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SA faces ICT Policy disaster

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The recently released ICT Policy is filled with good ideas. But, good ideas don’t always translate into good implementations, especially considering the government’s track-record, writes ADRIAN SCHOFIELD, VP of the Institute of IT Professionals SA.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy White Paper, which was released last October by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), is an ambitious document filled with many good ideas. It is essential that South Africa’s ICT policy framework ensures the maximum value is extracted from the potential contribution which the ICT industry can make to transformation and economic growth. The new rapid deployment policy is thus to be commended!

A good idea, however, does not always translate into good implementation, especially not considering the track-record of the South African government. With no indication that SA Connect will achieve its targets, why should we believe that new good policies would be properly implemented?

The existing structures which regulate the industry have not performed well, with the appalling delay in the rolling out of digital migration and allocation of radio frequency spectrum. However, there is no reason to suppose that creating new structures and bureaucracy will solve this problem. Rather than embarking on such a foolhardy venture, the existing structures must be fixed and granted independence where appropriate.

Introducing another industrial monopoly, as the DTPS appears to intend with the single Wireless Open Access Network, is not an example of a good idea. In fact, both the idea and the implementation will have the same, detrimental result in this industry as we have seen with other monopolies in other industries: Political interference, no competition and thus high prices.

The Telkom monopoly never succeeded in the apparent goal of increasing fixed-line penetration and the Second National Operator did not increase competition in the fixed-line market. There is ample room for competitive full-service providers alongside service provision at the wholesale level, and while infrastructure-sharing arrangements may make sense in order to reduce duplication of investment, monopolisation is not the answer.

Two principles must be adhered to in the regulation of the ICT industry. Firstly, the government must approach ICT from a ‘light touch’ perspective; and secondly, any policy must be technologically-neutral. Both these principles come down to one reality in this particular industry: Everything changes, all of the time.

What we regard as the norm of technology today will most likely have changed substantially in five years; the same is often not true for other industries like mining and agriculture. A heavy-handed approach which constrains innovation and out-of-the-box thinking will cause South Africa to fall behind technological development around the world and in Africa.

It is, unfortunately, apparent from the White Paper that the DTPS is less interested in facilitating the expansion of access to communications technology, than it is in controlling the ICT industry. There is no evidence supporting the notion that changing the structures governing the industry will lead to more access, but it is clear that it will increase government dominance.

Rather than focusing on this direct intervention in an otherwise well-performing industry, the government should focus its efforts on drastically improving the education of our young people in the STEM subjects and driving improved vocational training through partnerships between employers and institutions. There can be no ICT industry without the skills to design, create, implement and support the solutions that drive our future as a nation.

The ICT Policy White Paper contains many good ideas, and, I hope, is an indication of the government’s willingness engage constructively with the beneficial contribution the ICT industry has made and will make to South African society. Unfortunately, it also contains very bad ideas, and we are not assured that even the good ideas will be well implemented, or implemented at all. There is still much to be discussed and ironed out before the DTPS tries to start the process of implementation.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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