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.
Samsung unfolds the future
At the #Unpacked launch, Samsung delivered the world’s first foldable phone from a major brand. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tried it out.
Everything that could be known about the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range, launched on Wednesday in San Francisco, seems to have been known before the event.
Most predictions were spot-on, including those in Gadget (see our preview here), thanks to a series of leaks so large, they competed with the hole an iceberg made in the Titanic.
The big surprise was that there was a big surprise. While it was widely expected that Samsung would announce a foldable phone, few predicted what would emerge from that announcement. About the only thing that was guessed right was the name: Galaxy Fold.
The real surprise was the versatility of the foldable phone, and the fact that units were available at the launch. During the Johannesburg event, at which the San Francisco launch was streamed live, small groups of media took turns to enter a private Fold viewing area where photos were banned, personal phones had to be handed in, and the Fold could be tried out under close supervision.
The first impression is of a compact smartphone with a relatively small screen on the front – it measures 4.6-inches – and a second layer of phone at the back. With a click of a button, the phone folds out to reveal a 7.3-inch inside screen – the equivalent of a mini tablet.
The fold itself is based on a sophisticated hinge design that probably took more engineering than the foldable display. The result is a large screen with no visible seam.
The device introduces the concept of “app continuity”, which means an app can be opened on the front and, in mid-use, if the handset is folded open, continue on the inside from where the user left off on the front. The difference is that the app will the have far more space for viewing or other activity.
Click here to read about the app experience on the inside of the Fold.
Password managers don’t protect you from hackers
Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…
Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).
“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”
In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass. ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.
Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite.
Click here to read the findings from the report.