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Now for the attitude divide

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The digital divide between developed and developing countries is no longer only about access to technology. A gulf also exists in attitudes to technology, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It’s pretty obvious that developed countries almost seem to be a on a different planet from those with emerging economies when one considers use of high-tech devices and their visibility in the human environment.

But now an invisible divide between the haves and have-nots has also emerged, and that is the gulf between the attitudes of those living in such divergent economies.

A global study released by Microsoft last week shows that, while most Internet users believe personal technology has improved their lives, far more users in developing countries believe it has improved social bonds.

The report, entitled “Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology Is Changing Our Lives,” is based on interviews with more than12 000 Internet users from 12 countries.

The most fascinating aspect of the study is how greater pervasiveness of technology seems to result in reduced enthusiasm for specific benefits, like fitness and the sharing economy. Instead, those with greater access tend to express greater concern about issues like privacy. Naturally, such issues are less important in environments where the implications of pervasive connectedness have not yet become apparent.

The key overall findings, according to Microsoft, include:

  • • Most respondents across all 12 countries think personal technology has had a positive impact on their ability to find more affordable products, start new businesses and be more productive;
  • • Most respondents say it has benefited social activism;
  • • More respondents than in the previous year said technology had had a positive impact on transportation and literacy;
  • • Fewer than in the previous year said it has benefited social bonds, personal freedom and political expression.
  • • Concern about technology’s impact on privacy jumped significantly. Most users across 11 of the 12 countries surveyed said technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative.
  • • Majorities in all countries except India and Indonesia said current legal protections for users of personal technology were insufficient;

However, marked differences began to emerge when responses from developing countries were grouped, says Zoaib Hoosen, managing director of Microsoft South Africa.

“In developing countries, 60 per cent of respondents said technology had a positive impact on social bonds, versus only 36 per cent in developing countries. That’s a very significant difference.

“The sharing economy, with its online services like Uber, are seen as having a positive impact in in developing countries, while in developed countries they still preferred traditional services.

“The issue there is that they often didn’t have a viable alternative in developing countries, whereas such services in developed countries merely add additional options. It’s about leapfrogging traditional services that don’t exist versus disruption of existing services. The former has a bigger impact.”

Nevertheless, says Mark Penn, Microsoft executive vice president and chief strategy officer, “Internet users overwhelmingly say that personal technology is making the world better and more vital.”

The area that saw the greatest divergence was the effect of technology on trust in the media, says Penn.

“By a 2:1 margin, respondents in developing countries think personal technology has had a mostly positive effect on trust in the media. But in developed countries, the impression is the opposite: respondents believe by a 2:1 margin that the effect on trust in the media has been mostly negative.”

The key factor behind this attitude divide appears to be the media habits of respondents, and dependence on social media.

“These opposing views are borne out in the two kinds of countries’ media habits,” says Penn. “In developing countries, 70 per cent of respondents get most of their news from social media, compared to only 31 per cent in developed countries.”

With social media access accelerating in developing countries, thanks to rapidly growing access on phones, that divide is unlikely to be bridged very soon.

* The poll, conducted in the last two weeks of December 2014, included Internet users in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the U.S.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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Customers enter new relevance era

A new study by Accenture shows that, heading into the third decade of the 21st century, consumers want more from a brand than mere relevance, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Before Netflix, there was Blockbuster, the world’s best-know video store. Before YouTube, people looked for life hacks (then called life lessons) in Reader’s Digest. And before the digital camera became the most used feature on your smartphone, there was Kodak. 

These are all organisations that went into bankruptcy despite once owning their respective worlds. And we’re not even talking about the last few years, in which the frenzied pace of disruption has threatened thousands more businesses.

The bottom line is this: It doesn’t matter how big a company is today; if it doesn’t meet the needs of its customers, it may not exist a few years down the line. And those needs go beyond merely the features or direct benefits offered by a product.

A new study by Accenture shows that consumers want more than relevance.

“Nearly three quarters of consumer switching is driven by a lack of relevance, putting R438-billion of potential annual revenue in jeopardy,” Accenture reports. “In the era of relevance, brands can regain the high ground by expanding their marketing frameworks and re-aligning their activities to a new set of principles— beyond their comfort zones.”

At the launch of the study in Johannesburg last week, Wayne Hill, head of Accenture Digital, summed up the meaning of hyper-relevance from his own encounters with brands: “Nespresso knows who I am and it knows what I like. From an experience point of view, I walk into shop and I can smell the coffee. On the shelves, the merchandise looks like beauty products. When they package it, it’s like buying Louis Vuitton. 

“Recently I received a box of from Nespresso that included a brand linked to my place of birth. That is hyper-relevance.”

Hull gave examples like Woolworths using algorithms to predict consumer consumption, Discovery converting health insurance into wellness and health care, First National Bank creating a digital banking platform, and Cape Town drone analytics start-up Aerobotics “hyper-personalising crops”. 

“Aerobotics don’t want to know what crop is doing. They want to know what each stem is doing, and from analysis of the stem they can predict per stem what the product will look like.”

Not surprisingly, new technology is at the heart of hyper-personalisation. 

(Click here or below to read on about hyper-personalisation) More about hyper-personalisation)

“New technology is not an IT activity,” said Hull. “It has to be embedded in the customer experience.”

Michael Jordaan, founder of the wireless Internet service provider Rain and the new bank due to be launched soon, Zero, spoke at the event about the lessons he had learned while CEO of FNB.

“One of our best ad campaigns was when I said we’ll give customers an iPad at a lower price than anyone else. We didn’t want to make money from it, we just wanted people to bank on it. We sold one every 30 seconds. That changed the electronics market.”

The Accenture study, titled Welcome to the Hyper-Relevance Era, emphasises the need for executives to develop a deeper understanding of what differentiates each era. It divides the old and the new approach between the loyalty era and the relevance era. There are five key differences, according to the report:

  • The objective of the loyalty era was to create incentives for customers to become loyal members and keep making purchases. The objective of the relevance era  is to create a gravitational field that attracts customers into orbit around the brand by serving their every relevant need in every possible moment across every possible channel.
  • In the loyalty era, customers were dissuaded from re-evaluating
    their options. In the relevance era, mobile-enabled and digitally savvy customers are constantly re- evaluating their options.
  • The loyalty era was backward- looking and time-lagged; the relevance era is forward-looking and real-time. 
  • The loyalty era focused on the “what” economy, which is linked to a purchase, while the relevance era focuses on the “why” economy, which is linked to evaluation. 
  • Even the technology enablers are different: in the loyalty era it was Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software; in the relevance era its digitisation of everything.


Hull pointed out that the definition of hyper-relevance will evolve along with customer needs and habits. In the meantime, though, companies must strive to be meaningful, dynamic, dedicated, transparent, inspirational, standard-setting, omnipresent and accountable .

“Of course, these are just some of the attributes that customers have come to expect from their provider of choice in the relevance era. Relevance is and will always be a moving target. 

“For established companies in South Africa, striving for hyper-relevance might seem an insurmountable challenge, especially in an economy that has barely grown in the past decade, with fiscal missteps and corruption contributing to weak business and consumer confidence. But now is the time for leaders to make the shift to the relevance era, to lay the groundwork for major changes to their processes, organisations, and mindsets.”

(Click here or below to read Accenture’s Framework for Hyper-relevance) Framework for Hyper-relevance)

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