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Health policy must be future-fit

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Innovation in the business, economic and government environments is at a rapid pace, and although many sectors are keeping up with it, the public health sector is lagging, writes VALTER ADAO, Digital Africa leader, Deloitte.

The metabolism of innovation in the current business, economic and government environment, from a delivery perspective, is at a pace never seen before.  However, the public health sector has lagged significantly behind. It is not the only sector in this situation.

Large successful global organisations have started to show symptoms of not being able to keep up with the rates of change in technology and the innovations required to remain at the forefront of new developments.  Research has shown that fewer than 5 per cent of category leading organisations are ahead of the market and leading their peer group with self-developed innovations.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t value innovation, but rather suggests that they have discovered more effective ways to harness the innovation potential of the collective, start-ups and institutions which are smaller, nimble and able to act efficiently in creating and testing value creating innovations.

There are numerous examples of this, from Unilever’s open innovation platforms, in which they work with communities and entrepreneurs to solve their customers and society’s biggest challenges, and GE would partner with Quirky in 2013, and proceeded to give then full access to their patent inventory.

It’s this new type of problem solving and approach to innovation that is separating, leading organisations from followers.

If disruption is the new norm of the 4th industrial revolution, then observing, partnering, enabling and investing is the fast track to successful innovation implementations.

What can ministries of health in Africa learn from this new approach to being on the forefront and implementation of innovation?

Here are a few facts to consider:

  • The African continent is not homogenous.  As a whole it has registered positive economic growth over the last five years (2012-2016), with the few exceptions being countries that experienced political tensions or were heavily reliant on resources. Rates of growth are also not uniform and range from above 9% for countries such as Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire to less than 1% in South Africa.  It would suggest that tailor-made, culturally sensitive solutions are required in different regions of the continent to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • There is significant urbanisation happening across all major African cities.  The population living in urban areas increased from just 28.1% in 1995 to 37.7% in 2015 and is expected to be over 50% by 2030 (which is already case in many of the continents leading economies).  This holds several advantages namely:
    • Whilst cause and effect cannot be clearly demonstrated there is a clear indication that a higher urbanised population correlates with better economic fundamentals
    • A geographically concentrated population allows for improved targeting of healthcare upliftment initiatives and healthcare infrastructure development
    • With a newly urbanised populations, targeted healthcare programs have access to parochial knowledge of rural healthcare needs and challenges in concentrated and easily accessible format.  This creates an ideal environment for the POCing (proof of concept) of many variations of an initiative before significant investments are made.  This will significantly influence the positive healthcare outcomes of investments into this sector
  • The diversity of the continent continues if we explore the respective healthcare sectors.
    • Significant inroads have been made in reducing instance of communicable disease around the continent – although it remains a significant challenge. Non-communicable disease that is typically related to more “modern” lifestyles is also on the increase. Neglected tropical disease such as Malaria has also remained stubbornly pervasive in West Africa. Adopting regionalised and/or localised strategies for addressing key health concerns is likely to be necessary for improving outcomes in the future.
    • Clear differences in the decision and capacity to address key health concerns can also be seen across the African continent. The two largest economies on the continent, South Africa and Nigeria are by far the largest spenders on healthcare with figures of USD 28 billion and USD 18 billion respectively noted in 2015.  The East Africa region is however growing fastest of all regions in Sub-Saharan Africa and putting considerable emphasis on healthcare investment.
    • In conclusion, we have regions where the spend in healthcare as a percentage of GDP is at the some of the lowest levels seen globally.  These regions require basic investment initiatives. However, in regions like Nigeria and South Africa where healthcare is the highest on the continent, healthcare outcome are still poor. This would speak to a need for improved, sophisticated and efficient deployment of healthcare spend, innovations and investments in those regions
    • Reversing the later trend and seeking to boost and optimise the efficiency of healthcare spend is critical because of the further economic benefits this will likely yield.

Accepting that the region needs continued attention to address either the lack of investment into healthcare infrastructure and services and to improve healthcare outcomes where the investment is sufficient, would suggest the need for more sophisticated and innovative deployment of healthcare investments and solutions.

Learning from leading organisations that have changed their approach to innovation, perhaps it’s time for ministries of health to capitalise on these wider innovation trends. The deviation from the traditional Public-Private Partnership models is that government would not be the recipient, owner, implementer and perhaps even the investor into these solutions.  Government would rather play a leading role in identifying the healthcare challenges to be solved, defining the design constraints within which solutions should be created, monitoring and evaluating the desired outcomes, and reducing  restrictive regulations to allow for the rapid and scaled deployment of solutions.

The recipients of these solutions would be citizens; and the ownership and investment into these solutions would in term lie with private/global organisations, NGOs, and entrepreneurs. The concluding hypothesis would be the improved and rapid deployment of such initiatives, which would not only address of the toughest healthcare challenges on the continent with rapid, innovative and self-sustainable solutions, but also contribute towards economic growth, job creation and investment attractiveness of the region.

It is therefore necessary for a design-thinking principles to be implemented in creating newer, future-fit healthcare service models that are suited for the African continent and improve health spending efficiency, along with health access and outcomes for the general population.

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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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