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Vumatel offers free uncapped fibre to schools

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After a successful pilot with three schools, Vumatel will roll out free uncapped open access fibre optic infrastructure to every school they pass during the deployment of their network.

Each school will be provided with a dedicated 1 Gigabit per second line and will be able to choose from a variety of internet service providers for free uncapped internet connectivity. The Internet Service Providers currently on board with the project include Cell C, Cool Ideas and Vox Telecoms with others soon to join the initiative.

VUMA piloted this initiative with Greenside High, Hoërskool Linden and Parkhurst Primary. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Pieter Hugo, parent and tech specialist on the governing body at Hoërskool Linden, beams with pride and excitement as he speaks about how the introduction of fibre has benefitted his school, “the bandwidth provided by Vuma is making a big difference. It is an enabler.”

The new and improved connectivity means the school can migrate away from locally hosted services and move their systems into the cloud. They have plans to increase the reach of connectivity beyond their computer centres and have introduced an e-learning tablet system to the grade 8 class.

Hugo says that the financial impact is also significant. “Schools are financially constrained and cannot afford computer-trained IT professionals, infrastructure maintenance and hardware costs. Cloud migration will save time, effort and money, and these savings are made possible because we have fibre.”

Schools are lagging behind in the digital age because the cost of bandwidth has traditionally been so prohibitive. The systems in place at these schools will seem archaic to those in business who take connectivity for granted. It is ironic that in these educational facilities where access could make such an impact, it is so lacking. Niel Schoeman, CEO of Vumatel, argues that “our children are the future and it is vital that we connect them to the information age. We challenge other broadband providers to follow our lead and work together as the private sector in addressing one of South Africa’s key challenges. The incremental cost for telcos to do this for schools are negligible when compared to the potential and fundamental impact it can have.”

Sanjeev Maharaj, the Principal of Parkhurst Primary, speaks of the massive impact that VUMA fibre has had in his school. In 2014, The Click Foundation introduced the Reading Eggs e-learning literacy programme to the school at a time when the school only had access to an ADSL connection. Due to the extensive lag on the connection, instruction lacked flow, resulting in learners getting distracted and not enjoying the full benefit of the programme.

“Since introducing the fibre connection we have found that the learners are getting through a greater number of lessons, much quicker than previously experienced on ADSL,” notes Maharaj.

As a result of the success of the programme at Parkhurst Primary due to improved connectivity, the Click Foundation have donated an additional 20 computers to the school and are currently using Parkhurst Primary as a flagship site to demonstrate the benefits of their literacy programme.

“Without adequate connectivity,” says Maharaj, “none of this would be possible.”

This programme contributes to the enrichment of learning English at the school. Most of the learners do not speak English at home and are only exposed to it at school. The majority of the learners are from Alexandra and Soweto with the remaining children coming from the inner city and surrounding suburbs. The ability for the learners to access this literacy platform is extremely enriching in terms of their English language education. The Click Foundation has also found that when comparing children of the same level and demographics, those attending Parkhurst Primary are able to get through their lessons faster and more seamlessly.

“The introduction of this e-learning tool has also changed the way children learn computer skills,” says Maharaj. “Previously, the focus was on computer literacy, while now the focus is on learning, and computer literacy comes naturally as a byproduct.”

Vumatel has already started introducing fibre to additional schools and aims to provide free high speed connectivity to approximately 80 schools this year, positively affecting around 65,000 learners. The telecoms company is committed to moving South Africa forward and contributing to the objectives of the national broadband strategy – SA Connect. Providing broadband connectivity to schools is one way in which the company is giving back to the communities in which they deploy their network; and they encourage other telecoms companies to do the same.

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Planet Radio TV tune in on any device

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Planet Radio TV plans to be Africa’s first online broadcaster that allows its listeners to watch via Internet and satellite TV as well as listen via FM or Internet radio. SEAN BACHER visits its studios.

Planet Radio TV (PRTV) is broadcast much like any other terrestrial radio station, allowing its users to tune into it with a standard FM tuner. But its owner, Planet Image Productions, is about to launch two other means of tuning into the station.

In the coming month, MultiChoice will place a new satellite in orbit that will, by the new year, allow Planet to broadcast to subscribers via the satellite. Planet has also announced the PRTV app, which can be downloaded to Apple, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile devices, allowing users to stream the content to their phones and tablets.

‚”What makes this unique though is that our systems will automatically detect a user’s connection speed and stream content in a format that suits that speed, says Planet Image CEO Wale Akinlabi. ‚”For example, someone connecting through 3G will be able to view high-definition video and hear high-definition audio. A user with a slower connection will still be able to view and listen to the station, but at a lower quality.‚”

This, he believes, will eliminate the buffering issue which discourages many users from streaming video and audio to their devices.

The radio station comprises 80% African music, with the remainder being international, and is targeted at Africa’s youth.

‚”At PRTV we intend to change the way consumers view, listen and interact with television, radio and Internet mediums,‚” says Mabel Mabaso, chief operations officer and director at Planet Image. ‚”It is an exciting platform that synchronises three mediums, providing opportunities for consumers and advertisers alike.‚”

Planet RadioTV differentiates itself from other local broadcasters with its clever use of software and hardware. Planet Image uses a high-definition video-graphics (HDVG) rendering program, designed by Orad, an Israeli company specialising in TV production software. This software suite, combined with four Panasonic high-definition cameras, is able to detect and focus on a person’s voice. When the camera fixes on a voice, that camera is automatically activated and begins broadcasting. Should someone else begin talking, a separate camera will detect the voice and focus on that person.

The software controlling the cameras also performs basic video editing. Mabaso says that, although the initial cost of the equipment was more than that of standard cameras, it will prove well worth it, as it eliminates the need for a dedicated cameraman filming the show in the studio.

‚”Another payoff is that we don’t need that much office space,‚” she says.

Based in Randburg in Johannesburg, the studio is small in comparison to most others and the control room is just big enough for one person.

‚”The control room merely serves as a back-up should one of the cameras fail. It also allows us to control when and where visual adverts appear.‚”

The system is also tightly integrated with applications like Skype.

‚”We can interview someone overseas without having to send a crew there to perform recording. We simply communicate via Skype, making the interviewee’s Internet camera an extension of our own in-studio cameras.‚”

Besides featuring local and international music, the station has regular fashion, food and cooking, music and culture segments, which are broadcast to around 30 000 listeners around Africa.

Rounding up the technology aspect, PRTV has integrated Twitter and Facebook, allowing its listeners to interact with DJs.

Listeners can tune into Planet Radio TV by logging onto www.planetradio.co.za

* Follow Sean Bacher on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Canon EOS M – small and simple

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Canon has extended the EOS range with the EOS M, its first compact system camera. Although not yet available in South Africa, the EOS M offers DSLR quality images and full HD recording in a compact, easy to use device.

Canon has expanded the EOS range with the launch of the EOS M. The company’s first ever compact system camera (CSC), the EOS M offers DSLR-quality imaging and full HD movie creation in a compact and easy-to-use model.

The EOS M is available in sleek black, glossy white, stylish silver or bold red colours, and condenses Canon’s EOS imaging heritage into a stylish, compact design. The model launches alongside two new lenses, the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake and the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom, as well as a new compact EX Speedlite the Speedlite 90EX. For those who want to push their images even further, the EOS M can also use Canon’s range of EF lenses with the new Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, for even more creative freedom.

The quality of a Canon DSLR

The EOS M’s high-resolution, 18 megapixel APS-C hybrid CMOS sensor also allows you to blur the background for beautiful portraits, or for close-ups with impact.

With the inclusion of Canon’s DIGIC 5 processor, colours ‚’pop’ and skin tones are beautifully natural, while a super-fast shutter allows you to capture split-second action.

Shoot what you see and easily express your creative vision

Every aspect of the EOS M has been designed to make it simple to capture high-quality images. With the high-resolution, 7.7cm (3.0‚”), Clear View LCD II Touch screen, the EOS M gives you as much or as little control over your photos as desired. Simply select different shooting modes and settings via the on-screen icons, or let Scene Intelligent Auto adjust the camera settings according to the subject and shooting conditions, leaving you free to focus on composition and selecting the perfect moment to hit the shutter release button.

Turn film-maker with EOS Movie and Video Snapshot

When a moment calls for more than a still image, the EOS M lets you switch to Full HD video with stereo sound.

Extending the EOS System with dedicated accessories

In addition to compatibility with Canon’s existing EF lenses, accessories and Speedlites, the EOS M launches with its own range of accessories. Two new EF-M lenses offer portability and high performance when using the new model the EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom and the EF-M 22mm f/2 STM pancake lens. Both feature new stepper motor technology for exceptionally smooth AF performance, as well as precision Canon optics, while their compact designs offer the perfect form-factor to complement the camera’s pocket-sized body.

Additionally, the EOS M will ship with the new Speedlite 90EX flash unit as standard. Lightweight and highly-compact, it offers a maximum guide number of nine and supports wide-angle lenses, making it an ideal general-purpose flash for everyday use. A wireless master function also allows the control of multiple flash guns wirelessly, allowing more advanced users to experiment with a range of creative lighting effects.

EOS M key features

· The quality of a digital SLR in a compact body

· Scene Intelligent Auto

· Be versatile with interchangeable lenses

· Create out-of-focus backgrounds for high impact

· Easy-to-use touch-screen

· Atmospheric photos in low light

· Full-HD video with Video Snapshot Mode

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