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Tech experts quit Govt broadband council

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At least three top independent technology experts have resigned from a national broadband council amid allegations of insufficient guidance from government, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.

The National Broadband Advisory Council was launched by former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim on March 4 2014, with the intention of tapping independent experts to support the department with policy implementation.

However, the council was subject to President Jacob Zuma’s decision in May 2014 to split the Department of Communications into two. This meant that the broadband council subsequently fell under the watch of Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

But the chairperson of the council, CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, as well as the deputy chairperson Professor Alison Gillwald, executive director of Research ICT Africa, handed in their resignations in December.

“It is indeed the case that Alison and I stepped down because of insufficient guidance from the minister (Cwele) and department regarding the perceived relevance of the council,” Sibisi told Fin24.

Amid these resignations, prominent local technology expert Arthur Goldstuck confirmed to Fin24 that he has also quit as a member of the council. It is unclear at this stage whether other council members will follow suit.

Council’s meetings dried up

Fin24 understands that members of the National Broadband Advisory Council were expected to meet every two months, and that a previous government gazette outlined that the council should bridge electoral cycles and administrations.

While Carrim attended the council’s first meeting with its members in 2014, Fin24 understands that Cwele did not attend any meetings of the broadband council in 2014 or 2015.

Fin24 also understands that there were no council meetings in 2015, especially after a National ICT Forum was established by Cwele in May last year.

“Under the new administration the department, now of telecommunications and post, was reluctant to engage the council and proceeded with broadband implementation without reference to it at all, and some would argue contrary to national policy,” Gillwald told Fin24.

“The minister has not been available since coming into office to meet with the council or in any other way to endorse its activities. This compounded the department’s lack of responsiveness to council requests for information, meeting coordination and records, making the work of the council untenable,” Gillwald said.

Gillwald said that efforts to incorporate the council into the newly established National ICT Forum resulted in no feedback from the department.

The National ICT Forum was established by Cwele with the intention of coordinating efforts among public and private players in the broader sector.

“With the appointment of the National ICT Forum last year by the minister of post and telecommunications, the chairperson of the broadband council, Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, and I felt that the role of the council to advise the minister of broadband developments and anticipate global and national developments at least, could be incorporated into a body that enjoyed his and his advisers’ confidence and proposed that the council be formally disbanded having not met by then for nearly a year,” Gillwald told Fin24.

Council barely “got going”

Managing director of local technology research firm World Wide Worx Arthur Goldstuck told Fin24 that Carrim’s establishment of the broadband council in 2014 was one of the most “productive” moves seen in the sector for years.

But after President Jacob Zuma’s splitting of the departments in May 2014, the relevance of the council began to wane,

“It had barely got going when the departments were split. We still met a few times after that but without the new minister in attendance,” Goldstuck told Fin24.

“And in the course of 2015, the broadband council never met,” Goldstuck said.

Amid the growing lack of relevance and non-response by government, Goldstuck also quit the council.

“It was incumbent on me to resign, especially considering that I had been contemplating it. I think that the sentiment expressed by Alison (Gillwald) and Sibusiso (Sibisi) pretty much encompass the experience of most of the members of the council,” Goldstuck told Fin24.

“It really becomes an untenable position to hold,” he said.

Goldstuck further said that the council is essentially “non-existent”.

“If there’s no platform for it to communicate with the minister or to the minister, then in effect it doesn’t exist. It exists on paper but not in practice,” Goldstuck said.

Fin24 reached out to the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services for comment but at the time of writing had not yet received a response.

Fin24

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http://www.fin24.com/Tech/News/exclusive-tech-experts-quit-govt-broadband-council-20160114

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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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