When the South African paint manufacturer, Plascon, needed to lower costs associated with storing raw materials and packaging off-site, APC Storage Solutions SA, the front-running warehouse solutions provider in Africa, designed and built them South Africa’s highest density pallet warehouse, and the world’s largest non-automated self-supported warehouse to house materials on site.

 

“By opting for the self-supported warehouse concept – where the actual racking installation supports the building’s exterior, lighting and other rigging – Plascon was able to save 30% of its warehouse procurement budget by not using standard civil construction methods. Furthermore, having raw materials on site has reduced transport costs, as well as expenses associated with additional, off-site storage facilities,” says Fred Albrecht, Managing Director, APC Storage Solutions SA. 

 

Reaching up 23m, the warehouse had to be built on only  1 310m2 at Plascon’s Luipaardsvlei manufacturing facility in Krugersdorp to facilitate the easy storage, retrieval and order preparation for over 2 300 specialised pallets.

 

With the new warehouse configuration, raw materials, such as pigments, solvents and other additives, are stored inside the self-supported warehouse upon arrival at the facility. When the factory requires certain ingredients, a turret truck picks and moves pallets to the live storage section. The live storage racking system gradually feeds raw materials into the manufacturing plant: pallets are picked at the production plant-facing end of the roller conveyor system, and pallets are re-stocked at the warehouse-facing end.

 

“We also supplied a live pallet racking system – where items are fed in one end, accumulated, and then picked at the other,” says Albrecht. This makes up the interface between the warehouse and production plant, and helps with order preparation and stock rotation. It also helps prevent warehouse staff and production plant staff from moving freely between the warehouse and production plant, improving general stock control.

 

APC Storage Solutions SA has further completed the design of a second phase warehouse installation that will house final paint products in a fully-automated warehouse.

 

“A maintenance agreement between APC Storage Solutions SA and Plascon recommends a bi-annual warehouse inspection as per SEMA, FEM and EN regulations as a free service,” concludes Albrecht. This helps warehouse owners detect any structural, layout or operational problems which APC Storage Solutions SA can address – keeping warehouses running in ideal conditions.

 

APC Storage Solutions SA is the market leader with the Spanish Mecalux as technology partner. A supplier of world-class products and integrated logistical storage solutions and services, APC Storage Solutions SA is focused on the core values Quality, Experience, Safety, and Technology – QUEST. APC Storage Solutions SA has FEM (European Federation of Material Handling Equipment), SEMA UK (Storage Equipment Manufacturing Association) and RMI (Rack Manufacturers Institute of America) accreditation, along with accreditation from 14 other federations and associations

BY WESLEY LYNCH, CEO, REALMDIGITAL

 

E-business is growing in all possible areas – network connections, consumer numbers, transaction volumes, revenues, and the range of digital content and services on offer.

 

But as the industry continues to bloom, it is also diversifying. The addition of mobile and social platforms to traditional Web channels is making the market more accessible than ever, but it also presents big challenges.

 

All told, it is time for the e-enabling industry and merchants to re-think their game plan. What integration and design challenges will present themselves? What risks are there in transitioning to mobile and social, or in running all three platforms in parallel?

 

Drop the prefix already

Firstly, it bears repeating that business is business, no matter the style of execution. M-commerce, as it was once called, is a form of e-business, and e-business is just a form of business.

 

It’s true that social and mobile platforms, particularly mobile, will drive the next wave of e-business, and the challenges that come with the new territory will be different from the last.

 

But even if e-commerce mutates to the point where a handful of social communities and mobile hardware platforms dominate all others in the distribution of content and sale of products, the steps will be evolutionary and not involve a rip-and-replace exercise.

 

Changes big and small

Practical first steps

Currently, mobile commerce development is still driven by its starting promise of ‘democratising’ access to digital content and services. In the short term, therefore, innovations will need to be practical in nature.

 

Most immediately, this consists of:

·          Re-designing user interfaces to suit the small screens

·         Catering for all mobile platforms – including feature phones

 

Similarly, social is at an immature stage of its evolution, and changes to accommodate it will be more introductory than sweeping:

·         Social platforms can still be treated as a customer ramp-up opportunity for online and mobile platforms, and less of an integration nightmare.

 

Re-architect

Other, more drastic changes are dictated by consumer behaviour:

·         As more and more consumers become e-commerce converts, the underlying systems’ load profiles must be redesigned.

·         Micro-payments are changing the way people transact, and consumer-to-consumer payments will be next. Immediately, this requires re-architecting mobile commerce platforms; in time these changes will filter through to all e-platforms.

·         Legacy systems were built with particular consumer behaviour in mind – stationary shoppers at an unknown location. With changing expectations and possibilities, futurechange will include location-aware services, near-field communications and other innovations on the roadmaps of hardware manufacturers.

 

Who to pick

It’s worth considering, finally, whose help you will enlist to get ready for the increasingly social and mobile character that doing business may take.

 

Building your own plug-ins may not be the best route to follow – there are countless good existing solutions and programming interfaces for just about anything you might need. And entering the market with a monolithic app platform may give you what you need for now (at a cost), but does it have the agility to stay relevant?

 

The best bet in a changing market is to pick the niche apps that fulfil your needs, and to work with an integration partner with a track record of success in strategic e-business projects (including, of course, mobile and social).

 

This is the most open-ended approach to a problem where the only constant is change.

Canon SA Expo confirmed

Canon South Africa’s highly anticipated Canon SA Expo will be held from Friday, 30 November to Sunday, 2 December 2012 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng.

 

The expo will be open from 10:00am to 18:00pm daily and entrance will be free.

 

After a highly successful show in 2011 where an excess of  13 500 visitors attended over the three days, Canon SA has taken it upon themselves to make this year’s show bigger and better.

 

The expo will again showcase Canon’s wide range of consumer and selected business solutions.

 

Visitors to this exclusively Canon Expo will also be the first to experience some of Canon’s latest technology.

 

The expo will include more guest speaker sessions than previously and two sessions are scheduled to run throughout the day.  

 

Aspiring photographers are invited to once again participate in the Canon Photo Competition and can enter one or all four themed categories, designed to encourage creative interpretation.

 

The themes are: Reflections; Into the Great Wide Open; Adrenaline and Magic Colours.

 

“Aside from the unexpected high attendance at last year’s expo, we were also amazed at the quality of entries submitted for the photographic competition,” says  Michelle Janse van Vuuren, Marketing Manager at Canon SA.

 

“We will use a similar format to last year but intend on making the themes even more interesting.”

 

Selected entries will be exhibited online on Canon SA’s Expo website (www.csaexpo.co.za) as well as on the Expo’s Facebook site (search Canon SA Expo on Facebook).

 

One winner per category will be selected by a panel of judges and will be announced on 15 January 2013. They will each win an EOS5D Mark III including an EF40 MM F2.8 STM lens.

 

The top 10 entries in each category will also be exhibited in the gallery at the Canon Expo where visitors will be able to vote for their favourite entries.

 

Entries must be submitted in electronic JPEG format, not exceeding 2Megs, to the four email addresses correlating to the various themes.

 

Entrants must submit their entries to the email address appropriate to the category they are entering namely; reflections@csaexpo.co.za; wideopen@csaexpo.co.za; adrenaline@csaexpo.co.zaand colours@csaexpo.co.za

 

Entries open are open and close at midnight on 15 of October 2012.

 

Voting for the entries opens on 1 November and closes 2 December. The winners will be announced on the Canon Expo website on the 15 January 2013.


Visitors will be able to purchase selected Canon’s products at the Expo this year and the company has indicated that various specials will be up for grabs during the Expo period on a select range of Canon Consumer Imaging products.

 

For more information please visit www.csaexpo.co.za.

Credit card fraud is one of the biggest obstacles to growing e-commerce, according to Peter Harvey, founder and MD of internet payment gateway provider PayGate – but the risks could be slashed if the 3D Secure protection system was widely implemented.

 

“3D Secure is the online equivalent of a PIN,” says Harvey. “Cardholders have to enter an extra password to complete an online purchase. That adds a layer of protection against fraud for both the buyer and the seller. If the seller isn’t using 3D Secure and a fraudulent payment is made, they could be forced to refund it up to six months later.”

 

But, says Harvey, 3D Secure is not widely implemented yet, so customers often mistake it for a phishing scam when they first encounter it – which is where the banks come in.

 

“The only people who have the clout to make sure 3D actually works are the banks,” says Harvey. “At the moment we have a vicious circle: 3D Secure is not widespread so customers don’t trust it – around 15-20% will abandon the transaction when they’re asked for an extra password. So merchants don’t want to implement the system. Nobody wants to be first because they’ll lose out.”

 

The solution, says Harvey, is for the banks to get together and simultaneously force all online merchants to use 3D Secure, starting with the biggest online players of all, the airlines. “Between them our airlines are processing many thousands of online transactions every month. If they and a couple of other big e-commerce sites implemented 3D Secure, consumer perception would change very quickly and the smaller merchants would follow on naturally.”

 

Banks should also do more to educate consumers, says Harvey. “The 3D Secure screen that an online buyer sees belongs to and is designed by the bank, not by the merchant. Currently those screens do very little to reassure customers that what they’re seeing is legitimate – fixing that visual presentation could make a big difference.”

 

The pain, Harvey believes, will quickly be outweighed by the gain. “It’s going to be painful in the short term no matter what we do,” he says. “But by dragging it out in the current piecemeal way we’re just extending the suffering. If it’s worth doing, let’s just get it over with – there will be lots of complaints in the first month but then it will be over.”

 

On the other hand, says Harvey, “if 3D Secure is not worth doing, let’s just scrap the whole thing. The current situation, where the banks are forcing it on some smaller merchants but letting the big ones off, is not fair to anybody. It’s time our banks acted decisively.”

 

 

The South African payments technology landscape sees a major consolidation with the merger of two niche specialists that perfectly complement each other. One is a leader in online payments systems consulting, implementation and on-going management, the other is an integration and custom software specialist skilled in building electronic funds transfer systems for retailers and financial service providers. The new company, called Stanchion Payments Solutions, will be headquartered in Cape Town with the primary development team and support office in Johannesburg.

 

Stanchion Payments Solutions addresses the retail and financial services sectors, building payments systems to connect retailers to their banks. Clients include a wide range of Blue Chip and emerging banks and retailers in Africa.

 

“As a united company we can now do incredible things for our customers in Southern Africa. They want to know they are getting global best practice in security and governance. They want to know that no matter what conditions may be on the shop floor, their transactions are being processed flawlessly. They also want to know that they can experiment with new and more convenient ways for their customers to pay, and that our experts are on hand to plan the implementation, to optimise their systems, and to keep them running 24×7,” says Graham Williams, CEO of Stanchion Payments Systems.

 

Payments systems are intricate – conceptually simple, but complex in practice. It is a highly regulated environment, with strict control by both international and local authorities. The threat of attacks by cyber-criminals is high, and the consequences of system flaws may be severe. For a large retailer doing 100,000 sales a minute across the country, even a small problem lasting minutes could mean significant losses.

 

The technology is also very sophisticated – there are the external banking systems to interface with, as well as internal transaction processing and integrity monitoring. Traffic is running across multi-protocol networks with distributed systems architectures, and with 15, 20 or even 30 links in the chain between someone swiping a card and an amount of money being reflected in a bank account – and at every stage everything must be encrypted and protected from interception.

 

“This technology is not for the faint hearted or the ‘suck it and see’ artist,” says Williams. “For a major retailer, even a couple of minutes of down-time could cost millions in angry queues of shoppers with significant brand damage… not to mention the abandoned shopping carts. Stanchion already had a pedigree and a sterling reputation for no-nonsense reliability – but we had a gap in our service offering. We did not have a software development team to do customised solutions. In any but the simplest EFT processing system, there is a need for custom software, where BGA excelled. Even if a shrink-wrap solution will fit initially, businesses inevitably evolve in a way that off-the-shelf producers can never anticipate. However, BGA was not able to play in the consulting and management space. For us to join forces makes total sense for our respective customers.”

 

This merger is a great fit: Stanchion has massive experience in design strategy, system implementation and long-term support, including helpdesks with water-tight processes. Baker Gysi and Associates has a team of excellent developers with a very rare set of technical skills.

 

“We are now a one stop shop – we can gather requirements, design the system, project manage putting the infrastructure into place and then manage it. We will troubleshoot problems, and perform stress testing to ensure that when things get busy no cracks appear,” says Shaun Baker, a founder of BGA and Stanchion’s Chief Technology Officer. “Later, as our customers grow, we can add new EFT switches, or add a capability to an existing switch.”

 

In an industry that regularly sees disruptive change from multiple quarters, including industry regulators and emerging standards, Stanchion Payment Systems is perfectly placed to provide continuity across the full spectrum of the payments sphere.

 

 

Retailers: Is your future online?

With the growing maturity of internet services of all kinds, the necessity for a web shop for even smaller retailers is becoming more pronounced than ever. Where a decade ago, the suggestion of a push towards ecommerce and a move away from ‘bricks and mortar’ was undoubtedly ahead of its time, a lot has changed since then. Today, buying products and services online is, for many consumers, the epitome of convenience and value. It is also second-nature.

 

There are several factors which have combined to make it far easier, far cheaper and now also far more necessary for almost every retailer to consider an online sales presence.

 

From a technology point of view, the software and tools required to create a self-managed web store have advanced enormously. Where previously it was a complex, time consuming, clumsy and very expensive process to get your shop on the web, today it can be done in as little as three to five days. That includes full functionality to take credit card payments and with integration of the web shop front into the back-end ERP system.

 

Perhaps even more important is the ability for the retailer or their employees to manage the site, adding new products or items, introducing special deals, and so on. Combined with the low cost of establishing the web store, it is therefore possible to establish a new revenue stream with very little capital expenditure. Indeed, most web shops should fully repay the cost of their establishment within three to twelve months of commencing operations.

 

Of course, the web store has the ‘traditional’ advantages of an online marketplace, including a nationwide or even global reach, around-the-clock trade and reduced overheads as goods can be shipped straight from stock or even from suppliers.

 

With the runaway popularity of smartphones, combined with ever-faster and more affordable terrestrial internet connectivity, even if people aren’t buying online, they certainly are searching to check prices, specifications and options. You want your store to be in those search results, so every web shop should be Google-optimised.

 

Retailers are compelled to consider online sales too, because the competition is increasingly moving online. Add to that the presence of new retailers like Groupon and ShopSavvy which are competing for the same customers and the necessity to take action should be clear.

 

With internet shopping becoming standard practice for more consumers than ever before, the time has never been better for the retailer to consider a move into the online space. It may just be a move that assures the future of your retail operation.

 

* Vaimo creates web shopfronts based on Magento software; the company is South Africa’s only Magento Gold Partner. With 52 specialists, we’re ready to get your store online, fast.

South Africans are increasingly ready to buy their fashion online, as eBucks partners with leading online fashion retailer

 

Johannesburg, 1 August 2012: eBucks, FNB’s rewards programme, has announced a new spend partnership with game-changing South African online fashion retailer, ZANDO.

 

With the largest variety of styles from 300 local and international fashion brands available in its online store, ZANDO, eBucks’ only online fashion partner, makes it easy for South Africans to keep their wardrobes up-to-date with the latest fashions by making purchases online using their eBucks. Prices on the site are quoted in both rands and in eBucks for extra convenience.

 

ZANDO has become a South African success story, enjoying significant growth on a monthly basis since its launch on 23 January 2012.

 

“In the short time that ZANDO has been an eBucks partner, we have seen that fashion is a category in which eBucks’ members enjoy spending their eBucks,” says Jolande Duvenage, eBucks’ CEO.

 

Peter Allerstorfer, ZANDO’s managing director and co-founder, believes the South African market has only begun to scratch the surface of the potential for ecommerce within the fashion industry, and the company has already opened a new, bigger warehouse in Ndabeni, Western Cape.

 

“The biggest concern that South Africans have  with purchasing fashion items online is that the item will not be the correct size, and if it is incorrect, whether they will be able to return it, and at what cost. We have eased this concern with our free delivery offering, where our drivers wait for customers to try on their purchases. If they want to return it, the customer simply hands it back to the delivery person who will return the goods to us, at no cost to the customer. Embracing online fashion shopping requires a mind shift, which we are sure will happen over time as our customers grow to appreciate the convenience and value for money that we offer,” Allerstorfer says.

 

Building trust boosts online sales

 

While fashion retailers have used the same strategy online as they did in their bricks and mortar fashion outlets, Allerstorfer believes that if retailers are going to be successful online, they need to ease consumers’ concerns about the safety of online shopping to build trust on all levels.

 

“South Africans have historically been slow to embrace online shopping in general, compared to the likes of seasoned online shoppers like the Americans,” he says. “This is largely due to South Africa’s low Internet penetration rate, consumers who have not yet experienced online shopping and the perception that online shopping is not secure,” he says.

 

However, perceptions and behaviour have started to change, making the South African market one to watch in terms of future growth in the online retail sector, he says.

 

Duvenage agrees, and says that eBucks has seen a significant increase in the number of members using their rewards currency to purchase items online, with a double digit increase year-on-year in its own online shop (www.eBucks.com).

 

“E-commerce in South Africa is definitely on the rise, and South Africans seem to be more comfortable purchasing online, especially when it comes to fashion, which has shown an upsurge in recent months,” says Duvenage.

 

Another way to build trust amongst customers and quell security concerns is to offer a variety of payment methods. For example, ZANDO offers customers multiple options to pay for their purchase including credit, cheque, electronic transfer, cash on delivery, PayPal and most recently, eBucks.

 

“Partnering with eBucks, a leading and trusted loyalty programme in South Africa, not only gives our customers more peace of mind when they pay for their fashion items, but also gives them additional payment choice and convenience,” Allerstorfer says.

 

“We constantly look for ways to make it easier for our members to stretch their wallets, and ZANDO’s commitment to customer service through free deliveries and returns made it a logical choice for it to be our online fashion partner,” she says.

 

About ZANDO:

ZANDO is a leading online fashion store offering choice and accessibility to South African consumers. With over 300+ local and international brands and 8000 styles featured online, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Enjoy incredible benefits such as free and fast delivery nationwide and immediate returns upon delivery. This secure online store has multiple payment methods to choose from (Cash on delivery, Electronic fund transfer, Credit Card, Debit Card and eBucks). To find out more information or to shop at ZANDO, visit the online store at www. zando.co.za or follow ZANDO on Facebook or on Twitter (@zando_co_za).

 

About eBucks:

eBucks, First National Bank (FNB) and RMB Private Bank’s rewards programme, is acknowledged as one of South Africa’s leading loyalty programmes with some 2.6 million members. The spend to earn ratio is consistently in excess of 80% in any given month.To date, members have spent R1.9 billion worth of eBucks since the programme’s inception in October 2000; with FNB having made the largest contribution to the R2.3 billion worth of eBucks allocated to members during this period.

Green Trends’ Forecast for 2012

Green and natural building designs are making a huge impact on the construction and architectural industries, with sustainable development underpinning the concept. “Green design will become the definition of good design,” says Jill Salisbury of Environmental Language Furniture. 

 

Being environmentally conscious is an ongoing challenge throughout the lifecycle of a green building, from conception to demolition. Green buildings respect the natural environment through the efficient use of energy, water and other renewable resources, while minimising waste and pollution. This positively affects the health and productivity of its occupants. 

 

Green buildings have progressed significantly since their inception during the seventies. The construction industry moved swiftly through the initial phases of understanding the basic costs and benefits of implementing sustainable building projects to taking advantage of renewable resources, e.g. using sunlight for passive solar power or using plants and trees to construct green roofing. 

 

Modern advances in sustainable development permit constructors, architects and interior designers to substitute concrete for wood as a building material, and packed gravel or permeable concrete for conventional concrete.  This enables the design and structure to be in harmony with the natural features and resources of its surroundings. 

 

To ensure a successful green project development, the architects, engineers, designers and client all need to cooperate closely as a team. Here are five green trends for 2012 that need to be heeded by all green developers and their collaborative teams:

 

Solar energy

 

More and more suburban homes are installing solar panels on their roofs. The use of solar energy has a positive environmental offset and assists with reducing the homeowner’s electricity bill. 

 

Solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and some alternative energy sources, as the end product gives off no carbon dioxide waste and uses the natural energy from the sun to generate electricity or hot water. Expect phenomenal interest in solar-powered sports stadiums that will produce enough electricity to support 80% of the surrounding neighbourhoods. 

 

 

 

Green building materials

 

Wood is seen as a green building material because it can be reused and recycled extensively. Experts advise considering using reclaimed wood, since this will prevent more trees from being felled. Reclaimed wood is also often stronger and more stable than freshly cut wood, due to having been exposed to more changes in temperature and moisture.

 

Bamboo (part of the grass family) is currently the fastest growing alternative to wood and absorbs the most carbon dioxide compared to wood. Bamboo is technically a giant woody grass that is able to grow within most soils. It can be used to create anything from flooring to kitchen units. With no need for the use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers to assist with the growth process, bamboo is regarded as extremely eco-friendly. 

 

 

“Go Green” or go home

 

Homeowners are actively seeking out green flooring, paint and appliances. Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) cleverly invented solar panels in the shape of artificial plants. The solar cell modules resemble a normal plant exactly and are incorporated with solar panel technology to tap the sun’s energy during the day time. 

 

Solar paint, an environmentally-friendly solar cell technology invented by Professor Paul Dastoor, a Professor of Physics at the University of Newcastle, Australia, will hopefully in the not too distant future become available globally. 

 

At the core of the invention are semi-conducting plastic materials dispersed in water to produce a coating containing cells that are capable of capturing solar energy and generating “clean” electricity. Initially, the coating will be attached to plastic sheets that will be attached to the roofs of houses, with the long term vision to simply have a paint that can be applied to a variety of large surfaces to harness solar energy. 

What sounds like science fiction will soon become science fact.

 

Eco-friendly lighting 

 

Incandescent light bulbs turn only about 10% of the energy they consume into actual emitted light. The remaining 90% of energy used is wasted as heat. Fortunately consumers are making a conscious shift to sourcing and implementing more efficient, energy saving lighting alternatives such as LED, Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs),Occupancy or Daylight Sensors and non-toxic copper light fixtures which are 100% recyclable and incredibly durable. 

Lighting is complex. To really achieve your maximum saving capacity in your home or building you need the expertise of a good lighting consultant.

 

Smaller homes

 

Large, expensive homes are giving way to smaller energy-saving eco-friendly homes with a smaller footprint, literally and figuratively speaking. Smaller homes cost less to heat and cool, with research indicating that over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions during a home’s 70-year life occur during occupancy and can be attributed to electricity and fuel consumption.

 

Smaller homes are becoming more open plan, which will introduce more natural light. Less walls translates into less electricity usage during the day. 

 

Post script

 

“What we take for granted might not be here for our children,” is a legendary quote from the book “An Inconvenient Truth”, by environmental capitalist and former U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore.  

 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), buildings account for 30 to 40% of energy use worldwide. Using green and environmentally considerate building materials and products promotes the preservation of our declining and valuable non-renewable resources. In addition, integrating green building materials into building projects can help reduce the environmental impact associated with their construction, saving our planet for the enjoyment of our children, and theirs, in turn.

Green building

Ten years ago, few people really paid attention to their carbon footprint, let alone those of the businesses and organisations operating within their communities. Today, however, the picture has changed drastically and taking measures to “green” the environment is a top priority for individuals and businesses alike. 

Indeed, a company’s carbon footprint has become a factor upon which that they are judged by society at large. “Green building – also known as green construction, sustainable building or green architecture – is essentially about building and designing in ways which reduce the total environmental impact. It embraces using resources efficiently, uses green design techniques and minimises negative effects on the environment, conserving our natural resources,” explains Heidi Franck, COO of One Property Holdings.  

The good news is that these techniques can be adapted in South Africa to ensure that environmental standards are upheld. “It starts at the level of town planning – using existing spaces more efficiently to avoid urban sprawl,” says Franck. “It’s also important to plan ahead – instead of concentrating merely on the construction phase of a building, think about the maintenance and long term life cycle. And of course, sourcing products locally and recycling where possible is a must.”

Energy efficiency is a major focus in South Africa. To this end, energy efficient lighting and designs have become increasingly important. Solar heating is becoming particularly prominent and is especially suitable for South Africa’s sunny climate and can be used as a power source as well as to heat water. 

In theory, green building sounds like the only way to go, but what are the costs involved? An Australian study recently reported that a three to five percent premium on a five-star green building can be expected. “There has been a great deal of debate around cost,” Franck reports. “Certain methods and products utilised in green building may have high capital costs but will provide long term savings, in electricity and other operating expenses. New technology is generally more costly, but one must weigh these upfront costs against lifetime savings. And of course, the environmental payoffs cannot be quantified from a financial perspective.

 “It’s also important to note that existing buildings can also take measures to become greener. Simple actions, such as changing the light bulbs used can conserve electricity,” advises Franck. Moreover, there is also benefit in remodelling existing structures instead of increasing carbon footprint through the construction of a new building. “This benefits the owner, the landlord and the environment as well as the tenants who enjoy reduced electrical bills, a major plus when one considers escalating rental costs,” she adds. Other methods, such as installing updated energy efficient air conditioners, solar panels and water tanks contribute to making existing buildings greener. 

 “Do not focus on the individual elements of a building; a holistic view will result in the most efficient design. This is more than a once-off project, one can bring in new technologies on a long term basis,” Franck suggests.

Ultimately, it is up to developers and investors to become socially responsible when it comes to sustainable construction and building a greener future for all South Africans.      

Bridging the digital divide

Education facilities across the globe are experiencing first-hand the numerous benefits technology has with regards to helping children develop an understanding and love for learning. While a number of schools in urban South Africa have incorporated the latest technology in the classroom, for schools in rural areas being part of the digital generation is marred with challenges. As a result, the majority of rural schools are left behind, unable to cross the digital divide, resulting in thousands of children not having the opportunity to experience enhanced learning.

 

There are many ways to help empower communities but the key to empowerment is to uplift the youth. What better way to do so than to provide good quality, cost effective education by giving the youth access to new technologies; technologies that are fun, educational, radical and that have the ability to change the way children learn.

 

MIB Technology – the first distributor of the LG U-series which offers features for educators and students who use computers for word processing, playing videos, internet access, e-mail and other simple applications in Africa – has developed a Tablet pc, now installed in 200 ICT labs in various schools. There is a great need for the development of more energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies and a dedication to the country’s national e-learning strategy, the development of WIFI systems for schools and the provision of other IT solutions. The fact that MIB Technology was awarded the Digital Content Awards in 2011 shows that there is already a focus on such green technologies in the market.

 

Schools should not be considered a dumping ground for old technologies. The user proficiency in schools is what will drive the productivity and economy of the future. Therefore, they should be provided with cutting edge hardware, software, internet and web-based technology and there should be a commitment to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers. 

 

While a lot has been done for urban schools over the last 16 years, the challenge is now to roll similar projects out in rural schools. The Department of Education has been working in partnership with MIB Technology in order to achieve such roll-out. Bandwidth is another large problem in schools across South Africa, especially those situated in rural areas. Schools are faced with three major challenges: the cost of bandwidth, connectivity to deep rural schools and volatility resulting in a lack of speed and reliability. 

 

A passion for the children attending rural schools sparked the idea to create the Train Your Brain project, a partnership between MIB Technology and Government. The aim of this project is to implement an e-learning platform, enabling rural schools to gain access to information which was previously only available to urban schools. While the project is important to all communities, it is critical to those who are disadvantaged as they can now have access to the vital knowledge required to address the vast inequalities in education. The project, with its core goal of bridging the digital divide and providing content and educational resources at a fraction of the normal cost, includes training of individuals to maintain implementation and running of the programmes. In line with the national development plan (NDP), it is hoped that, together, technology and Train Your Brain will assist in reducing poverty and inequality.

 

Linked to Train Your Brain is the Educational Digital Resource Library, a portal that gives learners all the relevant content required from various providers. What makes the project unique is the technology mechanism, which reduces delivery costs of content; different content providers are all put into one delivery vehicle resulting in the end user having all information required available in one repository. Learners therefore have a vast array of educational material at their disposal, which is sure to increase their ability to understand all subject matter. In addition, teachers are trained on how to use the portal and can plan their lessons accordingly.

 

There are some challenges in terms of the rollout of the project, such as funding. However, despite the challenges, the team involved remains passionate about conquering this uncharted territory and is not only focusing on rural schools within South Africa, but has taken the vision across the borders into East and West Africa as well. The project is set to be rolled out early in 2013, while 2012 will be used to establish Proof of Concepts and implement pilot studies to prove the validity of the Train Your Brain concept and further establish the key to the project, being low cost and low bandwidth utilisation.

 

At present, there are case studies available which prove that an ICT-culture can become the base for new rural empowerment. Train Your Brain emanated from this vision, having been deploying refurbished computers in mainly rural environments for the last 10 years. Through a combination of improved digital access, locally developed patents as well as a renewed focus by the South African Government on skills development and sustainable socio-economic practice, it has become possible to refocus strategies to establish and fund collaborative systems of operational activities. These systems can then be used to facilitate the creation of skills villages from which self-sustainable households can stem. 

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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