Columns

Sugar is the new cigarettes, and last week’s sugar tax adoption comes at the right time

It was Judge Dredd who first warned me that sugar was a drug. As a kid reading 2000AD, the comic that this futuristic law maker appeared in, there were often stories set in a far-off future world where the drug of that era was sugar. Science fiction has an unerringly accurate way of predicting the future. The great Isaac Asimov predicted Google (he called it Multivac) and laid down the safety laws...[Read More]

Android’s snooping and Uber’s 57m data theft overshadowed by danger to net neutrality

Which was the more damaging shock revelation last week of corporate malfeasance?  Was it that ProPublica discovered Google’s Android operating system tracks its users despite them opting out of such tracking, and after a factory rest of the phone? Or was it Uber revealing how it failed to reveal a hack that exposed 59m people’s details last year? In the case of Uber it is yet another s...[Read More]

Tech is supposed to make parenting easier, if you can fight your way through the myriad of choices

Luckily I lave been a technology journalist for 20 years – which only constituted practise before I had to make some of the hardest equipment decisions a grown man will in his life: which pram to buy for my new-born son. Having a child is hard enough without the myriad of tech choices you’re forced to make with far-reaching consequences, as the technology revolution has had a profound ...[Read More]

Second-generation entrepreneur Vanu Bose made his first name as famous as his surname

The problem with providing rural cellular and internet access is not the cost of building the network, but the cost of running it, Vanu Bose realised when he set out to solve his own lack of broadband in Vermont. The brilliant MIT-trained engineer had worked out how to make a rural cellular network profitable when its customers spent only $1 a month but first he had to reengineer the telecoms equi...[Read More]

Anti-vaxxers are modern-day flat-earthers who deny reality because it fits their world view

Most of the 89,780 people who died of measles globally last year were children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organisation. “Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available,” the medical body states in its Measles fact sheet. “Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused ...[Read More]

Revelations how Russian propaganda used Facebook to influence US elections worrying

“Winning hearts and minds” is one of those bizarre terms that was popularised this past century in the Vietnam war when many would have first heard it used. The phrase was originally used by a French general in then Indochina in 1895 and is used to characterise propaganda designed to convince the local population the menacing military force in their country was on their side. How deepl...[Read More]

Privacy act implementation failure means those behind SA’s largest data leak will go unpunished

How did it happen that a property company put an estimated 60-million South African’s most sensitive personal information into an insecure database file and on an insecure web server that has now been linked to the biggest data breach in South African history? How did they manage to collate so much data about us without our permission? And, as bizarre as it sounds, how is it that they might ...[Read More]

Machine learning is solving real problems, from saving energy to combatting blindness

Millions of people go blind every year from a preventable eye disease caused by diabetes. Called diabetic retinopathy, it is devastating to its sufferers and takes an ophthalmologist to diagnose. This is a particular problem in a country like India, which has a huge population and a high prevalence of diabetes but not enough ophthalmologists. “India is set to emerge as the diabetic capital o...[Read More]

The recent spate of hacked websites is a reminder that you need to protect your online security more than ever

All 3bn of Yahoo’s accounts were hacked in 2013, the search giant revealed last week, triple the previously stated 1bn, making it the biggest data breach so far. This followed the staggering hack of US credit agency Equifax last month, exposing the personal details of 145.5m Americans, including their credit cards details and social security numbers. It’s a stupendously big deal and confirms...[Read More]

Zipline’s blood deliveries by drone shows how such innovation needs support to succeed

In a small hospital in Rwanda, a 24-year-old mother gave birth but immediately afterwards started bleeding with what doctors call postpartum haemorrhage (PPH). In thousands of case like this every year across Africa, this drastic condition often results in the mother’s death when rural clinics or hospitals don’t have enough blood to stabilise a bleeding patient. But in this case, a remarkabl...[Read More]

Revelations about KPMG complicity in Gupta looting has brought out the best in South African social media

Last week a massive fight broke out on Twitter. To the (relatively) small portion of the internet that watched it, it was a thing of beauty. During one of those odd “engagement” exercises people use to drum up Twitter traffic, someone tweeted during a #AskaCurator event to London’s The Natural History Museum: “Who would win in a staff battle between @sciencemuseum and @NHM_...[Read More]

The cost of solar fell 95% in 30 years so why do we still build old fashioned power plants?

To say Amar Inamdar has a vision is an understatement. The soft-spoken, steely-eyed Inamdar wants to see everyone in Africa get electricity, and runs a $100m fund to do just that. But not Eskom, coal-fired conventional energy. Through his KawiSafi Ventures, he is trying to bring solar energy to East Africa and his quiet confidence shows he’s already making progress. “There is a revolut...[Read More]

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