Vodacom introduces Microsoft Azure products for Cape Town customers

Vodacom introduces Microsoft Azure products for Cape Town customers

Sabelo Mabena, Executive Head for Vodacom Products and Services

Vodacom, in partnership with Microsoft introduced Microsoft Azure products to its Cape Town customers. Through Vodacom Business, Vodacom is one of the first Telco companies to go to market with a full suite of Azure products that offer local customers end-to-end digital solutions.

Speaking in Cape Town, Executive Head for Vodacom Products and Services, Sabelo Mabena explains that Microsoft Azure is one of the leading industry Cloud platforms that enables developers and IT professionals to create, manage and deploy applications through Microsoft’s global network of data centres.

“Microsoft Azure is the most trusted public Cloud platform used by 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies. The platform enables businesses to build anything from simple mobile apps through to internet-scale solutions. Vodacom’s offering of Microsoft Azure, will allow businesses the ability to provide enterprise-proven hybrid cloud solutions, and offer customers access to professional services that will be readily available to provide the best approach and solutions on the platform to allow customers to maximise efficiencies,” Mabena says.

From a Vodacom perspective, Mabena says the launch of the suite of Microsoft Azure solutions compliments the Vodacom Enterprise’s vision to help accelerate the digital transformation journey for business in South Africa.

“Providing our customers with essential tools and the latest offerings in market is vital if they are to survive today’s business landscape. Not only that, but Vodacom’s Azure solution model is simple to adapt and offers a host of application building blocks and services that will allow our customers to customise the Cloud according to their needs. Aligning with Vodacom’s bespoke offerings that are tailored to suit customers’ needs,” Mabena added.

Ravi Bhat, Cloud and Enterprise Business Group Lead at Microsoft South Africa adds to this by saying: “Vodacom Business clients can now use Azure to create data-driven, intelligent apps. Whether they want to employ image recognition or bot services, organisations can take advantage of Azure data services and artificial intelligence to create new experiences that scale and support deep learning as well as real-time analytics on any shape and size of data. The launch of the cloud platform will provide bespoke solutions aimed at addressing the issues currently being faced by customers’ businesses. Vodacom customers will have access to professional services, provided by experts, who will be readily available to provide the best approach and solutions on the platform to allow customers to maximise on efficiencies and save on costs.”

This is yet another step into the future of digital transformation for Vodacom, equipping businesses in South Africa and Africa with the necessary tools to stay on par with the latest business solutions available in the market.


Details on the offers available:

Data Warehousing

This product is a comprehensive offering that goes beyond just database licensing. The service includes the sizing of database for operations, migration of data to the cloud for processing and the option of specialists to assist with the processing / mining of large volumes of date.

Virtual Data Centre’s

This product goes beyond traditional Virtual Machine technology to also encompass varied storage and virtual networking elements. Customers have the benefit of being able to seamlessly merge privately hosted infrastructure with public infrastructure, while still maintaining the control of a LAN environment.

Back Up & Disaster Recovery

This product ensures that customers have the peace of mind that critical data and servers are backed up and just as importantly data is able to be restored quickly with minimal disruption to daily operations. With Vodacom Business, customers have the option of hybrid or a full cloud Disaster recovery plan. We also provide the option for resources to assist with Disaster Recovery.

SAP on Azure

Vodacom extends its SAP managed services to assist with migrations of SAP to the Azure Platform. Azure is ideal for the workload patterns for SAP and SAP HANA, providing improved performance, and rapid scalability. Vodacom extends its full SAP Basis Managed Services to Azure ensuring customers peace of mind of their SAP Landscape against managed SLA’s.


Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Industrial revolution: first, second, third, now fourth. It is Africa’s time to shine

It is 2038 – exactly 20 years from now – imagine an interconnected world where computing is truly pervasive and everything is automated; we are once again enslaved. Just this time there are no visible shackles; our shackles are virtual. We don’t own our digital infrastructure, we don’t own our data, our developers write code for the rest of the world and foreign investors largely own our digital private sector. We are at the mercy of the developed world, tied into long-term agreements and deals that favour the providers of capital, a self-inflicted digital colonisation.

A scary, yet very possible future for our continent. How did we get here you ask?

When the world was uniquely describing Africa as the last frontier and speaking about the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the advancement of Africa into a truly developed continent, through cutting edge technologies such as mobile, artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain etc., it appeared we were fast asleep, in a deep slumber, oblivious to what was happening around us. Oblivious to the fact that it was time to take intentional action towards ensuring that we needed to play an active part in this revolution.

We did not realize that he who builds the infrastructure determines its purpose and use, determines its security and engagement protocols but most critical of all – access. We did not realize that data and technology ownership is the foundation of every digital nation and that both infrastructure and data must be protected with all our might.

The same way we have signed land and resources away to the Chinese in exchange for infrastructure development and funding, instead of looking within and coming up with strategies that will not only develop our nation, but also empower our people, that same way we signed away our technology infrastructure development and intellectual property, leaving the digitalization of our continent in the hands of anyone who could throw buzzwords like artificial intelligence, blockchain, identity management, virtual and augmented reality around and of course the greatest need of all, provide the much needed capital and ideas.

We signed on the dotted lines, took pictures profusely smiling, thinking we had just hit the jackpot, because the deal seemed too good to be true. My deepest desire for this continent, my continent, is that we act and collectively awaken from the slumber before it’s too late. You may ask why this topic is relevant now, you may say our leaders have much bigger fish to fry and whilst all of this may be true, we must understand what is before us. A revolution is truly only identified once it has taken root – in retrospect. It’s inception and life is described like it came to being suddenly. The reality is that the 4th Industrial Revolution is here. It’s happening! We are already late to the party.

Every tech conference I’ve spoken at this year has focused on digitalization and innovation – the corner stones of this revolution. At the Digital Africa Conference in Abuja last week, there was an interesting panel on the role our history plays in our current technology development. It was interesting to hear speakers reference the innovations and technologies of the Benin Kingdom and how they were wiped out when the city was invaded and burnt to the ground hundreds of years ago.

I sat and I wondered how we lost our competitive edge and never thought about getting it back. I wondered when we became comfortable with mediocrity, when low standards became the norm. We accept the poor state of our nation; refer to ourselves as a third world country. We go out cap in hand asking for aid, subsidies and support, albeit the fact that we have all the resources and all the brains to get our nation back on track. What do we lack then? Is it the vision or is it the drive and motivation to do better, be better? Is it probably a bit of both mixed with self-interest that surmounts the collective good? We must become part of the on-going conversation and re-ignite the spark we once had.

Our journey ahead: I have spoken at 4 international conferences in the first half of this year – Africa and the 4th Industrial Revolution were the focus of all of them. In the course of the last few months it has become crystal clear to me that the only ones who are not seriously looking at the digitalization of Africa collectively as an opportunity are Africans. This realization made me very sad, but also made the sense of urgency for transformation of our continent more obvious than ever before. We need a structured plan that we can implement in order to not get left behind. At the conferences I spoke at, I made recommendations towards this plan, which I would like to share with you – so here I go:

* Nigeria and Africa need a future proof national / continental strategy that is driven by innovation, technology and digitalization and forms the cornerstone of all economic development plans and policies.

* Policy Makers need to educate themselves and ensure that they are able to actively engage in the discussions that are currently going on. They must furthermore embrace disruption instead of being afraid of it. Without disruptive technologies we will not be able to survive in the 4th industrial revolution.

* We need a Ministry of Innovation & Digitalization that drives the 4th Industrial Revolution in Africa and is lead by a young Minister from the tech industry. All technology acquisitions, deals and developments should be vetted by this ministry to ensure complete alignment with the above-mentioned national strategy.

* Our educational systems need to be reformed – making technology and innovation the cornerstone of learning and not just another subject. Without a skilled digital workforce we will not only depend on the West, but also remain in poverty. We must use technology to create enabling environments and teach practical skills. Virtual reality offers a huge potential to teaching practical skills without heavy investment in infrastructure / labs or equipment.

Online learning environments and content from both the educational sector and the private sector are key. Heavy investments in Research and Development facilities are key. We must also ensure that lecturers are fit for purpose. Any lecturer who cannot produce digital lecture notes should not be teaching or must be up skilled with a matter of urgency.

*Policy makers must create policies that accelerate the growth of the tech and tech driven economic ecosystem and spur digitalization, not hamper it. Our aim should be to scale existing tech and tech driven businesses to create more jobs. Part of these policies should focus on tax breaks, elimination of additional charges / unnecessary license fees, establishment of minority bids for Government procurement, provision of infrastructure through tech hubs / innovation centres, support of locally made technology solutions, grants etc.

*Local Investors need to be encouraged to invest in locally created technologies, tech and driven companies. They must also be educated on disruptive technologies and the potentials in order to ensure that local Investors revise their investment strategy in line with the above-mentioned national strategy.

* Government must engage the local tech ecosystem and hand in hand create a digitalization plan that is sustainable and most importantly future proof. Intimate Private – Public – Partnerships will be required to leapfrog our nation into the future.

*We must set up Think tanks and research groups that study and research new cutting edge technologies and see how we can localise them, align them with our own cultural values and seamlessly integrate them into our society. Nigeria and Africa must exploit the comparative advantage of her Diaspora Tech Knowledge resources as a fundamental strategy and imperative to accomplish the accelerated and sustainable delivery of the promise of the 4th Industrial revolution and global competitiveness.

* We must find ways of leveraging existing technologies in unconventional and innovative ways in both the public and private sector.

*We must ensure women and youth inclusive policies are made to ensure that women and youth exploit and fully embrace technology and the opportunities it brings.

I strongly believe that Africa with a well-articulated path to digitalization and focused implementation and engagement that sees traction over the next 20 years will lead to a continent vastly different to what we currently envision with the contribution of all sectors (agriculture, mining etc).

A truly first world is possible. Let’s not get left behind! The success of this continent lies with our generation.

Nkemdilim Begho is the Founder/CEO Future Software Resources

Powered by WPeMatico

21 June is Selfie Day – Five things you didn’t know about the selfie

21 June is Selfie Day – Five things you didn’t know about the selfie

21 June is Selfie Day – Five things you didn’t know about the selfie

The selfie. Love it or hate it, it is undeniable that it has become a central element of global culture, transcending boundaries of geography, religion, and status. Nothing embodies the influence of technology on our lives more than the phenomenon of the selfie. Here are five fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about this modern-day marvel.

1. The birth of the selfie
Believe it or not, the very first selfie was taken way back in 1839 by an American photographer, Robert Cornelius. His purpose was not purely narcissistic, however, as he was taking the photo to try out a new lighting technique. Unlike the ‘quickie’ selfies of today, experts estimate that Cornelius would have had to stay in the same position for three to 15 minutes to get the shot. Some historians have also argued that self-portraits have been an important part of art for centuries, and well-known painters like Rembrandt and Van Gogh were big fans of this medium.

2. What’s in a name?
In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries included the word ‘selfie’ in its online dictionary, and even went so far as to award this term the accolade of Word of the Year. In the previous year, Time Magazine had included the word ‘selfie’ in its list of ‘Top 10 buzzwords’, and in 2014 this term was officially accepted for use in the game Scrabble. The word ‘selfie’ was first used in Australia back in 2003 when a young guy took a picture of his face, showing how he had hurt his lip while drunk, and shared it. This social-media friendly term reflects the tendency in Australian English to add the ‘-ie’ ending to words to form new slang terms – ‘barbie’ for barbeque or braai is another example.

3. The siren song of the selfie
Many have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of the perfect selfie. A recent study, titled “Me, myself, and my killfie” found that 127 selfie deaths occurred between March 2014 and September 2016. The number has most likely doubled or even tripled in the past year and a half. In 2015 selfie deaths outnumbered shark attack fatalities by 300% worldwide. Interestingly, India has by far the largest number of selfie fatalities, with 76 of the 127 deaths over that period occurring in this country. Taking shots on trains and near the sea during high tide are particular hotspots for selfie demise. The situation is so severe that police have even identified ‘no-selfie zones’ in India’s main cities.

4. Monkey business
It’s not only humans who love a good selfie. Back in 2011, wildlife photographer David Slater left his camera unattended in an Indonesian jungle. A mischievous monkey – a Sulawesi macaque to be specific – took advantage and snapped a grinning selfie, instantly becoming a viral sensation. However, when the image was included in Slater’s book, “Wildlife Personalities” in 2015, animal rights group PETA sued Slater and his publishing company for infringing the monkey’s copyright (yes, you read that correctly). It was only in April this year that the case was finally settled. The appeal court found that America’s Copyright Act did not include animals, and criticised PETA for exploiting the monkey, known as Naruto, for their own agenda.

5. Taking the ultimate selfie
Of course, every great selfie needs a superb smartphone camera, and Huawei delivers this and more with its new P20 series. The HUAWEI P20 Pro is equipped with the world’s first Leica triple camera with the highest total pixel count on modern smartphones – a 40MP RGB sensor, a 20MP monochrome sensor, and an 8MP sensor with telephoto lens. Meanwhile, the HUAWEI P20 features a Leica dual camera with a 12MP RGB + 20MP monochrome camera setup with a 12MP.

Best of all, the Huawei P20 Pro’s 24MP front camera captures the smallest details, even in low-light settings, bringing selfies to life. With each selfie taken, AI beautification provides 3D portrait lighting, making adjustments to better match your facial features, resulting in luminous skin-tone enhancements and radiant selfies even when backlit. The beautification effects are so stunning, it’s like having a personal beauty entourage with you wherever you go!

The P20 series is also powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which brings professional photography skills to your smartphone, as it automatically selects the shooting modes and parameter settings for different scenes – all you have to do is point and shoot to get top-notch shots. The AI also learns your photo-taking habits and preferences over time, making your photos even better.


By Akhram Mohamed, Marketing Director, Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa

Powered by WPeMatico

Next-generation banking’s mobile makeover

Next-generation banking’s mobile makeover

Niel Bester, Senior Vice President for Products at Entersekt.

A new generation of bank customers will bypass physical branches and banking via the web almost completely in favour of completing transactions and accessing services from their mobile devices.

Financial institutions are already scaling back branches and automating teller transactions, while launching mobile apps that offer a growing number of financial services to businesses and consumers.

“Strategically, banks must strengthen their relationship with their consumers. Research shows that although consumers trust their banks, intimacy and the trust of that relationship is degrading over time, especially in younger age demographics,” says Niel Bester, Senior Vice President for Products at fintech firm, Entersekt.

“Banks need to shake their conservative image and position themselves to do business with people who are techno-savvy and who expect quick results.”

He says the ratio of payments to other banking interactions is more than ten to one.

“There is a great opportunity for banks to re-establish relationships at the point of payment – an environment increasingly dependent on mobile devices and apps. They can tell their customers – wherever you go, whatever you do – whatever payment opportunity is there, we’ll be at your side to sort you out securely and with confidence.”

“This way they have a broader relationship with consumers than they have during traditional banking interactions.”

Consumers don’t have to weigh up the pros and cons of a particular new payment service. Their bank can make the assessment and launch it in-app with zero initial customer enrollment effort. This allows the customer to experiment with the new service without having to fill out forms first. The relative lack of hassle means that consumers, even fairly cautious ones, are more likely than before to try mobile payments, and they can do so knowing that their bank has done the necessary to enable them to do so securely.

Bester says they also have the benefit of strong authentication already in place for security purposes.

“There is an existing trust relationship with banks. It helps drive adoption.”

Social banking is another trend driven by the youth disrupting the financial services industry. Using apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, for example, people can transfer money without leaving those platforms.

“Those transactions have tended to be person-to-person, but they are increasingly focusing on commerce – you can add an airline as a contact in WhatsApp, for example, and pay them in the same way you would a person.”

Bester says banking apps are already becoming more versatile in response to consumer needs and doing business with younger cohorts will accelerate this process.

“Generational and product awareness will be key to banks attracting and retaining customers. Youngsters want mobile banking almost exclusively while more affluent – typically older – people want access to branches, web banking and call centres.”

Banks have to provide a broad offering but from a cost point of view they should use the opportunity to encourage people to go more mobile.

“It’s a lot cheaper for banks than having to interact with a real person and it’s a trend that will continue,” he adds.

“Mobile banking is often event-driven and opportunistic. For example, a pop-up on a phone might say there’s a phone bill to pay, and do you want to pay it? Yes or no? This is responding to an event, rather than having to search through a menu to pay.

“Things like chat banking are moving towards this. I don’t want to go and look for the place where I need to transfer money – I just want to type in a box, Hey, give Johnny R20, and a chatbot on the other side, says, Yes, done. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) tech will make this even easier in future,” concludes Bester.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
Follow Fundisiwe Maseko on Twitter
Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Special needs schools get a digital helping hand

Special needs schools get a digital helping hand

Special needs schools get a digital helping hand

MiX Telematics, in partnership with iSchool Africa, have donated 50 Apple iPads and other technology equipment to both the Vera School for learners with autism and the Alta du Toit school for learners with intellectual and physical difficulties.

“At MiX Telematics, our purpose is to move the world forward every day, by delivering meaningful information that helps our customers improve fleet efficiencies, creates safer roads and a cleaner planet,” said Catherine Lewis, Managing Director of Central Services at MiX Telematics. “Through donating this technology for the benefit of the learners and teachers at these schools, we want to help move their world forward too.”

The overall objective of the iSchool Africa iPad learning programme is to empower teachers and students by providing them with iPads and advanced classroom practices where children would otherwise suffer the educational challenges typically faced in disadvantaged and under-resourced environments. In addition to helping them become digitally literate, the use of technology has increased motivation, enthusiasm and excitement around learning.

“Just as our customers leverage our technology to improve their operations, so too can technology be used to help learners acquire new skills. With the help of the dedicated teachers at these schools, we are looking forward to seeing the learners embrace the change and improve their learning capabilities over time,” said Lewis.

MiX Telematics recently launched an iPad Lab at the Phelang school in Gauteng. This included a donation of much-needed technology equipment for the school’s newly developed lab.

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Does the open plan office work?

Does the open plan office work?

Does the open plan office work? (Image from www.sage.com/za)

Open plan offices are a staple of working life in the modern age. In fact, 80% of US businesses use it as their preferred office arrangement, with others globally following suit, led by a plethora of the world’s leading businesses such as Apple, Google and Facebook. But how did it become the defacto layout for most new businesses and are there better alternatives?

Research has shown that the open plan office has many benefits, specifically in creative workspaces. However, there are plenty of negatives too, as the layout has a direct correlation and contribution to staff absenteeism and reduced levels of productivity.

In our infographic we explore the history of office layouts and its transformation into a largely dominated open plan landscape. But will the future office space continue this trend or are there better alternatives? As we spend 90,000 hours working in these environments, it’s certainly worth some serious thought.

Regardless of your sector, government regulations will still impact your business. Not sure what impact the 2017/18 Budget will have on salaries? Our Sage salary tax calculator helps to take the guesswork out, so you can focus on building your business.

Does the open plan office work? –
A Sage

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Smart transportation—an African game changer

Smart transportation—an African game changer

Smart transportation—an African game changer

Smart cities may seem like a futuristic concept, but their benefits are rapidly becoming evident around the world. Africa is no exception, with many of the approaches and technologies which combine to form a smart city being applied from Cape Town through to Cairo.

Studies suggest that the Middle East and Africa (MENA) ICT sector is gearing up for heavy digital growth over the next few years. For example, a recent Frost & Sullivan report shows that four billion networked devices are expected to be in place in the MENA region by 2020. In other words, the region is taking its place in a technology-driven future, with the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, personal mobile devices and ubiquitous connectivity changing how people live.

Let’s single out IoT for the transformational technology that it is. There are multiple potential applications of IoT which can shape the future of African cities, but one aspect of city life common to just about every smart city vision is transport (smart city projects typically revolve around transport and mobility, security, environment/social sustainability and public services).

Transport in its various forms has a major impact on the day-to-day lives of the residents of every city. It affects everything from logistics, to personal happiness, to the environment. When transport works well, cities work well—and the opposite is also true. When there are traffic jams, frequent accidents, broken traffic signals and endless congestion, the very economy of the city is strangled.

How can IoT make a difference? By collecting real-time information about traffic movements from across the complete spectrum of transport modes (cars, trains, buses, etc.), combining that with information from roads and robots and other traffic signals, then applying analytics to that data, it becomes possible to take informed actions in real time to optimise transport.

There’s more. As driverless technology matures, an IoT environment equips these vehicles for more consistent performance; the more devices, vehicles, assets and even people connected to the IoT network, the more potential exists for the creation of data for analysis and insight.

Such innovations can only contribute to citizens’ overall happiness, making their everyday lives simpler and more convenient.

But the convenience of smart cities depends on appropriate data security and the protection of the privacy of citizens. Security must, therefore, be at the forefront of design if smart cities are to flourish and bring on long-term happiness. Consumers must trust that their personal data is protected across all the connected devices.

The smart city is, in effect, an ecosystem. In this ecosystem, all partners—governments, enterprises, software providers, device manufacturers, energy providers and network service providers—must do their part and integrate solutions that abide by four core security objectives:

  1. Availability: Without actionable, real-time, and reliable access to data, the smart city can’t thrive. How data is collected, distilled and shared is critical, and security solutions must avoid negative effects on availability.
  2. Integrity: Smart cities depend on reliable and accurate data. Measures must be taken to ensure that data is accurate and free from manipulation.
  3. Confidentiality: Some of the data collected, stored and analysed will include sensitive details about consumers themselves. Steps must be taken to prevent unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information.
  4. Accountability: Users of a system must be responsible for their actions. Their interactions with sensitive systems should be logged and associated with a specific user. These logs should be difficult to forge and have strong integrity protection.

To achieve these security core objectives, strong authentication and ID management solutions must be integrated into the ecosystem to ensure that data is shared only with authorised parties. The solutions must also protect any connected backend systems from intrusion and hacking.

At Gemalto, we envision smart cities where all the resources and services are integrated seamlessly into daily life for maximum efficiency while protecting people and information. To ensure this vision becomes reality, we make sure data security is not an afterthought in the planning of smart cities but a key element that allows smart services to make people’s lives easier and happier through trustworthy, secure technology.


Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Microsoft employees protest contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Microsoft employees protest contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Microsoft employees protest contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

More than 100 Microsoft employees have signed an open letter to Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella in protest of the company’s deal with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency which has been separating members of families who illegally cross US borders.

This letter urges Microsoft management to not follow through on a deal made with ICE and to instate a policy against working with clients who violate international human rights laws. The deal, a $19.5 million contract, will provide ICE with cloud storage, data processing, and artificial intelligence services.

“We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits,” said the letter,  addressed to the chief executive, Satya Nadella. “As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit. We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.” To read the full letter as originally published by The New York Times, click here.

This letter was just one statement from the tech community in protest of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which aims to separate children from their parents when they cross US borders illegally. This policy has resulted in the government sending thousands of immigrant children to holding camps around the country, sparking international outrage. Alongside Microsoft, other prominent tech companies who have spoken out against this policy include Apple, Uber, Facebook, and Google.

On Twitter, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, called what was happening at the border gut-wrenching and called for a more humane way to deal with the problem, while Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, an immigrant himself, called the policy immoral and just plain wrong for pulling families apart.

The stories and images of families being separated at the border are gut-wrenching. Urging our government to work together to find a better, more humane way that is reflective of our values as a nation. #keepfamiliestogether

— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) June 19, 2018

As a father, a citizen and an immigrant myself, the stories coming from our border break my heart. Families are the backbone of society. A policy that pulls them apart rather than building them up is immoral and just plain wrong. #KeepFamiliesTogether

— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) June 19, 2018

Microsoft did not immediately respond to the letter, but was later quoted in a statement as saying: “Microsoft is not working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or US Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose.”


By Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Global fintech investors team up to promote responsible digital finance

Global fintech investors team up to promote responsible digital finance

Global fintech investors team up to promote responsible digital finance

Innovations in digital technology have created new and exciting opportunities to reach unbanked and underbanked low-income customers in emerging markets as well as developed countries. Traditionally, these customer segments have been considered too risky and too poor to be of interest to banks and insurance companies. Mobile wallets and mobile money transfers, peer-to-peer and other alternative lending platforms, pay-as-you-go asset finance and digital micro-credit are examples of recent innovations that are reaching hundreds of millions of consumers and small businesses. These innovations are radically changing the financial services landscape around the globe.

While the opportunities have increased, so too have the risks surrounding digital financial services for investors, investees, customers and wider digital ecosystems across markets and regions. An example is the rapid growth of digital lending products, some of which carry risks of overpricing and over-lending to customers. One factor that is holding back investors in inclusive digital financial services is the lack of a framework to help them evaluate these risks. In a world where the old rules are being rewritten daily, it can be hard to know where best to invest your time, energy and money.

Recognizing this, over 50 leading organizations have joined up to develop a set of guidelines for investors who are interested in funding inclusive digital financial services in a responsible way. How these organizations define and handle the issues facing the fintech industry will enable the investor community to better identify new opportunities and manage investment risks.

The resulting Guidelines for Investing in Responsible Digital Financial Services comprise 10 touchpoints that financial investors and their fintech investees can use to evaluate opportunities, mitigate risks and contribute to a more responsible and inclusive digital finance ecosystem. These include promoting fair and transparent pricing and better disclosure of terms and conditions for customers, preventing people taking on more debt than they can comfortably manage, increasing their financial literacy, establishing customer identity, data privacy and security standards, fostering a proportionate legal and regulatory framework, and enabling the interoperability of digital financial services.

The guidelines will enable investors and their fintech investee companies offer new financial services to millions of consumers by helping them recognize the opportunities and points to consider and mitigate risks. Any investment organization can subscribe to the guidelines and join the community of investors. All they are asked to do in return is to use them as the basis for due diligence and monitoring of their fintech investments, and to share new insights with their fellow investors as the fintech revolution spreads across the globe. “The guidelines are just that – guidelines,” says Martin Holtmann, Head of Digital Finance and Microfinance at IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group and one of the co-founders of the Guidelines. “They are not new rules or regulations, not a law, not red tape. They are a voluntary framework that organizations can sign up to and use as guidance when they invest in responsible digital financial services. The guidelines will benefit digital financial service providers and their customers by helping investors to better evaluate and manage risks associated with digital transformation and digitalization.”

“By teaming up with other leading investors, we want to create a community of practice around responsible fintech that will give more low-income customers easier access to better and more affordable financial products,” says Wim van der Beek, managing partner of emerging markets private equity firm Goodwell Investments, also a co-founder of the Guidelines. “As an active investor in digital financial inclusion, we saw a growing need in the marketplace for a framework that could support investors and operators in building sustainable and trustworthy products and services. We’re proud that so many investors have joined us in our efforts to develop the guidelines that we are launching today.”

“From the Netherland’s perspective we like to compliment Goodwell, IFC and the other investors for initiating these guidelines,” says Hans Docter, director of the Department for Sustainable Economic Development at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “In the financial inclusion agenda the developments in digital financial services are very promising. These Guidelines address the issue of awareness and protection of the vulnerable clients at the source of capital, being the investors in these digital technologies.”

“We are very pleased to see that so many fellow public and private investors, lenders as well as equity investors, are subscribing to these Guidelines,” says Christiane Laibach, member of the Managing Board of DEG, the German development finance institution, another co-founding signatory. “They aim to streamline the growing digital financial service sector and to support service providers and investors with professional guidance to prevent abuse of inexperienced consumers. The guidelines will help investors and operators build and sustain customer trust and continuously improve the design and delivery of products and services.”

“We are realising the need to be more focused on the customer in the financial services sector,” adds Maria Largey, Director & Head of Financial Institutions team at the UK’s development finance institution CDC Group, also a co-founding signatory. “We, as investors, have a responsibility to ensure that our investees’ customers do not fall through the cracks or are inadvertently put at risk. The Guidelines help us to assume that responsibility in a practical way, and encourage our investees to do the same.”

Launch event

The guidelines were launched on Wednesday, June 20, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, at the CONNECTING THE DOTS conference organized by Goodwell Investments in partnership with IFC, DEG, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with support from CDC. The launch is the first of a series of engagements to further broaden the outreach to strategic partners as signatories, and to build a critical mass of investors and innovators committed to accelerating responsible investments in digital financial services.

The industry event focuses on the many investment opportunities offered by responsible digital financial inclusion and innovations. It brings together leading investors, sector leaders, tech entrepreneurs, bankers, digital lenders and industry experts to exchange innovative ideas and share proven solutions to the issues facing digital financial services today.

The programme reflects the broad range of stakeholders who are leading the development of inclusive digital financial ecosystems. Speakers include: pioneering entrepreneur Michael Joseph, founding CEO of Safaricom and pioneer of Kenyan mobile payment system MPesa, which is used by 75% of Kenyan adults; Tayo Oviosu, founder and CEO of Paga, Africa’s largest independent digital banking platform; Dare Okoudjou, CEO and founder of mobile money hub MFS Africa that connects 170 million mobile wallets across Africa; Jocelyn Cheng of social investor Global Innovation Fund, Abhimanyu Munjal, CEO of Hero FinCorp, Isabelle Barrès of the Smart Campaign, the world’s first industry-led financial consumer protection standard, Michael Fiebig of ResponsAbility, Zhiying Liao of Shanghai’s F-Road and many other representatives of the co-founding signatories.

In a message to the conference, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), underlined its importance: “As investors, many of you share the view that digital finance is uniquely positioned to bring financial inclusion to millions of people, creating powerful opportunities to improve access, usage, and customer-centricity. Yet the evolution of digital finance comes with risks for both customers and the financial system.

Today’s launch of the Guidelines for Investing in Responsible Digital Financial Services provides an excellent starting point to address and mitigate these risks. Looking forward, I encourage you to build on your momentum, expanding your consultation with investors beyond development institutions and impact investors and implementing time-bound action plans. With the rapid pace of innovation, new risks will arise. It is critical to ensure that the Guidelines are a living document that is continually adapted to our changing landscape.

This launch is the beginning of a journey, not the destination. I look forward to supporting your efforts to build a more responsible and inclusive future for digital finance.”

About the co-founding signatories

The group of over 50 co-founding signatories has teamed up to launch the Guidelines in Amsterdam today. The investor community together has invested around USD 1,5 billion in in some 200 digital financial services providers. These include banks, insurance companies, mobile money providers and other fintechs. Together, the co-founders form a unique alliance of leading development banks, investment funds, family offices, private equity firms and debt fund managers focused on the financial sector and fintech, as well as banks, digital lenders, service providers and industry organizations. It is a global group of signatories, from Europe, the US, Africa, China and India. The full list is included in the annex and is also available at www.responsiblefinanceforum.org


Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico

Creating greater accessibility and assisting disability through technology

Creating greater accessibility and assisting disability through technology

Creating Greater Accessibility and Assisting Disability Through Technology

Afrika Tikkun is a global not-for-profit organisation working to develop, empower and support the youth of South Africa in disadvantaged communities in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Their intention is to shape the youth of today to become the next generation’s leaders of tomorrow. The approach that they have taken is called the Cradle-to-Career 360˚ model, which sees full developmental support from infancy to adulthood.

However, with a full complement of capable staff behind them, their achievements would still not be possible without the financial and in-kind aid of sponsors and the extraordinary efforts of their benefactors. One such company is MTN.

Director of Partnerships and Marketing at Afrika Tikkun, Onyi Nwaweri comments: “It is amazing what can be accomplished when we all work together toward a common goal and I would like to thank all of the staff of MTN that have joined us this past week in improving the lives of the youth that we serve. The African proverb holds true: If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”

Every year from 1 to 21 June, MTN employees around the globe reach out to people less fortunate than themselves as part of their 21 Days of Y’ello Care campaign. During this period they give time, energy, care and financial assistance to improve the lives of community members where MTN connects people. This year, MTN South Africa chose Afrika Tikkun’s Wings of Life Centre in Diepsloot as their beneficiary.

Kicking off MTN’s 21 Days of Y’ello Care campaign on 2 June 2018, there was a half marathon around the MTN Innovation Centre in Roodepoort where MTN staff, twenty youth from Afrika Tikkun as well as members of the public joined together to raise funds for Information Communication Technology (ICT) projects in education and in supporting youth skills empowerment programmes. Afrika Tikkun’s Wings of Life Centre is one amongst many other youth centres and schools for learners with special needs to benefit from the proceeds of the race.

Continuing their 21 Days of Y’ello Care, this past week has seen around 30 MTN employees gather every day at the Afrika Tikkun Wings of Life Centre to undertake tasks such as spring-cleaning, painting, cooking, gardening, installing carpets and making chairs out of used tyres.

As an ICT company, MTN recognises the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the importance of the youth of today having access to and knowledge of technology in order to strive ahead in their careers come school-leaving age. To this end, they have also installed computers in the Diepsloot Centres library and today marked the launch of the new multimedia/ IT library with the help of Ms. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of the Department of Social Development. In a welcome address by Bogopane-Zulu she said; “The multi-media lab is there for you to better yourself, your education, your skills and improve access to employment opportunities and higher learning so you can be a better version of yourselves.”

The world has already seen greater accessibility to knowledge through the advent of technology and MTN is further expanding the concept by, not only installing computers for all the youth of Afrika Tikkun, but also refurbishing the Afrika Tikkun Wings of Life’s multimedia/ IT library to be more accessible for Afrika Tikkuns youth with disabilities. The Deputy Minister explained, “the computer lab was designed in a way that is inclusive of people with disability. Three software programmes will be installed to enable persons with a range of disabilities (including intellectual disabilities) to access computers and become computer literate. It will cater to the very young and to the mature. Young children with disabilities learn technology easily when introduced to it at a young age.”

Nwaweri concludes: “Our goal at Afrika Tikkun is to help create a sustainable future for the youth of South Africa and companies like MTN assist us to realise this purpose. Walking together, we will walk far. I’m sure all the youth of Afrika Tikkun Wings of Life join me in thanking MTN for their contributions.”


Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

Powered by WPeMatico