Toby Shapshak

Editor, columnist, strategist and speaker; Toby writes and speaks about Innovation. And Africa. Most eloquently about Innovation in Africa. Through a range of media, from newspapers to television and radio, he speaks regularly on the trends in technology and innovation; and where they are going.

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]

Telkom’s turn-around proof that even the most dysfunctional SOE can be saved

Who would have thought that Telkom, once the most dysfunctional of lazy and ineffectual monopolises, would emerge as the most efficiently run and most profitable of state-owned enterprises? The once-floundering telco has rebuilt itself as a nimble and effective operation, demonstrating that anything is possible with clear vision, good management and a lack of political interference. Telkom is bles...[Read More]

Icasa’s proposal that data should not expire is a good move but more is needed

It’s not quite the #DataMustFall that people have been begging for, but telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has given us #DataMustNotExpire. Icasa has published draft regulations in the Government Gazette stipulating new time frames for the expiry of data. This is a good step, and such proactivity should be rewarded. Cellular operators obviousl...[Read More]

The defining device of the portable music era is headed for history: RIP iPod

As it announced unexpected strong sales of its iPhone last week, Apple said it is killing off the music device that made it all possible: the iPod. The renamed iPod Classic was discontinued in 2014 and last week it was the turn of the smaller iPod Nano and Shuffle to be dropped from Apple’s online store. They were the last of the music players that made Apple into the mobile titan it is toda...[Read More]

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