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Mobile key to service delivery

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Service delivery in the public sector is an on-going topic of discussion and according to MOHAMED CASSOOJEE, the only effective way to drive an efficient service delivery to South Africans is through the use of mobile.

Service delivery in the public sector is an on-going topic of discussion, as it significantly affects each individual South African directly.

According to Mohamed Cassoojee, vice president and country manager for Software AG in South Africa, the only truly effective way to drive out efficient service delivery to South Africans is through mobile access. “It just isn’t possible to build enough physical customer service centres across our extremely diverse areas of population, where over 50 million people are spread out across our country’s expansive area,” explains Cassoojee.

Cassoojee goes on to say that a major hurdle to the effective rolling out of mobile service delivery solutions is the lengthy and complicated procurement process when trying to take a blanket approach to implementing these systems on a national level. “The solution to this is for municipalities to take on the project of mobile connectivity themselves, and this is something that we’re seeing happening more and more,” says Cassoojee.

“A great example of this is the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (EMM), which has recently been the recipient of global accolades for its advancements in digitising service delivery.” Based on case studies such as EMM, mobile connectivity has proven to be a significant way for individual municipalities to fast track service uptake, by both government employees and the general public. These include basic services like water, sanitation and electricity, as well as more extensive services such as healthcare, education and skills development.

“Mobile is especially impactful on those who do not have the convenience of being located close to customer services and city centres, such as residents of rural areas,” continues Cassoojee. He explains that one of the biggest challenges facing effective service delivery in South Africa is that services are concentrated in metro areas.

“The result is a huge amount of the population coming into these metro areas in order to gain access to services, which the country is simply not prepared for from an infrastructure perspective. The solution to this challenge is mobile connectivity. It allow government to drive the required deliverables and services outward, thus creating the opportunity for many people to move back to rural areas, which can have an enormously positive knock-on effect on our strained and overcrowded cities,” Cassoojee explains.

The revolution of mobile connectivity in service delivery also carries vast benefits for government employees. “We are able to not only create and roll out mobile device applications for the public to access these services, but also facilitate verification that government is required to conduct, through utilising mobile device reporting systems,” says Cassoojee. “Field agents are able to immediately capture and process information, regardless of where they are, without having to be tied to an office with endless paperwork.”

“This also significantly reduces the need for rural residents having to make multiple trips to the city at inconvenient times and at a high cost. Government will essentially be able to take these services to the people, rather than the people having to request them.”

The potential for the expansion of service delivery through mobile connectivity is limitless, and Cassoojee predicts that if South African municipalities are able to follow the example of public sector mobile pioneers such as EMM, both government and the general public will be able to experience substantial improvements in the delivery of a vast range of much needed services.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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