AFRICAN AMERICAN (T) | Internet freedom of speech pioneer dies

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John Perry Barlow

Johannesburg – John Perry Barlow, widely recognised as a pioneer of freedom of speech on the internet and digital platforms, has died at age 70. 

Barlow was the founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 1990, a nonprofit organisation defending civil liberties in the digital world and championing user privacy, free expression, and technology development. 

The US-based organisation made the announcement of Barlow’s death on Wednesday. 

EFF executive director, Cindy Cohn wrote in a blog post on the organisation’s website that the Barlow passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. 

“We will miss Barlow and his wisdom for decades to come, and he will always be an integral part of EFF. It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership,” Cohn wrote. 

The EFF said that Barlow saw the internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced could find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.

Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. 

“Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the internet into a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity,” Cohn said. 

Barlow also sat on the Freedom of the Press Foundation as a board directors strongly supporting and hailing Edward Snowden, who disclosed classified details of US government surveillance programmes, as a hero.

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AFRICAN AMERICAN (T) | MultiChoice seeks bidders for ANN7 slot

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Multichoice CEO Calvo Mawela

Cape Town – MultiChoice has invited interested parties to register to bid for a new “24-hour black-owned news channel” after the group decided not to renew its contract with ANN7.

In late January MultiChoice announced that the Gupta-linked news channel’s contract will not be renewed when it lapses in August 2018, and it would be removed from the DStv bouquet.

In a statement on Thursday MultiChoice, which is owned by Naspers, said the new invitation was only to register an intention to bid, so the company could gauge the level of interest for a new channel.

“A further, formal invitation to submit bids with details of the process and further guidelines will be shared in mid-February,” it said.

MultiChoice stipulated that the new channel must be a “South African, predominantly English news channel that takes into account the history, diversity of cultural background, languages and socio-economic circumstances in South Africa”.

It must be broadcast 24 hours per day, and provide anchor-based, live broadcasts “in the style of Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky News, eNCA, SABC News and others”.

The new channel must also be owned, managed and operated by an “independent black South African-owned entity” and focus on the training and development of news and broadcast industry personnel.

MultiChoice said it would have no editorial control or ownership of the new channel.

* Fin24 is part of, a division of Media24, which is a subsidiary of Naspers.

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Turn on 5G: Ericsson completes 5G platform for operators

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Turn on 5G: Ericsson completes 5G platform for operators

Turn on 5G: Ericsson completes 5G platform for operators

Ericsson has finalised 5G-readiness for operators by enhancing its 5G Platform with new solutions for the radio and core network.

Today, the company launches 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) commercial software, based on the recently approved first 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard. It also introduces a new category of radio products called Street Macro – a new site type that addresses the need of operators to grow in cities with limited available radio locations.

To capture growth opportunities presented by new 5G use cases, Ericsson expands its 5G Core System offering with new capabilities to support 5G NR and also enhances its Distributed Cloud solution. 

Ericsson introduced its 5G Platform in February 2017 with additions made in September the same year. It comprises the 5G core, radio, and transport portfolios together with OSS/BSS, network services and security.

Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Networks at Ericsson, says: “Operators who want to be early with 5G now have the essential pieces for launching 5G networks already this year. With our expanded platform, they will get more efficient networks as well as opportunities to create new revenues from emerging consumer and industrial use cases.”

Giovanni Ferigo, CTO, TIM, says: “Ericsson is an important enabler of our 5G in-field innovation activities that span several cities in Italy. Together, last December – marking an Italian record – we activated a 5G NR cell in the mmW frequencies in the city of Torino, reaching speeds above 20Gbps. We are looking forward to testing Ericsson’s new solutions that will contribute to address the wide variety of use cases we are working on.”

5G software – enabling first-movers to launch 5G

Available in the fourth quarter of 2018, Ericsson’s 5G radio network software provides multi-band support for global deployment. It will allow operators to use new frequency spectrum as it becomes available.

The 5G radio network software announced today complements Ericsson’s already launched baseband and 5G radios. Operators can simply activate their 5G networks and take the first steps with commercial 5G capabilities and new applications leveraging advanced mobile broadband services.

This will cater efficiently for growing data traffic and enable access to multimedia content, such as 4K/8K video streaming and virtual reality/augmented reality. According to Ericsson’s new economic study of enhanced mobile broadband, evolution to 5G will enable 10 times lower cost per gigabyte than current 4G.

The radio offering is complemented with 5G Core commercial software optimized for 5G throughput, network capacity and scalability. Ericsson’s Packet Core and Unified Data Management solutions will deliver enhancements throughout 2018 to efficiently support 5G services. These solutions can be further upgraded with new functionalities as the 3GPP 5G standard evolves.


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AFRICAN AMERICAN (T) | SA-born billionaire buys Los Angeles Times for R6bn

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Patrick Soon-Shiong (Kevork Djansezian, AFP)

Cape Town – South African-born billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has bought the Los Angeles Times newspaper, one of the largest and most widely-read publications in the US, for $500m (R6bn). 

Soon-Shiong was born in Port Elizabeth in the 1950s to Chinese immigrant parents. He studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand before later emigrating to the US via Canada. 

In a media release on Wednesday Tronc, the newspaper’s previous owner, said it had reached an agreement to sell the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and various titles in the California News Group to Nant Capital, Soon-Shiong’s private investment vehicle. 

The deal was concluded for $500m (R6bn) in cash plus the assumption of $90m (R1bn) in pension liabilities.

“We look forward to continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism carried out by the reporters and editors of the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and the other California News Group titles,” said Soon-Shiong in a statement.

Journalism has role to play

Los Angeles Times journalists on Thursday shared Soon-Shiong’s introductory letter to staff on social media.

“My own family immigrated from southern China to South Africa generations ago. We chose to settle in Los Angeles because this is the place that felt most like home.

“Ultimately, the decision is deeply personal for me. As someone who grew up in apartheid South Africa, I understand the role that journalism needs to play in a free society.”

Soon-Shiong assured the journalists that he would “work to ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely upon”.

According to a profile of Soon-Shiong in the Los Angeles Times, he joined the University of California – Los Angeles’s medical school – in 1983, after moving from Canada. He later left the university and founded his own medical research firm in the early 1990s, make his fortune in pharmaceuticals and health care. 

According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $7.8bn (R94bn), which makes him “America’s richest doctor”.

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AFRICAN AMERICAN (T) | Chinese firm clones cheaper iPhone X with bigger battery

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iPhone X

Johannesburg – A Chinese smartphone maker has produced a device almost identical to the Apple iPhone X – at a fraction of the cost and with a bigger battery.

The Oukitel U18 is almost indistinguishable from the US company’s 10 anniversary iPhone when viewing it from the face. However, the rear of the device looks very different. 

The U18 Android smartphone features an end-to-end display similar to Apple’s almost bezel-less display on the iPhone X with a slightly larger display of 5.85 inches when compared to Apple’s 5.8 inch. 

A website for the U18 even shows a side-by-side comparison of the device against the “Iphone x” (sic).

Apple, however, kills the U18 resolution with 1125 x 2436 pixels, while the U18 offers only a 720 pixel resolution.

Borrowing more traits from the iPhone X – the U18 has the Face ID Unlock feature, mimicking Apple’s Face ID function, while also featuring a rear fingerprint scanner, which Apple does not have.  

The U18’s drawcard feature, which trumps the iPhone X, is the size of its battery. 

While Apple offer a 2716 mAh battery in its device, Oukitel feature a massive 4000 mAh battery, only comparable to devices such as the Huawei Mate series of smartphones which run over a day off a single charge. 

More specs of the U18 include 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and a USB type C connection for charging. 

The device features a 16 megapixel and 5 megapixel rear dual-camera and a 13 megapixel front camera – when compared to the iPhone X’s 12 megapixel and 12 megapixel rear dual cameras and 7 megapixel selfie camera.

The U18 is currently retailing for $159.99 (around R1 900), while the iPhone retails from about R18 999.

The device is available at a slightly higher cost from online stores which import products for South Africans.

According to its website, Oukitel was birthed in 2007, at the time smartphones became more popular in the city of Shenzhen – renowned as the home of other popular Chinese smartphone brands such as Gionee, OnePlus and Huawei. 

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USIU-Africa partners with Microsoft 4Afrika to host first AppFactory in Kenya

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USIU-Africa partners with Microsoft 4Afrika to host first AppFactory in Kenya

USIU-Africa partners with Microsoft 4Afrika to host first AppFactory in Kenya

The United States International University – Africa, in collaboration with Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, has launched Kenya’s first AppFactory at the Incubation and Innovation Center (I2C) in Nairobi.

The I2C AppFactory shall address the competency gap between ICT graduates and employment, by equipping students with high-level skills in designing, developing, implementing and managing modern software solutions. The initiative will provide an experiential way of learning, encouraging students to develop new skills, attitudes and ways of thinking. In addition, it will provide access to first-grade jobs through the Microsoft Partner Network, increasing the employability of USIU-Africa students and unemployed graduates from other universities who participate in the programme.

“Despite hundreds of students graduating in ICT, IT companies are still finding it difficult to recruit graduates who are ready to contribute as software developers, without first taking them through extensive on-the-job training,” says Professor Paul T. Zeleza, Vice Chancellor of USIU-Africa.

The Vice Chancellor additionally commented that “According to a 2016 report by Zalego, 72% of local ICT firms have had most of their software solutions developed by foreigners and not Kenyans, while only 26% have had their software products developed locally by Kenyan-based software development companies. By enhancing local employability and entrepreneurship, the AppFactory aims to change that.”

The I2C AppFactory is the 14th AppFactory to be launched in partnership with Microsoft on the continent, with others in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda, Mauritius, Malawi and Ethiopia.

In 2017, 500 students graduated from the Africa AppFactories, with 85% securing full-time jobs within three months of graduation. Others have started their own businesses.

“Graduates from the AppFactory are highly sought-after. Virtually all of them find work – often before they even graduate,” says Lutz Ziob, Dean of the Microsoft 4Afrika Academy. “Across Africa, AppFactory students are learning how to build digital solutions in business, finance, healthcare, education, agriculture, tourism and transportation. As they become experienced software engineers – working with modern technologies from cloud computing to secure coding, bots and data analytics – start-ups and corporates are snatching them up.”

“USIU-Africa’s mission is to promote knowledge and skills that prepare students for an increasingly technological world. The I2C AppFactory contributes to this mission – as well as to Kenya’s Vision 2030, which aims to improve the capacity of technology graduates in creating an economy fuelled by value-added goods and services,” adds Professor Valarie Palapala Adema, the Dean of School of Science and Technology.

USIU-Africa will host the AppFactory, while Microsoft will provide assistance and access to various platforms, tools and networks to successfully operate the programme. The I2C AppFactory will target final year ICT students at USIU-Africa and fresh graduates from other universities. Every six months, 30 students will become software apprentices and receive training and mentorship by senior software craftsmen.

Enrolment for the AppFactory currently on-going and students and recent graduates can register to enrol at

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On-demand co-working space Workstyle launches in Kenya

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On-demand co-working space Workstyle launches in Kenya

On-demand co-working space Workstyle launches in Kenya

Workstyle, a new serviced office and co-working space has launched in Westlands, Nairobi to enhance creativity and collaboration among businesses and individuals who want value for their money.

Incorporating a community feel and a modern design with state of the art workspaces, Workstyle was inspired by the growing demand for independence and freedom at the workplace complete with a sense of community.

“The future of working is serviced offices and co-working,” Grace Wairimu, Workstyle’s General Manager said. “When you look at most commercial buildings in prime locations, they are designed and targeted at larger corporates, yet most businesses still have a staff count of under 10. Add to that the growth of start-up companies and the gig economy and it is clear that the commercial office market is a good candidate for disruption. We started Workstyle to do exactly that.”

Workstyle is ideal for businesses seeking flexible workspace solutions that don’t involve long 5 year leases or additional staff just to keep the place neat and tidy. It’s a plus for employees and entrepreneurs who want to work in good neighbourhoods and well-designed spaces that create community and foster collaboration.

With prices as low as Ksh 100o per day, a desk for two starting from Ksh 25,000 and a private office for eight starting at Ksh 35,000, Workstyle is targeting tech and business start-ups, event organizers and young high growth businesses with several staff members in need of a shared working space or a private office in a community setting.

Some of the companies already working there are in the financial, technology and new media startups and creatives as well as independent consultants, freelancers, and international clients who are in Nairobi temporarily.

Workstyle has a common lounge for social or informal meetings, separate from its two boardrooms for executive meetings. The lounge is designed for informal discussions, chilling out, and networking. The co-working space is also working with various event organizers to hold in-house events (formal and non-formal) with guest speakers and industry experts to fill the gap left by then community tech hubs which have all gone commercial.

With Nairobi up and running, Workstyle says the concept is relevant in other cities in the region and plans to take the concept across Africa.

The co-working space industry is becoming popular because many business owners would rather invest capital in their core businesses than in furniture and internet. These fosters stronger, healthier businesses as no cash flow is tied up in unnecessary assets.

“There is a high sense of community and the presence of peers within the space, fosters innovation as ideas are exchanged, and new technologies created. Businesses spend more time on what they are good at and less time worrying about leases, furniture costs, fundis, printer repair, and detergent costs; and when the space is well designed- people enjoy being at work- they are more productive and creative,” said Wairimu.

Co-working spaces are overtaking traditional offices in Kenya and globally because they are cheaper and better for businesses cash flows. They also give users access to a network of other companies and entrepreneurs unlike leasing traditional offices. Though there are so many alternatives in the market, the Pramukh Tower-based Workstyle says its value proposition in terms of price, space, amenities offered and its location make it the best in the market for entrepreneurs.

“There are several workspaces in Nairobi and in fact, quite a number within Westlands location alone. What makes us exceptional is the culture that we intend to nurture here at Workstyle. A culture that allows a budding entrepreneur to grow and thrive within a professional environment that allows for collaboration and community,” concluded Wairimu.

By the end of 2017, nearly 1.2 million people worldwide worked in a coworking space according to a report by Deskmag, a co-working space industry magazine. The growth was driven principally by clear growth in coworking space membership numbers. At the same time, nearly one in five coworking space boasted 150 or more members compared to the year before.

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NCC approves two new Infraco licences for South East, North East

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NCC approves two new Infraco licences for South East, North East

NCC approves two new Infraco licences for South East, North East

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

In order to deepen broadband penetration in the Country, the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently approved two additional Infrastructure Company (Infraco) Licences.

The two new Infraco licencees are Zinox Technology Limited for South East and Brinks Integrated Solutions Limited for North East.

With this approval, the number of Infracos licenced so far is now four.

Over a year ago, MainOne Cable Company Limited, had been licenced to provide services in Lagos while IHS got its licence to cover the North Central geopolitical zone including Abuja.

The Infraco licences are based on the NCC’s Open Access Model (OAM) in line with the National Broadband Plan (NBP) of (2013 – 2018).

By provisions of the NBP, Nigeria is expected to attain 30 percent broadband penetration by 2018.

As part of the initiative to achieve this, NCC, as the driver of this process, has so far licenced a number of companies to stimulate broadband penetration.

These include Bitflux Communications Limited (Bitflux) for 2.3 Ghz and MTN Nigeria for the 2.6 Ghz licences. Other licences are in the pipeline in this process. As at December, 2017, Nigeria had attained 22% broadband penetration.

With the licensing of four Infracos: MainOne Cable, IHS, Zinox Technology and Brinks Solutions, there are three more licencees waiting for approval to bring total number to seven.

These are for South South, North West and South West.

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AFRICAN AMERICAN (T) | MTN aims for $500m from Nigeria share sale

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MTN. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Johannesburg – MTN plans to raise about $500m from the sale of shares in its Nigerian business during the first half of the year, fulfilling the terms of a deal struck with the West African nation to settle a record fine, according to people familiar with the matter.

Standard Bank and Citigroup have been advising Africa’s largest mobile phone company on the disposal of as much as 30% of the Lagos-based unit on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said the sources, who asked not to be identified as the details aren’t public.

Most of the shares will be sold to local institutions and individuals, though foreign investors could be brought in to ensure the process is a success, one of the people said.

Spokespersons for MTN and Citigroup in Johannesburg didn’t immediately comment, while Standard Bank didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.

MTN agreed to list the Nigerian unit as part of a June 2016 agreement to pay a $1bn fine for missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered subscribers amid a security crackdown. The penalty, originally set at $5.2bn billion, led to the resignation of the Johannesburg-based company’s then chief executive officer and a slump in the share price that’s yet to be clawed back.

If successful, the Lagos share sale will be the biggest on the Nigerian Stock Exchange after Starcomms, which raised $796m when it listed in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

MTN, Nigeria’s biggest mobile phone company with just over 50 million subscribers as of end September, slumped to a loss in 2016 as it absorbed the financial impact of the fine, though said last month it returned to profit the following year.

Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African governments are trying to gain more from international mobile phone operators taking advantage of rising smartphone use and faster data speeds.

MTN has also agreed to sell shares in Ghana as one of the conditions of a deal to gain spectrum rights, while Vodacom, South Africa’s market leader, was ordered to list 25% of its Tanzanian business last year, raising $213m.

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AFRICAN AMERICAN (T) | SpaceX rocket fuels thaw in chilly Musk-Trump relationship

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San Francisco – Elon Musk’s rocky rapport with President Donald Trump appears to be on the mend, and it only took 5 million pounds of thrust to patch things up.

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies pulled off a seemingly impossible feat on Tuesday when it launched the world’s most powerful rocket in 45 years, then flew two of its spent boosters back to the Florida coast for a spectacular, simultaneous recovery on land.

Musk then pulled off something perhaps even more surprising – winning public praise from the White House.

Musk, who was born in South Africa and has since obtained US citizenship, thanked the president in a reply, noting that “an exciting future lies ahead”. 

Thawing relationship

The 37-word exchange between the two billionaire businessmen is a step forward in their shaky relationship.

Musk, who initially served on two of Trump’s White House advisory councils, stepped down in June after the president’s decision to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord.

But the palpable excitement of the launch appeared to leave Trump and more than 2.3 million concurrent viewers on a YouTube webcast on the edge of their seats.

With hordes of fans gathered along the Florida space coast, the new rocket rumbled aloft under clear skies shortly after 15:45 local time. The live-stream of the Falcon Heavy Test Flight was the second-most-watched in YouTube’s history, and the launch led all three television network broadcasts in the US on Tuesday evening.

Falcon Heavy cleared the launch pad without blowing up – a feat Musk had said would be enough to deem the mission a win – and continued on to deliver Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster with a space-suit wearing mannequin at the wheel toward an Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.

“It seems surreal to me,” said Musk, 46, during a post-launch press conference. “Crazy things can come true.”

Beating Russia

Falcon Heavy, with three boosters and 27 Merlin engines, makes SpaceX a competitor to United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, a workhorse for large US military payloads.

Its 5 million pounds of thrust are the most since the Saturn V used for Apollo moon missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and rival Boeing were among those congratulating SpaceX.

“A private company just outperformed every government on earth,” said Greg Autry, a professor at the University of Southern California and a former NASA White House liaison. “This is bigger than anything Russia or China is doing. No one else is even close.”

The strides Musk has made rendering Falcon 9 launches more routine – SpaceX pulled off a record 18 launches last year- has helped make it one of the word’s most richly valued private companies.

Following the Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX accomplished a feat never before seen in space history, re-landing two rocket cores back on earth. Two touched down on land in tandem; the third centre core that was slated to settle on an unmanned drone ship ran out of propellant needed to slow down the descent and slammed into the ocean instead.

“The centre core didn’t land on the drone ship,” said Musk, who said early reports are that the rocket booster “hit the water at 300 miles per hour (482km/h) and sprayed the drone ship with shrapnel.”

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX already has paying customers committed to flying with Falcon Heavy, including commercial satellite operators Arabsat, Inmarsat and Viasat, according to its launch manifest. The US Air Force also chose Falcon Heavy for its STP-2, or Space Test Program 2, mission, though the vehicle still needs to go through certification. 

Playful payloads

Musk outfitted his Roadster with cameras to capture views of the car as it floated through space, but the batteries are only expected to last for roughly 12 hours.

Behind the wheel was “Starman”, clad in the same space suit that astronauts will wear during SpaceX’s Crew Dragon flights to the International Space Station. Musk said that Crew Dragon is now the company’s top priority, with the first demo flights slated for later this year.

A nearly indestructible disk carrying a digital copy of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction book series, Foundation, is also on board, along with a plaque engraved with the names of SpaceX’s 6 000 employees.

The successful test flight means that SpaceX can move forward with Falcon Heavy missions for paying customers, with the first to take place within three to six months.

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and has led the company since the beginning. Falcon Heavy was developed without any government funding, and took far longer than originally planned.

“We tried to cancel the Falcon Heavy programme three times because it was way harder than we thought,” said Musk. “Our total investment is over half a billion.”

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