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Billion glances in Africa’s Game of Phones

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A recent survey has revealed that Africans check their phones on average every five minutes, many of them doing so on public transport, creating an ideal platform for businesses to evolve their value through sophisticated data analysis.

More than 33% of Africans check their phones every 5 minutes and more than half of smartphone users regularly use their devices on public transport, at work and while shopping.

This is opening the door for savvy businesses to provide a “platform for life” that evolves its value through sophisticated data analytics.

The latest edition of the Game of Phones Survey, released by the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) industry unit at Deloitte and which canvassed over 5,000 respondents across Africa, highlights that more than a billion glances are taking place on smartphones in Africa every day – with over one third checking their phones every five minutes. “This must mean something for businesses as it is clear smartphones are becoming ever more embedded in our lives. Usage indicates a serious shift away from just information and communication to virtually everything – from how we consume media, to banking, purchasing and gaming, for example,” says Mark Casey, Global Media and Entertainment Leader at Deloitte Global.

The research also found that more than half of Africa’s mobile users check their devices within five minutes of waking up and before going to bed. The report indicates that across all markets including South Africa, consumers are most active on their devices when making use of public transport. A smaller proportion of those surveyed reported that they used their mobile device for services such as insurance, healthcare and home security. Increasingly, mobile devices are being used across the region for financial services with the traditional banking models being constantly challenged via mobile technology.

“Such disruptive technology, especially with the traditional services sectors such as banking and finance, has the potential to be a game changer in that it allows for the previously unbanked to now be an active part for the broader economy, thus ensuring a more positive outcome in broadening economic participation among locals,” says Casey.

Arun Babu, Telecommunications Sector Leader at Deloitte, says businesses around the world are already going through a “transformation journey” to improve the way they harness digital disruption, but new trends require ongoing rethinking of business models.

“Users are looking for an increased range of services that are provided reliably and at speed in a brand-neutral continent. It is important that businesses understand the implications of this in order to achieve brand loyalty across a broad range of customers. It is clear consumers are not married to any component as they increasingly seek unified capability,” he says.

While mobile service providers and device manufacturers will need to enhance functionality to remain competitive, future business models in Africa generally need to be positioned for the reality of greater smartphone penetration.

The survey finds that Africa continues to experience huge growth in data usage, with consumers choosing smarter devices as they provide them with multiple functions in one.

While mobile internet remains dominant, Wi-Fi and fibre is growing albeit it is seen as “the dark horse”.

“Faster access speeds, cheaper connectivity and device centric content translates into an explosion of data consumption in both SA and Nigeria. This increase is driven mainly by the growth in Wi-Fi and fibre across the region,” says Babu.

When compared to South Africa and Nigeria, smartphone penetration in Kenya and Uganda remains fairly low given their rural demographic. However, 54% of South Africans use their smartphones to watch short videos compared to 52% of Nigerians whereas 28% of South African stream music compared to 25% of Nigerians.

The survey identifies coverage and speed of voice and data network as the most critical factors when choosing a network operator, followed closely by customer service and price and value for money. SA consumers are mostly influenced by price and service reliability which are often key factors when deciding to either change or stay with the service provider while consumers in other markets make decisions based on service reliability and availability.

“As connectivity in the region improves, consumers are given more choice in terms of smartphone networks and operators. This translates into a savvier consumer who is constantly on the lookout for better service and is more aware in terms of pricing of products and value for money service,” says Babu.

Device type ownership also varies fairly significantly across the regions surveyed, with the common theme across markets being multi-device ownership. Aspirational purchases will be a key factor in driving up sales of smartphones with factors such as increased rural urban migration and the emergence of an emerging middle class also contributing to the growth in sales of smart devices.

South Africa remains a multi-device market more consistent with developed markets followed closely by Nigeria. SA remains the strongest in terms of multi device ownership with more than half of users owning a smartphone, laptop and tablet.  Feature phones tend to dominate the more rural markets of Kenya and Uganda, however, smartphones are expected to experience substantial growth driven by stronger economic growth, increase in internet penetration and investment in mobile data networks.

These changes mean more and more African consumers are living “in the app”, opening a gap for new business models.

“There is, for example, an opportunity for multinational organisations to build new business models that create value by essentially giving away what they used to sell. This is because the competitive advantage of providing ‘more for less’ is being eroded daily to such an extent that all that remains is a world of ‘free assets’. There is room to take centre stage with a ‘platform for life’ that handles information, education, entertainment, purchases and financial services in one place and which keeps evolving through sophisticated data analytics,” concludes Casey.

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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