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Lenovo launches innovation centre at Durban U

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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Lenovo are launching a Lenovo Innovation Centre, a walk-in centre aimed at increasing the university’s interactivity with the latest technology.

The ‘walk-in intranet’ will be provided to DUT free of charge. It forms part of Lenovo’s efforts to support education and e-learning in the country while increasing the University’s interactivity with technology.

Conceptualised roughly nine months ago, the Innovation Centre is aligned to Student Centredness, one of the two major threads in the University’s strategic plan. The Innovation Centre is also aligned to the University’s online learning trajectory, which aims to make 50 percent of its programmes available on an e-learning platform by January 2015.

“Students are our next generation of leaders yet many of them don’t have access to the latest technologies,” says Graham Braum, Lenovo Africa General Manager. “Many universities in South Africa, especially those considered previously disadvantaged, operate on outdated technology. They don’t have computer labs where students can look, feel and touch technology.”

Recent research revealed that, out of South Africa’s 413 067 teachers, only 132 884 had been trained in basic computer skills and ICT equipment by 2011. South Africa’s readiness for e-learning is still hampered by a lack of skills and infrastructure even though schools and teachers remain optimistic and willing to bring ICT into the classrooms.

Technology in universities has always been a grey area due to limited budgets and excessive requirements. Lenovo aims to create IT abundance so that when students enter the workplace, they are familiar with technology and, more importantly, PC Plus technology, which supports all their computing requirements, whether at work or play.

“Lenovo feels that technology should be part of our everyday lives, and not be seen as a ‘nice to have’. Technology is what will take this country forward and Lenovo would like to enable our future leaders. Lenovo has first-hand experience working with graduates from universities across South Africa, who joined us for our 2014 intern programme. One thing that stood out was the students’ limited exposure to technology,” says Braum. “So how do we enable and empower our future leaders? We create an environment with IT abundance.”

Dilip Jeena, Client Services Manager within DUT’s IT Support Services Department, said the Innovation Centre has been provided to the University at zero cost. Lenovo and its technology partner, Intel, supplied the DUT Innovation Centre with a multitude of devices, including ThinkPads, ThinkCentre All in Ones, IdeaPads, and multi-mode laptops and tablets. All the devices will be linked to a Student Technology Programme, through which students can acquire tablets, laptops and other mobile devices at a discounted price.

“This Innovation Centre will assist students and staff in familiarising themselves in the use of the latest technology to gain access to various online content that is being developed on the e-learning platform. This would also educate them in the use of these various products and help them when seeking employment. With the rapid evolution of technology and the limited finances available to higher education institutions, the sponsorship of this Innovation Centre is well received.”

The DUT Innovation Centre is the first of its kind and Lenovo hopes to roll out additional Innovation Centres at other universities across the country.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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