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Data journalism shines

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The online category of the Northern regional winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards brought data journalism to the fore.

Data journalism shone in the online category of the the Northern regional awards for the 2017 edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year, announced this week.

Journalists were recognised in 12 categories for outstanding work, with this year’s theme, “Your Word”, promoting the integrity of journalism across all media. This year’s competition drew over 1 000 entries from all over the country, including 397 entries from the Northern region.

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: The entries across the 12 categories were excellent this year. Our criteria for judging is to look for entries that could possibly make the cut for the national finals, and the overall prize of R100 000 for the journalist of the year award. We were overwhelmed by the number and the quality of entries from the Northern Region, particularly for the Print News and Online categories, where the judges made several commendations for outstanding work over and above the regional category winners.”

Winners in the Regional categories each took home R5 000, with the exception of the Young Journalist of the Year regional finalist, who received a certificate. All the regional winners go through to the national awards in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, said: “We are delighted to announce the Northern regional winners in Johannesburg for the 2017 Awards, which honour journalists from around the country by recognising their best work from the past year. We look forward to welcoming them at the national finals. I would also like to pay tribute to the judges, who year after year provide their expertise and knowledge in the adjudication of these prestigious awards, thereby ensuring the integrity of the process. Thanks go to Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Megan Rusi,  Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa.”

The judges gave the following citations for the winners of the 2017 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Awards in the Northern region:

2017 Online

Among a rich field of Online entries, the judges want to commend both the mobile journalism by Thomas Holder on the Knysna fires for Eyewitness News and the infusion of human interest by the Health-e News team into their online feature, “Matriarchs of Mthatha” for Al Jazeera. The winning Online entry in the Northern region made the most of the data journalism possibilities offered by investigative analytics in the online medium. Excellent use of graphics, maps and hyperlinks helped to make this an exemplary piece of digital journalism that exposed a widespread threat generally overlooked by the media. Our regional winners are: Laura Grant and Alastair Otter freelancing for Passmark and Times Live for “Hidden danger: asbestos in Gauteng’s schools”.

2017 Radio News

Hundreds of Radio News stories are broadcast every day in South Africa. Many are run-of-the-mill reports that simply convey information. But sometimes a radio news reporter succeeds in really producing a news story that grabs the listener’s attention in a unique way. For a report on the dangers of WhatsApp voice notes in life-threatening situations, the regional winner is:  Hanri Wondergem and Hendrik Martin of SABC RSG for “WhatsApp-paniek”.

2017 Radio Feature

The Northern Region, which includes Gauteng, always has the largest number of entries and this year the quality of entries for the Radio Feature category was also very high. Ultimately, the regional award went to a brilliant piece of radio work on which the winner had worked for a very long time. For telling the story of an innocent man who spent 17 years in jail, the regional winner is: Paul McNally with John Bartmann, Kutlwano Serame and Freddy Mabitsela of Citizen Justice Network for SAfm for the eight-part series, “Alibi”.

2017 Sport

The Sport category was highly contested in this region with a great deal of creativity and expert knowledge evident. But one entrant stood out. For determination and the creative and very innovative approach to expanding the audience base, the worthy regional winners are: Simon Stephens and Khumo Pulumo of eNCA for his Mixed Martial Arts column, The Clinch.

2017 Sustainability

In a country wracked by drought and a province driven by industrialisation, there were several strong contenders in the CSI/Sustainability category who examined the viability and availability of our natural resources. The top entry combined facts, figures and an intensity of investigation that provoked harassment, attempted bribes and death threats. For revealing allegations of how even water supplies in this region and beyond were vulnerable to corruption and capture, our regional winner is: Sipho Masondo of City Press for “Watergate”.

2017 Print News

The Print News entries in this region were so strong this year that the judges want to commend: Suzanne Venter’s series of articles on mentally ill patients; Thomas Nkosi’s expose on the Speaker of the Mpumalanga legislature; Abram Mashego’s articles on Pravin Gordhan being threatened with arrest; Charl Blignaut’s articles on Hlaudi Motsoeneng; Susan Comrie’s articles on the ANC War Room; Sabelo Skiti’s expose on SAA’s money woes; and Genevieve Quintal’s articles about Bathabile Dlamini and Sassa. However, the winners were indisputably: for the “State capture” series, the Tiso Blackstar team of Graeme Hosken, Thanduxolo Jika, Kyle Cowan, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, Qaanitah Hunter, Sabelo Skiti, Hanna Ziady and Genevieve Quintal.

2017 Print Feature

The Print Feature category was heavily contested by entries displaying all the techniques of superb feature writing and reflecting issues gripping the Northern region. The judges want to commend Charl Blignaut of City Press for his artistic analysis of the melee around making the film Kalushi, about the life of Solomon Mahlangu. The winning entry took on the daunting task of opening to readers the doors of Gauteng’s mortuaries in a two-year-long attempt to unravel the escalating crisis of unidentified corpses. The regional winners are: Sarah Wild and Kristen van Schie of the Mail & Guardian for “Gauteng’s unidentified dead”.

2017 Financial/Economic

The specialist Financial and Economic category attracted a trove of entries in this region and it was good to see several new faces among the frontrunners this year. In this highly contested category, the judges want to commend the challenging expose of Discovery by Rob Rose and Katharine Child of the Financial Mail. The regional winner exposed broken corporate promises to those who, as a result, face becoming the poorest of the poor. The winner is: Lesetja Malope of City Press for “Broken promises from Anglo Gold signal darker days ahead.”

Photography

Photographers use their cameras as a tool of expression to tell stories that demand our attention and can change how we see our world. We want to commend a moving photographic essay depicting the strength of will driving a 37kg bodybuilder with sickle-cell anaemia to compete onstage. Just edging past this to win the regional award was a photographic report that took us to the forefront of violent action and student protest yet retained full technical control in the midst of the anger and frustrations. The same photographer captured both these very different emotional journeys. The regional winner is: Alon Skuy of The Times for “Fees must fall”.

2017 Television News

Protests that unfolded across South Africa during 2016 reminded many of scenes during apartheid. This time, though, the protestors were the Born Frees who pursued their dream of free education in what became running battles with police and authorities. The best TV news coverage gave the audience a sense of the immediacy, scope and intensity of what was happening on the ground. The regional winners are: Malungelo Booi, Lirandzu Themba, Mlingane Dude and Thuthuka Zondi of eNCA for “South Africa’s fees crisis”.

2017 Television Feature

Journalism can influence awareness of what is happening in our country and drive public discourse. Months of investigation resulted in a series of reports that were thoroughly researched, poignantly told, well shot and edited – and exposed conditions contributing to the death of one of the subjects. This impactful reporting was subsequently even used during the official investigation. The regional winners are: Kyla Hermannsen, Shamiel Albertyn, Ashley Market, Tshepo Dhlamini and Tshidi Lechuba of eNCA’s Checkpoint for “Life Esidimeni”.

Young Journalist Award

The winner in the region gets a certificate and goes through to the national round to compete for the overall prize. The overall award provides an opportunity to fast track a young journalist’s professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom. To enter this category, the journalist should have worked in the media for up to, but not more than three years, and be able to demonstrate their potential through their entries. The winner is Sebe Buthelezi from Etv/ENCA.

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Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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