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How tech will save you from the zombie apocalypse

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What the world would look like if it faced a zombie apocalypse from a digital standpoint? Lee Naik, MD at Accenture Digital for South Africa hypothesises.

What would you do if you were faced with a zombie apocalypse? With the popularity of fiction like The Walking Dead and World War Z, it’s become something of an internet cliché to imagine how you would survive if you were faced with a horde of brain-eaters at your door one day.

It’s a fun exercise, but I find it to be a little pointless. Not because a zombie apocalypse might never happen – sometimes when I look around my neighbourhood, I’m convinced it’s already started – but because we have the technology in place to prevent it from spiralling out of control in the first place.

Don’t believe me? Let’s strap on our weapons and take a journey through your typical zombie apocalypse.

The virus emerges

It starts slowly. One night, there is a report in the news about some isolated cases of a strange virus that keeps the brain alive after death. Before you know it, pockets of infection are popping up all over the place and an epidemic is well and truly underway.

In the prequel series Fear the Walking Dead, this scenario snowballs into a full-blown zombie epidemic. In real life, it’s unlikely we’d get taken by surprise, as the top minds would be closely monitoring the outbreak in real time.

Just take the West African Ebola outbreak, which saw the CDC use analytics to anticipate where the disease was likely to spread. Anyone who travelled by airplane during that time will also remember the screening processes in place at airports to detect potential Ebola carriers. Similarly, with the zombie virus, technologies like advanced video screening would be able to better identify potential infected individuals at airports and bus stops, preventing a global spread.

Walkers at your door? There’s an app for that

You typically wouldn’t see a cellphone in a zombie movie, but in the real world, mobile devices, not machetes, would make for the best weapons against the undead. You can bet that the dead rising would be a main topic of conversation on social media, making it the most effective platform to educate, inform and gather data on the threat.

The likes of Facebook Safety Check and Google Person Finder would certainly take centre stage, and a range of other digital tools would doubtlessly emerge in response to the new problems. Imagine a mobile app like Waze for zombies, using crowd-sourced information to pinpoint the safest route to take home. Or a Tinder for survivors, letting you meet up in safe places and send out a request for a rescue.

It’s not nearly as farfetched as it sounds. The CDC already uses social media to educate people on emergency preparedness and WHO has created apps to help fight Zika, Dengue Fever and other tropical diseases.

What’s more, the amount of real-time data that would pass through social media would be invaluable in detecting and stopping the spread. Governments are already exploring how to use data from Facebook and Twitter to predict flu outbreaks.

Zombie-proof societies

As we can see, data is key to preventing us from descending into our own World War Z. And, as the internet of things takes hold in our society, the chances of a zombie apocalypse affecting us will become even more minuscule.

Take the hordes themselves, one of the most dangerous aspects of any zombie apocalypse as The Walking Dead shows? Here, we could use geospatial mapping to predict their movements. In our zombie-style IoT, drones could go around following hordes and tracking their movements, in order to warn areas in danger of being overrun.

Okay, so we’ve successfully prevented the downfall of society and ensured that casualties are minimal. But how do we get rid of the zombie virus once and for all? Here’s where wearables could shine.

It’s not exactly easy to gather patient data on a person threatening to turn into a shambling zombie at any second. But should people already have some sort of healthcare monitoring device on them before they’re bitten, real-time data would be made available to researchers without putting anyone else in danger.

Our hypothetical zombie apocalypse scenario clearly has a lot of lessons to offer around healthcare and disaster management. But any enterprise can use the same digital-first mindset to tackle their own metaphorical hordes. Zombies may be a threat, but their ultimate defeat comes from identifying and adapting to their patterns of behaviour. The same is true for any business threat, whether it’s diminishing revenue or lack of innovation.

What are the zombies facing your organisation? And how can you use digital to prevent your own apocalypse?

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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