Zimbabwe switches off the Internet

By Brian Latham for Fin24

When the Zimbabwean government ordered Internet service providers to shutter parts of the web in an effort to curb anti-government protests, it also plunged homes into darkness because people can’t pay their utilities online.

Most people in the southern African nation use Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s Ecocash mobile-phone payment system for daily transactions.

They buy electricity in units of $5 or less and almost all domestic users are on prepaid meters, so many buy for $1 at a time.

According to Zimbabwe’s Finance Ministry, less than 5% of commercial transactions in the country involve cash, mainly because it’s hard to find. Instead Zimbabweans use Ecocash or bank cards.

“Tonight will be spent in darkness,” said 42-year-old John Pedzesai, who sells plants on a sidewalk in the capital, Harare.

Econet, Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile-phone company, declined to comment.

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The South African Reserve Bank has published a consultation paper on policy proposals for cryptocurrency assets, detailing its recommended regulatory approach to Bitcoin and other tokens in South Africa.

This paper currently only offers recommendations and is open to comment from the public until 15 February 2019.

The Intergovernmental FinTech Working Group (IFWG), which includes members from Treasury and the SARB, formed a Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group to construct recommendations for the regulation of digital assets in South Africa.

This consultation paper is a product of this working group, and addresses the possible advantages and disadvantages of cryptocurrency in a South African context – including its ability to be used for criminal activities and its impact on financial services.

“Upon conclusion of the consultation phase, the regulatory authorities will specify the way forward through a policy instrument such as a guidance note or position paper aimed for first quarter of 2019,” the paper stated.

“The IFWG and Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group is of the view that regulatory action should not be delayed until the most appropriate regulatory approach has become clear, but to rather act and amend as innovation evolves.”

Proposed regulations
The regulations proposed in the paper aim to help monitor the purchasing and selling of cryptocurrency, with a major focus on improving compliance with existing financial security legislation.

Under these new rules, all cryptocurrency asset trading platforms, custodial service providers, and payment service providers will be required to register with the IFWG and comply with AML/CFT provisions of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

These platforms include Bitcoin exchanges, trading centres, and cryptocurrency ATMs.

Additionally, the government recommends that cryptocurrency service providers monitor user transactions – especially large transactions which may be linked to terrorist activity.

Regulatory authorities did add that they would not impose any market entry conditions for registered entities.

Where companies and service providers do not comply with these requirements, the government recommended that administrative sanctions be imposed.

The Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group said it would continue monitoring the state of the cryptocurrency market, especially businesses and users situated in South Africa.

Rare WhatsApp bug can expose your chats

By Vikas Shukla for Value Walk

WhatsApp has a lot on its plate. It’s trying to fight the spread of fake news via its app. It’s working on a bunch of new features to make its service more secure and offer better user experience. At the same time, it also has to deal with weird bugs, hoax messages, and scams.

The ever-investigative folks at Piunikaweb have now spotted what could be a pretty rare WhatsApp bug. The worst thing about it is that it could let someone else read your chats in plain text after you have changed your phone number.

What does this rare WhatsApp bug do?
Amazon employee Abby Fuller said in a tweet that she was in for a bit of a surprise when she popped in her new SIM into a new smartphone and tried logging into WhatsApp. She was able to view and read the chat history linked to the WhatsApp account of the previous owner of that phone number. The past owner of the number may have no idea that Abby was able to read their chat in plain text.

WhatsApp says on its website that when you change your phone number, you should first delete your old account. If you don’t delete it and no longer have access to it, it will automatically delete all the data associated with your old number within 45 days. What’s surprising here is that Abby Fuller has been using the new number for more than 45 days. Theoretically, the data associated with the previous owner’s account should have been deleted within 45 days.

Piunikaweb says Abby Fuller has deleted the chats associated with the previous owner. It’s a huge privacy issue, nonetheless. The publication noted that it’s “definitely a bug” as Abby could view someone else’s chats in plain text when the SIM has been in her name for more than 45 days. Lending further credibility to this view is that Abby didn’t restore it from the backup.

Filippo Valsorda, who works at Google, said it’s possible that the messages Abby received were sent after the previous owner stopped using it. Those messages stayed with one tick, and got resent when Abby registered that phone number with WhatsApp. It’s the first time I’ve heard of this rare WhatsApp bug. The Facebook-owned service hasn’t yet officially commented on the issue.

Separately, a bunch of users have been complaining about another WhatsApp bug that causes the messages to disappear from the app. A user named Bharat Mishra told WABetaInfo that every morning he finds some of his old chats disappearing mysteriously from the app. Mishra uses a Moto G4 Plus, and has re-installed WhatsApp several times in an attempt to get rid of this issue. He has also sent “more than 25 emails” to WhatsApp regarding the issue, but hasn’t heard back. A similar problem was reported late last year by another user, who claimed to have been facing the same issue since April.

If you are not haunted by one WhatsApp bug or another, you might be interested in the new features coming to the messaging service. Past reports have suggested that the company was working on adding Face ID and Touch ID support to WhatsApp for iOS to enhance security. It’s still in the development process. Now WABetaInfo reports that the WhatsApp beta version numbered Android 2.19.3 has biometric authentication for Android users. It means we should expect both the Android and iOS version of WhatsApp to get biometric authentication in the coming months for added security.

By Paige dos Santos, digital lead at SAP Africa

What would you do if you didn’t need the money? It’s not a question we often give much serious thought to, but it may very well be one that we need to answer in the next few decades. The advent of the internet was expected to result in widespread economic democratisation; instead, it has resulted in increased polarisation of wealth – creating a small number of uber rich. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report for 2017, between 2009 and 2012 the income of the top 1% in the US grew by 31% , compared with less than 0.5% for the remaining 99%.

This trend is likely to become exacerbated as digital concentration continues unchecked. This level of polarisation cannot sustain itself in the long term and could result in social upheaval. The shifting role of organisations in this new paradigm requires many traditional organisations to fundamentally rethink their reason for being and their approach to their employee value propositions, both now and into the future.

Seismic societal shifts

Murmurings of public policy response can already be seen internationally. Over the last few weeks, the United Kingdom announced the introduction of Digital Services Tax, a 2% revenue charge on “specific digital business models,” predominantly targeting tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. However, the situation we find ourselves in might well require action that is a little more radical. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek economist, academic and politician, posits that a new approach is in fact imperative to the stability of civilisation. Enter the Universal Basic Income. Call it an obligation-free dividend if you will. Universal Basic Income is a fixed income bestowed upon each citizen of a country every month – regardless of income, resources or employment status. The World Economic Forum 2018 featured several discussions exploring the concept.

Would such an approach result in sloth-like existences for us all? Will we become the embodiment of the “idle-hands” saying? Perhaps not. Several studies are currently investigating the impact of universal basic income, two of which are underway on the African continent. Studies in Uganda showed that recipients of a basic income worked an average of 17% more hours per day, increased business assets by 57% and reported a reduction in spending on vices such as alcohol and cigarettes. The reason? For the first time, people had hope.

Concurrently to digital economic concentration, our global population is burgeoning rapidly, heading towards what Charles C. Mann points out is biological ‘outbreak’ status. Our beautiful planet has finite resources. If we continue to take these for granted by pursuing linear, consumption-driven economic development approaches, we will only see an acceleration of the difficulties we are starting to face globally: choking pollution, food shortages, extreme weather and more. We urgently need to find ways to preserve our world for years to come by redesigning our processes and economies to conserve and optimise, rather than consume and monopolise.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide highly visible targets around this. These problems are too big for governments alone to solve. Public private partnerships, and responsible corporate citizens, are essential to making this a reality. This is something that SAP is taking very seriously, contributing to the adoption of technology to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Purpose needs to be something indistinguishable from our core business. It should define what we do and why we do it, contributing to a beautiful world for generations to come.

Systemic purpose

Let’s revisit the opening question. In light of our changing society, if you had enough money to cover your basic expenses, what kind of an organisation would you want to work for? One that chased profits above all else, or one that really had a higher purpose? A study undertaken by BetterUp found that workers would be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.

Engaging your total workforce around organisational purpose can be hugely beneficial, creating significant opportunity for organic and innovation driven growth. However, this is easier said than done. As organisations metamorphose to perform in the digital age, talent models are changing. The skillsets required are in a constant state of flux, and the gig-economy is booming in response to this. According to Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2018, more than 40% of workers in the US are now engaged in alternative work arrangements – contracting or gig working.

With such high percentages of an organisation’s human talent involved in external work arrangements, it’s essential to ensure that they are engaged and contributing to the organisations purpose too. Technology tools are available to assist customers in achieving this level of integrated engagement by approaching workforce management holistically. The SAP SuccessFactors and Fieldglass solutions integrate powerfully to ensure that both your internal and external workforce are striving towards a shared sense of purpose, and that individuals can see the impact of their efforts. At the same time, the solution suite manages the ever-present external workforce risks from a legal, security and privacy perspective.

Interlock – combining intuition and logic

When you are working for a purpose you truly believe in, you want to be able to add as much value as possible to that purpose every day. But as humans, we are fallible creatures. We often believe we are being logical and pragmatic, when the reality is that, according to research performed by Daniel Kahneman and his associates, we are primarily using our automatic intuitive responses rather than our logic-based ones. This is where intelligent systems are providing us with remarkable tools that ensure we get the right insights, at the right time, to equip us to make the best logical decisions for our organisations and minimise heuristic bias.

Consider the recruitment process. SAP SuccessFactors uses in-built machine learning analysis to ensure that job specifications created by managers are worded to equally attract male and female candidates, directly impacting gender diversity in the workplace. If the description contains too many masculine-oriented words, the system will automatically suggest replacing certain words and provide appropriate synonyms. This results in a gender-balanced job specification.

When embarking on new projects, SAP Fieldglass Live Insights enables organisations to identify the best geographic locations for the project, based on critical success factors. The solution scans SAP Fieldglass data on contract workers countrywide to recommend the best location based on resource skill level, availability and cost. Tools such as these enable our employees and organisations to perform at optimal levels, making the best possible decisions for their organisations and in turn, achieving their purpose.

The potential to thrive

If you didn’t have to work, would you choose to spend 18 hours a day at the office, sacrificing your family life and mental and physical wellness? And if by chance you did, would you be performing optimally? In the digital world, human creativity, curiosity and resilience are essential to personal and organisational performance, to achieving the purpose the organisation is driving towards. These characteristics are most evident when employees thrive, which is why special attention needs to be paid to the link between wellness and performance at work.

SAP, in collaboration with Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global, has developed a solution that brings these together: SAP Worklife. SAP Worklife combines data on critical health indicators such as sleep, exercise, diet and mental health, with performance, development and employee satisfaction. The insight it provides enables HR professionals and managers to nurture talent to become the best they can be, in every aspect of life. Imagine the impact of unlocking curiosity and creativity across your organisation, and the energy of working with a team who are truly fulfilling their potential, not just as workers, but as human beings.

Universal basic income is just one of many possibilities that may unfold as we journey into exciting new frontiers as a human race. As our natural resources come under increased pressure and our societies start to shift, we need to pay careful attention to the change. Are we stubbornly focused on the immediate time horizon, ignoring the emerging reality of the next five years in order to fight fires for the next six to twelve months? Or are we thinking further ahead?

It’s time to be honest when you answer the question – would your employees still work for you if they didn’t need the money?

By Shanice Naidoo for IOL

A Bloubergstrand man had his Absa business account swindled out of R3.1 million while he was in Miami for two months.
Feruccio Ferucci left Cape Town in October without suspecting that his banking information had been stolen.

Around the end of October, his Vodacom SIM card stopped working as well as his internet banking. Growing suspicious, he contacted his daughter in Cape Town to find out from Vodacom what had happened. They informed her that a SIM swap had been done.

“I did not authorise the SIM swap. My phone stopped working for about three weeks and then started working again.

“I haven’t heard anything from Vodacom telling me what happened because my phone just started working again three weeks later,” said Ferucci.

When he returned on December 2, he was shocked to find out from his staff about transactions which were not approved by them at his business in Paarl or by himself. These were fraudulent transactions which had gone off the business account during two of the weeks which his phone had not been working equating to R3.1m.

“These transactions were around R300 000 each and there were about ten transactions. I then contacted my attorney and he referred me another attorney who specialises in this type of crime. I then wrote a protest letter to Absa threatening to close my account with them and my money was refunded around December 23,” said Ferucci.

On speaking to the new attorney, he was told that this was often done to people who are overseas because perpetrators assume one would not check their phone regularly.

“The attorney told me that 90% of the cases he deals with involved people who went overseas. There is no doubt in my mind that what happened to me was promoted by employees of both Vodacom and Absa.

“They probably didn’t steal the money but they probably sell the information,” said Ferucci.

Both Absa and Vodacom have said they are investigating the matter.

IRS Forensic Investigations, which investigates financial, organised and cyber crimes director Chad Thomas said sim swaps are a major issue, with some victims reporting that they have become victims of crime while their phones have been off while they have been travelling long distances.

However, the breach of personal data, including credit card numbers is not just confined to individual hacks via trojans or malware but is also as a result of highly sophisticated cyber attacks on data stored by corporates.

“People need to take cognisance of the fact that a sufficiently determined and capable hacker can take over someone’s online footprint if the correct measures are not taken to protect their information. However, it is not just the individual that needs to take precautions, but also corporates that are storing client’s information and have a responsibility to safeguard that information,” said Thomas.

Price comparison: DStv versus Netflix

Source: My Broadband

News website My Broadband has published an article indicating the price differential between online streaming service Netflix and satellite TV provider DStv.

The packages compared were the following:

  • Netflix Standard – R139 per month. This offers all content in full HD, which can be watched on two devices.
  • DStv Premium – R809 per month. This is DStv’s top package which offers all the base channels.

Other pricing elements which were taken into account are:

  • The first month of Netflix is free. One year’s cost is therefore 11 months’ subscription.
  • The DStv Premium price excludes the Access Fee of R90 per month. This provides access to PVR usage and DStv Now.

DStv versus Netflix

  • DStv Premium – R899 (Annual total: R10 788)
  • Netflix Standard – R139 (Annual total: R1 529)
  • Total Savings Annually – R9 259

Even if Internet is included, Netflix still comes out cheaper.

  • Netflix Standard + 10Mbps Fibre – R139 + R499 (Annual total: R7 517)
  • Total Savings Annually – R3 271

The best tech for working from home

By David Nield for Popular Science

With a changing economy, more flexible job roles, and the continued spread of broadband internet, more and more of us are working from home. According to the most recent statistics, more than 5% of the U.S. workforce spends at least part of their office hours at home.

While this habit lets us avoid the stress of commuting and spend all day in sweatpants, the consequences aren’t all positive. With so many distractions at home, and no manager looming nearby, productivity can take a hit. To avoid this, we rounded up some apps and tools to help you stay on task. Include some of these in your home office setup to raise your productivity and motivation levels.

Play background noise
If you work best with a constant murmur in the background, you’ll find plenty of white-noise apps to provide that hum.
Pick the noises you want to hear, and the relative volumes you’d like them to play at. Preset soundscapes are designed to help with relaxation or productivity, helping to optimise your brainwaves to improve your cognitive function, helping you focus, relax, or drift off to sleep.

Track your time
Where does all the time go? With no boss around to check when you start work or take a break (or three), your routine can quickly stagnate. That’s why you need an app to help you keep track of how you’re spending your time.

Cut out distractions
At home, you’re surrounded by temptations like your snack-filled kitchen, potential Netflix binges, and, of course, the ever-present siren song of your smartphone. You need help tuning out these distractions in order to stay on track.

Include some break time

All work and no play is a recipe for burnout: If you don’t take the odd breather, your productivity will experience diminishing returns. You should take five minutes of rest for every 25 minutes of work, and you can also adjust these parameters to split your time differently.

You should use those break minutes to refresh your brain. If you’d prefer distraction to meditation, why not rest your eyes while listening to a podcast?

Stay connected
Even when you’re not in the office, you need to stay in touch with your colleagues. So apps that connect you with other members of your team are an essential part of working from home.

Improve your workspace
Besides the apps we’ve mentioned, you can also modify your physical home-office setup. A more comfortable working situation will make you more productive—and less vulnerable to distractions.

For your comfort and your health, you should make sure your chair and desk help you sit without straining your body. For example, keep your screen at eye level to avoid damaging your neck and back.
Consider building a custom computer desk designed to help you sit ergonomically.

In addition to your computer, you probably have a few other gadgets on that desk. You’ll want to keep them all charged to make sure a dead battery doesn’t make you miss a call from the boss.

Finally, illuminating your workspace is essential for both staying focused and reducing strain on your eyes. You can pick any lamp that fits your tastes and needs.

Tech trends for 2019

By Bernard Marr for Forbes

Every year, many of my clients ask me about the key technology trends that I believe will define the coming year. Here are my predictions of the tech trends that have the potential to make or break careers and businesses in 2019.

While some of these may seem obvious – no one will be surprised to hear that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are likely to remain hot topics – the disruptive nature of tech means it’s likely we will get a few surprises.

Artificial intelligence everywhere

The year 2018 will be remembered as the year that artificial intelligence (AI) hit the mainstream, but in 2019 and beyond it’s going to be absolutely everywhere.

This is because hardware and software developers have passed the trial period – experimenting to see where AI fits, and where it can deliver the biggest improvements in customer experience and productivity improvements.

In many cases we won’t even know it’s there – as machine learning services work quietly in their clouds, managing everything from power networks to distribution logistics and financial transactions.

In other cases, it will be highly visible – as our smartphones, home assistants, kitchen gadgets and cars put increasingly sophisticated tools at our fingertips.

The AI we interact with day-to-day – whether it is Google search engines, Netflix recommendation engines or assistants like Alexa or Siri – will become increasingly ubiquitous as well as useful, as breakthroughs in deep learning and reinforcement learning lead to more capable and reliable services.

Rapid changes in healthcare delivery

Undoubtedly one of the most crucial and worthy applications of technology – expect machines to be credited with saving more lives in 2019.

With much of the world facing a shortage of trained medical professionals, and even rich nations feeling the bite due to economic pressures, technology is often hailed as a potential savior.

From AI systems capable of detecting cancer or heart attacks to the rollout of telemedicine allowing patients to be treated in their homes, perhaps no industry is pinning its hopes for the future so firmly on tech as healthcare is.

This year could be the year that their impact on patient outcomes and quality-of-life comes to the attention of the mainstream. With projects moving out of pilot phases and beginning to go into operational deployment, we will see technology costs coming down and more providers such as hospitals and clinics being able to cover the up-front cost.

At the same time, a growing awareness of personal data issues – particularly in developing countries where they have so far not been given much thought at all – will lead to growing concern over what is happening with all of the data that is being generated by these 21st-century solutions.

There will also be voices cautioning that when ill people are being examined remotely and diagnosed by machines, the “personal touch” which has long been an essential skill for doctors and nurses will be lost, and the long-term implications of this are far from certain.

You won’t hear as much about blockchain – but it’s far from dead

One “hot topic” on a lot of last years’ lists (including mine) was blockchain. This year, it is somewhat conspicuous by its absence.

A lot of this may be down to the slump in the price of cryptocurrency Bitcoin – still blockchain’s most public-facing application. However, reports that many private commercial or industrial blockchain initiatives are still failing to demonstrate much real-world value are also a factor.

Does this mean that blockchain is dead? I think it’s far too early to make that call. The fundamental principle of a distributed ledger, secured by encryption, providing an immutable record of transactional activity, still holds a tremendous amount of potential value.

Organizations may be struggling to see their way to building the most successful implementations, and in 2019 we may well see the folding of any number of previously highly-publicized attempts.

But innovation is still going on behind the scenes, and it is probable that less publicized but well thought-out initiatives may start to generate value. A rise in the value of Bitcoin (which has crashed just as spectacularly as it did this year in the past, before rising to ever-greater heights) would reinvigorate interest in the underlying tech, too -for better or worse.

Smart cities will become smarter

Residents of cities where investment has been made in environmental, utility management and transport infrastructure tech will start to see real benefits in their daily lives during 2019.

All of these infrastructure initiatives require one thing – beyond even money or innovation – to deliver real results, and that’s real data, gathered from real-world applications.

With many of these projects around the world beginning to mature, the volume of data will reach a critical mass meaning the impact on our lives – from cleaner air to cheaper energy and more efficient public services, can start to take effect.

Those that aren’t generating value by this point will be abandoned – in line with the “fail fast” ethos that drives tech development today. On the other hand, where pilots and trials in global showcase smart cities have been demonstrated beyond doubt, we can expect those initiatives to be adopted elsewhere quickly.

Global eSports revenues hit $1 billion

According to research from Deloitte, the market for eSports – video games played as a spectator sport – will expand by 35% in the next year.

The growth in the number of people wanting to watch professional video game players, particularly although not exclusively among the younger demographic, has already swept through Asian countries. Experts predict 2019 could be the year it hits the big time in the US, too.

Franchise rights, advertising, and broadcast agreements will drive spending as audiences get hooked on newly formed leagues, tapping into the fanbase for successful video game series such as Fifa, NBA, Fortnite, and Overwatch.

eSports have grown in popularity due to their existence at the convergence of several trends -notably changes in our leisure habits, with younger people watching less television and playing more games. And a move towards building online, social communities where fans interact and converse.

The elevation of professional game players to the level of professional athletes and sportspeople is a developing trend which is also likely to continue, with big money on offer for those who prove they can attract audiences to this entertainment.

How the ANC broke Eskom

Source: MyBroadband

Eskom was once so successful that it was supplying more than half the electricity in Africa.

However, years of corruption, incompetence and political meddling has brought Eskom to its knees, and it is now begging for bailouts to stay afloat.

The company’s growing debt burden, which already exceeds R400-billion and can grow to R600-billion in the next three years, means it is technically bankrupt.

So bad is the situation that former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said Eskom is the single biggest risk to South Africa’s economy.

The image below provides an overview of how Eskom changed over the last 10 years:

Image credit: MyBroadband

By Gerry Smith for Bloomberg 

Tech giants like Google and Facebook are threatening the media business by capturing a growing share of advertising dollars.

Yet many of those companies, which made fortunes selling highly targeted online ads, have become big buyers of a decidedly low-tech medium: print advertising.

“If you look now at companies like Netflix and Google, we’re seeing our biggest print advertisers now tend to be these digitally native companies that want to announce something to the world,” New York Times Chief Operating Officer Meredith Kopit Levien said Monday at an investor conference. “So there’s irony in that.”

Despite the shifting media landscape, it’s still hard to match the prestige of the Gray Lady, Levien said.

“There are things that an ad in the New York Times does for a marketer that there isn’t another vehicle,” she said.

The Trade Desk, an online ad marketplace, bought ads in both the New York Times and News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal in September. But the tech company poked fun at its own campaign.

“Possibly the worst ad we’ll ever run,” the company said in the announcement. It then plugged its own “more targeted, data-driven approach” to buying ads.

For the Times, Silicon Valley ad campaigns may not be enough to revive the print business, which has been shrinking for years as readers move online. But it has helped stem some of the bleeding.

The Times’ print advertising revenue was roughly flat last quarter, after falling about 12% in the second quarter and 2% in the first quarter. The growth of digital subscriptions, meanwhile, has helped make investors more confident about the 167-year-old business. The stock is up 45% this year.

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