Social media tightens its grip on SA

As data costs drop, social media use has intensified among South Africans in the past year, with Facebook now being used by 29% of the population.

This is a key finding of the SA Social Media Landscape 2018 study, conducted by brand intelligence organisation Ornico and high-tech market research consultancy World Wide Worx.

The study found that the number of South Africans using Facebook has increased by 14% since 2016, from 14 million to 16 million.

Of these, 14 million accessed the social network on mobile devices.

A big contributor to the increase was the growth in downloads of Facebook Lite, a low-intensity version of the Facebook app some mobile operators allow to be used without data charges on their networks.

The study showed that it was the fifth most downloaded app from the Google Play Store for Android phones in South Africa, with instant messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger at numbers one and four respectively.

The Capitec app was a surprise entry into the list at number nine, making it the most downloaded banking app for Android.

“These are great examples of how tools geared towards the dynamics of a market can make a difference in uptake and penetration,” says Ornico CEO Oresti Patricios.

Mobile soon the default home of social media

“The staggering proportion of people accessing Facebook via mobile devices – no less than 87.5% – tells us that we can expect mobile to become the default home of social media.”

Twitter continues to grow at a slow rate in South Africa, in line with international trends, which have seen a small decline in the US balanced by a small increase in users outside the network’s home market.

It is now used by 8 million South Africans, up marginally from 7.7 million in 2016.

“Twitter remains the social platform of choice for engaging in public discourse,” said Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

“It is exactly half the size of Facebook, but its users get access to vastly more personalities, news sources, and opinions – and can become opinion-makers themselves.”

There were two surprise trends in the survey: the previously fastest growing app in South Africa, photo-sharing network Instagram, has seen its growth slow down dramatically, while professional network LinkedIn has maintained steady growth.

The former is now used by 3.8 million South Africans, up from 3.5 million, while LinkedIn usage has increased from 5.5 million to 6.1 million.

The study included a survey of social media use by South Africa’s biggest brands, with 118 participants providing insights into their social media practices, strategies and results.

The survey found significant shifts in each of the platforms used by brands, mostly upward. Facebook is now almost pervasive, in use by 97% of brands, from 91% the year before.

Twitter has increased marginally, from 88% to 90%, while LinkedIn and Instagram continued their relentless rises, now both standing at 72%.

YouTube has fallen slightly behind them, despite a marginal rise to 68%.

Declines were reported for Pinterest, Google+, WeChat, WhatsApp and SnapChat.

“The findings underline the lesson that widespread consumer takeup of a platform, as we have seen with WhatsApp in particular, does not lend itself readily to brands communicating with those consumers,” Patricios said.

A similar picture emerged when brands were asked whether they advertised on social media.

Facebook is by far the most popular for advertising at 86% of brands, with Twitter and Instagram in distant second and third place at 45% and 40%. LinkedIn comes in fourth, at 35%.

“It is noteworthy that most advertisers believe they see a return on investment when they advertise on social media,” Goldstuck said.

“By far the most common benefit they see is brand awareness, followed by customer insights and brands.”

Source: Fin24

The most popular operating systems

The latest figures from NetMarketShare show that Windows 7 is still the most popular desktop operating system globally.

The August 2017 statistics also reveal that iOS and Android 6.0 remain the most widely-used mobile operating systems, although an increasing number of devices are moving to Android 7.0.

Mobile OS numbers show that Android has a strong lead over iOS overall, with Windows Phone coming in third – sporting a total mobile market share of 0.81%.

NetMarketShare does not provide iOS version information, but figures from Apple’s Developer website show that 89% of iOS users were on iOS 10 and 9% were on iOS 9 as of 6 September.

The most popular operating systems on desktop and mobile platforms for August 2017 are detailed below:

Desktop operating systems

Mobile operating systems

Source: MyBroadband

Cars need software updates: just like a smartphone

In response to millions of people fleeing Florida in the face of Hurricane Irma, Tesla has “flipped a switch” in some of its cars to temporarily extend their range.

Tesla cars receive software updates much like an iPhone does — via the Internet in an update process called “over-the-air” or OTA updates. It’s one of the only car companies that can do this with their cars, regularly sending updates to fix security flaws or update autonomous driving capabilities.

Contrast this with the approach taken by Chrysler, which sent out USB sticks with a safety update to 1.4m vehicles after hackers showed they could remotely take control of a Jeep. With such USB updates, there was really no way of knowing whether the updates had been applied properly or even got to the right person.

Most people don’t realise just how much of a car’s function is controlled by computer processors. The average car has between 25 and 50 different processors, with cars from BMW and Mercedes having around 100 processors each.

These processors control everything from advanced engine features to braking, automatic parking, collision detection, entertainment, navigation and security. As cars become more intelligent, they are coming to rely on increasingly sophisticated software.

Most of these processors have software that, at the moment, can only be updated by taking the car into to an authorised dealer. Car recalls have become a multibillion-dollar expense for the car industry and a major inconvenience for owners.

For this reason, over-the-air updates will be coming to most cars soon. General Motors recently announced that it would start to deliver updates to its cars using GM’s OnStar network. Bosch, one of the leading companies delivering electronics and processing to car manufacturers, is gearing up to deliver secure over-the-air capabilities to cars through a subsidiary, Escrypt.

Malware

It is estimated that 180m cars will be built with this capability in the next five years.

Despite the recent interest, car manufacturers have been wary of updating vehicles in this way. There was concern that too many things could go wrong during the update, leaving the car not driveable.

Security has also been a concern. Hackers could potentially intervene and substitute malware during the update, for example, with potentially lethal consequences.

The process of updating a car turns out to be not that dissimilar from updating an iPhone.

In fact, the acceptance of over-the-air updates for a car starts with the fact that people are more familiar and comfortable with updating a smartphone. They understand that the process can’t be interrupted and the phone must have enough power, for example.

From the technological perspective, the update is encrypted and is accompanied with appropriate signatures that get checked and accepted by special security hardware on the car, called a hardware security module.

The updates are transmitted over secure connections and special software on the car can receive the update and apply it. If something goes wrong, the system needs to be able to roll the update back and leave the original version of the software intact and operating.

Traditional car dealers may see this as a way of cutting them out of the loop, and may resist any regulations allowing these types of updates outside of a normal service
The arrival of more autonomous driving capabilities in cars will make updates essential, as with the case of Tesla. While these updates could be done at an annual service, the demands of autonomous driving will require more frequent updates of software.

At the same time, consumers are becoming sophisticated enough to be able to manage these updates themselves.

The challenge for companies wanting to move to over-the-air updates may not just be a case of car manufacturers moving too slowly. Traditional car dealers may see this as a way of cutting them out of the loop, and may resist any regulations allowing these types of updates outside of a normal service.

Other potential barriers may come from regulators. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has a task force looking at cybersecurity and over-the-air updating in motor vehicles.

One area of concern for this group is that if a vehicle has been certified by a country’s motor vehicle safety standards, what happens if it receives an over-the-air update that changes how it performs? Does this render its certification invalid? This might be the case especially if the vehicle’s emissions change as a result of the software update.

Another challenge that may give car manufacturers pause is that if a car can be updated with new features using a simple software update, will customers hang onto the cars for longer and not upgrade their cars quite so often?

By David Glance published on TechCentral

Pick n Pay in in-store trial of bitcoin payments

In what its backers are calling “potentially a world first for a major grocery retailer”, shoppers were for a “limited time” able to pay for their groceries using bitcoin at a Pick n Pay retail store in Cape Town.

In a statement posted on its website, Cape Town-based specialist software payments development house Electrum, said customers at Pick n Pay’s campus store at its head office were able to use the bitcoin cryptocurrency to purchase groceries and services.

“The checkout process is as simple as scanning a QR code using a bitcoin wallet app on the customer’s smartphone,” the statement said. See demonstration video from Electrum below.
The checkout process is as simple as scanning a QR code using a bitcoin wallet app on the customer’s smartphoneIt quoted the retailer’s information systems executive Jason Peisl as saying that although bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “still relatively new payment concepts”, Pick n Pay has been able to “effectively demonstrate how we are able to accept such alternative payments”.

Pick n Pay did not say when or even if it planned to expand the pilot to other stores. However, Pick n Pay deputy CEO Richard van Rensburg has subsequently told Business Day that the retailer doesn’t expect to begin accepting bitcoin in the near term. He said the trial has since ended.
“We are unlikely to roll out the solution until the payments industry and regulatory authorities have established a framework for managing the risks associated with cryptocurrencies,” Van Rensburg is quoted as having said. “We have proved to ourselves, though, that it is technically possible to roll out a solution very quickly.”
Electrum provided the cloud-based enterprise payments platform used for the transactions, while the bitcoin infrastructure for the project was provided by Luno, a bitcoin company active in Southeast Asia and Africa, and with an office in Cape Town.

According to Electrum’s website, major major retailers and financial institutions use the company’s technology to accept payments, process loyalty transactions and provide value-added services. Click this link to see some of its customers including two out of Africa’s top three retailers.

By Duncan Mcleod for TechCentral 

Google goes down

Google scrambled to fix an issue which caused its search engine, YouTube, Gmail and Drive to crash on Tuesday night.

The tech giant posted updates to say issues on each of its products have been resolved on the G Suite Status Dashboard.

“We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better,” the company said as an update to each of the affected products.

Gmail, YouTube, Drive, Google Maps and other services were reported to have experienced issues around the world.

South Africans also experienced problems, with 176 issues reported on the local DownDetector from 18:00 on Tuesday evening.

Other DownDetectors from around the world reported issues from around the same time.

Google said all services have since been restored, but had not indicated what had caused the problem in the first place.

By Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Top cybersecurity tips for small businesses

Small businesses and self-employed people are big targets for hackers, and the financial implications can be crippling. Gone are the days of thinking “It’ll never happen to us.” A total of 61% of all data breaches this year occurred in businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. So, if you would like to keep your workforce educated about potential cyber threats, schedule your employees for cyber security training for beginners.
Not only have hacks increased in frequency, but the impact on SMEs is getting much bigger.

But where do you begin? Many SMEs feel that being as secure as a big business is impossible. Corporations have large budgets, chief security officers and entire teams dedicated to cybersecurity. This perception stems from the impression that hacks are vastly complicated, and rely on a tireless horde of highly skilled attackers. Most hacks aren’t like that. The majority depend on poor passwords and a lack of awareness of what a hacker actually needs to compromise your systems — a simple phishing email or a leaked password and they’re in. It’s that simple.

Educating yourself and your staff is the only solution. Hackers always look for soft targets, so start with the basics. Here are some tips from Hightower Risk:

1. Get a strong password

A total of 80% of hacking-related breaches use either stolen passwords and/or weak or guessable passwords. Getting a strong password is the bare minimum. What’s more, it’s easier than you think. A lot of people don’t know that you can use spaces in your passwords, for example: “horse mug table” is much a much better password than “Horse123.”

2. Then make your password unique

Having a single strong password doesn’t count for much if that password then gets leaked. We’ve seen massive, trusted companies like LinkedIn and Yahoo leak millions of passwords over the last few years, which opens the door to wide-ranging cyber attacks. Password managers like LastPass and OnePassword help you generate and keep track of unique and strong passwords.

3. Know what to look out for with phishing

Hackers are constantly sending “phishing” emails, trying to get you to click on their website so that they can install malware or convince you to give them your password. Understanding what a hacker is trying to do and what to look out for is key. Poor syntax, incorrect spelling, or email addresses and links that include a lot of full stops (for example, amazon.getcode.tickets.phishingattack.com ) are all key warning signs to look out for.

4. Understand the information you’re already giving away

Phishing attacks rely on the amount of information we share about ourselves online. Famously the hackers behind the celebrity iCloud leak in 2014 used information they’d gained from public posts to guess the answers to user’s secret questions. If your secret question is “The city I was born in” and you post that information on Facebook, then hackers have an easy way into your account.

5. Pay attention to Web page URLs

When you see “http” in a web page URL that means your communication with that page is unencrypted. Any communication could be easily read by a hacker waiting on that page; “http” is a warning sign to look out for if you ever think you might have stumbled onto a phishing or generally suspect website. If you’re ever entering sensitive information like credit card numbers or personal details, make sure the website has “https” in the website url. That way you’re more secure.

6. Update your software

Software is updated for a reason. Usually companies like Microsoft or Apple will discover a vulnerability that might let hackers in, fix it, then offer an update. Always take them up on it. We saw with the WanaCry attack earlier this year what happens when organizations don’t install patches (updates bringing computer systems to the most up-to-date version) and security updates. Unpatched vulnerabilities offer gaps into your systems that hackers use to install malware and ransomware, or to just gain control of your systems.

7. Encrypt everything

Should a breach happen, you want to make sure whatever information hackers get their hands on is, at the very least, difficult for them to understand. Encrypting your hard drives and databases with a modern algorithm like AES256 is a key defensive tool to protect your data in the event of a breach. It’s quick and easy to do. For more info you can check out this post by FreeCodeCamp to do it in under an hour.

Knowledge is the key to cybersecurity, but it’s important to think about the underlying structure of your business and the way it handles data more broadly. Organization-wide controls and data-protection policies help define sound technological defense, and ensure you know how to respond in the event of a breach. Just remember that industry standards like an ISO27001 certification and SOCII are beneficial, but only when combined with education and good user behavior.

By Sam Nixon for CIO Today

The way that cryptocurrencies have been implemented – with blockchain technology – is absolutely not a viable consumer product, says South African entrepreneur Hannes van Rensburg.

Van Rensburg, who sold his payments platform Fundamo to Visa for $110 million (R1.4 billion) in 2011, was speaking at StartupGrind Cape Town on Thursday evening, reports Ventureburn.

He said that cryptocurrrencies that use the blockchain won’t see the same kind of adoption as credit or debit cards because of the impracticality of settling payments on the blockchain.

“I think there are a lot of things that could happen in the back. I think there’s a lot of things that could happen around settlement of transactions and so forth, but it is a fallacy. I know people are going to shoot me, but I am just a straight shooter,” said Van Rensburg.

One of van Rensburg’s biggest sticking points is the way in which cryptocurrency transactions take place – also arguably one of their biggest selling points.

“If I do a transaction in Bitcoin it means that before it is actually concluded with the text in the distributed ledger, 50% plus one of the participants in this ecosystem have to acknowledge that they have written it into the ledger,” he said

“Now just consider if you were to run it as a global currency where, before you walk out of the shop having bought my packet of chips for a dollar, half the population has to acknowledge that I bought a packet of chips. It isn’t going to work in that environment.”

Van Rensburg said that he still believed that blockchain was an important technology – just not one that is consumer-driven.

Good for business but not for consumers

Van Rensburg’s viewpoint is not a unique one, with many financial experts around the world voicing their concern about the commercial applications of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Regulatory uncertainty is a big hurdle, especially in the financial-services industry. Legal frameworks, globally, will have to change to adapt to the growing use of the new technology, said a former former US Reserve official speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

There are also issues of cybersecurity; despite backers of blockchains claiming that they are secure by design, the technology hasn’t been adopted widely enough yet for it to be seriously tested.

Click here if you are intersted in checking some ICO Spotters.

Source: BusinessTech

Digital transformation: why should you care?

Digital transformation is more than a mere buzzword. Modern businesses must evolve as the digital age continues to overtake lives, both personally and professionally. To maintain the capability to leverage intricate market changes, businesses must undergo an in-depth metamorphosis.

This digital transformation must bring the business and its organisational activities in line with the fourth industrial revolution and all of the opportunities it holds. According to iScoop’s online guide to digital business transformation, digital transformation brings business processes, competencies and models up-to-date, to empower the organisation to adjust to changes and embrace the “opportunities of a mix of digital technologies and their accelerating impact across society in a strategic and prioritised way, with present and future shifts in mind.” This profound transformation requires an awareness of the latest innovations across a variety of key processes and industry sectors – but it also requires a real interaction with new technology, delivering an understanding that can come only from personal experience.

This is the theme of the Infor Next 2017 conference, to be held at Montecasino, Fourways, on the 21st of September. With key sessions led by Infor global experts, digital transformation, its importance, and its relevance in South Africa will be unpacked, offering leading-edge insights. “In this glorious world of innovation and constant development, true transformation is required to ensure the enterprise workplace remains competitive. This dovetails with the understanding of how to maximise value in the cloud,” says Tarik Taman, Infor’s Vice President and General Manager: Sales for India, Middle East and Africa (IMEA).

“Attend Infor Next Johannesburg to experience how innovative, beautiful applications are being designed for progress, transforming the way people work.” By employing user-centric development, organisations are empowered to dive deeper into solutions to solve high-value, real-world challenges and expand overall proficiency. “By honing the techniques needed to aid organisation-wide digital transformation, key education, strategic direction, and the latest innovations in enterprise systems are leveraged,” adds Taman.

“At Infor Next 2017, we’ll bring to life both innovation and technology to address specific industry needs by extending existing solutions to improve productivity and lower costs.”

Topics under discussion at the event include a regional overview, a glimpse into Infor’s future plans, and a comprehensive view of the value of Infor CloudSuite, the pivotal elements to talent transformation and the power of Enterprise Asset Management (EAM). From social collaboration at work to cloud in the public sector, healthcare, manufacturing and hospitality, expert knowledge will be shared, driving greater digital transformation in every industry. The event will also highlight the Infor Education Alliance Programme (EAP), which delivers next-generation tools for future leaders, and works with local universities in South Africa. Participants in the programme get access to specialised software packages, training materials, and customised learning experiences, using groundbreaking technology that is already transforming work for more than 90 000 organisations worldwide.

“Succeeding in business is tougher than ever before. The Alliance Programme helps talented students and professionals get an edge on the competition,” confirms Taman. With these industry-specific business tools, proficiency is developed, offering students and professionals at every level the critical skills that will set them apart in the job market. “Software solutions should have the necessary capabilities built in, not bolted on. Contemporary solutions deliver lasting return on investment, long-term sustainability, and the flexibility to adapt and grow,” concludes Jane Thomson, Managing Director at Softworx, an Infor partner and event sponsor. “These are the cornerstones of effective digital transformation.”

iPhone X both copies and innovates

As soon as you see the iPhone X up close, you’ll realise that it’s nothing like any of the previous models that Apple has released during the past decade.

But you might notice striking similarities with some of the sleek smartphones that Samsung, Google and others have been churning out during the past year or two.

Like its rivals, Apple has finally gotten around to making a phone with an edge-to-edge display, a nod to consumers’ desire for more space to view their photos, watch movies and TV shows, read books and play games.

In that sense, Apple is playing a game of catch-up with the iPhone X – a name that refers to the Roman numeral for “10.” But the device still manages to live up to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ mandate to “think different.”

The iPhone X comes with what appears to be sophisticated facial recognition. On a basic level, that allows its owner to unlock the phone with a quick glance. But it also opens the door for a menagerie of emojis that can be controlled and manipulated with facial expressions and voice.

The phone also provides a spectacular canvas for photos, thanks to a superior camera and a souped-up screen Apple calls a “Super Retina” display.

It also costs almost $1,000, an unprecedented price for a mass market phone.

That price tag means that most Apple lovers will probably stick with the slightly less expensive iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which will be available Sept. 22 – six weeks before the iPhone X hits the market.

But the iPhone X will probably be a hot commodity among status seekers and affluent consumers. Such buyers won’t flinch at paying an extra $300 to own a phone with attractive but still mostly marginal improvements, based on about 20 minutes The Associated Press spent with the phone in a controlled demo room Tuesday.

One of the best things about the iPhone X: It has a larger screen, but isn’t more cumbersome to carry around. The iPhone X’s edge-to-edge screen measures 5.8 inches diagonally compared to 5.5 inches for the iPhone 7 Plus and now the iPhone 8 Plus. But the iPhone X’s overall dimensions are smaller than the Plus and just slightly larger than the regular models. That’s bound to appeal to people who like large screens but don’t like oversized phones.

On the down side, the iPhone X’s screen isn’t as wide as that of the iPhone 7 Plus or iPhone 8 Plus.

What really makes the iPhone X stand out is its new high-resolution display, coupled with its spiffy cameras. Photos viewed on the iPhone X look amazingly vivid and lifelike, right down to the visible blades of glass at a kid’s soccer game or every crease of a blanket blowing in the wind.

Emojis have become such a popular way of communication in our smartphone-driven culture that the iPhone X’s “animoji” feature could prove popular as well.

This animated feature draws upon the iPhone X’s facial recognition technology and high-end, front-facing camera to enable people to control the expressions on a dozen different type of emojis.

For instance, you can pull up a fox or a rabbit and it will frown or smile in sync with your own expression. The emoji figure will move its mouth when you do; record it and it will speak in your voice. (You can send such videos to friends.)

Facial recognition is also the new convenient way to unlock the iPhone X. No more fingerprint scanner: the expansion of the display meant the loss of the home button, which housed that sensor. Apple says this change will allow iPhone X owners to unlock the device with a quick glance under just about any conditions. (The device also can be unlocked with a numeric passcode if facial recognition fails, as it did for one Apple executive during Tuesday’s presentation.)

But security might still be an issue, particularly if the iPhone X’s facial recognition can be tricked by intruders trying to break into a device designed for big spenders and luxury lovers. Apple says it turned to mask experts to test and improve the feature, though it acknowledges that twins might trick the phone.

Using the iPhone X will also require behavioral changes, such as swiping from the bottom to get the home screen, now that the home button has disappeared. The new phone does add a button on the side to invoke the Siri virtual assistant and Apple Pay.

Source: Associated Press

South Africans rake in Airbnb profits

Airbnb has proved a lifesaver to many South African women hosts, giving an especially welcome financial boost to single mothers, according to latest statistics released by the hotel and guest lodge booking platform.

In the report Across the BRICS: How Airbnb connects the emerging economies, the platform detailed how the service contributed towards GDP in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“South Africa has seen the strongest growth in guest arrivals from BRICS nations at 380%, with explosive year-over-year growth in guests arriving from Brazil, by a factor of nine. South African hosts’ total income earned from BRICS-based guests ranks the highest of the five countries at $1.88m (about R24.3m),” the report read.

“The typical woman host in South Africa earned nearly $2 000 (R25 917.10) last year, more income than earned by the typical women hosts in other countries. More than 60% of women hosts in South Africa are Superhosts – hosts who are specially designated by Airbnb as hosting guests frequently, receiving a high number of five-star reviews, and being exceptionally responsive to guests and committed to reservations with 60% of South African women hosts with children, i.e., single mothers, use (sic) their Airbnb income to help them stay in their homes,” it said.

About 5.3 million Airbnb users from developing nations generated more than $467m over the past year, according to latest statistics released by the app.

The year-on-year growth rate of intra-BRICS  guest arrivals was reported at 134%, according to the study.

With interest in travel and tourism on the rise, reaching 10% of global GDP in 2017, Airbnb allows BRICS countries to benefit in their share of the income, said the report.

Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service that helps people lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms with 97% of the listing price going directly to hosts.

By Kyle Venktess for Fin24

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