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Galaxy Fold coming to South Africa in September, Samsung honcho confirms

Sung-Yoon-President-CEO-Samsung-Electronics-Africa
Sung Yoon President & CEO of Samsung-Electronics Africa. Photo credit Alan Cooper, GeekWire.co.za

AFTER postponing the rollout of its Galaxy Fold phone-tablet hybrid following a string of high-profile failures among review models, Samsung has made improvements that it believes will solve the problems and get the ground-breaking folding screen device into stores sometime in September 2019.

That’s according to Sung Yoon President and CEO of Samsung Electronics Africa, speaking at last night’s launch of the company’s Galaxy Note and Note Plus smartphones.

“I can confirm that the Galaxy Fold will be available in South Africa in September,” he told an audience of mobile industry representatives and media in Sandton, Johannesburg following a live stream of Samsung’s #Unpacked event from New York.

The most common problem encountered by reviewers was a partial or complete failure of the screen after they removed the screen protector. Unlike the peel-off protectors that come with other smartphones, the one on the Galaxy Fold is not supposed to be taken off.

Sung said that to solve this problem, Samsung has tucked the screen protector under the bezel of the device. Previously there was gap between the screen protector and the edges of the phone making it appear like the standard removable protector found on other mobile devices.

Samsung is also reportedly beefing up the warning not to remove the screen protector that accompanies the phone, making it larger and placing it more prominently.

The second, less common, problem encountered by reviewers was a gap in the hinge area on the top and bottom of the folding device that lets dust, grit and other foreign objects in, potentially damaging the screen from below.  Samsung is said to be shrinking these gaps in an attempt to minimise this risk. – GeekWire.co.za

Taking companies on a digital adventure

Valter Adão, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer for Deloitte Africa
Valter Adão, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer for Deloitte Africa. Photo credit Alan Cooper, GeekWire.co.za

Deloitte recently concluded a week-long series of digital immersion sessions in KwaZulu-Natal, aimed at introducing leading companies operating in the region to the many exponential technologies available to them today.

“We positioned the week’s activities around the theme, ‘We’re on a new adventure’,” explained Ruwayda Redfearn, the professional services firm’s Regional Managing Partner: KZN.

“Until now much of the focus, where digital transformation is concerned, has been on the negative consequences of failing to adapt to the new digital reality, a ‘doom and gloom’ scenario. By contrast, Deloitte’s focus during the Digital Week and going forward is to underline the many opportunities presented by digital technology and how we are perfectly positioned to take our clients on a journey of possibilities in this exciting new world,” she said.

Incorporating the best elements of Deloitte’s acclaimed Greenhouse innovation centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the KZN immersion experience exposed participants to the gamut of Deloitte’s powerful digital assets. These range from Connected Retail, Supply Chain and Customer marketing solutions, as well as several locally developed analytics, predictive modelling and gamified performance management tools, to name a few.

“Deloitte has built some incredible digital solutions and offerings,” said Alex Moir, the firm’s supply chain lead for Consumer Services Sector – Africa. “Hosting the digital immersion week was an unrivalled opportunity to introduce these solutions to select KZN clients, specifically focussing on the fast moving consumable goods (FMCG) sector.”

Valter Adão, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer for Deloitte Africa, said companies considering adopting digital assets faced a bewildering, constantly evolving array of technologies and trends.

“Our aim during the KZN digital immersion week was to simplify the field and distil it down to the three most important things businesses need to think about when considering digital transformation.

“These are: leveraging digital technology to unlock exponential growth inside the business, boosting productivity inside organisations by allowing them to conduct the same business but at a lower cost point, and leveraging digital to uplift the experience customers have when engaging with the organisation,” Adão said.

Redfearn said feedback from the Digital Week attendees had been overwhelmingly positive.

“Many of our clients and prospective clients still view us as largely an audit firm, unaware that Deloitte are leaders within the digital transformation space.”

She added that this pre-eminence was underpinned last month when Gartner, the world’s leading information technology and advisory company, ranked Deloitte as the number one worldwide consulting service provider for the second consecutive year. Earlier this year, it named Deloitte the Undisputed Global Leader for CRM & Customer Experience Implementation Services as well as Global Leader in Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed and Professional Services. This follows recognition from ALM Intelligence last year of Deloitte as the Undisputed Global Leader in Innovation Strategy Consulting.

“Our KZN Digital Week was a decisive first step in launching this globally-acclaimed capability to the local market. We were able show attendees, many of them key decision makers for top companies, what we can do and get an idea of what their challenges and opportunities are in this arena,” Redfearn said. – GeekWire.co.za

Clean slate: EC rugby hero helps bring iPads to his old school

iSchoolAfrica logo
iSchoolAfrica has partnered with iStore and Siya Kolisi to bring an iPad Lab and learning programme to the rugby star's PE alma mater. Picture courtesy of iSchoolAfrica's Twitter page

Eastern Cape-born rugby star Siya Kolisi isn’t just a winner on the field. In a partnership announced today, 7 August 2019, with iSchoolAfrica and iStore, the iSchoolAfrica iPad programme will be brought to his own former primary school.

This will include the roll-out of a mobile iPad lab, curriculum apps, ongoing teacher training and the monitoring of results at Emsengeni Primary School Zwide, Port Elizabeth.

“Rugby gave me hope growing up and I want to give the same to young South Africans by providing opportunities to help them find their passion and fulfil their potential,” Kolisi said.

“My journey began at this primary school and its why I want to start with changing lives here by introducing world-class technology like the Apple iPad. My dream is to provide more opportunities for our youth to realise that whether they live in the suburbs or a township, they can be anyone they want to be.”

Since 2009, the iSchoolAfrica programme, has brought educational technology and classroom best practices to more than 240 rural and township schools through the investment of corporate sponsors.

The iPad lab consists of 20 Apple iPads in a mobile carry case which can be moved from classroom to classroom. The lab is pre-loaded with apps aligned to the South African curriculum, has one plug point to charge all iPads simultaneously and can be locked away securely in the school safe.

An iSchoolAfrica facilitator has been appointed to train and work closely with the teachers to ensure the technology can be used effectively in the classroom. A teacher will also be selected to be an iSchoolAfrica champion and will receive ongoing training in order to support their colleagues and ensure sustainability of the programme.

In addition to appointing an iSchoolAfrica champion, Kolisi will act as an ongoing mentor at the school and to the iSchoolAfrica programme.

“iSchoolAfrica celebrates 10 years of proven success this year and we are extremely proud to be in 240 schools, have trained 3000 teachers and have changed the lives of over 100 000 learners,” said Michelle Lissoos, Director at iSchoolAfrica.

“We are very excited to be working with a mentor like Siya and to partner with iStore again, to achieve the vision we all have to improve the futures of South African youth.”

This is the fourth school that iStore has invested in sponsoring through the iSchoolAfrica programme. Otherr sponsors include the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Exarro and Growthpoint.

 “Apple iPad is the chosen educational tool for schools around the world and iSchoolAfrica is a way for us to invest in a sustainable programme for under-resourced schools in South Africa. We are thrilled to co- invest with Siya in this project and have him support as a mentor. We encourage other sponsors and mentors wanting to make a difference to teaching and learning to invest in the future of young South Africans through iSchoolAfrica,” said Chris Dodd, iStore CEO. – GeekWire.co.za

FaceApp trumps Mandela Day on Google Search this week

FaceApp ageing feature
A new feature from FaceApp uses AI to simulate the ageing process. Image supplied by FaceApp

Face aging fad rules the web

South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, 17 July 2019, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”, Google has revealed.

The Internet went crazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades.

FaceApp went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Some the traffic may also have been due to the controversy surrounding the app and its Russia-based developers Wireless Lab.

Privacy experts warned that the app may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate.

It’s not the first time the app has come in for criticism. Launched in early 2017, it was almost immediately in hot water over its “ethnicity filters” and, later, the “hot” transformation trick that was said to lighten skin colour. Both features have since been removed.

Farewell White Zulu

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid.

Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing.

Batchelor, whose first name is actually spelled “Marc”, played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana.

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture.

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of the Muvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that claimed the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. – GeekWire.co.za

And the best African city for women entrepreneurs is…

Women in business
An index backed by Dell Technologies has ranked the world's top 50 cities on how well they support women entrepreneurs. Image credit pxhere.com

Johannesburg has once again ranked among the top 50 cities in the world that supports Women Entrepreneurs.

Dell Technologies has announced the findings of its annual Women Entrepreneur Cities (WE Cities) Index – the only global, gender-specific study that looks at a city’s ability to foster the growth of women-owned businesses

Since 2017, all 50 cities improved on the majority of their indicators year-over-year and Johannesburg remains the leading African city for women entrepreneurs, followed by Nairobi.

Building on annual research since 2010, Dell ranks cities based on the impact of local policies, programs and characteristics in addition to national laws and customs to help improve support for women entrepreneurs and the overall economy. The study found an overall improvement for women looking to establish and build their own businesses but noted that there is still significant room for improvement.

“When we invest in women, we invest in the future. Communities prosper, economies thrive and the next generation leads with purpose,” said Karen Quintos, EVP and chief customer officer at Dell Technologies.

“By arming city leaders and policymakers with actionable, data-driven research on the landscape for women entrepreneurs, we can collectively accelerate the success of women-owned businesses by removing financial, cultural and political barriers.”

Building on 10 years of research on women entrepreneurs, Dell Technologies partnered with IHS Markit to research and rank 50 cities on five important characteristics, including access to Capital, Technology, Talent, Culture and Markets.

These pillars were organized into two groups: operating environment and enabling environment. The overall rating is based on 71 indicators, 45 of which have a gender-based component. Individual indicators were weighted based on four criteria: relevance, quality of underlying data, uniqueness in the index and gender component.

All 50 cities made progress since 2017, however, some cities made bigger strides than others and the race to the top inevitably left some cities behind.

Even though it dropped slightly in rankings, Johannesburg’s position at 36 is more indicative of the increasing competition to attract women entrepreneurs. It ranks ahead of numerous international hubs and overtakes Nairobi, the only other African city in the top 50.

Talent

Talent is one of Johannesburg’s strongest pillars. While the city ranked No.29 overall in 2019 for Talent, it was within the top 10 for women’s skill and experience overall.

The research found that 78% of students at top universities are women in Johannesburg. Women in Johannesburg also make up considerable amount of the labour force employed in professional services (67%) and IT (65%).

In addition, more than a quarter of company boards in Johannesburg have women on them, a distinction shared with London, Sydney and Tel Aviv. Johannesburg also ranked 9th for the best market in terms of operating environment.

From a city and national-level, policies for Culture, Technology and Markets have also been put in place to enable upward mobility for female entrepreneurs. These include Government goals for women-owned business procurement, policy for “equal remuneration for work of equal value”, policy for “non-discrimination based on gender in hiring”, presence of a paid maternity leave policy, and presence of open data initiatives.

“Johannesburg is a business powerhouse, both in Africa and across the world,” said Doug Woolley, Dell EMC SA’s general manager. “It’s also a giant melting-pot and is known for its cosmopolitan and progressive attitudes. These are some of the reasons why it is more attractive and welcoming to all entrepreneurs, including women.

“Its inclusion in the 2019 Women Entrepreneur Cities findings shows that significance, but it’s also a reminder that much more can be done. AT Dell Technologies, we’ll keep being part of that movement until Jozi is number one,” Woolley said. – GeekWire.co.za

Infographic supplied by Dell Technologies

Revealed: Africa’s top tech brand

Samsung Galaxy A70
Samsung,has been recognised as the continent's most admired tech brand. Picture of the Galaxy A70 smartphone supplied by Samsung

Samsung has been recognised as the most admired technology brand in the just released 7th annual Brand Africa 100: Africa’s Best Brands survey and ranking of brands across Africa.

The survey is billed by its organisers as the first and most comprehensive pan-African study and ranking of brands in Africa. Samsung was acknowledged as number 1 Most Admired Technology brand and third overall Most Admired Brand in Africa, across all categories.

“It’s always an honour to be recognised by the people we design our products for. This research validates our ongoing focus on creating products that empower Africans to do more. Samsung’s continued growth in Africa is fuelled by our commitment to be a part of the continent’s growth and prosperity,” said Dudu Mokholo, Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Central Africa.

The Brand Africa 100 list also recognised Samsung as the number one brand in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco as well as number three in Kenya.

The rankings are published annually in partnership with African Business Magazine and Brand Africa Partners.

 “Samsung’s relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation has resulted in products that are redefining the worlds of TVs, smartphones, wearable devices, tablets, cameras, digital appliance and other ground-breaking technological categories,” Mokholo said. – GeekWire.co.za

Connected cars and the revolutionary road of the future

connected cars
Autonomous cars are rapidly becoming a reality.

Image credit: mikemacmarketing CC BY 2.0

By Christophe Lepoivre

CONNECTED and autonomous cars have been in the works for years, but this futuristic technology is fast becoming a reality.

It’s not only in the technology-saturated environments of Silicon Valley, where you’re likely to see the automated cars of internet giants like Google and Uber prowling the streets. Across South Africa and the broader continent which lies beyond, connected cars are rapidly becoming not just a possibility, but a reality.

Some of this reality is thanks to simple consumer activity. Just last year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla cars will soon be available in South Africa; Tesla is, of course, widely regarded as the poster child for connected cars. Recent developments at Tesla include the announcement of ‘full’ Autopilot, which gives any such equipped car the ability to drive entirely on its own.

Reminiscent, some might say, of the 1980s TV show Knight Rider and his car KITT.

Blade Nzimande, former South African Minister of Transport, recently noted that while no self-driving cars were currently on South African roads, the government had plans to introduce them as soon as the necessary legislation framework had been created.

But beyond the availability of the vehicles themselves – which are being proven ‘on the road’, as it were, in areas including North America, Europe and Eurasia – there is something fundamental to the ability for connected cars to successfully operate. That fundamental is connectivity. Without good mobile networks, provided by mobile network operators, the connected car simply cannot exist.

And this is where there is good news for many regions in Africa. Thanks to competitive markets and consumers’ insatiable demand for connectivity, the penetration of high-speed mobile networks in multiple nations across the continent has rapidly outstripped terrestrial networks.

With 4G proven and in place, the next steps towards enabling connected and autonomous cars include increased coverage and upgrades to next generation 5G, capable of handling far greater data throughput. And in addition to connectivity, security remains a key issue in both development and deployment, especially given the complexity of the autonomous car itself.

Digitising Driving

Permanently connected cars already exist and they are challenging every notion we have ever had about car ownership, safety and insurance. The revolution is not only impacting the technology behind how cars are built but traditional ownership models are being challenged as the autonomous vehicle takes centre stage in smart, connected cities.

After all, a connected, autonomous car could be out ‘working’, doing ride shares while you relax. It could arrive just in time to take you to work, then transport someone else in the opposite direction. It could be insured at different rates depending on whether it’s in your garage or patrolling the streets with a passenger.

The digitisation of driving is the key driving force behind the connected car. Computers and sensors in car components, and on the roads themselves will assimilate sophisticated data changing everything from how we navigate and avoid traffic to how we find the nearest available parking spot. And central to the digitisation of driving is a system of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication which allows the car to communicate with the Internet, other vehicles, the road and traffic markers, and more.

When Audi wanted to launch LTE services in its popular A3 model, a Gemalto solution called Cinterion quickly made it happen. This custom solution provides LTE speeds to support a suite of embedded voice and data services, allowing one passenger to search online for the best nearby restaurant while another passenger calls for a reservation.

Embedded M2M technology also identifies individual vehicles, encrypts communications and ensure secure global connectivity for smart vehicle systems including emergency call solutions, vehicle telematics, navigation and more.

The role of IoT

The term Internet of Things (IoT) is often banded around, although adopting the technology regionally has presented challenges. Connected cars are not exempt, reliant as they are on high-speed internet connections for situational awareness. That awareness is greatly enhanced by traffic alerts, smart city grid information and a peer-to-peer understanding of other devices and vehicles around them; these feeds, in turn, rely heavily on IoT.

Artificial intelligence on board the vehicles (or in the cloud) can make decisions about routes and speeds, sharing details of the car’s location with other road users. All the features culminate in smarter, safer, self-driving cars that can trump their human counterparts.

Driver favourites such as Toyota and Lexus are already introducing these sorts of connected car capabilities to vehicles in the United States and other markets. Given the availability of the necessary networks practically everywhere in Africa, and the rapid development of IoT infrastructure, it is just a matter of time before connected cars arrive locally. In fact, in 2017 already, it was estimated that South Africa has as many as 100 000 such vehicles on its roads.

The Road to the Future

Christophe Lepoivre, VP Sales Africa, Mobile Connectivity Solutions at Gemalto. Image supplied by the company

In the near future, secure cloud-based service enablement and next generation features such as secure ID-based ignition, integrated NFC and mobile-wallet applications will contribute even further to convenience for drivers and passengers alike.

Tesla vehicles come with software “Autopilots”, Uber is piloting self-driving taxis with Volvo, Daimler and Embark have tested autonomous trucks, and the ability of a car to reverse park itself isn’t even a differentiating feature for luxury sedans anymore. 

The benefits of adopting autonomous vehicles on a widescale are plenty, from reducing transportation costs, carbon emissions and accidents, to saving hundreds of millions of hours wasted in conventional transportation.

So, when can you expect to step into an autonomous vehicle? Government effort, the continuous digital revolution driven by the telecoms operators and an eagerness to evolve the automotive industry all mean you could be driving on the revolutionary road to the future sooner than you think. – GeekWire.co.za

Christophe Lepoivre is VP Sales Africa, Mobile Connectivity Solutions at Gemalto.

Got a hankering for Pi?

Raspberry Pi 4 micro computer
The Raspberry Pi 4 is expected to go on sale in SA in September. Image credit Wikimedia.org

Micro-PC marvel headed for Mzansi

The Raspberry Pi 4 has been launched globally, but local fans of these revolutionary microcomputers will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on one.

RS Components South Africa has assured enthusiasts that once these latest offerings from the Raspberry Pi Foundation get Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) stamp of approval, they will be available to order.

The first of the fourth generation Raspberry Pi that will be available is the Pi 4 Model B. Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, said the latest offering was a comprehensive upgrade, touching almost every element of the platform.

“For the first time, we provide a PC-like level of performance for most users, while retaining the interfacing capabilities and hackability of the classic Raspberry Pi line.

“What’s changed with Raspberry Pi 4 is that, in addition to being a device for learning about computing, it’s also much more suitable than its predecessors for use as a general-purpose classroom computer,” Upton said.

Brian Andrew MD of RS Components South Africa said that he was excited to offer the latest Raspberry Pi to their customers.

“It is undeniable just how popular Raspberry Pi’s have become over the years. These microcomputers have come a long way and here in SA their popularity continues to grow. We are hard at work to make sure we get the Pi 4’s as soon as possible. We are just waiting for ICASA’s go ahead,” he said, adding that the company expected stock in September 2019.

This new operating system is based on the upcoming Debian 10 Buster release and delivers a modern user interface and updated Chromium 74 web browser. Other improvements include the adoption of the Mesa V3D graphics driver, which offers OpenGL-accelerated web browsing and the ability to run 3D applications in a window.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has also released new accessories for the Pi 4 Model B, including a new case, a USB Type-C power supply, a microUSB to USB Type-C adapter, and micro HDMI cables. Notable upgrades include Gigabit Ethernet, support for up to 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, dual-band Wi-Fi, as well as 4K60 hardware HEVC decode support.

Specifications

-Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz

-1GB, 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4-2400 SDRAM (depending on model)

-2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz IEEE 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0, BLE

-Gigabit Ethernet

-2 USB 3.0 ports; 2 USB 2.0 ports.

-Raspberry Pi standard 40 pin GPIO header (fully backwards compatible with previous boards)

-2 × micro-HDMI ports (up to 4kp60 supported)

-2-lane MIPI DSI display port

-2-lane MIPI CSI camera port

-4-pole stereo audio and composite video port

-H.265 (4kp60 decode), H264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode)

-OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics

-Micro-SD card slot for loading operating system and data storage

-5V DC via USB-C connector (minimum 3A*)

-5V DC via GPIO header (minimum 3A*)

-Power over Ethernet (PoE) enabled (requires separate PoE HAT)

-Operating temperature: 0 – 50 degrees C ambient – GeekWire.co.za

Why corporate SA isn’t in love with 4IR

IoT
A new study reveals SA corporates aren't overly enthusiastic about the fourth industrial revolution. Image credit Maxpixel.net

The technologies that make up the so-called fourth industrial revolution (4IR) have yet to be adopted with any enthusiasm by South African enterprises.

This is a core finding of a new research study entitled “Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa 2019: Enterprise uptake and expectations for emerging technologies,” conducted by World Wide Worx in partnership with SYSPRO.

The research delved into current and planned uptake of emerging business technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain.

“The most surprising finding was the lack of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence, despite the marketing hype that suggests every large business is embracing it,” said Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx and principal analyst on the 4IR research project. “Only 13% of corporate South Africa is currently using AI and, of the rest, 21% plan to adopt it in the next 12 to 24 months.”

A significant obstacle to adoption, the research reveals, is the cost of skills for implementing AI. Of those not using it, 43% cited cost as the key reason. Ironically, as awareness of AI grows in South Africa, enthusiasm seems to diminish.

Cost crunch

“Traditionally, intended uptake of new technologies shot up once education, awareness and knowledge increased,” said Goldstuck. “Now, however, we are seeing the flip side of the coin. A year ago, 63% of those not using AI said they planned to use it in the future, and not a single company cited cost as a reason not to do so. A year and much hype later, the market seems to have woken up to the realities of obstacles like skills and cost, and the proportion of those planning to use it has plunged.”

By contrast, robotics – in both hardware and software – has moved to the forefront of corporate strategy. A technology called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which automates business processes through software “bots”, has become readily and cheaply available from numerous service providers, resulting in a robotics boom.

“We were astonished when we sifted through the data,” said Goldstuck. “A year ago, only 6% of South African enterprises were using robotics. Then came the RPA explosion. Now the figure stands at 37%.”

The industry sectors that have adopted robotics most enthusiastically also reveal the contrast in use cases between hardware-and software-based automation. The sector with the highest uptake, Legal services – at a high 67% – is able to reap massive benefits from automating standard, routine and dull processes like searches for legal precedents. On the other hand, the next most active sector in robotics, Mining, is focused on hardware automation of both dangerous and routine processes, like drilling and sorting.

Law bots

“We’ve predicted for some time that the legal profession would be among the first to use AI and bots to take over and speed up routine tasks,” said Goldstuck. “This poses a challenge to the profession to allocate new roles to recent graduates that are the lifeblood of the industry. While this transition is under way, fewer positions will be available, and we will see a significant shift in skills requirements for entry-level positions. This, of course, is the fundamental challenge of the fourth industrial revolution.”

The uptake of emerging technologies varies dramatically across technology categories and industry sectors. Virtual and augmented reality is used by a little more than a third of enterprises, but intended usage among the rest falls to below 10%. Blockchain, the technology for distributed ledgers that validate every step in a transaction process, is currently used by fewer than 10% of respondents.

Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx . Image supplied

The one stand-out sector, in which South Africa leads the world, is the Internet of Things. The study revealed near-unanimous usage, with 92% of enterprises having adopted IoT. However, this is largely a factor of the ubiquity of vehicle tracking and fleet management technology, which began as telematics, and has evolved into a sub-category of IoT.

“The combination of high usage and a strong increase in current and planned usage of IoT technology shows corporates are getting returns from existing IoT implementations,” said Goldstuck. “As the technology becomes cheaper to obtain and operate, smaller companies will have the ability to compete in productivity with much larger corporates.”

This is one of the key benefits of such emerging technologies, the study suggests: once the skills requirements are addressed, they become a commodity that any organisation of any size, from start-up to giant corporation, can leverage equally. For now, however, companies are having to make cautious choices. This is revealed in the finding that a mere 3.1% of enterprises use a combination of robotics and AI. Of the rest, only 3.6% plan to do so.

“The report reveals quite dramatically the extent to which corporate South Africa seems to have a clear sense of what it needs and doesn’t need from the emerging technologies,” said Goldstuck. “The fourth industrial revolution will be cherry-picked, based on what will differentiate a business, rather than representing wholesale take-up of technologies for their own sake.” – GeekWire.co.za

Cybercrime: how to defend your organisation against today’s enterprise-grade attacks

Cybercrime image
Cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Image-credit-Nick-Youngson-ImageCreator

By Brian Pinnock

Email attacks are cheap, easy, low risk and high reward. And based on the recently launched 2019 State of Email Security Report, they are on the rise: 53% of South African companies saw an increase in phishing attacks containing malicious links or attachments in the past year, and 63% reported increases in impersonation fraud.

Not only is the volume of attacks increasing, they are becoming more sophisticated and the pace at which criminals are innovating is cause for immense concern. A single email breach can hit your revenue and reputation hard.

Protecting against this is not easy. The sheer number of emails that pass through an organisation each day complicates the process of securing yourself from email-borne threats. In fact, Mimecast’s latest Email Security Risk Assessment, an aggregated report of tests that measure the efficacy of widely used email security systems, found that many email attacks, ranging from opportunistic spam to highly targeted impersonation attacks, are getting through incumbent email security systems.

It found that 26,305,457 spam emails, 27,156 malware attachments, 55,190 impersonation attacks and 466,905 malicious URLS, were all missed by these incumbent providers and delivered to users’ inboxes.

Don’t underestimate the enemy

Are we – as business and IT leaders – sometimes guilty of underestimating cybercriminals? Thinking of them as lone thieves out to make a quick buck ignores the fact that cybercrime is now driven by criminal organisations that rival the drug trade in size and scope. It’s a well-oiled, thriving multinational criminal enterprise that is expected to cost the global economy $6 trillion by 2021.

According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) it costs South Africa R2.2-billion a year. In fact, South Africa currently has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, with mobile banking losses alone increasing by 100% over the past year, according to the latest SABRIC data.

Thinking of cybercriminals as part of complex business structures that rival your own helps you keep up with them more effectively. Rather than thinking of a clandestine hacker working out of a basement, you need to see it for what it is: a sophisticated, professional operation working out of an office tower, replete with systems, top talent, and a drive to succeed. And since cybercrime is a highly lucrative business, you can assume they’re well-funded too.

Understanding cyber risks

To strengthen your cyber resilience, you need to first understand what the cybersecurity risks are, and that cyber resilience starts with email. Email is the number one channel for breaching organisations’ defences. Phishing is the leading email attack type: fraudulent emails written under the guise of an important stakeholder, such as a bank, SARS, or regulator that solicits an unsafe action from the recipient, for example clicking on a seemingly innocuous link that exposes personal or company information or triggers a malware install.

These types of attacks are untargeted and rely on volume and human weaknesses to break through cyber defences. The amount of information we readily share online, and the speed at which we use internet-based services, leaves us exposed to clever tricksters.

Spear-phishing attacks are far more sophisticated. Emails are targeted at specific individuals or organisations for which the attacker has extensive information. Think of them as targeted ads for premium customers. There are significant increases in more sophisticated types of targeted attacks, such as impersonation fraud, recorded in South Africa.

Data from The State of Email Security Report shows that 38% of South African organisations saw an increase in impersonation fraud involving email-based spoofing of vendors or business partners asking for money, sensitive intellectual property, or login credentials. Thirty-three percent also saw an increase in impersonation fraud involving CEOs and other high-ranking company executives. Even the largest tech companies fall prey to this type of attack: workers at Facebook and Google fell for an impersonation fraud scam that nearly cost them $100 million (R1.4 billion).

Ransomware is one of the more well-reported types of attacks. The most worrying aspect of a ransomware outbreak is its tendency to disrupt entire organisations by freezing critical IT systems. It is a type of malware that locks victims out of their IT systems or data; to regain access, you need to pay a ransom.

What you need to ask yourself to protect yourself

You need to adopt a competitive mindset if you’re going to have any hope of staving off the myriad cybersecurity risks endangering your data – and your business. Think: how would someone make money from attacking your organisation?

What data or systems would fetch the highest ransom in the event of a successful attack? What is easiest to monetise on the black market?

Which employees hold the most financial power or influence? Who are their associates? How would you trick them into exposing sensitive information? How much information about them is available online, and can that information be used in the service of impersonation fraud?

Which systems, data or business process are absolutely essential to the organisation’s survival?

Which partners or suppliers have access to the organisation’s digital assets?

Once you can answer these questions, you can get to work on improving your cyber resilience. Starting with email, employ advanced security controls that include a modern, secure email gateway system instead of just an email security system that focuses purely on stopping spam or known types of malware. Threats are no longer just sent to all and sundry with a ‘hope-for-the-best’ attitude; cybercriminals are too clever for that. A standard email security system is not going to stop targeted threats.

Remember that security is a business problem more than it is an IT problem. Treat it as such. Understand the value of your data: after all, it’s the bargaining chip in every ransomware attack. Have powerful backup and recovery capabilities to restore systems and data quickly and with minimal interruption to the business. Are you patching your system vulnerabilities as soon as possible? Many attacks capitalise on unpatched systems. Abandon your old, unsupported operating systems and applications and never use pirated software.

Finally, remember that your employees are your last line of defence. Train them. Give them the knowledge and tools to spot and avoid cyber risks. Make security a critical part of your organisation’s culture.

Only 1% of South African organisations think end-user training and awareness is not important; and yet, only 63% have included end-user awareness in their cyber resilience strategies. Your employees are your most valuable resource; they become even more valuable when they are clever and cautious. – GeekWire.co.za

Brian Pinnock is a cybersecurity expert at Mimecast.