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Africa poised for the ‘digitisation of everything’



By Vukani Mngxati, Chief Executive Officer for Accenture Africa

The ‘digitisation of everything’ trend is evolving at pace and Africa cannot afford to play catch-up. Digital disruption now affects every business, which means pressure is mounting to digitally transform operations if companies hope to remain competitive and relevant.

To do so requires keeping step with the relentless pace of innovation, while rivalling emerging digital native businesses and meeting shifting customer expectations and demands.

I believe that Africa is uniquely poised amid this shifting paradigm as it is largely unconstrained by the challenges posed by overhauling legacy systems. This creates opportunities for businesses on the continent to leverage emerging and maturing digital technologies to truly revolutionise and disrupt the status quo.

Due to the prevailing socio-economic landscape, it is unsurprising to see the ingenuity that has arisen from our proud continent. While these pockets of innovation have helped African nations make significant strides, more can be done to create a prosperous future.

By embracing and tilting toward the future through digital transformation, a unique opportunity exists for African nations to leapfrog other industrialised countries and play a leading role in the modern digital economy.

Those organisations that lag the digital adoption curve will struggle to participate in this digitised future, and with new and nimble disruptive players entering the market, the need to transform at pace has never been more important to corporate Africa.

However, embracing digitisation comes with significant complexities. The challenges most executives currently face include contextualising what digitisation means for their specific business and how they can apply it to meet their unique demands and requirements.

And it is Accenture Africa’s plan to enable this transformation by establishing ourselves as Africa’s digital accelerator and unlocking African abundance for all through the application of digital technologies. We believe that African organisations that embrace and harness digitisation intelligently will improve bottom-lines, while contributing to the economy and creating employment opportunities across the continent.

And as Africa’s most industrialised nation, South Africa is well positioned to drive the digital transformation agenda. Conversations in local boardrooms are already dominated by the need to implement digital capabilities that can boost organisational performance, unlock operational efficiencies and spur new growth.

To meet this demand, Accenture Africa has taken steps to position ourselves at the forefront of discussions around digital transformation. The central tenet of our strategy is applying relevant new technologies for impact in businesses across industries to enable them to “lead in the new”.

Companies need to adopt a new approach to organisational change through a strategy we call ‘a wise pivot’. It involves a series of decisions about how to transform and grow the existing business, and how to continuously and synchronously scale new businesses. A wise pivot also requires the right strategy to ensure the timing, scale and direction of investments are calibrated adequately.

The key to a successful wise pivot is building sufficient investment capacity for change and determining how to release resources within the organisation to enable innovation by design. In this regard, our job is to help legacy businesses pivot their operation decisively and sustainably, while creating synergies between the old and the new to capitalise on opportunities and reimagine new possibilities.

To help companies do so with speed and confidence, we offer an end-to-end solutions set that has been tested time and again both globally and locally. Our capabilities stem from the strength of our transformation acumen.

This is delivered though our corporate leadership, who have a birds-eye view of global industry movements and rapidly evolving innovation and technology trends, and the skills of our digital talent pool, which increasingly comprises individuals from the digitally-savvy Millennial generation. This is coupled with the horse-power of our technology solutions and new capabilities that reside in our leading Accenture Digital customer experience agency and our new local Fjord design studio.

Accenture Africa’s various divisions are already engaging and collaborating with the public and private sectors on projects that will drive social impact on the continent. By leverage technology to solve for big social challenges, such as access to healthcare and housing and the delivery of basic services such as banking, we will change how African citizens work and lives.

Our unique approach will drive the required step-changes and exponential growth needed to transform how companies do business in the digital economy. However, this is a dynamic and continual process and there is no box-drop solution. This is why we also assist clients with change management and constantly engage with them. In this way we build a lasting partnership that is able to unlock long-term value. This will ultimately ensure that Accenture Africa and our South African and African clients are able to compete in the global marketplace, today and into the future.

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AI, IoT, and language of bees can save the world

A groundbreaking project is combining artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to learn the language of bees, and save the planet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



It is early afternoon and hundreds of bees are returning to a hive somewhere near Reading in England. They are no different to millions of bees anywhere else in the world, bringing the nectar of flowers back to their queen.

But the hive to which they bring their tribute is no ordinary apiary.

Look closer, and one spots a network of wires leading into the structure. They connect up to a cluster of sensors, and run into a box beneath the hive carrying the logo of a company called Arnia: a name synonymous with hive monitoring systems for the past decade. The Arnia sensors monitor colony acoustics, brood temperature, humidity, hive weight, bee counts and weather conditions around the apiary.

On the back of the hive, a second box is emblazoned with the logo of BuzzBox. It is a solar-powered, Wi-Fi device that transmits audio, temperature, and humidity signals, includes a theft alarm, and acts as a mini weather station.

In combination, the cluster of instruments provides an instant picture of the health of the bee hive. But that is only the beginning.

What we are looking at is a beehive connected to the Internet of Things: connected devices and sensors that collect data from the environment and send it into the cloud, where it can be analysed and used to monitor that environment or help improve biodiversity, which in turn improves crop and food production.

The hives are integrated into the World Bee Project, a global honey bee monitoring initiative. Its mission is to “inform and implement actions to improve pollinator habitats, create more sustainable ecosystems, and improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods by establishing a globally-coordinated monitoring programme for honeybees and eventually for key pollinator groups”.

The World Bee Project is working with database software leader Oracle to transmit massive volume of data collected from its hives into the Oracle Cloud. Here it is combined with numerous other data sources, from weather patterns to pollen counts across the ecosystem in which the bees collect the nectar they turn into honey. Then, artificial intelligence software – with the assistance of human analysts – is used to interpret the behaviour of the hive, and patterns of flight, and from there assess the ecosystem.

Click here to read more about how the Internet of Things is used to interpret the language of bees.

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Download speeds ramp up in SA



All four South African mobile network operators have improved their average download speed experience by at least 1 Mbps in the past six months.

This is one of the main findings in the latest South Africa Mobile Network Experience report by Opensignal, the mobile analytics company. It has analysed the mobile experience in the country, updating a study last conducted in February 2019. While a quick look at its South Africa awards table suggests not much has changed since the last report, it’s far from stagnating. 

Opensignal reports the following improvements across its measurements:

  • MTN remains the leader in our 4G Availability measurements, with a score of 83.6%. But the other three operators are all now within 2 percentage points of the 80% milestone — with Telkom’s users seeing the biggest increase of over 8 points.
  • All four operators improved their Download Speed Experience scores by at least 1 Mbps. But growth in our Upload Speed Experience scores has stagnated, with only winner Vodacom seeing an incremental increase.
  • MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Video Experience award, and both have increased their scores in the past six months, putting them on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings. Cell C also increased its score to tip over into a Good ranking (55-65).
  • MTN scored over 90% in 4G Availability in two of South Africa’s biggest cities and was just shy of this milestone in the others. Meanwhile, MTN and Vodacom have now passed the 20 Mbps mark in Download Speed Experience in three cities each.

A quick look at the awards table would suggest not much has changed in South Africa since the last report in February. MTN won the 4G Availability award again, Vodacom kept hold of the medals for Upload Speed and Latency Experience, while the two operators tied for Download Speed and Video Experience just as they did six months ago.

But far from stagnating, we’re seeing improvements across most of the measurements. All four of South Africa’s national operators — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — are now closing in on 80% 4G Availability nationally, while at the urban level, MTN has passed the 90% mark in two cities. And in Download Speed Experience, our users on all four operators’ networks saw their scores increase at least 8%.

In this report, Open Signal has analyzed the scores for all four national operators across all their metrics over the 90 days from the start of May 2019, including South Africa’s five biggest cities — Cape Town, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and Tshwane.

MTN has been top of Open Signal’s South African 4G Availability leaderboard for a couple of years now, and the operator remains dominant with a winning score over 4 percentage points ahead of its rivals. But it was users on Telkom’s network who saw the most impressive boost in 4G Availability, as its score jumped by well over 8 percentage points.

This leap has put Telkom into a three-way draw for second place with Cell C and Vodacom, who both saw their scores increase by at least 3 percentage points.

While MTN is the only operator to have passed 80% in national 4G Availability, the other three players are all less than 2 percentage points away from this milestone. Based on the current rate of improvement, Open Signal fully expects to see all four operators pass the 80% mark in its next report — which will provide testament to the rapid maturing of the South African mobile market.

MTN and Vodacom remain neck-and-neck in the Video Experience analysis, with both operators scoring 65 (out of 100). And the two rivals both saw their scores rise by around 3 points since our last report, meaning the two continue to share our Video Experience award. Cell C and Telkom remain in third and fourth place, but both saw larger increases — of 5 and 4 points respectively — to narrow the gap on the leaders.

The increase in MTN and Vodacom’s Video Experience scores means the two operators are on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings in this metric — with the users on their networks enjoying fast loading video times and almost non-existent stalling, even at higher resolutions. By comparison, Cell C’s score earned it a Good rating (55-65), while Telkom remains in Fair (40-55) territory — meaning users watching video on Telkom’s network, in particular, will likely struggle with longer load times and frequent stuttering, even at lower resolutions.

In terms of 4G-only Video Experience, Cell C’s score has increased enough to tip it over into a Very Good rating — now featuring three operators achieving 4G network scores with a Very Good ranking. And as 4G Availability continues to increase, the overall Video Experience scores will continue to climb, making mobile video viewing more of a viable proposition across all networks. And in a country where fixed-line broadband connections are relatively rare and the large majority of South Africans only connect to the internet via cellular, this improvement has the potential to transform people’s lives.

Read more from Open Signal’s report here.

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