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Apps reveal cloud differences across Africa

When it comes to hosting and accessing applications in the cloud, businesses in South Africa have very different priorities to those in Kenya and Nigeria, says MATTHEW BARKER, divisional sales manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at F5 Networks.

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An obvious statement perhaps, considering that these markets are vastly different in their technology adoption and usage. Yet an interesting finding from our recent Cloud Africa 2018 research was that South African businesses tend to be more inwardly focused in their cloud application usage – prioritising the staff experience – whereas Kenyan and Nigerian businesses are more outwardly focused – prioritising the customer experience.

Apps define markets

Our research, carried out in partnership with World Wide Worx, polled decision-makers at 300 medium and large organisations about their cloud computing usage, benefits, and intentions.

One of the key findings was that 68% of Nigerian organisations and 67% of Kenyan organisations ranked service apps as critical to their businesses, compared to just 40% of South African organisations.

This makes sense, considering the benefits of hosting service apps in the cloud: lower costs, enterprise mobility, higher reliability of services, and the ability to scale services up or down in line with business requirements. These benefits are especially attractive to organisations that are not hampered by legacy infrastructure investments, which is often the case in Kenya and Nigeria.

Inward focus

South African organisations, however, are more advanced in their adoption of cloud service apps and have now turned their focus inward, with the biggest priority being human resources. Some 43% of South African respondents said HR apps were critical to their business, compared to 19% in Kenya and 10% in Nigeria. South African businesses also reported increased use of training apps in the cloud, at 14%, compared to just 2% in Nigeria and Kenya.

We could argue that South African businesses have been reaping the benefits of service apps for some time and are now finding ways to improve their competitiveness using cloud computing. One way to do this is by attracting top talent, which is one benefit of hosting HR apps in the cloud. Others include reduced paperwork, employee self-service, faster onboarding and better management of performance, compensation, leave and employee data, all of which frees up time and resources to focus on increasing competitiveness, like expansion into new markets.

SA prioritises CloudOps

A further indication of the low emphasis on internal apps is the rating of operational apps, which are seen as critical by only 15% of respondents in Kenya and 10% in Nigeria. While still low in South Africa, at 30%, it was more than double the proportion of the other two countries combined.

Getting operations right is key to running a business effectively in the cloud. Ensuring peak performance and availability of apps with minimal downtime is crucial to meet the needs and expectations of users. Many South African organisations still manage this aspect of cloud computing themselves, whereas Kenyan and Nigerian organisations have largely outsourced this function to focus on better serving their customers through product and service innovation.

Business apps on par

One area where all markets are equal, however, is in business apps, with only small variations between the three countries measured. Nigerian respondents took them slightly more seriously than the rest, with 76% seeing them as critical, while 72% of South African companies and 67% of those in Kenya agreed.

Despite the greater emphasis on HR apps by South African businesses, there was a relatively even split across the countries in terms of finance, logistics, marketing, accounting, and procurement apps.

Running apps in the cloud used to be a strategic business decision. Yet, with more and more apps becoming cloud native and more businesses pursuing a cloud-first strategy, African organisations are now focusing on how they can leverage the cloud to increase competitiveness, better serve their customers and innovate in their products and services.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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