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Ordinary heroes honoured

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Alongside the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft announced its Upgrade Your World initiative, a program where the company highlights and rewards educators for their work done in shaping the lives of South Africa’s future leaders.

Microsoft South Africa recently launched Windows 10 at a fan event held in Newtown, Johannesburg. Together with the launch of Windows 10, the company also encouraged those in attendance to support the year-long initiative, Upgrade Your World, a global initiative which celebrates people and organisations of action who are making a difference around the world.

The Upgrade Your World programme celebrates those who inspire and empower others, led by Microsoft’s vision to help people achieve more through technology and in celebration of the Windows 10 launch.

Microsoft is partnering with ten global NGOs including Keep a Child Alive and Special Olympics, as well as 100 national non-profits from around the world, as part of this year-long initiative to help them upgrade the world, with a total $10 million (around R125 million) cash investment being made in support of their missions and to promote awareness of their causes.

Highlighting the work done by committed teachers

In conjunction with the global initiative, Microsoft South Africa, Pinnacle Africa and Torque IT are joining forces to honour the work done by committed educators charged with the tremendous responsibility to prepare the next generation of business and political leaders, inventors and innovators.

“As Pinnacle Africa’s local brand, Proline is proud to be associated with Microsoft’s education initiatives in South Africa and our core values of ‘People, Product, Passion’ are reflected in the Windows 10 products we are demonstrating at the event,” said Rodger Green, Proline Brand Executive at Pinnacle Africa. “By being the first local vendor offering devices pre-installed with the Windows 10 operating system, Proline intends to continue empowering people to achieve more through technology and reach their potential,” Green added.

On 1 August 2015, Microsoft SA will launch a competition on the Microsoft SA Facebook page which aims to acknowledge and celebrate innovative teachers, who are integrating technology into the classroom to make the learning process more collaborative and memorable for learners. Schools and students are encouraged to nominate their teachers on the Microsoft SA Facebook page by commenting in 30 words what makes their teacher a potential Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Ten teachers stand a chance to win some awesome prizes from Microsoft, Pinnacle Africa and Torque IT to keep them innovating in the classroom.

These include Windows 10 computer training courses from Torque IT, an Intel Classmate device sponsored by Pinnacle Africa, Lumia 430 smartphone from Microsoft SA, as well as admission to the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIE) Programme, which was created to identify and assist global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers in terms of innovative teaching methods and the use of 21st Century skills. The competition closes on 21 August 2015 and winners will be announced on 10 September 2015.

“Our educators of today are responsible for developing the leaders of tomorrow, it is key that they are provided with the correct tools as well as shown how best to use them. The launch of Windows 10 and the Upgrade Your World campaign not only says thank you for their continuous efforts, but provides them with a Windows 10 device plus the skills to use the device, which will aid them greatly with their day-to-day tasks in their respective schools,” says Morne Hugo, Microsoft Business Unit Manager at TorqueIT.

How innovating educators are leading the way for peers

Microsoft’s Innovative Educator Expert programme enables teachers to become innovation thought leaders, who build educator capacity in their community through training and coaching their colleagues as well as speaking at conferences. Local MIE, Phuti Ragophala, who is the principal of Pula Madibogo Primary School in Limpopo has attended two Microsoft in Education Global Forums for instance, with the first of these occurring in Barcelona during 2014 and the second in Dubai this year.

MIE Experts also have the opportunity to try out new Microsoft products as these are released to see how best to integrate these into their lesson plans and collaborate with innovative educators across the globe, using Skype in the Classroom. Local MIE Karen Stadler, is an ICT integration teacher from Elkanah House in Cape Town, and she uses technology to make learners in over 100 classes across 55 countries aware of the plight of rhinos in South Africa. Through her ‘Save our rhinos’ project, Stadler aims to raise awareness of rhino extinction and to unite the voices of children around the world in support of rhino conservation.

“There are hundreds of committed teachers in South Africa doing their best for their students every single day,” says Anthony Doherty, Windows business group lead at Microsoft South Africa. “Thanks to the Upgrade Your World initiative and the launch of Windows 10, you have the chance to show your appreciation by upgrading their world.”

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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