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#feescanfall – if we embrace tech

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The time has come for all parties involved in the #feesmustfall debacle to take a step back, take a deep breath and consider the fact that the answer is staring them right in the face, writes EUGENE BEETGE, MD of Tuit.

I’m not saying that they haven’t considered the role technology-assisted distance education can play in making tertiary education more affordable, but I’ve heard no mention of it in recent reporting on the situation.  The focus is clearly on how Government is expected to subsidise tertiary education and how Universities are going to make a subsidised budget work with no or little tuition income being generated.

I’ve been a technology entrepreneur for many years, with a major focus on technology supported education, and as a spectator to the #feesmustfall situation, I believe it’s time for like-minded individuals and entrepreneurs to say #feescanfall, by shifting the focus from traditional brick and mortar institutions to virtual classrooms, libraries and student-lecturer interactions.

TUIT has been working with various universities, students, lecturers and entrepreneurial suppliers to the education sector for a couple of years, and we have developed, implemented and tested a solution that can play a major role in the reduction of the cost of tertiary education in South Africa.

One of the biggest hurdles I face on a daily basis is convincing the relevant role-players that their biggest assets are not buildings, sports facilities or residences.  Their biggest assets are knowledge, content, lecturers and most importantly its brand!

Through capitalising on the opportunity that is technology-supported education, tertiary institutions can significantly increase their teaching capacity, which increases revenue.  It will also reduce overheads linked to running and maintaining physical campuses.  The equation is simple and the reduction in tuition costs substantial.

So why has this model not been rolled out on a much larger scale?  Mainly due to the natural resistance of an older generation to embrace technology.  Thinking out of the box or being open to the disruptive practices of technology is just too far out of their comfort zone.

Having spent most of 2016 engaging with various universities, colleges and lecturers, as well as presenting many workshops on technology-assisted learning, the overwhelming obstacle remains the traditional doctrine that lecture rooms are the only way to educate.

TUIT has demonstrated that existing educational content can be repurposed and that students can be engaged in an interactive enrolment journey without the dependence on a physical campus.  And this is where technology-supported education would have enabled students who are desperate to complete their academic year, to prepare for their final exams without the threat #feesmustfall is posing.

This is not a “let’s shut down campuses and put all our courses online” solution either.  Universities will still need to maintain its brand and reputation through the quality of the content and the lecturer that presents it.  Student interaction and support will remain key to the success of any model, and campuses will probably continue to operate in a traditional manor on some level for many more years.  But physical campuses are limited in its capacity and is expensive to run.

The concept of disintermediation is a subject very close to my heart, and is reflected in every aspect of our business and the solutions we provide.  In short, it addresses the role of the middleman between the supplier and the consumer.  It is not the replacement of the middleman in the supply chain, but rather the upgrading of the middleman to shorten the supply chain, leading to a more streamlined process and an improved end-user experience.

If universities and even government can envisage the impact of disintermediation brought about by technology, creating a roadmap to affordable tertiary education, should not be such a challenge.  Through digitisation, business automation, location independence and the real-world application of disintermediation, online learning content can be available worldwide, creating student enrolment journeys, lecturer involvement and significant savings for students.

University brand recognition will be key in the future, not geographical placement or infrastructure.  Who will be first to take real steps towards embracing innovation, not just testing the waters with a few short courses, but really putting technology-supported education front and centre in their strategy for the future?

If there are a few trailblazers amongst the powers that be, that is willing to challenge the status quo, #feescanfall!

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Epic Games brings a Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

An example on how one can get infected by downloading the Fortnite app from Google Play.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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