GirlCode empowers tech startups with AWS CloudStart program

GirlCode empowers tech startups with AWS CloudStart program

Zandile Keebine Chairwoman, GirlCode.

GirlCode, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that aims to empower girls through technology recently announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to launch a nationwide competition which will award 30 Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) the ability to partake in the AWS CloudStart program. The NPO creates a network of women who are highly skilled in computer literacy, coding and design.

IT News Africa interviewed Zandile Keebine, Chairwoman of GirlCode. Zandile founded GirlCode in 2014 which started off as a hackathon and has grown into a national non-profit that impacts hundreds of young girls through various initiatives such as monthly free coding sessions, the GirlCoder club a nationwide network of free, volunteer-led, weekend coding clubs designed for high school girls who want to have a strong foundation in digital literacy amongst other initiatives.

In the interview, Zandile outlines how the partnership with Amazon Web Services will benefit startups as well as help them grow while saving them costs and equip them with innovative tools.

How did the collaboration with Amazon Web Services come about? And what does this mean for GirlCode?

As an NPO, GirlCode requires private and public sector support to help reach young women and girls across the country. A partnership like this, not only helps us do that, but also provides upcoming entrepreneurs and young tech talent with the exposure they will need to cutting-edge platforms and tools like AWS CloudStart so that they can become a formidable competitor in the market.

AWS CloudStart helps companies get started on AWS by providing a set of resources that will allow them to quickly learn about the AWS Cloud, while maintaining the highest levels of security and privacy at a low cost to customers.

Winners of the AWS CloudStart will provide the following benefits to our competition winners:

  • AWS Promotional Credits
  • Customized trainings
  • Practice labs and Quick Start guides to get started quickly on the cloud
  • Job board to post open positions
  • The aim of this partnership is to help enable female owned tech businesses with the tools they need to grow their businesses, and empower them further.

How will this initiative help in alleviating the skills gap in South Africa?

Within the South African context, many start-ups fail because of a lack of funding, which prevents them for setting their business up for success. The AWS credits along with the support from the AWS team should provide the much-needed help to businesses who need to get on to their feet. Our collaboration with AWS is great because it gives another practical means of empowering women in technology in South Africa. This kind of support from the private sector is critical to boosting the local SME economy.

How does the initiative aim to empower SMME’s?

This competition will enable start-ups and SMMEs to have the chance to use AWS to scale and grow their business, drive cost savings, and introduce innovative applications.

With the right technology, our winners can experience a productive environment where people enjoy an improved quality of life and where businesses thrive. As small businesses leverage a broader portfolio of digital solutions, they can see an increase in agility, while simultaneously lowering costs and reducing time to innovation.

Through AWS, SMEs have the ability to adopt the cloud and thrive during the digital transformation age
AWS CloudStart allows those SMES to scale and grow their business, drive cost savings, and introduce innovative applications. AWS credits awarded will be applied to help cover costs that are associated with eligible services. More importantly, SMMEs will have access to virtual trainings and AWS content online, providing invaluable skills on how to leverage the power of the cloud.

What is the application process for interested SMME’s?

To qualify for the programme, SMMEs must meet the following criteria:
•Be ICT sector-based; and currently, have a technical solution or service that they offer to the public or private market;

•Have an annual turnover of below R50 million;

•Have black female ownership of at least 51 percent as defined in the Amended Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment ICT Sector Code; and

•Need to be formally registered on the CSD, (SA Government’s Supplier Database)

What does the program provide for SMME’s?

AWS credits awarded will be applied to help cover costs that are associated with eligible services. More importantly, SMMEs will have access to virtual training and AWS content online, providing invaluable skills on how to leverage the power of the cloud. More importantly, SMMEs will have access to virtual training and AWS content online, providing invaluable skills on how to leverage the power of the cloud.

What is the selection process and where will the winners be based?

The competition will initially run for 6 months. Successful applicants will be selected based on certain criteria. As and when new SMMEs are awarded within this programme, announcements will be made and GirlCode along with AWS will help support the SMMEs adopt CloudStart for greatest effectiveness.

Interested SMMEs will need to outline their business plan, why they need the credits and training, and commit to a monthly update with AWS to ensure they get optimum use from the platform. The application form is available here:

The submissions have opened and selection will be an ongoing process until 30 SMMEs have been selected. The first selection review took place on 18 May 2018 and winners will be announced on GirlCode’s Twitter and Facebook pages continually thereafter. Winners may be based anywhere within South Africa. Queries can be directed to Tapiwa Muza (Tapiwam@girlcodeza.co.za).

By Fundisiwe Maseko
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SatADSL and Camtel team up to connect Cameroon

SatADSL and Camtel team up to connect Cameroon

SatADSL and Camtel today announced a new partnership to provide satellite connectivity across Cameroon.

SatADSL, a provider of professional VSAT services via satellite, and Camtel – Cameroon’s national telecommunications provider – today announced a new partnership to provide satellite connectivity across Cameroon.

The formal agreement follows a pilot launch of SatADSL’s range of competitive satellite connectivity solutions across a variety of public and private enterprises and communities in Cameroon, including schools, post offices, hospitals and banks.

SatADSL now plans to integrate and deploy its VSAT services across the central African country, enabling Camtel to offer competitive broadband packages to even the most rural areas.

“We chose to partner with SatADSL because its solutions will enable us to target the widest possible spectrum of end-users, meaning the broadband services will truly benefit entire communities,” said David Nkoto Emane, CEO at Camtel. “SatADSL’s knowledge of the region and technical expertise played a big role in the pilot’s success and we look forward to extending the project.”

Under the agreement, SatADSL will fulfil all of Camtel’s satellite connectivity requirements across all frequency ranges, Ku-, Ka- and C-band.

Camtel is the latest telecommunication operator in Africa to deploy SatADSL’s services which are offered through the unique Cloud-based Service Delivery Platform (C-SDP). The complete OSS/BSS, carrier-grade, fully redundant platform allows operators to easily outsource satellite services, reducing the cost of providing ubiquitous connectivity by enabling fast, flexible and future-proof satellite connectivity via the cloud for the first time, eliminating the need for physical infrastructure.

Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at SatADSL Caroline De Vos said: “As an organization that strives to bridge the digital divide in Africa, we are delighted to partner with Camtel to blanket Cameroon with much-needed connectivity. Our innovative C-SDP also means Camtel will be able to offer highly competitive packages for a range of end-users.”

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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EdgeConnect and what it can do for your SD-WAN

EdgeConnect and what it can do for your SD-WAN

Anton Jacobsz, managing director at value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited

While most SD-WAN (software defined wide area network) solutions promise to save money and improve network agility, it is possible to help customers build a better WAN to deliver higher levels of application performance, business productivity and user experience.

This is according to Anton Jacobsz, managing director at value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited, the sole distributor for Silver Peak, a global leader in broadband and hybrid WAN solutions, across the sub-Saharan market.
He goes on to say that, while the benefits to deploying an SD-WAN may be well understood, there are seven lesser-known facts to take note of regarding the capabilities offered by a Silver Peak SD-WAN solution.

1. You can deliver SLAs for enterprise apps over consumer broadband

SD-WANs overcome the limitations we’ve become used to dealing with via internet connections – they’re notoriously unreliable, application performance is sketchy at best and they lack the necessary security protocols.
SD-WANs let network managers integrate internet links into their WANs in addition to leased line services, increasing bandwidth and lowering costs.

“Adding broadband allows for rapid WAN connectivity provisioning for new or temporary business locations and enables IT to add capacity at remote offices easily accommodating growth,” says Jacobsz.

2. You can replace branch routers with SD-WAN

“Speaking of new locations, Silver Peak’s EdgeConnect BGP routing eliminates the need to install separate routers, simplifying the WAN edge infrastructure,” he says. “With full integrated routing, basic firewalling and optional WAN optimisation, clients can migrate to SD-WAN at their own pace while achieving the efficiencies inherent to a thin branch.”

3. You can bring new branches online in hours

In much the same way as mentioned in point two, using Silver Peak’s EdgeConnect, customers can migrate at their own pace, deploying in conjunction with existing edge routers, minimising network disruption and eliminating long deployment times.

This solution supports BGP routing, which makes it easier to replace existing routers to simplify the WAN and to enable both SD-WAN enabled branches and those that have not migrated to communicate effectively.

4. You can intelligently and granularly steer individual cloud-based apps over the internet

Using the cloud, businesses are leaning towards sending SaaS and trusted web traffic directly to the internet from branch offices rather than wasting bandwidth and money backhauling traffic to a data centre.

Using Silver Peak’s First-pack iQ, which securely directs traffic based on application-driven business and security policies, companies can eliminate wasted bandwidth and performance bottlenecks.

“Trusted traffic is treated appropriately and other traffic is sent to more robust security appliances as directed by pre-set security policies,” says Jacobsz.

5. You can deploy an SD-WAN over your existing infrastructure

“We’re seeing organisations moving many applications to the cloud and, as a result, they are now investigating the efficacy of deploying a hybrid WAN approach,” says Jacobsz. “This approach increases bandwidth capacity and network availability while improving application performance with direct access to cloud services.”

EdgeConnect enables businesses to optimise their hybrid WAN architecture and build an SD-WAN based on broadband WAN services cutting the total WAN costs by up to 90 percent. This approach preserves current infrastructure investments while optimising available bandwidth capacity negating the need to purchase additional bandwidth.

6. You can enhance WAN and application security with SD-WAN

As indicated, highly granular security policies can be configured and automated to protect the branch office. As an added measure, EdgeConnect provides basic firewall and security capabilities for thin branch offices that do not host applications.

“These measures allow traffic out but only allows ingress traffic in response to user-initiated sessions,” says Jacobsz. They create a trusted whitelist of SaaS and internet apps that are safe to go to the internet while directing other app traffic through secure gateways or next-generation firewalls.
“This results in the business having access to the highest levels of application performance based on business intent while simplifying the branch office and lowering Capex all the while protecting the business from vulnerabilities.”

7. You can build a self-driving WAN

David Hughes, founder of Silver Peaks, has often talked about the journey from the software defined WAN to the self-driving WAN and he says that while applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to the WAN might seem futuristic, it’s already happening with the EdgeConnect.

“Silver Peak invented First-packet iQ, which uses a learning architecture that empowers learning locally in the individual edge devices (by snooping on DNS and learning from DPI results), learning at the enterprise level in the orchestrator (redistributing information learned by individual appliances), and learning in aggregate with the Silver Peak cloud intelligence service (where we keep track of the first packet signatures of 10s of thousands of web services).

“First-packet iQ marks a vital step in the journey to self-driving WANs but Silver Peak continues to deliver innovations as we make our way to the final destination.”

Silver Peak innovations in SD-WAN and their capacity to heighten security and simplify migration and scale have changed the way businesses view networks.

“Globally, we’re seeing a massive rise in SD-WAN adoption,” says Jacobsz. “Its ability to overcome the security, reliability and performance challenges to using the internet for business applications, while lowering networking costs are the reasons for this incredibly fast growth – the facts are known and proven.”

Staff writer

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The impact of digital disruption on ICT companies

The impact of digital disruption on ICT companies

Mpumi Nhlapo, Head: Demand Management at T-Systems SA.

Technology companies spend a vast amount of their energy on advising clients, in various sectors, on the ways that they can smartly adopt new technologies, business models and mindsets in order to survive the onslaught of digital disruption.

It seems that almost every industry is in a state of flux – pushed in new directions by the likes of artificial intelligence, high-speed connectivity, scalable Clouds, smart devices, data analytics, distributed ledgers and more. These technologies are certainly no longer buzzwords, or futuristic concepts. They’re having a direct impact on business, right here and now.

But while we may be the ones talking about the impact of digitisation on different industries, the irony is that ICT firms are also navigating their way through a major transition. Traditional ways of providing technology solutions become increasingly irrelevant in the modern era.

In fact, a recent survey by Russell Reynolds Associates placed technology and telecoms as two of the industries under the biggest threat of disruption (joining financial services, media and retail in the top five).

Cloud commoditises almost everything
ICT companies are being asked to reinvent themselves as a number of different forces converge, whipping away some of their most stable revenue streams – particularly in the realms of ICT services and desktop support.

Perhaps the biggest factor is the commoditisation of IT services, driven by hyperscale datacentre players, which leverage massive Clouds to provide a vast range of enterprise tech services across the globe.

When this is combined with rapid advances in industrial-grade connectivity, local businesses are suddenly able to access new applications, platforms and infrastructure literally at the click of a button.

Local technology firms must adapt with agility – working with these platforms (rather than against them) to migrate complex enterprise applications into these new Cloud environments. From there, the value lies in orchestrating services from various Cloud platforms, giving clients a single point of contact to manage all their Clouds while guiding them on all the compliance, legal, and data security considerations.

Another way to ride the wave of Cloud disruption is to extend and customise Cloud services to suit specific local market needs. With this kind of deep specialisation – into specific verticals and regions across the continent – ICT firms can effectively move up the value chain and become true strategic partners to their clients.

Exponential technology
Tomorrow’s winning ICT players will be those that apply exponential technologies to local markets, changing their clients’ businesses for the better.

For instance, our work with other technology partners at a large client demonstrated the possibilities when we combined big data with high-speed connectivity, Cloud platforms, modern ERP solutions, and connected devices. The client now boasts an optimised operational environment, with everything managed by a central control centre, and exciting new innovations (such as drone and sensor technology) ushering in an entirely new era.

But it’s not just about the technology itself. The resourcing model for ICT firms will also shift as we dive further into the digital future. Instead of stacking teams with predominantly permanent staff (often deployed to client sites for extended periods of time), the new model will harness the flexibility of the so-called ‘gig economy’.

Forbes** predicts that by 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers, in some capacity or another. “The instant gig economy is moving more towards independent professionals that are using mobile platforms and technology to create ecosystems of work they enjoy,” states the article.

For tech firms, the trick will be to harness the pool of talent (both within the organisation and outside its boundaries), matching key skills for specific projects and needs, composing, rotating and dissolving these ever-changing virtual teams to best serve the client’s needs.

Disruptive technologies are affecting every business, including technology players themselves. It’s only by embarking on ambitious, well-considered transformation strategies that a tech firm can expect to stay relevant over the coming years.

By Mpumi Nhlapo, Head: Demand Management at T-Systems SA

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2018’s top IT challenges that keep IT execs up at night

2018’s top IT challenges that keep IT execs up at night

Nick Truran, CEO of AgileIT

Many South African CIO’s today are stuck. This is the view of Nick Truran, CEO of AgileIT, a lean consultancy which assists corporate IT shops to transition from legacy and vendor commitments to highly effective partners able to deliver on the business strategy.

“We call this mired state “CxO paralysis”,” Truran says, “and the causes are not easily unravelled especially given huge investments in technologies and vendor relationships that are not deriving intended value.
Pressure to deliver on these and address growing demands from the business for IT to lead in innovation and growth, makes the role of the CIO an exceptionally challenging one,” he added.

Of the 178 of South Africa’s top public and private sector CIOs surveyed in the 2017/18 ITWeb CIO Survey, 56 % believe their roles are changing faster and more drastically than any other industry. The key drivers for this change are digital migration, competition and globalisation. Furthermore, 80% of these CIOs cited their inability to move fast enough among their chief concerns, followed by lack of available skills, inadequate budget and compliance pressures.

Similar findings were listed in Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Report, with growth topping the list of business priorities reported by CIOs for 2018. South Africa is no different with 87% of local CIO’s giving more focus on driving business growth and less on cutting cost.

“Using IT to drive business growth is not as simple as it sounds,” Truran says, “Technology is evolving at such a rate that only the most adept of organisations have managed to keep up. This is aggravated by the fact that most IT executives have only three to five year contracts.

During these short contractual periods, they are employed to deliver on very specific needs that the organisation may have at that point in time. Chances are by the time the executive has managed to get to grips with the organisation and forged a plan to address the original requirement, its needs have changed and as such a new plan is required.

It’s little wonder that IT executives are becoming overwhelmingly fatigued by the constant turbulence. Furthermore, massive cost pressure from the business results in their being paralysed by circumstance and crippled by environmental factors,” he added.

As a former IT executive of a large financial services business, Truran is well familiar with these challenges.
“This is why when I started my consultancy I determined that our approach, which we have termed the ADAPT execution framework, would offer an agile and flexible engagement framework and process that produces technology solutions, which align the client’s IT infrastructure with the strategy of the business.

Our approach is both designed to reinforce the foundations of the client’s IT infrastructure, while providing its IT team with the tools and the time to help the business innovate – often in parallel.

AgileIT’s team of specialists will help clients to identify ‘cracks’ in the existing infrastructure, determine the future business ‘bricks’ that are required, and then draw on the correct ‘architecture’ knowledge to forge a corrective plan of action that will deliver the much-needed IT stability. Thereafter, attention can be given to the business strategy and the transformation technology needed to support it,” he said.

The result is a lean, cost conscious and highly effective IT landscape that has the agility to evolve as the business demands.

“Technology thus can be nimbly deployed to assist the business to address the rapid shifts that digital transformation brings, rather than becoming a reactionary resource that is playing continual catch up,” Truran concluded.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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Design Thinking – the key to digital business success

Design Thinking – the key to digital business success

Jarryd Chatz, CEO of BitCo.

In an interconnected world that is constantly changing, we have come to expect businesses, especially of the digital variety, to offer personalised products and seamless services that improve the way we live, work, and play. To keep up with a saturated, ever-evolving marketplace, businesses must reinvent the way in which they design and build these offerings. Design thinking provides the perfect strategy to do exactly that ¬– shifting the focus from the business to the end-user (i.e. customer) to better understand their needs and creatively discover the best possible solution to meet them.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a customer-centric, solution-focused, and action-orientated philosophy that uses empathetic, creative, innovative, and analytical skills to change the way we tackle problems. This method of thinking encourages businesses to keep their customers in mind when exploring new alternatives to existing problems or outdated processes. In the digital transformation sphere, a collaborative team would use direct observation and qualitative data to begin to really understand and empathise with their customers’ needs. This allows us to become more apt to design products and services that ensure user-friendliness, customer satisfaction, and convenience.

What are the advantages of implementing this method?

By honing in on people, contexts, and cultures, you’ll boost creativity, and are more likely to discover possible improvements that provide real value, not only for your end-users, but for your company too. Based on insights from usage metrics and new customer needs, designers and engineers can fix glitches often – improving and upgrading products and services as they go – resulting in excellent customer experience in the long run. The collaborative nature of design thinking also increases staff satisfaction and overall productivity by joining the forces of product managers, designers, and software engineers to mull over new solutions.

How can my organisation begin its own design thinking journey?

The first step to accelerate digital transformation with design thinking is to observe and empathise with your customers. If you can, interview them to find out exactly what they want from the digital experience. Quality, high-speed internet, click-stream data, and chat-log mining can come in handy here to discover how they interact with your product or service, and where they may be encountering issues. After analysing the data collected, you should be able to pinpoint what needs your time and energy to formulate a problem statement – outline the specific concern, and gear it towards improving the customer experience.

Now that you have a definitive problem, it’s time to sit in a group and brainstorm possible solutions. The key here is to have as many different creative minds as possible because this generates more ideas to use.

The best ideas are then turned into inexpensive prototypes that can be tested on a small group of customers. Their feedback is then used to adjust the prototypes for further testing. The work shouldn’t stop once an optimal solution is reached – we should be continuously refining and innovating to better the customer experience.

In conclusion, design thinking is a powerful tool that your business can employ to offer user-centred solutions that exceed the customer’s expectations. As a result, your business will not only remain relevant to the wants and needs of the consumer, it will also be considered a pioneer for creative, out-of-the-box thinking.

By Jarryd Chatz, CEO of BitCo

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NCC restates commitment to funding research works

NCC restates commitment to funding research works

NCC Boss, Umar Garba Danbatta

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it would continue to encourage research works in line with its mandate of ensuring excellence in all Human endeavors.Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Director of NCC, disclosed this when he received some research projects from Federal University of Technology FUT Minna, on Monday in Abuja.

The projects -Mobile Communication Based Walking Stick and SIMless Data and Voice Connection, using multiple operators enable SIM Card were funded by the NCC.Danbatta, represented by Mr Ubale Maska, Executive Technical Services of the NCC said the commission was happy with the results shown by the university.

The NCC boss said the commission would encourage the researchers to get investors who would continue to explore the research.According to him the projects were in line with the mandate of the commission as well as the eight point agenda of the current leadership.

“The project shows that FUT Minna has been able to accomplish every single thing with the grant given by the NCC, and that they were visionary enough to look beyond what we expected them to do.“You have to consciously choose the SIM you want but the project on super SIM card can automatically select the SIM with the available network based on pre-determined instructions so it is very relevant.

“And the project is in line with the consideration for national roaming that is being promoted now by the commission.Danbatta said that the project was funded by NCC with about N4 million.

“We had hoped they would do it within a year so that they will get more but it has taken the last three years but we are happy because work like this is usually on-going all times,’’ he said.

Prof. Moses Olutoye, Deputy Director Research, FUT Minna who represented the Vice Chancellor Prof. Abdullahi Bala, said the first project -the walking stick can be used at old age or when you are in danger.Olutoye said it was designed to look like a walking stick but it is not an ordinary walking stick.

“It is designed to make calls and it has some other device that can detect obstacles in case you are approaching a danger point, it is enabled for the blind and the disabled to avoid obstacles.Prof. Abiodun Abinu, the Lead Researcher and Head of Department of Mechatronics Engineering, FUT Minna speaking on the second project SIMless Data, said people carry a lot of phones or SIMs as a result of quality of service.

Abinu said using basic engineering and the technology behind mobile phone, the researchers infused in it artificial intelligence system to be able to take intelligent decision.“With this project, subscribers can enjoy quality of service even without having more than one phone,’’ he said adding that the product will soon hit the market,’’ he said.

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ICASA To Protect Customers Against Data Bill Shock

ICASA To Protect Customers Against Data Bill Shock

ICASA has taken the first step in addressing the high cost of data in South Africa.

ICASA has taken the first step in addressing the high cost of data in South Africa. A number of new regulations are making networks unhappy.

ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) recently published its End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations. This is the first step in addressing the high cost of communication in South Africa. This is but one facet belonging to a three-pronged (see more below) process designed to address consumer concerns over the price of data services offered by telecommunications companies.

ICASA has stated that these regulations are primarily meant to protect the consumer, as well as further promoting transparency and prohibiting unfair business rules. Consumers should know exactly what is happening, what they’re spending their money on and what they are receiving in return.

Let’s take a look at what these new regulations are.

ICASA Regulations

The regulations will seek to address the following:

• Protect consumers against bill shock. The regulations will prohibit the charging of exponentially higher out-of-bundle data rates without the consumer consenting to the charges;
• Data transfer. Consumers on the same network will be permitted to transfer data to one another;
• Data depletion notifications. Consumers are to be notified at various stages of data depletion – namely 50%, 80% and 100%.

These regulations are set to come into effect 30 May.

It was widely expected that ICASA implement regulations on data expiry. Consumers, the National Consumer Commission and even ICASA itself all share the view that data should not expire for three years.

At the moment, as we’re all woefully aware, the data we purchase expires after 30 days. A lot has been said about this. ICASA, however, has not mandated this regulation. This is why: “Civil society organisations put forward very persuasive and cogent rationale as to why this requirement will harm the very marginal and poor consumers we are mandated to protect,” said ICASA.

“In the bigger scheme of things, the fact that ICASA has not mandated a three-year expiry period for data bundles is inconsequential, in light of the view that this requirement is already imposed on operators in terms of Section 63 of the Consumer Protection Act.”

If the proposed data roll-over is to be enforced, it will then be up to the NCC to ensure it happens.
“The network providers resell that unused data; data that has been paid for and legally belongs to the subscribers who have paid for it in advance,” said the NCC. “We cannot and will not promote undue enrichment.”

#DataMustFall – How Long Until We Get Cheaper Data?

ICASA is certainly trying to address the problems and concerns of the South African consumer. The number one objective being to develop minimum standards in respect of the provision of data, SMS, and voice services.
The question still remains, though: When will the ridiculously high price of data fall?

We’ve received no closure surrounding this topic just yet.

ICASA has said that before this can happen, it must identify priority markets and then individually assess the competitiveness of those markets. This is to determine whether any operator has significant market power. Due to this all being a lengthy process, ICASA has tackled it all in phases.

Phase one has just been completed. Investigating the business rules of mobile operators and addressing any unfair practices. Particularly those that are prejudicial to the poor. These included the expiry of data and the default out-of-bundle data billing.

Phase two – identifying priority markets where the review of regulations may be necessary – has already begun. This should be finalized by June 2018.

The third and final phase will be specific market reviews on what informs prices for communications services in South Africa. If applicable, it will then impose pro-competitive remedies.

ICASA’s preliminary view is that the following markets should be listed for market reviews:

• Wholesale fixed access services;
• National transmission and metropolitan connectivity;
• Wholesale supply of mobile network services and RAN services.

By Jason Snyman

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Siemens introduces iCitizen: The day in the life of the digital nomad

Siemens introduces iCitizen: The day in the life of the digital nomad

Enrico Hoffmann, Managing Director of BSH South Africa, Dion Chang.

Siemens customers are no strangers to the innovation and ground-breaking technologies that the company invests to ensure a seamless life created effortlessly with the extraordinary features.

Consumers only had to follow the trends and announcements at EuroCucina this year to know just how competitive the digital consumer-centric space really is, regardless of industry and product. Some of the highlights included the Siemens Home Connect making it possible for consumers to view the contents of their fridge or setting the oven temperature while sitting at work or perhaps getting caught up in the grocery store.

“The talk highlights how flexible we should be as employers, consumers and brands in today’s digital world. From human digital identification chips to nomadic employees, the world is rapidly changing. The facts will either scare you or excite you, either way, these changes are happening now and it is our choice on how susceptible we are to embrace this new age”, says Dion Chang.

Enrico Hoffmann, Managing Director of BSH South Africa supported this and says that “Siemens has always taken technology advancement very seriously. One only has to look at the string of benefits that the products offer to understand that this brand is focussed on connecting the consumer with a world of possibilities.”

As always, Dion gave guests some food for thought, challenged opinions and made everyone realise that the technological advancements that we may regard as far-fetched Sci-Fi is in actual-fact on our doorstep.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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Google pushes artificial intelligence for upgraded news app

Google pushes artificial intelligence for upgraded news app

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 20, 2016 shows a woman taking pictures after the opening of Google’s pop-up store in New York. A trio of former Google employees on September 14, 2017, filed a lawsuit accusing the technology giant of paying women less than men for the same work. The lawsuit filed in a San Francisco state court on behalf of the three women accused Google of “systemic and pervasive pay and promotion discrimination against its female employees” in California./ AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD

For its updated news application, Google is doubling down on the use of artificial intelligence as part of an effort to weed our disinformation and help users get viewpoints beyond their own “filter bubble.”

Google chief Sundar Pichai, who unveiled the updated Google News earlier this month, said the app now “surfaces the news you care about from trusted sources while still giving you a full range of perspectives on events.”

It marks Google’s latest effort to be at the center of online news and includes a new push to help publishers get paid subscribers through the tech giant’s platform.

According to product chief Trystan Upstill, the news app “uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence — the great reporting done by journalists around the globe.”

While the app will enable users to get “personalized” news, it will also include top stories for all readers, aiming to break the so-called filter bubble of information designed to reinforce people’s biases.

“Having a productive conversation or debate requires everyone to have access to the same information,” Upstill said.

He said the “full coverage” feed would be the same for everyone — “an unpersonalized view of events from a range of trusted news sources.”

Some journalism industry veterans were skeptical about the effort to replace human editors with machine curators.

“There’s been a fantasy of (algorithmic) personalized news for a log time,” said New York University journalism professor Meredith Broussard.

“Nobody has ever gotten it right. I think that news designers and home page editors do a good job of curating already.”

Google and Facebook have also been criticized for scooping up most online ad revenues and for enabling false information to spread.

Recently, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson called for an “algorithm review board” that would “oversee these historically influential digital platforms and ensure that there is no algorithmic abuse or censorship.”

Changing news ecosystem
In the new app, Google’s “newsstand” addresses some concerns by allowing users to sign up for subscriptions using their Google accounts, and will enable publishers to connect with readers directly.

Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor, said the revamped news app appears to be positive for the news ecosystem.

“For many years, Google refused to share ad revenues with news organizations on the grounds that Google was driving traffic to them, and that it was up to those organizations to figure out how to monetize that traffic,” Kennedy said.

“Now, with more than 90 percent of all new digital ad revenues going to Google and Facebook, Google is finally acknowledging that it’s time to try something else.”

Nicholas Diakopoulos, a Northwestern University professor specializing in computational and data journalism, said the impact of Google’s changes remain to be seen.

Diakopoulos said algorithmic and personalized news can be positive for “engagement” but may only benefit a handful of news organizations.

His research found that “Google concentrates its attention on a relatively small number of publishers, it’s quite concentrated.”

Google’s effort to identify and prioritize “trusted” news sources may also be problematic, according to Diakopoulos.

“Maybe it’s good for the big guys, or the (publishers) who have figured out how to game the algorithm,” he said. “But what about the local news sites, what about the new news sites that don’t have a long track record?”

Diakopoulos said that while AI can offer some advantages in news curation, “you still need people involved in many different ways. you need to reflect human values, editorial values… you can’t quantify every aspect that might be important to an editorial decision.”

The growing importance of the platforms raise the questions of whether Google and Facebook are “media” companies and not simply technology firms, a moniker both have resisted.

Diakopoulos said Google “is becoming more and more like a media company,” although that is sometimes difficult to define.

“Yahoo started as a tech company and became a media company, and maybe Google is headed in that direction,” he said.

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