Connect with us

Featured

Why data power must shift

Published

on

Information is one of the most valuable commodities today and in order for businesses to ensure their livelihood, it is vital for them to move from static to dynamic automated and reliable data storage models, says MARK TAYLOR, CEO of Nashua.

Information is one of the most valuable commodities. Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created and either has a direct monetary value or can be mined for business intelligence to get a competitive edge. Data is the lifeblood of any organisation. Without the Internet and connectivity, business survival and economic growth is impossible.

The original intent of the Internet was the unrestricted flow of information in an open and shared network owned by the community. Data ownership was intended to reside with its creators in a decentralised model, free from monopolistic or centralised control.

However, large corporations quickly realised the value of tracking, storing, organising and monetising information for use in centralised services. Although not owned by a single entity, large corporations and data giants like Google support some of the most critical components of the Internet, such as search engines, web hosting, cloud computing and email services.

The case for decentralisation

As the reliance on the Internet deepens, so does the sharing of sensitive data and the need for greater privacy, data security and integrity. One proposed solution is a fully decentralised Internet independent of centralised control. This can be achieved with Blockchain technology – a decentralised and distributed ledger system that facilitates and verifies secure peer-to-peer data exchanges.

The biggest issues facing the Internet, such as net neutrality, privacy and security, pertain to issues of structure. Under a centralised model, access and convenience is offered to users at the expense of data ownership and privacy. While many service providers offer to store and safeguard data, security can’t be guaranteed. Servers can fail, networks can be hacked and privacy rights can be violated.

Decentralisation enables data and vital services to be owned by users and powered by a network of independent computers. This creates a setting much more resilient to hacks and failures as encrypted data can only be released and accessed through private keys. Decentralisation also breaks down the centralised barriers to business. With reliable high-speed Internet connectivity from Nashua, any business can access better, faster and cheaper services.

Here’s how decentralised models can revolutionise the Internet and cybersecurity.

Decentralised web

A truly decentralised Internet is possible with Blockchain technology. Ethereum is a platform on which apps can be built and run without fraud, censorship or third-party interference. User information is encrypted and stored on the Blockchain which prevents service providers from hoarding and mining user data.

Decentralised web hosting

With only one target to hit, cybercriminals can quite easily shut down a website hosted on a centralised system. On Blockchain-based platforms, thousands of nodes or computers are employed to each serve a part of the website. This makes targeted attacks much harder and reduces hosting costs. It speeds up user access to websites by bringing cached content closer to site visitors. Self-executing smart contracts can also be used to manage resources and payments while users also have the opportunity to rent out idle network and computing resources.

Decentralised data storage

Blockchain enables users to use applications while retaining ownership of their data. By storing data on a decentralised and distributed network, the data is broken up, encrypted and stored across the Blockchain network. To access information, users need a private key to download the data from several locations at once. This not only speeds up the file access speeds but makes it increasingly difficult for cybercriminals to gain access.

Decentralised search engines

Google controls up to 95% of searches. The engine tracks search activities and has access to personal user information. Decentralised search engines store encrypted user data across a network as opposed to in a central location where it remains vulnerable. They also use open and transparent search ranking factors. This will level the playing field for businesses and content creators.

Decentralised social media

Social media platforms add significant connectivity value but at the cost of user privacy and data ownership. Decentralised social media channels will give back to users the ownership of data and reward users who choose to share information.

The full potential of a distributed economy is still unwritten but innovative solutions by emerging Blockchain innovators have already proven that the sky is the limit.

Featured

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.

Published

on

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.

Previous Page1 of 2

Continue Reading

Featured

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.

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2018 World Wide Worx