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Message to SA Govt: Smartphones not a luxury

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Ahead of Sunday’s scheduled VAT and various excise duty increases, ALEX FOURIE, weFix CEO, has expressed concern that taxation on entry- and mid-level smartphones will negatively impact South African consumers.

Ad valorem excise duties on some luxury goods were one of the tax increases tabled in February’s Budget Speech, up from 7 percent to 9 percent. The Treasury has stated its intention to change the definition of cell phones to include smartphones, so that they too attract ad valorem taxes.

Treasury said, “Government will also consult to replace the flat rate for cell phones, with a progressive rate structure based on the value of the phone.”

weFix CEO, Alex Fourie, said that weFix will keep a close eye on Treasury’s consultation process to ensure that the entry- and mid-level smartphones are not taxed unduly.

“Not all smartphones are luxuries – new entry-level devices are regularly available for under R500. Our concern is that undue taxation of entry- and mid-level devices will reduce access to what are communication and business necessities for millions of South Africans,” says Fourie.

“It is well-documented that affordable smart devices have put the Internet into the hands of South Africa students, consumers and business owners in all sectors, increasing digital literacy, access to news and educational material, and benefiting the economy as a whole.”

South Africa has 21 million internet users, according to the Internet Access in South Africa 2017 study by World Wide Worx. Of that total, 7 million access the Internet via mobile devices exclusively.

Fourie says that one way for consumers to reduce the impact of mobile devices on their budgets – which has the added bonus of lessening their exposure to tax – is to consider repairing or purchasing refurbished smartphones.

“Mobile devices that are repaired and refurbished having been preowned or damaged during shipment, demo units that are shop-soiled, or new devices that have a fault upon opening, are a really affordable alternative to new devices, particularly in light of the proposed tax increases,” says Fourie.

weFix intends to absorb the imminent VAT increase of 1 percent to further encourage consumers to make use of repair and refurbishment services offered by providers like weFix.

“We understand that for many consumers, going without their mobile devices is unthinkable – and not because they can’t be without social media,” says Fourie.

“We want to keep South Africans connected to their businesses, to their study materials, to the news and to their social networks, hence our commitment to keeping our repair services as affordable as possible.”

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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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