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The tale of the bionic girl: ‘It takes a family’

In part 3 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s feature on Tilly Lockey, he speaks to her father, Adam, about family life with a bionic daughter

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

This is the third part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey’s life as a cyborg – a word she has used to describe herself – revolves not around high-tech gadgets, but rather is grounded in her own family life.

Her parents and older sister are deeply involved in almost every aspect of her budding career as a speaker, brand ambassador and innovator. She was in South Africa last week with her father Adam, a maths and science teacher, and sister Tia, a typical 16-year-old teenager. Typical, that is, according to Adam.

“She has to have Wi-FI wherever she goes,” he quips. “Tia does a lot of the videography for Tilly, and she also does nature videos. Whenever we go away, Tia wants to go with us. In South Africa, she is so excited about going to the bush, to see the Big Five. 

His wife Sarah usually chaperones Tilly, but he takes over the role during school holidays, and when she is involved in events as an organiser for Meningitis Now. Both parents were actively involved in the campaign to find new hands for Tilly.

“When she lost her hands at 15 months, we weren’t sure we wanted her to wear prosthetics. She was scared of the metal arms with hooks issued by the National Health Service. But it would cost 32,000 pounds for a set of functional hands. 

“We wondered how we would we raise the money. So we started a campaign, and contacted celebrities to ask if they would just do a hand print or cast or picture. The response was great, and we auctioned these off at events. That was the start of a campaign called Give Tilly a Hand.”

The company that eventually produced her electronic hands, Open Bionics, did not exist back then.

“The founder was doing survey of how we felt as parents of a child who needed prosthetics. Little did we know he would come back 5 years later and say I want Tilly to represent our company.”

Open Bionics is not only about lowering the cost of prosthetics by producing them with 3D printers. It also works with entertainment brands to produce themed arms.

Thanks to a royalty-free agreement with Disney, prosthetics can be based on characters from Iron ManFrozen and Star Wars. Not surprisingly, Tilly’s hand is even cooler: it is inspired by the cyberpunk computer game Deus Ex.

“You can see she’s living what she does now. Instead of getting the sympathy of ‘Oh sorry, you lost your hands’, it’s ‘Wow, your hands are so cool’. Anyone who faces the same thing can just get in touch with her on social media and give personal feedback and she will put them in touch with Open Bionics.”

Adam knows better than anyone how much technology is changing, and the impact that these changes could have on Tilly.

“I know as a teacher how much tech has changed in 10 years, just from delivering computer science lessons. When I first did it there was one computer in the whole school; now we are all connected. It shows the exponential growth in tech. I have a Chromebook at school, you open it up and you’re connected straight away.

“If Open Bionics can do this in 5 years, the possibilities for the future are infinite. There is no end to where it will go next. Maybe we will just be connected by thoughts. A lot of people worry about robots taking over the world, but our family has a really positive outlook on technology, because we know technology is the future.”

Tilly came close to death, and her survival changed the family in ways they could not imagine as they refused to give up the fight for her life. She was infected by meningitis meningococcal septicaemia strain B, a bacteria for which there was no vaccine back then.

“Sarah saw it happen. The Meningitis rash comes like rain on a pavement. Luckily, she knew what to do and got her to hospital in time for her to have a fighting chance. That was on 21 January 2007. Exactly a year to the day later we had our third child. We didn’t let this disturb our growth a as a family. 

“A flyer in the hospital said 9 out of 10 kids survive Meningitis. A nurse said she was at the sicker end of the scale, and was likely to be one of the 1 out of 10 who didn’t make it. We didn’t give up. We just carried on fighting. 

“We get asked how sad we are that she lost her hands, but it was just such a relief. Because, instead of potentially having only one child and suffering depression, we had three children and a future. It’s such an inspiring story, and Tilly loves to tell it.

“The whole family works hand in hand. We all help each other. We don’t hide behind her disability. It’s good to be different, because from difference you learn to progress. That’s why we stay so positive.”

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Meet the accountant of the future

The accountant of the future will need a new set of skills, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he meets both the local users and the global creators of Xero accounting software

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Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca get a highrise view of London. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

Meet Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca. They are not only partners in marriage, but also in a thriving accounting business. Buchule and Sivenathi are, respectively, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of SMTAX, which focuses on tax and accounting services for small businesses in the Western Cape, but includes the likes of Absa and Old Mutual among its clients. It employs 18 people and has 4,500 individual and business customers.

That’s not what makes the outfit remarkable. The startling feature of this business is that it has been structured to be a model accounting firm of the next decade. Even more remarkable is the fact that the couple both hail from rural areas where thoughts of the future tend to be about survival rather than blazing new trails.

Last week, they made their first trip out of the country, to attend Xerocon London 2019. This 2-day conference, hosted by the world’s fastest growing accounting software maker, Xero, attracted more than 3,000 delegates from the United Kingdom, Europe Middle East and Africa. A total of 57 Xero partners and users, mostly from accounting practices or suppliers to accountants, made the trek from South Africa.

“It was really about seeing how other accountants on other continents operate in terms of how they think and where their headspace is at,” Buchule told us during Xerocon. “Also, being our first time out of the country, it was to see the culture of other small businesses outside of South Africa. 

“London’s quite different in that regard, but it’s been a really a great learning curve, and we were pleasantly surprised to find elements that look like South Africa, where we can say, at least you’re doing something right. The banking environment is quite unique, as it’s been a really good learning curve in terms of where banking might go to in the future of South Africa if they follow the same trend.”

Buchule comes from the “dusty streets” of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, while Sivenathi grew up on a farm in a deep rural area near Mthatha.

“I had no idea about technology or the rest of the world or how it could impact the economy in general,” she said. The two met at the University of Cape Town, where she was studying to be an actuary, and he completed a Masters degree in tax. She decided to put actuarial science behind her, however, when the opportunity arose to join Buchule’s business. But her skills helped transform the business.

Said Buchule: “When Sivenathi came on board we did the modeling of the business, and we said that in order to in order to automate the whole bookkeeping journey, we would need to turn closer and closer towards ‘x’, meaning fully automated bookkeeping. We looked at the journey of how long it will it take for us to get to time ‘x’. And then we said, OK, once we get there, what then?

“It was a big realization that when we do get to time ‘x’, the most important thing will be the human touch. That will be the differentiator. So we then spent our time developing that.”

Visit the next page to read more about the Xerocon 2019 event.

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Takealot reveals startling numbers for Black Friday

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Takealot has revealed startling numbers for expected bumper sales this holiday season, beginning next week, and peaking with Black Friday.

South Africa’s leading ecommerce group expects to ship at least one order every second, with roughly 10,000 boxes leaving their warehouses every hour, this shopping season. 

Black Friday was first introduced to South Africa by Takealot in 2012, and has since become an important day in South Africa’s annual retail calendar. It has been a record-breaker for both retailers in the Takealot Group: Takealot and Superbalist. Takealot’s Black Friday gross merchandise value (GMV) grew 125% from 2017 to 2018, with orders up 127%. Superbalist’s Black Friday GMV has grown on average around 50%. This year, CEO Kim Reid is anticipating the biggest Black Friday yet, a culmination of months of tech and operational business-wide focus to prepare for increased predicted traffic and shopper volumes.

ABSA bank estimates that two out of three South Africans participated in Black Friday sales in 2018. And FNB reports in 2018, Black Friday transaction volumes grew by 16% compared with 2017 and anticipates a 15% increase in transactions over the sales period in 2019. 

Successfully meeting this massive growth in orders has been a key focus for the Takealot Group. CEO Kim Reid says throughout the year they have been working to scale operations across multiple areas within the business. “After expanding our Johannesburg distribution centre (DC), our warehouse storage space now stands at 75 000m2. We house over 3.7 million items at any given time, and have opened 47 Takealot Pickup Points in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga for order collections and returns, with more to open in the coming months.” 

Takealot Delivery Team delivers to more South African homes than any other courier company in the country. On a monthly basis, they carry out over 1.6-million deliveries,  with this number expected to increase to over 2-million during the shopping season. More than 4,500 drivers currently deliver for the Takealot Delivery Team; a number that is growing every month. The Takealot group anticipates they’ll travel over 4,000 000km from Black Friday until 24 December. “To put that in context, it is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 100 times” says Reid.

Takealot.com’s Blue Dot Sale is a five day sale period which starts on Black Friday (29 November) and sees a range of new deals throughout the weekend as well as on Cyber Monday (2 December) and Takealot Tuesday (3 December), with up to 60% off thousands of items. For the first time, takealot.com will also be giving their shoppers early access to some of its Black Friday deals, starting on 24 November. Fresh new app-only deals will be added daily. 

The Superbalist Showdown will run from 29 November to 3 December, with up to 70% off more than 15 000+ items. Superbalist shoppers will also have early access to Black Friday deals on selected days throughout November, with Superbalist’s Black Friday Spoilers – 24 hours to shop deals that they say won’t be beaten on Black Friday. 

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