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Tech gives a boost to giving

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According to the annual Giving Report by the Charities Aid Foundation of Southern Africa, over 88% of South Africans contributed to a charitable organisation through time, money and other donations in 2018. Most people who contributed did so through a monetary donation and by signing petitions. It was also noted that because NGOs have recently upped their reporting, people can now see how their donations have made a difference and how many like-minded people donate to their chosen causes, thus spurring them to donate more.

What’s interesting is the correlation between the spike in younger people giving back and the introduction of online/digital donations. These new platforms have made it easier than ever for anyone to pay it forward. 

Below are just five of the many ways in which we are able to give back to those less fortunate using whichever platform suits you best.

Online: Quicket’s Haven Night Shelter passport 

Quicket recently partnered with The Haven Night Shelter to create the shelter passport – enabling anyone to go online and buy a passport filled with printable, charity-ready reprieve for those in need. Each ticket guarantees the grateful recipient a hot meal, a shower, and a bed for the night (provided there is one free) at any Haven night shelter in the Western Cape. In addition, they’ll receive access to the assistance The Haven provides in terms of social services and helping to get people back on their feet. 

The tickets are sold in batches of five and cost just R12 per ticket. Most customers buy a pack of 10 or even 50 at a time and keep them handy to give out as needed – especially since they don’t expire. Since the initiative was launched on the site, over 1000 tickets have been sold. Quicket also gives the option of donating straight to The Haven Night Shelter through the platform. Users can insert any amount and a donation will be made to the shelter in their name. 

In the real world: Relate bracelets 

The most heartfelt and sustainable gifts are those that endure and keep on giving. When it comes to charitable causes, giving of one’s self is of course crucial, but what if there was an avenue through which to amplify a small donation and see it resonate for generations? Fortunately there is.

Relate is a 100% not-for-profit social enterprise, which donates the majority of its revenue to credible causes and continually creates income opportunities for South Africa’s most desperate citizens. Recipients aren’t merely given cash hand-outs, but instead receive upskilling, training and education, which equips those living in poverty with the tools to uplift themselves. Among numerous ongoing partnerships and campaigns, Relate has recently launched DIG60 – an initiative in association with Ikamva Labantu – which aims to honour South Africa’s elder population, while providing support to those in need. Visit Relate.org for further information and to give the gifts of dignity and longevity.

Use your card: MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet community loyalty programme

The MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet community loyalty programme is one of South Africa’s biggest community loyalty programmes that is making a difference in the lives of South Africans. It allows supporters to raise funds for their chosen beneficiaries – be it a school, charity or environmental organisation every time they shop at any of the more than 1500 partner stores across the country. It doesn’t cost you a cent – you simply swipe your card  when you shop and the partner makes a contribution on your behalf. 

The programme raises over R7 million every month for schools, charities, animal welfare, and environmental organisations. In addition to the card that you swipe, the 22-year-old programme has entered the digital age and now has a virtual card that is accessible via their app that you can scan at till points to give back every time you shop.

Download the app or visit www.myschool.co.za for more information on how you can give back.

SnapScan: the CCID

The Social Development department of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) runs a “Show you care” campaign every year to raise funds for the homeless community of the Central City during the bitterly cold and wet winter months. This year the aim of the campaign, driven through SnapScan, is to raise R100 000 for the CCID’s NGO partners that work with this vulnerable community. Members of the public can look out for the code and details of how to donate on the CCID’s social media pages, on posters in the CBD and in over 300 participating retailers, restaurants and hotels in which table talkers with the campaign details are displayed. If anyone would like to donate via EFT, they can find the details on the CCID website. Pat Eddy, Social Development manager, says the CCID is asking people to make “a life-changing” donation, no matter how big or small. The CCID’s “Show you care” campaign supports its Winter Readiness Campaign during which “care bags” with basic toiletries, shoes, raincoats, blankets and mattress protectors and food is supplied to certain of its partner NGOs as well as the subsidising of extra beds at shelters.

On your travels: BONangels by BON Hotels 

This hotel group offers its guests an opportunity to assist them in helping those less fortunate. BONangels aims to take care of the communities that service their hotels to establish a society of guests and staff who want to give back and build a platform that allows everyone to do something for others less fortunate.

Their most recent beneficiary is the Sunflower Fund, South Africa’s well-known donor recruitment centre and registry. Show you care by registering to be a stem cell donor, donating money or volunteering on the BON Hotels website

It’s estimated that for South Africans, charitable contributions will continue to increase, and with the addition of online donations, giving back is easier. 

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Broadband gets a helping hand

Behind this week’s news that MTN fibre provider Supersonic has launched a fixed LTE service is an effort to rethink home connectivity, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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This week, MTN made its biggest play yet into the market for fibre connections to homes, but its biggest impact may well be within the home.

The mobile operator’s fibre-to-the-home subsidiary, Supersonic, launched a Fixed LTE offering on a month-to-month basis, meaning that homes in areas not yet wired for fibre can receive high-speed broadband. More important, they can get that access at rates that seem unprecedented for mobile data. 

There are two differences from regular packages, however. For one thing, the SIM card that comes with the package only works in specific routers that have to remain plugged into a power supply. For another, the data allocation is split half-half between regular hours and a Night Owl timeframe: the hours between midnight and dawn.

“It just needs users to adjust their internet behaviour a little,” says Calvin Collett, MD of Supersonic. “Conducting massive mobile phone updates or downloading an entire library of Netflix content shouldn’t be prioritised during the day, but should be scheduled for Night Owl data consumption.”

The biggest benefit, aside from pricing, is that one does not have to wait for fibre to arrive in a specific area. While Supersonic’s core business is fixed-line fibre-to-the-home, it is now set to leverage its parent company’s massive mobile data network.

“MTN’s LTE network coverage sits at 95%, after billions of rand was invested in network upgrades in recent years. There is absolutely no reason why those waiting for a fibre connection shouldn’t move to Fixed LTE.”

Collett argues that consumers are far more savvy and well informed of developments in the telecoms space than observers think. They carefully investigate the products and services they choose to spend on, and are looking for the best deals available.

The result is that Supersonic has quietly built up a side business in installing what is called a Mesh Wi-Fi network, consisting of a main Wi-Fi router connected to the standardfibre or LTE or router, and a series of additional access pointscalled plumes, placed in areas of low coverage through ahome.

The plumes – small pods that plug into any power point –connect to one another to expand the network across a wide area. Where traditional WI-FI extenders lose up to half the fibre bandwidth with every extension, the plumes maintain most of the speed regardless of how far the network is extended. All the pods connected to the same router form a single network with the same network name, eliminating the complications Wi-FI extenders usually introduce.

“The traditional Wi-Fi router has replaced the dial up connection, and we’re all happy about this – the infamous dial up tone is ingrained in the brains of anyone over the age of 30,” says Collett. “Wi-Fi revolutionised our way of life as the router gave us access to the internet without directly connecting to a modem. 

“We’ve moved forward, transitioning from ADSL to fibre. While fibre allows for high speed internet access, it is still connected to your Wi-Fi router. Naturally, the further you move away from the hub, the poorer your internet connection will be. Those dead spots around the house can become frustrating when your Wi-Fi signal shows 1 bar and it takes 5 minutes to load a single web page. Mesh Wi-Fi is the solution.”

Collett says he specifically researched a product that looked good, offered app-based management and required no cables. His research led him to Silicon Valley, and the result is the Supersonic Plume Mesh network system.

The drawback is that installation can be complicated for the non-technical consumer. To plug the gap, so to speak, Supersonic sends out technicians who conduct a Wi-Fi sweep of a home and advise how many Plume devices will be needed for 100% coverage. Based on this the technicians make a recommendation for an optimal “smart Wi-Fi”solution. Once installed, though, the network can be monitored and managed from a Supersonic App.

We tried it out and found it was a tale of two experiences. The initial experience was frustrating, as the pods tried to find each other. This is a necessary evil, it seems, as the Plume Mesh network optimises itself over a period of several days. That means the experience at the edge of the network can be very poor at the time of installation. After a few days, however the network was flying.

With a 100Mbps line, the experience next to the main router was around 105 Mbps, both up and down. That in itself was something of a marvel. But the biggest impact was felt at the furthest point from the router: where a Wi-Fi extender had previously delivered speeds of below 10Mbps, download speeds of 80Mbps became not only commonplace, but almost taken for granted.

One of the most useful features of the Plume Mesh is the level of monitoring offered through the Supersonic app. One can observe exactly what devices are connected to which pods – each is given a name, typically of the room, that is visible only through the app.

The biggest surprise of the plume solution is that it has not become a standard solution for Wi-Fi networks everywhere. In an era when we have become deeply dependent on a decent Wi-Fi signal, it has become a necessity rather than a luxury. As a result, home connectivity should be taken far more seriously than merely fobbing consumers off on low-performance extenders. 

MTN seems to have taken this message to heart, rethinking its own approach to home usage.

“Internet access has become the third utility behind electricity and water,” says Collett. “Our goal is to ‘own the home’ but not just by connecting a bunch of devices to a central point. It’s really about how these devices can pioneer habitual change in the home that’s convenient and saves valuable time and money.”

Click here to read about SuperSonic’s pricing.

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Location data key to transforming SA’s transport system

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Location technology can transform South Africa’s transport system – but don’t expect to see self-driving cars on our roads any time soon. What’s more relevant is the need for the public and private sectors to work together more closely to unlock the significant social and economic benefits that more efficient transport and mobility systems would bring to the country, including less congestion and fewer road accidents. 

That was the message from Michael Bültmann, Managing Director, in charge of international relations  atHERE Technologies, a global leader in mapping and location platform services, at an event hosted by the international law firm Covington & Burling in Johannesburg last week, to discuss how digitization could support better mobility, safety and integration in South Africa. 

“Society needs to solve some fundamental challenges, and relevant location data can play a key role in creating a better future for mobility in South Africa. If we know where the goods and people are, and how and why they move, we have the basis for a system that matches demand and supply far more closely, and uses our transport infrastructure more efficiently,” saidBültmann.

“But no company, government or individual can do it all themselves. It’s all about collaborating. If we get real-time data use right, it would have a profound effect on the way the entire economy works: less congestion, fewer accidents, more efficient use of vehicles and public transport, less air pollution, greater quality of life, and potential savings of billions of rands in fuel, time and safer roads.”

Speaking at the event, the CSIR’s Dr Mathetha Mokonyama said that despite the billions of rands pumped into the country’s mass public transport network in recent years, 90% of commuter seats available are still provided by either cars or taxis.

“We have the right to dignity. If you want to see indignity, look at people getting up at 2am to get unreliable transport to a job that only pays R3500 a month. In our country, access to transport is critical for people to make a living, and our focus as a country should be to implement an equitable and just transport system that caters to all sectors of society,” he said.

“It was a pleasure to support the event that brought together so many viewpoints on the question of the effective use of data and location intelligence to enhance the mobility of goods, people and services,” said Robert Kayihura, senior advisor in Covington’s Johannesburg office.  “While the harmonization of regulatory regimes around the continent will take time, a key takeaway from our discussions is the critical need to build a shared vision of the future through consistent public-private dialogue and collaboration in order to accelerate and ensure the sustainable and safe digitization of Africa.”

Paul Vorster, the chief executive of the Intelligent Transport Society of SA (ITSSA), said the effective sharing of data between metros, government and the private sector would ‘go a long way’ to improving the efficiency of existing transport infrastructure.

“The starting point is to improve what we already have. Once we know what we have – that is, data – we can start solving real problems, like knowing where the demand and supply are. But to do this, metros will need to learn from each other, and they often face political hurdles in the process,” he said.

Bültmann said increasing levels of urbanisation across the world were creating the need for cities to better predict, manage and plan future urban movement. Combining and analysing data from different, complementary sources could help South African cities to improve urban planning, relieve congestion and curb pollution for better quality of life.

The event was also attended by Presidential Investment Envoy Phumzile Langeni, the National Planning Commission’s Themba Dlamini; SANRAL’s Alan Robinson; and Dr Rüdiger Lotz, the Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy. The guests were welcomed by Witney Schneidman, the head of Covington’s Africa practice and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1997-2001) in the U.S. Government.

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