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Prepare now for jobs that don’t exist today

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New IT technologies are transforming the job market, making some positions redundant, but at the same time creating positions that never existed before. GARY DE MENEZES, NetApp Country Manager South Africa takes a look at the future job market.

With the development of IT technologies, the job market is being transformed, across all industry sectors. Automation of manual tasks is the most obvious change, but big data, blockchains and crowd funding may be the real game changers, enabling established and new players to bypass existing infrastructures… and even replacing jobs. Start-ups and newcomers seem to be the winners, but big companies can face the challenge raised by these technological disruptions with different strategies: either behave as startup themselves, collaborate with startups and use them as value pools, or develop tools of their own that they can then integrate into their own business models… What implications do these changes have on the job market? Which jobs and skills will become outdated, and which ones will become more wanted and valued? Will the changes impact up to the very executive committees?

New IT technologies open new doors: newcomers are now able to compete with big players

Big data is leading us to a period of great restructuring in which robots will take over human jobs. The computerization of processes will make each work unit more productive. Jobs will disappear, others will be created in this transformative process: the World Economic Forum estimates that “current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labor market changes over the period 2015–2020” and 2 million jobs will be created in computer sciences, mathematics, engineering and related fields.

Crowdfunding and blockchains are also set to transform the market. Essentially, a blockchain is a ledger of data blocks, which is supposedly incorruptible and can record anything. They allow for safe and encrypted data or money exchanges without centralization. Similarly, crowdfunding enables to fund new projects bypassing banks and other established institutions. Put together, the two technologies create new opportunities for new, emerging companies that are not backed by big players. Incidentally, big companies will need to scrutinize their small competitors more closely, and tightly collaborate with them.

For example, the startup Colony gathers experts from around the world around specific projects, and they are remunerated according to their contribution to the project. Human resources firms are set aside from the process. Ultimately, e-commerce and social networks programs based on the technology could follow suit and overtake eBay or other internet giants, with comparable, or even higher security standards.

This is not just the future: Coin Based, operating in the Bitcoin network, is available in over thirty countries, and has exchanged 3 billion dollars’ worth of bitcoins. Crowdfunding has a great impact on the market: it has already injected 65 billion dollars in the economics and created 270,000 jobs. How can other companies face up to the challenge?

How can already existing companies adapt their business models to the transition?

The first way big companies can face the challenge lain by startups is to collaborate with them. Different collaboration programs will deliver different benefits, among which: the rejuvenation of corporate culture, the innovation within big brands that may otherwise be too bureaucratic, the solving of business problems and the expansion to new markets. To reap the benefits, medium and big companies can offer tools or co-working places to startups, set up incubator programs or co-develop products with them. These ecosystems, based on open innovation, shorten project delivery time, enhance performance and financial benefits. Companies from Cisco and GE to Coca-Cola and Shell have already developed such value pools with great effectiveness.

Another strategy is to harness the source of the economic disruption and to embrace a disruptive new technology. NASDAQ-listed companies have invested 30 million dollars in Chain, a company that wants to generalize the use of blockchains for all sorts of transactions. Telco operator Orange believes that they will ease data transfer between operators, enhancing end-user experience. Intel, IBM, JPMorgan and Barclays are among the companies investing in this technology.

The second facet of this strategy is to invest in Big Data. In the midst of a crisis induced by the arrival of Uber in France, the French Government created an application enabling users to find easily a taxi driver. This application, a platform based on Big Data, makes the process faster but does not change the business model of taxis. Virtually any sector can benefit from the application of Big Data. The oil & gas industry, for example, can monitor its production and delivery, fixing any eventual leak in record times. Banks can approve loans in seconds leveraging market data in real time. Health professionals can access more data about their patients, and compare them with other similar profiles to determine the best treatment. Enterprises now have to choose between changing with the help of new technologies and disappearing.

Managerial and organizational challenges that lie ahead for companies are huge, as they need to adapt to the changing economic environment. At the heart of addressing these challenges, there is the question of how to use, store, protect data in a fast, efficient, cost-effective manner.

Some jobs will disappear, others will emerge: the law of creative destruction

The increasing use of Big Data and blockchains will literally force companies to reinvent themselves, and to adapt their business models to emerging needs and new tools at their disposal. In the process, some jobs will become irrelevant.

Let’s take an example. The government of Honduras will use a blockchain-based software conceived by Factom to build a record of land-titles – thus making the processes more secure, less subject to corruption and faster. By doing so, notaries and other public officials will be replaced by… IT professionals. In the banking sector, the wind of change is blowing: NASDAQ operators are already testing the use of blockchains on their private market. Ultimately, brokers will no longer be needed. The 21 year-old Russian-Canadian founder of the Ethereum blockchain has an even cheekier viewpoint: he believes that job losses will mainly concern “people who earn too much money for what they do”!

That said, the World Economic Forum estimated that data analysts will become “critically important to their industry by the year 2020”, based on responses from all industries. In other words, this change will be seen across all economic sectors, public and private alike.

The increase of sheer data mass will result in companies needing to know where their data is (especially in a hybrid cloud), secure them and ensure that they are always available. Data management functions will become increasingly critical to the very way we do business. Ultimately, data managers will have their rightful seat at C-Suite level.

According to a 2016 study by Deloitte on Data Analytics, 60% of companies understand the benefits that they can earn by leveraging Big Data. 43% think that data analysis should be conducted by a dedicated entity reporting directly to the CEO. 70% also believe that it is important to consolidate internal data and data generated via SoMe. Data resulting from connectivity leads to increased customer knowledge and, in turn, to the development of new services, the ability to introduce tailored loyalty programs and to recruit new partners. Beyond customer knowledge data helps to optimize products and solutions management. Data analysts will no longer just manage activities, but will also yield information that will bring unprecedented value. Two new roles will emerge: the Chief Data Officer (CDO), in charge of the overall data strategy and the Data Scientist, who creates intelligence and value from data, helping to bridge the gap with other roles within the business. According to Glassdoor, Data Scientist is the “best job” in 2016 which means more job openings, better salaries and career opportunities. This is confirmed in Deloitte’s survey, which shows that over 70% of businesses consider it important to reinforce the role of both the Data Scientist and the CDO even if their activities are not completely mapped out and standardized yet; which opens fascinating perspectives from an overall managerial standpoint.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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