The names of 26 bidding organisations that have each won a piece of South Africa’s R4.3bn set-top box tender have finally been revealed by the state agency tasked with the project, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.
Last week, the Business Day newspaper reported that all bidders for the set-top box tender had each won a slice of the deal.
However, the Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) did not make an official announcement about the tender, and it did not respond to calls from Fin24 last week for comment.
Concerns over a lack of communication about the deal have also been raised by the Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister for Posts and Telecoms, Marian Shinn. The multi-billion rand tender is intended to subsidise set-top boxes to five million poorer households. Set-top boxes are the devices needed to decode digital signals for analogue television sets as part of South Africa’s broadcast migration.
Zane Mheyamwa – who heads up financial services at USAASA – eventually provided Fin24 with a list of 26 companies that have won the tender
“I can confirm all the bidders; they received an award letter; they received a negotiation letter,” Mheyamwa told Fin24.
The winning bidders:
NAMEC (National Association of Manufacturers in Electronic Components)
NAMEC Western Cape
“The agency is in the process of negotiating with the various suppliers and they have indicated various lead times from four weeks to 32 weeks,” Mhenyamwa told Fin24.
“The list has been put on our website. We will be publishing this in the newspapers this coming week,” he added.
Apart from being divided into different stages of the manufacture process, a USAASA presentation slide document indicates that all the winning bidders are subject to valid South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) test certificates.
Meanwhile, the slide also indicates that the process is further “subject to negotiations on commercial; technical; and transformation objectives”.
Mheyamwa further told Fin24 that bigger companies could take on larger slices of the tender deal, but he added that discussions on this are still underway.
USAASA reports to the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services despite the Department of Communications being tasked with driving South Africa’s digital migration process.
At a briefing in Parliament earlier this week, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele told Fin24 that he expected to see an inclusive approach regarding the set-top box tender.
“We would still like to encourage that. It’s an issue of inclusion; it doesn’t mean that if I’m a small company and I’m competing against a giant, the giant must take the whole share,” Cwele told Fin24.
The DA’s Marian Shinn has raised a number of concerns about the way in which the tender process has been carried out.
“It (the tender) was never intended to go to only a few as it was intended to grow entrepreneurship among emerging companies and I buy into that – but it must be unprecedented that all those who submitted bids were awarded a share of the pie,” Shinn told Fin24.
“We need an explanation of why the tender was awarded this way. It hints at a political compromise to ensure that there are no legal challenges from losing bidders in order to get the boxes out and get the transition done. This may be valid but I suspect there are some
cronies as passengers on the list,” she said.
Shinn has also raised questions about the time-frame of the project as she said it’s unclear as to what volumes are being asked for and how long the devices could then take to manufacture.
Other issues such as the technical specifications for the Direct To Home (DTH) or satellite boxes have not yet been approved and gazetted yet, said Shinn.
Specifications for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) boxes, though, have been established. DTH boxes are expected to be handed out to outlying areas in South Africa in one of the first waves of the project.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has set June 17 as the deadline for digital migration. Experts, though, have said South Africa is unlikely to meet the deadline after years of delays with the country digital migration process.
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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.
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.