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Digital divide not bridged by broadband alone

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Although broadband can contribute to solving certain problems within developing markets, as an enabler of innovative new technologies, it is only a small component of the solution, writes ECKART ZOLLNER, Head of Business Development, The Jasco Group.

It is evident that telecommunications and connectivity within developed countries is continually gaining impetus, becoming more advanced and utilised.  On the other side of the spectrum, developing countries naturally lag behind, however, we are seeing the digital divide shrinking in some areas. The reality is that the rate of change within the developed world is beginning to reach a plateau while the developing world is catching up on technology. This is not to say that all of the challenges within the developing world have been addressed, and many of these issues remain. However, while broadband connectivity can contribute to solving certain problems within the developing market, as it is an enabler of innovative new technologies, it is only one small component of the solution.

In Africa, including countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, there has been a significant amount of investment into developing and rolling out broadband infrastructure. From the initial connection of undersea cables to the continent by international players to the metro rings aimed at connecting cities, the market has now moved on to the last mile. The race is on to connect lucrative customers, and many providers are focusing on connecting entire suburbs as well as business, private homes, estates, retail centres and more. Driving the accelerated pace in the rollout of fibre and broadband connectivity is a growing adoption and acceptance of cloud-based solutions, as enterprises strive to reduce IT spend while still maintaining access to leading-edge technology. This increased demand from big business in turn helps to broaden customer reach of fibre technology and reduce the price, making it a more affordable solution for a wider proportion of the market.

In South Africa in particular, this process is assisted by a fairly open and deregulated market, which enables healthy competition to develop from numerous service providers. However, while access to broadband connectivity in terms of the infrastructure is becoming less of a challenge, the African market still faces a number of other challenges. By its very definition, the developing world often faces wider issues, including political instability, poverty, poor healthcare and education services for the majority of citizens, and a lack of economic activity, all of which need to be addressed. While broadband can assist in contributing to the solution in a number of these areas, it is only a small part of the solution.

Broadband can assist in the acceleration of economic activity, but this requires effective political governance, free and open market policies, effective regulation and a good understanding of best practices. The old model of state owned monopolies that still exists in many developing nations is not conducive to rapid broadband development, which may be hindering developing nations’ ability to take advantage of next-generation technology. In addition, broadband development requires significant investment, which many economies cannot undertake by themselves. It is therefore essential for developing nations to foster a climate that attracts foreign investment, in order to enable the development of the infrastructure that is needed to fully bridge the digital divide.

While the digital divide may not be getting deeper, it still exists, particularly within the geographic imbalance of broadband distribution in the majority of African countries. More speed is not necessarily the answer, but more pervasive access is certainly a step in the right direction. However, it is also important to bear in mind that technical literacy and skills development are essential components of addressing this challenge as well. Broadband, like any other technology, is not a magic wand, simply an enabler and a necessary platform. Opportunities still need to be developed, which requires support from government for innovation and entrepreneurship. While broadband can help to connect providers of services with a far larger market, and connect suppliers, markets and information crucial for success, it is by no means a silver bullet. Technology is a supporting tool, but ultimately people lie at the heart of innovation and support and leadership is needed to drive this.

Whilst Broadband can become the bright light to accelerate change and economic progress, it is the political and regulatory fundamentals that need to follow global best practices to allow broadband deployment to flourish. Countries that have committed to the correct governance models with effective law making and regulation are already starting to show leadership in the adoption and deployment of broadband and subsequent innovation.

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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