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African scientists and technology could drive future black hole discoveries

African scientists and technology could drive future black hole discoveries

ASTRONOMERS have revealed the first image of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The image was produced by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration, an international team made up of over 300 scientists on five continents – including Africa. Black holes were predicted by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity over a century ago. They are regions of space so dense that nothing, including light, can escape. Their boundary is known as the event horizon, which marks the point of no return. That’s just one of the reasons these objects are hidden from our…
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Technology and home visits can help South Africans with diabetes cope with insulin

Technology and home visits can help South Africans with diabetes cope with insulin

APPROXIMATELY 4.5 million South Africans have type 2 diabetes – a condition characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood. It can be treated with drugs and managed through healthy eating and exercise. But if it’s not managed well, it can be life-threatening. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in South Africa. Blood sugar levels rise to dangerous levels when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar in the body. As diabetes progresses, insulin injections become the only treatment option. But the transition from oral medication to injectable…
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‘Use technology, enabling infrastructure to harness resources and build the Southern African economy’

‘Use technology, enabling infrastructure to harness resources and build the Southern African economy’

MATHEWS PHOSA OPPORTUNITIES for growth and development will always present themselves naturally, but economic dynamism is critical. As such, the key to real economic dynamism is about leveraging opportunities into real sustainable value. Value for our people, our neighbours, our region and our Continent. The real economic boons or revolutions have been based on converting opportunities into value. The Industrial Revolution was about effectively deploying vast amounts of capital for productive capacity to stimulate industry, goods and related services. Converting opportunity, which is access to capital, into real sustainable value, is the backbone of sustainable infrastructures such as rail, seaports…
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Password education should be age-appropriate: here’s how

Password education should be age-appropriate: here’s how

KAREN RENAUD, Visiting Professor of Cybersecurity, Rhodes University SUZANNE PRIOR, Lecturer in Computing, Abertay University CHILDREN are increasingly being exposed to, and using, technology from a very young age. This has never been more true than in 2020 when the vast majority of children worldwide have used online resources to access educational resources and communicate with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the resources and websites used, along with the devices they are accessed on, require the use of a password to authenticate the user. However, young children don’t necessarily have the skills and knowledge required to…
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Your smartphone is not making you dumber — digital tech can enhance our cognitive abilities

Your smartphone is not making you dumber — digital tech can enhance our cognitive abilities

DIGITAL technology is ubiquitous. We have been increasingly reliant on smartphones, tablets and computers over the past 20 years, and this trend has been accelerating due to the pandemic. Conventional wisdom tells us that over-reliance on technology may take away from our ability to remember, pay attention and exercise self-control. Indeed, these are important cognitive skills. However, fears that technology would supplant cognition may not be well founded. Technology alters society Socrates, considered by many to be the father of philosophy, was deeply worried about how the technology of writing would affect society. Since the oral tradition of delivering speeches…
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In a world first, South Africa grants patent to an artificial intelligence system

In a world first, South Africa grants patent to an artificial intelligence system

AT first glance, a recently granted South African patent relating to a “food container based on fractal geometry” seems fairly mundane. The innovation in question involves interlocking food containers that are easy for robots to grasp and stack. MESHANDREN NAIDOO, PhD Fellow and LexisNexis Legal Content Researcher and Editor, University of KwaZulu-Natal On closer inspection, the patent is anything but mundane. That’s because the inventor is not a human being – it is an artificial intelligence (AI) system called DABUS. DABUS (which stands for “device for the autonomous bootstrapping of unified sentience”) is an AI system created by Stephen Thaler,…
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Tech’s long COVID-19: What privacy battles will define 2021?

Tech’s long COVID-19: What privacy battles will define 2021?

UMBERTO BACCHI THE coronavirus pandemic added a new layer to the ever-developing debate around privacy and technology in 2020, as governments and companies turned to tools like contract tracing apps and employee monitoring software. As the year comes to an end, the Thomson Reuters Foundation asked privacy experts around the world what issues will shape the conversation in 2021: MASS SURVEILLANCE - Ella Jakubowska, policy officer, European Digital Rights, Brussels "In 2021, one big challenge for civil society will be protecting fundamental rights in Europe from the threat of mass surveillance. On the one hand, the European Commission is poised…
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Technology and supermarket chains can help strengthen southern Africa’s food systems

Technology and supermarket chains can help strengthen southern Africa’s food systems

AGRICULTURE and agro-processing value chains have been under pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been particularly marked where they remain underdeveloped, as is the case in South Africa and the rest of the region. THANDO VILAKAZI, Executive Director of the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development, University of Johannesburg NAMHLA LANDANI, Economist and Associate Researcher at the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development, University of Johannesburg Regulatory responses to the pandemic disrupted agriculture and agro-processing activities. For example, agro-processing systems have been slowed down by rigorous border checks. Some countries, including South Africa, closed land border posts.…
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Speedy deeds: Zanzibar goes digital to prove property ownership

Speedy deeds: Zanzibar goes digital to prove property ownership

KIM HARRISBERG A team of Zanzibari data collectors armed with tablets have gathered enough information from hundreds of people on the Tanzanian archipelago to issue each of them a deed to their land in 20 minutes - a process that typically takes up to five years. The project run by Kenya-based technology consulting company Spatial Collective has produced official documentation for about 700 land parcels in a southern town called Shakani since it launched last year. "With title deeds, people can get loans and they will have the security of knowing that, 'This is mine and no one will claim…
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Digital democracy is still a long way off in Africa:  it takes more than technology

Digital democracy is still a long way off in Africa: it takes more than technology

NIC CHEESEMAN, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham LISA GARBE, Doctoral Researcher, University of St.Gallen FROM the mid-2000s onwards, the digital revolution raised hopes of democratic transformation and strengthening in Africa. But it hasn’t quite turned out like that. Now, almost a decade after the “Arab Spring”, techno-optimism has given way to techno-pessimism. African leaders have proved able to blunt the transformative potential of smart phones through censorship and internet shutdowns. When the internet is on, social media attracts more attention for spreading fake news than preventing election rigging. What was once thought of as “liberation technology” has turned out…
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