17 Mar 2020

Open data is on the rise, and it’s up to us to take steps to protect our privacy

With their massive transformative purpose being to organise the world’s information, Google recently launched their dataset search here, bringing together more than 25 million datasets and making them available for free. Reactions to this move have been conflicted: there is growing concern about the impact on individual privacy, contrasted with increasing enthusiasm about the possibilities of open data from a scientific perspective – data is essential in the pursuit of knowledge that can help change the world for the better. Keeping the greater good in mind, let’s take a look at the impact of the Dataset Search service, including some steps that individuals can take to reclaim their privacy.

Search engine to unite the fragmented world of online datasets

This granular search engine indexes nearly 25 million web-based data sets, allowing users to filter searches based on data type, location and terms of usage. Intended to work as a supplementary companion to Google Scholar (the company’s popular search engine for academic studies and reports) Google Dataset Search is a search engine that helps researchers locate online data that is freely available for use. In order to publish their data online, organisations – like government agencies and universities – will need to include metadata tags in their web pages in order to make datasets searchable – describing the data, who created it, publication date, collection mechanisms, and so forth, in order for this information to be indexed by Dataset Search and combined with input from Google’s Knowledge Graph. (What’s that? That’s the name for those boxes that pop up for common searches.)

Initially focused on environmental and social sciences, government data, and datasets from news organisations, the service is expected to expand as the amount of data it indexes will grow exponentially as institutions and scientists join the open data movement to make their information accessible. This highlights the increasing importance of data for scientific literature – researchers know they need data, but they simply didn’t have the means to locate it, until now.  The Dataset Search tool allows users to filter queries to track down text, images or tables, making it possible to determine whether published data is free or for sale and gather information on where data resides – both on desktop or mobile browser.

Why is this a big deal?

In a world obsessed with data, we’ve seen how researchers, developers and scientists across all disciplines have come to live and breathe data.  There are many thousands of data repositories on the web, providing access to millions of datasets; and local and national governments around the world publish their data as well. To enable easy access to this data Dataset Search gives scientists, data journalists and data geeks the tools they need to find the data required for their work and their stories, or simply to satisfy an intellectual thirst for knowledge.

What’s the fuss about individual privacy though?

We already know that Google has been keeping track of our internet searches, as a default. This data is used to build detailed profiles of users, which helps in the pursuit of personalised content recommendations and enables marketers to better target us with ads. Clamping down on privacy in this respect required manual purging of search histories, or browsing incognito. To balance the rise of open data, Google has also developed some strong privacy tools including the introduction of an option that lets users automatically delete data related to Google searches, requests made with its virtual assistant and location history. Further privacy developments include an expansion of the auto-delete ability to YouTube, and a private mode for Google Maps navigation.

Here’s how to take the first step in reclaiming your search privacy: switch on auto-delete for your search history

  • Most of Google’s new privacy controls are in a web tool called My Activity
  • Once you get into the tool and click on Activity Controls, there’s an option for Web & App Activity. Click Manage Activity and then the button under the calendar icon. 
  • Enable automatic clearing of your activity history on several Google products, choosing your personal time frames for Google searches, voice requests made with Google Assistant, destinations searched on Maps and queries in Google’s Play app store.

What sort of time duration should you go for? It depends on how much you care about getting personalised recommendations. Learn more about Google’s privacy measures, here. If there’s no benefit to be gleaned from years and years of your search or location histories, it’s advisable to delete those traces of your digital life. Your personal data is important, and can be used to influence decisions and shape behaviours. It affects reputation and in the wrong hands, data can cause great harm. Take steps to protect yours, because no one else will.

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14 Feb 2020
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31 Aug 2017

Enabling Digital Transformation in South Africa

Enabling Digital Transformation in South Africa

South African companies are increasingly embracing digital transformation strategies to remain competitive in the new digital economy. Digital transformation strategies are typically focussed on improving interaction with customers and partners, reducing operational inefficiencies, lowering costs and unlocking new business opportunities.

According to Cornastone Director, Ansu Sooful, in order to ensure successful digital adoption, companies will require skilled resources who can rapidly deliver key digital innovative solutions. Cornastone is therefore investing in digital skills development

It is Cornastone’s experience that South Africa currently has a significant shortage of API management skills. As a result, Cornastone has partnered with Apigee (a wholly owned Google company), to develop local competency and skills in API management.  By September 2017, Cornastone will have successfully trained and certified over a dozen Apigee resources who can provide professional API Management Services to various public and private sectors,” says Sooful.

Cornastone is currently in discussions with various parties to provide Digital Transformation development centres in South Africa, with the aim of building skills that will benefit in building our country’s digital economy. “If we as a country are unable to build the necessary skills that are required to function in a digital economy, South Africa will remain stagnant in comparison to the rest of the world. Hence the urgency to focus on capacity building in technologies such as API Management, Big Data and Robotic Process Automation that drives the adoption and growth of Digital Transformation in an increasing complicated economic environment,” says Sooful.


About Cornastone

Cornastone Enterprise Systems (Pty) Ltd is a leading South African Information, Communication and Technology company that operates in the Southern African region. The company has 3 offices located in Rivonia (Head Office), Centurion and Cape Town. The company has a current staff compliment of 175 people and provides solutions to both public sector and corporate customers. Since Cornastone’s acquisition by EOH we are able to leverage EOH competencies and specialised resources across a broad spectrum of services. Cornastone is ISO 9002 compliant and a Level 2 B-BBEE Contributor.


Our certified Apigee team together with Abdullah Ahmed (Apigee Trainer) Cape Town






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15 Mar 2017

Think Tank – learnings from the Mobile World Congress 2017

At Cornastone, innovation and thinking out-of-the-box, is a way of life. We recognise the importance of innovation in maintaining a competitive edge. Our innovation programme also directly contributes to the development of South Africa’s knowledge economy.

According to a recent World Bank report, “The emergence of the global knowledge economy has put a premium on learning throughout the world. Ideas and know-how as sources of economic growth and development, along with the application of new technologies, have important implications for how people learn and apply knowledge throughout their lives.”

These are the principles that guide our actions in all we do, both internally and externally. Our team has since 2016. been holding regular Think Tank initiatives where external speakers have the opportunity to showcase their areas of expertise, stimulate critical thinking and be a catalyst for further action amongst the team.

Two Cornastone representatives recently returned from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and the first Think Tank for 2017 was inspired by some of the key learnings taken from MWC 2017.

The mobile industry was incidentally the first industry to adopt the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, under the theme “connecting all to a better future”.


Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.51.36 PMOne of the underlying passions shared by many of the committed Cornastone staff is the pursuit of new technology to solve social problems.

To this end, the development and possibilities of 5G technology was a highlight of the discussion.

In a world where heterogeneous networks work in synergy to provide high speed, low latency always on connectivity, the connected individual becomes a reality. This is effectively 5G technology in action.


5G will require a multitude of disparate network elements working together to provide high-speed data networks. It is impossible for existing solutions to support this type of network.

In a future world, machine learning and self-healing networks are essential to make 5G networks function.

Cornastone’s strategic focus on IoT platforms, APIs, big data, analytics, process robotics, smart city/tech, customer experience, and cloud is headed in the right direction and is leading us to what is called the 4th industrial revolution.

This is just the start of an ongoing discussion and the creation of thought leadership around how Cornastone can harness new technology to improve business processes for our clients and simultaneously contribute to social development solutions on an international platform.

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14 Mar 2017

Think Tank – driving innovation at Cornastone

At Cornastone, innovation and thinking out-of-the-box, is a way of life. We recognise the importance of innovation in maintaining a competitive edge and for this Cornastone was officially recognised as the “Most Innovative Medium Enterprise Company in South Africa for 2016”. Think Tank was established to cultivate exactly that. Through our innovation program, we are directly contributing to the development of South Africa’s knowledge economy. Think Tank is rooted in the premise that today’s revenue stream will have disappeared in three years and new business opportunities must be identified and acted upon now. The level of engagement and critical thinking has grown exponentially as a result and this initiative has become a regular feature within our organisation.

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