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Data falls for students

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With the ongoing protests at universities around South Africa, Telkom, Cell C and MTN have made moves to provide free access to tuition websites.

Many institutions have had to make alternative plans to continue the academic year. Many universities have made lecture and study material available online while campuses are not able to be accessed by students. This may result in further anxiety for students who may already be surviving on the smallest of stipends, and must now find additional funds to purchase the data needed to access the materials they require to continue their studies.

“Our universities and institutions are key to empowering South Africans and creating growth in this country,” said Sipho Maseko, Group CEO, Telkom. “We at Telkom believe it is essential that students are able to continue their studies despite the current political climate.”

Telkom is offering a solution which will enable universities to allow free access to academic content for students, even if they have run out of data or airtime. Telkom’s Reverse Bill URL service allows students using a Telkom mobile prepaid or postpaid SIM card to access content on a university website without paying for data consumption. Students accessing academic material via Telkom ISP will also benefit from free data as Telkom already zero rates this traffic.

Under normal circumstances, mobile data usage would then be reverse billed back to the institution – similar to the reverse-charges phone calls of previous years. However, during this critical period, Telkom has taken a decision to waive the data consumption costs until the end of the academic year. Students who need to work off site can therefore do so even without the need to fund these costs themselves.

“We hope that this small contribution on our part will assist students to complete the academic year as we work together to build an equitable system for all,” says Maseko.

Telkom is reaching out to academic institutions throughout South Africa to implement this solution.  Students will be able to buy and Rica SIM cards from Telkom stores, national chains and participating dealers.

Meanwhile, Cell C will offer students from universities across the country free access to university websites in a bid to assist them to access course material necessary to complete the year.

“We know students are facing a tough time at the moment, and many need to gain access to course material through their university’s online portal in order to complete their academic year. Zero-rating access is our way of assisting students,” says Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos.

Cell C is in the process of contacting universities and will implement a reverse bill on their website URLs. Cell C will absorb the cost to allow students to access academic content for free. This means that even if students are off campus, they will be able to access the university website at no cost. A list of the participating institutions will be updated and published on Cell C’s website.

“Cell C will ensure that this service is available to students until the end of the academic year,” says Dos Santos.

This service will complement the free basic internet services, including Wikipedia and other information-based sites, that are already available exclusively to Cell C’s customers free of charge through Facebook’s FreeBasics (Internet.org).

Students from participating universities, with a Cell C SIM card, will be able to make use of the service.

MTN announced that it will allow university students free access to university websites in order to access online content. To date, students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of Pretoria will benefit from this initiative.

MTN is appealing to other institutions of higher learning to tap into this initiative by providing their URL addresses.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, MTN took the decision to provide free access to online educational content in order to complement existing classroom training, leverage the benefits of online training and assist the students and academic institutions to salvage the 2016 academic year.  As MTN, we are mindful of the backlog that students and academic institutions are facing, and we believe that this gesture will help to maintain continuity and expedite access to much-needed educational content,” says Mteto Nyati, Chief Executive Officer: MTN South Africa.

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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