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Painting a picture with data

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Visual data analytics is a lot like painting a picture. The image might not look like much in the beginning, but after time a picture starts to take shape and you’re left with something that speaks louder than words, writes GREATERMAN NKOMO of SAS.

Visual communication is nothing new. Our ancestors used paintings and carvings to make sense of their environment, and it seems they were on to something – research has found that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and that visuals are processed 60 000 times faster in the brain than text.

Much like cave dwellers back in the day, today’s businesses are also trying to make sense of the data-driven world they operate in. But there’s a bigger picture involved. If they want to increase their competitiveness, it’s not enough just to understand the environment; the real value lies in the ability to use data to improve decision-making and performance, predict the future and mitigate risk.

Yet businesses still struggle to cope with the exponentially increasing volumes of data generated internally and externally by clients and partners. They are still looking for more efficient ways to store and retrieve data rather than focusing on the value hidden in that data. Traditional architectures are also not designed to deliver the fast analytical processing needed for rapid insights, a problem that is worsened by the fact that data is still stored in silos in many organisations, providing a fragmented view of the business and any potential opportunities or risks.

Fostering a culture of analytics

Businesses can no longer afford to operate this way – and they don’t have to. Modern visual analytics tools provide a complete platform for analytics visualisation, enabling businesses to identify patterns and relationships in data that were not initially evident. Drag-and-drop functionality and automatic visualisation puts business intelligence into the hands of even the most statistic-averse team member, allowing anyone to visually explore data without having to call on the data scientist or IT department.

This creates a decision-making culture within organisations, equipping people with the tools they need to gain insight into complex problems in order to make well-informed, business-changing decisions.

Follow the data breadcrumbs

Just as artists experiment with different techniques and colour combinations to produce different effects, so can people play around with data to uncover the unexpected. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to visual analytics. Bring whatever data you have – your oils, pastels and acrylic paint, if you will – integrate it with social media and other web data, and see what happens. The data doesn’t have to make sense at first – the beauty of visual analytics software is that everything is automatic – you only need to follow the data’s lead and let it paint its own picture. Automated analytics makes value extraction easy. In-memory processing makes it fast. Businesses can explore billions of rows of data, without the need to subset or sample it, to identify new patterns, explore hidden relationships, test hypotheses in seconds, and share those insights with the right people, at the right time, in a format that they can understand, whether that’s on a desktop or mobile device. These reports enable collaborative, engaging discussions that can drive deeper insights – and better decisions.

Don’t know why you’re losing customers? Analytics can show you where the churn is happening and you may be surprised to know that it has something to do with the service they get from your call centre, for example. How do you know this? By analysing the sentiment of what people are saying about your business on social media and comments on other online platforms, which can be conveniently displayed in a format that the decision makers understand. By digging deeper, you may find that it’s not the call centre staff that are providing the bad service, but perhaps dropped calls and poor quality lines due to ageing infrastructure. The knee-jerk response might have been to retrain your call centre staff rather than replace your equipment; through scenario planning and predictive analytics, you can save thousands in lost time and money.

Ultimately, everyone, in any role, is a decision-maker. Having tools that present data in a way that is visual, easy to understand, fosters collaboration and supports mobility enables savvy businesses to recognise trends and use them as competitive differentiators. Visual data analytics might be messy at first, but with a bit of creativity and exploration, you could be left with a masterpiece that’s worth more than any amount of money could buy.

* Greaterman Nkomo, Account Executive, Visual Analytics, SAS

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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