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South Africans miss out on IT careers

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Very few South Africans consider jobs in ICT, despite it being one of the best paying career paths out there. SHASHI HANSJEE, CEO at Entelect, discusses some of the reasons for this.

After speaking to various friends, family members and clients about the ICT careers, it seems that very few South Africans consider careers in software development or information and communication technologies (ICT) when leaving school.

There are a number of reasons for this, but first let’s look at why a career in software should be given some consideration by this country’s youth.

In 2014, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for revealed that four of the top ten companies were software or technology-related organisations. In fact, the top two were both software companies. Of course, this isn’t an indicator of the attractiveness of all software companies, but the ‘Google-philosophy’ and Silicon Valley culture is certainly more prevalent in tech companies. On the local front, according to Career Junction’s Index (July 2015), the ICT industry sees the highest job vacancy levels in the country. The demand for people to fill ICT roles is more than double that of the engineering industry, which has the third-highest demand level on the Index.

In addition, according to Buzz South Africa, the highest-paying job (on average) in SA in 2015 is that of a software engineer. This particular statistic is difficult to measure and differs from survey to survey, however, simply because of the demand for these skills, software engineers and developers will usually be in the top ten of any salary survey. Finally, in the biggest worldwide developer survey – StackOverflow’s 2015 Developer Survey – around 70 percent of participants said that they were self-taught or trained on the job, indicating new levels of sustained value to employees presented by this field.

So, if ICT companies are usually good companies to work for, it’s relatively easy to find a job, an expensive and lengthy qualification is often not required and the pay is above average, why don’t South Africans want to follow this path?

At present, the biggest reason is our backgrounds. A large percentage of this country’s population grew up without computers. However, this is changing – smart device ownership is increasing and hopefully we’ll see future generations take a greater interest in the software element of these devices. To add to this, renewed focus and commitment by public and private sector organisations to work towards improving South Africa’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schooling performance is expected to yield positive results, which will also play a large part in making the ICT field more accessible for young people.

There is also a perceived lack of ‘cool factor’ around the industry. However, software development is one of the few white-collar industries where employees can have the instant gratification of building something from scratch. With software being a part of everything nowadays – from apps on phones and devices, social media, as well as the process which runs a DSTV Explora or the SatNav in a car – software developers’ work is often showcased in the public eye. What could be cooler than that?

In comparison, the ICT industry is the largest private sector employer in India. India has a population of more than one billion people, and has embraced an industry that barely existed there twenty years ago. This has made the nation one of the most powerful ICT forces globally, and demand for the country’s ICT services has driven significant economic development. African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria are also following suit.

In South Africa, the ICT market continues to expand, and the need for software professionals is clearly present. However, we currently just don’t have people with the right skills to be able to meet this demand and play on the world ICT stage. If Indian can use this industry to boost their economy, why can’t we, and why don’t we?

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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