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Find agility in the cloud

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SMEs and enterprises are quickly adopting cloud computing as an alternative to physical servers. This, according to ATTILA NARIN of Amazon Web Services, is because cloud computing offers numerous benefits including lower costs, easy and quickly deployment and robustness.

Over the past few years we have seen that cloud computing is becoming the new normal for larger companies across South Africa and around the world. As well as the rapid enterprise adoption of the cloud, small businesses and start-ups are also becoming part of this growing trend. Migrating to the cloud is giving smaller organisations the ability to access near endless amounts of compute, storage and other technologies over the internet, on a pay as you go basis, lowering the overall cost of their IT and increasing their agility and pace of innovation.

In the pre-cloud world, when you asked an engineering team how long it might take to get a server to try something new, typically it would take 10 – 18 weeks. In this new world of cloud, not only can a company spin up hundreds of servers in minutes and pay only for what they use, but they have access to a very robust, full-featured technology platform that lets them go from idea to launch in record time.

For start-ups and SMEs this is good news as employees now have the opportunity to test new concepts in a much shorter time-frame and with a lot less IT investment risk. As a result, both start-ups and SMEs are evolving to be far more dynamic and innovative.

The question is not, therefore, whether you should move your activities to the cloud – it’s when you should and how quickly.

One of the main benefits of cloud computing is agility. For a start-up or SME, being able to adapt to uncertain market conditions or quickly change direction of their business to better fit with the needs and wants of customers is critical. Being able to quickly change their strategy is leading to many smaller organisations taking on older, more established players which is disrupting many, often decades old, industries.

If you think about what’s happened in the last few years, we have started to see many longstanding businesses and industries that have been completely disrupted by new companies in a very short amount of time. The best example is the growth we have seen in Internet based businesses such as Netflix, Airbnb and Dropbox. The reason for the disruption is these more agile companies have been able to rapidly experiment and test out new ideas. Those ideas that fail can be shut down quickly and inexpensively and those that succeed can be allowed to quickly grow. This is leading to many new companies taking on larger organisations, for example, in industries such as financial services.

A good example of a South African company in the financial services sector that is using AWS to flourish is Entersekt. Entersekt provides authentication solutions to customers which is making the online world a safer place to bank and shop. Entersekt has been able to build a service that can scale to millions of users by using the cloud while giving customers a more secure and better retail banking experience all while reducing online phishing fraud to an absolute 0%. Although it may be expected that a technology like this would come from one of the world’s largest banks or credit card companies, in New York, London or Hong Kong, instead it came from an agile, fast moving and fast thinking cloud based start-up based out of Stellenbosch.

As well as giving smaller organisations the ability to experiment quickly and scale up to take on larger companies, the cloud is also giving them the ability deploy their applications in multiple regions around the world with just a few clicks. This kind of global reach was previously only available to the world’s largest multinational companies. Now, with the cloud, it means a start-up can go global from day one and can increase their chances of success and also rapidly increase their customer base.

A good example of a fast growing company from South Africa that is seeing many of these benefits is Travelstart. Travelstart has been able to rapidly grow their Middle Eastern business using AWS while reducing downtime by 25%. Started in 1999, the company has grown to become Africa’s largest travel booking website offering flights, hotel bookings, car rental, vacation packages and a range of insurance services. The company operates in more than 15 countries across Africa and the Middle East. By using the cloud to rapidly grow their business, Travelstart is able to take on the world’s largest companies in their field while also increasing their reliability and levels of customer service.

Cloud computing gives businesses of any size access to storage, compute, database and many other technologies on a pay as you go basis from anywhere in the world. This is democratising the business world by giving small companies access to the same vast amounts of technology that were only in the realms of the world’s largest organisations in the past. I look forward to see the cloud continue its rapid growth in South Africa and look forward to see more start-ups expand their businesses around the world thanks to the cloud.

* Attila Narin, Head of EMEA Solutions Architecture and Business Development, Amazon Web Services

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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