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AfricaCom launches 20th edition

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At the Cape Town Convention Centre, AfricaCom will be kicking off for the 20th year from the 7 to 9 November.

Africa’s technology journey into the future will be showcased at the 20th edition of the AfricaCom show to be held in Cape Town from 7 to 9 November.

“2017 is a landmark for AfricaCom.  Over the past two decades, we have grown from being a purely telecommunications-focused event, to a broad digital communications show now hosting the foremost group of influencers involved in every aspect of the African digital ecosystem,” says Tom Cuthell, Portfolio Director of KNect365, organiser of the show.

“As the digi-sphere continues to expand and impact every aspect of our personal and professional lives, AfricaCom has grown in scope to create a broad platform for everybody involved in powering the digital economy in Africa. I am delighted to share some of the fresh developments that will continue to accelerate Africa’s digital transformation anchoring it for the future of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

Some of the new areas include:

·         The Technology Arena – located in the CTICC’s new extension – an exhibition hall dedicated to mapping Africa’s journey through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This will host:

o    AfricaCom 20/20  – the centrepiece and base of the 20th anniversary celebrations.  A vibrant, interactive, buzzing place to see digital solutions from top innovators; interact with next generation technologies in specially designed demo pods; and listen to thought provoking dialogue around ‘providing clarity of vision on future tech trends’.

o    The new Innovation Stage – that will showcase ICT solutions affecting the converging TMT industries in Africa. Lively debate and discussion on topics such as eHealth and ICT4D, with quickfire presentations, and product pitches will be the order of the day.

o    The Technology Arena will also be the new home for the AHUB – AfricaCom’s matchmaking centre for start-ups and investors; and TV Connect Africa – the confluence of broadcast, telecoms, content and new media experts in Africa, intent on developing commercial models for ITC across digital Africa.

Three days of networking, thought provoking content and tech, will also showcase new opportunities in Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, FinTech, Blockchain, digital skills and more.

As always, the calibre of speakers – 400 of them – addressing attending delegates, is a major drawcard (as too the over 400 exhibitors).  Conference tracks such as Visions for Africa Keynotes, SDN and NFV, Mobile Finance and eCommerce in Africa, Enterprise ICT, and Connecting Africa, as well as LTE Africa, will deliver the latest advances in their respective areas.  Some of the luminaries to present their insights are; Herman Singh, Group Chief Digital Officer, MTN; John Momoh (OON), Chairman & CEO, Channels Media Group; Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission; Joseph Hundah, CEO, Econet Media.

The annual AfricaCom Awards will once again highlight leaders in their respective fields and Cuthell reminded guests, that entries for these industry heavyweight acknowledgments were also now open.

Launched in 2016, AFEST returns to Shimmy Beach Club for a night of high-energy entertainment, echoing the vibrancy of AfricaCom 2017.  Featuring a line-up of local and international artists, partygoers have the chance to network, and celebrate African technology.

Cuthell said he recognised the many challenges that still needed  to be understood, before solutions could be developed and implemented to ensure that all Africans are included in the digital economy.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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