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How public sector can make the most of Big Data

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The South African public sector is seeing the value in the analysis of Big Data. With enhanced service delivery in mind, there has never been a better time for it to invest in suitable IT infrastructure, writes GARY DE MENEZES, NetApp Country Manager for Southern Africa.

Now that the dust around the local elections has settled, the spotlight will be on the various municipalities to prove that they are worthy of the public’s votes.  Enhanced service delivery will no doubt be top-of-mind for all South Africans. One of the key approaches that government can adopt to meet their campaign promises is by making the most of the significant volume of data that they have.

There’s no doubt that the amount of data at our disposal is increasing every year. IT departments, including those of the public sector, have to be equipped to handle this volume. While smart cities present a huge opportunity to enhance metropolises, and provide considerable information about their inhabitants, the data they create needs to be properly managed and IT infrastructure must be robust.

This infrastructure needs to be able to integrate existing enterprise storage silos so that all data within the organisation can be processed. In addition, many companies use different storage tiers, such as disk and Flash, and use resources from the cloud. Here, integration is key to make sure all of the different platforms are optimised and working together. Cloud technologies enable the public sector to be citizen-centric, as they lend themselves to customisation, agility and effectiveness. In addition, the cloud enables new services and flexible scaling.

Many municipalities also collect a lot of private data on behalf of their constituents. Certain levels of domestic and international data storage and compliance standards therefore need to be adhered to, as the public sector can become a popular target due to the nature of the data it has. Losing this information would have a severe impact, losing trust and misusing tax money.

There are various levels of risk pertaining to different types of data, which will influence the IT infrastructure solution that public sector organisations should choose with regards to on-premises versus cloud. In any case, as a prudent IT strategist, each CIO requires airtight security and complete control over data, at all times. Organisations are searching for the right blend of availability, security, and efficiency. The answer lies in achieving the perfect balance of on-premises, private cloud, and public services to match IT and business requirements.

One of the suitable solutions for implementing a multi-cloud infrastructure for big data is NetApp’s Data Fabric concept. Organisations can use cloud resources from different vendors, while retaining full control over their data. The use of cloud resources puts IT departments in a position to integrate the most powerful data analysis engines without investing big money in a new on-premises IT infrastructure.

The technologies from NetApp support enterprise-wide data management and create a link between on-premises systems and resources from the public cloud. As a result, organisations achieve high flexibility in the use of their IT resources and can move data and workloads across all resources. This creates the basis for the efficient infrastructure that is necessary for big data projects that build the foundation for open data initiatives and enable smarter cities.

If a suitable IT infrastructure can be implemented to cope with the huge influx of data from smart cities, then it will have the ability to transform the way South Africa’s public sector organisations operate and what they are capable of doing in future.

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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 on about Hastings’ views on 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. 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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