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Billion glances in Africa’s Game of Phones

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A recent survey has revealed that Africans check their phones on average every five minutes, many of them doing so on public transport, creating an ideal platform for businesses to evolve their value through sophisticated data analysis.

More than 33% of Africans check their phones every 5 minutes and more than half of smartphone users regularly use their devices on public transport, at work and while shopping.

This is opening the door for savvy businesses to provide a “platform for life” that evolves its value through sophisticated data analytics.

The latest edition of the Game of Phones Survey, released by the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) industry unit at Deloitte and which canvassed over 5,000 respondents across Africa, highlights that more than a billion glances are taking place on smartphones in Africa every day – with over one third checking their phones every five minutes. “This must mean something for businesses as it is clear smartphones are becoming ever more embedded in our lives. Usage indicates a serious shift away from just information and communication to virtually everything – from how we consume media, to banking, purchasing and gaming, for example,” says Mark Casey, Global Media and Entertainment Leader at Deloitte Global.

The research also found that more than half of Africa’s mobile users check their devices within five minutes of waking up and before going to bed. The report indicates that across all markets including South Africa, consumers are most active on their devices when making use of public transport. A smaller proportion of those surveyed reported that they used their mobile device for services such as insurance, healthcare and home security. Increasingly, mobile devices are being used across the region for financial services with the traditional banking models being constantly challenged via mobile technology.

“Such disruptive technology, especially with the traditional services sectors such as banking and finance, has the potential to be a game changer in that it allows for the previously unbanked to now be an active part for the broader economy, thus ensuring a more positive outcome in broadening economic participation among locals,” says Casey.

Arun Babu, Telecommunications Sector Leader at Deloitte, says businesses around the world are already going through a “transformation journey” to improve the way they harness digital disruption, but new trends require ongoing rethinking of business models.

“Users are looking for an increased range of services that are provided reliably and at speed in a brand-neutral continent. It is important that businesses understand the implications of this in order to achieve brand loyalty across a broad range of customers. It is clear consumers are not married to any component as they increasingly seek unified capability,” he says.

While mobile service providers and device manufacturers will need to enhance functionality to remain competitive, future business models in Africa generally need to be positioned for the reality of greater smartphone penetration.

The survey finds that Africa continues to experience huge growth in data usage, with consumers choosing smarter devices as they provide them with multiple functions in one.

While mobile internet remains dominant, Wi-Fi and fibre is growing albeit it is seen as “the dark horse”.

“Faster access speeds, cheaper connectivity and device centric content translates into an explosion of data consumption in both SA and Nigeria. This increase is driven mainly by the growth in Wi-Fi and fibre across the region,” says Babu.

When compared to South Africa and Nigeria, smartphone penetration in Kenya and Uganda remains fairly low given their rural demographic. However, 54% of South Africans use their smartphones to watch short videos compared to 52% of Nigerians whereas 28% of South African stream music compared to 25% of Nigerians.

The survey identifies coverage and speed of voice and data network as the most critical factors when choosing a network operator, followed closely by customer service and price and value for money. SA consumers are mostly influenced by price and service reliability which are often key factors when deciding to either change or stay with the service provider while consumers in other markets make decisions based on service reliability and availability.

“As connectivity in the region improves, consumers are given more choice in terms of smartphone networks and operators. This translates into a savvier consumer who is constantly on the lookout for better service and is more aware in terms of pricing of products and value for money service,” says Babu.

Device type ownership also varies fairly significantly across the regions surveyed, with the common theme across markets being multi-device ownership. Aspirational purchases will be a key factor in driving up sales of smartphones with factors such as increased rural urban migration and the emergence of an emerging middle class also contributing to the growth in sales of smart devices.

South Africa remains a multi-device market more consistent with developed markets followed closely by Nigeria. SA remains the strongest in terms of multi device ownership with more than half of users owning a smartphone, laptop and tablet.  Feature phones tend to dominate the more rural markets of Kenya and Uganda, however, smartphones are expected to experience substantial growth driven by stronger economic growth, increase in internet penetration and investment in mobile data networks.

These changes mean more and more African consumers are living “in the app”, opening a gap for new business models.

“There is, for example, an opportunity for multinational organisations to build new business models that create value by essentially giving away what they used to sell. This is because the competitive advantage of providing ‘more for less’ is being eroded daily to such an extent that all that remains is a world of ‘free assets’. There is room to take centre stage with a ‘platform for life’ that handles information, education, entertainment, purchases and financial services in one place and which keeps evolving through sophisticated data analytics,” concludes Casey.

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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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