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How Wi-FI can benefit law

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The Internet of Things is changing the way we work and once the new ecosystem is completely connected, many businesses will benefit – including law enforcement, says RIAAN GRAHAM, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa.

The internet of things (IoT) is challenging the way we live and work, and how government and businesses interact. In fact, this new eco-system is creating the foundational building blocks for smart cities where traditional models of service delivery are being challenged. While the move towards ‘smart’ is slow as infrastructure and connectivity needs to be deployed to truly drive an interconnected eco-system, for those that are moving towards a more mature model, the benefits are undeniable across all services – including law enforcement.

If we look at today’s judiciary system, often, judges have to rely on alternative links as GSM connectivity is not always possible due to various technical challenges. Use of a Wi-Fi hotspot could result in easy, quicker access to legal and other information, that could be critical in a trial. This could have a significant impact on the productivity of the court.

This fast and reliable Wi-Fi has the added benefit of providing journalists with the means to file stories sooner and get breaking news out more efficiently. Consider also the potential of providing legal teams who might not have the resources of larger firms with online access to research that can assist in their preparations.

Suddenly, technology becomes an equaliser with those legal professionals coming from underprivileged communities having internet connectivity they might not have otherwise had to refine their case work. But these benefits extend beyond the parameters of the court.

Police stations often have to rely on expensive satellite access to file reports and stay updated on various legal and security matters. Creating a network of Wi-Fi hotspots that not only cover the police station, but key areas of the community, could provide a much-needed boost to reducing crime. Additionally police officers in the field can be fitted with hidden cameras on their uniform as well as a dashboard camera in the police car – providing accurate evidence of incidents that can be helpful in a trial.

Such a Wi-Fi network gives community members an opportunity to engage more directly with local police and send out alerts on any criminal activity they might witness or even call for medical services when seconds matter. Extending this Wi-Fi access to a community centre provides additional opportunities for education, employment, and even the enhancement of existing crime watch programmes.

Wi-Fi will give police in these communities the capability to check on suspect IDs and vehicle license plates more effectively and cheaper than before. This also means that police officers who roam the neighbourhoods can leverage VoIP services to create community-wide alerts should the need arise.

Even Metro police officers can benefit from Wi-Fi connectivity during their road-side campaigns. By equipping them with this additional functionality, real-time information on traffic, accidents, and other activities can be monitored online. It also means regional offices will be able to determine where best to send resources during peak travel times.

Streamlining the processing of information, filing of reports, responding to community queries, and engaging with officers in the field are all valuable enhancements brought about with the availability of Wi-Fi.

As we have seen from consumer and business perspectives, Wi-Fi access empowers us  to find different ways of doing things. Having access to the internet and all the related information it provides leads to a smart way of doing things and helps government embrace the concept of smart cities. Even in sectors of the market where Wi-Fi has not been typically seen as necessary, it is incredible what innovation this connectivity can unlock.

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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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