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Technology that shines a light in the face of load shedding

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Load shedding is going to be with us for some time in the future, and with it comes endless inconveniences, for both citizens and businesses. ELAINE WANG of Rectron discusses how companies can use technology to stay connected and operational during load shedding.

Load shedding is set to be part of our lives in South Africa for the foreseeable future, bringing with it inconvenience and expense for all citizens, not to mention the business landscape.

While the digital environment we operate in and rely on brings with it significant benefits for doing business, without power it can be quite the stumbling block. And while big businesses may be able to absorb the costs of generators to keep operations up and running, small and medium sized businesses can find themselves in a more vulnerable position, with some resorting to shutting down until the power is back up.

However, making use of the tools at our disposal in the digital age can mean the difference between staying connected and being cut off when the lights go out.

Staying mobile

In the age of mobility and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), it’s commonplace for employees to make use of their own devices and to work wherever, whenever.

While big businesses may have the budgets to be more mobile ready, it pays SMBs to embrace this trend. Portable devices like laptops and tablets don’t have to cost the earth, and mean employees can keep working as long as their devices’ battery life allows. Investing in a cloud productivity service like Office 365 means they can access Office across their devices, wherever they can connect to the internet – perhaps there’s a coffee shop with power down the road ideally suited to a productive few hours of work while the lights are out at the office.

Of course, when working with portable devices, it pays to invest in devices with long battery life, such as Lenovo’s Yoga range, which boast up to 18 hours between charges, and to maintain the battery for optimal performance. It’s also essential to have an outlet to charge the devices, whether this is a UPS or even portable power packs that can charge a device on the go.

Keeping connected

If we’re considering a more portable way of life when it comes to devices in the workplace, then it makes just as much sense to untether from ‘traditional’ internet connectivity. While the majority of South African small businesses use ADSL to connect to the internet (World Wide Worx SME Survey 2015), this only works when the power is on. The solution here is to consider mobile data, which can allow employees to continue working on their mobile devices or even create a mobile hotspot to stay connected.

Working in the cloud

We’ve already mentioned the benefits of Office 365 as a means of accessing Office from anywhere. Taking this a step forward, investing in public cloud computing like Microsoft Azure means businesses can run their servers in the cloud, housing all company email, documents and applications offsite. Aside from saving money on expensive infrastructure that many small businesses can ill afford, the benefit of going this route is that when the lights go out, productivity doesn’t have to come to a halt. The combination of having staff using mobile devices, equipped with mobile data and still able to access their emails and important documents is essential for small businesses to ensure that load shedding doesn’t become a deal breaker.

The power of the battery

There are certain office functions that cannot be housed in the cloud or moved to a mobile device. One such function is printing. Battery operated multi-function printers offer a great solution, allowing for businesses to print, scan, fax and copy without having to find the nearest printing shop and rack up unnecessary expenses. Ricoh’s SG3120B SFNw printer is a great example, as it can operate on external power for day-to-day use, and automatically switches to battery power in the case of a power cut.

Keeping business going

When we hear the words ‘load shedding’, most of us immediately worry about loss of productivity, data and business. Technology can be a stumbling block if we rely on plugging in to stay connected. However, by altering the way we work in the digital age, not only can we stay connected in the face of load shedding, but we can actually save money and improve productivity in the long run. Finding solutions that promote employees working anywhere, anytime; moving to the cloud; and investing in the right technology can be the difference between fading into the dark or shining as a successful business – regardless of size.

* Elaine Wang, Group Microsoft Business Unit Manager, Rectron.

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SA consumers buy 3.2m smartphones in Q1

Smartphone sales in South Africa grew by 12.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, reaching around 3.2 million units for the period.

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However, the value of the smartphone segment increased by 22.8% as sales of entry-level devices to low- and mid-income consumers continued to drive the market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

GfK South Africa’s data reveals that telecommunications retail enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenue growing 22.4% year-on-year. The growing popularity of phablets and higher unit prices (as a result of a weaker rand) helped to drive this increase in revenue, against a backdrop of low or negative growth in many segments of the consumer technology market.

“The mobile device market showed good growth in the quarter, despite rising prices during the period under review,” says Norman Muzhona, Solutions Specialist for Telecommunications at GfK South Africa. “In addition to the exchange rate, the introduction of popular, new mid-tier devices by several leading vendors helped to drive higher retail revenues in the telecoms market.”

Information technology retail revenues for the quarter contracted 4.8% compared to 2017, largely because of decreasing monitor prices and a 38.9% decline in tablet revenues. However, desktop computer revenues grew 39% and mobile computing revenues grew 6.5% year-on-year, thanks to higher prices and increased sales of higher-end products.

Says Berno Mare, Solutions Specialist for IT, Office Equipment and Value Added Services: “Retailers introduced new computing devices priced in the R3000 band during the quarter and enjoyed surprisingly strong demand for these entry-level units.

“Telcos enjoyed robust growth in mobile computing retail sales, thanks to credit deals, subsidised contracts and attractive data offers. However, South African consumers are heavily indebted, which may dampen growth for the rest of the year.”

With consumers rapidly migrating to smartphones, sales of traditional mobile phones continued to decline, down 1.6% year-on-year to around 2 million for the quarter. However, the exchange rate and the introduction of higher-priced brands helped to drive a 8.9% year-on-year revenue increase in mobile phone revenues during the period under review.

This follows the 21% drop in mobile phone unit sales in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. “Operators continue to lead the transition from feature phones to smartphones as they pursue higher data revenues,” says Muzhona. “The entry-level market for smartphones is fiercely competitive, and the minimum specs of lower cost smartphones is improving all the time.”

GfK South Africa expects the migration from mobile phones to smartphones to accelerate in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if the introduction of 4G-enabled, Voice-over-LTE-ready feature phones will have any impact on the South African mobile phone market.

Sectors of the consumer electronic market that showed strong growth for the first quarter of 2018 include loudspeakers—revenues up 21.6% year-on-year, thanks to demand of Bluetooth-enabled product—and ultrahigh definition (UHD) panel TVs—where revenues grew 33%, thanks to the growing affordability of the technology. UHD unit shipments were up 76%, while the average selling price of the products fell 24%.

Other market highlights for the first quarter of 2018 include:

  • Photo category revenues were up 8.1% year-on-year.
  • Small domestic appliance revenues grew 8%, following a 10.3% decline in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Hot air fryers sold well, as did kettles and toasters.
  • Major domestic appliances showed small year-on-year growth over Q1 2016, despite a decline in average selling price in many sub-categories of this market. Cooling products continued to make the highest contribution to growth in this segment.
  • Office Equipment revenues declined 18% year-on-year, led downwards by lower printer and cartridge sales volumes.
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What kids want online

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Kaspersky Lab’s latest report on the online activities of children – based on statistics received from its solutions and modules with child protection features – highlights children’s online activities and the importance of protecting them when online. For example, video content globally, comprised 17% of searches over the last months. Although many videos watched as a result of these searches may be harmless, it is still possible for children to accidentally end up watching videos that contain inappropriate content.

The report shows anonymised statistics from Kaspersky Lab’s flagship consumer solutions for Windows PCs and Macs that have the Parental Control module switched on and from Kaspersky Safe Kids, a standalone service for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

In South Africa, communication sites (such as social media, messengers, or emails) were the most popular pages visited by computers with parental controls switched on – with users in South Africa visiting these sites in 69% of cases over the previous 12 months. Software, audio, and video accounted for 17% of searches. Websites with this content have become significantly more popular since last year, when it was only the fifth most popular category globally at 6%. The top four is rounded off with electronic commerce (4.2%) and alcohol, tobacco, and websites about narcotics (3.9%), which is a new addition compared to this time last year.

The report presents search results on the ten most-popular languages* for the last 6 months. The data shows that the video & audio category – including requests related to any video content, streaming services, video bloggers, series and movies – are the most regularly ‘googled’ by children (17% of the total requests). The second and third places go to translation (14%) and communication (10%) websites respectively. Interestingly, games websites sit in fourth place, generating only 9% of the total search requests.

We can also see a clear language difference for search requests: for example, video and music websites are typically searched for in English, which can be explained by the fact that the majority of movies, TV series and musical groups have English names. Spanish-speaking kids carry out more requests for translation sites, while communication services are mostly searched for in Russian.

More than any other nationality, Chinese-speaking children look for education services, while French-speaking kids are more interested in sport and games websites. In turn, German-speaking requests dominate in the “shopping” category. The leading number of search requests for porn are in Arabic, and for anime are in Japanese.

“Kids in different countries have different interests and online behaviors, but what links them all is their need to be protected online from potentially harmful content. Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on websites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds,” says Anna Larkina, Web-content Analysis Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

As well as analysing searches, the report also looks into which websites children visit or attempt to visit that contain potentially harmful content which falls under one of the 14 preset categories** for the last 12 months.

The mobile trend is again highlighted in the figures for computer games, which are now in fifth place locally on the list at 3%. As kids continue to show a preference for mobile games rather than computer games, this category will only continue to decrease in popularity on computers over the coming months and years.cleardot.gif

“No matter what they are doing online, it is important for parents not to leave their children’s digital activities unattended, because there’s a big difference between care and obtrusiveness. While it is important to trust your children and educate them about how to behave safely online, even your good advice cannot protect them from something unexpectedly showing up on the screen. That’s why advanced security solutions are key to ensuring children have positive online experiences, rather than harmful ones,” adds Anna Larkina.

The Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security consumer solutions include a Parental Control module to help adults protect their children against online threats and block sites or apps containing inappropriate content. In turn, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution allows parents to monitor what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices, and offers useful advice on how to help children behave safely online.

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