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Township business to be boosted by 5G and Amazon

At the Soweto launch of the first 5G pilot network in South Africa, Gauteng’s Premier revealed an Amazon townships initiative, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Vilakazi Street in Soweto may soon be the first location in South Africa with a live 5G network – and will also benefit from a partnership between the Gauteng government and global tech giant Amazon.com.

On Friday, wireless infrastructure provider Comsol Networks, in partnership with Samsung South Africa, switched on a 5G pilot network at Uncle Tom’s Community Centre down the road from the iconic street.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said at the launch that the provincial government has invested heavily in changing the face of the townships, and there was “no better place to launch the future”.

He revealed that he had been in discussions with Amazon.com, which had agreed to create a platform geared to the specific needs of businesses in South Africa’s townships.

“Amazon Townships is a unique program to work with townships and get township businesses to work with Amazon, to launch their own businesses. through the Amazon platform,” said Makhura. “We don’t want Soweto to go to Sandton. We want to bring Sandton to Soweto.

“The nature of work is going to be changed as much as the way we live. The countries and cities that don’t prepare for it are going to be left behind.  If we are not ready, we are going to produce young people who look for the type of work that no longer exists.”

Turning to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of things, he said: “If it can’t happen in Gauteng, Africa will be left behind. And if it can’t happen in the townships, millions of people will be left  behind.”

Comsol CEO Iain Stevenson said the choice of site for the 5G launch was obvious: “Vilakazi Street is the family home to two Nobel Prize laureates, and one of our nation’s boldest symbols of transformation and progress,” said . “In our own way, we want to play a role in South Africa’s future as we embrace the digital economy, showcasing just what’s possible with advanced 5G networks.”

Comsol has access to the largest tranche of contiguous 28GHz in South Africa, making it the local front-runner for 5G services. The pilot network draws on the combined strengths of Samsung’s 5G solutions, Dark Fibre Africa providing fibre backhaul, and MWeb as the ISP.

Stevenson said Comsol planned to launch commercial 5G services to businesses and consumers before the end of 2019.

While 5G broadly defines the forthcoming evolution of mobile networks over a wide range of frequencies, he said, this specific pilot network is 5G Fixed Wireless Access (5G-FWA). 5G-FWA utilises the kind of network technology that we’ll come to associate with the 5G era – terms like beamforming and high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum such as 28GHz – to provide an exponential performance boost to wireless broadband services. The companies will demonstrate the potential of 5G-FWA, which will deliver high-quality, high-speed bandwidth services and low latency to complement existing fibre deployments.

“For the 5G pilot network service, Samsung provides 5G End-to-End FWA solutions, consists of 5G outdoor routers (CPEs) and 5G Radio comprised of a compact mmWave RFICs technologies and ASIC-based 5G modems developed by leveraging Samsung’s in-house expertise and assets. With these technical advancements, Samsung has been able to bring one of the smallest 5G Radio (radio base stations) and 5G routers (CPEs) to market, which are the world’s first 5G-FWA end-to-end solutions certified by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the first half of 2018.”

Peak downlink speeds of 1.75gigabit per second (Gbps) were reported. Gadget noted speeds of up to 1.73Gbps.

“This opens the doors to a new world, one where ubiquitous, high-speed networks deliver digital services to millions of citizens at low-cost. 5G will support everything from self-driving cars, to remote medical surgery, new immersive virtual realities, drone deliveries, AI robots, intelligent agriculture, connected cities, smart logistics and more.”

Comsol Chairman Andile Ngcaba said that the ultimate promise of 5G is the way it could extend to areas that, until now, have remained underserved due to the high costs of deploying today’s generation of fixed or wireless networks.

“Research indicates a clear correlation between the quality and breadth of a nation’s digital infrastructure, and its overall economic output,” he said. “5G represents our biggest opportunity yet: to re-energise our economy and to become a winner in the fourth industrial revolution.”

Sung Yoon, President and CEO of Samsung South Africa, said: “We believe that this is another game changing initiative for the network industry in South Africa and we will continue to collaborate with Comsol to ensure successful deployment”.

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Queues and cash-only frustrate SA’s commuters

A new study by Visa reveals the success factors for improving travel and creating smarter cities

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The use of cash-only payments was a frustration for 38% of Johannesburg commuters and 37% of Cape Town-based commuters, according to a new global study by Visa. Another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters.

Visa, in collaboration with Stanford University, came up with these findings in one of the largest global studies examining the growing demand for public and private transportation, and the important role digital commerce plays in driving sustainable growth.

According to the UN[i], by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centres – and the number of “megacities” with populations greater than 10 million people will rise from 43 today to 51 within that same period. South Africa is no different, with the majority of the country relying heavily on the public transport system. In fact, according to the General Household Survey (GHS) for 2018, a total of 54 209 000 minibus/taxi trips take place in South African per month. 

Building on Visa’s experience working with transit operators, automotive companies and technology start-ups, Visa commissioned a global study, “The Future of Transportation: Mobility in the Age of the Megacity” to better understand the challenges commuters face today and in the future. The key findings were combined with a view of existing and near horizon innovations provided by experts at Stanford University, to better understand the technology gaps in addressing their pain points.

The South African Perspective

Payments lie at the heart of every form of travel, and will continue to become more integral as more cities move to contactless public transportation, digital payments for parking and rental services such as bikes or scooters.  Malijeng Ngqaleni, Deputy Director-General of the South African Inter-governmental Relations, states that a high as 60% of South African households spend on average of 20% of their monthly income on transport, while in rural areas this number can be as high as 31%.

Aside from cash-only payments, another commuter frustration when paying for public transport has been long queues – 67% of Johannesburg commuters and 64% of Cape Town commuters. Over the last few years, a number of mobile-driven taxi-hailing apps have been launched in the South African market to counteract these concerns and commuters are open to the possibilities presented by mobile apps. The Visa study echoed this by showing that 77% of Johannesburg commuters and 76% of Cape Town commuters would be willing to try a consolidated app to make payments for public transport.

 Mike Lemberger, SVP, Product Solutions Europe, Visa says: “The future success of our cities is intertwined with – and reliant on – the future of transportation and mobility. Visa and our partners have an important role to play, both in streamlining the payment experience for millions of commuters around the globe, and supporting public transportation authorities in their quest to build sustainable and convenient transportation solutions that improve the lives of the people who use it.”

Herman Donner, PhD and Postdoctoral Researcher from Stanford University co-authored the report and summarised: “When looking across the technology landscape, there already exist many products that could easily address people’s daily frustrations with travel.  However, none of these solutions should be developed in isolation. A major challenge therefore lies in first identifying relevant technologies that provide suitable products for the market then managing implementation in conjunction with  a broad set of stakeholder including  mobility providers, technology companies, infrastructure owners and public transport agencies.  From our research, we think that many of these small, incremental changes have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s daily travel,  whether it’s to help find parking, get the best price to refuel their car or plan their journey on public transportation.”

Click here for the detailed global findings.

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Women take to tech, but more needed

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By HAIDI NOSSAIR, Marketing Director META, Dell Technologies

$12 trillion – that is the value in additional global GDP that remains locked behind the gender gap. This is according to the latest Women Matter report from McKinsey, which also reveals startling disparities in the workplace. Even though women make up more than half of the human population, only 37% contribute to GDP on average – and in some countries that proportion is significantly lower.

The reasons for this can be put in three areas. Fewer women – 650 million fewer than men – participate in the global labour force. Women are also more likely to be in part-time employment and thus work fewer hours. Finally, female employees are more common in lower-productivity sectors than in higher-productivity areas.  Are women not being offered the opportunity or are they holding themselves back?

Among STEM careers this ratio is particularly dismal: only 24% of engineering professionals are women, and as few as 19% of careers in ICT are filled by women.

What is the cause of this? Studies have found that women pursuing STEM careers are higher in countries with more oppressive policies towards women, because those careers hold the promise for financial freedom and more social autonomy. In contrast, countries with progressive attitudes towards women tend to produce fewer female STEM graduates. Then how can we encourage women from early ages to take the path of STEM education?  And how can organizations ensure women have equal opportunity at the hiring stages.

Certainly addressing gender inequality is crucial and must not stop.. Where women are increasingly more part of the workforce, there are often still barriers preventing them from assuming higher management roles. Female entrepreneurs often struggle more to gain investment capital. Corporate cultures are rarely aligned with the pressures of balancing work and family obligations. Decision makers may simply lack exposure to the potential of female candidates. Female pioneers have also argued that women are too risk-averse when compared to men. 

Whether these assertions are true is a matter for debate – and that’s exactly why every professional man and woman should be talking about them and identify action to change the status-quo. This is not just about female rights, but about social upliftment: companies with a mixture of male and female leaders perform better across the board and companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.

The digital economy we live in today represent a golden opportunity for increased women contribution to the workforce as technology breaks the boundaries of location and time for the workplace and where labor intensive jobs may today be performed by data scientists. 

For two days in March, top professionals will gather to talk and exchange ideas around creating more roles for women, larger appreciation for female professionals, as well as counter the attitudes among women holding them back from greater career success and autonomy.

If you want to be part of this conversation, join the Women in Tech Africa summit today at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town – learn more at https://www.women-in-tech-africa-summit.com/ and use the code DELL20 for a 20% discount.

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