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Why digital technology will transform Africa

By MOHAMMED AMIN, Senior Vice President – Middle East, Russia, Africa, and Turkey, (MERAT), Dell Technologies

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Technology is a platform on which collective human progress is built, transforming the fundamentals of commerce and production, and the ways we work and live. As an accelerator of development, it is also highly disruptive, redefining jobs and skills while also reshaping industries. Given the reach of digital technology and the change it promises, there is a need to shepherd these exciting technologies without diminishing its energy and potential – a role that nicely aligns with government priorities. 

The world around us continues to evolve with artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, 5G, cryptocurrencies, and the Internet of Things (IoT), improving how we communicate and exchange information. Increased digitisation and the growing interconnectedness of people, organisations, and machines is already having a profound impact on the world’s economies. Recognising this potential, government strategies today are emphasizing the role of digital in accelerating economic diversification, promoting sustainability and ensuring citizen happiness.

The digital sector in the Middle East and Africa region is poised for success like no other, with the tremendous push for digital transformation from national leadership, as well as the rapid adoption of digital technologies across the public and private sector. From robots to flying taxis to AI discoveries, the region is home to technological breakthroughs that were once figments of our imagination. With the goal of improving citizen experiences and fuelling economic growth, governments across the region have launched ambitious national transformation plans with a major focus on enabling digital transformation.

Specifically, across Africa, digitization has become the pillar that is driving growth and shaping the future digital economies in the continent. For example, the Government of Morocco has put in place a new set of policies and reforms in the Morocco Digital 2020 strategy that aims to shift the country’s focus to positioning itself as a digital economy to promote the effective use of and access to technology across various sectors. Similarly, South Africa’s National e-Strategy aims to accelerate the adoption of advanced technologies to transform and facilitate economic and social inclusion. And lastly, even countries in Emerging Africa such as Kenya and Nigeria have also taken significant steps to drive economic transformation, sustainability and future skills development through technology. 

These digital transformation agendas represent nation’s efforts towards unlocking the region’s potential to radically improve healthcare, education, public services, among others, all with a view to making a positive contribution to society and building the extraordinary future we will live in.  

Building centres of knowledge and innovation 

Reaping the benefits of digital transformation comes with the need to build skills and capabilities to drive efficiencies. As the government does more to attract, retain, and develop people with the required skills and capabilities, the country prospers. There is also scope for growing the exchange of knowledge and experience to address the unique growth and development challenges faced by the country or region. Dell Technologies recently partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF), to examine how emerging technologies will reshape our economy, lives and work over the next decade. The experts concluded that we’re on the cusp of the next era of human-machine partnerships. Essentially, we’ve worked and lived alongside machines for centuries but by 2030, these partnerships will become deeper, richer and more immersive than ever before, helping us surpass our own limitations. These machines, fuelled by exponential increases in data, processing power and connectivity will open-up new possibilities, beyond our grasp today. So, when we look at future skills development and building the workforce of the future, we need to understand that these areas allows us to unlock a lot of potential for the future growth of digital economies. New technologies can unlock new kinds of value and revenue generation. Thanks to automation, workers can spend time on more valuable, mission-critical work and less time on repetitive, automate-able tasks. Innovation with regards to social welfare has also resulted in better health and wellbeing with the introduction of new services. We are also seeing this in the development of clean energy, which is a clear and present priority for Governments and organisations the world over. 

Expanding business opportunities 

Digitisation spurs the development of new industries as in the case of e-commerce, mobile financial services, IoT, and cloud computing. These contribute to national GDP in multiple ways while also promoting growth of allied industries such as logistics, infrastructure, and payments. These opportunities are not only limited to the ICT industry, but also disrupts traditional industries to unlock speed, lower costs, and ensure higher quality. For instance, the manufacturing sector has been transformed with the incorporation of sensors and devices into equipment and machinery within an IoT network allowing for the speedier analysis of data and increased efficiency. This in turn leads to an increase in the region’s productivity and competitiveness – lowering unemployment rates and creating higher-wage and higher-impact jobs.

Exceptional citizen experiences

Creating a digitally connected environment also helps governments serve its citizens better. For instance, today’s citizens expect public services to be digital, personalised, and responsive and the use of advanced analytics allows governments to leverage data to do so. Social media and mobile platforms are replacing traditional channels to interact with government, report concerns, and provide feedback. In addition, technology helps enable and enhance citizen services that are key to improving the overall quality of life, which in turn promotes economic growth and increases the global competitiveness of countries. Across the Middle East and Africa region, we are seeing an immense number of initiatives where governments are rolling out robust e-government programs to transform the services they offer.

In summary

Winning in the digital economy requires a combination of technical understanding, pioneering leadership, and a sense of vision and determination to encourage an ecosystem of innovation. Leaders who engage with these possibilities today could be reshaping the economy of 2030 for the greater good. By placing new digital and ICT transformation programs at the heart of their national plans and through collaborations with leaders and entrepreneurs committed to building a better future, governments across the region are already leading the way in securing a viable future for their citizens while also raising their national competitiveness profile at a global level.

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Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs

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You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats. 

Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.” 

What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online. 

To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking. 

According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are. 

If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks. 

Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.

Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version. 

Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.

Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.

Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.

Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.

Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.

Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it. 

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Tech too complex? It stresses out even the tech-savvy

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Picture by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr.

Even the savviest members of the tech industry get stressed by common devices that power their everyday lives, according to a recent poll conducted at CES 2020 by Asurion, the global leader in helping people connect, protect and enjoy their tech.

Survey screen by Asurion at CES 2020.

Asurion surveyed nearly 1,400 attendees of CES 2020, the world’s largest and most influential tech industry event, about their relationship with personal tech and their role as tech expert for family and friends. What the tech care company found is that even the tech-savvy, tech DIY’ers and early adopters stress out over some of the most ordinary devices in our hands and homes.

So, what tech tops the list of devices that stress out some of the consumer electronics industry’s tech enthusiasts?

  • Mesh routers and Wi-Fi networks (33%)
  • Phones (26%)
  • Smart home security systems (23%)

And, the tech-related activities that even the tech-savvy dread the most?

  • Troubleshooting a device that worked perfectly yesterday (39%)
  • Device security (27%)
  • Setting up devices (nearly 27%)

Asurion helps nearly 300 million customers worldwide unlock the potential of their tech with a team of over 10,000 Experts who are just a call, click or tap away. The company’s Experts provide ongoing tech support, same-day device repair, and same-day delivery and setup services. They’ll meet customers virtually, in-home, at select partner stores, and in more than 540 uBreakiFix stores across the country or wherever it’s convenient.

“The tech industry just spent four amazing days experiencing and celebrating the latest innovations in the future of tech,” said Teresa May, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Asurion. “What we heard is that even common tech tasks and devices can be challenging. Every day, our Experts help people across the country with their devices – everything from setting up a new phone to troubleshooting streaming issues on their smart TVs. Our CES poll reveals that the industry’s top tech innovators share the same pain points affecting millions of Americans.”

Asurion’s Experts received more than 18.5 million calls and chats from customers seeking tech help last year. And while the No. 1 question this holiday was a strong “How do I activate my new phone?” Asurion Experts also received many questions ranging from “How do I connect to Wi-Fi?” to “Can I sync my smart speakers to play them in tandem?”

And while the tech industry may have tech challenges of their own, they also get tapped by family and friends for help. Eight out of 10 attendees surveyed said their family and friends rely on them to help set up and troubleshoot their tech. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they hesitate to gift tech to their loved ones because the recipient won’t know how to use it, and nearly half (46%) gave pause to gifting tech to family and friends because they didn’t want to be the one to help set it up.

Asurion CES Tech Poll

Consumer Tech Devices That Stress CES Attendees Out the Most

1. Mesh Routers and Wi-Fi Networks (33%)
2. Phones (26%)
3. Smart Home Security Systems (23%)
4. Smart Home Assistants/Hubs (20%)
5. Bluetooth Printers (19%)
6. Smart Home Automation (19%)
7. Laptops/Tablets (18%)
8. Smart TVs (17%)
9. Smart Appliances (14%)
10. Home Energy, Lighting and Switches (13%)

Tech Activities That Stress Out CES Attendees the Most

1. Troubleshooting Tech That Worked Perfectly Yesterday (39%)
2. Security (27%)
3. Setting up a Device (27%)
4. Privacy (23%)
5. Helping Others With Their Tech (20%)
6. Managing or Connecting Multiple Devices (19%)
7. Wi-Fi Connectivity (19%)
8. Paying for Personal Data Storage (18%)
9. Learning a New Operating System (17%)
10. Choosing Which Brand To Purchase (17%)

To learn more about where you can get tech support and protection, visit Asurion.com.

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