Addicted to phones? Cell phone use becoming a major problem for some

“Turn off your cell phones and pagers.” For most people, heeding these warnings in hospitals or at the movies is as simple as pressing a button. But for a growing number of people across the globe, the idea of being out of touch, even just for a 90-minute movie, is enough to induce anxiety, says a University of Florida psychologist who studies addictions to the Internet and other technologies.

Cellphone addiction in human beings becoming a major problemAlthough cellular phones and personal digital assistants such as the BlackBerry were created to make modern life more convenient, they’re actually beginning to interfere in the lives of users who don’t know when to turn them off, says Lisa Merlo, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine.

“It’s not so much talking on the phone that’s typically the problem although that can have consequences too,” Merlo said. “(It’s) this need to be connected, to know what’s going on and be available to other people. That’s one of the hallmarks of cell phone addiction.”

Unlike addictions to alcohol, drugs or even gambling, it can be hard to pinpoint problematic cell phone use. Almost everyone has a cell phone and uses it regularly. But if someone can’t get through dinner without sending text messages or furiously typing on a personal digital assistant during a meeting, it may be time to take a step back, Merlo said.

How people respond to being separated from their cell phones or PDAs is another clue. Frequent users often become anxious when they are forced to turn off the phone or if they forget it at home, so much so that they can’t enjoy whatever they’re doing, Merlo added. Often, cell phone “addicts” compulsively check their phones for voicemails and text messages, she said.

“When (cell phone overuse) really becomes problematic for a lot of people is if they have underlying anxiety or depression,” she said. “This can really exacerbate it or (cause) their symptoms to manifest themselves.”

For example, someone who already worries about what others think of them could become easily agitated if their phone calls or messages aren’t returned right away.

“This is something that is going to affect them on a day-to-day basis,” Merlo said.

The problem seems to be growing. A Japanese study revealed that children with cell phones often don’t make friends with their less tech-savvy peers, a Hungarian study found that three-fourths of children had mobile phones and an Italian study showed that one quarter of adolescents owned multiple phones and many claimed to be somewhat addicted to them. A British study also recently found that 36 percent of college students surveyed said they could not get by without cell phones. But this may be more a sign that students view cell phones as a modern necessity like a car, said David Sheffield, a psychologist who conducted the study at Staffordshire University in England.

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Internet turnaround has begun in SA

In the past year, the Internet user base in South Africa has seen its highest rate of growth since 2001, increasing by 12.5% to 4,5-million.

This is the key finding of the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 study, released today by World Wide Worx. The study was backed by Cisco Systems, and the findings released during the Networkers at Cisco Live! conference in Johannesburg.

“The increase comes on the eve of the biggest shakeup in South African Internet access we’ve seen since the dawn of the commercial Internet in 1994,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “It is only the beginning of a dramatic turnaround, and is occurring despite numerous obstacles in the way of growth.”

Among these obstacles has been a highly restrictive regulatory environment, with the Minister of Communications only deciding late in the year not to oppose a court ruling that would allow all network operators to supply their own infrastructure.

The evolution and changes in the telecommunications industry could not have come at a better time in South Africa. “We believe these changes will lead to sufficient levels of competition, increase access to Internet usage and in turn, increase global competitiveness and economic diversity,” says Reshaad Ahmed, Senior Manager of Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group.

“South Africa could, potentially, go from five major service providers to more than 300 overnight,” says Ahmed. “The combination of new licencees, policy directions, and municipality networks has set the stage for a highly competitive telecommunications marketplace, with consumers and businesses leading the charge toward choice, competition, and fair market value.”

Goldstuck describes the Minister’s decision as a pivotal moment, but one that should have occurred four years ago.

“In that time we saw growth slow to a near standstill, and the possibility of bringing access to underserviced area becoming ever more remote,” adds Goldstuck. “But the market has been anticipating this change, and numerous small, semi-legal networks have sprung up around the country in the past year. Many of these should emerge above the radar with their new licenses, along with new entrants into the market.”

The Internet Access in SA 2008 report shows that growth has come largely on the back of dramatic take-up of broadband offerings by small businesses, which alone accounted for half of the growth in the market, mainly through connecting office staff to their ADSL links. At the same time, the market as a whole has seen a continued dramatic shift from dial-up connections to broadband, with growth in both ADSL and 3G at more than 50%.

“We are seeing a broadband culture emerging in South Africa, held back only by the restrictions still placed on data capacity,” says Goldstuck. “These should start becoming a non-issue from the middle of 2009, as the first of the major new undersea cables enters operation. At that point, dial-up will effectively be dead as a connectivity option – it is more expensive, and utterly inappropriate to the changing nature of the Internet.

“Once everyone who is connected is on broadband or high-speed networks, the Internet will come into its own as an environment for business collaboration and personal interaction.”

The Seacom undersea cable, commissioned mainly by new market entrant Neotel, will increase South Africa’s international bandwidth 40-fold, and will mark the beginning of what World Wide Worx describes as a seismic shift in the Internet landscape in Africa. But it is only one of a series of new cables in the works, which will make the connectivity landscape completely unrecognisable for both South Africa and the rest of the continent by 2013.

“It spells the birth of an entirely new industry, and we are already seeing the market champing at the bit to become part of that industry,” says Goldstuck.

However, Cisco warns change won’t happen overnight.

“Only some of the 300-plus contenders will be in a position to manage their own net­works due to their ability to raise the necessary capital,” cautions Ahmed. “Those that do step up to the challenge must spend a significant amount of time building a business model that will be sustainable, innovative, and takes advantage of the strategic position with which a contender is faced, while employing the capabilities of existing service providers.

“We are therefore pleased with these findings as they indicate a positive trend for economic growth. We believe that pervasive broadband at the right price is a key enabler for economic prosperity.”

“It is imperative for all relevant stakeholders to drive broadband to encourage new services: skills, education, business interaction and lowering the cost of doing business,” Ahmed concludes.


Peter Sondergaard sets the stage at Gartner Africa Symposium 2008

Today is the opening of the annual Gartner Africa Symposium held annually at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). Rene Jacobs, the Managing Director of Gartner Africa welcomed over 1200 delegates to this 3-day tech-fest. The conference runs in parallel to the with an expo from technology vendors. We have met before at the Computer Society’s annual IT Personality of the Year award, for which Gartner is a partner. There is over 1,200 business and IT leaders at the Symposium.

The theme of this year’s conference is about Leadership. According to a Gartner survey, over 70% of CIO’s felt they do not have the right skills. South Africa is still bleeding from the technology brain drain. You have to get involved in education, not just IT education, but business education. She quoted Bill Gates’s Creative Capitalism speech from the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. He said the most powerful innovation happens when a company uses its top talent to solve problems for the impoverished. Government, business and non-profits can work together to stretch the market forces and eventually doing so, reduces inequalities in the world. Rene asked everyone in the audience to imagine the impact of each company adopting a school to help them improve output. To imagine each individual sponsoring a child from grade 1 -12, even up to tertiary level. What difference would that make in terms of South Africa’s skills shortage. She quoted another Gartner estimate, that IT industry is responsible for 2% of the carbon emissions, the same as the airline industry

Peter Sondergaard, Cape Town South AfricaThe rockstar analyst, Peter Sondergaard, head of Gartner Research Worldwide took the stage next like he was rallying the troops. He highlighted a few of the key issues to be discussed over the next 3 days including:

Workforce: the people required will not be in the organistion. Skills will be needed and demand will continue outstrip supply in the technology industry.  From now to 2010 qualified IT professionals who also have very good experience in business will be in an extreme short supply worldwide. And all this is the result of a vacuum in IT leaderships skills as more and more people from the baby boom generation leaves the organisations. When companies who opt for outsourcing or offshoring, they inadvertently create a draining of leaders in their organisation because those people running the IT systems are not staff who can be groomed for leadership. He said you have to define what talent means for your organisation and begin to capitalise on resources worldwide. This is essentially embracing the flat world theories as described by A call that was echoed by subsequent speakers is that to get involved in Education. Think outside the box, way outside the box. Make IT attractive for digital natives. Act now before it’s too late. Quality of IT projects will decline: IT organisation will suffer lack of leadership talent.

Green IT is the other key issue with Gartner:

  1. Reconsider Green-IT’s importance. Managing carbon tracking inside and outside the organisation.
  2. Measuring “green” or carbon cost per transaction.

Peter handed over to the conference’s chairperson, Debra Logan, another distinguised analyst. She said IT and growth is tied together very strongly. A year ago there was a positive outlook for the world and the  there was an especially positive outlook for emerging economies like South Africa. Since 2007 there have been several adverse events in the world: sub-prime crises in USA, the earth quake in China, electricity problem in South Africa earlier this year. South Africa still has a growth rate of 4.1%  and it’s still a growing and vibrant economy. Another catch-phrase that many of the analysts kept repeating is the Two Speed economy globally and in South Africa: 71% of South Africans still believe we can successfully host 2010 Soccer Worldcup. There is more investment happening in South Africa compared to BRIC countries…


How to choose ISP or consumer Internet access in South Africa

This is a portion of an interview for Huisgenoot magazine from 2007. I’m not even sure if it was ever published because the journalist was forced to redo the initial interview, which focussed on Skype to include a few questions about Internet access.


ADSL modem and network cable unpluggedThis is a portion of an interview for Huisgenoot magazine from 2007. I’m not even sure if it was ever published because the journalist was forced to redo the initial interview, which focussed on Skype to include a few questions about Internet access.

1. What are the different Internet access options available to South African consumers?

Dial-up: is the original mechanism used by home users to connect to the Internet access. Your computer connects to the Internet via telephone line. Your operating system like WindowsXP or Linux uses a modem to connect a computer and a telephone line to dial into an Internet service provider’s (ISP) node to establish a modem-to-modem link, which is then routed to the Internet. It is an analogue connection and by comparison the slowest Internet connection. Prices vary from R45 to R145 per month.

ISDN: is a circuit-switched telephone network system, designed to allow digital transmission of voice and data over ordinary telephone copper wires, resulting in better quality and higher data speeds than
are available with analogue. It was often used in videoconferencing because it provides simultaneous voice, video, and text transmissions. Pricing is a combination of monthly subscription + hours dialed into the Internet.

Broadband: is an “always-on” on Internet connection which can be both over fixed telephone lines (ADSL) or wireless connections. Research by Arthur Goldstuck predictes South Africa will have 1.37 million broadband users by end of 2008.

  • ADSL is the form of DSL of all broadband connections. Telkom launched commercial ADSL in 2002 and prices have come down several times since then. Bandwidth capacity and speed has increased now to where up to 4mbps is available. Most ISPs offer ADSL and prices range widely depending on how much bandwith you use. Beginners should start with 1Gig account and business users 3Gigs.
  • 3G: is the 3rd generation of cellphone standards and technology. 3G technologies enable cellphone network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved efficiency. Pricing varies based on many different packages. You can purchase a contract and get the modem free; you can buy the moden and use pre-paid airtime; or you can use a 3G/HSDPA phone to connect using Bluetooth. HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) is a new mobile data protocol and is sometimes referred to as a 3.5G (or “3½G”) technology. It’s available from Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Virgin Mobile.
  • iBurst: is based on IntelliCell technology from ArrayComm in the US. It uses radio frequencies with base stations and modems. Pricing vary from R49 to R1099 per month. They operate on a reseller model like ADSL so you can purchase it from most ISPs.
  • MyWireless: is a form of Internet connectivity that uses “wireless” technology by creating a radio-based connection to the Internet using network of specially erected towers (base stations). As such, MyWireless provides a secure Internet telecommunications platform at speeds of up to 512kbps. It’s similar to iBurst. Pricing varies from R499 to R1500 per month.

All internet connections require a modem unless you are using your cell phone as a modem. There are packages that includes free modems and some that don’t which can be more expensive per month.

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Invitation to Yahoo Groups Power User Program

I have been a user of Yahoo Groups since about 1998 when it was called eGroups. Somewhere during 1999 it was purchase by Yahoo and I have managed or moderated various groups since that time. Here’s some of the groups I have created and some stats:

  • Credo Mutwa Discussion Group: 171 members since March 2002. This has been my most successful group to date because the topic is so esoteric and specialised. There are members from all over the world who have read the books of Credo Mutwa and actively discuss his philosophy.
  • Suanne Braun Fan Club: 42 members since August 2000.  This is a group that lost a lot of steam because Suanne has stopped acting in tv shows that are widely available to South Africans. The one other member who used to post regular updates has either lost interest or moved on.
  • Uitenhage High Alumni group: 39 members since November 2000. This is an alumni group for people from my old high school. However, the Facebook group already has 46 members. What’s wrong here? A clear purpose and also someone who can stimulate discussions not necessarily about the school but things that are important to the members post-high school. Many schools have a well organised old boys or old girls organisations that would allow such an online discussion group to florish.
  • Viva Divas Music discussion group: 39 members since October 1998, started by a friend of mine who asked me to help moderate the group. The problem with this group is that there is no longer any active discussions. Most of the emails are news about new albums or singles. This group used to be much bigger a few years ago when the discussions were more stimulating.

Why should you consider Yahoo Groups?

  • It has a track record of more than 10 years.
  • Your email messages to the group is automatically archived
  • You can assign moderators
  • Your moderators can have different levels of access
  • You can automatically moderate all or only new members
  • The interface and the emails are highly customisable
  • This is a great way to add interactivity to your website or interest group without spending a cent.

Anyway I was surprised to say the least by this email from Yahoo. Even through I am also running groups on Google Groups, which is very similar in functionality, I value the archived messages on Yahoo Groups.

Dear Yahoo! Groups owner/moderator,

You’ve been selected to be a part of the Yahoo! Groups Power User Program. This program rewards the owners and moderators of some of our top Groups. You have dedicated a lot of time to making your group great, and now we want to give you something in return.

As a first benefit, you now have free access to 24-hour online customer care chat support. To access this service, visit our Contact Us page and look for the Chat with us live now link.

If you’d like to be notified about future benefits as a Power User, please join the Yahoo! Power User Group. Click here to learn more.

Congratulations, and thanks for creating such an outstanding Group.

The Yahoo! Groups team


New Web Addresses to cause confusion among users

domain namesToday I read a post on the New York Times website about a revolution in the availability of new web addresses or what is called domain names in the Internet industry. This shift in the policies from ICANN is going to open up a hornets nest if you are trying to decide which type of domain name to register between the multitude that’s already available.

Domain names is the glue that makes the Internet work. The basic idea is that instead of trying to remember complicated or weird combinations of IP addresses, the numbers that are the unique identifiers of computers and other Internet-enabled devices, people will type in a name that they can easily remember e.g. instead of (the IP address).

The problem with having a near infinate number of domain names is that it is bound to create confusion in the short term. And for businesses it means yet another scramble for domain names linked to your company name, brand names or trade marks. I refuse to buy into this idea that I have to purchase every single variation of my company name: NETucation. I currently own but not, which is owned by some unknown company who have not published a website on the name. And instead it is redirected to the original domain name registrar Network Solutions. There is sometimes a lot of uneccesary stress that is created by domain sqautters i.e. people who specialising in purchasing future potentially valuable domain names and selling them to the highest bidder or blackmailing companies or celebrities into purchase them at exhorbantent amounts of money.

In South Africa we now have a formalised procedure to deal with domain disputes. I highly recommend at the least your register your and your and just keep it reserved. One important thing I want you to note is that you MUST insist that your ISP registers your domain name, in your name, NOT in their name.


The beginning of MXit spam and chain letters

Cellphone spam on the increaseI have been getting more and more of these types of messages sent by my friends on MXit. Maybe they do not realise its spam or chain letters. The same types of chain letters that are sent around the global a gazillion times a day by innocent, unsuspecting people who believe they are doing a good thing. Simply put these messages are a hoax in 99.999% of the cases. Even if that little girl or little boy really looks like they lost a limb or have some incurable disease. There’s very little you can do in the form of attaching your name to a list on an email.

Anyway I’m reposting a common message being circulated on MXit here:

Microsoft has introduced a new mxit mail tracking system in an effort to ensure mxit remains the most popular chat room on the market. This message is a beta test of the new software and microsoft has generously offered to compensate those who participate in the testing process. For each person you send this message to, you will be given R5. For every person they give it to, you will get R3. For every person they send it to you will receive R1. Microsoft will tally all the messages produced under your name over a 2 week period and then message you with more instructions. I know you hate forwarded messages, and i was skeptical myself until last week when i got a real check in the mail for R821. Seriously , it really works. I wanted you to get a piece of the action. You wont regret it.


CS Lewis estate scrambles to take domain from Scottish family

Narnia - Prince Caspian scene This is an example of how parents are getting involved in the online world in a positive way. The results are not entirely unexpected because of the value of the Narnia brand after the success of first 2 movies. The CS Lewis estate is doing what it is meant to do in term of protecting the intellectual property. They along with Disney who released the movies own the domain and now they are after a lesser know or less valuable domain: which these parents bought their son.

Anyway you can read the full details on the Telegraph or read this blog post that tells it like it is about how stupid the CS Lewis estate was in ignoring the domain until now.


Join me at 7th annual iWeek conference for Internet industry insiders

iWeek 2008 Internet industry conferenceI have already registered for the 7th annual iWeek conference. Join me at this 3-day conference (at no cost to you) because it is the fastest way for you to get more familiar with the Internet industry. Go here to read my blogging from iWeek 2006 where Mark Shuttleworth was the keynote speaker and attracted more people in one day that attends the entire iWeek conference over the 3 or 4 days it normally runs.

Anyway here is the message from ISPA, the Internet Service Providers Association…

ISPA and UniForum SA (the registrars) are proud to announce their 7th iWeek annual conference and exhibition, now widely acknowledged as the premier Internet event on the SA calendar to be held from 17 – 19 September 07 at The Forum, Wanderers Building, The Campus, 57 Sloane Street in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

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10 Strategies for coping with Scary Times from Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan founder Strategic CoachDan Sullivan, founder of the Strategic Coach has published an updated version of his classic, The “Scary Times” Success Manual: Transforming anxiety about the future into strategic growth, progress and achievement. These strategies seem like common sense but you rarely consider or contemplate them. And once you become conscious of them you know them to be the highest and best approach to dealing with uncertainty in the world.

There is so many distraction in the world you may be confused about what to focus on. And this list gives a solid foundation on which you can grow, slowly but surely, in the best of times or the worst of times. A great philosopher once said only human beings can know something to be rational and right choice to make and yet do the exactly opposite. As I have been saying it’s not about right or wrong; instead it’s about the highest and best approach.

Here’s a summary of the 10 strategies:

  1. Forget about yourself, focus on others.
  2. Forget about your commodity, focus on your relationships.
  3. Forget about the sale, focus on creating value.
  4. Forget about your losses, focus on your opportunities.
  5. Forget about your difficulties, focus on your progress.
  6. Forget about the “future”, focus on today.
  7. Forget about who you are, focus on who you can be.
  8. Forget about events, focus on your response.
  9. Forget about what’s missing, focus on what’s available.
  10. Forget about your complaints, focus on your gratitude.

You can also download and listen to an audio presentation of the Scary Times success manual here. And you can read the full list of strategies here.