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hearScreen wins Innovation prize

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Philips South Africa has announced the hearScreen mHealth solution as the first winner of its South African Innovation Fellows Competition.

The Innovation Fellows Competition was launched in August this year in collaboration with the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, with the goal of unlocking local talent and addressing regionally relevant challenges in healthcare.

The hearScreen mHealth solution makes widespread systematic hearing testing possible by providing a cost-effective, sustainable smartphone application that provides clinically valid tests and can be operated by generalist health personnel (e.g. community healthcare workers) along with cloud-based data management and referral systems linking patients to services.

Recent WHO estimates indicate that there are 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss (5.3% of the world’s population). The prevalence of disabling hearing loss in children is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Approximately one-third of persons over 65 years are affected by disabling hearing loss with the prevalence being highest in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. With less than one hearing health provider to every million people in Africa, prospects for affected individuals are dire. Access to systematic hearing screening services is also unavailable in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are extremely honoured that Philips has recognised our hearScreen mHealth solution as an innovation that can help many people live more fulfilling lives,” said De Wet Swanepoel, inaugural Innovation Fellows Competition winner and professor in  the department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria. “Winning the Philips Innovation Fellows competition will help us make widespread systematic hearing testing possible, particularly within underserved communities, through this cost-effective, sustainable solution that can be operated by laypersons in primary health care contexts.”

The hearScreen mHealth solution was selected as the winner from an impressive Top-5 contingent and will receive Rand two-hundred thousand (R200 000) as a research and development grant towards the development and production of his technology. Swanepoel will also undergo a one year fellowship during which Philips will assist him by offering business advice on how to launch, market, and sell his product. During this time, Eddine Sarroukh, Head of Research, Philips Africa will be his mentor.

The other 2015 Innovation Fellows finalists included:

·       iMobiMama, an IT platform and Mobile Kiosk from Carol Thomas that can increase access to maternal care.

·       A low-cost portable mechanical non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilator from Sudesh Sivarasu that is mechanically operated and can be used to tackle Asthma in children aged five to 10 years old.

·       Ragesh Pillai, whose aim was to tackle the challenge of improving diabetes management through a software service designed to facilitate remote monitoring and communication between patients and their care givers at low cost.

·       Dean Hodgskiss’s solution aimed to increase the capacity of healthcare workers and medical equipment at primary healthcare sites through the utilisation of a mobile communication app specifically developed to operate effectively under the challenging African telecommunications conditions.

Each of these finalists received a cash prize of Rand twelve thousand (R 12 000).

“In the beginning of the year, Philips South Africa  conducted an Innovation Research study, which indicated that sixty per cent (60%) of South Africans consider themselves to be innovators; we launched the  South African Innovation Fellows Competition in collaboration with The Innovation Hub, Pretoria to  support  South Africans  to showcase their own tangible innovations that can fundamentally change and improve the lives of others.” says JJ Van Dongen, Senior Vice President and CEO Philips Africa. “We were delighted by the response to the competition and the quality of work submitted by the Top-5 finalists was truly inspirational. We are now looking forward to turning De Wet Swanepoel’s winning entry into a healthcare solution that will make a real and impactful difference in the lives of impacted people across Africa.”

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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