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Africa-Fi earns global prize

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Afri-Fi: Free Public Wi-Fi was recently announced as the runner-up in Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, with a funding award of US$75,000.

With this global competition, Mozilla called for creative and scalable ideas to provide affordable access to the full diversity of the open internet.

Mozilla offered awards totaling US$250,000 in funding and expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market. It received 100 submissions from 27 countries. The final shortlist of best five entries was chosen by a panel of expert Judges from around the world.

Afri-Fi: Free Public Wi-Fi is an extension of Project Isizwe, where 2.9 million users can access 500MB of free daily Wi-Fi data. The key goal of Afri-Fi is to create a sustainable business model by linking together free Wi-Fi networks throughout South Africa and engaging users meaningfully with advertisers so they can “earn” free Wi-Fi.

“The team has proven how their solution for a free internet is supporting thriving communities in South Africa,” concluded Marlon Parker, Founder of Reconstructed Living Labs, on behalf of the jury. “Their approach towards community building, partnerships, developing local community entrepreneurs and inclusivity, with a goal of connecting some of the most marginalized communities, are all key factors in why they deserve this recognition and are leading the free Internet movement in Southern Africa.”

Tim Genders, COO of Project Isizwe, said: “The divide between rich and poor is being defined as your ability to access the Internet. Free Wi-Fi allows everyone to gain access. Free Wi-Fi allows the poor to play on the same field as the rich. Free Wi-Fi removes the barriers to education, social inclusion, skills development and job applications. In short, free Wi-Fi empowers.

Our next steps are to make free Wi-Fi scalable and self-sustaining through an advertising model. We want to make free Wi-Fi the new medium to get messages out to communities.”

The Overall Winner of the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge and receiving US$125,000 in funding is Mumbai-based Project Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband. Gram Marg utilizes unused white space on the TV spectrum to backhaul data from village Wi-Fi clusters to provide broadband access (frugal 5G). The team of academics and field workers around Professor Abhay Karandikar, Dean (Faculty Affairs) and Institute Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, leverages what people already have in their homes, and creates rugged receivers and transmitters to connect villages in even the most difficult terrains. The solution has been rolled out as a pilot in 25 villages so far.

The Most Novel award, worth US$30,000, went to Bruno Vianna and his team from the Free Networks P2P Cooperative in Brazil. Rather than focusing on technology, the Coop has created a financial and logistical model that can be tailored to different villages’ respective norms and community. The team experiments with ways to engage communities through “barn-raising” group activities, deploying “open calls” for leadership to reinforce the democratic nature of their approach, and instituting a sense of “play” for the villagers when learning how to use the equipment.

Following the announcement, Katharina Borchert, Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla, said in a blog post: “Mozilla started this initiative because we believe in the power of collaborative solutions to tackle big issues. We wanted to take action and encourage change. At Mozilla, our commitment to Equal Rating through policy, innovation, research, and support of entrepreneurs in the space will continue beyond this Innovation Challenge, but it will take a global community to bring all of the internet to all people.”

Mozilla, the non-profit organization behind the open source browser Firefox, launched the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge in October 2016 as part of its endeavor to help catalyse new thinking and innovation for providing open internet access to communities living without it.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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