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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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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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