Local social network Mxit said on Friday that it is shutting down its commercial operations and donating all of its intellectual property and technology assets to independent public benefit organisation ‘The Reach Trust’, report DUNCAN ALFREDS and GARETH VAN ZYL.
Mxit reported in 2013 that its monthly active user base was 7.5 million that year. But this figure has dropped to just 1.2 million monthly active users in July 2015, according to a Mxit statement on Friday.
Mxit, in its statement, said its application would still be available to the public as a download.
But as part of the deal, Mxit chief executive Francois Swart will depart after three years in charge. Almost 30 Mxit staff will also be transferred to The Reach Trust under CEO Andrew Rudge and ex-FNB CEO Michael Jordaan, who has been the chairperson of Mxit, will not be actively involved with the operations of The Reach Trust.
As part of the change Mxit will also exit its India and Nigeria businesses.
The Reach Trust has been providing free services such as text-based counselling and education initiatives to up to 10 million people since 2012.
“Whilst Mxit overall has seen a decline in activity and engagement over the past 18 months, the use of services offered by The Reach Trust on Mxit has been stable and in many cases show an upward trend,” Swart said in the statement.
Mxit’s fall as a commercial service has come amid intense competition from international offerings such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
WhatsApp has over 10 million users in South Africa while Facebook has 13 million users in the country, according to recent research from World Wide Worx and Fuseware.
“We’ve seen the last throw of the Mxit dice,” Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, told Fin24 on Friday.
“The social platform that introduced South Africans to instant messaging has seen a precipitous drop at a time when most other networks have climbed,” he added.
Goldstuck further told Fin24 that Mxit’s fall in user numbers started with the emergence of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) about five years ago.
Ex-Mxit staff react
Mxit CEO Francois Swart was not available for comment on Friday but one former staff member at the company has expressed his view on the social network’s announcement.
“We were incredibly passionate about what we were doing and what Mxit meant to millions of South Africans over the years. It’s hard not to see the final shut down as a personal failure and I know many of my former colleagues feel the same way,” David Luis, former head of internal communications at Mxit, told Fin24.
He said that the company believed it was prepared for the arrival of smartphone technology.
“We were never unaware of the threat of smartphones, but I personally believe that we were totally unprepared for how soon a cheap smartphone like the (MTN) Steppa would arrive, and the degree to which it would take over the feature phone market.
“The success of those cheap smartphones I believe put Mxit – sitting without a decent version for smartphones – on a downward spiral that was impossible to come back from, despite the massive effort of the team.”
The Reach Trust, though, has expressed how it is looking forward to using Mxit’s technology with a number of education projects planned in South Africa over the next year.
More than 500 000 learners access educational apps on the platform every month, according to Mxit’s statement.
“With the power of mobile technology in the hands of almost everyone in the country, we believe that it is critical to extend and expand the access to mobile content and services to accelerate social and economic change,” said Andrew
Rudge, CEO of The Reach Trust, in a statement.
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.
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.
Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry
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.