Soweto, 100, looks to the future

first_img13 October 2004Soweto celebrated 100 years of existence on 12 October 2004.It was on 12 October 1904 that Klipspruit – some 25 kilometres south of Johannesburg’s city centre – was formally set up as a labour reserve to keep black workers, who worked mostly in the burgeoning mining industry, away from white Johannesburg.Since the inception of its first township, Soweto has experienced phenomenal growth, mostly in ways that apartheid planners never anticipated, but it remains chiefly a working class neighbourhood.Soweto, heartbeat of the nationInfused with the history of the struggle against apartheid and alive with the energy of the city of gold, Soweto is a must-see for tourists in search of more than sun, sea and the big five.Over the past 100 years, Soweto has seen generations of migrants to the city lose their tribal innocence as they were swallowed up by its cosmopolitan appeal, for better or for worse. It has grown to become an international trademark of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.Despite its rich history, its reputation as a hotbed of the struggle against apartheid, and its status as the most cosmopolitan township in the country, Soweto has remained economically underdeveloped – but that looks set to change.Although it is home to just under 40% of Johannesburg’s population, Soweto’s contribution to the city’s gross domestic product stands at a negligible four percent, says Li Pernegger, programme manager of area regeneration in the city’s economic development unit.Stimulating Soweto’s economyIn an effort to unlock the economic potential of the township, the City of Johannesburg has formulated and adopted the Greater Soweto Development Initiative (SDI), a plan to stimulate economic growth.The initiative is aimed at providing a foundation for integrated development in Greater Soweto, says Pernegger, adding that in the long term Greater Soweto will no longer be a purely residential area, but will be an “integrated urban area in which people live, work, invest and recreate”.Coordinated by Johannesburg’s economic development unit, the SDI will focus on economic sector support and business node development, the provision of appropriate infrastructure and services, planning, land use management and land release, social development, safety and security, and improving the natural environmentThe City also recently set up the Greater Soweto Development Committee (GSDC) with a brief to take Soweto out of its economic stagnation.The GSDC was set up as a Section 79 committee to make recommendations to council on developmental priorities. The committee is made up of 25 councillors from Region 6 and Region 10, which jointly comprise Soweto. The committee will be charged with “coordinating interested and affected parties and enlisting their support for the initiative”.A study commissioned by the economic development unit in 2003, analysing economic activity levels in Soweto, found that residents do not use their buying power for the benefit of the area. Pernegger says: “We realised that Sowetans actually have an enormous buying power, but 80% of that money is spent outside Soweto and little of the demand for goods is matched by retail supply within Soweto.”Pernegger puts the combined annual buying power of residents at over R10.5-billion, “with R4.3-billion of that available for consumer spending”.The City of Johannesburg, according to Pernegger, is working on measures “to ensure that more of the residents’ buying power is retained within Soweto by facilitating the establishment of appropriate, and sustainable, retail development at the correct locations within Soweto. We want to get retail development going so that we have more money circulating inside Soweto, and more jobs being created”.Pernegger is confident Soweto offers viable investment opportunities. “The private sector believes there are investment opportunities there, especially retail developers, and now the challenge is for other commercial developers to appreciate the huge potential for the provision of warehousing, factory and office space too.”The development of Soweto, says Pernegger, will require that the neighbourhoods that make up Soweto be branded individually. “The SDI will become an enabling tool to start creating identities for the different parts of Soweto,” she says.The initiative will also help identify priority areas. “We need to know more precisely where is it attractive and viable for developers to invest in the future.”Pernegger says the economic development unit is finalising a retail demand analysis and drawing up strategies for retail development. “The consultants have developed an analysis and model of retail demand and supply (current and projected to 2014), as per different catchments, and we have developed a fairly sophisticated understanding of the potential consumer base per area.”She adds: “Development strategies are being recommended and City priorities are being identified. The economic impact of the implementation of the proposed development strategies is also being considered.”Council has already agreed to apply to the Industrial Development Corporation for grant funding to back the design of economic sector support programmes “as well as capacity for the coordination of the SDI”, according to Pernegger.Such funding will help “get development going in the township. It will help us package bankable projects by managing some of the risks inherent in property development in the area”, says Pernegger, who is optimistic about the Industrial Development Corporation’s response.Source: City of Johannesburglast_img read more

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Govt pushes use of all official languages

first_img8 August 2012 The South African government took a step towards promoting the equitable use of the country’s 11 official languages when Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile tabled the Use of Official Languages Bill in Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday. The Bill was approved without dissent and will now go to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. It is aimed at ensuring that the government elevates the status of indigenous languages, in particular, and promotes their use. The Bill will also make a contribution towards the national effort to promote multilingualism. “This Bill is not aimed at diminishing the significance and use of any of the South African official languages. Through this Bill, we will promote equitable use of all official languages,” Mashatile said. “In the long run, we will endeavor to equally promote the use of sign language.” It also means South Africans will have an opportunity to use the official languages of their choice in interacting with government. “This, we believe, will strengthen efforts to ensure equal access to government services and programmes and contribute to the goal of building an empowered citizenry,” he said. “Specifically, this Bill seeks to provide for the regulation and monitoring of the use of official languages by national government and public entities for official purposes.”Establishing national language units Mashatile added that it provides for the establishment of a national language unit. The unit will advise the Arts and Culture Minister on the policy and strategy to regulate and monitor the use of official languages. It also provides for the establishment of language units in every national department, public entity and national public enterprise to advise the national department on the development, adoption, and implementation and monitoring of its language policy. He said that through the Bill, government was giving effect to the provisions of Section 6 of the Constitution, which not only identifies 11 official languages but also obliges the state to take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages. In terms of the Bill, language policies by national departments should identify at least three official languages to be used for official purposes. When identifying these three official languages, departments must take into account its Constitutional obligation to take practical steps to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages whose historic use and status was diminished. The Arts and Culture Minister will be required to annually table a report to Parliament on the use of official languages for the provision of government services. Source: SANews.gov.zalast_img read more

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Top-Down: A New Approach to the Semantic Web

first_imgalex iskold 1 But there are alternative approaches. We will argue that a more pragmatic, top-down approach to the semanticweb not only makes sense, but is already well on the way toward becoming a reality. Many companies have been leveraging existing,unstructured information to build vertical, semantic services. Unlike the original vision, which is ratheracademic, these emergent solutions are driven by business and market potential.In this post, we will look at the solution that we call the top-down approach to the semantic web,because instead of requiring developers to change or augment the web, this approach leverages and builds on top of current web as-is.Why Do We Need The Semantic Web?The complexity of original vision of the semantic web and lack of clear consumer benefits makes the wholeproject unrealistic. The simple question: Why do we need computers to understand semantics? remains largelyunanswered. Tags:#Analysis#web Spend less time searchingSpend less time looking at things that do not matterSpend less time explaining what we want to computers Related Posts 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting The Challenges Facing The Top-Down ApproachDespite being effective, the somewhat simplistic top-down approach has several problems.First, it is not really the semantic web as it is defined, instead its a group of semantic web servicesand applications that create utility by leveraging simple semantics. So the proponents of the classic approach would protest and they would be right.Another issue is that these services do not always get semantics right because of ambiguities. Becausethe recognition is algorithmic and not based on an underlying RDF representation, it is not perfect.It seems to me that it is better to have simpler solutions that work 90% of the time than complex ones that never arrive. The key questions here are: How exactly are mistakes handled? And, is there a way for the user to correct the problem? The answers will beleft up to the individual application. In life we are used to other people being unpredictable,but with computers, at least in theory, we expect things to work the same every time.Yet another issue is that these simple solutions may not scale well. If the underlying unstructureddata changes can the algorithms be changed quickly enough? This is always an issue with things that sit ontop of other things without an API. Of course, if more web sites had APIs, as we have previously suggested, the top-down semantic web would be much easier and more certain.ConclusionWhile the original vision of the semantic web is grandiose and inspiring in practice it has beendifficult to achieve because of the engineering, scientific and business challenges. The lack of specificand simple consumer focus makes it mostly an academic exercise. In the mean time, existing data is being leveraged by applying simple heuristics and making assumptions about particular verticals.What we have dubbed top-down semantic web applications have been appearing online and improvingend user experiences by leveraging semantics to deliver real, tangible services.Will the bottom-up semantic web ever happen? Possibly. But, at the moment the precise path to get there is not quite clear.In the mean time, we can all enjoy better online experience and get to where we need to go faster thanks tosimple top-down semantic web services.center_img While some of us think that building AI is cool, the majority of people think that AI is a little bit silly, or perhaps even unsettling.And they are right. AI for the sake of AI does not make any sense. If we are talking about buildingintelligent machines, and if we need to spend money and energy annotating all the information inthe world for them, then there needs to be a very clear benefit.Stated the way it is, the semantic web becomes a vision in search of a reason. What if the problem was restatedfrom the consumer point of view? Here is what we are really looking forward to with the semantic web: Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Earlier this week we wrote about the classic approach to the semantic web and the difficulties with that approach. While the original vision of the layeron top of the current web, which annotates information in a way that is “understandable” by computers, is compelling; there are technical, scientific and business issues that have been difficult to address. One of the technicaldifficulties that we outlined was the bottom-up nature of the classic semantic web approach. Specifically,each web site needs to annotate information in RDF, OWL, etc. in order for computers to be able to “understand” it.As things stand today, there is little reason for web site owners to do that. The tools that would leveragethe annotated information do not exist and there has not been any clearly articulated business and consumer value. Which means that there isno incentive for the sites to invest money into being compatible with the semantic web of the future. When we think of people, we also think about a handful of things: birthday, where do they live, how we’re related to them, etc.The profiles found on popular social networks are great examples of simple semantics based around people: In other words, Spock takes simple, everyday semantics about people and applies it to the informationthat already exists online. The result? A unique and useful vertical search engine for people. Further, note that Spockdoes not require the information to be re-annotated in RDF and OWL. Instead, the company builds adapters thatuse heuristics to get the data. The engine does not actually have full understanding of semantics about people, however.For example, it does not know that people like different kindsof ice cream, but it doesn’t need to. The point is that by focusing on a simple semantics, Spock is able to delivera useful end-user service.Another, much simpler, example is the Map+ add-on for Firefox. This application recognizesaddresses and provides a map popup using Yahoo! Maps. It is the simplicity of this application thatprecisely conveys the power of simple semantics. The add-on “knows” what addresses look like. Sure,sometimes it makes mistakes, but most of the time it tags addresses in online documents properly. So it leverages existing informationand then provides direct end user utility by meshing it up with Yahoo! Maps. A consumer focus and clear benefit for businesses needs to be there in order for the semantic webvision to be embraced by the marketplace.What If The Problem Is Not That Hard?If all we are trying to do is to help people improve their online experiences, perhapsthe full “understanding” of semantics by computers is not even necessary. The best online search tool todayis Google, which is an algorithm based, essentially, on statistical frequency analysis and notsemantics. Solutions that attempt to improve Google by focusing on generalized semantics have so far not been findingit easy to do so.The truth is that the understanding of natural language by computers is a really hard problem. We have the languageingrained in our genes. We learn language as we grow up. We learn things iteratively. We have the chance toclarify things when we do not understand them. None of this is easily replicated with computers.But what if it is not even necessary to build the first generation of semantic tools? What if instead of trying to teach computers natural language, we hard-wired into computers the conceptsof everyday things like books, music, movies, restaurants, stocks and even people. Would that help usbe more productive and find things faster?Simple Semantics: Nouns And VerbsWhen we think about a book we think about handful of things – title and author, maybe genre and the year it waspublished. Typically, though, we could care less about the publisher, edition and number of pages. Similarly, recipes provokethoughts about cuisine and ingredients, while movies make us think about the plot, director, and stars. Books, people, recipes, movies are all examples of nouns. The things that we do on the web around thesenouns, such as looking up similar books, finding more people who work for the same company, getting morerecipes from the same chef and looking up pictures of movie stars, are similar to verbs in everyday language.These are contextual actuals that are based on the understanding of the noun.What if semantic applications hard-wired understanding and recognition of the nounsand then also hard-wired the verbs that make sense? We are actually well on our waydoing just that. Vertical search engines like Spock, Retrevo, ZoomInfo, the page annotating technology from Clear Forrest,Dapper, and the Map+ extension for Firefox are just a few examples of top-down semantic web services.The Top-Down Semantic Web ServiceThe essence of a top-down semantic web service is simple – leverage existing web information,apply specific, vertical semantic knowledge and then redeliver the results via a consumer-centric application.Consider the vertical search engine Spock, which scans the web for information about people.It knows how to recognize names in HTML pages and it also looks for common information about people that all people have –birthdays, locations, marital status, etc. In addition, Spock “understands” that people relate to each other.If you look up Bush, then Clinton will show up as a predecessor. If you look up Steve Jobs, then Bill Gateswill come up as a rival.last_img read more

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Facebook Aims to Partner With, Not Squash, Music Streaming Services

first_imgTags:#Facebook#music#news#web 12 Unique Gifts for the Hard-to-Shop-for People… 4 Keys to a Kid-Safe App Facebook will launch its much-rumored music platform at next month’s f8 developers’ conference, CNBC reported this afternoon. Rather than go up against the likes of Spotify, Rdio and MOG, Facebook will instead be partnering with those music streaming services. While few details are known for sure, it looks as though the social behemoth is aiming to offer a way to listen to music from third party sources from within Facebook itself. If this is indeed how the music feature will be implemented, it stands to give Facebook the benefit of even deeper user engagement on what is already the stickiest website in the world. Perhaps the biggest payoff would be for the streaming services, who will suddenly have direct exposure to Facebook’s enormous user base of over 750 million people (or at least the percentage of them that live within each service’s geographic coverage area). Rumors began swirling about a Facebook partnership with Spotify just prior to that music subscription service’s U.S. launch in July. If these latest reports are correct, it would appear that Facebook is planning on teaming up with not only Spotify, but several of its main competitors as well. Facebook joins Apple, Google and Amazon in a group of tech giants now offering some kind of music service to its users. It should be an interesting Fall in the digital music space, as Apple launches its iTunes Match and iCloud integration, Facebook introduces its music platform and Spotify continues to try and live up to its ambitious growth goals only a few months into its existence in the United States. Facebook’s f8 conference will take place in San Francisco on September 22. ReadWriteWeb will be there, so expect extensive coverage of the music service announcement and whatever comes out of the annual event. john paul titlowcenter_img 5 Outdoor Activities for Beating Office Burnout 9 Books That Make Perfect Gifts for Industry Ex… Related Posts last_img read more

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