ICANN approves dotAfrica launch dates

ICANN approves dotAfrica launch dates

dotAfrica launch dates approved by ICANN. (Image source: File)

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has given dotAfrica the green light to move forward with their launch plan and dates as Africa’s new home on the web gets ready for their long awaited entry.

“Final and confirmed,” is how the CEO of the dotAfrica gTLD (generic Top Level Domain) Registry Operator, Lucky Masilela, described the launch dates approved by ICANN this week. ICANN is the US non-profit tasked with maintaining the efficient functioning of the worldwide web.

ICANN’s approval of the dotAfrica Launch Plan has triggered a final countdown process starting on 4 April 2017 leading to General Availability on 4 July 2017 when the public can apply for dotAfrica domain names. “This is when the gates to the most desirable African real estate in cyberspace will be thrown open,” said Mr Masilela.

The delegation of dotAfrica to ZA Central Registry Non Profit Company (ZACR NPC) has ensured that the online economic journey of the continent will finally be realised.

Confirmation of the dotAfrica launch dates follows the delegation by ICANN of the rights to administer the new, pan-African dotAfrica gTLD to ZACR on 15 February 2017. Delegation means dotAfrica names can be published on the web.

The Sunrise Phase, where trademark holders and other intellectual property (IP) rights holders can apply for dotAfrica domain names associated with their IP, will take place from 4 April to 3 June 2017. The Landrush Phase, where anyone can apply for premium dotAfrica domain names with auctions likely featuring here, has been confirmed for the month of June 2017. General Availability, commencing on 4 July, will see members of the public registering their own dotAfrica domain names for the very first time.

“We are extremely grateful to the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African public for their unwavering support throughout the long journey to launch dotAfrica. It began as far back as the OR Tambo and Abuja Declarations where it was resolved to use ICT to ensure the development of Africa. It is now time to create the next chapter in the dotAfrica story as we focus firmly on making General Availability a reality in July,” Mr Masilela said.

The AUC many times underscored the importance of dotAfrica as a vehicle for African socio-cultural activities in the digital era that will allow the continent to contribute to the global digital economy. The entire continent can now be united together as one Internet community; enabling e-commerce, technology and infrastructure to flourish under a single African umbrella.

Staff Writer

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Ransomware – Not Only File Encryption

Ransomware – Not Only File Encryption

Some ransomware simply prevent victims from using their devices by locking their screens. (Image Source: http://www.1e.com).

Ransomware is an ever-increasing threat worldwide, claiming new victims on a regular basis with no end in sight. While most ransomware families prevent the victims from accessing their documents, pictures, databases and other files by encrypting them and offering a decryption key in return for a ransom payment, others use different, but no less creative ways to extract payment from their victims. Here are some examples:

IoT ransomware

Smart devices are known to be a soft spot targeted by threat actors for various purposes. In August 2016, security researchers demonstrated their ability to take control of a building’s thermostats and cause them to increase the temperature up to 99 degrees Celsius. This was the first proof of concept of this kind of attack, showing a creative way to put pressure on victims and drive them to pay ransom or risk consequences such as a flood or an incinerated house.

In November 2016, travellers in the San Francisco MUNI Metro were prevented from buying tickets at the stations due to a ransomware attack on MUNI’s network. In this case the attackers demanded $70,000 in BitCoins. In January 2017, a luxurious hotel in Austria was said to suffer an attack on its electronic key system, resulting in guests experiencing difficulties in going in or out of their rooms. The attackers demanded $1,500 in BitCoins. Whether or not this story is accurate, it demonstrates how creative this type of attack can get.

The growing use of IoT devices will likely make this attack vector more and more common in the future. For example, the potential exploitation of vulnerabilities inside smart, implantable cardiovascular defibrillators, can allow an attacker to put a victim’s life at risk until the ransom is paid. As IoTs become more widespread in our everyday life, threat actors will find new, horrifying ways to subjugate victims for profit.

Hostage data ransomware

A more direct approach is to steal data from victims and threaten to expose it unless a ransom payment is received by a certain deadline. This generic modus operandi has been used by different malware families and campaigns. For example, in May 2016, over 10 million customer records of a leading South Korean online shopping mall were stolen, including names, addresses and phone numbers. The attackers demanded a ransom of $2,664 in BitCoins to prevent release of the information online.

Another example is Charger, a screen-locker Android ransomware discovered by Check Point researchers in January 2016. The attackers threatened to sell stolen data from targeted devices unless they receive a ransom of 0.2 BitCoins (approximately $180). The malware is embedded in a mobile app named EnergyRescue, downloaded from Google Play.

DDoS ransomware

Another method for attackers is threatening to conduct a denial of service attack unless a ransom is paid. With the growing use of botnets for DDoS attacks, this attack vector is especially common against banks, and is very attractive as it is far simpler than developing a ‘traditional’ file-encrypting ransomware. This attack vector made headlines in January 2017 when it was used in an attack against the web portal of the British Lloyds Bank. The attackers issued a DDoS threat with a demand of 100 BitCoins (worth approximately $94,000).

Screen lockers

Some ransomware simply prevent victims from using their devices by locking their screens. There are different ways to conduct a screen locking attack, but common features include cancelling all options to close a program or to shut it down. Examples of such ransomware are DeriaLock (December 2016), which targets PCs and demands a payment of $30 for unlocking; and Flocker (May 2015), an Android screen locker which targets smartphones and Android-run smart TVs, and demands an iTunes gift card worth $200 as payment.

Summary

Ransomware attacks are a popular way for threat actors to make easy profits, as the payment is made anonymously using anonymous BitCoin wallets rather than bank transfers. The motivation for victims to cooperate is high, as their personal data is on the line. While most ransomware families encrypt files, some use creative ways to drive victims to pay. By preventing victims from accessing their machines, creating real damage or exposing sensitive data, the attackers are able to bypass the complexities of managing an encryption and decryption process. We estimate that the use of alternative ransomware, especially DDoS and IoT ransomware, will keep on growing in the near future, as IoT devices and web services continue to become more widespread.

How to protect yourself

We highly recommend you take these steps to protect yourself from ransomware or mitigate their effects:

  • Backup your most important files – Make an offline copy of your files on an external device and an online cloud stage service. This method protects your files not only from ransomware but from other hazards as well. Note: external devices should be used for backup ONLY and be disconnected immediately after the backup is completed.
  • Exercise caution – We usually don’t sense any danger while using our computers or other devices, but it’s there. Threat actors are constantly trying to steal your money, your private data and your machine resources – don’t let them have it. Don’t open e-mails you don’t expect to receive, don’t click links unless you know exactly what they are and where they lead, and if you are asked to run macros on an Office file, DON’T! The only situation in which you should run macros is in the rare case that you know exactly what those macros will do. Additionally, keep track of the latest major malware campaigns to ensure that you will not fall victim to a new and unique phishing technique or download a malicious app, which can lead to malware installation on your computer or theft of your credentials.
  • Have a comprehensive, up-to-date, security solution – High quality security solutions and products protect you from a variety of malware types and attack vectors. Today’s Anti-Virus, IPS and sandboxing solutions can detect and block Office documents that contain malicious macros, and prevent many exploit kits from exploiting your system even prior to the malware infection. Check Point Sandblast solution efficiently detects and blocks ransomware samples, and extracts malicious content from files delivered by spam and phishing campaigns. Installing your IoT devices behind a Security Gateway will keep them safe as well.

By Doros Hadjizenonos

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How to keep yourself safe when banking online

How to keep yourself safe when banking online

How to keep yourself safe when banking online. (Image source: Business Advice UK)

The ease and convenience of banking on a mobile device is undeniable. However, this luxury does not come without any risk as cyber crime continues to plague various industries by taking advantage of the unknowing consumer. This threat has seen banks make a concerted effort to educate their customers about the risks that they face and inform them on how to protect themselves by constantly keeping up to date with the latest Apps and security measures.

Kartik Mistry, Head of Smart Devices at FNB says, “Although technology allows you to bank anywhere at any time, the onus is on you to constantly lookout for the latest security measures to prevent fraudsters from robbing you of your hard earned cash.”

Mistry has highlighted important safety tips that consumers should consider when accessing banking services on their mobile devices, either through Banking Apps, cellphone banking and the mobile web.

Kartik Mistry, Head of Smart Devices at FNB.

Kartik Mistry, Head of Smart Devices at FNB.

Download Apps from trusted sources

It is not safe to download Apps from suspicious or unknown sources as these can expose your mobile phone to malicious malware and viruses that can gain unauthorised access to your private information.

Install an up-to-date anti-virus application to your mobile device. Most Banks provide this free of charge to their customers.

SIM Swaps

Protect yourself from Sim Swap fraud by always keeping your phone switched on, ensuring that you have connection to the network and can send and receive messages.
As an FNB customer who uses the FNB Banking App, you get to use Smart inContact which allows you to safely approve Online Banking transactions on the Banking App, verify devices that login to your profile, and use secure messaging to immediately report any fraudulent transactions 24/7.

Cellphone Banking

Memorise your PIN, never write it down or share it with anyone.
Choose an unusual PIN that is hard to guess and change it often.
Remember, for your own security you are required to re-enter your PIN before each transaction.
If you think your PIN has been compromised, visit your nearest branch and change it immediately.
Protect your phone content and personal information you saved by using a PIN or password to access your phone. Do not leave your phone unlocked.
Avoid responding to competition SMS’s or MMS’s.
If you receive a phone call requesting personal information do not respond and end the call.

“If you suspect that your mobile device may have been compromised, check if you are free from viruses and malware, have access to your cellphone network and avoid entering your banking PIN and accessing banking services until you are certain that it is safe,” concludes Mistry.

Staff Writer

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Data – The most valuable business asset in the technological age

Data – The most valuable business asset in the technological age

The internet has created the perfect platform for cyber criminals to grow and prosper.

Cybercrime is expected to cost businesses about R78 trillion by 2021, according to statistics quoted by Cisco Connect South Africa. The internet has created the perfect platform for cyber criminals to grow and prosper as they find ways around security systems and many people and businesses alike, are still not optimally protecting their valuable information.

This is according to Celeste Buitendag, Cyber Risk Underwriter at SHA Specialist Underwriters, who states that information is one of the most valuable assets a business owns in this technological age and criminals will go to extensive lengths to get their hands on such information to use it for fraudulent purposes. “Whilst individuals have grown more cautious when handling sensitive data and many businesses have implemented rigid technological security systems to protect confidential information, cyber criminals are finding new ways to get around these systems to steal information.”

In its 2017 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum listed technology as one of the top four risk areas for this year. According to the report, new and revolutionary structures represent opportunities for streamlining everyday lives, but also bring many potential dangers including mismanagement, vulnerabilities, accidents, unforeseen occurrences and malicious use.

Buitendag says that cyber attacks over the past few years have demonstrated that no company is immune to having its customers’ personal details hacked and businesses must therefore have appropriate cover in place to cover the costs brought against the company in the event of such a breach.

“Even a small scale cyber breach can lead to catastrophic reputational harm or even bankruptcy. While it is important that companies spend a substantial amount of time and money firewalls and IT security generally, the internet is the common playground for cyber criminals and it is vital that all businesses, regardless of its size, also have cyber insurance to ensure business continuity.”

She explains that a Cyber Insurance policy will protect an organisation against liability for data breaches, as well as first party expenses such as the actual costs to restore, re-collect or replace data, loss of business income, notification expenses for communication to affected third parties, crisis management expenses and associated regulatory fines and penalties to the extent insurable by law.

“It is imperative for an organisation to consult with a reputable insurance broker to ensure that all the possible vulnerabilities and threats relating to the business and the industry have been taken into account to avoid the financial and reputational risks of falling victim to cybercrime,” concludes Buitendag.

Staff Writer

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The next wave of technology is finding its way to the classroom

The next wave of technology is finding its way to the classroom

Learning through virtual and augmented reality will soon become a reality.(image: E-learning Industry)

Imagine you are a high school learner struggling with the textbook in front of you. You point your smartphone and ta-da – a video pops up on screen.

Sound too good to be true? This type of technology – called augmented reality as it digitally ‘augments’ or adds additional features such as pictures, text or video to printed and other educational material – is already being used in classrooms in some parts of the world. It is only a matter of time before it makes headway in South Africa – with the potential of becoming a game-changer in our education system.

Virtual reality is another emerging technology which could transform the learning experience. It enables students to learn in a three-dimensional (3D) environment, bringing abstract concepts to ‘life’. Imagine going on a virtual ‘walk’ along the Great Wall of China, or taking an exploratory trip through our solar system, using your smartphone as a virtual reality headset? This type of technology can turn the traditional method of teaching on its head, making learning fun and truly immersive.

In South African schools, it is the adoption of basic digital learning programmes (on either smartphones or tablets) which is starting to make inroads in terms of transforming learning experiences. A number of private and public schools have introduced digital content, and digital content providers are moving away from mere ebooks to interactive materials aimed at keeping learners engaged.

Digital learning programmes are clearly having an impact. An efficacy study conducted by Pearson South Africa showed that using the tablets markedly improved learner performance. In one school where learners were given tablets to use in the classroom, the school principal commented that absenteeism has dropped markedly – the learners can’t wait to get to school to use the tablets!

Other areas in which technology is being used in the field of education are:

Adaptive and analytical tools to assess individual learners’ performance, and identify assistance and further learning as required.

3D printing, for example, in architecture courses where students can transform their building designs to 3D models.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS), which have been introduced at certain South African universities and which provide free courseware in a truly collaborative way.

Digital learner assessments – these are being implemented at tertiary institutions in South Africa.

Customer relationship management (CRM), where the learner or student is the customer – the idea is to personalise and enhance student experience from time of application to the institution to becoming an alumni.

Collaborative tools such as voice, video or web conferencing, discussion boards, instant messaging and screen sharing.

Of course, the success of digital technology in the classroom is determined largely by the digital knowledge of the educators concerned, and their willingness to embed digital learning into the curriculum. Technology can be used as a tool to greatly enhance their teaching capacity and professional skills and can give learners the edge in an increasingly tech-centric world.

In a world where digital tools support virtually every part of our lives, it is surprising that the full power of such tools has yet to be unleashed to those who might benefit most – educators and learners.

While learners are more inclined to embrace technology easily, educators can also learn, and become less intimidated by all these tools, words and concepts.

In South Africa, technology solutions that can work in an offline environment remain best suited to our market. Due to cost constraints, basic digital learning programmes are the best option in the short-term. Although declining, the costs of both virtual and augmented reality, as well as 3D printing, remain prohibitive in the South African context.

Undoubtedly, technology is disrupting the education experience worldwide, and also in South Africa. It caters for a diversity of learning styles, and makes studying fun and engaging. It is the evolution of textbook content from merely being ‘text behind glass’ to truly interactive content that will have the biggest impact on the learning environment, with the right teacher support models in place, the potential for digital technology to improve learner outcomes over the long term in South Africa, is unlimited.

Digital/technology should be embraced in our education system, and we can hold each other on this journey step by step.

By Nirvani Dhevcharran

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Materpass to financially empower over 250 000 African merchants

Materpass to financially empower over 250 000 African merchants

Kopo Kopo Inc teams up with Mastercard to grow merchant network by introducing the Masterpass QR digital payment solution, across eleven markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mastercard and Kopo Kopo have partnered to roll-out the Masterpass QR across 11 markets and impacting over 250,000 micro and small businesses over the next five year.

The mobile payment solution will deliver a solution for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and a convenient consumer experience. Bank acquirers in partnership with Kopo Kopo, in the various markets, will enable previously excluded merchants to be financially included as part of the rollout.

Merchants in Kenya will be the first to benefit from the partnership, with thousands of Kopo Kopo MSMEs gearing up to go live with the solution. Kopo Kopo will offer the service in partnership with Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) as part of its acquiring strategy in the country.

The Kenyan rollout reinforces the commitment made by Mastercard in February to empower over 150,000 merchants in the market – the Kopo Kopo partnership will help the technology company achieve a significant portion of this target. Additional markets impacted will include: Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.

“We’re passionate about giving small businesses the tools they need to grow and prosper, and we see the mobile device as a way to financially enable millions of merchants in Africa. The use of mobile solutions is not expected to decline in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially if you consider that by 2022 there will be over 1 billion mobile subscribers in the region according to recent research. And these prospects become more feasible for merchants given the fact that mobile services and devices are becoming more affordable,” said Ken Kinyua, CEO of Kopo Kopo.

Using Masterpass QR, business owners can accept mobile and digital payments, while reducing their exposure to the risks and costs of managing cash. Payment is instantaneous and guaranteed, meaning that merchants no longer need to wait days for transactions to reflect in their accounts.

Kinyua continued by saying that by partnering with Mastercard, Kopo Kopo will remain ahead of the curve, growing their network with a strong offering and providing the current merchant network with the latest and most secure payment solutions. He noted that the rollout of Masterpass QR will significantly impact the merchant business model, given that it provides an affordable solution not restricted by infrastructure challenges.

“We have adapted our model in Africa, working with partners in various sectors to get closer to MSMEs. Masterpass QR gives us the ability to introduce efficiency, supporting the growth of local businesses. We are one step closer to creating a continent that is less dependent on cash, and that is able to reach its full potential,” said Chris Bwakira, Vice President and Area Business Head for East Africa, Mastercard.

In delivering a more inclusive and empowered continent, multiple factors need to be considered. MSMEs in emerging markets contribute significantly to job creation, with four out of five new positions coming from small businesses, yet more than 50 percent of these enterprises lack access to finance, hindering their growth and economic contribution.

“Whilst merchant payments is a growing opportunity in some of the more developed East African mobile money markets, it remains largely untapped in the larger African space. We’ve spent the last five years building a financial ecosystem to empower these entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses – our partnership with Mastercard will see us build greater momentum and adoption through all our target markets,” concluded Ken.

Staff Writer

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Digital whacks the benefits of unified communications into a new league

Digital whacks the benefits of unified communications into a new league

Amritesh Anand, Practice Lead – Unified Communication, In2IT

With the arrival of digital everything, there’s been a step change in the benefits that a unified communications (UC) strategy can deliver, yet companies in the public and private sector still appear reluctant to step into the future. As cloud solutions begin to make migration to advanced UC platforms easier and faster than ever before, transitioning to a UC strategy is becoming an imperative. Quite simply, companies that fail to make this shift are very likely to begin losing market share.

The efficiencies that a converged voice, video and data platform offers, although significant, are being upstaged by innovative apps which create new touchpoints – internally and with clients. UC enables anywhere, anytime accessibility but its new solutions like chatbots, which use artificial intelligence and voice recognition to respond to users; real-time communication solutions that incorporate video; and approaches like federation that add competitive advantage.

Mobile, social media, instant messaging, chat apps like WhatsApp: these are the channels businesses use to communicate with partners and suppliers and customers. Increasingly, they are also customers’ preferred way of communicating with companies. Analogue PBXs simply cannot support this kind of communication. Nonetheless, many organisations continue to cling to legacy systems that are 15 and 20 years old. What holds them back is a failure to fully comprehend the impact of these new technologies, their benefits, and how low the barriers to entry for this technology are.

UC benefits – a richer experience

Communication is a core capability for businesses – it’s essential to run the business and to reach clients. A unified communications strategy increases the reach and effectiveness of communications exponentially. It drives improved communication with stakeholders, which improves productivity, levels of service, product awareness, sales and customer retention.

At a business level, UC makes key employees more accessible, increasing business opportunity and productivity. Presence visibility allows users to see which channels their contacts are available on in real time, which improves collaboration. And UC ensures alternatives are always available: that missed business call no longer languishes in a voice mailbox never to be retrieved; the call is routed to the recipient’s mobile phone if the desk phone is not answered, and the person is notified via email, SMS, chat and other apps of the contact. In addition, disaster recovery routing ensures that if a communication channel drops the call can be picked up seamlessly on another app or device. This makes it hard to miss that deal, easier to receive that client request and to make that connection.

Federation is another UC approach that is very useful. It enables the establishment of trusted relationships between partner organisations. This means all the security and other communication ‘handshakes’ normally required between a business and third parties are automated to increase speed and ease of communication between business partners.

UC also enriches the communication experience – contact does not have to be one-dimensional (e.g., voice only) anymore. Real-time communication solutions make it possible to use an Internet browser for direct IP voice and video communication on multiple platforms, from a kiosk to an ATM or a desktop, laptop, tablet PC or smartphone, without needing a plug-in and without the cost of expensive landline or mobile call charges. That supercharges the results for all parties, ensuring personal one-on-one interaction and faster issue resolution at minimal expense.

Moving to UC – three key steps

There are three fundamental steps to making the shift to UC:

Move away from traditional analogue PBX solutions and toward IP communication
Incorporate mobility into the UC strategy
Introduce video

Increased availability of fibre connectivity makes the move to IP communication possible. It creates a solid foundation for the implementation of UC solutions. Incorporating mobile into UC communications enables seamless communication between the office and mobile and field workers, and with customers. Incorporating video enables a new dimension in interaction. It usually requires little additional hardware as webcams are already built into ATMs and many laptops, tablets and smart devices.

With the emergence of cloud models, the investment is lower and transition is faster than many expect. However, to make the transition to UC and UC adoption as smooth as possible, planning is essential.

UC models: cloud, managed service, hybrid

A piecemeal transition can be expensive and complex. With the right amount of planning, a comprehensive transition to UC can be quick and painless. In the past a sizable 1,000-user transition from legacy communications to a UC architecture and processes could take up to six months. Today, cloud-based infrastructure and solutions makes it possible to do in just 15 to 20 days. For one public sector client with almost 500 national sites and 20,000 users, migration to a cloud-based UC solution with cloud-based services has taken only eight months. That’s because the apps and the infrastructure are already built – all that is required is connectivity.

For a cloud-based UC solution, the time to return on investment is one to three years. For many, the biggest savings come from the switch to IP. In terms of call costs, IP-based connectivity can save between 30 and 80 percent of cellular and regular PSTN call costs. For this public sector client consider the savings that have resulted from replacing the almost 500 physical connections with just two links to a single physical location that UC requires, and the savings that result from free IP calls between departments.

There are other UC models that may be appropriate, however, UC managed service providers can provide hardware on a rental or renewal basis, and will also offer a hybrid service, taking over or managing the client’s legacy hardware. The value in either instance is significant for organisations – the managed service provider takes on the asset management and operations, and provides all the necessary technology and UC management skills, relieving the client organisation of these burdens. Moreover, there are also all the additional benefits that come with a managed service, such as ongoing technology updates, no need to manage licensing, and access to leading practices and new approaches.

The advantages of UC are clear. How can your organisation benefit?

By Amritesh Anand, Practice Lead – Unified Communication, In2IT

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5 Most Popular Software Trends Of 2017

5 Most Popular Software Trends Of 2017

5 Software trends for 2017 (image: bluecoat.com)

As new software innovations continue to improve and transform the way we do business, keeping abreast with the latest developments is vital if your business is going to continue to thrive in this ever changing landscape. Various industries who used to be though of as manual are now undergoing mass changes and are moving into the automated space all thanks to the latest software.  Software innovations don’t stay at the forefront long as they are quickly overshadowed and overtaken by the latest developments.

With this in mind Sovtech has listed the five most popular software trends of 2017 to help keep you up to date:

Chatbots
Simply put, a chatbot is a computer program that engages in a conversation with a user. It has been predicted that they will hit the mainstream this year with a directed focus at customer interaction. Bots offer an advantage as they increase automation in customer service, create efficiency as they are available to help 24/7 as well as create a more personal experience for customers by recommending products. Chatbots are being used everywhere and are creating efficiency in every industry.

PaaS
In terms of cloud computing, Platform as a Service (Paas) is predicted to be the next big thing in 2017. An attractive option to customers (particularly those who are mobile and/or remote) as the development, running, and management of applications can be done without the difficulty of building and maintaining the infrastructure usually associated with developing and launching an app. As the name suggests, PaaS provides you computing platforms which typically includes operating system, programming language execution environment, database, web server etc. examples include  AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, Google App Engine, Apache Stratos. PaaS is predicted to become the key accelerator of a new level of cloud computing.

Business Development
Smart technology solutions are expected to excite business users and consumers alike this year. Running a business involves a lot of time and resources. From project planning and assigning tasks to monitoring your workforce and keeping everything running smoothly. In an effort to save more time, money and energy, modern software developers are more focused on developing line-of-business software. The trend is now to run effectively automated businesses and focus on the business user experience. A digital-focused, consumer-led market has lead to customers expecting the same experience they have with their digital technology in their consumer world, in their business environment. Thus, solutions this year will be aimed at improving the business user experience.

Big Data Analytics
Along with the AI boom has come the need for big data analytics to facilitate machine learning. As AI continues to grow, so will Big Data Analytics. The International Data Corporation says that worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will grow from R1.62 trillion ($130.1 billion) in 2016 to more than R2.8 trillion ($203 billion) in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7%. New tools for collecting and analysing data are expected to emerge due to the increasing investment and interest in Artificial Intelligence.

Open Source Software
More solutions are expected to be created on open-source platforms in 2017. The nature of open source development allows for scalable solutions which can easily incorporate the latest plug-ins. A steadier incorporation of open source software at a much larger scale is expected. Open source continues to shape our world with businesses shifting towards incorporating open source into both their code and their culture. By using open source development methods, companies can create unique solutions tailored to their customer and company’s specific needs.

Staff Writer

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SpaceX poised to launch first recycled rocket

SpaceX poised to launch first recycled rocket

The goal of the launch, scheduled for 6:27 pm (2227 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is to send a communications satellite for Luxembourg-based company SES into a distant orbit. PHOTO: www.digitaltrends.com

SpaceX is poised to launch its first recycled rocket on Thursday, using a booster that sent food and supplies to the astronauts living at the International Space Station in April.

The goal of the launch, scheduled for 6:27 pm (2227 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is to send a communications satellite for Luxembourg-based company SES into a distant orbit.

Standing tall at the NASA launchpad, the white Falcon 9 rocket contains a tall, column-like portion known as the first stage, or booster, that propelled the unmanned Dragon cargo ship to space last year, then returned to an upright landing on an ocean platform.

SpaceX, the California-based company headed by internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, has for years been honing the technology of powering its boosters back to careful Earth landings on solid ground and in the water.

So far it has successfully landed eight — five on so-called “drone ships” floating in the ocean, and three on land. The goal, Musk has said, is to make rocket parts just as reusable as cars, planes or bicycles.

Currently, millions of dollars worth of rocket parts are jettisoned after each launch. SpaceX officials have said that reusing hardware could slash costs — with each Falcon 9 launch costing over $61 million — by about 30 percent.

While generating plenty of buzz, the novel process still raises concerns for both customers and SpaceX.

They include “worries about it failing, insurance implications, retrofitting turnaround, building up a critical mass of reused first stages in the warehouse,” said the global investment banking firm Jefferies International in an April report. “But the direction of travel is clear.”

SpaceX competitor Blue Origin, run by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has also successfully landed its New Shepard booster after launch, by powering its engines to guide it down for a controlled, upright landing.

“Reusability allows us to fly the system again and again,” said a statement on Blue Origin’s website. “With each flight, we’ll continuously improve the affordability of space exploration and research, opening space for all.”

– ‘Flight-proven’ –
As for the cost of Thursday’s launch, Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES, has declined to say publicly the exact amount. However, he dismissed “naysayers” this week and stressed the historic nature of the launch on what he has described as a “flight-proven” rocket.

“I think we are on the edge of quite a significant bit of history here,” he told a press conference. “Now we are here to be the first ever mission to fly on a pre-flown booster,” he said.

“This is obviously hugely exciting.” When the mission was announced in August, Halliwell said the deal “illustrates the faith we have in (SpaceX’s) technical and operational expertise.”

The SES-10 satellite will be sent to a geostationary orbit, flying as high as 22,000 miles (35,000 kilometers) above the Earth before maneuvering into its designated orbit. The satellite aims to expand television, internet and mobile connections across Latin America.

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Amazon shutting down unprofitable Quidsi unit

Amazon shutting down unprofitable Quidsi unit

SEATTLE, WA – MARCH 28: An AmazonFresh Pickup storefront is pictured on March 28, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. The store is one of two in Seattle, only open to Amazon employee beta participants, allows customers to order groceries online and pick them in a drive through. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images/AFP STEPHEN BRASHEAR / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Amazon on Wednesday confirmed that it is shutting down its Quidsi unit, which runs websites Diapers.com and Soap.com, due to a persistent lack of profitability there.

Quidsi was an Amazon rival in the US before the online retail made a $545 million deal in late 2010 to buy the startup.

“We have worked extremely hard for the past seven years to get Quidsi to be profitable, and unfortunately we have not been able to do so,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email reply to an AFP inquiry.

“Quidsi has great brand expertise and they will continue to offer selection on Amazon.com; the software development team will focus on building technology for AmazonFresh.”

AmazonFresh lets people shop online for grocery store goods, including pet, baby and beauty supplies.

Quidsi co-founder Marc Lore went on to create another online commerce company, Jet.com, which was bought last year by Walmart for about $3 billion in a move aimed at competing with Amazon.

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