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Tech giants must spread benefits of innovation

SIMON MCCULLOUGH, Major Channel Account Manager at F5 Networks, asks whether tech companies could do more to ensure everyone benefits from the fruits of innovation.

Across the world, countless digital divides between rich and poor nations are emerging, stoking stark developmental disparities and stymieing opportunities for cross-cultural collaborations. The IMF even suggests that technological progress is one of the main factors driving global inequality. It should be the opposite.

Meanwhile, Oxfam figures reveal that the richest 1% hoovered up a staggering 82% of all wealth created in 2017. The poorest half of humanity got nothing. This has a stark and detrimental impact on appropriate levels of connectivity, workforce skill levels, and R&D expansion, all of which can cumulatively and negatively hit global markets in the long term. These are particularly alarming consequences in the context of collectively dealings with major issues, such as climate change, global supply chain sustainability, or food and water supplies.

Today, the Internet is a basic human right, yet far too many regions are being cut out of the loop as cloud platforms and network infrastructures are being rolled out across developed economies. The divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is widening. Governments can, and indeed are to some extent, helping to mitigate the situation. However, tech leaders need to take more responsibility than ever before when it comes to developing nations and this can be achieved with innovation ecosystems that can benefit existing and nascent businesses.

Now is the time to better unite the tech industry and inspire concrete commitments that go well beyond short-term sponsorships, charity initiatives or perfunctory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) drives. At a minimum, all tech leaders should consider the following:

  • Review company values. Do you currently leverage your expertise and resources to effect positive change? If not, rethink your strategy. It is important to be brave and have a sustainable plan. Tweaking and humanising your priorities could also fuel a range of associated business positives, including becoming a more appealing employer for increasingly ethics-driven millennial talent.
  • Be a bold advocate for change. Collaborate with your partners, clients, and competitors to maximise deployable resources and eventual impact. Your stance should inspire others to champion worthwhile causes and catalyse change in critical areas. For example, you and your peers may have abilities and technologies suited to combating climate change via monitoring, analysis or general resource efficiency. Why aren’t you already speaking up more loudly on the issue and sharing progressive insights with governments, the UN or bodies like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)?
  • Close the tech industry skills gap. Are you really doing enough to expand your recruitment and training in developing countries with significant talent pools like Africa, the Middle East, and India? Address the imbalance by nurturing indigenous skills and proceed with inclusive intent.
  • Make connections. The tech industry is a hotbed of virtuosic problem-solvers, so it is important to facilitate the right connections and communicate progress wherever and whenever it happens. We need an open source approach to the problem wherein every value-adding voice can easily contribute. Feel like there aren’t any idea-sharing platforms suited to your needs and skills? Go ahead and make one.
  • Encourage employee secondments to regions that need them. Purposeful, transformative use of technology always needs local knowledge and feet on the ground. Get out there, get your hands dirty and, while you’re at it, expand key employees’ perspectives and career horizons.
  • Don’t ignore adjacent grassroots. Work with industry bodies to galvanise the wider tech community to endorse a sustainable programme along the lines of “Technology for All”. This can include investment in people, schools, universities and training programmes, as well as disclosing data with the capacity to create, educate and empower.

A charter for change

We can’t stand idle on the side-lines anymore. Technological innovation and development should be synonymous with helping the less fortunate. Ultimately, it is the tech companies that can powerfully back up strong values with substantive resources and decisive action that will be viewed as tomorrow’s true pioneers. Aside from the obvious ethical imperatives, it just makes good business sense.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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