Two software development students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth have come up tops in international app development competitions.
Jason Cross and Nicholas Jordaan first gained attention in the local software development industry in 2015, after winning the local round of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2015. This global technology competition provides opportunities for students across all disciplines to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications, games as well as integrated solutions that have the potential to change the way we live, work and play. It empowers tertiary education students of all ages and skill levels with the tools, programmes, and instruction they require to turn innovative ideas into software that can tackle real world problems or provide entertainment.
Normally, the kind of students entering this competition are in the final stages of their undergraduate degrees or even Honours level, however, Cross and Jordaan entered as first years with the goal of getting a little experience and seeing how they rank in terms of skills when matched against their peers. The duo formed a team called Digital Interactive Games and saw their project, a 3D Labyrinth style game called PYA Maze of Gods, win the local round of Imagine Cup and they went on to represent South Africa at the global finals.
As a result of the vast amount of learning that this experience provided the team with, they wanted to compete again in the forthcoming Imagine Cup 2016. Their latest project, called Of Dragons & Sheep, was born out of this need and incorporated the learnings from last year’s experiences. Consequently, the team has already managed to edge out global competition to come up tops within the games category of the 2016 Big Idea: Design Winners competition as well as the games category of the 2016 Big Idea: Pitch Winners. They also landed an honourable mention in the 2016 Project Blueprint challenge.
Entries for Imagine Cup 2016 is still open to all institutions of higher learning and students can register their teams on www.imaginecup.com. The finals of the local round of Imagine Cup 2016 will take place on the 30th of March 2016.
For the first time, primary- and high school students are also able to enter in the Imagine Cup Earth category. This new online contest is open to students aged 6-18, with the goal of using computer programming to create a game, simulation, or story inspired by the kinds of earth science that NASA and other researchers do every day. 18 winning students will win prizes totalling $36 000.
Tapping into local youth to boost the SA app development market
According to the latest research from Statistics South Africa, there are about 19.706 million working-age youth (15 to 34 years) in the country, most of whom (around 9.885 million) are not economically active, meaning they are students, care takers at home, or are no longer actively seeking employment opportunities. Approximately 6.239 million are employed, while 3.646 million were unemployed and looking for work.
In order for South Africa’s youth to participate in the economy and software development industry effectively, young people must be provided with the right training, opportunities, access to jobs, internships and learning experiences through initiatives like Imagine Cup.
“The phenomenal achievements of Cross and Jordaan reassures us that South Africa is on the right path of developing skills in software development that is able to compete with the rest of the world. Initiatives such as Imagine Cup provides an important avenue through which to develop future IT entrepreneurs who will soon be creating more jobs for the youth of the country and delivering apps that will grow the local software economy,” says Clifford De Wit, Developer Experience Director at Microsoft South Africa.
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.
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.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
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.