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Ordinary heroes honoured

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Alongside the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft announced its Upgrade Your World initiative, a program where the company highlights and rewards educators for their work done in shaping the lives of South Africa’s future leaders.

Microsoft South Africa recently launched Windows 10 at a fan event held in Newtown, Johannesburg. Together with the launch of Windows 10, the company also encouraged those in attendance to support the year-long initiative, Upgrade Your World, a global initiative which celebrates people and organisations of action who are making a difference around the world.

The Upgrade Your World programme celebrates those who inspire and empower others, led by Microsoft’s vision to help people achieve more through technology and in celebration of the Windows 10 launch.

Microsoft is partnering with ten global NGOs including Keep a Child Alive and Special Olympics, as well as 100 national non-profits from around the world, as part of this year-long initiative to help them upgrade the world, with a total $10 million (around R125 million) cash investment being made in support of their missions and to promote awareness of their causes.

Highlighting the work done by committed teachers

In conjunction with the global initiative, Microsoft South Africa, Pinnacle Africa and Torque IT are joining forces to honour the work done by committed educators charged with the tremendous responsibility to prepare the next generation of business and political leaders, inventors and innovators.

“As Pinnacle Africa’s local brand, Proline is proud to be associated with Microsoft’s education initiatives in South Africa and our core values of ‘People, Product, Passion’ are reflected in the Windows 10 products we are demonstrating at the event,” said Rodger Green, Proline Brand Executive at Pinnacle Africa. “By being the first local vendor offering devices pre-installed with the Windows 10 operating system, Proline intends to continue empowering people to achieve more through technology and reach their potential,” Green added.

On 1 August 2015, Microsoft SA will launch a competition on the Microsoft SA Facebook page which aims to acknowledge and celebrate innovative teachers, who are integrating technology into the classroom to make the learning process more collaborative and memorable for learners. Schools and students are encouraged to nominate their teachers on the Microsoft SA Facebook page by commenting in 30 words what makes their teacher a potential Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Ten teachers stand a chance to win some awesome prizes from Microsoft, Pinnacle Africa and Torque IT to keep them innovating in the classroom.

These include Windows 10 computer training courses from Torque IT, an Intel Classmate device sponsored by Pinnacle Africa, Lumia 430 smartphone from Microsoft SA, as well as admission to the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIE) Programme, which was created to identify and assist global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers in terms of innovative teaching methods and the use of 21st Century skills. The competition closes on 21 August 2015 and winners will be announced on 10 September 2015.

“Our educators of today are responsible for developing the leaders of tomorrow, it is key that they are provided with the correct tools as well as shown how best to use them. The launch of Windows 10 and the Upgrade Your World campaign not only says thank you for their continuous efforts, but provides them with a Windows 10 device plus the skills to use the device, which will aid them greatly with their day-to-day tasks in their respective schools,” says Morne Hugo, Microsoft Business Unit Manager at TorqueIT.

How innovating educators are leading the way for peers

Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Expert programme enables teachers to become innovation thought leaders, who build educator capacity in their community through training and coaching their colleagues as well as speaking at conferences. Local MIE, Phuti Ragophala, who is the principal of Pula Madibogo Primary School in Limpopo has attended two Microsoft in Education Global Forums for instance, with the first of these occurring in Barcelona during 2014 and the second in Dubai this year.

MIE Experts also have the opportunity to try out new Microsoft products as these are released to see how best to integrate these into their lesson plans and collaborate with innovative educators across the globe, using Skype in the Classroom. Local MIE Karen Stadler, is an ICT integration teacher from Elkanah House in Cape Town, and she uses technology to make learners in over 100 classes across 55 countries aware of the plight of rhinos in South Africa. Through her ‘Save our rhinos’ project, Stadler aims to raise awareness of rhino extinction and to unite the voices of children around the world in support of rhino conservation.

“There are hundreds of committed teachers in South Africa doing their best for their students every single day,” says Anthony Doherty, Windows business group lead at Microsoft South Africa. “Thanks to the Upgrade Your World initiative and the launch of Windows 10, you have the chance to show your appreciation by upgrading their world.”

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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