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SA behind in SDN

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Software Defined Networks is taking the world by storm as organisations seek greater control over their data centre. However, research has shown that South Africa is behind the adoption curve, writes JOHAN DE VILLIERS, Managing Director, First Technology.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is taking the rest of the world by storm as organisations seek greater control, performance and management across the data centre and the network; and recognise the benefits SDN can offer in terms of cost savings on capital and operating costs, improved network performance, increased productivity, and improved security.

However, new research shows South Africa is behind the adoption curve. First Technology and Extreme Networks recently polled 200 South African business respondents, including 6 CIOs, 43 C-suite executives, 70 IT managers and 81 IT professionals on their views on SDN and the cloud, which is closely aligned with SDN.

Surprisingly, 30.5% of respondents said they didn’t know what SDN was; 27.38% had no plans to adopt an SDN strategy, and 11.81% did not believe SDN would benefit them.27.83% said their companies were not using SDN and had no plans to do so, 48.11% said their companies were currently embarking on SDN strategies, and 24.06% said their companies were already SDN-enabled.

In a market expected to top $132 billion globally by 2022, South Africa is lagging, even though local survey respondents said their top network priorities right now were performance (35.42%) and security (33.96%) – all areas where advanced new SDN platforms offer solutions. Extreme Networks’ EXOS Linux-based operating system, for example, supports fast and flexible yet consistent provisioning, programmability and heterogeneity across platforms.

The majority of respondents believed their companies were somewhat ready (41.06%) or completely ready (38.16%) ready for Software Defined Networking. However, 20.77% said their companies were not ready for SDN. South African IT professionals who had no SDN strategy reported that complexity (47.26%) and cost (40.93%) stood in the way of adoption.

As SDN maturity is closely linked with cloud adoption, South African respondents were also asked about their companies’ current level of cloud adoption. The largest proportion (37.71%) reported some private cloud use. 16.53% reported some hybrid cloud use, 15.68% said they made some use of public cloud, and only 14.83% reported that their companies made extensive use of the cloud.  15.25% reported that their companies made no use of the cloud at all. Respondents said the main factors hampering their companies’ optimal use of cloud technologies were security concerns (35.12%), control and management concerns (27.09%), cost (26.76%) and limitations caused by existing infrastructure (11.04%).

The SDN and cloud concerns can be easily overcome, however. Advanced new solutions such as Extreme Networks’ SDN deliver open-standards, comprehensive platform that makes it easy for any organisation to deploy SDN solutions, regardless of their size or in-house skills. Organisations can now migrate their existing networks without expensive forklift upgrades. They can accelerate application innovation and reduces risks for the entire network. They address complexity concerns through modular, open and standards-based development environments that integrate with existing infrastructure and avoid architecture lock-in, while also offering edge-to-core management that addresses enterprise concerns around security, control and management.

In the South African survey, respondents believed the top benefits of SDN were centralised security (22.77%), centralised network provisioning (22.28%), lower operating costs (15.35%), holistic enterprise management (12.87%), cloud abstraction (8.17%) and guaranteed content delivery (6.93%). These results are in line with international trends, where SDN’s benefits are well recognised.

A software-defined approach to business and IT accelerates digital transformation and addresses key concerns among South African IT managers and CIOs; and SDN is increasingly recognised as the architectural model most capable of aligning with the 3rd platform for IT. In a hyper-connected world, SDN has never been more important for keeping it all together, and South Africa needs to move faster to overcome its concerns and catch up.

 

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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