Africa’s legacy broadband infrastructure offers the continent the opportunity to leapfrog technology. FARHAD KHAN of Yahsat believes there is an opportunity for the continent to broadly become an early and easy adopter of new technologies.
As Africa’s economies continue to grow, more of the continent’s residents have been provided with a higher standard of living and additionally possess increased disposable income. The direct correlation between investment in broadband connectivity and the growth in economic activity has been well established, with research from the GSM Association amongst others, suggesting that for every 10 per cent increase in broadband connectivity, the GDP of developing nations rises by 1.38 per cent. So, the impact of a 30 per cent rise in broadband connectivity across Africa in the coming decade would have a major positive economic benefit.
Africa’s relatively porous, legacy broadband infrastructure offers the continent the opportunity to leapfrog technology and roll out cutting edge, contemporary networks; given there are relatively few issues regarding network integration and regulatory red tape. Therefore, there is a real opportunity for the continent to broadly become an early – and easy – adopter of new technologies.
The broadband revolution is already well underway across Africa, and there is no shortage of focus on providing the continent with affordable, reliable and stable broadband connectivity. Take for example the vision of Internet.org and the innovative ideas to provide connectivity and access. Some of these innovations include:
- Facebook’s plans for Wi-Fi delivered by drones
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX adopting reusable launchers to reduce the capital cost of providing broadband via satellite
- The potential of Li-Fi to deliver high capacity, low power connectivity
One of the exciting perspectives to the broadband story for Africa is that real gains can be made now, today. Yahsat is in the unique position to be able to deliver stable, high powered, affordable broadband connectivity to our footprint immediately. We are in a unique and advantageous position to deploy our fleet of Ka-band satellites, utilising our capacity and spot beams to optimise the broadband pipe, to where it is needed most – efficiently and reliably. Next year our coverage area will widen even further with the launch of our third satellite, giving Yahsat the potential to reach 60 per cent of Africa’s population across 28 countries.
The advantages of satellite communications services are numerous and significant – offering stable, affordable broadband connectivity that, in turn, has the ability to change the fortunes of a nation – and its people, for the better. The provision of improved education, better healthcare, stronger, sustainable economic growth, and social development are all potential benefits that can be reaped by investing in the appropriate broadband technology.
We are already seeing first-hand the benefits that satellite technology is bringing to communities and individuals in Africa. Take the example of Eastern Cape in South Africa, a region that covers 65,000 square miles. Outside of the major cities, the province is diverse in terms of landscape, and home to many rural communities. These remote communities rely on local resources to stay informed and educated, with community libraries playing a key role. Traditionally these libraries have been underserved in terms of connectivity, meaning library-to-library communications and public internet access have been unreliable. With our satellite broadband service, YahClick, and service partner Vox Telecom, we joined forces with The National Library to provide satellite broadband internet services to 207 public libraries in the Eastern Cape, covering a population of over 6 million. Communities across the Eastern Cape now have easier access to information and knowledge, enhancing the lives of millions of people.
When it comes to public services, they are easily accessible in urban areas; however, their availability across remote communities remains rather low. Home to one of the world’s largest national pension funds, South Africa has over 1.2 million people needing access to funds to be able to subsist during their retirement. Surprisingly, an estimated 10% of its eligible citizens are unaware of or unable to access these funds. Hence, there was a need to provide always-on broadband connectivity to allow real-time access to people’s pension. Again, with Vox Telecom, we worked with the South Africa Government Employees Pensions Fund to provide a solution through our YahClick Go service. Government pensions fund field service employees were able to mobilise their services in vans, with real-time access to the government pension system. Unhindered by the likes of mountains and inclement weather, they enabled access in the remotest areas, and today, all 1.2 million members of the GEPF and their beneficiaries can now gain access to valuable financial services thanks to satellite broadband connectivity.
The applications are endless for schools, medical centres, commerce/banking, as well as for connecting under serviced, off-network areas such as rural communities. Last September, under the auspices of the United Nations, countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years, and we believe broadband connectivity plays an instrumental role in the achievement of these ambitions, to the benefit of all, including the People of Africa.
* Farhad Khan, Chief Commercial Officer, Yahsat
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.
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.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
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.