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Free Internet for students

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Having already zero rated the charge to key basic education sites and career portals, Vodacom has taken a decision to zero rate services to universities for students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers.

The cost to communicate in South Africa has been a hot topic in recent times, given the impact of the economic slowdown on the South African consumer and global trends on the cost of data.

In response to this, Vodacom’s pricing transformation strategy, anchored by personalised packages aimed at giving customers greater value, has over the last four years produced a reduction in the price of data and voice by more than 60% and 57% respectively. Vodacom acknowledges that more needs to be done to enable South Africans to enjoy social benefits of connectivity and associated costs. We remain committed to addressing data cost transformation and building on our Siyakha platform that offers zero-rated portals for school learners and job seekers.

Having already zero rated the charge to key basic education sites and career portals, Vodacom has taken a decision to zero rate services to universities for students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers. This in a bid to help address cost challenges associated with access to education content and remote learning for institutions of higher learning. Through this approach, Vodacom has already enabled 19 of the 23 South African Universities, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), with free internet access.

Dr Max Price, UCT Vice-Chancellor, said students and other eligible users will have access to the free service. Free internet access to students and staff has until now only been accessible through the Eduroam Wi-Fi platform that can only be accessible within the vicinity of the university and its residences.

Dr Max Price, UCT Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University of Cape Town is grateful to Vodacom for providing such an important resource to our students and staff. The service will be very useful to our students in that it will enable them to do their work off-campus without worrying about data costs or without having the need to travel to campus.”

In the case of UCT, The sites will be accessible through the agreed uniform resource locators (URL), internet protocols (IP) and ports which will provide addresses to particular pages and files on the internet. The identified addresses will include UCT’s website http://www.uct.ac.za, the online library http://www.lib.uct.ac.za, and other important classroom and general interactive university sites.

For requirements over and above the zero rated content, Vodacom has launched an e-rate i.e. billing all data traffic to agreed sites at 50% of the normal data rates for all universities.

Vodacom Managing Executive for Western Cape Region, Alberts Breed says: “This intervention is a demonstration of Vodacom’s core belief that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and mobile technology can be utilised to improve and advance learning, address skills development and help in finding employment.

Breed says: “Many learners in our country often cannot afford and don’t have access to learning material such as textbooks, which makes excelling at school more difficult. As an investor in the country and an established partner in addressing social challenges, Vodacom’s goal is to contribute to ensuring that learners throughout the country have access to some of the educational tools to help enhance their learning experience.”

He emphasised that education is not just a government issue, but the private sector and the general public are to play a pivotal roles in providing access to higher education and further education and training.

Other Vodacom zero rated sites include:

• The Mobile Education programme, which is Vodacom’s holistic approach to ensuring sustainable benefit to educators and learners by providing Internet connectivity, ICT equipment, content and teacher training through 92 ICT centres across the country.

• Vodacom Tries for Books campaign. The programme is an educational content application, which is freely available on tablets at the 92 Vodacom ICT resource centres that are situated across the country. The e-library has been up loaded with e-books made available by publishing partners including Via Afrika, Oxford University Press, Shuter & Shooter and FunDza. Internet connectivity and access to the e-libraries is free.

• In a bid to help address skills development and job creation within the ICT sector, Vodacom together with its partners, MICT-Seta, Cisco, CompTia, Microsoft and Independent Development Trust (IDT) and Cisco embarked on a drive to help empower unemployed youth with ICT skills training. The partnership trains unemployed youth in ICT skills and helps further develop them into ICT entrepreneurs. To date, 923 trainees have gained basic computer skills, IT essentials, enterprise development and business skills through the programme.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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