Flu season is once again here and many South Africans will be turning to their trusted dose of antibiotics to resolve the outbreak as effectively as possible. Despite this ongoing routine, South Africa is facing a huge problem.
A study led by Julia Gasson of the Western Cape Department of Health has revealed that local clinics are ignoring the guidelines on prescribing those antibiotics, and formal procedures are followed only 45% of the time.
Another global study, by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), Princeton University, ETH Zurich and the University of Antwerp, analysed human antibiotic consumption in 76 countries and found it has increased worldwide from 11.3 to 15.7 defined daily doses (DDDs) per 1,000 inhabitants per day between 2000 and 2015.
The results of these actions are far-reaching. Antibiotics have begun to lose their effectiveness and we are developing a resistance to them. And the problem is more complicated than we had first thought. In one case, it was found that antibiotic resistant patients with infections such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumonia had contracted a specific gene that had its origins on Chinese pig farms.
A crucial step in combatting antibiotic resistance lies in technological evolution
As a solution, scientists are now looking towards the field of bacterial genomics to tackle the global issue of antibiotic resistance. Genomics refers to the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of our genes. This process can provide clarity around resistance mechanisms and even the evolution of various strains of disease. Today the process of genomics has also become highly automated, which has been greatly accelerated through a combination of parallel processing and the advancement in data management processes.
Due these advancements, we are now entering a world of personalised medicine, whereby individual patients can be sequenced and comparative genomic analysis can provide vital information around the progression of resistant strains of disease. Within this context, technology plays a pivotal role in allowing bioinformaticians to work with and transfer data to clinicians in an efficient and timely manner.
NetApp is assisting to achieve this through our ONTAP Cloud storage software, which allows for the protection of genomic data whilst adding the flexibility to simplify the use of public cloud. We are currently seeing this process in action through our work with PetaGene – a team which originated from Cambridge University PHDs who required a novel approach to the problem of storing data associated genomics. Additionally, we are deploying the new and improved NetApp StorageGRID which now automates tamper proof retention of critical personal data. With an increased focus on data analytics, StorageGRID customers retain and manage an unlimited amount of rich media, which is particularly useful for the field of genomics.
The key benefits of applying technology to scientific research
Unlike generic data reduction techniques, there are a few key benefits of applying the process of data management to the pursuit of tackling antibiotic resistance:
o Increased collaborative efficiency, with smaller more portable files transferable over the NetApp data fabric
o Use less storage capacity and lower costs
o Leverage the flexibility of the cloud. With the NetApp data fabric, files can be seamlessly and securely moved to and from the cloud
o Maintain interoperability with existing workflows and formats
The field of genomics, underpinned by efficient data management, is the way forward in combatting the global issue of antibiotic resistance. This of course needs to be coupled with the necessary behavioural changes where prescription guidelines are followed to the tee. Within South Africa, a country marred by drug resistant infectious diseases ranging from HIV through to malaria, the need to simplify collaboration in genomics with improved data management has never been more crucial.
Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh
In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.
When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.
This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy.
“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.
“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”
Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.
“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.
“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”
Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.
“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.
“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”
Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.
Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”
Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream
If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd
As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?
In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!
Nation-State Hacking & You
It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.
With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.
Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.
Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.
Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.”
Ignorance is not bliss
Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.
Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!