Google tops SA’s best places to work

Branding firm, Universum, has released its Most Attractive Employer rankings for 2018. In it, it lists the companies that South African professionals are most keen to work for, based on aspects such as salary expectations, concerns relating to employment, goals (both short and long term), expectations around training and development and the importance of corporate culture.

The survey for this ranking was carried out between September 2017 and April 2018, and involved 21 686 professionals in a range of environments covering 35 industries and 88 professions.

These included 9 031 professionals in business/commerce, 3 197 in engineering/technology, 4 2855 in humanities, 2 289 in natural sciences, 1 627 in health care/health sciences and 1 248 in law.

Of these categories, Google ranked top in the business/commerce and engineering sections.
The company ranked second in the humanities division, fourth in law and eighth in natural sciences.

Universum’s Winani Ndlovu was quoted in a Business Tech article as saying, “Despite the high unemployment levels talent is facing, they are reporting that being aware of an employer and their staffing needs is not enough to drive the desire to work for that employer.

“Employers need to clearly articulate their value proposition to assist them in making an informed decision before joining the organisation. Clearly having a strong employer brand is imperative for the attraction and retention of talent.”

Rain takes on Vodacom, MTN

By Nick Hedley for Business Day 

The new mobile operator backed by prominent businessmen Patrice Motsepe, Paul Harris and Michael Jordaan is taking the fight over data prices to sector giants Vodacom and MTN.

Rain, a data-only network operator that launched mobile services two weeks ago, wanted to win over its rivals’ heavy data users with a simpler offering and competitive prices, CEO Willem Roos said.

Amid a decline in traditional voice revenues and public scrutiny over connectivity costs, data is becoming a major battleground for SA’s telecommunications companies, and the market is ballooning – Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom generated a combined R47bn in data revenues in SA in their financial years ended December and March.

Rain does not offer traditional voice services, but sells data for R50 a gigabyte, while outside of peak evening hours, its customers can use unlimited data for R250 a month, according to Roos, the former CEO of Outsurance.

In the two weeks since launching the product, “our business volumes have surprised us slightly on the positive side, particularly since we didn’t do any advertising”, he said.

“I really think we’ve addressed a few pain points in the market that customers have experienced, and although our offering is somewhat limited geographically and in being data only, for customers where that makes sense, I think it’s quite a compelling product.”

The metropolitan-focused operator plans to grow its network from 2,100 cellphone towers to 5,000 within the next three years.

Rain, which also offers fixed-wireless services, had mostly resolved “teething problems” related to delayed deliveries of SIM cards, Roos said.

The company, which is more than 40% black-owned, was promoting dual-SIM phones, where customers used Rain for data services and a rival’s network to make traditional voice calls. Roos said some customers were becoming comfortable with the idea of ditching voice-enabled SIM cards altogether and making all their calls on WhatsApp and other internet-based services.

With Rain’s coverage confined to cities and large towns, “we accept it’s slightly a niche product, but not small — I still think there are millions of people it would appeal to”.

Rain already lets Vodacom roam on its network and Roos said that it was considering giving mobile virtual network operators access to its spectrum and infrastructure.

“We have had discussions with a number of players. But I think the data-only aspect still needs to be proven, and we’re also keen on building our own business because the real value would lie in building a good retail business…. We’d like to become a decent-sized player.”

Africa Analysis director Dobek Pater said while it would take time for Rain to build market share, its mobile offering was likely to have a “significant” effect on the market.

It could stimulate competition by allowing new operators to use its network, while its larger competitors would probably have to reduce their data prices further, Pater said.

Bar some of Telkom’s offerings, Rain was the cheapest operator in the market for consumers who used less than 20GB of data a month.

“In terms of what Icasa [the Independent Communications Authority of SA] and the Competition Commission are trying to achieve in terms of reducing data prices and the cost to communicate, that will transpire to a large extent through private sector initiatives anyway. Competitive market forces will force prices down even further.”

‘Big Four’ tech stocks slump

By Jasper Jolly for City A.M 

The US’s biggest technology stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, collectively known as the Fangs – have fallen steeply as concerns over a trade war weighed on world indices.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index fell by more than two per cent to its lowest close since the end of May.

Facebook and Amazon both lost over 2.5 per cent, while Netflix plummeted by more than six per cent. Apple and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, also fell heavily.

Equity indices around the world had earlier slumped, with France’s Cac 40 losing almost two per cent while Germany’s Dax gave up 2.46 per cent as investors feared further damaging trade moves.

American tech stocks have generally been immune to fears over protectionist trade tariffs, with no mention by either the US, China, or the EU of levies or other barriers to be imposed on them.

However, Russ Mould, investment director at trading platform AJ Bell, said the recent success of the Fang stocks – an acronym of the tech giants – in spite of market ructions may have made shares more vulnerable to bigger moves if sentiment shifts.

The Fangs may be “targets for some profit taking” if investors plump for cash amid fears of a broader market setback, he said.

The tech stocks are approaching similar levels of growth hit by the Nasdaq during the dotcom bubble at the turn of the century, which ended in a deep crash of more than 78 per cent, Mould said.

Over the course of 2018 a “Fangs+” index, which includes other large US-listed tech firms, has outpaced the gains of the bubble-era Nasdaq.

Yet the Fangs still face regulatory issues which could severely impact their business models, following the scandal over data misuse by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, competition concerns, and ongoing tax issues.

“The danger for bulls is that these valuations leave little margin for error should something – anything – go wrong,” Mould added.

Source: Fin24

A London court has granted ride-hailing firm Uber a licence to keep operating in the capital, accepting the firm’s assertions that its corporate culture had changed and that it should be allowed to keep driving on the streets of London.

However, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot on Tuesday granted an operating licence lasting only 15 months.

The firm told Westminster Magistrates’ Court it has made significant changes since a regulator refused to renew the company’s operating licence last year over public safety concerns.

The company insists it has changed, and a clean break with the past means it should be granted a new licence.

By Tehillah Niselow for Fin24 

Liberty Holdings customers received SMSs on Saturday alerting them that personal information related to their insurance policies could have been stolen by an external party.

The Information Regulator, which has asked for information about the Liberty breach, is clearly concerned about the increasing number of cyber attacks affecting personal data in South Africa.

“Without a fully functional Information Regulator, these breaches will continue to occur without sanctions provided for in the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA),” said chairperson Advocate Pansy Tlakula.

Tlakula urged “the powers that be to assist it in fast tracking its operationalisation”.

According to corporate law firm Michalsons, certain limited sections of POPIA have already been implemented. However, the bulk of the legislation will only commence at a later date, to be proclaimed by the president. As there is a one-year grace period, the POPIA deadline might only be set for the end of 2019 or in 2020.

In the meantime, South Africans are coming under heightened attack from cyber criminals and hackers.

Andrew Chester, MD of Ukuvuma Security, told Fin24 that affected clients or users should immediately alert their banks and cellphone provider. They should also undertake a credit check as well as a Google search to determine whether their personal information is in the public domain.

Liberty email hack

In SMSs to clients on Saturday, financial services company Liberty informed them that its email repository had been breached by a third party trying to demand a “ransom” in exchange for the data.

Liberty has not revealed much about the breach, citing a police investigation. CEO David Munro confirmed that Liberty’s insurance clients were the only ones affected, and that none of its other business had been compromised.

The company said none of its clients have been impacted financially, and that individuals will be personally advised if their information has been affected.

ViewFines licence details

In May the Hawks, the State Security Agency and the Information Regulator said they would probe the breach of personal records of 943 000 South African drivers, allegedly from online traffic fine website ViewFines.

The information reportedly contained the names, identity numbers and email addresses of South African drivers stored on the ViewFines website in plaintext.

The ViewFines website is owned by Aggregated Payment Systems. News24 reported that its operations manager confirmed the company was “implementing security measures immediately” to improve the website after being informed of the breach.

The source of the data was located by Troy Hunt, an Australian security researcher and creator of the free service Have I Been Pwned, which checks whether an individual’s information has been compromised.

Facebook scandal

While Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to face angry lawmakers in the US and European Union, it was reported that the data breach involving the UK political consultancy affected almost 60 000 South African users.

In May, the Information Commissioner’s Office of the United Kingdom (which regulates Facebook outside the US and Canada) advised the Information Regulator of South Africa that over 87 million people had been affected worldwide.

However, no evidence could be found of South Africans having been targeted, as the majority of users involved were in the US.

Master Deed’s data breach “biggest” digital security threat in SA

Hunt was once again instrumental in revealing what was known as the “biggest” data breach in South African history, together with iAfrikan CEO Tefo Mohapi in October 2017.

Over 60 million South Africans’ personal data, from ID numbers to company directorships, was believed to have been affected.

The information was traced to Jigsaw Holdings, a holding company for several real estate firms including Realty1, ERA and Aida. The information reportedly came from credit bureau agencies, and was used to vet potential clients.

The information trove was found not to have been hacked, as it was stored in an easily accessible manner on an open web server.

Ster-Kinekor’s database compromised

Movie theatre chain Ster-Kinekor was responsible for up to 7 million South Africans falling victim to a data leak in March 2017.

Fin24 reported that Durban developer Matt Cavanagh announced he had discovered a flaw in Ster-Kinekor’s booking website, and that he had reported it to the company.

There were between 6 and 7 million users in the database. Of those, 1.6 million people had email addresses linked to them on the movie theatre chain’s database.

By Aaron Brown for MailOnline

WhatsApp will drop support for millions of older smartphones, leaving users unable to send or receive texts via the hugely popular messaging app.

The Facebook-owned chat app will drop support for iOS 7 from 1 February 2020.

As a result, WhatsApp users with an iPhone 4 or older will be forced to either upgrade to a new phone, or find an alternative to the world’s most popular chat app.

WhatsApp has set the same deadline for Android smartphone owners running version 2.3.7 and older, known as ‘Gingerbread’.

From today, WhatsApp has stopped new users setting up account with the messaging service on either iOS 7 or Android Gingerbread.

Existing accounts can send and receive messages until the end of support date.

However, WhatsApp has warned that some features could stop working at any time between now and the final deadline in early 2020.

WhatsApp confirmed plans to drop support for Android Gingerbread and iOS 7 with a quiet update to an existing blog post about previous end of support deadlines.

In the post, the company also confirmed that it has stopped actively developing for iOS 7 and Android Gingerbread and that as a result, ‘some features might stop functioning at any time’ between now and February 2020.

Since iPhone 4 handsets and older are unable to upgrade to iOS 8, the successor to iOS 7, these Apple smartphone owners will no longer be able to continue to use WhatsApp without plumping for a new phone.

The same is true for some Android devices, like Google’s Nexus One, which cannot be upgraded past Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread, and the HTC Desire HD, which is stuck on version 2.3.5.

WhatsApp has confirmed plans to drop support for Nokia S40 in December 2018, and iOS 7 and Android Gingerbread in February 2020.

After this deadline, WhatsApp users will no longer be able to send or receive text messages, voice or video calls within the popular chat app.

Following the announcement of the end of support, WhatsApp stopped new users setting up an account with the messaging service on either iOS 7 or Android Gingerbread handsets.

Existing accounts can send and receive messages until the end of support date.

However, WhatsApp has warned that some features could stop working at any time between now and the final deadline in early 2020.

Handsets that will no longer support WhatsApp after February 2020:iPhone

  • iPhone 3G
  • iPhone 3GS
  • iPhone 4
  • Google Nexus One
  • Samsung Galaxy S
  • HTC Desire HD
  • HTC Wildfire
  • HTC Wildfire S
  • Sony Xperia X10
  • Sony Xperia Arc

This list is not exhaustive. Any Android-powered smartphones running version 2.3.7 and older will stop working on 1 February 2020.

WhatsApp periodically drops support for older operating systems so that it can guarantee its entire user base enjoys the same experience and features.

As the messaging service adds new functionality to its app, it is sometimes unable to replicate these features on smartphone running outdated operating systems.

On January 1 2018, WhatsApp removed support for phones running BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8.0, leaving these users unable to download the app, send or receive texts.

The Menlo Park-based developer has previously dropped support for:

  • Android versions older than 2.3.3
  • Windows Phone 8.0 and older
  • iPhone 3GS/iOS 6
  • Nokia Symbian S60

According to the latest figures from Google, 0.3 per cent of all Android devices still run Gingerbread.

That amounts of around 6-million active smartphones and tablets powered by the 10-year-old operating system.

While that may be a drop in the ocean compared to the 2 billion total active monthly devices running Android, it is sure to leave plenty of WhatsApp users unhappy about the latest announcement.

Apple does not reveal the exact breakdown of each iOS operating system, however, the iPhone maker has confirmed that five per cent of all iOS devices sold are now running iOS 9 and older.

However, it’s unclear what percentage of that 75 million total are running iOS 7.

WhatsApp periodically drops support for older operating systems so that it can guarantee its entire user base enjoys the same experience and features.

As the messaging service adds new functionality to its app, it is sometimes unable to replicate these features on smartphone running outdated operating systems.

On January 1 2018, WhatsApp removed support for phones running BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8.0, leaving these users unable to download the app, send or receive texts.

The Menlo Park-based developer has previously dropped support for:

  • Android versions older than 2.3.3
  • Windows Phone 8.0 and older
  • iPhone 3GS/iOS 6
  • Nokia Symbian S60

In a statement issued during the last round of end of support announcements, WhatsApp said it wanted to focus its efforts on the operating systems used by the majority of its chat app users – instead of trying to support a smaller percentage running older software.

The company said: ‘As we look ahead to our next seven years, we want to focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use.’

Online shopping grows in SA

By Joseph Booysen for Business Report

Although traditional retail stores dominate the South African market, consumers are choosing the online option for cheaper technical goods purchases.

According to the latest research report by GfK (Growth from Knowledge), South Africa, E-commerce 360:Navigating the Technical Goods E-Commerce Market in South Africa, e-commerce retailers grew their share of the South African technical consumer goods market by 52 percent last year, accounting for 6.9 percent of total consumer spending by rand value for the year.

This meant they had nearly doubled their share of the market since since 2015.

Cherelle Laubscher, a senior retail manager at GfK South Africa said e-commerce in South Africa was still in its infancy compared to European markets, where a quarter of technical goods spending goes through digital channels.

“However, growth in South Africa is strong and shows no signs of declining as bargain-seeker flock online to buy technical consumer goods like smartphones, IT, consumer electronics, and major home appliances,” said Laubscher.

She said although traditional stores dominated the market, they were not growing the value of the sales they generated in technical goods as quickly as the digital players and e-commerce retailers were seeing strong growth in smartphones, panel televisions, small domestic appliances, gaming consoles and laptops.

According to the report, survey respondents cited better prices, attractive promotions and wide product selections as major reasons for shopping online rather than at at a traditional store, while by contrast, experiential factors such as getting to see and feel goods motivated shoppers to go to physical stores.

GfK South Africa’s point of sale data showed that the consumer perception that e-commerce prices were lower than in-store prices was accurate. More than two-thirds of the top 100 sellers among technical goods products in South Africa were cheaper through digital stores that at physical retailers.

Across the top 100 products, online prices were an average of 4.7 percent cheaper.

Odette Jardim, a client solutions manager at GfK South Africa, said 45 percent of connected consumers in the survey claimed to increasingly use the internet to buy products online compared to the previous year (2016).

“However, a consumer journey often straddles both physical and digital channels, meaning that the most successful retailers should have an omnichannel strategy,” said Jardim.
Meanwhile, Kevin Tucker, PriceCheck chief executive, said although South African consumers might be lagging in the amount of online shopping they did compared to the US, for instance, with increased innovation and tech security, South Africa would continue to see growth.

“South Africa has seen a boom in cutting-edge e-commerce innovation, and this needs to be celebrated,” he said.

Tucker said although the e-commerce industry had grown by 25 percent in South Africa, only 1.5 percent of online consumers ended up making a purchase.

“Online spending in South Africa is expected to reach R53 billion by the end of 2018, up from R37.1bn in 2017, according to research conducted by PayPal. There is clearly huge untapped potential in this industry,” said Tucker.

Tech-friendly letter writing

By Akanksha Singh for Grok Nation

Imagine sending out an email to a friend, only to receive a digital handwritten note back. Handwriting correspondence, snapping a photo and sending it digitally is what I call “tech-friendly letter writing.”

Once upon a time, people sat at desks with inked fingertips and wrote letters with quills. Messengers delivered them on horseback. Such correspondence was so culturally essential that collections of letters from famous authors became a means of insight into their lives. Then came stamps. Then email. Tech-friendly letter writing combines the best of handwritten notes with the convenience of technology.

Plus you skip on stamps by taking a photo and sending it via email, text–faster and there’s some guarantee of receipt. But, that’s not to say I’m against “snail mail.” I’ve been writing letters since college. When I moved from Dubai to Montreal for university, I was lonely and homesick. I remember feeling elated when I sorted through my usual spam (pizza fliers, bills), and finding a letter in the mix. My roommate’s mother had sent it, along with an exam-season care package. It meant the world to me.

So, whenever I write someone a letter, I think of them looking through bills and fliers, and finding something that was actually intended for them, created with love and thought.

Before you knock the idea for being a waste of time, let me give you some background: I attempted tech-friendly letter writing after I read this article about a Jordanian bookshop owner who replies to text messages and Facebook posts with a picture of his handwritten response. Around the same time, I decided I wasn’t immune to the technology-induced dopamine reward loops just because I was aware of them, and that I was sick of being glued to my phone all day, being plugged into everything from my Apple Watch (FYI: we broke up) to my Messenger app.

We’re all aware that our connectedness has made us bad communicators, and that we’re too busy nowadays; tech-friendly letter writing is a good way to disconnect without losing connection.

Often, when I’m typing, I’ve noticed that I type as fast as –if not faster than– I think. Word vomit all the time. Handwriting, I’ve found, has been a great way to slow down, reflect on my day and just breathe. And not surprisingly, handwriting has several benefits for the brain, like increasing neural activity, helping us learn, and more. In addition, letter writing increases those benefits!

How to go about implementing it

  1. Pretty stationery + camera phone
    I’m one of those people who indulges in stationery shopping at Kikki K whenever life gets too real. Pretty stationery does make the whole experience more enjoyable for you and the person receiving an emailed letter. Beautiful stationery options we love here, here, and here.
  2. Get over handwriting perfectionism
    Since I was a child, I’ve always prided myself on having nice handwriting; the sort that people looked at and commented on for its prettiness, which I’d counter with, “Oh, that chicken scratch?” Truthfully, I’d learned calligraphy in school (the real sort, not the messy sort that’s trendy nowadays), and picked it back up when I learned Meghan Markle was a calligrapher (shameless girl crush; judge away). So when I started writing several letters a week and experiencing hand cramps, and produced genuinely messy handwriting, I did what most perfectionists do: I’d rewrite letters that were almost ready to go, minding my cursive and avoiding spelling mistakes best I could.
    It. Was. Exhausting.
    Eventually, the reality of it (time wasting, neuroticism) dawned on me, and I let myself have messy days. The whole point of this exercise was to be real, after all.
  3. Take the pressure off
    When I initially committed to this, I overwhelmed myself with the need to do it all the time.. I eventually realized that I was taking the fun out of what was supposed to be a relaxing exercise, and I was stressing myself out. Which brings me to my next point…
  4. Accept that not everyone or every situation is deserving of a handwritten note
    Set aside a time for correspondence, like the “old days.” I know there are certain people who are worth my time and the paper and ink it takes me to write a thoughtful note. I want to be thoughtful for said people.
  5. Commit for a significant period to see if it works for you
    Like all habits, this will take some time to cultivate. In fact, it’ll likely take longer–texting is just so damned easy. Schedule an hour, half an hour, or even ten minutes per week and stick with it. When I started, I did it for a month, then it became three months, and now we’re going on four. (This is coming from someone who has issues committing to a favorite color, much less a favorite band or tv show, can I add?)

If the letters are long and personal —and sent to someone I really care about— I’ll spend money on postage and mail them off. If not, I’d have typically written the letter or note in my diary, so it will stay there. So, I definitely hang on to everything, sentimentalist that I am!

Friends writing back made this wholly worthwhile: I even reached out to a friend I’d lost touch with (life happens!), with a handwritten apology, and she called and we talked like no time had passed. The biggest benefit for me, personally, has been slowing down to reflect on my thoughts as I’m writing them. So, yeah–it takes longer than clacking out an email or a long text message. But that’s the point.

R552bn wiped off cryptocurrencies after hack

By Eric Lam, Jiyeun Lee and Jordan Robertson for Bloomberg / Fin24 

The 2018 selloff in cryptocurrencies deepened, wiping out about $42bn (about R552bn) of market value over the weekend and extending this year’s slump in Bitcoin to more than 50%.

Some observers pinned the latest retreat on an exchange hack in South Korea, while others pointed to lingering concern over a clampdown on trading platforms in China. Cryptocurrency venues have come under growing scrutiny around the world in recent months amid a range of issues including thefts, market manipulation and money laundering.

Bitcoin has dropped about 12% since 5 pm New York time on Friday and was trading at $6v756, bringing its decline this year to 53%.

Most other major virtual currencies also retreated, sending the market value of digital assets tracked by Coinmarketcap.com to a nearly two-month low of $298bn. At the height of the global crypto-mania in early January, they were worth about $830 billion.

Enthusiasm for virtual currencies has waned partly due to a string of cyber heists, including the nearly $500m theft from Japanese exchange Coincheck Inc. in late January. While the latest hacking target – a South Korean venue called Coinrail – is much smaller, the news triggered knee-jerk selling, according to Stephen Innes, head of Asia Pacific trading at Oanda in Singapore.

“This is ‘If it can happen to A, it can happen to B and it can happen to C,’ then people panic because someone is selling,” Innes said.

A cryptocurrency slump

The slump may have been exacerbated by low market liquidity during the weekend, Innes added.

“The markets are so thinly traded, primarily by retail accounts, that these guys can get really scared out of positions,” he said. “It actually doesn’t take a lot of money to move the market significantly.”

Coinrail said in a statement on its website that some of the exchange’s digital currency appears to have been stolen by hackers, but it didn’t disclose how much. The venue added that 70% of the cryptocurrencies it holds are being kept safely in a cold wallet, which isn’t connected to the Internet and is less vulnerable to theft. Two-thirds of the stolen assets – which the exchange identified as NPXS, NPER and ATX coins – have been frozen or collected, while the remaining one third is being examined by investigators, other exchanges and cryptocurrency development companies, it said.

Coinrail trades more than 50 cryptocurrencies and was among the world’s Top 100 most active venues, with a 24-hour volume of about $2.65 million, according to data compiled by Coinmarketcap.com before news of the hack. Read about Trusted Brokerz and start capitalizing on Bitcoin to make virtual currencies part of your portfolio.

The Korean National Police Agency is investigating the case, an official said by phone.

In China, the Communist Party-run People’s Daily reported on Friday that the country will continue to crack down on illegal fundraising and risks linked to Internet finance, quoting central bank officials. The nation’s cleanup of initial coin offerings and Bitcoin exchanges has almost been completed, the newspaper said, citing Sun Hui, an official at the Shanghai branch of the central bank.

By Daniel Cooper for Engadget

Problematic transportation outfit Uber is thinking about a way to use your phone to determine if you’ve been drinking. A patent application was uncovered by CNN, entitled “Predicting user state using machine learning,” which outlines the general idea. Essentially, by watching how you behave day-to-day, the system can pick up when your behavior is normal (for you) or abnormal. That could be, for instance, how you use your phone, the angle at which you hold it, and even how you’re walking.

Obviously there are some common sense elements to this, too, especially if you’re requesting a ride in the small hours from a notorious night spot. The thinking is that drivers will be fed this information ahead of you boarding the vehicle to better prepare them for what’s coming. A cynical reading of the plans could mean that drivers choose not to pick up a ride from a drunk passenger to avoid trouble. That would likely mean they’re left fending for themselves or, worse still, choose to drive themselves instead.

Of course, patent applications are mostly the province of companies wealthy enough to devote such time to dreaming up new ideas. Wacky concepts and ideas are patented all the time in the hope that, in years to come, they prove to be both useful and profitable. There’s no indication that this system is going to pop up in Uber’s customer-facing app in the near future, although it certainly could do.

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