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Microjobbing to the rescue

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South Africans are finding it harder to make ends meet with the ever increasing costs of petrol, electricity and personal tax. However, the rise of microjobbing platforms like M4JAM (Money 4 Jam) are making it easier for the average person to make some extra cash, writes ANDRE HUGO, Co-Founder of M4JAM.

Thanks to rising electricity rates and fuel prices, not to mention an imminent increase in income tax, making ends meet as a South African has never been harder. Now more than ever, we need to find alternative ways to make it to the end of the month and microjobbing in the digital space is a great opportunity of doing so.

In March this year, South Africans were warned to prepare for an even higher cost of living, with economists forecasting price hikes from April. This followed Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene’s budget speech outlining a one percent increase in personal tax (the first in 20 years), as well as increased fuel levies and sin taxes. We’ve already seen this come to fruition with the recent R1,60 petrol price increase, coming soon after the short-lived joy of the petrol price decline at the end of 2014. Along with these price hikes, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has said that electricity prices are set to rise by an average of 13% for the year from April until the end of March 2016.

These heightened expenses make life difficult for the average South African to make ends meet. In fact, the 12th UASA employment report said that the last time the average person’s disposable income increased faster than his or her gross salary was in 2008. Once expenses such as taxes, UIF, municipal rates, medical aid and other necessities are taken care of, the average adult has less than 17% of his or her gross salary available to spend. And it’s not just the low earners feeling the pinch – roughly 70% of South Africans earning up to R1 million annually are living beyond their means and struggling to make ends meet, according to a study by Old Mutual.

But  it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With the rise of the digital economy and microjobbing platforms like M4JAM, the way we define work is evolving and the boundaries between work and play are blurring. This is why the concept of microjobbing is really taking off; allowing people to use the mobile devices that have become so much a part of their lives, to complete small, simple tasks in the course of their daily lives – in exchange for much needed cash when their formal income just doesn’t cut it.

In the short time that M4JAM has been around, it’s been incredibly insightful to discover the ways in which our ‘jobbers’ find creative ways to leverage the platform and get as much return as possible. For some, it really does mean the difference between just scraping by or having some financial peace of mind; for others, it means they can continue to enjoy the finer things in life even when rising living costs make this more difficult.

We’ve recently been involved in a study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute to better understand the digital economy and its societal implications, and some of the Institute’s discussions with our jobbers illustrate just how much of an impact microjobbing can have. With proper planning, it’s possible to make up to R500 per week, working just a couple of hours a day, perhaps on their way to and from a full-time job. We’ve heard stories of jobbers being able to buy half a week’s worth of groceries or paying for petrol with their microjobbing earnings, and others have even been able to afford their medical bills, rent or pay off some of their loans thanks to the series of small tasks they have completed. Some have managed to put some of the money away as savings despite rising living costs, while others have managed to keep enjoying an occasional meal at a restaurant – a luxury when money is tight and each bottle of wine or beer will set you back an extra 15 cents.

M4JAM is not an alternative to having a formal job with a regular salary, but it certainly helps when money is tight – and let’s be real: when is it not, given our ever-increasing expenses? It’s about not accepting the status quo that you can’t make ends meet; there is always a way to make some easy money, even if it’s one job and R20 at a time. Now more than ever, the question becomes a reality: can you afford not to be part of the digital economy?

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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