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PANABIOS

PanaBIOS is an application built by African technologists and AI thinkers in collaboration with the African Union and the Africa Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention to help manage travels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries in Africa like their counterparts around the world shut down their borders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, many countries including Ghana have since opened their borders but with strict restrictions such as requirements for negative coronavirus tests, self-isolation and in some cases mandatory quarantine at designated hotels.

Technology is being used to make travel easier. China, UK, USA, the E.U. and the International Air Transport Association have all developed applications like USA Passport Health, UK NHS App and the IATA CommonPass application to achieve this purpose. These applications show the vaccination status and recent COVID-19 test results of the traveller. They also provide details of approved testing and vaccination centres, making it easy for information gathered to be accessed by laboratories, travellers, and airlines.

The PanaBIOS application of which Ghana is a pioneer user was developed to reduce travel restrictions in Africa. It will replace expensive and burdensome physical restrictions on movements and gatherings with a smart, digital alternative.

Data from the App can be used to monitor the virus, ease port clearance, travel screening and manage health security on the continent. It will also digitally monitor social gatherings and venues, digitize contact tracing and travel health history.

Travellers leaving or arriving in Ghana are required to upload their travel details, test centres and result on the application to generate a 2D Travel Code that can be presented at the point of travel or printed out. The 2D code will be used to authenticate the test results of all travellers.

BENEFITS OF PANABIOS

The PanaBIOS application allows travellers to use test results from one country to satisfy port clearance requirements in another country.

It supports the emergence of standard protocols to verify the health status of international travellers across borders and thereby directly facilitates the reopening of regional borders.

Records gathered and kept by the application allow labs to support mass, on-demand free and fee-based, tracing and testing.

Travel is vital for the success of the African Union (AU) plan to implement the world’s largest free-trade zone, which is now due to start in 2021 following a delay caused by the pandemic. PanaBIOS will help AU achieve its open corridors initiative, save costs that will be incurred in the physical implementation of restriction movement and ultimately reduce the spread of the virus.

The application is a technological solution to a world-based problem and Africa’s way of contributing to curbing the spread of COVID-19 and opening up our economies.

If your company is interested in launching an application or other technical solutions, to safeguard lives, then please contact ePareto at [email protected]. We have experience in developing sophisticated e-health systems.

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FIREWALL

In our last newsletter, we started the data security series, detailing the importance of backup systems. In this edition, we continue the series, with the focus on explaining the significance of firewalls.

A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block traffic based on an organization’s established security policies. It typically establishes a barrier between an internal network and an external network.

Firewalls can either be hardware or software.

TYPES OF FIREWALLS

Proxy Server Firewall- is a type of gateway that hides the true network address of the computers connected to it. It is a mediator server that separates end-user clients from the destination that they browse. It connects to the internet, makes requests for pages, etc., and receives this information or data on behalf of the computer or user behind it. For example, if a user wants to visit an external website, then packets are processed through an HTTP server before they are forwarded to the requested website, packets from the website are then processed through the server before being forwarded to the user.

Packet Filters- This is the oldest and most basic type of firewall. It is a system that examines each packet (pieces of data that are formatted for internet transfer) entering or leaving the network. It checks information such as the destination and origination of an Internet Protocol (IP) address, packet type, port number, etc., and either accepts or rejects them based on the established policies. If the packet passes the test, it is allowed to pass, if it does not pass, it is rejected.

Stateful Inspection- is also known as dynamic packet filtering. It is a kind of firewall that keeps track of the state of active network connections while analysing incoming traffic looking for potential risks. Stateful firewalls can detect attempts by unauthorized individuals to access a network, as well as analyse the data within packets to see if they contain malicious code. It works by examining the contents of a data packet and then comparing them against existing data packets that have previously passed through the firewall.

Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW)- this is the combination of traditional firewall technology with added functions. It allows or blocks traffic based on state, port and protocol and filters traffic based on administrator-defined rules. A next-generation firewall (NGFW) does this, and so much more. In addition to access control, NGFWs can block modern threats such as advanced malware and application-layer attack. It performs roles beyond a stateful network firewall by conducting a deep packet inspection to identify and control applications regardless of the IP port used by the application.

BENEFITS OF A FIREWALL

Understanding the benefits of firewalls will help your company or organization effectively protect data in this digital age. Firewalls are beneficial to all businesses irrespective of size because they serve as the first line of defence against malware, external attacks, and hackers.

Promotes Privacy

A firewall offers services that can block the name of your website and Uniform Resource Locator (URL), hence protecting the user and the organization or company. Protecting your data and that of your client builds trust and credibility because nobody likes their private information stolen, since hackers are always looking for ways to get private information about an individual or organization. This would give an organization a competitive advantage over other companies or organizations.

Prevents Hacking

Hackers are constantly looking for ways to spread malicious content such as viruses, steal data and hold systems hostage. Hacking activities have made it important to use a firewall because they prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access to emails, data and systems.

Monitor Traffic

Firewalls monitor the traffic that passes through them because incoming or outgoing traffic creates opportunities for threats to affect your operations. If the firewall identifies these threats, it blocks them immediately.

Stops Virus and Trojan Attacks

Viruses and Trojans can shut down digital operations fast and with new threats developed daily, you must have a healthy defence system. Firewalls control all system’s entry points and can stop viruses and Trojan attacks and block them before they cause any damage to your system.

A Firewall is essentially a must-have for any business or individual because they protect your private information, guard against threats, malware, and viruses prevents hacking and most importantly monitor traffic.

In our next data security series, we will explain how data encryption is used for data security.

For advice on how to install and use a firewall, which firewall works for your organization, how to upgrade your firewall software and other inquiries, please contact ePareto at [email protected].

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HOW SAFE IS YOUR DATA?

Data has become the backbone of businesses in the 21st Century. Companies and organizations make decisions based on the data they have collated over time. This data is often stored in the cloud because we trust the cloud to keep our documents, pictures, and project data safe.

The cloud is supposed to be immune to issues like lost, faulty, or damaged hardware, or no available backups that result in data loss when using physical storage. The cloud is meant to be the safest place there is and is believed to be indestructible. But how many of us know that storing data in the cloud does not mean a backup is any less important.
Having a functional backup solution for all your saved data ensures that you do not lose any important information and gives you peace of mind in case the original data crashes or gets damaged, because lost data may mean the loss of investors and customers.

Recently one of the world’s largest cloud hosting providers suffered an outage in one of their data centres, which affected servers hosting millions of technology platforms. Ultimately, any platform which did not have an effective backup solution would have been in trouble.
Of course, incidents like this do not give warnings before happening, but you can plan for these events. For individuals and companies, the solution is simple. Always have a backup and test your backups to be assured of their effectiveness. Having a backup solution that is easily accessible and operable when an unforeseen circumstance occurs is essential.
It is also important to test your backups regularly to be sure that they are working properly. Create pseudo disasters to see how your backups respond and if you get all saved data back. It is not enough to successfully backup your data, you have to be sure that there are no underlying problems that you do not know about, like backing up a corrupted file, a faulty server, etc.

For advice on how best to safeguard your data and systems, how to test your backups, the do’s and don’ts of data safety and security, contact ePareto information systems at [email protected].

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Covid-19 and Technology

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, countries have been forced to quickly implement safe and effective ways to store and manage pandemic-related data. From the reporting of numbers of people tested, infected, recovered, and dead to contact tracing and, vaccines rollout, technology has been used extensively and been a key tool for the pandemic management.

Many countries have created applications to track, collate and store test data and enable effective contact tracing, and vaccination programs. COVID-19 vaccine passports and status apps are being used to help impose lockdown restrictions and restore some sort of normalcy in society.

In Ghana, we have the GH COVID-19 Tracker application, which helps citizens report their symptoms and test results. The data collected, enables the application to alert individuals if they have come in contact with people who test positive for the virus. It is also a key system for self-quarantine management, contact tracing, and the dissemination of relevant COVID updates and guidance.

Other countries like Brunei and China have developed applications that display different colours for individual’s mobile phones, based on their Covid-19 status. The colours indicate each citizen’s health status, travel history, and places they are allowed to visit, with QR codes making it easy for the information to be shared at venues.

These applications are examples of how countries are using technology in their management of the pandemic, helping to lift lockdown restrictions and safeguard the lives of their citizens.

Ghanaian companies and organizations will want to protect the lives of their employees, partners, and customers by knowing their travel history, test, and vaccination status if they are to return to full working capacity.
If your company is interested in launching an application or other technical solutions, to safeguard lives, then please contact ePareto at [email protected] We have experience in developing sophisticated e-health systems.

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App Your Business Game

With this month edition we will talk about mobile apps in connection with business and why you should envisage building a mobile app for your business. Mobile apps are currently popular in the Ghanaian banking industry, but they are not solely for the banking sector. Companies in other sectors both small and medium sized can adapt mobile apps to enhance their business too.

Be Visible to Customers at All Times

The average Ghanaian spends more than two hours a day on his or her mobile devices. Users of mobile devices have to unlock, scroll and scan for apps they are looking for. Being in the way can be an advantage to your company, as our mind unconsciously record every image and text (in this case your well designed app icon) it comes across; even if it happens unnoticed.

Create a Direct Marketing Channel

One of the biggest benefits of having a mobile app is that all the information you’d like to provide to your customers – including special sales and promotions – is right at their fingertips.

Provide Value to Your Customers

Talking about on-hand information, how about digitizing that loyalty program you have in place? Instead of sticking to the old point-collection card, make it possible for your customers to collect their rewards via your mobile app. The result? More downloads and more return customers.

Build Brand and Recognition

A mobile app for your business can greatly contribute to your brand awareness. A mobile app is like a well branded billboard on the finger tips. But what you really want to do is create an app that has features your customers will love (making it more interactive) while not compromising on your brand identity. You will find your audience frequently using your app as a result building your brand recognition.

Improve Customer Engagement

No matter whether you are selling flowers or spa services, your customers need a way to reach you. Having a messaging (or help desk) feature within your app can really make a difference in the way you communicate with your customers.

Stand Out From the Competition

These days mobile apps at the small business level are still rare, and this is where you can take a big leap ahead of your competitors. Be the first in your industry to offer a mobile app to your customers. They’ll be astonished by your forward-thinking approach!

Cultivate Customer Loyalty

Last, but not least, the most important reason why you should consider building your own mobile app is customer loyalty. We slowly lose our impact on customers because of the immense amount of advertising surrounding us all. It’s time to go back to making a true and sincere connection with your customers, and making them a loyal lover of your product and/or service. A mobile app is not all you need to save your business, but it can be a way of staying closer to your customers, being just a “fingertip” away at all times.

A mobile app is going to be a standard component of any business in the future. The choice you make today is going set the foundation for the future of your business. It’s on you to decide whether you’d like to be one of the first. Do not hesitate to contact ePareto if you need for information about building apps.

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