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What the ICT sector wants to hear from #SONA2019

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President Cyril Ramaphosa and communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams pictured at the World Economic Forum last month. (Photo source: Twitter)

President Cyril Ramaphosa and communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams pictured at the World Economic Forum last month. (Photo source: Twitter)

While scores of South Africans wait in anticipation for president Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), ICT stakeholders hope for clarity on spectrum allocation, policy direction, upskilling youth and workers, and a unified communications ministry.

SONA, which takes place tonight at 7pm, is the annual event that sees the president take stock of the achievements over the last year and outline plans for the coming year.

Ramaphosa, unlike his predecessor Jacob Zuma, has given the ICT industry some much-needed attention, highlighting the potential of the sector in social and economic development.

Last year, the president announced plans to establish an ICT commission, a move industry pundits described as a sign government is taking steps to ensure capabilities in science, technology and innovation are developed.

Furthermore, he promised to initiate a process to accelerate the licensing of high-demand radio spectrum. To back up the president’s commitment, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) announced, last October, plans to license spectrum “by no later than the end of March 2019”.

In November, Ramaphosa capped off his first nine months in office with a move labelled as his “best one yet”, consolidating the telecommunications and postal services and communications departments. Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was appointed to head up the single communications ministry.

It is on the back of these pronouncements that the ICT sector has expressed hopes and advice in regards to the areas they believe Ramaphosa should turn his focus.

Specifically, IDC associate vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa Mark Walker notes sorting out spectrum allocation as key to tonight’s address.

Mobile operators have been clamouring for spectrum for the last few years, as they need it to provide faster and more widespread high-speed data services.

“Cyril Ramaphosa is certainly more economically astute and, based on recent re-arrangement of the Department of Communications (DOC) and the appointment of a younger minister, who has academic background in telecoms, seems to be in tune with the benefits that ICT can bring.”

Walker hopes the president’s speech will touch on creating a free market in terms of less restrictive requirements for businesses operating in the ICT sector, as well adding incentives for ICT innovation by making the ICT SME and start-up environment more attractive as investment areas.

Addressing the issues around the wholesale open access network should also be a priority, he notes.

Marian Shinn is an MP and DA shadow minister of telecoms and postal service.

Marian Shinn is an MP and DA shadow minister of telecoms and postal service.

Marian Shinn, Democratic Alliance MP and telecoms and postal services shadow minister, shares similar views, urging the release of high-demand spectrum for auction.

Shinn explains this can be done in tranches to enable smaller players to bid, either in consortia of their own composition or individually, alongside the large mobile network operators in line with aspects of the compromise they proposed two years ago.

To her list of outlooks, she adds: “Withdrawal of the Electronic Communications Amendment (ECA) Bill, the formalisation of the Chapter 9 independence of ICASA and a commitment to properly resource it with skills and money to fulfil its mandate, a fast-track action plan for broadcasting digital migration and an enquiry into the validity of a public broadcaster in the era of converged telecommunications.”

Independent analyst and researcher Charley Lewis also wants an update on the promised high-demand spectrum allocation. “ICASA is independent and this is their process, but they are guided by national policy, and access to spectrum really does need to be fast-tracked.”

Independent analyst Charley Lewis.

Independent analyst Charley Lewis.

Lewis says the president needs to make a firm commitment in respect of the central role of ICT as a key economic enabler and on progress towards an information society and knowledge economy.

The ICT sector is at the forefront of government’s economic stimulus and recovery plan. Last year, Ramaphosa revealed his administration is determined to make the sector an integral part of the investment drive to attract R100 billion in new investment to the country over the next five years.

Lewis points out there needs to be greater clarity on the planned union of the departments of telecoms and postal services and communications into a new-look DOC, and on whether any additional departments are to be brought under the same umbrella.

“Given the nature of the sector as a complex, converged ICT ecosystem, and pervasive enabling function of ICT across the economy, active consideration should be given to the establishment of an inter-ministerial cluster, bringing together those functionalities where ICT is most central: basic and higher education, science and technology, trade and industry.

“The president surely needs to revisit the policy and legislative programme for the sector, where the recommendations of the integrated ICT Policy Review Panel were cut short by the exclusion of audio-visual services and content from the ensuing white paper. It is surely necessary, given the wasted years inflicted on the sector by a divided ministerial structure, to revisit and update the white paper, perhaps on the basis of updated advice from the panel.

“The legislative programme of the departments is now in some disarray, and needs to be revised and streamlined.”

Echoing Shinn’s observation, Lewis notes the ECA Bill has floundered and should be withdrawn. “Likewise, the introduction of a new economic regulator should be abandoned in favour of strengthening and properly resourcing ICASA. On the other hand, legislation to dissolve USAASA and establish a wider Digital Development Fund with proper governance, accountability and transparency providers needs to be prioritised.”

Frost & Sullivan research analyst George Etheredge believes what is more important than what Ramaphosa says in his SONA, is an indication that action is being taken on some of the ICT-related promises that have already been made.

“In 2018’s SONA, Ramaphosa committed to set up a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission. As of January 2019, this still had not happened – and setting up the commission should be the easy part. It does not matter what the president says if no action is taken.”

Lewis is also of the view that there needs to be a clear timeline as to when the process to set up the digital commission will be completed.

Mark Walker, IDC's associate VP for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mark Walker, IDC’s associate VP for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ahead of tonight’s address, Etheredge points out that although the president has noted he believes ICT and innovation to be crucial to the South African economy going forward; a key challenge will be ensuring SA’s population is equipped with the skills to contribute in a digitalised economy.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance to develop the requisite skills going forward. “Failure to develop these skills in the population at large will exclude the majority of South Africans from being able to contribute to a digital economy and perpetuate already severe inequalities.”

Shinn advises Ramaphosa to assure all players in the sector that they are not the enemy, that their role in the economic and social development of the country will be acknowledged as critical, and that government recognises the need for light-touch regulation to enable it to respond to the dynamic needs and opportunities the technology brings to the nation’s development as an ICT powerhouse.

“He must also assure them that their investments and intellectual property in SA will be constitutionally protected. Government must incentivise innovation in product and service development, skills imports and knowledge exchange, and look to minimise the impact of duties on imported electronic products and components to contribute to lowering the costs of communication and facilitating widespread inclusion of all South Africans in the worldwide information society.”

Walker also gives a nod to getting rid of artificial constraints to doing business in SA. “The country was leading in ICT across all metrics 10 years ago; now Kenya and other countries are far more attractive ICT-wise in terms of innovation, application and investment in ICT.”

In addition, projects that improve government delivery to citizens and business, and encourage transparency and accountability of public officials should be prioritised, he states.

Lewis concludes: “The priority needs to be bringing policy, legislation and regulation for the broad sector back on track. Secondly, the focus needs to be on concrete action in moving forward with the key projects and interventions that will both make immediate impact and produce medium-term benefit.”

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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