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Africa-Fi earns global prize

Afri-Fi: Free Public Wi-Fi was recently announced as the runner-up in Mozilla’s Equal Rating Innovation Challenge, with a funding award of US$75,000.

With this global competition, Mozilla called for creative and scalable ideas to provide affordable access to the full diversity of the open internet.

Mozilla offered awards totaling US$250,000 in funding and expert mentorship to bring these solutions to the market. It received 100 submissions from 27 countries. The final shortlist of best five entries was chosen by a panel of expert Judges from around the world.

Afri-Fi: Free Public Wi-Fi is an extension of Project Isizwe, where 2.9 million users can access 500MB of free daily Wi-Fi data. The key goal of Afri-Fi is to create a sustainable business model by linking together free Wi-Fi networks throughout South Africa and engaging users meaningfully with advertisers so they can “earn” free Wi-Fi.

“The team has proven how their solution for a free internet is supporting thriving communities in South Africa,” concluded Marlon Parker, Founder of Reconstructed Living Labs, on behalf of the jury. “Their approach towards community building, partnerships, developing local community entrepreneurs and inclusivity, with a goal of connecting some of the most marginalized communities, are all key factors in why they deserve this recognition and are leading the free Internet movement in Southern Africa.”

Tim Genders, COO of Project Isizwe, said: “The divide between rich and poor is being defined as your ability to access the Internet. Free Wi-Fi allows everyone to gain access. Free Wi-Fi allows the poor to play on the same field as the rich. Free Wi-Fi removes the barriers to education, social inclusion, skills development and job applications. In short, free Wi-Fi empowers.

Our next steps are to make free Wi-Fi scalable and self-sustaining through an advertising model. We want to make free Wi-Fi the new medium to get messages out to communities.”

The Overall Winner of the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge and receiving US$125,000 in funding is Mumbai-based Project Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband. Gram Marg utilizes unused white space on the TV spectrum to backhaul data from village Wi-Fi clusters to provide broadband access (frugal 5G). The team of academics and field workers around Professor Abhay Karandikar, Dean (Faculty Affairs) and Institute Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, leverages what people already have in their homes, and creates rugged receivers and transmitters to connect villages in even the most difficult terrains. The solution has been rolled out as a pilot in 25 villages so far.

The Most Novel award, worth US$30,000, went to Bruno Vianna and his team from the Free Networks P2P Cooperative in Brazil. Rather than focusing on technology, the Coop has created a financial and logistical model that can be tailored to different villages’ respective norms and community. The team experiments with ways to engage communities through “barn-raising” group activities, deploying “open calls” for leadership to reinforce the democratic nature of their approach, and instituting a sense of “play” for the villagers when learning how to use the equipment.

Following the announcement, Katharina Borchert, Chief Innovation Officer at Mozilla, said in a blog post: “Mozilla started this initiative because we believe in the power of collaborative solutions to tackle big issues. We wanted to take action and encourage change. At Mozilla, our commitment to Equal Rating through policy, innovation, research, and support of entrepreneurs in the space will continue beyond this Innovation Challenge, but it will take a global community to bring all of the internet to all people.”

Mozilla, the non-profit organization behind the open source browser Firefox, launched the Equal Rating Innovation Challenge in October 2016 as part of its endeavor to help catalyse new thinking and innovation for providing open internet access to communities living without it.

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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