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Democratisation of innovation moves to the grassroots

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When we think disruption, companies like Uber and Airbnb come to mind. But, when we look at software and hardware, HITENDRA NAIK of Intel, believes that any company, big or small can play its roll in changing the markets operate.

When we speak about disruption, we often default to unicorn companies like Uber and Airbnb, which shook up the global taxi and hotel industries, respectively. But with the democratisation of software and hardware, the reality is that anyone can start a business these days and the biggest disruptors and innovators can come from emerging markets and not just the US and Silicon Valley.

Innovations South Africa’s Giraffe  and MyQ from Nigeria have set out to solve real and local challenges, such as unemployment and transportation industry management, respectively. Developers and makers in these and other emerging markets have shown that the game-changers don’t have to be the Ubers of the world but can be the two-man startup that’s making a tangible difference in the lives of thousands.

Innovation moves into hardware space

Until now, global innovation has primarily been in the software space. The adage ‘there’s an app for that’ is testament to the fact that, whatever problem you have, there’s likely an app that attempts to solve it. This is only possible because the democratisation and accessibility of software development tools has enabled anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and some knowledge of coding to do pretty much anything.

But with 1,300 apps being added to app stores every day, we’re seeing an evolution in disruption away from only software to how applications can be linked to hardware, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics to leapfrog infrastructure gaps and to understand and even pre-empt what people want.

It’s now easier than ever to innovate in this space. The democratisation of hardware and compute platforms like Intel’s Edison, Joule and RealSense platforms, as well as its software and cloud analytics platforms, coupled with easier access to funding through crowdsourcing options like Kickstarter, has created a low barrier to entry and has opened up the market to anyone with an idea, to build a business with lower barriers to entry.

Cloud services have also been democratised and, in the future, technologies like artificial intelligence will be, too.

Developers and makers will innovate and build on computer platforms and link any device to data in order to address societal problems that many thought were unsolvable. Think smart cities that can communicate to authorities exactly where water leaks are; health systems that can predict an epidemic long before it becomes a threat; and connected buildings that, when on fire, can help emergency personnel save more lives.

The startups of today will enable the next-generation governments of the future who will harness modern technology for societal transformation that will change the way we live and work to deliver new experiences that fuel GDP growth and create jobs.

Creating a sustainable ecosystem

But with a failure rate of 50% within the first four years, startups need to be enabled through partnerships, incubator hubs, technology and business support to help the public and private sectors reach this level of digital transformation.

Governments in emerging markets have modelled local startup hubs on those seen in Silicon Valley and other developed markets after realising the potential they have for innovation and job creation.

But we need to do more to help these small businesses succeed.

At the public sector level, startups are already benefiting from tax incentives, which allow them to invest more money into their businesses during the crucial first few years. Partnerships with universities will give startups access to a pool of people who are educated in science and technology and can help them to scale their ideas.

The private sector also has a role to play in terms of creating opportunities for startups to showcase their ideas, connect with other startups, and network with investors. Events like Seedstars World  and Demo Africa not only help to discover the best startups but through challenges like the Intel Solutions Challenge, startups in the cloud, IoT and analytics space also gain exposure to potential financiers as well as mentors in all areas of business support to give them a better chance of success. Winners of the challenge also get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a wider support ecosystem of potential investors and partners to ensure their business is not only successful but also sustainable.

Now that everything is democratised, the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world don’t need to come out of the US – there certainly isn’t a monopoly on great ideas in developed markets. World-changing innovation is taking place at the grassroots level in emerging markets and I believe that the next big global company will come from one of these regions. But we need to make it easier for startups to survive, to access funding and to create an environment and culture that is conducive to sustainability. It starts with getting them the exposure they need and cutting the red tape that is contributing to the high failure rate.

* Hitendra Naik, Director of Innovation, Middle East, Turkey & Africa at Intel.

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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