Archive from January, 2019

New satellite network will make it impossible for aeroplanes to go missing

CBS News reports that a new satellite network which will ensure commercial aeroplanes can be tracked from anywhere will launch soon.
On 11 January, the final 10 of 66 replacement satellites were transported into space by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
These “advanced Iridium Communications satellites” are each the size of a small car, and alongside new Aireon air surveillance technology, will also be used to power satellite phones and Internet networks.
Currently, aircraft are mainly tracked with radar technology, which struggle when planes fly over oceans.
“70% of the world’s airspace has no surveillance,” said Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon.
“Aircraft fly over the oceans and report back their positions to air traffic control every 10-15 minutes at best – and in between those periods, no one knows where they are.”
All commercial flights in the US and Europe must have GPS transponders installed by 2020, which will allow the new satellites to track their movements.
This new technology may also allow more flights over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at one time.

Japanese government plans to hack into citizens’ IoT devices

Japanese government wants to secure IoT devices before Tokyo 2020 Olympics and avoid Olympic Destroyer and VPNFilter-like attacks.
The Japanese government approved a law amendment on Friday that will allow government workers to hack into people’s Internet of Things devices as part of an unprecedented survey of insecure IoT devices.
The survey will be carried out by employees of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
NICT employees will be allowed to use default passwords and password dictionaries to attempt to log into Japanese consumers’ IoT devices.
The plan is to compile a list of insecure devices that use default and easy-to-guess passwords and pass it on to authorities and the relevant internet service providers, so they can take measures to alert consumers and secure the devices.
The survey is scheduled to kick off next month, when authorities plan to test the password security of over 200 million IoT devices, beginning with routers and web cameras. Devices in people’s homes and on enterprise networks will be tested alike.
According to a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications report, attacks aimed at IoT devices accounted for two-thirds of all cyber-attacks in 2016.
The Japanese government has embarked on this plan in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The government is afraid that hackers might abuse IoT devices to launch attacks against the Games’ IT infrastructure.
Their fear is justified. Russian nation-state hackers deployed the Olympic Destroyer malware before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics held in South Korea in early 2018 as payback after the International Olympic Committee banned hundreds of Russian athletes from competing.
Russian nation-state hackers also built a botnet of home routers and IoT devices –named VPNFilter– that the Ukrainian intelligence service said they were planning to use to hinder the broadcast of the 2018 UEFA Champions League final that was to be held in Kiev, Ukraine that year.
The Japanese government’s decision to log into users’ IoT devices has sparked outrage in Japan. Many have argued that this is an unnecessary step, as the same results could be achieved by just sending a security alert to all users, as there’s no guarantee that the users found to be using default or easy-to-guess passwords would change their passwords after being notified in private.
However, the government’s plan has its technical merits. Many of today’s IoT and router botnets are being built by hackers who take over devices with default or easy-to-guess passwords.
Hackers can also build botnets with the help of exploits and vulnerabilities in router firmware, but the easiest way to assemble a botnet is by collecting the ones that users have failed to secure with custom passwords.
Securing these devices is often a pain, as some expose Telnet or SSH ports online without the users’ knowledge, and for which very few users know how to change passwords. Further, other devices also come with secret backdoor accounts that in some cases can’t be removed without a firmware update.

Get visas for South Africa in a breeze; Thailand, Malaysia ease rules These measures are part of initiatives by these nations to attract Indian tourists

Planning a trip to South Africa to see the wildlife at the Kruger National Park or the beaches of Durban? Getting a visa could be a breeze. Shopping trips to Malaysia and Thailand will also be cheaper now, with both nations waiving visa fees.
These measures are part of initiatives by these nations to attract Indian tourists. With the rupee’s value falling against the dollar, overseas travel for many Indians had become more expensive.
In 2017 tour operators had also complained about the frequent delays in visa processing, especially for South Africa. Earlier this week, the South African government announced a scheme to make visa processing quicker, with the consulate in Mumbai accrediting travel agents and tour operators to fast-track the process.
At present, it takes about five to seven days. In the peak season, it can take even longer.
“India has been a key source market for us and will continue to play a critical role in our long-term vision. We aim to surpass 100,000 visitors from India in 2019,” said Sisa Ntshona, chief executive officer, South African Tourism.
The tourism board did not share 2018 arrival figures.
The Malaysian government has waived visa fees for a 15-day single entry visa from this month. Under the policy, visitors will only have to pay a $20 processing charge for the visa.
Thailand has extended its free visa scheme till April. In November, Thailand had waived fee for visa-on-arrival for Indians and citizens of 20 countries till end January.
“Visas play a critical role in influencing travel decisions. Hence, visa facilitation announcements by Malaysia, South Africa, and Thailand can lead to strong demand, particularly during the key booking window for the summer travel season,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays and visa services), Thomas Cook.
He added, “Our booking pipeline sees a surge of 15-30 per cent after such announcements. Free visa or visa-on-arrival schemes have sustained impact on demand.”
Keyna is a beneficiary of relaxed visa norms for Indians. In 2018, the number of Indians visiting the African nation increased to 125,000 from 80,000 in 2015. This is partly because children aged below 16 get a free visa, said Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi, marketing development director of the Kenya Tourism Board.
Travel industry sources say that demand for short breaks has been low in January. One reason for this is there has been no long weekend.
But, summer booking trends look good.
“Overseas tours are now more expensive because of rupee depreciation. Reduction in visa complexities and free visas will encourage demand. Free visas will especially benefit group packages,” said Rakshit Desai, managing director of FCM Travel Solutions.
Greece and Kazakhastan are relatively new destinations for Indian travellers. But, these nations are also stepping up promotions.
In May last year, Kazakshtan announced a 72-hour free visa for Indian passengers taking an Air Astana flight. The Greek tourism ministry is also working to make visa processing smoother.
Last year 42,000 Indians visited Greece; in 2017, the number was 22,000.
“We are certain that these figures can grow within the next few years. The tourism ministry is in close co-operation with the foreign ministry and is doing its best to speed up visa issuance,” said Konstantinos Tsegas, secretary general of the Greek National Tourism Organisation.

South Africa: Home Affairs Extends Working Hours for ID Collection

More than 20 000 identity documents haven’t been collected from various Home Affairs offices throughout the country.
The Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria on Saturday saw large amounts of young people, who collected their identity documents, to register for the forthcoming general election.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has its final voter registration drive this weekend.
Home Affairs has extended working hours for Saturday and Sunday.
More than 20 000 identity documents haven’t been collected from various Home Affairs offices throughout the country.
Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Siyabonga Cwele has urged those who haven’t yet collected their IDs, to do so this weekend.
The Home Affairs offices in Pretoria are open for those who have not yet collected their IDs and are anticipating to register to vote in the 2019’s elections. This weekend is the last chance for those who haven’t registered to book their place on the voters roll.
Ruth Mkojo collected her ID on Saturday and is satisfied with the service she received at Home Affairs.
“The service was excellent and they were so professional with us, and we didn’t even spend more than 20 minutes here. From here, I am going to my voting station, as we know that for me to vote is very important. It is one of the privileges which we have since 1994 and I want to use this opportunity so that I know that my vote is my voice,” says Mkojo.
Political parties have mainly targeted the youth and are encouraging them to register to vote. Some of them responded to the call by collecting their ID’s in large numbers.
“I am here because I heard my father telling me last night that the voting stations are open. So, I need to go and fetch my ID as soon as possible so that I can vote. I am going to register tomorrow. I am very excited because I am finally 18. I am happy because now I can be able to vote and make change,” says resident Lunga Thabethe.
Ndileka Bongane is looking forward to casting his vote for the first time.
“I am a first time voter. I am excited … finally stepping up as an adult. I am hoping all the parties deliver in whatever they have promised in their manifestos,” says Bongane.
The Home Affairs offices will open again on Sunday to allow more collection of IDs

Home Affairs to open refugee office in Maitland

The Department of Home Affairs intends to open the new Cape Town Refugee Reception Office in June 2019 on new premises in Maitland.
In a progress report to the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Home Affairs said vacant land in Maitland had been identified by the Department of Public Works and the proposed date of occupation of the office was 1 June 2019.
Home Affairs decided in 2012 to stop processing new applicants at the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office.
In a judgment on 30 August 2012, the Western Cape High Court ordered Cape Town Home Affairs to start serving new applicants again. The judge said the cost to Home Affairs of assisting newcomers was negligible compared to the harm done to them.
He said that delaying implementation of the court order would cause grievous harm to asylum seekers. While undocumented, they would be subject to arrest and deportation.
But the office was not re-opened. The LRC took Home Affairs to court on behalf of the Scalabrini Centre and the Somali Association, and in September 2017 the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Home Affairs must “reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in or around the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality, by Friday 31 March 2018.” Home Affairs sought leave to appeal from the Constitutional Court but this was refused. This means the SCA ruling is final.
Asked to confirm the opening of the new office in Maitland, a Home Affairs spokesperson referred GroundUp to the Department of Public Works. Contacted on 21 January, Public Works spokesperson Lunga Mahlangu promised to respond but had not done so at the time of publication.

#WEF2019: All these permits and visas just don’t work for Africa trade

Business leaders in Davos bemoaned the difficulty in obtaining work permits and visas for Africans across the continent. File Photo: IOL
DAVOS – On Tuesday, a session was held at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos called “Achieving a single market in Africa”. The panel consisted of business leaders from Pan African companies, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Oxfam.
And the most interesting thread through the discussion was the urgent need for Africa to focus on reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.
The business leaders bemoaned the difficulty in obtaining work permits and visas for Africans across the continent.
For businesses to thrive, the continent needs best practices and the best business people to move across country borders with ease. This is particularly true for new and entrepreneurial companies where skills transfer is an imperative.
At least 75 percent of businesses on the continent are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and they employ many of Africa’s citizens. These businesses will benefit from the removal of non-tariff barriers by, for example, being able to more easily access finance for their Pan African expansions.
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Of course, Africa always operates to its own drum beat and in March 2018 the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement was signed by most African Union members in Kigali. A protocol on the free movement of persons was also adopted in January 2018.
The goal of the AfCFTA is to fulfill the “need and critical importance of creating an expanded and secure market for the goods and services of Member States of the AU through adequate infrastructure and the reduction or progressive elimination of tariffs, and elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade and investment”.
Africa is not new to trade agreements and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) was established in 1975 and covers 15 countries and almost 400 million people.
Similarly, the East African Community (EAC) was established in 1967, although revitalised in 2000. The EAC is planning a single currency by 2023, an ambitious plan considering that the European Union had its origins in the 1950s and only established its own currency at the turn of the century.
At the WEF Africa meeting in Kigali in 2016, the then finance minister of Rwanda, Claver Gatete, explained how in the EAC they had managed to reduce the time that it took a container to reach Kigali from the Kenyan port of Mombasa from 21 days to 5 days just by reducing non-tariff barriers.
The AfDB recently released their African Economic Outlook 2019, where they bemoan the fact that intra-regional trade is only 12 percent of the trade on the continent.
They consider how, as the AfCFTA agreement gets implemented over time, we could see this grow to more than 18 percent. However, the most important benefit will be the development of value chains spanning multiple countries which will boost exports of value-added products to the rest of the world as the continent industrialises.
Although a long way off, their models show that this could boost the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 4 percent to 5 percent. This would be in addition to the existing growth of more than 5 percent that is expected for non-oil exporting countries (and excluding South Africa) over the next five years.
The need for African governments to follow through with domestic policies to enable the full implementation of the AfCFTA agreement is therefore key and panel members bemoaned the dearth of politicians at the session.
If we are looking for the “Next China after China” it could be right under our noses. A continent growing at these high rates will surely surpass the current Asian and Indian subcontinent high growth regions.

Vacant Maitland land identified as possible new refugee reception office in Cape Town

Cape Argus – 25 January 2019
Cape Town – Progress reports given to the Legal Resources Centre indicate the Department of Home Affairs has identified a vacant piece of land in Maitland for the new refugee reception office.
The department said the proposed date of occupation will be June 1.
Home Affairs initially decided in 2012 to stop processing new applicants at the Cape Town refugee reception office.
In a judgment delivered on August 30, 2012, the Western Cape High Court ordered Cape Town Home Affairs to again start serving new applicants. The judge said the cost to Home Affairs of assisting newcomers was negligible compared to the harm done to them.
Home Affairs previously disregarded a court order last year that instructed it to reopen its refugee reception office in Cape Town by March 31.
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South Africa has five refugee reception offices; however, the department suspended the services to first-time applicants at two of these offices.
The office building is open for renewal permits for asylum-seekers who registered at the Cape Town office prior to its closure in June 2012.
In its defence, the Department of Home Affairs said it was waiting for the Department of Public Works to provide suitable office accommodation.
But advocacy groups are concerned about the opening after Home Affairs missed its initial deadline.
Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said: “Let me put it on record that the department has no intention to disregard the judicial directive and we will duly respect the judgment.”