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Joburg wins TomTom kudos

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TomTom’s latest report has revealed that although Johannesburg is the most densely populated city in Africa, it has stood out to be one of the best in terms of traffic management.

TomTom has released the results of the TomTom Traffic Index (TTTI) 2017, the annual report detailing the cities around the world with the most traffic congestion. In a study of 390 cities around the world, Johannesburg – South Africa’s most densely populated city – has stood out for its implementation of effective traffic management systems across the city, earning special recognition from an international panel of traffic experts.

For the first time, this year, TomTom is celebrating those cities that deserve special recognition for their efforts to beat traffic congestion with the introduction of the TomTom Traffic Index awards.

Using data from 2016, the TomTom Traffic Index looks at the traffic congestion situation in 390 cities in 48 countries on six continents – from Rome to Rio, Singapore to San Francisco. TomTom works with nearly 19 trillion data points that have been accumulated over nine years. This is the sixth year of the TomTom Traffic Index.

Six cities have been chosen for special recognition by an international panel of traffic experts. Each expert nominated three cities and subsequently all experts voted to determine the award-winning cities from the nominated cities. Along with Johannesburg, winners include Moscow, Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro. The full list of winners can be found here: www.tomtom.com/trafficindex/awards.

While Johannesburg has long been considered South Africa’s most traffic-congested city, the TTTI shows a marked improvement in the biggest metropolitan municipality’s ranking since 2009. Johannesburg has also surpassed Cape Town’s traffic congestion rating on the Index, ranking 70th globally with Cape Town positioned in 48th place.

Johannesburg has, however, experienced a 3% increase in traffic congestion since 2015 and currently sits at a congestion level of 30%. Traffic congestion has also worsened in Cape Town by 5%, to a new average level of 35%.

“Infrastructure development is a major contributing factor to Johannesburg’s improved ranking in the TomTom Traffic Index,” says Megan Bruwer, Project Coordinator for the Stellenbosch Smart Mobility Laboratory. “The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, Open Road Tolling and numerous ITS applications implemented along freeway corridors have also had a positive impact on traffic congestion, not to mention the establishment of the Gautrain.”

Global rankings

Cities that are experiencing the worst traffic congestion as per the TTTI global rankings include Mexico City (66%), Bangkok (61%), Jakarta (58%), Chongqing (52%) and Bucharest (50%), making up the top five most congested cities in the world.

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In Europe, Bucharest (50%) knocked Moscow (44%) off last year’s top spot, with Saint Petersburg (41%), London (40%) and Marseille (40%) making up the top five.

North America’s top five most congested cities remained the same as the previous year – Mexico City (66%), Los Angeles (45%), San Francisco (39%), Vancouver (39%), New York (35%) – although congestion levels were up across the board.

Looking at TomTom’s historical data, traffic congestion is up by 23% globally since 2008 and 10% on 2015. The TomTom Traffic Index also provides useful comparative information between South Africa’s major metropolitan municipalities, with both Johannesburg and Pretoria indicating a decrease in traffic congestion between 2009 and 2012 and maintaining a relatively even traffic congestion rating in the following three years.

“Throughout South Africa, TomTom is empowering traffic authorities and key decision makers at all levels of government with highly-accurate historical and real-time insights into traffic flows and incidents,” explains Etienne Louw, TomTom South Africa’s Managing Director.

“Coupled with the real-time traffic information provided by TomTom’s navigation solutions, existing road infrastructure can be utilised with increased efficiency to counter rising traffic congestion.”

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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