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Shared services to drive municipal service delivery

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With pressure mounting on the government to reduce costs while improving governance and service delivery, there is an opportunity for municipalities to streamline their operations by adopting a shared services model.

During the recent 2016 Budget Speech, the emphasis was placed on the growing pressure faced by municipalities from both the rising cost of bulk services and the rapidly growing number of households. These pressures can, however, be mitigated through better coordination and shared resources. This is the view of Modise Nyawane, Managing Executive: LARA at Business Connexion.

“It makes no sense for each municipality to replicate their technology infrastructure purchases,” he says. “Municipalities can significantly reduce cost and improve efficiency by adopting a shared services model. In addition, to that, it will increase service delivery, transparency and ultimately citizen satisfaction.”

Nyawane says that by moving infrastructure to a central location and having a core team in place, there is less of a risk of billing delays. “Consolidation removes fragmentation and if your core responsibility is to do month-end runs, you do so across municipalities. This will be particularly important where there is high staff turnover – if your core functions are centralised, you will still have the required expertise to support the environment should someone leave. However, in the current environment, should someone within the billing department, leave, that job is left undone. Thereby impacting on the overall billing process and ultimately the municipality’s performance.”

He does, however, add that a change in mind-set will be required for this to succeed. “While it makes complete sense to centralise your infrastructure and core functions, there is still a level of hesitation from within the local government. We are often faced with the argument that they are happy to have their own server environment, giving them more control. The risk associated with this is, if the server crashes, the municipality comes to a complete standstill. In some instances, it could take months to replace the server,  with a huge impact on the municipality and its ability to deliver on its mandate.”

Another challenge facing municipalities is that of a shortage of the required specialised skills. “Municipalities are governed by the very specific financial legislature which requires an in-depth knowledge of the business of a municipality,” says Nyawane. “Here technology and consulting go hand in hand in ensuring that the municipality can execute on their financial obligations.”

Modernising municipalities’ infrastructure and digitising some of their operations can have a significant impact on their billing and ability to operate more effectively. “In order for us to make the vision of smart cities a reality, municipalities will have to invest in infrastructure and technology that support them in their digitising efforts. They don’t, however, need to carry the burden as an individual unit. If these solutions are rolled out at a metropolitan or even district level, providing shared services to the smaller local municipalities, the impact they have will be much bigger,” he says. “It will enable all municipalities within that district or metropolitan to deliver the same quality of services to their citizens. This resulting in driving down the cost of service delivery and improving overall transparency,” says Nyawane.

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Bring your network with you

At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.

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In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.

Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.

“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.

The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.

Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.

“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.

He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”

By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.

The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.

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Kaspersky moves to Switzerland

As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.

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This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.

Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world

The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.

The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.

Relocation of customer data storage and processing

By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.

Relocation of software assembly

Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Establishment of the first Transparency Center

The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.

Independent supervision and review

Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.

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