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The big digital question: to transform or not

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The rapid evolution of technology that has led to the industry’s latest buzz phrase, digital transformation, is having a massive impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa – but many are not even aware of it.

This sector remains vitally important to the SA economy, so it is critical to understand how digitally prepared these entities are, and whether they are keeping pace with change, or whether many are being left behind.

One of the key aims of SME Survey 2018, in partnership with Intuit QuickBooks, is to establish the digital readiness of SMEs. SME Survey is the original and largest representative survey of SMEs in South Africa and has contributed ground-breaking research into the forces shaping SME competitiveness since 2003.

Wendy Walker, Global Expansion Intuit QuickBooks, says being digitally astute has the power to transform business life and encourages small business and self-employed to make the transition now so they have a head start into the new year. 

“Technology brings new opportunity to the business world – especially when it comes to online accounting.  Successful businesses are driven by owners who really know their numbers; and the power of digitally based resources makes this more accessible for all businesses. With the ability to view business data anytime, anywhere and on any device, owners can make smarter, more informed business decisions based on real-time insights.”

Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx and principal researcher for SME Survey, explains that for the purposes of the survey, digitalisation is defined as the integration of digital technology into all systems and processes in the business.

“Businesses across all industries are beginning to see the massive competitive advantage to be gained from digital processes,” he says. “This goes far beyond simply electronic scans of documents, encompassing everything from online accounting to digital sales processes. We aim to find out whether SMEs have also realised the benefits of such an approach and are preparing to digitalise their businesses, or whether ‘digital transformation’ remains a term that mystifies, rather than simplifies.

“Naturally, SME Survey will look not just at how ready these businesses are for digital transformation, but also at the tools and services SMEs currently use that can be defined as being digital, and whether it is viewed by them as a threat or an opportunity.”

He adds that the survey will also take an in-depth look at the future of the accounting function and the role the accountant plays for these businesses. Goldstuck suggests that this is a role that is evolving rapidly, driven by the rise of online accounting functionality, which enables SMEs to produce for themselves many of the financial documents for which they previously relied on their accountant.

“Online accounting through the cloud is designed to increase efficiencies for accountants and SMEs,” says Wendy Walker. “It enables easy collaboration between all parties involved in managing the financial health of a business. With the access to free trials, online resources and training it’s never been easier to work together.”

“We will also pay close attention to some of the latest technology trends, such as artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), in order to discover whether this sector understands these advanced technologies and whether it is making plans to begin adopting some of these. Naturally, this ties back to the main focus, as adoption of any of these technologies would be a clear indicator that these businesses are preparing to transform.”

The 2018 survey will also focus on those issues that keep SME owners awake at night. In the past, this has encompassed issues ranging from crime to load shedding to road conditions. “This year, we are interested in assessing the impact that fraud, corruption and state capture are having on this sector.”

Goldstuck says that the previous few surveys have kept tabs on the impact of cloud on the SME segment, and the expectation is that, this year, cloud adoption will have passed the 50% mark. There is also anticipation of significant growth in fibre as the connectivity solution of choice.

“Since fibre and cloud are both key factors in effective digital transformation, significant increases in the former two will suggest a good foundation has been laid for the latter to take place. Therefore, while the new survey will only be investigating the early stages of such transformation in the SME space, we hope that we will be able to report that the digital shift in this market has begun.”

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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