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How digital skills boost economy

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A recent study by Accenture has shown that the smarter use of digital skills and technology could boost the global economic output by up to $2 trillion by 2020.

Optimizing the use of digital skills and technologies could generate $2 trillion of additional global economic output by 2020, according to a new study by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).  The study also reveals the vast role digital plays in economic activity, with more than one-fifth of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) attributed to some form of digital skills, capital and goods and services.

The Accenture Strategy report, Digital Disruption: the Growth Multiplier, provides a new and comprehensive measure of the scale of the digital economy in 11 major countries. It estimates the value added to GDP by hardware, software and related technologies and by workers who need these digital assets to do their jobs. It also calculates the value of intermediate digital goods and services used in production.

A little more than one-fifth (22 percent) of world output is linked to this digital economy of skills and capital. The US is the world’s most digital economy, with existing digital investments accounting for 33 percent of its output. Forty-three percent of the U.S. labour force and 26 percent of its accumulated capital are capable of supporting digital related activity. The digital economy in other markets varies from more than 30 percent in the UK and Australia to 13 percent in China.

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“Businesses and governments are turning to digital to secure faster growth amid an uncertain global economic outlook, but the size of the digital economy is no guarantee of growth,” said Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy. “Organizations need to act aggressively in shifting the focus of their digital talent and technology from making efficiencies to creating entirely new business models. That requires not just greater digital investments, but broader organizational and cultural transformation in order to yield the greatest returns.”

The report states that in order to generate higher rates of growth, companies will need to improve their Accenture Strategy Digital Density score, which tracks the extent to which digital penetrates a country’s businesses and economy. This includes digital skills and technology, as well as broader enabling factors such as the ease of access to finance and the openness of a country’s regulatory environment.

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For example, a 10 point increase in the overall digital density of the U.S. economy would result in a $368 billion uplift to 2020 GDP, 1.8 percent higher than current forecasts. But Accenture Strategy calculates that an optimal combination of improvements to digital skills, capital and other accelerators could lift U.S. GDP by an even greater $421 billion by 2020, representing a 2.1 percent boost.   The countries with the greatest opportunity for improving their overall digital performance are Brazil (6.6 percent), Italy, (4.2 percent), China (3.7 percent) and Japan (3.3 percent).

The study shows how each national economy could best prioritize its extra efforts to achieve the greatest boost to revenues and economic output. For example, 70 percent of Brazil’s extra digital efforts should be focused on the improved application of technology, such as cloud and analytics, whereas greater efforts in digital skills would generate less of an economic return. In the US, however, just 10 percent of extra digital efforts need to be injected into technology, while a greater return will be gained from boosting digital skills and broader enabling factors.

Platform based models are the key to growth

According to the report, platform business models represent one of the greatest opportunities for digitally driven growth. These models allow organizations to create new markets and uncover value by bringing partners and customers together across a common digital platform. In many cases, platform players can enjoy strong growth without having to own or manage assets, helping them expand with low marginal costs.

While ‘born digital companies’ dominate the platform economy today, the Accenture Strategy report suggests  that traditional industry incumbents could be among the greatest beneficiaries of platform strategies by combining their customer reach and product portfolios with the networking power of the platform.

“The high growth rates experienced by many digital companies can now be enjoyed by traditional industry incumbents if they apply platform models to create an ecosystem of partners and customers in which they can offer new value added services,” said Bruno Berthon, managing director, Accenture Strategy.  “Companies need to shape their platform strategies and define their role as platform leaders or participants before aggressively forming partnerships that can deliver new value.”

The report recommends three broad actions that can improve the application of digital business models to drive higher levels of productivity and growth:

·         Prioritize digital investments based on value opportunities:  Assess carefully the balance of digital investments so that an optimal combination of improvements to skills and technology can maximize returns on digital investments

·         Compete using an industry-specific digital strategy: Be clear on which platform, what roles, and which data are fundamental to compete successfully in your industry.

·         Create the right environment for digital transformation: Improve your “digital IQ,” teaming with government to open up cross-industry relationships and change the rules of competition.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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