Tag: Internet

Important undersea cable breaks – again

By Stefan Mack for Briefly

The West African Cable System (WACS), an undersea Internet cable which is critical to South Africa’s communications infrastructure, has broken again.

The cable had broken earlier this year and resulted in a notable slowdown in SA’s internet speeds. A break has been reported in the cable, but it is not yet clear where the break is or if the damage is in the underwater part of the cable. The repairs would take longer and be more expensive underwater. If the break is on land it would be significantly easier and cheaper to repair.

The damage to the cable could leave some internet users without access, depending on the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Earlier this year, the same cable was damaged when pressure from a mudflow from the Congo River into the ocean.

Undersea cable repair could take up to a week

By Lisa Isaacs for IOL 

As gale-force winds let up slightly in Cape Town on Monday, the ship expected to effect repairs to underwater cables that failed and left parts of the continent with slow Internet, departed from Cape Town Harbour.

Strong winds battered the Cape over the past few days, trapping the cable repair ship due to effect repairs on the West Africa Cable System (WACS).

The South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) undersea fibre cable was damaged near Libreville, Gabon, while WACS was damaged near the Congolese coast, causing slow Internet speeds across parts of Africa since last Thursday.

South African social media users reported problems with MTN’s and Vodafone’s networks.

The SA National Research and Education Network (SA NREN) tweeted yesterday afternoon that the cable vessel was finally on its way to the cable depot quay.

“The weather situation in Cape Town has improved and the port reopened. The cable vessel expects to shift to the cable depot quay.”

When the vessel has loaded and departed, the expected duration to the location of the break is around six days.

Fixing the break will take another week at least, according to the SA NREN.

Internet service provider Afrihost, in a network status update yesterday, said it had purchased additional international bandwidth on other undersea cables to restore internet services to as close to normal as possible.

“This means that we will not be reliant on repairs to the damaged cables to deliver better international speeds and latency.

“Our team is currently working through the night to implement the additional capacity this evening or early tomorrow morning.”

At the weekend, web company Amphibic Design said: “Service providers are diverting traffic through another undersea cable, SEACOM/EASSY, which runs alongside the eastern coast of Africa.

“This ensures that South Africans can still access the internet, but it is also slowing internet access. It is unclear when the cables will be operational again.

Both the WACS and SAT3 cables providing international connectivity between South Africa and international locations were knocked out on Thursday.

These breaks are having a major impact on internet connectivity.

The WACS cable lands in South Africa at Yzerfontein in the Western Cape and the SAT3/WASC system enters the country at Melkbosstrand.

On 2 October President Ramaphosa signed the Film and Publications Amendment Bill into law.

In the area of printed and audio-visual content, the Films and Publications Amendment Act provides for the establishment, composition and appointment of members of an Enforcement Committee that will, among other tasks, to regulate online distribution of films and games, and to protect children from disturbing and harmful content.

The Bill is also known as the “Internet censorship bill” by its detractors.

This extends – to online distributors – the compliance obligations of the Films and Publications Act and the compliance and monitoring functions of the Film and Publication Board to online distributors.

The Amended Act also revises the functions of compliance officers regarding entering and inspection of premises and facilities in which the business of the sale, hire or exhibition of films or games is being conducted.

The law further regulates the classification of publications, films and games and allows for the accreditation of independent commercial online distributors by the Film and Publication Board.

Through the Board, the law will regulate the creation, possession, production and distribution of films, games and certain publications with a view to protecting children from disturbing and harmful content.

Controversy
Some controversial points around the bill deal with the following:

  • Revenge porn: any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and films without prior consent and with intention to cause the said individual harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction. This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and/or to both a fine and imprisonment not exceeding two years. Where the individual is identified or identifiable in said photographs and films, this punishment rises to a R300,000 fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding four years;
  • Hate speech: any person who knowingly distributes in any medium, including the Internet and social media, any film, game or publication which amounts to propaganda for war, incites imminent violence, or advocates hate speech, shall be guilty of an offence. This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years; and
  • ISP requirements: If an internet access provider has knowledge that its services are being used for the hosting or distribution of child pornography, propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or advocating hatred based on an identifiable group characteristic it shall immediately remove this content, or be subject to a fine.

However, detractors say that the Bill is open to abuse, and may be used to curtail freedom of speech and increase censorship.

By Mark Sweney for The Guardian

The internet is about to lose its mantle as the fastest-growing sector of the global advertising market for the first time in two decades, as brands seeking risk-free space to spend their ad budgets turn to traditional media such as cinema, billboards and poster sites.

Next year the global internet advertising market, which is dominated by Google and Facebook, will surrender its position as the fastest-growing ad medium for the first time since the early days of the dotcom boom and bust at the turn of the century.

Internet advertising is forecast to grow by 10% globally next year, the lowest level since 2001, according to research by the global media agency group Zenith. The shrinking growth rate means that cinema advertising, which is forecast to surge more than 12% next year, will become the fastest-growing ad medium.

Major companies have expressed their concerns over digital scandals – such as Cambridge Analytica, “fake news” and ads appearing next to inappropriate YouTube videos such as extremist material – putting pressure on internet platforms.

The movie industry is experiencing a golden age, with UK attendance last year hitting its highest level since 1970 and global box office records being smashed, and advertisers are looking to cash in.

Investment in technology, from the special effects used in blockbuster movies to the plush experience of cinemas sporting leather reclining seats, sofas and restaurant menus, has fuelled a renaissance despite the proliferation of streaming services such as Netflix.

“From Wonder Woman to the Avengers, Black Panther or The Favourite you have such as diverse range of films with a captive audience that advertisers know they can get a specific message to,” said Tim Richards, the founder and chief executive of the international cinema chain Vue.

“What we are also seeing is that companies are getting tired of bombarding the internet with messages when they can’t be sure who is seeing them. Audiences have a higher level of trust and confidence on what they see on the big screen than something that may have been thrown at them on the internet.”

While the growth rate of internet advertising was always eventually going to slow with scale – in 2020 it will account for half of the $650bn (£520bn) spent on advertising globally – there are signs of a wider shift in the market. This month, the British competition watchdog launched a probe into the £13bn UK digital ad market.

The outdoor advertising sector – which includes billboards, the sides of buses and railway stations – is also expected to grow at a healthy 5% globally in 2020, bucking a downturn in ad spending on other media including newspapers and TV.

“Outdoor advertising is now very much a digital experience, it’s pixels not paste any more, and that’s attractive to brands,” said Phil Hall, the incoming co-managing director of media company Ocean Outdoor.

“But you also can’t ignore the issue of brand safety. Given the well-publicised issues faced by some of the digital giants outdoor advertising has a great pitch to advertisers about being a trusted haven for brands.”

Zenith’s report says that while much of the growth in internet advertising comes from small, local businesses that spend all their budgets on platforms such as Google and Facebook, the majority of big brands still prefer to spend most of their advertising money on traditional media.

Zimbabwe switches off the Internet

By Brian Latham for Fin24

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Paige dos Santos, digital lead at SAP Africa

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

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

Seismic societal shifts

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

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

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

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

Systemic purpose

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

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

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

Interlock – combining intuition and logic

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

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

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

The potential to thrive

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

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

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

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

Google turns 20

By Mikelle Leow for Design Taxi

On 27 September, Google turned 20 years old. It’s difficult to remember a world without the convenience of looking things up on the Internet; for many young adults, the scenario would seem impossible.

“When Google started 20 years ago, our mission was to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” the company wrote in a blog post.

“That seemed like an incredibly ambitious mission at the time—even considering that in 1998 the web consisted of just 25-million pages (roughly the equivalent of books in a small library).”

The tool hides an interesting Easter egg that takes you back to its early days. A simple search of, “Google in 1998,” brings up the company’s old logo and web designs that are telling of how much the internet has progressed since then.

Notably, Google’s brand name was stylized with an exclamation mark, which is not unlike the current Yahoo logo.

It also had a newsletter that would send you monthly updates of outstanding websites. Imagine if you received those emails today.

It’s good to know that, in spite of its considerable progress, the essence of the old Google still remains. For instance, the company has retained its color palette and its ‘I’m feeling lucky’ option.

What’s surprising is the site’s linkback to other search engines. Aside from Amazon and Yahoo, several of the other sites are no longer in existence.

 

Internet blackout in Zimbabwe

A core platform failure at Zimbabwe’s largest internet access provider saw Zimbabwe lose internet services for the better part of Tuesday.

The internet outage started at 11:30 and lasted until 17:00 and affected most operators that use Liquid Telecoms Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless Global.

At the time of writing this story it was still unknown as to what caused the outage.

However, Econet Wirelesss Zimbabwe, which also rides on liquid, issued a statement saying: Econet Wireless apologises to its valued customers for the data outage experienced on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 resulting in customers being unable to access the internet and related data services on our network.”

Company spokesperson Fungai Mandiveyi said the outage was due a technical fault which has since been resolved.

“Econet sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused,” he said.

Liquid Telecom is one of the fastest growing internet service providers in Zimbabwe in particular and Africa in general.

It provides state-of-the-art fibre internet which links Zimbabwe and the Southern African region to the outside world. It is the biggest internet access provider with a market share of more than 80%.

Its sister company, Econet Wireless, controls 75% of mobile phones meaning the outage affected approximately 75% of the telecoms market. Social media platforms such as WhatsApp were also affected.

The outage also affected most of the businesses that rely on online based activities including sending emails.

State owned fixed telecoms provider Telone also issued a statement saying: “This is due to faults that occurred on our main links through South Africa and Botswana.

“Our back back-up link through Mozambique has remained active with limited connectivity.”

ByCrecey Kuyedzwa for Fin24

What if your profession has never required much computer literacy — and then all of a sudden it does. Should you be fired? Should your licence be yanked? That’s the question raised by the bizarre case of Anna Konopka, a doctor who claims that New Hampshire has barred her from the practice of medicine because she does not know how to use the Internet.

Konopka, 84, received the bulk of her medical training overseas. She voluntarily surrendered her license this fall after allegations that she was not participating in New Hampshire’s new mandatory system for reporting opioid prescriptions. Why not? Because to do so she would have to go online — something for which she lacks the requisite skill.

Konopka has long tried to keep the digital revolution at bay. Here’s the Washington Post on Konopka’s office.

Aside from a fax machine and landline telephone, there isn’t much technology. …

Instead, her patients’ records are tucked into two file cabinets, which sit in a tiny office next door to her 160-year-old clapboard house in New London, New Hampshire Records are meticulously handwritten, she said. Konopka does have a typewriter, but it’s broken, and its parts have been discontinued.

New London is a rural town with a population of 4,000 and change. Many of Konopka’s patients are uninsured, but if you have $50 she’ll treat you, and if you don’t you can pay her later. It’s a niche market but an important one. Rural patients are notoriously underserved.

As a doctor, Konopka gets mostly high grades. New Hampshire Public Radio interviewed some of those she’s treated and found big fans:

To talk with her patients is to hear story after story of medical turnaround, of admiration and gratitude. Unlike other doctors, Konopka listens and spends time with you, her patients say. She learns your family history, your physical and mental state. She doesn’t simply rush you out the door with a prescription.

But that’s all over now. To settle the charges Konopka agreed to give up her licence. Her lawsuit seeking to overturn the settlement on grounds of coercion was dismissed.

As part of the deal, Konopka agreed that should she ever seek to get her license back, she will have to meet the requirements for new entrants into the practice of medicine — which means being able to use the internet.

In addition to Konopka’s unfamiliarity with the technology, she also has objections that we might term ideological. Here’s part of an interview she gave to the website Ars Technica:

“I am getting the patients from the system, and I see how badly they are mistreated and misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all,” she said. “Therefore, I am not going to compromise patients’ lives or health for the system. Because I am out of the system, it was almost like in communism, you were like the enemy and you had to be destroyed.”

So Konopka’s refusal to adopt what she derides as “electronic medicine” is not only a matter of familiarity with the technology; she also seems to believe that the whole enterprise is a bad idea. She is hardly the only doctor to complain that the accelerating switch to digital records has harmed patient care.

But the system she rejects has its points, and there are perfectly good reasons to require a degree of computer literacy from medical professionals. Put aside the question of reporting on opioid use. Just consider the enormous amount of information that we nowadays expect providers to have at their fingertips. The latest research. The latest scans and lab reports. The latest messages from other doctors. And those who practice rural medicine, because specialists often are far away, may have the greatest need for the latest technology.

On the other hand, if Konopka’s patients are mostly happy, we should at least be wary of snatching away her licence not because she doesn’t know her medicine but because she doesn’t keep up with the technology.

Whatever the right answer, one thing is clear: As the digital revolution continues, the issue raised by what happened to Konopka will arise more and more. Imagine the ageing but beloved professor who teaches brilliantly but runs afoul of a newly adopted university rule requiring that all student papers and faculty comments be submitted online. Or the experienced and savvy police officer who is befuddled when the department announces that information formerly recorded on paper in triplicate must henceforth be typed into the online system. Should they be pensioned off, even though excellent at their work, because new information technology has supplanted what they have used throughout their careers?

The question isn’t just hypothetical. Ever since the US supreme court decided in 2005 that disparate-impact claims can be brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers and their lawyers have wondered whether a requirement that new hires be computer literate might one day form the basis for a lawsuit by older applicants. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes the view that employers may consider “technological skills” as long as “the assessments are accurate and not influenced by common age-based stereotypes.” But this tells us at best how employers may treat new applicants, not how they may treat existing employees.

Where the issue involves not employment but licensure, we should be even more vigilant for the possibility of overreach. Licensing boards always say that they are protecting the public, and sometimes they do, but they also limit entry into the professions, and protect the interests (and income) of insiders. And in the case of rural medicine, it’s not as if the market offers the typical patient a lot of alternatives.

I’m not arguing that Konopka should get her licence back, and I’m aware that there have been other complaints about her practice. But the issues raised by her case are not going to go away. As the pace of technological change accelerates, all of us will sooner or later find ourselves unable to keep up. The question is whether, when that happens, the workplace should make allowances … or show us the door.

By Stephen Carter for Bloomberg/Rand Daily Mail https://www.businesslive.co.za=

US set to abandon net neutrality rules

US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai will propose vacating Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules, according to a person briefed on the development that will hand a victory to broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast that oppose the regulations.

Pai’s proposal is to be presented to fellow FCC commissioners on Tuesday ahead of a vote set for 14 December at the agency, where the chairman — an appointee of President Donald Trump — leads a Republican majority. Pai will seek to vacate the rules adopted in 2015, retaining only a portion that requires broadband providers to explain details of the service they are offering, said the person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the proposal isn’t yet public.

Rules to be set aside include a ban on blocking or slowing Web traffic, and a prohibition on offering “fast lanes” that give quicker service to content providers willing to pay extra. Broadband providers have argued that competition will ensure they don’t unfairly squelch traffic.

Tina Pelkey, an FCC spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Pai’s proposal is the latest step in a years-long tug-of-war over regulations dictating how companies such as AT&T and Comcast allow access to Internet content — from Facebook’s social media site to Netflix’s streaming videos.

Supporters including Silicon Valley firms argue the rules are needed to keep network owners from favouring their own content and discouraging Web start-ups. Critics say the rules discourage investment while exposing companies to a threat of heavier regulation including pricing mandates.

The regulation survived a court challenge from broadband providers last year. Previous attempts by the FCC to pass such rules ended with courts tossing them out or sending them back to be rewritten.

By Todd Shields for Bloomberg on Tech Central

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