Author: My Office News

Microsoft services down worldwide

Source: News Hub

Microsoft Office 365 users have taken to Twitter to complain that the company’s services are down. Users in the US, Australia and New Zealand have been badly hit, according to outage tracker website Downdetector.

Microsoft 365 said in a Twitter post it was investigating the issue.

“We’ve identified that multiple Microsoft 365 services are affected and we’re actively looking for the swiftest means of restoring access.”

Some Twitter users have reported the issue has been resolved while others say they’re still offline.

According to Down Detector, a high number of issues were reported along Australia’s east coast, New Zealand, Japan, and the West Coast of the US.

It was unclear what caused the issue and when service would be restored.

Released in 2011, Office 365 is an integrated product of Microsoft apps and services. Products in the service include Outlook 365 and Skype.

By James Preston for SA Crypto

SA Crypto’s chat channels were abuzz last night as MyBroadBand released an article reporting on a big decision by FNB: The bank announced that they will be shutting down all bank accounts related to cryptocurrency businesses. This includes large exchanges such as Luno, VALR, AltCoinTrader, iCE3X among others. The closures will be effective from end of March 2020.

The news stirred numerous conversation on the groups as users were stunned at the shortsighted move by what is seen as a progressive bank. First it was on Telegram where a user shared the article, were immediately the response was a negative one.

30 minutes later, SA Crypto’s primary Whatsapp group began fluttering with chatter around the subject.

The conversation continued for some time, with very little positive outlook. The reasonable users among the group objectively hoped that such a move by FNB would be an isolated one, a perspective reaffirmed by VALR CEO, Farzam Ehsani.

Ehsani weighed in on the conversation on both Telegram and WhatsApp, eventually stating that he would do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on his Twitter profile to discuss his viewpoint as the CEO of a major cryptocurrency in South Africa. Especially considering his previous role as “Head of Blockchain” at Rand Merchant Bank, a sister division to FNB.

After some interesting perspective from SA Crypto users, including a Bitcoin “Over The Counter” broker, Ehsani announced his AMA.

In addition to his AMA, Ehsani shared a public statement to all VALR users assuring them of their continued positive relationship with other banks in South Africa, and such a move by FNB wouldn’t adversely affect operations.

Meanwhile, Luno have released an official statement on their website, along with FAQs around how the move by FNB could impact existing Luno customers. The statement confirms that Luno is affected by FNB’s decision, as they anticipate their FNB business bank account being closed in the second quarter of 2020.

SA Crypto was alerted to this news on a recent visit to the AltCoinTrader offices, where one of the executives revealed they had just come back from a meeting with their relationship manager at FNB. The manager disclosed to AltCoinTrader that FNB was planning the closure, stating that FNB’s executive committee were considering its risk appetite, and deemed “virtual currencies” as too unclear from a regulatory perspective and thus were going to announce the discontinuation of banking support.

At the time, SA Crypto was unable to confirm the news, with it now being officially made clear in a letter from FNB.

Both iCE3X and Luno have responded to the FNB announcement, stating that, like VALR, they have good relationships with a number of other primary banks in the country, and deposits and withdrawals will be able to continue as normal, with FNB bank details requiring a change. Eugéne Etsebeth, COO at iCE3X, confirmed on Twitter this morning that clients would be unaffected by FNB’s announcement.

The move does raise some concerns for cryptocurrency users in South Africa, as it opens the door for other banks to question their relationships with cryptoasset companies. It would be extremely surprising however to see these banks follow suit, as the revenue generated from banking fees with these companies must be considerable, although the fact that FNB are willing to sacrifice such revenue is worrying to say the least.

FNB have stated they are open to reversing this decision should South African regulators provide further clarity on virtual currencies.

The news comes in conjunction with equally stunning news from RMB Holdings, who announced last night that they will be selling off R130 billion worth of First Rand shares in a major portfolio restructuring move. The figure is the total sum of the full 34% stake RMBH has in First Rand Limited, the company that operates FNB.

In reaction to the announcement, former FNB CEO Michael Jordan took to Twitter to share his surprise.

The RMB Holdings statement did not give a reason for the unbundling of the First Rand shares, but said there would be a detailed explanation before the end of the first quarter 2020.

It is strangely coincidental that the announcement comes on the same day First Rand-owned FNB announce their distancing from cryptoasset companies. And while it would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions, the gravity of both of these announcements makes it difficult not to.

Tech billionaires are just getting richer

By Yusuf Khan for Business Insider US

Tech billionaires are leading the ultra-wealthy in growing their fortunes, according to a UBS report titled “The Billionaire Effect” released on Friday.

The Swiss bank found tech tycoons’ wealth grew 3.4% or $1.3 trillion (roughly R19.1 trillion) in 2018, and the number of tech billionaires nearly doubled from 76 to 148 in five years.

Billionaires have become a key policy issue in the US as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic presidential candidates have proposed wealth taxes.

Tech billionaires are leading the ultra-wealthy in growing their fortunes, according to a UBS report titled “The Billionaire Effect” released on Friday.

UBS, one of the world’s largest wealth managers with roughly 1 000 billionaire clients, found tech tycoons’ wealth grew 3.4% or $1.3 trillion (roughly R19.1 trillion) in 2018, and the number of tech billionaires nearly doubled from 76 to 148 in five years.

The Swiss bank estimated the wealth of tech entrepreneurs like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg almost doubled in the last five years – growing 91%.

“If tech billionaires’ wealth were a country, it would rank second only to the US,” the report said. “Looking back over five years, tech billionaires have driven almost a third of the growth in billionaire wealth. US tech billionaires accounted for more than half of that growth.”

Billionaires have become a key policy issue in the 2020 US presidential election with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other democratic presidential candidates saying they would implement a tax on the ultra wealthy.

Warren has been criticised by billionaires such as Leon Cooperman for her proposed wealth tax of roughly 3% to 6%. Cooperman said she was “s——- on the American dream”.

Meanwhile, tech billionaires have come under fire for issues such as data protection and political advertising on their platforms. Zuckerberg – who’s worth $72.9-billion (roughly R1-trillion), according to Bloomberg – was recently grilled by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Facebook’s sale of personal user data to third parties and policy of allowing false political adverts.

“I think there will be a change in behaviour [of billionaires] driven by the mainstream, with a reduction in risk appetite and I think there will be a reduction of output,” said Josef Stadler, head of UBS’ global ultra-high net worth department. “Whether that’s a good or bad thing I don’t know,”

Stadler made the comments at the report’s launch event in London, in response to a question about whether billionaires will be forced to clean up their acts.

The report highlighted that entrepreneurs who built software, the internet, and equipment are the wealthiest in the tech industry. However, fintech and multimedia have grown rapidly – 419% and 504% respectively in the past five years.

“Even so, pioneers of the future such as e-commerce, fintech, ride hailing, and data systems are making headway, as they stand to disrupt swathes of the global economy,” the report said.

“Banking today is already different today than it was five years go. You look at Revolut and Monzo and the newly developed systems and this will fuel new billionaires or at least millionaires,” said Marcel Tschanz, Swiss head of wealth management at PWC, at the event.

SA cloud market to grow to R23.6bn by 2023

Source: MyBroadband

BMIT has published its SA Cloud Computing Overview and Market Sizing 2019 report, which shows that the growing adoption of cloud computing in South Africa has democratised IT resources and made technology available that traditionally would have been out of reach of the smaller player.

For businesses considering moving to the cloud, first mover advantage is more important than ever – while supporting innovation is a key success factor in today’s highly-competitive industries.

Analytics and artificial intelligence, along with other emerging technologies, are available to businesses at a fraction of the investment that would have been required before the transition to cloud computing.

IT modernisation, cost optimisation, and digital transformation are factors which motivate all companies to implement cloud computing.

The ability to scale is more important to medium and large companies than small companies, whose primary motivation is to transform digitally.

There is significantly less resistance to moving to the cloud in general – however, the question the market is grappling with is the “when and how” to move.

That being said, the conservative mindset of some in the IT market along with aversion to change is still challenging the industry and slowing adoption as more traditional-minded IT personnel often want full ownership and control over their IT resources – rather than the pay-per-use model that cloud has ushered in.

The cloud services market in South Africa is estimated to have grown at 31% in 2018 and is expected to grow another 35% in 2019 as the multinational hyperscale (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) local data centres go live over the next two years.

Looking further into the future, BMIT forecasts the cloud services market growing at a CAGR of 28% over the next five years to R23.6 billion in 2023.

Will SAA survive this strike?

South African Airways (SAA) says its future hangs in the balance after its workers went on strike to demand higher wages and protest planned job cuts which forced the state-owned carrier to cancel all its flights.

More than 100 international and local flights international flights were cancelled when the unions began their strike on Friday, which saw SAA shedding at least R200-million – plunging its balance sheet into a deeper crisis.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association embarked on a strike after SAA announced a restructuring process which may affect 944 jobs.

The striking unions are demanding an 8% across-the-board wage increase. Unions also want to have job security for at least three years and the in-sourcing of services like security, cleaning and ground handling.

According to Numsa and SACCA, SAA pilots recently received a 5.9% increase. The two unions said their members were simply demanding increases as well, which should be higher than pilots as they earn less.

SAA has pointed out that the 5.9% salary stems from a 5-year salary agreement after an arbitration process to which the airline is legally bound.

In a meeting with the striking unions, Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan has said that no further financial resources can be advanced to cash-strapped flag carrier SAA. In September, the government issued a R5.5bn bailout to cover SAA’s operational costs, but will be unable to help any more.

Nampak CEO to run Eskom

By Samkelo Mtshali for IOL

The appointment on Monday of Nampak Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter as the new Eskom CEO has been met with mixed reactions from the political sphere, with the Economic Freedom Fighters particularly displeased with his appointment at the power utility.

The embattled state entity has not had a permanent CEO since the resignation of Phakamani Hadebe in July, with board chairperson Jabu Mabuza acting in the role of CEO since Hadebe’s resignation mid year.

The EFF said that Ruyter’s appointment was anti-transformation and racist and that his appointment was part of a ‘racist project’ by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to undermine Africans.

“This racist project does not seek to undermine Africans as far as it concerns management of SOEs but as important role players in the economy. It seeks to reinforce the falsehood that Africans cannot manage strategic and complex institutions.

“The other false that must be dismissed with the contempt it deserves is the idea that Africans are inherently corrupt. Since his appointment as Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin has been removing African managers in SOEs in favour of non-African male, some even less qualified or less experienced compared to the removed African managers,” said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) general secretary Irvin Jim said that de Ruyter’s appointment did not do anything to aide transformation in the country and that the union regarded the appointment as “nothing less than a provocation”.

“This constitutes a setback when it comes to the transformation agenda in the country. This is an insult to blacks and Africans in this country that to date in this country since the democratic breakthrough we do not have competent black women and black Africans who can occupy such a position,” Jim said.

Democratic Alliance Chief Whip in Parliament Natasha Mazzone said that de Ruyter had a mammoth task ahead of him and said that he should use his experience to set Eskom on the right course to recover.

“De Ruyter has an unenviable task ahead of him and his priorities should include stabilising Eskom’s mammoth mountain of debt as well as ensuring a secure electricity grid for the nation.

“Of course, the only way we can truly achieve an efficient Eskom and an energy secure South Africa is when we break the utility’s monopoly over the energy sector as set out in the DA’s Cheaper Electricity Bill,” said Mazzone.

She added that de Ruyter should remain independent and beyond reproach in his capacity as Eskom CEO and that the DA would “keep a close eye on the developments at Eskom under his leadership” in the hope that he will always act in the best interest of Eskom and the public.

Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi, the IFP’s spokesperson on Public Enterprises, said that although de Ruyter will only officially begin his term on January 15 2020 he should “make very good use of the following month in order to familiarise himself with Eskom”.

“There is very little time to turn things around at the ailing parastatal, de Ruyter must hit the ground running,” Inkosi Buthelezi said.

Amongst some of the key issues that Inkosi Buthelezi said de Ruyter should focus on was building bridges with all stakeholders, decrease debt and reign in unpaid bills, renew or advertise contracts and strengthen supply chain management and tender procurement and financial controls.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

Criminals will likely target the influx of shoppers bustling to get their festive season shopping done over the next few weeks, says Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.

Hattingh said that shoppers should particularly cautious of follow-home attacks.

“We are urging all shoppers to be vigilant at malls and shopping centres and to be aware that we generally see a spike in follow-home incidents at this time of year,” she said.

In most cases shoppers are followed home from the malls and hijacked in their driveways.

“Criminals are aware these shoppers have a car full of newly-purchased items and are generally easy, distracted targets.”

“If you suspect you are being followed drive immediately to your nearest police station or security provider guardhouse,” Hattingh said.

Fidelity ADT said drivers should also remember general hijacking safety tips such as waiting in the road for the gate to open before driving in, and making sure the gate is closed properly behind the vehicle before getting out.

Safety tips at malls

“When in the mall or centre carry as little as possible in your handbag or pockets and rather leave unnecessary bank or store cards and large amounts of cash at home,” said Hattingh.

“A packed clothing store or supermarket is the prime hunting-ground for a pick-pocket or bag-snatcher. And, never leave a handbag, purse or wallet in a trolley.

“If you don’t use a bag or do not take one along, keep your wallet or purse in the front pocket of your jacket or trousers. Criminals are also targeting phones so make sure your phone is out of sight either in a zipped-up bag or in a front pocket.”

“If you are drawing large amounts of cash, take someone along to keep watch while you are at the ATM and to keep a lookout for any suspicious individuals or vehicles on the way home. If you can avoid drawing large sums of cash, do so. Electronic payments are the safer route,” she said.

Your safety outside the mall is just as important as it is inside, Fidelity ADT said.

“Before you exit the mall, have your keys ready so that no time is wasted to get your purchases and yourself into the car. This also means that you’ll be able to hold onto your handbag as you walk. If someone does try to snatch your handbag, let it go. Do not resist or fight back,” Hattingh said.

Lastly, she suggested avoiding shopping late at night.

“While the idea of a quieter shopping mall may seem appealing, you are more vulnerable in the car parks, mall bathrooms and the likes. If you have no other choice, be vigilant and report any suspicious individuals to the mall security.”

The increasing migration of flexible office space and co-working locations to areas outside of major metropolitan cities globally is creating a ‘flex economy’ that could contribute more than R3.8 trillion to global local economies in the next decade, according to the first comprehensive socio-economic study of second-city and suburban workspaces. It also revealed that in South Africa, on average 265 new jobs are created in communities that contain a flexible workspace, with an extra R30.8 million per workspace going directly into the local economy.

This rise in local working is being largely driven by big companies adopting flexible working policies; moving away from relying on a single, central HQ and increasingly basing employees outside of the major metropolitan hubs in flex spaces. Most are doing so to improve employee wellbeing by allowing their people to work closer to home, and also to save money and boost productivity.

Jobs creation and the ‘sandwich economy’

Across the 19 countries analysed, the average individual workspace sustains 218 jobs. This includes temporary jobs created during the fitting-out stage of the office space, permanent jobs to run the office, including reception, maintenance, cleaning etc., plus the jobs associated with the occupancy of the workspace.

Economic impact

As well as direct job creation, flexible workspaces benefit the local area through an uplift in Gross Value Added (GVA), the measure of the value of goods and services produced in an area.

For the greater good

Aside from the direct financial impact, local office space has been found to benefit workers and local regions in other, societal ways.

The next 10 years

As well as assessing the impact of individual centres, Regus also looked at the estimated potential of each market to host a larger, national portfolio of local flexible workspaces.

Mark Dixon, CEO for Regus’ parent company IWG, said: “When people commute into major cities their wallets commute with them. Working locally keeps that spending power closer to home. What this study shows is that providing more opportunities for people to work closer to home can have a tremendous effect, not just on them, but on their local area too.”

Telkom’s recently released results show that fixed-line broadband subscribers – which include ADSL, VDSL, and fibre-to-the-home customers – declined from 974 181 in September 2018 to 781 255 in September 2019.

This means Telkom lost 192 926 fixed broadband subscribers over the last year, which equates to a 19.8% decline in its customer base.

However, the struggling telco has offered to buy Cell C and combine South Africa’s two smallest mobile network operators to better compete against larger rivals.

The bid includes a plan to reduce Cell C’s debt and renegotiate contracts with suppliers, the people said, asking not to be identified because negotiations are ongoing. Telkom wants to take over the management of Cell C’s business.

The approach comes as Cell C explores options with MTN and local investors known as the Buffett Consortium to recapitalise the company, which may include the sale of some of its assets. The two offers will be considered side-by-side as Cell C and its owners try to restructure R9-billion of debt.

This comes after Telkom recently announced that it will become the first national telecommunications operator in South Africa to switch off its legacy 2G network.

The company will terminate 2G services in March 2020, according to CEO Sipho Maseko.

The company has about 250 000 2G-only users left on its network, out of a total subscriber base of 11..5-million, as most have migrated from 2G to 3G.

Source: BBC

A US financial regulator has opened an investigation into claims Apple’s credit card offered different credit limits for men and women.

It follows complaints – including from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – that algorithms used to set limits might be inherently biased against women.

New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card.

Any discrimination, intentional or not, “violates New York law”, the DFS said.

The Bloomberg news agency reported on Saturday that tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had complained that the Apple Card gave him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got.

In a tweet, Hansson said the disparity was despite his wife having a better credit score.

Later, Wozniak, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, tweeted that the same thing happened to him and his wife despite the fact that they have no separate bank accounts or separate assets.

Banks and other lenders are increasingly using machine-learning technology to cut costs and boost loan applications.

‘Legal violation’
But Mr Hansson, creator of the programming tool Ruby on Rails, said it highlights how algorithms, not just people, can discriminate.

US healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group is being investigated over claims an algorithm favoured white patients over black patients.

Mr Hansson said in a tweet: “Apple Card is a sexist program. It does not matter what the intent of individual Apple reps are, it matters what THE ALGORITHM they’ve placed their complete faith in does. And what it does is discriminate.”

He said that as soon as he raised the issue his wife’s credit limit was increased.

The DFS said in a statement that it “will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex”.

“Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law.”

The BBC has contacted Goldman Sachs for comment.

On Saturday, the investment bank told Bloomberg: “Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”

The Apple Card, launched in August, is Goldman’s first credit card. The Wall Street investment bank has been offering more products to consumers, including personal loans and savings accounts through its Marcus online bank.

The iPhone maker markets Apple Card on its website as a “new kind of credit card, created by Apple, not a bank”.

 

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