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Herotel ramps up as it takes fibre to rural SA

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The company that brought free Wi-FI to the city of Tshwane has quietly been building out its connectivity business – and is about to go large in the fibre market.

Herotel, which has been establishing itself as one of South Africa’s leading “last-mile” operators, announced today that it is consolidating its fibre assets and wireless internet service provider brands under the Herotel name, with a fresh national trademark.

“Over the last five years, Herotel has been quietly acquiring over 40 owner-operated businesses, which until now remained trading under their original brands,” says CEO Van Zyl Botha. “The plan has always been to unite these companies into a single national entity, which can then use its scale to bring about meaningful change to an industry that desperately needs a shake-up.”

As part of its acquisition campaign, Herotel also focused on software platforms, voice providers, and fibre networks.

“By putting all of these pieces together, it brings us closer to our vision: Everyone connected. It is the next step in our journey to bring excellent, affordable internet to all.”

Founded in 2014 with the stated goal of providing a single national fibre and wireless broadband provider that can better service South Africa’s growing internet connectivity needs, Herotel currently services around 83 000 home and business internet users.

Van Zyl says that enabling connection across the country enriches the lives of ordinary South Africans, stimulating GDP growth by driving skills development and creating job opportunities.

“While the fragmented local internet market has served a vital role in connecting underserviced regions of South Africa, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By consolidating the market, Herotel is unlocking this collective value; amassing the scale and capabilities necessary to address the ongoing industry issues that prevent the national availability of internet.”

Already operating in over 400 towns, Herotel is building, selling and maintaining its own next-generation fibre and fixed-wireless networks across the country, servicing areas that many other industry players have not been able to reach.

“We are very happy to let our competitors fight it out in Sandton and Sea Point while we quietly build fibre and wireless networks in the more underserviced areas. These have included larger towns like Potchefstroom, Worcester, Port Elizabeth, Klerksdorp, and East London, as well as rural towns that others would never consider, like Queenstown, Cradock, Lichtenburg, and Wolmaransstad.

“Our operators all live in the towns we connect, so if your home internet is down it is also down at our staff’s homes. We are woven into the communities we connect and will continue to invest into and serve them to the best of our abilities.

“We believe that our current scale will allow us to play a meaningful role in correcting the connectivity imbalances that currently exist in these areas As we grow we are open to further acquisitions that bring new geographic areas or fresh skills into the group. Ultimately, our aim is to offer unrivalled customer satisfaction to our home and business clients, who rely on us for their video, data and voice solutions and services.”

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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