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#feescanfall – if we embrace tech

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The time has come for all parties involved in the #feesmustfall debacle to take a step back, take a deep breath and consider the fact that the answer is staring them right in the face, writes EUGENE BEETGE, MD of Tuit.

I’m not saying that they haven’t considered the role technology-assisted distance education can play in making tertiary education more affordable, but I’ve heard no mention of it in recent reporting on the situation.  The focus is clearly on how Government is expected to subsidise tertiary education and how Universities are going to make a subsidised budget work with no or little tuition income being generated.

I’ve been a technology entrepreneur for many years, with a major focus on technology supported education, and as a spectator to the #feesmustfall situation, I believe it’s time for like-minded individuals and entrepreneurs to say #feescanfall, by shifting the focus from traditional brick and mortar institutions to virtual classrooms, libraries and student-lecturer interactions.

TUIT has been working with various universities, students, lecturers and entrepreneurial suppliers to the education sector for a couple of years, and we have developed, implemented and tested a solution that can play a major role in the reduction of the cost of tertiary education in South Africa.

One of the biggest hurdles I face on a daily basis is convincing the relevant role-players that their biggest assets are not buildings, sports facilities or residences.  Their biggest assets are knowledge, content, lecturers and most importantly its brand!

Through capitalising on the opportunity that is technology-supported education, tertiary institutions can significantly increase their teaching capacity, which increases revenue.  It will also reduce overheads linked to running and maintaining physical campuses.  The equation is simple and the reduction in tuition costs substantial.

So why has this model not been rolled out on a much larger scale?  Mainly due to the natural resistance of an older generation to embrace technology.  Thinking out of the box or being open to the disruptive practices of technology is just too far out of their comfort zone.

Having spent most of 2016 engaging with various universities, colleges and lecturers, as well as presenting many workshops on technology-assisted learning, the overwhelming obstacle remains the traditional doctrine that lecture rooms are the only way to educate.

TUIT has demonstrated that existing educational content can be repurposed and that students can be engaged in an interactive enrolment journey without the dependence on a physical campus.  And this is where technology-supported education would have enabled students who are desperate to complete their academic year, to prepare for their final exams without the threat #feesmustfall is posing.

This is not a “let’s shut down campuses and put all our courses online” solution either.  Universities will still need to maintain its brand and reputation through the quality of the content and the lecturer that presents it.  Student interaction and support will remain key to the success of any model, and campuses will probably continue to operate in a traditional manor on some level for many more years.  But physical campuses are limited in its capacity and is expensive to run.

The concept of disintermediation is a subject very close to my heart, and is reflected in every aspect of our business and the solutions we provide.  In short, it addresses the role of the middleman between the supplier and the consumer.  It is not the replacement of the middleman in the supply chain, but rather the upgrading of the middleman to shorten the supply chain, leading to a more streamlined process and an improved end-user experience.

If universities and even government can envisage the impact of disintermediation brought about by technology, creating a roadmap to affordable tertiary education, should not be such a challenge.  Through digitisation, business automation, location independence and the real-world application of disintermediation, online learning content can be available worldwide, creating student enrolment journeys, lecturer involvement and significant savings for students.

University brand recognition will be key in the future, not geographical placement or infrastructure.  Who will be first to take real steps towards embracing innovation, not just testing the waters with a few short courses, but really putting technology-supported education front and centre in their strategy for the future?

If there are a few trailblazers amongst the powers that be, that is willing to challenge the status quo, #feescanfall!

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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