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Fitbit Ace arrives in SA

Fitbit has announced the availability of Fitbit Ace for kids at major retailers in South Africa for R1 599.

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Designed for kids ages 8 and older, Ace motivates with customisable step, active minute and sleep goals, celebratory messages and badges, and challenges for the family. It comes with an adjustable, showerproof wristband available in two colours and up to 5 days battery life. With Ace, parents can manage who their children connect with and what information they see in the Fitbit app that will motivate them most.

With childhood obesity rates continuing to rise and two in three kids inactive every day, parents are looking for ways to encourage a more healthy, active lifestyle. According to a Fitbit study, parents cite screen time as an ongoing challenge in getting their kids to be active (58%). Seventy-five percent of parents said they are interested in the use of fitness trackers to help them keep their kids active.

“Fitbit Ace opens up a direct line of communication across the family to help parents and their children understand how physical activity impacts overall wellbeing and health,” says Dr Ryan Rhodes, exercise psychologist, Director of the Behavioural Medicine Lab (BMED) at the University of Victoria, and member of the Fitbit Advisory Panel. “When parents have insight into their kids’ activity, they are better positioned to then promote less screen-time and more physical activity in a fun and motivating way.”

When designing Fitbit Ace and the Fitbit family account, Fitbit considered privacy throughout the user experience for both parents and kids and built in safeguards and controls to help ensure a safe and positive experience. Parental consent is required to create an account for kids, and Fitbit’s family account allows parents to approve who their children connect with, and view activity and progress. Parents can help manage what stats their kid sees in the app to only include what motivates them most. Kids have access to appropriate stats for their age, including steps, active minutes and sleep; it won’t highlight calorie intake, weight and body fat/BMI, or public social features.

Fitbit provided the following information on the Ace:

●        Tracks their activity and sleep: Helps develop healthy habits by tracking steps, active minutes and sleep; goals default to international health guidelines for activity (60 minutes) and sleep (9 hours).

●        Reminds them to move: Reduces sedentary time with personalised reminders to move each hour.

●        Motivates and rewards them for moving: Encourages kids to build healthy habits with daily or weekend challenges and collectible badge rewards. Kids (and parents) can see their stats, badges earned, progress toward their goals, and more in the Fitbit app.

●        Family account: Brings families together and keeps everyone engaged with added motivation and accountability; parents can view their kid’s activity, and manage what stats they see in the app.

●        More information about Fitbit Ace can be found at www.fitbit.com/eu/ace

Pricing and availability

Fitbit Ace will be available from this week-end in select retailers nationwide. The device is also available for sale at https://www.fitbit.co.za/retailers/ for R1 599 in power purple and electric blue.

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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