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Freelance goes ‚e’

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Last month’s arrival of the global freelance portal Elance in South Africa was inevitable: it already has a deep virtual presence, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

A few years ago, sitting in a conference in Maputo, where the content was dull but the WiFi was great, I called up my web site on my laptop computer. It struck me that my logo was in even greater need of refresh than the PowerPoint slideshow I’d been watching.

What to do? The last time I’d approached graphic designers to turn up the visual temperature, their quotes were so high, I’d decided to stick with the half-baked version.

But suddenly, the speaker referred in passing to an international portal for freelance contractors called Elance. I’d used it before, but it had slipped my mind. I quickly logged on, entered a search for logo designers, and instantly found hundreds of prospective designers, located across the world. I identified a dozen in South Africa, India and Pakistan who were showing off attractive portfolios of their past work.

I entered a job specification, and invited half-a-dozen freelancers to submit proposals. I was utterly unprepared for what happened next: before the presentation was over, I had three proposals for the job. One came from a designer in India who had done superb work for a variety of little-known American organisations. His price also happened to be one tenth of what I had typically been quoted in South Africa for the same job.

By the time the conference session had ended, the designer had been commissioned, the payment had been made into an escrow account, from which it would be released to the designer in India once I was happy with the job, and we had an agreement on a deadline: a mere week away. All of this negotiated while I sat in a humid hall somewhere in Mozambique.

In the course of the following week several rough designs were submitted, one was selected, and the final logo arrived before the deadline.

This was not a unique experience. Last year alone, 650 000 jobs were posted on Elance. In the last 30 days alone, the tally was 65 000. And no less than 1.3-million ‚contractors‚ have registered on the site to offer their services.

The truly significant statistic, of course, is how much these freelancers have earned. Last year, $150-million was paid out to contractors. Since the site first launched in 2007, the total has come close to half-a-billion dollars.

South Africa happens to be the tenth largest company in terms of number of contractors on Elance, with close to 10 000 having registered. Half of these placed themselves in the Creative category.

This did not escape the attention of Elance. When they were approached by Chris Savides, General Manager of FNB Complementary Online Services, to come into the country, they jumped at the opportunity. Last month their vice-president for Europe, Kjetil Olsen, formally introduced Elance to South Africa at the Design Indaba 2012 in Cape Town. In partnership with FNB, they announced a Paper Wallet Design competition to highlight the idea that ‚you can get paid for any extra effort that you put into creative exploits in your free time‚ .

Not that Elance is only about creative types. More than 1 700 South Africans registered on the site can be found in the IT category, around 600 in Marketing, and no less than 2 600 in Operations.

South African clients, on the other hand, have posted more than 7 000 jobs, at an average job budget of $1,061 ‚ somewhat more than I paid for my logo!

However, most of the South African contractors get their work from outside the country. They’ve earned an average of $32 an hour for their efforts on Elance, whereas South African clients offer an average of $17 an hour.

Elance has brought $1.4-million in revenue to South Africans since the service began, making this only the 17th largest country on the site in terms of earnings. That could be because locals are not quite as hungry for work as contractors on the Indian subcontinent. I never did hear from the South African design who was invited to submit a bid for my logo!

* Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee.

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A device to start reinventing yourself – today

A new fitness device, coupled with a new starting date for new year’s resolutions, could be the real route to reinvention, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK as he tries the Fitbit Versa 2.

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Forget about New Year’s Resolutions that began on January 1. By now, that’s probably what you’ve done anyway. By the end of January, eight out of ten people are likely to have failed to maintain their resolutions. That means the gyms are getting less crowded, friends and colleagues are becoming less painful about brief obsessions, and the media has stopped trying to make you feel guilty.

But there is another reason 1 January was an appalling date to start trying to improve yourself. Not only were you likely to be in recovery mode, but you were also firmly in holiday mode, with little incentive to get out of bed on the day. It also meant that, as you and your body emerged from vacation inertia, it remained inordinately difficult for several weeks to get motivated. And that translates into January and February being recipes for failure of resolve.

This is why the new date for kicking off New Year’s resolutions should be 1 March. By then, you are fully back in the swing of adulting, the world has stopped pressurising you to change yourself, and you can set your own pace. This also means that you can tackle your resolutions step by step, rather than going for the big bang approach.

This revelation came to me as I began exploring the functionality of what is arguably the best fitness monitoring device on the market. The Fitbit Versa 2 looks good, works well as a smartwatch, and has tremendous functionality onboard. But use it in tandem with the Fitbit app, and it becomes the wellness assistant that your doctor could never be.

First, those looks.  Aesthetically, the Versa 2 has a far better design than the original Versa 1, opting for a more square design and a better AMOLED display instead of a regular LCD display. This makes it far easier to read the screen in brighter daylight conditions, and helps the smartwatch save battery life by not illuminating every pixel. It offers customisable watch faces, from a community-based library. Want your watch to display Van Gogh’s Starry Night? It’s yours, with a few clicks.

The body is made of aluminium, which gives a nod in the right direction to those who prefer a smarter looking smartwatch. This places it in the league of the most expensive smartwatches, while still retailing at less than half the cost –  under R4,000 compared to the Apple Watch starting at R9,000.

Visit the next page to read more about the functionality of the Versa 2.

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Mobile World Congress canning sends shockwaves

The cancellation of Mobile World Congress forces industry to rethink strategies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The technology industry has just witnessed unthinkable: the cancellation of one of the world’s biggest trade shows, barely 10 days before it was due to kick off.

Just hours after show organisers GSMA insisted the show would go on, the CEO of GSMA, John Hoffman, issued a statement announcing its canning.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” he said. “The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions. Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

The cancellation comes as numerous heavyweight exhibitors pulled out due to fears of COVID-19, the coronavirus. These included Ericsson, Intel, Amazon, Nvidia, Sony, ZTE, Cisco, Amdocs, and Facebook. Others, like TCL, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Samsung all announced they had scaled down their activities.

GSMA initially insisted that, with 2,800 exhibitors, it had enough safeguards in place to ensure the event would go on. However, it appears to have pre-empted a bandwagon of further withdrawals.

The cancellation will force numerous major industry players to rethink their launch strategies. Few seemed to have contingency plans in place, with Ericsson and Sony notable exceptions.

Ericsson, the first major exhibitor to withdraw, included in its announcement last Friday, 7 February, that it would showcase the company’s portfolio and innovations in local events.

“Ericsson will take the demos and content created for MWC Barcelona to customers in their home markets with local events called ‘Ericsson Unboxed’,” it announced.

Sony said its press conference would still take place at the scheduled time of 8:30am Central European Time on February 24, but “as a video via our official Xperia YouTube channel”.

Other exhibitors may well turn to similar strategies, but smaller businesses that had hoped MWC would put them on the map will have to pursue traditional marketing strategies. Those that had hoped to showcase breakthrough technologies or demonstrate the possibilities of 5G, for example, will have to look to alternative events.

ShowStoppers, a major preview event and media attraction at MWC every year, had announced on Tuesday it would still go ahead, but had no option in announcing its cancellation a day later. However, it runs the event at most major tech expos, and will have the opportunity to pull exhibitors into other regional shows.

“We will continue to collaborate with GSMA,” said ShowStoppers partner Steve Leon. “We look forward to connecting journalists with our partner companies as they launch new products and technologies at ShowStoppers events planned for MWC Los Angeles 2020, IFA 2020 in Berlin, CES 2021 in Las Vegas, and, of course, MWC Barcelona 2021.”

IFA, held in Berlin every year at the end of August, is the world’s biggest tech expo by attendees, although not by floorspace. However, it is likely to be given a massive boost this year as it attracts many of the launches that would have been confined to MWC. The Los Angeles MWC event, due in October, is tiny by comparison, drawing just over 20,000 attendees, and is unlikely to take up the slack. 

Visit the next page to read about the knock-on impact of the cancellation and to see who is the big winner of MWC being cancelled.

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