Big data and analytics took centre stage on the second day of the 10th annual GovTech conference currently underway in Durban.
In a keynote address, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize said that government has access to an increasing amount of data – spatial, location, and that accumulated by citizens daily.
This, she said, will be used to deliver services to our people. As emphasised throughout the sessions at GovTech, information systems allow government to design evidence-based policies, implement them and achieve rapid outcomes.
“We are about rapid outcomes now,” she stated, commenting that while policies had been good to date, government had not had the tools to ensure that, when it comes to implementation, beneficiaries could concur that policy is on the right track.
“Big data is starting to feature in all high level meetings,” she said. “Those of you who followed the UN meeting in September will know ICT was identified as an anchor of the post-2015 agenda as we move to the African Union 2063 agenda of development. It puts us at the centre of a new revolution of coming up with outcomes that will put SA and the continent on the right path.”
Mkhize added: “There are issues of making public policy much clearer and firmer as we talk about big data. We are in an era of unprecedented opportunities. The world’s capacity to compute and store information is growing rapidly, as awareness of the benefits increase there is likely to be an increase of public debate on the balance of the benefits versus the challenges. It is a question of analysing and understanding it to be better informed as policymakers.”
Cyril Voison, chief security officer at Microsoft Middle East and Africa said that the dependence on technology is rising, and if we want to deliver on the promises of innovation and technology, need to ensure safety in everything we do.
“The security landscape has changed a lot,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a revolution of cyber-threats. We’re seeing cyber espionage and cyber warfare, although it is in its infancy, the US Department of Defence said the US is threatened by destructive and disruptive attacks by nation states and non-state actors. We’re also seeing cyber terror, for example, Sony was blackmailed not to publish a movie under threat of a data breach. This is just the beginning of what it could be.”
National cyber-security policies, he said, need to be based on sound principles, including the principle of managing but not avoiding risk, being outcomes focussed rather than dictatorial so that people can be innovative in complying, by prioritising critical infrastructure, ensuring policy is practicable, respectful of privacy and civil liberties, and based on existing international standards.
GovTech is being held at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban and is expected to attract up to 2 000 delegates over the course of the three-day event.
The theme for the landmark 10th annual GovTech conference is Partnering For Service Delivery, with a sub-theme of Connecting Communities For Development And Growth.
Samsung unleashes the beast
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)
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.
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.