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How to keep kids safe online

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We live in an era where most children are always online. However, even though being able to quickly access information is good, there is a lot of content that is not suitable for kids. SIMEON TASSEV advises on how to keep youngsters safe online.

Always-on connectivity has become part and parcel of today’s society, with more and more people relying heavily on email, social media and web browsing. Children growing up in this era have unprecedented access to information, multimedia and interactive learning capabilities, and are entirely comfortable using the Internet for a variety of everyday tasks. However, while embracing connectivity provides new opportunities and is essential for schools to move forward, there is a lot of content online that is simply not suitable for learners. Keeping this ‘connected generation’ safe online is vital not only for parents, but also schools, universities and other educational facilities.

The Internet is home to a wealth of information and offers new opportunities for educators to provide learners with engaging, interactive experiences. For example, channels such as YouTube can be used for video demonstrations and information clips, which offer a richer learning experience than a simple lecture. However, while much value can be found online, there are also certain safety concerns with regard to learners, especially younger ones,  on the Internet. From cyber predators to unsuitable content, suspicious websites and a host of malware, there are numerous threats for the unwary or unaware. Ensuring the safety of underage browsers online should be a top priority.

Simply denying online access or blocking websites is no longer a viable solution. Schools and educational facilities need to not only include IT as part of the curriculum, but allow for access to online capabilities for research purposes if nothing else. One of the most common issues faced by schools is searching online, particularly given the many connotations of certain words, which may lead to inappropriate results. Certain security solutions work to protect browsers by blocking access to known nefarious websites, however, this does not protect users from unknown dangers, nor does it take into account other content such as images, which use different search algorithms.

Leading browsers such as Google provide mechanisms to prevent this, such as Safe Search capabilities, however, the reality is that children are curious and are so adept at navigating computers that they can easily find this setting to switch it off. Internet content filtering solutions have thus become essential to ensure students continue to be able to leverage the benefits of the Internet, without the dangers. These solutions enforce safe searching policies, eliminating unnecessary or inappropriate results from searches of both websites and images.

Another specialised tool that can assist in improving safety is YouTube for Schools, which controls the content available via the YouTube channel to educational and appropriate content. This enables teachers and students to benefit from the power of multimedia content, but prevents learners from being able to access irrelevant or dangerous materials. Again, this channel can be switched off and on, and to prevent learners from disabling safety features, security needs to be enforced through a security solution that prevents them from being able to do this.

Other vital security solutions include firewalls, antivirus, link verification and social media security solutions, all of which can make online experiences safer and more enjoyable. In addition to implementing sophisticated security technology and best practices, however, education is also a critical aspect. Aside from inappropriate content, there are a host of other threats online that the unaware could fall prey to, from cyber predators to phishing scams to malicious links that download malware onto systems. Learners need to be taught not only how to use the Internet, but how to make sure they stay safe online.

The Internet has a lot of valuable information and can be hugely beneficial for educational purposes. As a result, schools need to allow access to online content. However, they are also under obligation to keep learners safe from harm. Ensuring content is safe and appropriate, implement technology to enforce this, and following best practices around security are all essential, and must be backed up with education around security and safety practices themselves. Only in this way can educational facilities ensure students are protected while still enabling them to leverage the freedom and benefits of connectivity.

* Simeon Tassev, Director and QSA at Galix

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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