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Robots in your business

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Robotics and automation technologies present new opportunities for South African organisations to redefine their Business Process Services (BPS) functions, say RAJESH SEHGAL and GAVIN HOLME of Wipro.

With robotics at the centre, organisations are able to scale faster, enter new markets or industries and become more fluid and responsive to customer needs.

Robotics is driving what we could succinctly refer to as an evolution from ‘efficiency’ to ‘effectiveness’

What does this mean?

Firstly, robotics offers far greater value than just simplifying and automating what were previously manual processes. It sets the scene for cognitive analytics: where systems start detecting patterns, learning of their own accord and providing new insights into potential business opportunities.

Secondly, it enables the smoother flow of operations in increasingly complex business ecosystems. By being able to tightly integrate internal business silos and external business partners, organisations enjoy the benefits of true collaboration.

For example, by analysing buying trends and automatically sending data to suppliers or partners, firms can optimise their supply chains and distribution networks.

Thirdly, by connecting with an organisation’s legacy systems, robotics can unearth hidden value from the data lying in this infrastructure. Tasks that were previously too complex as they required system integration, were time-consuming, or expensive for humans to perform, can now be performed at a fraction of the cost by the intelligent application of robotics.

And finally, robotics-focused BPS allows firms to elevate parts of their workforce to higher-value roles.

By detecting patterns and automatically plugging into workflow environments, BPS removes many of the lower-value operational activities from staff. Human capital resources can be devoted to higher-value strategic business management instead of operational efficiency.

Bigger opportunities

Taking a broader perspective, robotics-based BPS promises to realise the vision of South Africa becoming a leading BPS outsourcing hub for the rest of the world.

Factors like local currency devaluation, strong English-language skills, similar time zones to Western Europe and good connectivity offer South Africa an excellent potential to become a net exporter of BPS skills and services.

Through our local operations and various training endeavours, Wipro is playing a catalysing role in achieving this ambition.

For example, of the 1450 Wipro staff delivering services for African customers, approximately 300 are from previously disadvantaged South African backgrounds. Wipro absorbs newly-fledged graduates and invests in rigorous business and technical training programmes and have found employment within the organisation delivering value to our customers.

This is just example of how by developing local skills, and then combining those with advancements in robotics and automation, Africa can very quickly become a premier destination for outsourced BPS services.

Whether we are discussing robotics within the organisation, or more broadly at a national level, now is the right time to seriously start considering the technology and how it can enhance the region’s companies, government departments and the economy at large.

Robotics-based BPS will continue to evolve at rapid rates over the coming years and those that adopt the technology earlier will have a clear advantage over their peers.

* Rajesh Sehgal, Global Head of Quality & Process Excellence, Wipro BPS and Gavin Holme, Country Head, Africa, Wipro Technologies

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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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