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How to build Silicon Valley in South Africa

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Silicon Valley is well known for treating its employees well by creating an environment perfect for career development. redPanda Software’s CEO, GARETH HAWKEY, highlights a few lessons local businesses adapt into their corporate culture. 

Silicon Valley. That magical place where employees not only work incredibly long hours but also get access to quirky benefits that create an environment many consider perfect for career development. Looking to this environment for inspiration, there are a few lessons local companies can take to heart to look after their most important asset – their people.

While many South African businesses might baulk at the idea of unlimited vacation days or even a full year of paid maternity or paternity leave, it is evident by the successes of Silicon Valley that there are merits in rethinking what a work environment is supposed to be.

At last count, the famed Valley was home to approximately 2 000 tech companies, the densest concentration of its kind anywhere in the world. With many of those leaders in their fields, differentiating oneself is more than just about the work. It is about the workplace built around it.

But to simply try and recreate Silicon Valley in other parts of the world will not work. Instead, one needs to take into consideration the ethos of what that environment has created and emulate that within the South African corporate culture.

In the ICT sector specifically, I believe this is especially challenging as employees want to work at companies that are unique in their approaches to problems. They see and hear what is happening in Silicon Valley and want to go there and experience it for themselves.

Traditionally, South African businesses have been stuck in a certain way of doing things around human resources and skills development. Over the years, this has started to change – but the country is still a far cry from the innovative practices taking place in California.

A Management Overhaul?

Building good ICT solutions requires good people. And the best way to attract those talented individuals is to offer them support from a management perspective.

For example, developers want the opportunity to progress within an organisation and be exposed to as many different things as possible. They, like so many others, are hard-working individuals that want to be fulfilled and become successful. One of the biggest lessons to take from Silicon Valley is in how companies there are able to nurture both the professional and personal sides of each person, ensuring sustainable and balanced growth of the individual.

To this end, it is important to have a creative environment where people can do something besides work. For example, at redPanda Software, we offer rooms where employees can learn to paint or play musical instruments. Or, there are opportunities to tend a bonsai garden or build an R2D2 replica.

Businesses must realise that providing employees with an avenue to be creative will filter through to their professional lives. It is all about giving people opportunities to grow as individuals within the business. For this to happen, management needs to work much closer with people than what it is perhaps used to.

Passion Inspires Perfection

If there is one thing to be gleaned from Silicon Valley, it is that people are passionate not only in their skills, but in their attitudes as well. Providing employees with mentorship opportunities and having a supportive environment are integral in creating a business that reflects the requirements of the digital age.

A beautiful office is just one part of this dynamic. People want to work together and employees want to grow as individuals within the business. Cutting-edge software development can only happen because everybody is excited. Similarly, any other job needs people to come together and work in a place that is not your typical, grey corporate environment.

Ultimately, it is about creating a second home for people. You want to have your employees care about you and grow with your business. And that is one of the best lessons that South African companies can learn from Silicon Valley… sure, the technology is great, but it cannot be created without passionate people.

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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