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Cybersecurity skills gap offers SA big 4IR opportunity

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By SANDRO BUCCHIANERI, Chief Security Officer of Absa Group.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is an opportunity for public and private businesses as well as government to influence the development of a talent pipeline to address our current and future needs. In seizing this opportunity, we have the chance to contribute to tackling the global cybersecurity skills shortage while addressing the unemployment of our youth and, in so doing, making an impact on people and the societies in which we live.

Youth aged 15-24 are the most vulnerable in the South African labour market. Statistics SA reported that the unemployment rate among this age group was 55% in the first quarter of 2019, while Cyber Ventures estimates that the global shortfall of cybersecurity jobs will rise to 3.5 million by 2021. It is a challenge partially rooted in the socio-economic environment, the growing void between youthskills, employer needs and because the South African education system is failing to train the next generation for the digital economy.  

South African youth from marginalised backgrounds are hungry for opportunities to develop skills that will result in employment. They are often unable to access tertiary education due to financial circumstances and without education their future is bleak and the cycle of poverty continues. Given the enormous need for skilled cybersecurity professionals locally and globally, we saw the opportunityto truly make a difference.

Addressing the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals is an urgent challenge. The estimated shortfall of 3.5 million jobs worldwide provides a startling statistic and a unique opportunity to make a difference. This gap must be filled to support the projected growth of the world’s cybersecurity sector over the next couple of years, but the talent pool is simply not keeping pace. In South Africa, the problem is compounded, as those who are trained in cybersecurity do not stay, as they are headhunted by global counterparts for premium packages.

Poverty and unemployment are at an all-time high. Limited access to formal education exacerbates the situation, and currently there does not seem to be a suitable solution in place to overcome this crisis. The 4IR is an exciting time for everyone, particularly the cybersecurity sector, as we are in desperate need of talent that is equipped to keep up with the industry.

To address its skills shortage, Absa has collaborated with the Maharishi Institute (MI) to set up the Absa Cybersecurity Academy. The programme is an externally focused, corporate social responsibility initiative aimed at empowering marginalised South African youth, who would otherwise not have had access to a tertiary education. The learners who participate become certified cybersecurity analysts.

The secret to the success of this programme is that we do not only focus on developing technical skills, we focus on creating a whole being through consciousness-based education. All the students who enrol in the Absa Cybersecurity Academy come from marginalised communities, 36% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while 70% are females who have been abused in one way or another.

To make a success of the programme, we knew we had to develop each student holistically by balancing the technical, social and emotional skills required to ensure that they are not simply technically competent, but adequately prepared to succeed in the world of work.

The MI was created in 2007 with the ambition of making tertiary education accessible to South Africa’s youth by providing non-educational support to students wanting to access education through accredited educational partners. In so doing, it showcases South Africa as a leading innovator in education provision. The institute supports student learning that focuses on the student, rather than just books or information.

The partnership between Absa and the MI offers students accredited cybersecurity training, bridging courses and whole person development, including transcendental meditation and life and work-readyskills to make them “university ready”. It also includes financial support, including bursaries and work experience at MI’s call centres. Students receive a nutritious lunch daily as well as support through placement programmes, including the use of a “clothing library” for corporate interviews.

The founding principle of the academy is that everyone has the potential to be deemed “talent”. It is not necessary to have a wall hung with degrees to be a successful cybersecurity professional. Our first 24 students have just written their first internationally recognised exam, which they all passed. This is testament to not only the excellent education and training, but the holistic care for each student.

It is our job to prepare the youth for the 4IR. We need to invest in upskilling them for the future of work and to meet global cybersecurity demands. We can make South Africa and the wider African continent the hub of cybersecurity talent; we have the people, we just need to help them rewrite their futures.

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The Outer Worlds creates a twist on lone hero RPGs

With The Outer Worlds being released just under a month ago, BRYAN TURNER played it extensively to shell out exactly what makes it so special.

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The Outer Worlds makes it difficult to turn the console off. It took a while to pinpoint exactly what makes it so more-ish. Eventually, it became clear that it’s not one aspect, but rather several facets that make this game great. We’ve separated this game into its parts.

It comes as no surprise that Obsidian Entertainment, the makers of Fallout New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Fallen Empire, was behind The Outer Worlds. It blends two distinct flavours of gaming – the chaos of Fallout with the intergalactic travel from Star Wars. This makes The Outer Worlds feel familiar but fresh at the same time.

At first, the game felt similar to the Fallout RPG series, particularly Fallout New Vegas, where the player is conveniently more powerful than the other players that exist in the world into which they venture. In Fallout, worlds are generally lawless, and players must navigate their character towards the alignment or “good or bad status” they want the player to be. The plot has scenarios that only a certain type of alignment can be, whether the character is the Restorer of Faith or the Architect of Doom.

The Outer Worlds follows a similar kind of style, but replaces the wasteland with a picture of the far future. Players start off as a passenger who gets unfrozen on a ship that holds a few of Earth’s brightest minds. The main campaign goal is to help unfreeze the other passengers. Instead, players are found in a hyper-capitalist world where workers are extremely disposable. Enormous companies go by names like “Auntie Cleos” but set extremely oppressive policies to keep their workers in line. From this, one can tell that dark humour is rife throughout this game.

These kinds of immersive RPGs, naturally, pack so many side quests into their world that it’s easy to forget the player’s main objective. These side quests are very reminiscent of the Fallout series, because they feature many ways of getting the job done, whether it be fighting, convincing or sneaking. One can even have companions, which present players with even more quest lines.

Not everything is a remix of other games. Companions have a direct effect on a character’s skill set, because the main characters are not always skilled in what players need. For example, we brought along Parvati in a quest where we needed more support with engineering skills, which is a skill we neglected to level up in the main character.

There’s also the ability to have a special combat skill, which becomes very handy in situations where there are many enemies around. Of course, it not only buys players time, but delivers more damage to opponents. Some special combat skills even stun non-targeted opponents, which really helps.

Gear and perks have also been designed from scratch, and it shows. It’s far more intuitive than we’ve seen in other RPGs so far and it makes for a much better experience that saves time on upgrading gear and perks so players can actually play the game.

I’m a huge fan of the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or VATS, as Fallout players know it. The system allows players to target various limbs or parts of the opponent with precision aim, ensuring a better shot. While The Outer Worlds doesn’t use this, it features a slow-motion aiming system which can be considered an equivalent.

The travel system allows for travel from planet to planet, and they’re all distinctly mapped. While many are filled with enemies and marauders in empty wastelands, there are also major cities. The art style and careful attention to detail with the colour make this contrast distinguishable.

One of our biggest compliments is the completeness of this game. Many games have recently shipped glorified beta versions of their games because they’re pressed for time. The Outer Worlds, however, didn’t present a single bug within 20 hours of gameplay.

Overall, it’s a very enjoyable game, and fans of the Fallout, Star Wars RPGs, and Mass Effect series’ should definitely take a look at what The Outer Worlds has to offer.

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FNB takes shot at Bank Zero

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With expectation building for the launch of Bank Zero by legendary banker Michael Jordaan, his previous employer seems to have taken a strategic shot with the launch of its latest service. 

FNB has launched Easy Zero, a fully-fledged digital bank account with a card to allow customers to transact easily without paying a monthly fee. The mobile account was formerly known as eWallet eXtra.

The revamped digital account will now have a branded FNB bank card, providing customers with free card swipes, cost-effective transactional and ATM cash withdrawal fees. The card now gives customers more options to access their money. In addition, customers will also get free prepaid purchases and free cash deposits of up to R1,500 per month.

FNB Easy CEO Philani Potwana said: “We are aware of the day-to-day financial pressure that our consumers face, and Easy Zero is a direct response to their needs. The account is in line with our strategy to broaden financial inclusion to the unbanked and underbanked. We believe that the ability to operate the account digitally will allow customers to operate it at virtually no cost or minimal cost depending on transactional behaviour.

“We see Easy Zero being a digital bank account of choice for customers who do not have regular income or have limited banking needs. This is partly the reason debit orders are not allowed on the digital account as customers in this segment have limited debit orders. However, for those customers that have a need for debit orders they can still use our competitively priced Easy PAYU and Easy Smart Bundle accounts.”

Through Easy Zero, customers will be able to send money to anyone with a valid SA cellphone number, and skip the queues to pay people and accounts. Easy Zero account holders can also view their bank account balance and transaction history on their mobile phone at any time, from anywhere.

“The success of our digital account, with over 140,000 active customers, shows that anyone who owns a mobile phone can be banked in minutes using a mobile device,” says Potwana. “This showcases our ability to adapt to the ever-changing consumer landscape to cater for the needs of customers through platform innovation. ”

FNB is also offering Easy Zero digital account holders a toll-free number (0800 079 599) where easy customers can call for help on any of their banking needs. To open an Easy Zero account, dial *120*277# on a mobile phone and follow the prompts.

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