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SMEs must be higher on local election agenda

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A lot has been said about how national government can help SMEs and how local government plays a role in shaping business, which is why entrepreneurs should listen to the promises made by parties in the upcoming elections, writes ANTON VAN HEERDEN of Sage.

Much is said about how national government can and should help create an enabling environment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to flourish, but local government also plays a vital role in shaping their business environment. As such, entrepreneurs should be listening carefully to the promises and policies outlined by the candidates and parties standing for South Africa’s upcoming municipal elections.

The day-to-day impact local government has on the average small business’s day-to-day operations should not be underestimated. Where national government sets macro-economic policy and national laws for industry and commerce, local government is the coalface of service delivery to citizens and businesses alike.

Local government affects small businesses in many ways. For example, companies planning to set up an office or factory will often need to consult with the municipality about zoning regulations and building bylaws. Meanwhile, if you operate in an industry such as food or entertainment, you may need to get a trading licence from the municipality and show your compliance with health, safety and noise control bylaws.

Building the ratepayer base and creating employment

Local government also provides a range of mission-critical services to small businesses, from refuse collection to electricity distribution. If a municipality fails to maintain its local power infrastructure, its SMEs may suffer financial and productivity losses that harm their sustainability. Conversely, a municipality that invests in broadband infrastructure and maintains its local roads efficiently creates an enabling environment where entrepreneurship can thrive.

However, we haven’t heard much from most political parties about what they will do to make the towns and cities they govern into better places to do business. We consider this to be an oversight since municipalities that do a good job of attracting and supporting small enterprises can boost their ratepayer base and help to create employment for their residents.

SME owners should ask their local candidates and councillors questions about what they will do to streamline red-tape for businesses in their constituencies. For example, do they have any plans to make it faster and easier to apply for a trading licence or a building permission? In many cases, small business owners need to go and stand in a queue to file a simple form. Visionary municipalities should make it easy to apply, pay and file paperwork online.

Entrepreneurs should also scrutinise the plans municipal candidates set out to ensure the steady and reliable provision of services such as power. Also high on their priority list is consistent, reliable billing for municipal services as well as transparent and fair ways to initiate billing disputes.

Make a seat at the table for the entrepreneur

I urge councillors and mayors who will be taking new positions in local government after the elections to make a seat at the table for small business. We think that mayors, councillors and city managers can help their cities to thrive and prosper by supporting SMEs.

In addition to revisiting red tape – in line with the 2013 Guidelines for reducing municipal red tape from the departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs – there is much municipalities can do to nurture small businesses.

One example is ensuring that they buy local as much as possible when procuring goods and services, and paying small business suppliers and service providers promptly. Another is by working with large businesses to create training and mentoring schemes for small local businesses. In a world where only the voices of the biggest are heard, we must always fight to hear the voice of the entrepreneur. It is only through growing a vibrant small business community that our towns and cities can prosper.

* Anton Van Heerden, EVP and Managing Director, Sage South and Southern Africa

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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Five key biometric facts

Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.

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How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.

Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…

  • The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
  • The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person.  A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
  • Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
  • Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers.  An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past.  Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
  • Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.

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