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Business divided on robot and artificial intelligence future

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Dell’s recent Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future survey surveyed nearly 4,000 business leaders across 17 countries including South Africa to find mixed forecasts on the changing relationship between humans and emerging technologies by 2030, and includes their top tips for transforming today.

We’re entering the next era of human-machine partnerships with a divided vision of the future, according to global research now available from Dell Technologies. Half of the 3,800 global business leaders surveyed forecast that automated systems will free up their time, while the other 50% believe otherwise. Similarly, 42% believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading tasks to machines, while 58% disagree.

The quantitative research conducted by Vanson Bourne follows Dell Technologies’ seminal story, “Realizing 2030: The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships.” That study forecasted that by 2030, emerging technologies will forge human partnerships with machines that are richer and more immersive than ever before, helping us surpass our limitations. Business leaders agree: 82% of respondents expect humans and machines will work as integrated teams within their organization inside of five years.

But leaders are also split by whether the future represents an opportunity or a threat, and torn by the need to mitigate these risks. For instance:

  • 48% say the more we depend upon technology, the more we’ll have to lose in the event of a cyber-attack; 52% aren’t concerned
  • 50% of business leaders are calling for clear protocols in the event that autonomous machines fail; other half abstained
  • 45% say computers will need to decipher between good and bad commands; 55% don’t see a need

“You can understand why the business community is so polarized,” comments Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer, Dell Technologies. “There tends to be two extreme perspectives about the future: the anxiety-driven issue of human obsolescence or the optimistic view that technology will solve our greatest social problems. These differing viewpoints could make it difficult for organizations to prepare for a future that’s in flux and would certainly hamper leaders’ efforts to push through necessary change.”

Given the promise of monumental change—fuelled by exponentially increasing data and the applications, processing power and connectivity to harness it—56% speculate that schools will need to teach how to learn rather than what to learn to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist. This thinking corroborates IFTF’s forecast that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.

Beset by barriers

Furthermore, many businesses aren’t moving fast enough, and going deep enough, to overcome common barriers to operating as a successful digital business. Only 27% of businesses believe they are leading the way, ingraining digital in all they do. Forty-two percent don’t know whether they’ll be able to compete over the next decade, and the majority (57%) of businesses are struggling to keep-up with the pace of change.

Main barriers to becoming a successful digital business in 2030 and beyond:

  1. Lack of a digital vision and strategy: 61%
  2. Lack of workforce readiness: 61%
  3. Technology constraints: 51%
  4. Time and money constraints: 37%
  5. Law and regulations: 20%

Unified by the need to transform

Leaders may be divided in their view of the future and facing barriers to change, but they’re united in the need to transform. In fact, the vast majority of businesses believe they’ll be well on their way to transforming within five years, despite the challenges they face.

Likely to achieve within five years:

  • Have effective cybersecurity defences in place: 94%
  • Deliver their product offering as a service: 90%
  • Complete their transition to a software-defined business: 89%
  • R&D will drive their organization forward: 85%
  • Delivering hyper-connected customer experiences with virtual reality (VR): 80%
  • Using AI to pre-empt customer demands: 81%

Burton adds, “We’re entering an era of monumental change. Although business leaders harbor contrasting views of the future, they share common ground on the need to transform. Based on the many conversations I have with customers, I believe we’re reaching a pivotal moment in time. Businesses can either grasp the mantle, transform their IT, workforce and security and play a defining role in the future or be left behind.”

Our Lives

Forecast Agree Disagree
Automated systems will free-up our time 50% 50%
People will take care of themselves better with healthcare tracking devices 46% 54%
People will absorb and manage information in completely different ways 54% 46%
Smart machines will work as admins in our lives – connecting our lives to highly personalized goods and services 43% 57%
It will be harder to disconnect from technology 42% 58%

 

Our Work

Forecast Agree Disagree
We’ll be more productive by collaborating more 49% 51%
We’ll have more job satisfaction by offloading the tasks that we don’t want to do to intelligent machines 42% 58%
Schools will need to teach how to learn rather than what to learn to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet 56% 44%
We’ll learn on the job with AR 46% 54%
Not sure what the next 10-15 years will look like for their industry, let alone their employees 50% 50%

 

Business                                                                                                                                             

Forecast Agree Disagree
Clear protocols will be need to be established if autonomous machines fail 50% 50%
The more we depend upon technology, the more we’ll have to lose in the event of a cyber-attack 48% 52%
Computers will need to be able to decipher between good and bad commands 45% 55%
We’ll be part of a globally connected, remote workforce 49% 51%
Technology will connect the right person to the right task, at the right time 41% 59%

 

 

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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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