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Facebook helps SAPS find missing children

A new AMBER alert system, which exists in the US to provide alerts to people in the area of a missing child, will now be available to South African Facebook users within 160km of where a child has gone missing. BRYAN TURNER reports

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In an initiative to strengthen the combating of child trafficking, SAPS has partnered with Facebook to use the social network to help find missing children. The AMBER alert system started in 1996 when 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted in Texas, and over 1,000 children have been saved as a result of the system. While AMBER now stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, the name will remain the same in South Africa.

At a press conference in Sandton today, Facebook and SAPS briefed the media on how AMBER alerts will work through Facebook, who qualifies for it, and who will get the alerts.

In the United States, it works by pushing an emergency SMS notification to the public about the details of the missing child. It goes out to members of the public who are within the immediate search area as soon as the child is reported missing. In South Africa, this notification will be pushed to devices that are using the Facebook app within the search area.

Not every child will qualify for the AMBER alert system though, so don’t expect many of these notifications.

“One of the most important things that’s necessary to bring a missing child is a photo of that missing child,” said Emily Vacher, director of trust and safety at Facebook. “That’s why that photo will be prominently displayed in the newsfeed of people who are actually in the search area. These alerts will occur very, very rarely, while every missing child is, of course, important. This is a special tool that’s used in special circumstances. If you see one, however, it’s very important to know that you may actually be in a position to help find a missing child.”

Facebook announced the following criteria for who qualifies for AMBER alerts:

  • The abduction is of a child age 17 or younger;
  • There is a reasonable belief that the child has been abducted
  • The South African Police Service believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and suspected abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in recovering the child.
  • South Africa is the first country in Africa to have AMBER alerts through Facebook.

“We really value the partnership that we have with the South African Police Service,” said Emilar Ghandi, head of public policy for the SADC region at Facebook. “We learn, we connect, we listen from you, to continue to work together with you. We listen to how we can better improve our services and we hope that this partnership will continue.

“South Africa is the first in the region to get this service. It truly shows that at Facebook, Africa is important to us. We genuinely care about South Africa and we hope to continue this throughout the region.”

National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole welcomed the partnership between technology and keeping children safe.

“The prevention of kidnapping and abduction of our children, for various purposes including sexual offences, parental disputes, or human trafficking, requires the mobilisation of South Africans,” he said. “The operations manager for Facebook head office in Ireland approached SAPS to offer support to our police service, which is highly appreciated because it will make a great impact. The AMBER alert system will be an additional measure to immediately find missing children in South Africa. I think, proactively, it’s already instrumental and very encouraging.”

Facebook made it clear that one does not report missing children through the Facebook app, but rather through a clear description and pictures provided to a police station. SAPS also made it clear that there is no waiting period to report a missing person or child, and police stations across South Africa have been instructed not to turn away any person who comes in to make a missing persons report. The popular movie cliche of having to wait 24 hours to report a missing child is a myth.

To participate in this initiative, one needs to have the Facebook app on one’s phone, with an active Internet connection and location services enabled to identify if one falls in the 160km search area.

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Huawei Mate Xs foldable goes beyond design

The new foldable handset from Huawei ups the game with great performance and improved hinge design, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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“Falcon Wing Design.” Run those words over your tongue. It sounds cool, it looks cool and it feels cool. And it sums up the high-tech engineering that will make the new foldable handset from Huawei a formidable competitor in this fast-growing segment.

But it is not only design that sets the new Huawei Mate Xs apart. Unlike its predecessor, the Mate X, the device runs on EMUI10.0.1, an operating system based on Android Open Source Project. The software is based on Google’s mobile operating system, but is not affected by the United States government ban on Huawei using American technology. That means the phone operates like an Android 10 phone, but does not run Google Mobile Services (GMS), which includes the Play Store and its automatically updated apps.

Instead, it uses Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which replaces the likes of Google Assistant with Huawei Assistant, and allows services like Gmail to run on top of a built-in email service. It allows browser-based versions of any Google service, like YouTube, to be accessed via an on-board browser,  and includes workarounds for various other commonly used Google apps.

At first sight, one gets the sense that HMS and EMUI10.0.1 will quickly teach users that they are not as heavily dependent on Google apps as they may have imagined. Our first half hour spent on the phone suggested very little commonplace functionality that was not easily available. On a personal level, once Gmail is sorted for me, my apps needs are highly specific, rather than being dictated by an ecosystem – whether HMS or GMS.

But let’s get back to the Falcon Wing design. It was first used on the origjnal Mate X, but the new version, which features more than 100 interlocking parts, is made with a zirconium-based liquid metal, resulting in a hinge that is both more durable and provides a more satisfying 180-degree fold.

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#Huawei’s new foldable #smartphone is our. Check out the #MateXs in folding action #foryou

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The flexible display uses a two-layer polymer structure, manufactured by adhering two layers of aerospace-grade polyimide with an optically clear adhesive. This, says Huawei, allows the display to produce great image quality, colour saturation and brightness while retaining a high degree of durability. 

In folded mode, the Mate Xs is a dual-screen smartphone, with a 6.6-inch main screen on the front and a 6.38-inch secondary screen on the back. The secondary screen folds into an edge which serves as a grip when the device unfolds into an 8-inch tablet.

Unfolded, the Xs comes into its own. It offers Multi-screen Collaboration, which Huawei says “breaks down the boundaries between Windows and Android devices”. This means that it allows content to be moved easily between supported devices, and can allow two systems to be controlled from one device.

The phone also provides seamless Multi-window support, allowing two apps to be opened side by side, with a third one “floating” on top, and allowing content to be dragged between the apps – including text, images and documents. The Floating Window can be used to respond to instant messaging, for example, without closing the other apps.

Talking of apps, the Mate Xs debuts a revamped AppGallery, which Huawei intends to develop as a replacement for the Google Play Store. The company would, of course, want to suggest that it is a superior option, but that could take a few years more.

Read more on the next page about the cameras on the Mate Xs, along with the device specs.

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Surviving tax season: An accountant’s tech guide

As we approach the February tax-year deadline, Xero SA country manager COLIN TIMMIS offers tech tips for tackling the number-crunching

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We’re approaching the end of February, which means it’s officially coming to the end of the tax and financial year. It’s a difficult time for accountants and businesses as admin piles up, and task lists get longer by the day. And to top it all off, it’s summer too.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be a time drain. Research from Xero found that accountants can save up to 15 hours a week by using cloud accounting. That’s an average of 54 hours per month or 27 days – an entire annual holiday allowance, plus change. When respondents were asked what they would do with this spare time, of those who chose non-work related activities, 30% would spend more time with family, while 22% selected more time at the beach.

Together with Simon Magner, Xero partner and Director of Iridium Business Solutions, we’ve come up with a checklist to help accountants and small businesses prepare for this busy time.

Ensure your bookkeeping is up to date

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your bookkeeping is accurate and up to date. You don’t want to be scrambling for the information that you need at the last minute – doing the legwork to make sure all the data is ready will pay off in dividends when you come to generating the year-end report.

Check employee data

Remember that your employee data needs to be up to date, and it isn’t up to your employees to sort this out. If it’s not your responsibility to collect this data, warn the relevant people about the year-end in advance. You’ll need to gather all information on payroll and bonuses, while also collecting all receipts for expenses.

Use technology to help you

Admin-heavy work like invoicing, transaction imports, reconciliation, payments – and more – are time-consuming. Even though software can do all these tasks, they’re often done manually by accountants and business owners – which means there is more room for human error. Xero research reflects this too – a quarter of accounting and finance professionals said they could work smarter if they spent fewer hours on administrative tasks.

Having up to date records in real time using cloud accounting software allows you to make better business decisions in terms of your tax position and avoid any costly mistakes.

Don’t let the leap year fool you

Even though 2020 is a leap year, the last working day is the 28th of February – so don’t think you can file your return on the 29th. On that note, don’t leave it until the 28th, either – just in case issues pop up at SARS on the last filing day of the tax year.

Use previous data to guide you

Remember to use past data to inform your current return. Last year’s assessed profit should be used as a starting point to determine the minimum tax you should be paying as a business. And remember, if you made an assessed loss in prior years you could deduct it against the current year’s profits.

When experienced accounting professionals and business owners have to spend time inputting data, processing reports, and scrutinising invoices, they can’t work on strategy, pursue new business or developing client relationships. If accountants want to spend some time away from their desks during tax season, they need to invest in the right processes. It will save them time, energy and costly mistakes.

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