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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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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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