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Site fights cyber bullies

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Cyberbullying is a major issue in South Africa with statistics showing one in four teens being subjected to it. KidTech has recently launched a website allowing parents to identify if their children have been victims.

Cyber-bullying, which is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets, has become a major issue in South Africa.  Recent statistics show that an unacceptable 1 in 4 South African teens have been subjected to cyber-bullying. This is extremely worrying for parents, for schools, and most importantly, for the victims themselves.

Antony Seeff, a co-founder of KidTech, which provides cellular solutions for schoolkids, says, “the cyber-bullying problem is often perceived by teens as being a bigger issue than drug abuse.”  “And it has a major effect on the victims”, continues Seeff.   Studies show that kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues and are more likely to encounter:

  • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints.
  • Decreased academic achievement and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

In response to this growing threat, KidTech has just launched a website, available at http://www.ismychildbeingcyberbullied.co.za/ , to help parents identify whether their child could potentially be a victim of cyber-bullying and to provide advice to those parents to help them deal with the situation.

Parents are unfortunately kept in the dark regarding cyber-bullying, as children are embarrassed about the abuse or think their parents won’t relate or understand.  As such, parents are often unaware that their child may be going through an extremely difficult situation.   Even if parents do become aware of any cyber-bullying, they are often at a loss as to how to handle it – whether with their child, with their child’s school, with other parents, or even with the police if necessary.  Ismychildbeingcyberbullied.co.za tries to assist with all these matters through an easy-to-use online survey, which is followed up with some real-world advice.

Toma Batev, another co-founder of KidTech explains that, “all you have to do is complete a short 10-question survey, answering some questions about your child’s behaviour.”  “The website will then tell you the probability of your child being cyber-bullied and email you a variety of suggestions to help them” continues Batev.

Nic Botes, the third co-founder of KidTech concludes, “we’ve identified cyber-bullying as being one of the major threats facing our children when they are given access to cellphones”.  “We are addressing this through our solution, but are aware of the greater problem in South Africa and are doing what we can to build awareness of the issue and help parents deal with it”, he says.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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