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AI can double SA growth

AI has the potential to double SA’s growth, specifically in the agriculture, manufacturing and mining sectors is one of the major findings in a recent Accenture white paper.

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As most global markets experience growth, South Africa remains in an economic quagmire. Due to credit rating downgrades, a volatile currency, and lower contributions to GDP from the country’s major economic spinners – the agriculture, manufacturing, and mining sectors – the country is experiencing stubbornly high unemployment and anaemic economic growth. Low skills levels and declining productivity are also eroding the country’s global competitiveness.

While the panacea to these challenges is multifaceted, and requires both public and private sector participation, the appropriate application of modern technologies can be an important part of solving many of these challenges, states a new whitepaper released by Accenture. Thanks to unlimited access to computational power through cloud computing, and growth in big data, new digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are already reshaping the world. Similarly, AI can help South Africa solve many of its challenges in entirely new ways, and across multiple industries. More significantly, the whitepaper’s authors believe that the application of AI technology has the potential to double annual growth rates.

“South African organisations can no longer depend on increases in capital and labour alone to drive economic growth. They need to also embrace and accelerate their adoption of AI to improve operational efficiencies and margins,” comments Dr Caroline Belrose, chief data scientist and MD for Accenture Analytics, part of Accenture Digital. “In South Africa, AI already exists to some degree in many industries, but digital adoption on the whole remains slow. The imperative to transform is, however, urgent if businesses wish to maintain their competitiveness in global digital markets and ensure their sustainability.”

The whitepaper attributes this slow rate of adoption to the fact that many local organisations are currently struggling with legacy technologies, systems, business models and corporate structures, large core workforces and sunk investments in owned infrastructure. Others are just starting their digital journeys, and are coming to terms with the new business models, processes and skills needed to leverage the opportunities in an increasingly digitalised world. “To these organisations, AI may seem a long way off, but it is not. Organisations that leverage AI technologies now and make them a key component of their digital business environment will weave a place for themselves in a new digital society,” continues Belrose.

An important aspect of AI highlighted in the whitepaper is machine learning. AI is able to learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply. Unlike conventional assets such as buildings and machinery, AI in its physical forms, such as robots or intelligent machines, can improve over time, thanks to AI’s self-learning capabilities.

Research presented in the paper shows that businesses that operate in the manufacturing, agriculture, and wholesale and retail and accommodation and food services sectors are poised to benefit most by embedding AI. According to the research findings, the impact of AI on these industries could boost annual gross value added (GVA) growth rates by 1.4, 1.2 and 1.1 percentage points respectively, by 2035. However, to successfully pursue an AI agenda in South Africa, the authors state that policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, an AI-enabled future. “They must understand that AI is not simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, it is a new and discrete factor of production, and a tool that can transform our thinking about how to create growth.”

This, states the whitepaper, can be achieved in three distinct ways: By creating a new virtual workforce that complements and enhances the skills and ability of existing workers and physical capital, in what Accenture calls “intelligent automation”; by augmenting labour and capital to boost productivity through enhanced efficiencies and effectiveness; and through AI’s ability to stimulate innovation as it diffuses through the economy. Accenture believes that AI should be applied in a capital-labour hybrid model, where it is able to replicate work activities at greater scale and speed, often well beyond human capabilities. “The ability of AI to complement and enhance traditional factors of production is where its true potential lies,” adds Belrose.

 However, while the payoffs of an AI-enabled future could be significant, the authors caution policy makers and business leaders against underestimating the challenges that lie ahead in integrating AI into the economic, social and business systems of our country.

“To fully exploit AI’s potential for South Africa, policymakers must be thoroughly prepared to address the intellectual, technological, political, ethical and social challenges that will inevitably arise as AI becomes more embedded in our lives,” states Belrose.

Key to this will be successfully integrating human intelligence with machine intelligence, so that they coexist in a two-way learning relationship. “As the division of labour between man and machine changes, policy makers need to re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.” This will require, among other considerations highlighted in the whitepaper, the AI-enabled identification of talent, the re-skilling and up-skilling of the workforce, the creation of a code of ethics for AI, and a new strategic approach and mindset to the application of these technologies.

“Ultimately, the opportunity that AI presents for South Africa transcends improved efficiencies. It is an opportunity to close gaps and radically improve the productivity of people and assets, spur innovation and increase competitiveness across sectors. However, to realise this potential the time to move forward is now,” says Belrose.

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New iPhone pricing for SA

The iStore has announced that the latest iPhones, the Xs and Xs Max, can now be pre-ordered at www.myistore.co.za , and will be available in stores starting 28 September 2018.

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iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max feature 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch Super Retina displays that offer remarkable brightness and true blacks while showing 60 percent greater dynamic range in HDR photos. iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max have an improved dual camera system that offers breakthrough photo and video features, A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, faster Face ID, wider stereo sound, longer battery life, splash and water resistance,

Pre-orders will be open for cash purchases and on iStore’s revised payment plan in partnership with FNB Credit Card, allowing customers to pay off their iPhone at a reduced interest rate. However, the contract period is 37 months rather than the usual 24 months.
*FNB Credit Card Payment Plan, price per month over 37 months, a 40% trade-in value after 24 months

How to pre-order – Pre-ordering online for either cash or the FNB payment plan gives customers the benefit of reserving their purchase without having to queue and the added convenience of having purchases delivered directly to their door. Pre-orders of iPhone Xs and Xs Max are completed online by visiting www.myistore.co.za.
FREE iCare Plus – Exclusive to iStore, all customers can get its 2-year extended warranty, which includes one Apple Certified screen repair, that normally sells for R1 999, for FREE. To qualify, customers should secure a voucher online now at www.myistore.co.za , and subsequently redeem it when they upgrade their contract or purchase any new iPhone at iStore (iPhone 8 and newer) between now and 31 December 2018. Offer is limited, secure your voucher now.

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Accenture opens Fjord design centre in Johannesburg

Accenture has launched its first design and innovation studio on African soil, Fjord Johannesburg.

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The company says the move significantly expands its design capabilities and demonstrates its commitment to unlocking Africa’s innovation potential through the creation of experiences that redefine industries in our constantly evolving digital era.

The new studio, opening in November, will be located at Accenture’s new 3875m² offices in Waterfall. It will be led by Marcel Rossouw, design director and studio lead for Fjord Johannesburg.

Said Rossouw, “Brands are constantly asking, ’how does one take a business need or problem, build that out into a definition of a service experience, and then bring it to market?’ It’s about re-engineering existing service experiences, identifying customer needs, prototyping rapidly, iterating often and proving or disproving assumptions. But it’s also about getting feedback from customers. The combination of these factors helps companies advance towards the ultimate service experience.”

Fjord is the design and innovation consultancy of Accenture Interactive. The Johannesburg location marks its 28th design studio globally, solidifying its position as the world’s leading design powerhouse.

Working in the same location as Accenture Interactive will allow Fjord to fuse its core design strategy DNA with the digital agency’s expertise in marketing, content and commerce to create and deliver the best customer experiences for the world’s leading brands. Accenture Interactive Africa‘s blend of intelligent design and creative use of technology has already been used by some of South Africa’s largest and most prominent brands, including Alexander Forbes, Discovery, MultiChoice and Nedbank. The digital agency has also earned industry accolades for its innovative and compelling business results, most notably two gold awards in the Service Design category at the 2017 and 2018 Loeries awards.

“Great design tells great stories,” says Wayne Hull, managing director of Accenture Digital and Accenture Interactive lead in Africa. “It unifies a brand, drives innovation and makes the brand or service distinctive and hyper-relevant in both the digital and physical worlds. This is critical to achieving results. Having Fjord Johannesburg as part of Accenture Interactive, and collaborating with all of Accenture Africa, will provide unique experiences and forward-thinking capabilities for our clients.”

“Businesses in South Africa are becoming more design-aware and are looking to take greater advantage of design skills to compete with the rest of the world,” said Thomas Müller, head of Europe, Africa and Latin America at Fjord. “We’re excited to open our first design studio on the continent and to be part of an emerging market that is ripe for design and innovation, and open for business. Developing markets like South Africa are challenging assumptions and norms about what digital services and products are meant to be, and we’ll strive to put design at the heart of the innovation being produced there.”

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