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SA productivity could nosedive on Black Friday

Employee productivity on Black Friday could nose dive, says local online retailer, OneDayOnly.co.za

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni hasn’t had it easy lately. Amidst a more-than-tricky economy and having to walk the tight rope in his recent mid-term budget speech, Tito is squeezed between a rock and a very hard place that’s about to get tighter with Black Friday inspired employee procrastination.

“While the minister probably has bigger fish to fry than South Africans avoiding spreadsheets in favour of scooping a deal on Samsung’s latest flat screen – Black Friday undoubtedly affects employees’ focus at work,” says Matthew Leighton, spokesperson at leading South African e-tailer OneDayOnly.co.za .

While it started as a post-Thanksgiving blowout sale by US retailers, Black Friday has become one of the most significant calendar days for consumers and the retail industry globally. “The proof is in the OneDayOnly.co.za stats. Last year, we recorded over 150 000 website users on Black Friday alone – the average on a regular day is around 60 000 and on a high traffic day such as pay day its approximately 80 000,” says Leighton.

So the demand is clearly there but are people actually doing the bulk of their Black Friday buying while they should be working? Leighton says they are. “Although the sale starts at midnight people are online throughout the day and data from last year shows traffic on OneDayOnly.co.za spiking primarily during core working hours – 06:00, 8:00, 11:00 and 15:00.

He adds that the average user session – or time people spend on the site at any one point – is three times longer on Black Friday than any other day. “In addition to spending longer on the site on Black Friday, customers also return many times during the day so these longer sessions happen numerous times during the work day.”

To add to Tito’s woes, Leighton explains that people are also multi-screening their buying efforts by watching social platforms for tips and prompts. “Most online retailers worth their salt share prompts on social feeds to drive traffic to their websites. Last year, each time we announced via social that a 100% off deal was available shoppers flocked to OneDayOnly.co.za. Almost instantly, the web traffic would spike. The pattern shows how closely people keep an eye on the 100% off deal drops via social media, as well as how effectively the platforms cater to a very wide audience in real time.”

But while Black Friday may result in the odd deadline being missed, Leighton believes the overall impact on the economy is an extremely positive one. “Last year we saw people spending in the region of R1300 on Black Friday, compared to an average of R970 on other days. According to BankServ, South Africans’ card transactions came up to R3bn on the day last year, up 16% from 2017. That’s a nice injection into an otherwise depressed retail sector.”

Leighton says people love Black Friday because there is something in it for everyone, but there’s also nothing to lose – except for maybe a bit of work time. “With so many more products available at low prices, it makes sense to peruse. If you find nothing you like, you are no worse off. And your boss doesn’t have to be either if you’re proactive and shop before work when our doors open at midnight.”

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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