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Call for free Internet in SA

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The IAB SA has kick-started a campaign for all South Africans to have free basic access to the Internet. As the right to information is one of our constitutional rights, it follows that South Africans should have the ability to access this information freely.

Chris Borain, chair of the IAB SA, says, “We believe in fostering digital equality among all citizens.  While Icasa is taking great strides to address the high cost of data, a basic level of free Internet access is a separate issue that requires as much attention. All South Africans, especially vulnerable groups and those without access to mobile phones, have the right to access information online, from government services, employment opportunities or online education resources.”

The IAB SA is already partnering with other media stakeholders to justify the case for free basic internet access and stimulate dialogue on the matter.

The IAB SA in partnership with the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Applied Law and Technology (altadvisory.africa)  have published a research paper on the topic: Perspectives on Universal Access to Online Information in South Africa: Free Public Wi-Fi and Zero-Rated Content, which is publically available.

The paper was launched last year on the International Day for Universal Access to Information at the Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) conference. In her address to the Forum, the then outgoing chair of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and current South African Information Regulator, Adv Pansy Tlakula acknowledged the issues raised in the paper and commended the efforts of all involved.

At its December 2017 National Conference at Nasrec, the ANC resolved to “encourage efforts by Government and the private sector to deploy broadband infrastructure and services and also ensure accessibility of free Wi-Fi as a tool of economic development, including access in rural areas, metros, public schools, clinics and libraries.

An online industry and media delegation led by the IAB earlier this year met with the South African Human Rights Commission to discuss ways in which a basic level of free Internet access for all citizens can be achieved over time.

We proposed a seven-point action plan to roll out free internet rights in South Africa:

1.     The implementation of free access to the Internet at government sites such as schools, libraries, health facilities, etc.  This is already government policy, but government should commit to a fixed roll-out schedule, which should be monitored with adequate oversight and promotion of this service.

2.     Zero-rated access to government websites and data, as envisaged in the e-government policies.

3.     Following on several pilot projects in a number of cities and towns, free Wi-Fi access should forthwith be regarded as a basic municipal service and run as a public utility (alongside water, electricity and other municipal services), and government should set up plans and targets for the progressive realisation of such services.  This could be done via public/private partnerships, such as making it a requirement for commercial operators like telecoms and fibre companies to provide free Wi-Fi in poor areas for the right to provide commercial services in business and affluent areas.

4.     Setting minimum standards for the provision of free internet access, including for all commercial offerings: a minimum data allocation per person per day; and standards for privacy, security, access quality and fair access to information in the public interest.

5.     The introduction of the concept of My Internet Rights (or My i-Right): that every citizen should be entitled to a daily tranche of free internet access (e.g. 500MB per day, which is already the standard for many free Wi-Fi schemes), to exercise their access to information rights.

6.     The introduction of digital literacy programmes in education curricula and as part of free internet schemes, especially aimed at children and those unfamiliar with risks and opportunities related to the internet.

7.     The need for the SAHRC and other oversight bodies to monitor and report on the progressive realisation of internet access rights, and in particular the adoption and implementation of legislation, regulation and policies governing free access to the internet as a basic human right.

In response, the COO of the SAHRC, Chantal Kissoon indicated that the commission will consider incorporating monitoring of government’s internet access plans for inclusion in national, regional and international reports on human rights issues; look into the possibility of convening a conference of experts and stakeholders to explore the proposed action plan; and to raise the free internet access issues in outreach and stakeholder engagements.

Anriette Esterhuysen, the APC’s director of global policy and strategy, says that with South Africa’s internet policies, ICT infrastructure, community networks and free internet pilot projects already underway, the country is well placed to become an example of how the developing world can bridge the digital divide, including the gender digital divide. “What is necessary now is for the public sector, business and civil society to take practical steps towards the goal to give every South African a basic level of free access to the internet.”

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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