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$12bn case for SA innovation

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The local economic outlook remains challenging. To stimulate and grow the economy, greater entrepreneurship and a new approach to innovation are needed. Digitalisation offers us that opportunity, writes WILLIAM MZIMBA.  

In South Africa, there are some tough economic challenges ahead. Unemployment remains high and rating agencies believe that a downgrade of the country’s credit ratings to junk status is still possible at the end of the year. Open innovation through ecosystem expansion could help turn the tide. The evolving digital business environment and business models, supported by new digital technologies, make new and deeper forms of collaboration possible – and greater digital collaboration increasingly correlates with better business and economic performance.

Accenture’s Digital Collaboration Index indicates that digital collaboration can deliver an uplift of $1.5 trillion to global economic outputs. In South Africa, it could raise GDP by almost $12 billion, elevating current GDP by 3.1 percent. So how do we achieve this?

As digital blurs boundaries between industry sectors, lowers barriers to entry and creates bridges, new ecosystems of partners from different industry sectors are forming around the customer, offering them not just products but innovative solutions and ‘experiences’. Many of these partnerships are built on a new form of innovation: open innovation.

What is open innovation?

Open innovation goes beyond narrow-focus first stage innovation such as corporate ventures, incubators and accelerators. It is a more open, equitable form of collaboration involving multiple partners who work together to jointly develop new platforms and applications, enhance core offerings or expand into new markets.

This model provides a catalyst, and the momentum for rapid innovation and growth. It helps enterprises harness the power of entrepreneurs and innovators to bring new ideas, technology and talent into their businesses; and helps start-ups leverage the strengths of bigger players to bring solutions to market and scale up faster.

Accenture has taken this very model and implemented it throughout the company to work with top-tier accelerators, start-ups, venture capitalists, universities and the company’s corporate R&D labs to build and bring to market innovative solutions. Through this connected network Accenture Open Innovation has fuelled new opportunities and growth for pioneering clients.

It’s also a model that has an important role to play specifically in South Africa.

Digital technologies, products and services will play a significant role in revenue generation for South African companies, accounting for almost one-third of total revenues in the next three years. Yet South African companies have been slow to exploit the potential of digital to increase collaboration and innovation – the new platform models that characterise digital age business remain rare and the majority of companies still focus on early-stage innovation models.

The journey to open and ecosystem innovation?

In South Africa, a foundation to facilitate digitally based innovation needs to be built and that foundation needs to extend beyond technology. This will require a mindset change and the establishment of an enterprise framework to facilitate what Accenture terms “guided disruption”.

To put the fundamentals in place for open innovation, companies should:

·       Discover: Explore the “art of the possible” and identify potential ecosystem partners, technologies and opportunities that align to clearly defined business goals

·       Build the foundation: foster a culture of open innovation and back it with investment, leadership support, incentives and business tools and programmes that facilitate greater external collaboration.

·       Develop a bridge: collaborate with people and organisations that can act as a gateway to innovation ecosystems. Organisations and businesses who recognise the power of these connection points will prove instrumental partners.

·       Develop and deploy: co-innovation among multiple partners minimises internal investment, allowing for rapid prototyping but the deployment of solutions at scale in a digital ecosystem can be challenging – build the foundation to support this using best practices.

The journey to open innovation will not be easy but, if we get it right, it will enable South African companies to leapfrog the evolutionary stages of innovation to significant advantage. This can bring about an uptick in South Africa’s economic growth and a step change in problem resolution.

* William Mzimba, Chief Executive South and Sub-Saharan Africa at Accenture

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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