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How public sector can make the most of Big Data

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The South African public sector is seeing the value in the analysis of Big Data. With enhanced service delivery in mind, there has never been a better time for it to invest in suitable IT infrastructure, writes GARY DE MENEZES, NetApp Country Manager for Southern Africa.

Now that the dust around the local elections has settled, the spotlight will be on the various municipalities to prove that they are worthy of the public’s votes.  Enhanced service delivery will no doubt be top-of-mind for all South Africans. One of the key approaches that government can adopt to meet their campaign promises is by making the most of the significant volume of data that they have.

There’s no doubt that the amount of data at our disposal is increasing every year. IT departments, including those of the public sector, have to be equipped to handle this volume. While smart cities present a huge opportunity to enhance metropolises, and provide considerable information about their inhabitants, the data they create needs to be properly managed and IT infrastructure must be robust.

This infrastructure needs to be able to integrate existing enterprise storage silos so that all data within the organisation can be processed. In addition, many companies use different storage tiers, such as disk and Flash, and use resources from the cloud. Here, integration is key to make sure all of the different platforms are optimised and working together. Cloud technologies enable the public sector to be citizen-centric, as they lend themselves to customisation, agility and effectiveness. In addition, the cloud enables new services and flexible scaling.

Many municipalities also collect a lot of private data on behalf of their constituents. Certain levels of domestic and international data storage and compliance standards therefore need to be adhered to, as the public sector can become a popular target due to the nature of the data it has. Losing this information would have a severe impact, losing trust and misusing tax money.

There are various levels of risk pertaining to different types of data, which will influence the IT infrastructure solution that public sector organisations should choose with regards to on-premises versus cloud. In any case, as a prudent IT strategist, each CIO requires airtight security and complete control over data, at all times. Organisations are searching for the right blend of availability, security, and efficiency. The answer lies in achieving the perfect balance of on-premises, private cloud, and public services to match IT and business requirements.

One of the suitable solutions for implementing a multi-cloud infrastructure for big data is NetApp’s Data Fabric concept. Organisations can use cloud resources from different vendors, while retaining full control over their data. The use of cloud resources puts IT departments in a position to integrate the most powerful data analysis engines without investing big money in a new on-premises IT infrastructure.

The technologies from NetApp support enterprise-wide data management and create a link between on-premises systems and resources from the public cloud. As a result, organisations achieve high flexibility in the use of their IT resources and can move data and workloads across all resources. This creates the basis for the efficient infrastructure that is necessary for big data projects that build the foundation for open data initiatives and enable smarter cities.

If a suitable IT infrastructure can be implemented to cope with the huge influx of data from smart cities, then it will have the ability to transform the way South Africa’s public sector organisations operate and what they are capable of doing in future.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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