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Free Internet for students

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Having already zero rated the charge to key basic education sites and career portals, Vodacom has taken a decision to zero rate services to universities for students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers.

The cost to communicate in South Africa has been a hot topic in recent times, given the impact of the economic slowdown on the South African consumer and global trends on the cost of data.

In response to this, Vodacom’s pricing transformation strategy, anchored by personalised packages aimed at giving customers greater value, has over the last four years produced a reduction in the price of data and voice by more than 60% and 57% respectively. Vodacom acknowledges that more needs to be done to enable South Africans to enjoy social benefits of connectivity and associated costs. We remain committed to addressing data cost transformation and building on our Siyakha platform that offers zero-rated portals for school learners and job seekers.

Having already zero rated the charge to key basic education sites and career portals, Vodacom has taken a decision to zero rate services to universities for students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers. This in a bid to help address cost challenges associated with access to education content and remote learning for institutions of higher learning. Through this approach, Vodacom has already enabled 19 of the 23 South African Universities, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), with free internet access.

Dr Max Price, UCT Vice-Chancellor, said students and other eligible users will have access to the free service. Free internet access to students and staff has until now only been accessible through the Eduroam Wi-Fi platform that can only be accessible within the vicinity of the university and its residences.

Dr Max Price, UCT Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University of Cape Town is grateful to Vodacom for providing such an important resource to our students and staff. The service will be very useful to our students in that it will enable them to do their work off-campus without worrying about data costs or without having the need to travel to campus.”

In the case of UCT, The sites will be accessible through the agreed uniform resource locators (URL), internet protocols (IP) and ports which will provide addresses to particular pages and files on the internet. The identified addresses will include UCT’s website http://www.uct.ac.za, the online library http://www.lib.uct.ac.za, and other important classroom and general interactive university sites.

For requirements over and above the zero rated content, Vodacom has launched an e-rate i.e. billing all data traffic to agreed sites at 50% of the normal data rates for all universities.

Vodacom Managing Executive for Western Cape Region, Alberts Breed says: “This intervention is a demonstration of Vodacom’s core belief that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and mobile technology can be utilised to improve and advance learning, address skills development and help in finding employment.

Breed says: “Many learners in our country often cannot afford and don’t have access to learning material such as textbooks, which makes excelling at school more difficult. As an investor in the country and an established partner in addressing social challenges, Vodacom’s goal is to contribute to ensuring that learners throughout the country have access to some of the educational tools to help enhance their learning experience.”

He emphasised that education is not just a government issue, but the private sector and the general public are to play a pivotal roles in providing access to higher education and further education and training.

Other Vodacom zero rated sites include:

• The Mobile Education programme, which is Vodacom’s holistic approach to ensuring sustainable benefit to educators and learners by providing Internet connectivity, ICT equipment, content and teacher training through 92 ICT centres across the country.

• Vodacom Tries for Books campaign. The programme is an educational content application, which is freely available on tablets at the 92 Vodacom ICT resource centres that are situated across the country. The e-library has been up loaded with e-books made available by publishing partners including Via Afrika, Oxford University Press, Shuter & Shooter and FunDza. Internet connectivity and access to the e-libraries is free.

• In a bid to help address skills development and job creation within the ICT sector, Vodacom together with its partners, MICT-Seta, Cisco, CompTia, Microsoft and Independent Development Trust (IDT) and Cisco embarked on a drive to help empower unemployed youth with ICT skills training. The partnership trains unemployed youth in ICT skills and helps further develop them into ICT entrepreneurs. To date, 923 trainees have gained basic computer skills, IT essentials, enterprise development and business skills through the programme.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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