As a little girl in the village of Mhangweni in Tzaneen, Limpopo, Gladness Baloyi would sit and listen to her grandmother interpret life traditionally. But she decided that when she grew up she would become a scientist, writes AMANDA KHOZA.
At the weekend Baloyi, now 24, was among leading scientists and astronomers who gathered for the two-day Third Annual Astronomy meeting in Umhlanga, Durban.
She told News24 on Sunday that she was an example that “where you come from does not determine where you are going”.
Raised by a single mother, Gloria Bvuma, who died in 2009, Baloyi said she always had big dreams.
“My mother had a spaza shop in the village and she used all the money she got to support me and my younger sister, Glacious,” said Baloyi.
“When we were growing up we used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother who used to tell us these traditional tales and she would interpret them traditionally. One day I told her that I wanted to be a scientist so that I could interpret things scientifically.
“I told my grandmother that things had changed and that we were living in the modern times and that there was technology.”
After high school Baloyi applied for a bursary but she did not receive a reply so she applied for a student loan at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
“I realised that my mother had saved up enough money for me to register so I went to the University of Limpopo and applied to study for a Bachelor of Science and I was accepted.”
Baloyi said she remembers assisting other pupils in Maths and Science in high school.
“Today I am a graduate and an intern at the Department of Science and Technology because I persevered,” she said shyly.
Baloyi started working for the department in April.
“We do research in astronomy. I am looking at furthering my studies so that I can become an astronomer. People in my village lack information and some of them don’t imagine themselves out of the village and beyond their circumstances.
“Everyone in the village wants to be a nurse or a teacher. People should dream big and stay away from social networks. That is what is killing our youth today,” she said.
Baloyi said the youth should rather focus on doing research into their careers.
“One day I want to pass on the knowledge I have to my family. I think my mother is very proud of me where she is,” said Baloyi.
Chair of the South Africa’s committee of the International Astronomical Union Professor Patrick Woudt, who also heads the University of Cape Town’s astronomy department, said the two day meeting brought together astronomers and policy makers from the department and the National Research Foundation.
“We come together once every two years to discuss developments, new initiatives and share ideas of where we are going in the future and the capacity development is the most critical part of it.
“Young people need to be excited about astronomy. The discussions also focused on the efforts made by the community as well as the support from the department in developing capacity in astronomy.
“We also discussed the vision of astronomy, where we see ourselves in five to ten years… because there is a lot of investment that is made by the country and that investment needs to be matched by a clear vision and strategy,” said Woudt.
Personal computing devices sales still decline in MEA
The Middle East and Africa (MEA) personal computing devices (PCD) market, which is made up of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets, suffered a decline of -7.3% year on year in Q2 2017, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).
The global technology research and consulting firm’s Quarterly PCD Tracker for Q2 2017 shows that PCD shipments fell to around 6 million units for the quarter.
“As forecast, the market followed a similar pattern to recent quarters, with the downturn primarily stemming from a decline in shipments of slate tablets and desktops,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. “This was the result of desktop users increasingly switching to mobile devices such as notebooks or even refurbished notebooks, while users of slate tablets shifted to smartphones. These trends translated into year-on-year declines of -21.9% for desktops and -15.7% for slate tablets in Q2 2017, while shipments of notebooks and detachable tablets increased 11.0% and 63.3%, respectively over the same period.”
“Market sentiment in the region remained low overall, although an aggressive push from some slate tablet vendors meant the market declined much slower than expected,” continues Charakla. “At the same time, heightened competition has also made it harder for certain players to sustain their slate tablet businesses and generate profits, causing them to lose interest in the slate tablet market altogether. Despite this, slate tablets are still the most popular computing device among home users in the region.”
Looking at the region’s key markets, IDC’s research shows that when compared to Q2 2016 overall PCD shipments were down -11.4% in the UAE, -8.9% in Turkey, and -6.7% in the ‘Rest of Middle East’ sub-region (comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and Afghanistan). South Africa and Saudi Arabia bucked this trend, recording year-on-year increases of 3.5% and 9.6%, respectively.
A massive education delivery in Pakistan acted as a key driver for notebook shipments in the region overall. Similarly, the education sector was the biggest driver of detachable tablet shipments, triggered by a huge delivery in Kenya, as well as two other deliveries in Pakistan and Turkey, which enabled this category to achieve the fastest growth of all the PCD categories.
“While a component shortage prevented market players from reducing their prices too much, the average price of consumer notebooks experienced a considerable year-on-year decline in Q2 2017,” says Charakla. “This played a key role in driving demand from the consumer segment, and was reflected in the growing popularity of lower-priced notebook models.”
Looking at the PC market’s vendor rankings, each of the top five vendors maintained their respective positions compared to the previous quarter, with the top four all gaining share.
Middle East & Africa PC Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017
|Brand||Q2 2016||Q2 2017|
Although Samsung continued to lead the tablet market, the vendor rankings in the space saw quite a few changes, with Huawei catapulting itself to second place. Lenovo also climbed up a position compared to the previous quarter, causing Apple to drop to fourth place.
Middle East & Africa Tablet Market Vendor Shares – Q2 2016 vs. Q2 2017
|Brand||Q2 2016||Q2 2017|
“Looking to the future, the MEA PCD market is expected to decline at a faster rate than previously forecast for 2017 as a whole,” says Charakla. “Technological shifts are playing a pivotal role in deciding the future of this market, with demand for certain products shifting to other PCD products and beyond (i.e., smartphones). Accordingly, shipments of slate tablets are expected to continue declining over the coming years as demand is cannibalized by smartphones. Meanwhile, the ongoing shift to mobile computing will see growth in the desktop market remain close to flat throughout IDC’s forecast period ending 2021. Notebook shipments will experience very slow growth beyond 2018, while detachable tablets will remain the fastest growing PCD category, eating away share from other computing devices.”
Gazer cyber-spies exposed
ESET has released new research into the activities of the Turla cyberespionage group, and specifically a previously undocumented backdoor that has been used to spy on consulates and embassies worldwide.
ESET’s research team are the first in the world to document the advanced backdoor malware, which they have named “Gazer”, despite evidence that it has been actively deployed in targeted attacks against governments and diplomats since at least 2016.
Gazer’s success can be explained by the advanced methods it uses to spy on its intended targets, and its ability to remain persistent on infected devices, embedding itself out of sight on victim’s computers in an attempt to steal information for a long period of time.
ESET researchers have discovered that Gazer has managed to infect a number of computers around the world, with the most victims being located in Europe. Curiously, ESET’s examination of a variety of different espionage campaigns which used Gazer has identified that the main target appears to have been Southeastern Europe as well as countries in the former Soviet Union Republic.
The attacks show all the hallmarks of past campaigns launched by the Turla hacking group, namely:
- Targeted organisations are embassies and ministries;
- Spearphishing delivers a first-stage backdoor such as Skipper;
- A second stealthier backdoor (Gazer in this instance, but past examples have included Carbon and Kazuar) is put in place;
- The second-stage backdoor receives encrypted instructions from the gang via C&C servers, using compromised, kegitimate websites as a proxy.
Another notable similarity between Gazer and past creations of the Turla cyberespionage group become obvious when the malware is analysed. Gazer makes extra efforts to evade detection by changing strings within its code, randomizing markers, and wiping files securely.
In the most recent example of the Gazer backdoor malware found by ESET’s research team, clear evidence was seen that someone had modified most of its strings, and inserted phrases related to video games throughout its code.
Don’t be fooled by the sense of humour that the Turla hacking group are showing here, falling foul of computer criminals is no laughing manner.
All organisations, whether governmental, diplomatic, law enforcement, or in traditional business, need to take today’s sophisticated threats serious and adopt a layered defence to reduce the chances of a security breach.