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AI: a reality check

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Forrester has put forward a collection of predictions for CIOs working on data and analytics initiatives, warning that the capabilities of new technologies, like AI, require the redesign of operating models.

In  2017, Forrester’s predictions for data and analytics indicated that AI was going to be the spark that ignited the insights revolution. Surveys showed that firms investing in AI rose from 40% in 2016 to 51% in 2017. However, 55% of firms have not yet achieved any tangible business outcomes from AI, and 43% say it’s too soon to tell.

In its new report, Prediction 2018: The Honeymoon for AI is Over, Forrester principal analyst serving application development and delivery professionals, Boris Evelson, discusses the disconnect between expectation and reality, writing: “AI is not a plug-and-play proposition. Unless firms plan, deploy, and govern it correctly, new AI tech will provide meagre benefits at best or, at worst, result in unexpected and undesired outcomes. If CIOs and chief data officers (CDOs) are serious about becoming insights driven, 2018 is the year they must realise that simplistic lift-and-shift approaches will only scratch the surface of possibilities that new tech offers.”

AI will shift analytics and business innovation

Investment into analytics capabilities and getting more out of big data continues unabated. Technology decision makers are fueling the perception that AI is the pinnacle of analytics. Evelson points out that the result of this will be that better human-to-machine interactions will influence the pursuit of AI in 2018. Machines will work alongside executives and employees to make decisions, creating better customer experience and engagement. Forrester predictions include:

1. Around 25% of organisations will supplement point-and-click analytics with conversational User Interfaces.

Business intelligence (BI) vendors are recognising the need to simply ask a question and immediately get an answer.  The use of Natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG) for data querying in real time will continue to grow and organisations will add more natural conversations interfaces.

2. AI will be responsible for decision making and real-time instructions at 20% of organisations

In 2018, one in five firms will trust AI to make business decisions and recommendations for both employees and customers. Systems will even suggest what to offer customers, what terms to offer suppliers, and issue instructions to staff. Data-driven decision making will grow considerably over the next year.

3. Unstructured data will become useful

The number of companies with more than 100 terabytes of unstructured data has doubled since 2016. However, only 32% of companies have successfully analysed text data, and even fewer are analysing other unstructured sources. Deep learning will make data analysis more accurate and scalable.

Big Data environments evolve

Many organisations are struggling to show the results of using big data. Evelson believes 2018 will be the year that big data begins to mature.

1. More than 30% of enterprises will pull funding for their data lakes

Forrester says its client enquiries emphasise the disconnect between expensive big data projects and tangible business outcomes. The company says that 2018 will be the year when these projects either demonstrate their benefits, or face the chop.

2. Cloud-first for data analytics

Forrester says we can expect around 50% of companies to shift to a public-cloud-first policy in 2018 for data, big data, and analytics. This is being driven by firms looking to control costs and have more flexibility than their on-premises software can deliver.

Traditional roles re-invented

1. CDOs shift to offense mode

Forrester believes that companies will push Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to move further up the data value chain in order to fast-track innovation.

According to the report, business-focussed CDOs will look to innovate with data, either through analytics embedded in internal business processes or through data-enabled products and services. Moreover, Forrester predicts that in 2018, more than 50% of CDOs will report to the CEO.

The insight market will become more complex

Evelson points out that as the insight market becomes more complex, data and analytics decision makers should re-assess strategies and begin partnering with vendors and other partners.

“Up to 80% of organisations will rely on insights service providers for at least some portion of their capabilities in 2018, driving business for insights service providers, management consultants, and systems integrators,” Evelson writes. “What’s more, academia will become a key insight partner for enterprises.”

In addition to the predictions, the report includes high-level recommendations for business and IT leaders. However, the key takeout is the need for new roles and processes to take full advantage of new technologies, along with an explicit effort to change organisational culture to reap the potential rewards.

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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