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Why fin regulators must work with tech entrepreneurs

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Fintech is set to boom in South Africa and the regulatory environment is likely to be conducive for growth in this space. But, a collaboration between the regulators and technology entrepreneurs is needed to boost the industry, writes AHMED CASSIM.

Global investment in fintech ventures has tripled over the last five years and will double again to an estimated $6 billion by 2018, according to a recent report by Accenture and the Partnership Fund of New York City. This growing industry clearly carries significant potential for boosting the local economy and needs to be nourished as far as possible.

The Hello Group understands regulation. Back in 2010 when the Group initially launched a SIM card for migrants to call their loved ones all across the world, it could not have done so if it did not hold a licence as issued by the telecoms Regulator, ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa). Three years later, we wanted to offer our customers an international remittance offering and it was perfect timing as the South African Reserve Bank had just issued new regulations making it easier for independent money operators to enter the market.

The company was involved in engagement with the regulatory authorities when the regulations were still fairly new. Hello Paisa, the Group’s international remittance offering was the first recipient of an “independent money transfer operator” license which allows the Group to offer its customers an instant, cheap and legal way to send money home.

It was ground-breaking to see that the Reserve Bank was so proactive in implementing new regulations and this is extremely encouraging in terms of growth prospects and innovation in the financial services industry.

Prior to the change in the regulatory environment, migrants working in South Africa were forced to use informal and illegal channels in order to ensure that their hard earned cash was sent back to their families at home. The illegal process meant it was expensive, there was a lack of transparency around pricing and inevitable delays in transferring of funds.

The regulations have paved the way for a healthier, more transparent environment where consumers are able to access a service that is transparent and offers the advantage of money being immediately available to recipients in other countries. Our shortest transfer time is literally two seconds to send money across the globe.

Looking globally, the development of the fintech industry is a key driver in the financial services market. However, as with all new developments in any field, the key to a smooth progression is a “meeting of the minds” between regulators and techpreneurs. For example, in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore created a regulatory sandbox in June this year. This essentially allows fintech companies to experiment with possible solutions/products for the market, carry out due diligence on their projects and then discuss a way forward in terms of regulatory requirements where it is less clear whether particular FinTech solutions comply with regulatory requirements or poses unacceptable risks.

The danger of a regulatory authority that is reluctant to adapt regulations to better embrace new technology is that this could lead to techpreneurs taking their ideas to friendlier jurisdictions. A further danger is that of international fintechs from more regulatory-friendly jurisdictions stealing the march on local companies. We could end up with a situation where foreign fintechs simply use the internet to offer their services and bypass local regulators. A clear example of this is the fact that Whatsapp offers VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telecom services in SA without a license. In line with this thought, it is extremely encouraging that the Reserve Bank has made it clear that it is open to ideas and very supportive of the country’s burgeoning fintech industry.

  • Ahmed Cassim, chief commercial officer at Hello Group

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Opera launches built-in VPN on Android browser

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Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser, Opera for Android 51, which features a built-in VPN (virtual private network) service.

A VPN allows users to create a secure connection to a public network, and is particularly useful if users are unsure of the security levels of the public networks that they use often.

The new VPN in Opera for Android 51 is free, unlimited and easy to use. When enabled, it gives users greater control of their online privacy and improves online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots such as coffee shops, airports and hotels. The VPN will encrypt Internet traffic into and out of their mobile devices, which reduces the risk of malicious third parties collecting sensitive information.

“There are already more than 650 million people using VPN services globally. With Opera, any Android user can now enjoy a free and no-log service that enhances online privacy and improves security,” said Peter Wallman, SVP Opera Browser for Android.

When users enable the VPN included in Opera for Android 51, they create a private and encrypted connection between their mobile device and a remote VPN server, using strong 256-bit encryption algorithms. When enabled, the VPN hides the user’s physical location, making it difficult to track their activities on the internet.

The browser VPN service is also a no-log service, which means that the VPN servers do not log and retain any activity data, all to protect users privacy.

“Users are exposed to so many security risks when they connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots without a VPN,” said Wallman. “Enabling Opera VPN means that users makes it difficult for third parties to steal information, and users can avoid being tracked. Users no longer need to question if or how they can protect their personal information in these situations.”

According to a report by the Global World Index in 2018, the use of VPNs on mobile devices is rising. More than 42 percent of VPN users on mobile devices use VPN on a daily basis, and 35 percent of VPN users on computers use VPN daily.

The report also shows that South African VPN users said that their main reason for using a VPN service is to remain anonymous while they are online.

“Young people in particular are concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online,” said Wallman. “Opera for Android 51 makes it easy to benefit from the security and anonymity of VPN , especially for those may not be aware of how to set these up.”

Setting up the Opera VPN is simple. Users just tap on the browser settings, go to VPN and enable the feature according to their preference. They can also select the region of their choice.

The built-in VPN is free, which means that users don’t need to download additional apps on their smartphones or pay additional fees as they would for other private VPN services. With no sign-in process, users don’t need to log in every time they want to use it.

Opera for Android is available for download in Google Play. The rollout of the new version of Opera for Android 51 will be done gradually per region.

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Future of the car is here

Three new cars, with vastly different price-tags, reveal the arrival of the future of wheels, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Just a few months ago, it was easy to argue that the car of the future was still a long way off, at least in South Africa. But a series of recent car launches have brought the high-tech vehicle to the fore in startling ways.

The Jaguar i-Pace electric vehicle (EV), BMW 330i and the Datsun Go have little in common, aside from representing an almost complete spectrum of car prices on the local market. Their tags start, respectively, at R1.7-million, R650 000 and R150 000.

Such a widely disparate trio of vehicles do not exactly come together to point to the future. Rather, they represent different futures for different segments of the market. But they also reveal what we can expect to become standard in most vehicles produced in the 2020s.

Jaguar i-Pace

The i-Pace may be out of reach of most South Africans, but it ushers in two advances that will resonate throughout the EV market as it welcomes new and more affordable cars. It is the first electric vehicle in South Africa to beat the bugbear of range anxiety.

Unlike the pioneering “old” Nissan Leaf, which had a range of up to about 150km, and did not lend itself to long distance travel, the i-Pace has a 470km range, bringing it within shouting distance of fuel-powered vehicles. A trip from Johannesburg to Durban, for example, would need just one recharge along the way.

And that brings in the other major advance: the i-Pace is the first EV launched in South Africa together with a rapid public charging network on major routes. It also comes with a home charging kit, which means the end of filling up at petrol stations.

The Jaguar i-Pace dispels one further myth about EVs: that they don’t have much power under the hood. A test drive around Gauteng revealed not only a gutsy engine, but acceleration on a par with anything in its class, and enough horsepower to enhance the safety of almost any overtaking situation.

Specs for the Jaguar i-Pace include:

  • All-wheel drive
  • Twin motors with a combined 294kW and 696Nm
  • 0-100km/h in 4.8s
  • 90kWh Lithium-ion battery, delivering up to 470km range
  • Eight-year/160 000km battery warranty
  • Two-year/34 000km service intervals

Click here to read about BMW’s self-driving technology, and how Datsun makes smart technology affordable.

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