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Viber opens public chats in SA

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Viber has announced that it has opened its latest social channel ‘Public Chats’ to partners in South Africa, the rest of Africa, and the Middle East.

Brands, organisations, celebrities, public figures and social influencers from these countries can now join Viber’s global platform to reach a local and regional audience.

Public Chats are live discussions that Viber users can follow, like and share with their community. Released in beta version in November 2014 with select global partners, this feature offers a new kind of social experience – tapping into live conversations from celebrities, personalities, brands and organisations. Mobile users can discover new communities, follow interactive chats in real-time and share original pieces of content with friends and contacts.

“The Middle East and Africa are important markets for Viber, and we are pleased to welcome local influencers and brands to our Public Chats platform,” said Mark Hardy, CMO, Viber. “We are sure they will enjoy chatting, commenting and debating live on this active social channel whilst sharing tips, news, and local content to our constantly connected mobile audience across the region.”

Selected partners in Africa, at Pan-African level and in key markets such as South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Egypt, have joined Public Chats for this regional launch in a bid to be the first players to offer local conversations on Viber. African users can now start to follow them from the Viber Public Chats explore page.

Super star of African Music, Youssou NDour, the internationally acclaimed Senegalese singer and composer just joined Viber Public Chats. HE SAID: “The Viber Public Chats channel will enable my fans to follow in real time my music and artistic activities; it will also represent an opportunity for me to engage in discussions designed to forge a peaceful and open world.”

Partners in South Africa include Vanessa Haywood, business woman, sports personality and actress; Cindy Pivacic, HIV awareness creator; Carishma Basday, actress, model and yogi; GreenPop, an environmental NGO on a mission to plant trees; Homeology, an interior design webzine; Gareth Pon, internationally recognised image creator; African Hip Hop music blog; adventure couple Gugu and Letshego Zulu; soul singer Ms Kelle; talent, brand and media management specialist Sheree O’Brien; and Hint Business Community founded by Brandon Tancott and Willem Gous.

“I decided to join Viber Public Chats to inspire men, women and children to lead active lifestyles,” says Vanessa Haywood. “I have a great love for sport and adventure among other things and Viber Public Chats has an outstanding reach which I am very excited to tap into”.

“We’re in a new era of HIV care and prevention,” says Cindy Pivacic, HIV activist. “Viber Public Chats represent an ideal platform for spreading messages and debating HIV issues.”

Cindy’s decision to go public with her status was prompted by her own experience with the disease. After acquiring numerous illnesses associated with HIV and AIDS, Cindy realised that she would not cope without the help of others. “Through the use of Viber Public Chats, I hope to bring together a group of people who have experiences to share with a young audience and discuss HIV knowledge, stigma and prevention and ultimately call on people to get tested.”

With proficient knowledge in the use of mobile photography apps, Gareth Pon is influential both locally and internationally. “One of my many passions is to connect and grow the mobile photography community,” he says. “I see Viber Public Chats as a great way to share, learn, explore and spread creativity of photography through mobile.”

Jumia, the leading ecommerce platform in Africa, recently opened Public Chats in Egypt and Nigeria and were one of the first partners to join this new social channel in the Middle East and Africa. Viber users can expect more Jumia Public Chats to open in the African continent in the coming months.

“We are really excited with this partnership,” said Jeremy Doutte, CEO of Jumia. “As new African customers discover the Internet first through their mobile, we want to address them wherever they are. Viber is a mobile first company with an outstanding reach in Africa. Jumia is also a mobile first company and the first online shopping destination in Africa. Joining forces will enable both Viber and Jumia to deliver quality content and good vibes to our users.”

More than 50 partners have joined Public Chats in key African markets. Viber users can now follow Bella Naija, top lifestyle media in Nigeria, Xtian Dela, radio presenter, Blogger & Social Influencer in Kenya, Filfan the first entertainment platform in Egypt, Live FM radio in Ghana, the WIW Sport news portal in Senegal, and Serge Beynaud, Afro Pop musician and composer from Ivory Coast.

Public Chats are easy to follow from within the Viber app. Anyone on Viber can follow as many Public Chats as they like. Conversations are multi-media and include text, photos, audio, video, stickers, web links and geo-localisation. Users can invite friends to follow their favourite Public Chats and share parts of these conversations. The most popular chats are featured on the home screen of Viber’s Public Chats section. Users can easily find new Public Chats through the search tab or access a chat directly via a customised URL.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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