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Data falls for students

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With the ongoing protests at universities around South Africa, Telkom, Cell C and MTN have made moves to provide free access to tuition websites.

Many institutions have had to make alternative plans to continue the academic year. Many universities have made lecture and study material available online while campuses are not able to be accessed by students. This may result in further anxiety for students who may already be surviving on the smallest of stipends, and must now find additional funds to purchase the data needed to access the materials they require to continue their studies.

“Our universities and institutions are key to empowering South Africans and creating growth in this country,” said Sipho Maseko, Group CEO, Telkom. “We at Telkom believe it is essential that students are able to continue their studies despite the current political climate.”

Telkom is offering a solution which will enable universities to allow free access to academic content for students, even if they have run out of data or airtime. Telkom’s Reverse Bill URL service allows students using a Telkom mobile prepaid or postpaid SIM card to access content on a university website without paying for data consumption. Students accessing academic material via Telkom ISP will also benefit from free data as Telkom already zero rates this traffic.

Under normal circumstances, mobile data usage would then be reverse billed back to the institution – similar to the reverse-charges phone calls of previous years. However, during this critical period, Telkom has taken a decision to waive the data consumption costs until the end of the academic year. Students who need to work off site can therefore do so even without the need to fund these costs themselves.

“We hope that this small contribution on our part will assist students to complete the academic year as we work together to build an equitable system for all,” says Maseko.

Telkom is reaching out to academic institutions throughout South Africa to implement this solution.  Students will be able to buy and Rica SIM cards from Telkom stores, national chains and participating dealers.

Meanwhile, Cell C will offer students from universities across the country free access to university websites in a bid to assist them to access course material necessary to complete the year.

“We know students are facing a tough time at the moment, and many need to gain access to course material through their university’s online portal in order to complete their academic year. Zero-rating access is our way of assisting students,” says Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos.

Cell C is in the process of contacting universities and will implement a reverse bill on their website URLs. Cell C will absorb the cost to allow students to access academic content for free. This means that even if students are off campus, they will be able to access the university website at no cost. A list of the participating institutions will be updated and published on Cell C’s website.

“Cell C will ensure that this service is available to students until the end of the academic year,” says Dos Santos.

This service will complement the free basic internet services, including Wikipedia and other information-based sites, that are already available exclusively to Cell C’s customers free of charge through Facebook’s FreeBasics (Internet.org).

Students from participating universities, with a Cell C SIM card, will be able to make use of the service.

MTN announced that it will allow university students free access to university websites in order to access online content. To date, students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of Pretoria will benefit from this initiative.

MTN is appealing to other institutions of higher learning to tap into this initiative by providing their URL addresses.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, MTN took the decision to provide free access to online educational content in order to complement existing classroom training, leverage the benefits of online training and assist the students and academic institutions to salvage the 2016 academic year.  As MTN, we are mindful of the backlog that students and academic institutions are facing, and we believe that this gesture will help to maintain continuity and expedite access to much-needed educational content,” says Mteto Nyati, Chief Executive Officer: MTN South Africa.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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