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Joburg festival highlights role of women in digital arts

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The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, taking place from 19 August to 3 September 2016, will not only celebrate digital art and its impact on culture, but will also shine a light on the role women play in digital arts.

With its Afro Tech Riot theme, festival organiser, Tegan Bristow, says that this year’s line-up will illustrate how creativity and technology are becoming more mainstream and the important role women are playing in this space: “We are very proud of the line-up of women this year. The successful engagement of arts, culture, creativity and technology by women is inspiring, and worthy of a spotlight at this year’s Fak’ugesi festival.”

Taking place at The Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, Bristow adds: “I have several incredible women collaborating with us this year to showcase the possibilities within culture and technology: Janine Johnston, national coordinator of the Maker Library Network in South Africa who is working with the British Council to bring a host of free maker workshops to the festival; Kerry Friend, executive creative director, Isobar, is working with teams of musicians and technologists, including female performer Lindiwe Matshikiza, for the Festival’s “Future Sounds” project; and Thato Noinyane, project manager, British Council Connect ZA who bring us the Festival’s Market Hack and Soweto Pop Up projects among many other activities. They have all assisted in developing an exciting, and much, needed focus on women in digital arts.”

An exciting element of the festival is the Artist Residency and this year will also feature the talents of two up-and-coming African women: Vuyi Chaza and Regina Kgatle.

Chaza wants to create spaces and opportunities where women in Zimbabwe can pursue a career in digital arts: “This is not only about growing the art form, but more importantly for Chaza, it is about shaping the narrative surrounding women in Zimbabwe.”

For Regina Kgatle digital arts is a way in which she can use games to educate people no matter where they live or what school they go to. She is the founder of Educade and a non-profit start-up called 67games, which is how Kgatle reaches schools around South Africa. She is one of the Mail & Guardians top 200 Young people and has been nominated for the African Alliance award by the United Nations.

The Festival will host with Women in Tech ZA a special Festival focused networking session on the evening of the 25th of August as part of its Fak’ugesi Talks program, book online to join.

Adding some international flavour to lineup is London-based digital artist Valentina Floris and immersive filmmaker Karen Palmer from SDNA, who will not only share how they are breaking boundaries in their mediums, but explore the intersections between technology, creativity and innovation.

“We are both excited and honoured to feature these collaborations. The festival aims to be a location for both development and celebration of technology and culture in Africa,” says Bristow.

Biographies

 

Janine Johnston:

Janine Johnston is a creative consultant, with more than 10years experience in skills development, sustainable design and in facilitating international exchange programs. A passionate ambassador for the South African maker movement, Johnston is the national coordinator of the Maker Library Network in South Africa. She is the managing partner of JA JA Consulting, a boutique agency, specializing in strategic communication, event production and creative project management.

Kerry Friend:

Kerry currently works at a digital agency, Isobar, as an Exec Creative Director and heads up their innovation programme, NowLab. She’s also part of a collective, Create Africa, who run workshops and events at the intersection of tech, culture and education. As a member of the IAB Agency Council she currently drives the Innovation Programme, which aims to encourage agencies to explore new ways of working and thinking as they seek to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the age of digital transformation.

Lindiwe Matshikiza:

Is an artist who uses theatre making tools to extend into film, music and various other disciplines. She is interested in work that is collaborative, process-driven and experimental. A performer, director and writer, she has initiated projects such as The Donkey Child – a devised theatre piece involving 40 players of all ages – in collaboration with Hillbrow Theatre Project, and JHB MASSIVE: Jozi <-> Accra, a temporary collective of 15 artists that combined forces to get to Chale Wote Street Art Festival in James Town, Accra.

Thato Noiyane:

Currently offering her skills as a Project Manager for the British Council Connect ZA team, her career started after completing a BA degree in Audiovisual Production Management where she worked in the film and television industry. She has over 8 years’ experience managing projects from conception right through to delivery and has worn a few hats along the way including director, event manager, scriptwriter, social media/content manager and mentor. She has since ventured into managing projects focused around youth empowerment particularly in the creative and digital space. She is interested in this rapidly growing industry and excited to be part of a team which works along partners who are pioneers in the sector.

Vuyi Chaza:

Vuyi Chaza is a 24-year-old woman from Zimbabwe. She wants to live in a world where video games and cartoon watching are mandatory subjects at school, and extra cheesy pizza becomes a staple food in her country. As a self-proclaimed, amateur designer, she’s been designing officially for one year and has her designs on billboards, publications, books and album covers.

When she’s not trying to navigate the choppy waters of freelancing/starting a business, she creates weird art pieces that leave people either scratching their heads or jaws dropped in fascination. Vuyi hopes to create spaces and opportunities where women in Zimbabwe can pursue a career in digital arts, while shaping the narrative surrounding women and Zimbabwe.

instagram: @__vuyi__

Twitter: @vuyi_chaza

Regina Kgatle:

Regina Kgatle is the founder and MD of Educade [http://educade.co.za/], and its sister non-profit startup, 67games. An Electrical and Computer Engineering student (University of Cape Town, Honors) she believes we can use games to educate people no matter where they come from or where they go to school. At Educade, Regina focuses on designing and building educational games based on The Promise Curriculum, installing them on custom stand-up arcades that can be taken on the road to South African schools.  67games engages continues this mission by engaging with developers from around the world to create new games for these cabinets, which are then promoted throughout South Africa by means of game pop up installations.

For her efforts, Regina has received national and international awards – listed as Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young people contributing to bettering the quality of life for South Africans, nominated for the African Alliance award by the UN. In 2014 Facebook flew her to the US together with other 24 young students worldwide to receive an award for changing lives through technology. She has recently been honored with “Amplifying new voices” award from Oculus.

Instagram: @rrrreegina

Twitter: @RrrEeGina

Valentina Floris:

Valentina is a London based digital artist. After moving from Italy in 1994, she studied Mixed Media Art at the University of Westminster where she graduated in 1997. During that time, she started to experiment with audio visual techniques and site specific installations. In 1997 she co-founded Luna Nera, an artist-curator organisation that aimed to stimulate interest in the environmental and architectural heritage of localities. By asking the audience to re-look at sites in a new way, Luna Nera addressed a series of issues around ideas of society, community, history, memory and public space. In 2001 she started to work with Ben Foot and co funded SDNA, a creative studio based in London producing distinctive digital artwork.

SDNA’s objective is to explore techniques of interaction within public spaces, using emerging technologies and unusual presentation media. Their interdisciplinary approach, integrating site-responsive installation and live performance, aims to widen the scope of digital art.

Karen Palmer:

Summer 2016 Karen was a Speaker at Tedx Australia at the Sydney Opera House, at Games for Change Festival New York and an invited guest on a International Women Think Tank working in new media Mutek Festival Cannada. Prior she was also a keynote speaker at DiGRA 2015 The World’s leading Academic Digital Games Conference in Germany. Her recent neurogaming parkour installation SYNCSELF 2 was a key exhibit at the prestigious Sheffield Film Festival 2015. In conjunction with being a Panel Speaker on Neuroscience in Gaming. She discussed the SYNCSELF 2 Neurogame that recreates the process of transcending fear. This is an interactive parkour film experience which is controlled by the user’s mental focus. There was a very favourable article in The Guardian on Karen and the impact of her work. Initially SYNCSELF 2 was exhibited at the V&A as part of the Digital Design Weekend (Sept 2014), and discussed her journey to the V&A at the WOW Talks series at the Apple Store Regent Street. Previously her work received exposure and critical acclaim at Festivals and Galleries Internationally. 2015 she spoke on her unique form of Storytelling and Tech at various renowned institutions such as The Watershed Bristol, Uppsala University Sweden and Conducttr Transmedia Conference to name a few.

Africa News

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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