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Vodacom rewards KZN journalists

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This year’s Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards drew over 1 000 entries from all over the country. The KwaZulu-Natal regional awards took place on 17 October and journalists were recognised in 12 categories.

The theme for the awards this year is ‘Your Word’, and promotes the integrity of journalism across all media.

“We are delighted to announce the regional winners in KwaZulu-Natal for the 2017 Awards, which honour journalists from around the country by recognising their best work from the past year. We look forward to welcoming them at the national finals,” said Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group. “I would also like to pay tribute to the judges, who year after year provide their expertise and knowledge in the adjudication of these prestigious awards, thereby ensuring the integrity of the process. Thanks go to Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Megan Rusi,  Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa.”

The judges faced a tough job processing entries that were of a very high standard. This year KwaZulu-Natal journalists submitted 101 entries in total.

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The entries across the 12 categories were excellent this year. Our criteria for judging is to look for entries that could possibly make the cut for the national finals, and the overall prize of R100 000 for the journalist of the year award. KwaZulu-Natal journalists can be proud of the work they have done and we look forward to even more entries from this region next year.”

There were 12 categories:

  • CSI/Sustainability
  • Young Journalist
  • Financial/Economic
  • Online
  • Photography
  • Print Feature
  • Print News
  • Radio Feature
  • Radio News
  • Sport
  • Television Feature;
  • and Television News.

Regional winners for the KwaZulu-Natal Region were announced today at a function at the Protea Hotel Umhlanga Ridge in Durban. Winners in the Regional categories each took home R5 000, with the exception of the Young Journalist of the Year regional finalist, who received a certificate. All the regional winners go through to the national awards in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017.

The winners of the 2017 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Awards in the KwaZulu-Natal region are:

2017 Radio News

The best radio news reporting demands the ability to identify a good story and then also to find and expose the story behind the story. These critically important skills were clearly displayed by the collection of work entered by the regional winner and including stories on albinism, muti killings, and the rape of a 10-year-old child. The winner is: Vusi Khumalo of SABC News.

2017 Radio Feature

An integral part of a good Radio Feature is innovative use of different sound elements. The regional winner used sound creatively, making the listener take note of – and become involved in – the stories. For his collection of entries, including the Jozini pupils who have to cross a crocodile-infested river every day, and the plight of a baby left disabled after being hospitalised, the award goes to: Vusi Khumalo of SABC Radio.

2017 Sport

Two Sport features in this region stood out so strongly for the judges that they declared them joint winners. One entry was solid investigative work and tenacious journalism, ultimately unearthing allegations of bribery in KwaZulu-Natal cricket. The other entry was an inspirational story of a stubborn young women who overcame massive physical challenges to achieve her swimming dreams. The joint regional winners are: Myron Naicker and Terence Stone of eNCA for the TV report “KZN cricket scandal”; AND Quintin van Jaarsveld of eHowzit for the online report, “Swimming upstream”.

2017 Sustainability

Excellent in-depth reporting is the hallmark of the specialist CSI/Sustainability category. This year’s regional winner capitalised on information supplied by a well-developed network of sources to tear holes in what we thought we knew, making corporates rethink their greening strategies and consumers question their lifestyles. For a strongly researched but succinctly and energetically narrated investigation into the unsuspected reality that almost every single one of our plastic shopping bags cannot currently be recycled, the winner is: Wendy Knowler of Tiso Blackstar for ‘Bags of lies’.

2017 Print News

Corruption continues to bedevil South African society, even affecting access to university education with attempts made to bypass the UKZN quota system used to apportion admission between Africans, “coloureds”, whites, “Indians” and others. For a print news story that revealed how Indian students who could not crack the academic threshold found that a R500 000 bribe could smuggle them in as “coloureds” and that led to the arrest of alleged masterminds, the winner is: Nabeelah Shaikh of the Sunday Tribune for ‘For sale: A place at medical school’.

2017 Print Feature

Sometimes an abnormality persists for so long that we all seem to forget the pressing need to normalise. Since 1994, segregation and apartheid should have had no place in our country but single-sex workers’ hostels are one relic that persist. Those where men were herded together for months without their spouses often became powder kegs of unrest, masking the fact that there were women’s hostels too – and still are. About 4,000 women and children are crammed into Durban’s Thokoza hostel. The space was built for fewer than half that number and no man is ever allowed inside. The print feature winners, who forcibly reminded us of the hell hole that is Thokoza, are: Tania Broughton and Thuli Dlamini of The Times for ‘Inside apartheid’s hostel’.

2017 Online

The most powerful online stories tend to become more than a digital artefact, also having an impact in the real world. The winning online story combined strong human interest and political scandal. The winner for breaking, tenaciously pursuing, and leading the media follow up of this story is: Giordano Stolley of African News Agency for ‘KZN cancer treatment meltdown brings woman to brink of death’.

2017 Financial/Economic

An in-depth investigation in the Financial and Economic field can take many guises and this category rewards excellent in-depth reporting across any medium. The winner depicted and analysed popular outrage, corporate cost-saving and environmental laissez faire in a well-balanced TV feature that investigated the wheeling and dealing around the Enviroserv landfill controversy. The winner is: Julie Laurenz of Nguni TV for SABC2’s 50/50 for “Kicking up a stink”.

Photography

It is not often that a single image illuminates the essence of an individual, but the patience and passion of this photographic journalist paid off. The resulting image captured the attention of the country with a portrait of notorious criminal Ananis Mathe, a convicted serial rapist and armed robber and serial prison escaper, in C Max Prison but still evoking the horrors that his many victims must have faced. The winner is: Thuli Dlamini of The Times for “The evil eye.”

2017 Television News

Sadly, the fact that too many learners still have to get up early and walk hours to school is not new in our country. But that does not mean that we should give up telling the story of the plight of these learners. For fresh and effective highlighting of this issue, the winner is: Buhle Khumalo of SABC Television News for ‘River’.

2017 Television Feature

An excellent television feature might need to be nurtured for weeks or even months – or a resourceful journalist could find and work sources in a few hours to plug a gap and ensure that a hungry news editor is not disappointed. For uncovering an insurance scam where policies were taken out on victims before killing them, the winners are: Dasen Thathiah and Nkanyiso Mdlalose of eNCA for the series, ‘Greytown Scam’.

Young Journalist Award

The winner in the region receives a certificate and goes through to the national round to compete for the overall prize. The overall award provides an opportunity to fast-track a young journalist’s professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom. To enter this category a journalist should have worked in the media for up to, but not more than, three years, and be able to demonstrate their potential through their entries. The KwaZulu-Natal winner is Sbongakonke Mbatha from SABC News.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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