of the credit, but cloud certainly proved that this is a viable way of doing things,” O’Donnell added.

What the cloud has managed to do is force colocation providers to innovate around new consumption models and platform services, while simultaneously expanding their reach closer to the edge.

The major cloud providers operate a relatively small number of extremely large datacenters located in key metros around the world. By contrast, colocation providers like Equinix and Digital Realty operate hundreds of datacenters around the globe.

This reach is not only one of the big attractions of colocation providers, Gartner analyst Matthew Brisse said, but it also turns out to be one of the biggest drivers of M&A activity.

Location, location, location

“Size matters in this business because customers, especially multinational customers, want datacenters in a lot of different places,” O’Donnell said.

According to Brisse, when enterprises start looking into colocation facilities, their main concern is getting workloads spun up in the right place. “The main reason that people go to colos, is location, location, location,” he said.

And this demand has only accelerated as colocation providers look to offer services closer to the edge.

“We see the colocation providers starting to build out their edge offering as opposed to a simple hoteling experience for your infrastructure,” Brisse said.

These aren’t necessarily large datacenter facilities in the traditional sense, either, he explained. These can be as small as a half-sized shipping container positioned at the base of a cell tower.

Smaller regional colocation providers also serve an important role because they tend to build in places the larger players overlook, Brisse explained.

“A lot of companies don’t have the luxury of sitting right next to an Equinix facility,” he said. “There’s lots of opportunities out there for colocation market in totality.”

And as colocation providers inch closer to the edge, Brisse argues networking and automation are only becoming more important.

Where networking plays in

One of the most potent value adds offered by major colocation providers today is networking.

“As you look at the colocation services, the networking services have become a pretty big deal to differentiate them from just being a simple chunk of real estate to plop your servers,” O’Donnell said.

And here again the larger players have the advantage. “Networking connectivity requires a big provider with lots of locations connected by their own fiber,” he added.

These backbone networks allow workloads running in a datacenter on one side of the country to communicate with another without ever going out over the open internet.

But it’s not just networking between colocation datacenters that’s important. Many of these colocation facilities are located directly adjacent to the major cloud and software-as-a-service providers.

“So AWS, for example, or Microsoft Azure might be in the same building as you and connecting to it is just a matter of connecting to a different cage in that same building,” O’Donnell said. “Smaller players can’t do that, but the bigger guys can.”

However, as customers increasingly turn to colocation providers for edge compute and networking, complexity rears its ugly head, Brisse argues.

In the future, “we’re going to have lots of datacenters everywhere; we’re going to have lots of data distributed in the right location; we’re going to have edge facilities everywhere bringing data close to the edge,” he said. “It is not going to be possible for humans to monitor all of that activity.”

So, in addition to growing their footprint and network services, Brisse believes colos will also need to invest in AI operations capabilities to manage this complexity.

More consolidation to come

Both Brisse and O’Donnell expect the colocation market to continue to consolidate as macroeconomic forces put a pressure on smaller players.

“If the economic troubles we’re seeing are persistent, I think we will see an acceleration of this kind of [M&A] activity,” O’Donnell said.

It’s important to remember that while colos may look like tech companies on the inside, on the books, they’re really real estate investment trusts, he said, adding that in the current economic environment, colos are a comparatively safe bet in an otherwise dismal commercial real estate market.

“Colo is a hot market and getting hotter,” O’Donnell said. ®

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