Tag: data

High data costs hit low-income households

By Avantika Seeth for City Press

The high cost of data is seriously stifling the growth of South Africa’s lower-income households, leading to the digital divide leaving many behind in the fast paced world of information access and communication.

This is according to community advocacy organisation Amandla.mobi, who yesterday made submissions at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) public hearings in Sandton.

An inquiry into high data costs was launched by Icasa last year, with the second draft of public hearings into the “end-user and subscriber service charter amendment regulations 2016” ending on Friday.

Amandla.mobi, who made submissions to Icasa on why data costs should be reduced, say that greater transparency of communication services needs to happen.

“What we are saying is that low income consumers are paying disproportionately higher charges and are in turn not seeing benefits of competition in comparison to high-income consumers who are able to buy larger quantities of data. The low-income consumers actually end up paying more for their data bundles,” Koketso Moeti, executive director of Amandla.mobi told City Press.

Moeti believes that the high cost of out-of-bundle data rates contributes to the general public, particularly those from lower income households, not benefiting from the online space.

“These days, more and more things are happening online. To apply for school, it has to be done online. To register a business, it has to be done online. Even government responsiveness happens more and more in the online space and the inability to access data holds people back from accessing these very basic, but necessary services,” Moeti said.

Moeti explained that two recommendations made in the submission need particular attention: the option of consumers to opt in and out of out-of-data bundle packages and that a restriction on the maximum difference allowed in pricing per megabyte between small and large bundles be implemented.

“Ultimately, those who are only able to afford smaller data bundles pay a higher rate per megabyte, than those users who purchase larger data bundles. A practical example is the Vodacom out-of-data bundle rate from 2017, which basically equates to a user paying R990 per gigabyte of data,” Moeti said.

The out-of-bundle rate, Moeti said, was based on Vodacom’s current 99c per megabyte out-of-bundle rate which came into effect on October 15 last year.

“As table 1 shows, out-of-bundle prices are 10 times higher than prices for 1 gigabyte and this in fact understates the problem. There is significant competition at the top of the market with promotional offers that offer higher-income contract consumers data at 0.03c or less. This means that those consumers who are using small data bundles or using data ‘out of bundle’ may be paying 50 times what richer consumers are paying,” Amandla.mobi said of the table.

Moeti added that some of the mobile providers such as Cell C and Telkom do provide good value packages for smaller data purchases.

Other industry players who also presented submissions included MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, and Telkom.

In 2016, Tariffic, the company that helps companies and individuals determine if they’re spending too much money on their cellphones, conducted research into the data costs within South Africa.

Tariffic found data prices in South Africa to be 134% more expensive compared with other Brics nations.

“Tariffic’s analysis shows that, once prices were converted to rands and re-based for the cost of living, South Africa was consistently the second most expensive for one, two and three gigabyte data contracts, with Brazil being the most expensive in all three cases. Data prices for South Africa were on average 134% more expensive than the cheapest prices in the group,” the report said.

“Data prices are comparably rather expensive in South Africa and there has been no major movement to reduce these prices, specifically for the low-value data bundles, which are in very high demand,” Tariffic chief executive Antony Seeff told City Press.

“Even though there is work to be done across the board with regards to data prices, if people are tired of high data prices, they can move networks to where prices are more affordable,” Seeff said.

By Avantika Seeth for City Press

They may not have the cachet of entrepreneurs, or geek chic of developers, but data protection officers are suddenly the hottest properties in technology.

When Jen Brown got her first certification for information privacy in 2006, few companies were looking for people qualified to manage the legal and ethical issues related to handling customer data.

But now it’s 2018, companies across the globe are scrambling to comply with a European law that represents the biggest shake-up of personal data privacy rules since the birth of the internet – and Brown’s inbox is being besieged by recruiters.

“I got into security before anyone cared about it, and I had a hard time finding a job,” said the 46-year-old, who is the data protection officer (DPO) of analytics start-up Sumo Logic in Redwood City near San Francisco.

“Suddenly, people are sitting up and taking notice.”

Brown is among a hitherto rare breed of workers who are becoming sought-after commodities in the global tech industry ahead of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May.

The law is intended to give European citizens more control over their online information and applies to all firms that do business with Europeans. It requires that all companies whose core activities include substantial monitoring or processing of personal data hire a DPO. And finding DPOs is not easy.

More than 28,000 will be needed in Europe and U.S. and as many as 75,000 around the globe as a result of GDPR, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) estimates. The organization said it did not previously track DPO figures because, prior to GDPR, Germany and the Philippines were the only countries it was aware of with mandatory DPO laws.

DPO job listings in Britain on the Indeed job search site have increased by more than 700 percent over the past 18 months, from 12.7 listings per every 1 million in April 2016 to 102.7 listings per 1 million in December.

The need for DPOs is expected to be particularly high in any data-rich industries, such as tech, digital marketing, finance, healthcare and retail. Uber, Twitter (TWTR.N), Airbnb, Cloudflare and Experian (EXPN.L) are advertising for a DPO, online job advertisements show. Microsoft (MSFT.O), Facebook (FB.O), Salesforce.com and Slack are also currently working to fill the position, the companies told Reuters.

“I would say that I get between eight and 10 calls a week about a role (from recruiters),” said Marc French, DPO of Massachusetts email management company Mimecast. “Come Jan. 1 the phone calls increased exponentially because everybody realized, ‘Oh my god, GDPR is only five months away.’”

GDPR requires that DPOs assist their companies on data audits for compliance with privacy laws, train employees on data privacy and serve as the point of contact for European regulators. Other provisions of the law require that companies make personal information available to customers on request, or delete it entirely in some cases, and report any data breaches within 72 hours.

On a typical day, French said he monitors for any guidance updates for GDPR, meets with Mimecast’s engineering teams to discuss privacy in new product features, reviews the marketing team’s data usage requests, works on privacy policy revisions and conducts one or two calls with clients to discuss the company’s position on GDPR and privacy.

“Given that we’re trying to march to the deadline, I would say that 65 percent of my time is focused on GDPR right now,” said French, who is also a senior vice president of Mimecast.

The demand for DPOs has sparked renewed interest in data privacy training, said Sam Pfeifle, content director of the IAPP, which introduced a GDPR Ready program last year for aspiring DPOs.

“We already sold out all of our GDPR training through the first six months of 2018,” said Pfeifle, adding that the IAPP saw a surge in new memberships in 2017, from 24,000 to 36,000.

Those companies who have DPOs, meanwhile, are braced for poaching.

Many of those firms reside in Germany, which has long required that most companies that process data designate DPOs. They include Simplaex, a Berlin ad-targeting startup.

“Everyone is looking for a DPO,” said Simplaex CEO Jeffry van Ede. “I need to have some cash ready for when someone tries to take mine so I can keep him.”

Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Pravin Char for Reuters

Vodacom’s new trading update has revealed quite a few interesting facts about the network giant. Let’s take a look at some of the things that stood out most.

The latest trading update from Vodacom has revealed that its service revenue in South Africa has grown by 4.9% to just over R14 billion. It seems they are also making quite a bit in terms of every South Africans least favourite word: “data”.

MyBroadband reported on the statement that explained that Vodacom had added huge amounts of new customers last year.

“We continued to see strong customer growth, adding 1.6 million customers in the quarter as we attracted new customers through our bundle and segmentation strategy,” said Vodacom.

While South Africans continue to complain about the ridiculous data costs here at home compared to other developing countries, data revenue grew by 8.7% for Vodacom. That increased brought the total data revenue to R6.0 billion, making up 42.3% of service revenue.

While data traffic growth on Vodacom’s SA network is slightly down from the previous quarter, overall traffic growth kept stable at 43.9%

Vodacom’s steps to reduce free data usage was the main reason for the decline. While we may say we hate bundles, the network says they are becoming ever more popular.

Vodacom was also keen to stress that the overall effective price it charged per megabyte was down just under 25% in the quarter.

The network says the money it makes is focussed on enhancing the quality of coverage across the country.

“During this quarter, our capital expenditure of R2.3 billion was focused on maintaining our best network advantage and enhancing our IT systems and deep learning machine capabilities,” said Vodacom.

Across the Vodacom network, 77.6% is LTE or 4G population coverage. 3G covers 99.4% of the network.

After MyBroadband first reported the R2 billion news, South Africans across social media were furious that the network giant was bringing in such large amounts off of their data.

By Nic Andersen for The South African

The Paradise Papers: whose money is where

A new set of data taken from an offshore law firm again threatens to expose the hidden wealth of individuals and show how corporations, hedge funds and others may have skirted taxes. A year after the Panama Papers, a massive leak of confidential information from the Bermuda law firm Appleby Group Services, dubbed the Paradise Papers, has shone another light on the use of offshore accounts.

Here are the highlights so far of the reporting by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and partner news outlets on the so-called Paradise Papers. Bloomberg hasn’t seen the leaked documents:

  • The rich may be richer than you thought. Jim Simons, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has amassed more than $7.5 billion in a previously undisclosed, four-decade-old fund set up in Bermuda. Warren Stephens, an Arkansas banker and Republican donor, used a Bermuda-based family trust to reduce his tax bill and conceal his interest in a payday lender under US scrutiny. And George Soros, a liberal investor who has contributed to the ICIJ, used Appleby to manage a company that carried out reinsurance transactions that can be used to shield wealth from taxes.
  • More than a dozen members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top economic adviser Gary Cohn, held undisclosed offshore companies. Robert Mercer, a Republican donor who just said he would step down as Renaissance Technology’s co-CEO, was revealed to be a director of more than eight of RenTech’s offshore subsidiaries, who used other offshore firms to shelter money his family funneled to political causes. The Blackstone Group, co-founded by Trump economic adviser Stephen Schwarzman, used trusts and companies registered in tax havens to avoid paying taxes on two UK commercial
  • After Irish officials closed a tax loophole that had allowed Apple to avoid billions of dollars in taxes, the US tech giant enlisted international law firms to help it find a new tax home and settled in the English Channel island of Jersey, the New York Times reported. The documents helped solve a two-year mystery of where the world’s biggest company by market capitalisation is booking a big share of its revenue.
  • Want to register a private jet in the US? Bank of Utah manages more than 1 390 aircraft trust accounts that obscure the identities of the jets’ (largely foreign) owners, the New York Times reported. Among the wealthy foreigners said to use the bank’s services: Russian oligarch Leonid Mikhelson, an ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin whose gas company is under US sanctions.
  • US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faces questions about his financial disclosures to Congress and the government after a report that he didn’t disclose business ties to the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin and an oligarch under US sanctions. The Appleby documents included details of Ross’s stake in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, according to the New York Times.
  • House Republicans should slow down their consideration of a tax-overhaul bill after the investigative reports alleged offshore tax-avoidance by US multinational companies including Apple and Nike, congressional Democrats and tax-advocacy groups said.
  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it’s reviewing the documents and will take action against any financial institution or individual that breaches regulations. The regulator made the remarks on Wednesday after the consortium said that some of the files came from Asiaciti, a Singapore-based family-owned trust company. Asiaciti denied any wrongdoing.
  • Canadian tax authorities are reviewing reports linking a key fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offshore trusts in the Caribbean. Montreal-based businessman Stephen Bronfman, son of billionaire Charles Bronfman, was among the individuals cited by news organisations including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star in Sunday’s leak of bank documents.
    Commodities trader Glencore Plc was one of the top clients of Appleby, which even had a “Glencore Room” at its Bermuda office that kept information on the trader’s 107 offshore companies, according to the ICIJ investigation. (Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.)
  • Prominent Silicon Valley investor Yuri Milner, who was an early backer of Facebook Inc., partnered in two investments with the Russian state-controlled bank VTB Bank PJSC before it was sanctioned, his spokesman confirmed Friday. Details about the relationship between Milner and VTB surfaced in the wake of the Paradise Papers.
  • Indonesian authorities are investigating if former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and the children of ex-dictator Suharto, named in the leaked documents, are in breach of the country’s tax laws.
  • A North Korean was listed in the leaked documents as a shareholder in a Malta-based company which may have been involved in the overseas transfer of North Korean construction workers, according to Newstapa, a South Korean partner of the ICIJ.
  • Queen Elizabeth II of the UK made a series of investments in a Cayman Islands fund through the British Royal Family’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, according to The Guardian newspaper.
  • Lord Michael Ashcroft, a major donor to the UK’s Conservative Party, had links to a Bermuda-based trust with assets worth as much as $450 million, The Guardian reported.
  • The Dutch Finance Ministry said it will review whether more than 4 000 cross-border tax rulings were issued in accordance with procedures. The decision follows the publication of an article in Het Financieele Dagblad reporting that correct procedures weren’t followed in an agreement between the Dutch tax authority and Procter & Gamble Co. “P&G has fully transparent relationships with governments and tax administrations worldwide,” the company said in a statement. “We may seek confirmation from governments and tax administrations that our interpretation of tax laws is correct. This is what was done in this instance.

Source: Marcus Wright for MoneyWeb / Bloomberg

Vodacom slashes out-of-bundle data costs

Network provider Vodacom has announced that it will “significantly reduce” out-of-bundle prices for all customers from mid-October.

“For pre-paid and customers on top-up packages, the out-of-bundle rate will drop by as much as 50% once the new 99c per megabyte tariff comes into effect on October 15.”The out-of-bundle rate for post-paid customers was reduced from R1 per megabyte to 89c on October 1,”  the company said in a statement.

Group CEO of Vodacom Shameel Joosub said the company needs to expand 4G coverage and keep pace with an increase of more than 45% in sustained data traffic demand.

“Both of these come at a cost, and we have invested some R32.7bn over the last four years. However, lack of access to spectrum is hampering our ability to drive down infrastructure costs and in turn, enable us to pass savings to the consumer,” said Joosub.

Vodacom previously told Fin24 that it is committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after regulator Icasa said it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce the country’s high data costs.
Vodacom joins Cell C, which recently responded to Icasa’s regulation of data by dropping out-of-bundle rates and extending bundle expiry.

In August it was announced that Icasa wanted to amend the End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations by introducing “out-of-bundle billing practices” and other “expiry of data practices”.

Previously, the regulator announced it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce high data costs.The probe will be conducted over four phases and will be completed in March 2018.

Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Vodacom is reimbursing subscribers who were affected by a billing issue on Monday night, the operator said on Twitter.

Customers took to social media last night, causing Vodacom to trend on Twitter, to complain about disappearing airtime and data.

Those affected by the billing bug complained about missing data and airtime depleting for no apparent reason.

Vodacom has committed to ensure that all affected customers will be refunded in full. On Tuesday morning, the mobile network said it had begun the process.

Vodacom said that all out-of-bundle charges incurred during the incident are being refunded, and that depleted bundles are being reinstated.

The technical glitch that drained data bundles from numerous customers was sparked by a configuration change to the network’s billing system.

Vodacom told Fin24 that the incident had been the first of its kind.

“The issue was caused by a configuration change on our prepaid and top up billing system that was problematic. We were able to isolate the cause and roll back this process during the course of last night (Monday),” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told Fin24 on Tuesday.

Kennedy said Vodacom had already reimbursed customers affected by the billing issue. All out-of-bundle charges incurred during the incident are being refunded, and depleted bundles are being reinstated.

“We are committed to ensuring that all customers are refunded in full,” Kennedy says.

Any customer who has not been reimbursed for their data loss should contact the call centre on 111, Vodacom said. The network would then conduct a short investigation to verify the amount of lost data, before refunding the user.

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband; Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Vodacom bows to pressure to reduce prices

Vodacom will actively participate in the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) consultation process on the draft regulations regarding data expiry periods and out-of-bundle billing.

Vodacom told Fin24 that it was committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after the communications regulator stepped into the going feud between consumers and networks over the high cost of data.

“Vodacom is aware of the draft regulation gazetted by Icasa regarding data expiry periods and out-of-bundle billing,” a company spokesperson told Fin24 this week.

“Vodacom is committed to bringing down data prices and has brought down effective data pricing by 44% over the last three years.

“Through the likes of Just4You, which offers customers hourly, daily, weekly and monthly bundles, Vodacom has made significant inroads in recent years in its pricing transformation journey,” the spokesperson said.

The latest step by Icasa to join the #DataMustFall campaign was aimed at regulating data expiry dates, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette on Monday.

Icasa intends to encourage networks to extend the validity of data bundles.

“With regard to out-of-bundle billing, Vodacom reiterates its position on this matter in that it remains fully committed to addressing these and has already started to implement its plans,” Vodacom told Fin24.

“We remain committed to consulting with the regulator in our shared quest to continuously address customer needs and improve the customer experience,” the company added.

The public has until September 19 to submit comment.

Prior to the recommendation, the regulator announced it would hold an inquiry to try reduce high data costs. This inquiry will be conducted over four phases and completed in March 2018.

These phases include a market study, discussion document, public hearings, and findings document. Members of the public would have 45 days to submit comments following each phase, News24 reported.

By Kyle Venktess for Fin24

The hashtag #datamustfall is currently trending on Twitter where people are calling for an end to high data prices.

Consumers have once again become fed up with the high cost of mobile data in South Africa.

Apart from the cost of data, users are also complaining that cellular providers should not be able to set “expiry” dates on data – and that once purchased, data should be the users’ to keep.

A recent Facebook post on the matter went viral when it was shared over 7 500 times, sparking a resurgence in the anger towards SA’s main providers: Cell C, MTN, Vodacom and Telkom.

The questions consumers are now asking revolve around whether this is tantamount to theft, and what impact it has on the country’s small businesses – and the poorest sections of society.

Poet and activist Ntsiki Mazwai has called on South Africans to boycott all social media platforms from midnight.

The social media blackout campaign has the following aims:

“The social media blackout is a campaign that is aimed at lowering data prices. Data costs are obscene and are not affordable for people on the ground. We want to bring attention to this issue; we want to engage government and cellular network companies.”

Mazwai says that from midnight people should log off social media.

“We don’t buy data for 24 hours, we will meet back on social media the following day to discuss the way forward. Why should data expire after 30 days when you’ve paid for it?”

She has encouraged people to take part in the campaign because it is too expensive to access information.

“We keep talking about #feesmustfall but how must students access information or hand in assignments if data costs are so high? This has a negative impact on entrepreneurs and our families because we can’t communicate with them.”

Mazwai has further called on the country to unify for a good cause.

Refilwe Pitjeng for EWN; My Office News

Xerox helps secure copier secrets

Copiers can retain sensitive data on their built-in hard drives. The security risks associated with this are great. Copier Secrets, one of the topics covered on Carte Blanche on 30 August, caused a stir on social media platforms as people expressed alarm at the idea of their data and secrets being stolen and used for nefarious purposes.

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