EFA Joins the National ICT Forum, Chamber on Governance and Security
The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) has set up the National ICT Forum to coordinate government strategic policy on ICT. One of the three “Chambers”, that on Governance & Security, is involved in ecommerce. The EFA Co-Chair, Dylan Piatti, & the EFA Executive Director, Alastair Tempest, attended their first meeting of the Ecommerce Working Party on 16 Nov. Alastair also sits on the main Chamber (and represented EFA there on 11 Nov) and on the Cyber Security Working Party (next meeting 23 Nov). Other parties include Treasury, the DTI, Dept. of Communications, business, and relevant interest groups.
EFA invited to comment on the Taxation of the Digital Economy 2017
EFA provided its views in 2 position papers to the Davis Commission on Tax in 2015. Treasury has now approached EFA to give input to the tax policy for the digital economy 2017. Our submission must be given in by end February next. There are three EFA volunteers on the Legal Working Party looking at tax issues at present. If you can bring expertise to this subject please let me know (email@example.com) we would greatly welcome your input.
EFA Guidelines and Legal Fact Pack
EFA has drafted a guideline, or best practice, on ecommerce (see our website, www.ecomafrica.org) and we would welcome comments from members. We are delighted to announce that we are also working with the IABSA on legal issues. The EFA “Legal Fact Pack” is almost complete for SA. Our contributors from other countries are now busily filling in their details. Volunteers to help are most welcome! Please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Future Trade with the USA under Trump
One of President Obama’s legacies is the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) which encourages African businesses in many sectors to trade with the USA without tariffs. EFA knows a number of enterprising Africa ecommerce sites that offer goods made in Africa to the USA market, pulling in the $$$ to the national market and giving employment to people.
Since Trump was elected on the non-interventionist (“make the US great again”) vote there has been some strong indication in the USA that trade deals like AGOA will be scrapped when the new administration takes office in January 2017. Trump has said so himself (although he’s said a lot and then backtracked).
EFA has expressed concern to Treasury that the attitude of SARS customs appears to be to delay ecommerce imports from the USA and also to demand excessive duties. The only way around that is to use a courier company which arranges payment from the collection point. EFA has pointed out that applying both tariff & Non-tariff barriers to ecommerce from the USA (apart from contravening the OECD/G20 guidelines on ecommerce) could give the new administration under Trump an excuse to rescind the AGOA.
Minister of Higher Education declares war on Fraudulent Qualifications
The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, has issued a statement calling for companies to ensure that their employees’ qualifications are genuine. The SA Qualification Authority, SAQA, will be able to verify training or educational certificates or diplomas issued in SA (SAQA approves training modules for the sectors as a major part of its function). The problem arises for degrees, certificates, diplomas, etc, issued outside SA. Presently the Professional Bodies for each sector are being asked to provide verification, which few are equipped to do.
Some Professional Bodies are now saying to their sector that in order to be recognized the company/individual must be a paid up member and be following Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes supported by the association. This approach, obviously, forces companies or individuals to belong to one association and reduces the number of associations representing a sector (in the case of the marketing sector there are 14 associations!).
The 2016 Africa Internet Usage Report has just been issued. This shows that there are 334 m internet users in Africa, or 28% of the total population of the continent. Africa’s share represents 9.4% of global internet users. Kenya enjoys the most internet penetration with 69.9% of its population, Morocco has 60.6%, and third is Mauritania with 60%. The worst countries for internet penetration are the Niger (2.5%) and Eritrea with 1%.
Mobile broadband connections in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to increase rapidly. They stood at 24% in 2015 and are estimated to rise to 57% by 2020 due to the introduction of cheap (under $100 per phone) smart phones. In Africa 41 countries have access to 3G, and 23 countries to 4G already. Which in global terms is impressive – Africa continues to leap-frog other regions as a leader in mobile communications.
One important aspect of the mobile space is, of course, gaming. Statista.com estimates that mobile gaming in Africa is likely to grow from $228m in 2015 to $261m in 2016. PWC, which has also studied the mobile gaming market in Africa, believes that that is worth $217m.
Another indication of the heavy use of mobile is music streaming, online TV streaming and Video streaming. It is estimated that there are in Africa over 125m users of online TV & Video streaming.
Ecommerce Payment Systems Up for Discussion in Europe
The Brussels based ecommerce association, EMOTA, reports that it has been invited into the new European Commission Payments Systems Market Expert Group, which is charged with finding secure ways to transact online. The European Banking Authority (sort of equivalent of our FSB) is calling for strict customer authentication to prevent fraud.
In South Africa the EFA has started a dialogue with PASA (Payments Association of SA) on online payment security and the 3D system. PASA has indicated its willingness to look for security systems that will reduce online fraud. Obviously we will have to keep an eye on what goes on in Europe.
LAP to UCENet
I have had an interest in the fight against global spam emailing for some time now, as a member of the so-called London Action Plan (LAP), which brings together regulators, regulatory bodies, the police and major access providers to cooperate in the battle against global spamming. LAP (now renamed UCENet) met on the week of 24 Oct in Paris in joint session with M3AAWG (the Messaging Malware Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group – see www.m3aawg.org). M3AAWG is a global grouping of businesses committed to prevent spam. Although it is little known here in SA (I have yet to meet an IT company in SA which knows of M3AAWG), it is extremely well known in the North America, Europe, Asia & India. It does a lot of training and networking, and its members are the architects of the anti-spam filters commonly used by the ISPs and access providers. However, the issue of “spam” is now moving into both mobile (SMS, MMS, Apps, etc) and into land-line & VOIP phoning. Of concern is the lack of information for SA users (both consumers & business) linked to the far greater bandwidth of fiber optics which are now being introduced in SA. No wonder the USA’s FBI considers SA as one of the most likely major victims of illegal spamming in the future!
How do other countries deal with the issues? Mainly through their data privacy or telecommunication regulators. For example, just recently the Privacy Regulator in the UK (the ICO) fined a marketer, Rainbow(UK), 20,000 UK pounds (333,000rand) for sending out 21,000 SMS without the consent of the receivers. But the main spammers are international crime syndicates who require cooperation between national governments to bring down, thus the role of UCENet as the point of cooperation.
More international efforts to prevent global spam are necessary. When consumers are ripped off buying online, even if the fault lies very obviously with the consumer (eg he/she bought a produce from the Canadian Pharmacy, one of the oldest illicit traders which specializes in placing viruses on its “customers” PCs), all online merchants can get a bad name. As they say, do a good job and the happy consumer will tell 5 friends, but a bad experience will be shared with 20 friends!
And with global cooperation still in mind, it is good to see that the EU-sponsored Safer Internet Forum (SIF) is meeting in Luxembourg on 24 Nov.
One of the main ways to protect against email spam are ISP or company filters. These filters either bounce an email or simply stop it going any further. It’s far easier to deal with the bounced email – you get it back and can see what the problem is – for example, if EFA takes down an email address incorrectly our server receives a notification and we can check & rectify the problem. This is a “transient” or soft bounce. If the codes on the bounce indicate that the source (the sender’s server) is questionable, usually waiting about 4 hours allows you to resend your email successfully. Where the server or the ISP is flagged red, or if there is too heavy an attachment then you should be notified of a permanent or hard bounce. Calling the recipient and asking them to resent their filters will solve most soft or hard bounces. However, the real problem arises when the email doesn’t show that it has bounced. Has the email been received but the addressee hasn’t replied, or has it been removed by the addressee’s ISP or removed by his server’s filter, or is it the fault of your own software? There’s no way to know unless you have a professional service to deal with the issue. For a small/medium company with a limited email traffic getting in an expert is unlikely to be cost effective. But a lot can be done by setting your own filters to ensure that your server/PC receives bounce notices. The difficulty of doing that with Microsoft 10 is one of the complaints users have of the new versions of Microsoft Outlook.
The Open Government Partnership meets in December
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a forum for sharing good practices, and provides a unique platform that brings together, stimulates and expands the community of state reformers worldwide.
Under the leadership of its new chair, France, the fourth OGP Global Summit will be held in Paris from 7 to 9 December.
The OGP summit will involve 3000 representatives from 70 countries: heads of government, ministers, public servants, members of parliament, local authorities, civil society representatives, start-ups and digital innovators, developers, researchers, journalists, who will share their experiences and push forward the open government global agenda in light of the future challenges of the planet.