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Figma launches in SA

Figma, a leading San Francisco-based tech company, launched its global design initiative and community in Cape Town this past weekend.

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Figma has embarked on a roadshow to launch its Global Design Community from South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, and plans to roll it out to other countries to establish a supportive global community across continents for amateur and professional designers and web designers. 

The hashtag #FigmaCommunitySA trended on Twitter on Saturday afternoon as the Figma Africa Cape Town launch event got underway at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) incubator at the Woodstock Exchange in Cape Town. The event was hosted by Figma and its African partners Ingressive, MEST Africa, and Cape Town tech firm IO Digital. 

“Our Africa launch was a tremendous success. It made sense to launch Figma’s global design community in Africa first, from three of its top tech hubs Accra, Lagos and Cape Town, and then to the rest of the world,” said Figma Africa lead advocate Namnso Ukpanah. 

“Up to 80% of Figma’s users are located outside of the US and a large number of those users are based in Africa. That’s because Figma is uniquely positioned to suit the African design enthusiasts’ software needs – it is browser-based and therefore can be used from any device with an internet connection. It is also free for individuals and small teams, so they no longer need to install and run expensive design software to be able to do their jobs. It also allows you to design for any screen size or file format, and it’s made for team collaboration. As a result, Figma is one of the few US software companies paying attention to the untapped potential of the growing web design industry in Africa.”

Figma’s groundbreaking browser-based interface design tool with real-time collaboration is used by the design teams from top companies such Airbnb, Uber, Slack and Microsoft. And now the company has launched Figma Africa, the first Africa-wide and global online design community to connect designers across Africa on messaging app Slack, the Figma Africa social media channels and at various design events on the continent. So far, close to 800 designers from across Africa have joined the Figma Africa Slack channel.

The Cape Town roadshow was MC’d by local tech startup expert Vuyolwethu Dubese of Thomson Reuters, and included a lively panel discussion on the meaning of world class design by local startup, tech and design experts including Ukpanah, Passmarked.com CEO Mark McChlery, creative strategist Marwaan Sasman, user experience (UX) experts Dane Perring of ad agency 99c and Nicole Bergstedt of Thomson Reuters, and designer and creative communications specialist Najma Toefy of PwC. The discussion was led by moderator Evans Manyonga, Reignmakers founder and editor of Fast Company SA. 

“The key takeaway is that everyone can be a designer,” said Dubese. “Figma makes it easy for anyone with an internet connection to be a designer. Web developers and designers have traditionally worked separately, but now they can work together more collaboratively, and web developers can even try their hand at design. And with the new Figma Africa community that is growing, design enthusiasts across the continent can support each other and innovate together.”

Sasman said: “I see design as not a visual pursuit but a problem solving pursuit. Designers need to start thinking in a much broader sense as problem solvers, because it’s about more than just making visual things. The most valuable designers are the ones that understand people, political or social issues and how to make a social impact. UX matters.”

Software engineer Thabang Tsoboho, who was in the audience, quipped in Twitter that, “We’ve had the “Should Designers code” (chant), but what about “Should Developers Design?”, referencing that users often looked at badly executed tech products like unwieldy apps or software, as design failures rather than coding failures.

Figma will be returning to Cape Town in August, joined by a delegation from the world’s leading software development platform Github, to host a design-focussed hackathon for teams of developers and designers. 

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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