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.
Naspers feeds into Latin America’s tech funding
Movile will get $400m funding from the SA-based technology investment giant for iFood expansion.
Movile is to receive US$500-million in funding for iFood in the largest tech funding in Latin America to date. Naspers and Innova Capital have committed to invest $400m of new capital into Movile to use for further investment in iFood, the leading online food delivery platform in Latin America, of which Movile is a majority shareholder.
Movile and Just Eat have already invested $100m in iFood during 2018. iFood’s extraordinary growth and the vast market opportunity in Brazil and more broadly in Latin America has driven the increased investment commitment.
iFood’s monthly orders in Brazil have fed more than 9 million customers in the past twelve months, 16 times the nearest online competitor, in terms of daily active users. This means its partner restaurants are serving the biggest population of consumers ordering food in Latin America. iFood has 50 000 restaurant partners and uses 120 000 couriers.
The increased investment commitment from Naspers, Innova and Movile is expected to accelerate growth, speed up product development and innovation, and fuel geographical expansion for iFood across the region. The company’s vision is to gain deeper knowledge of consumers through artificial intelligence technology, to personalise the food delivery experience – and at a reduced price, because of improved logistics.
“Movile is very fortunate to have long-term investors who have supported us for the past decade to help achieve our goal of transforming the lives of more than one billion people and thus we are able to continually back iFood to ensure it remains the market leader,” said Fabricio Bloisi, Movile CEO.
“Our entire ecosystem of companies is focused on allocating resources and energy towards our one billion people goal. iFood is leading the way, fueling unprecedented growth through its innovative technology platform, providing consumers, couriers and restaurants with the best experience in food ordering and delivery.”
Larry Illg, CEO of Naspers Ventures, said: “iFood has established itself as a technology leader in Latin America and its success stacks up with some of the most innovative food companies that are leading regions in North America, Europe and Asia. We have been impressed by their execution in Brazil and remain committed to backing the company on its path to transform the entire food chain to better serve consumers.”
Online food delivery is experiencing massive expansion globally. According to latest reported results, Grubhub grew daily average orders 39% year-on-year, reaching over 416 000 orders per day. In Latin America, iFood has reached 390 000 orders per day just in Brazil in the last week of October, compared with 183 000 in October 2017, representing 109% growth.
iFood CEO Carlos Moyses said: “We want our consumers to have an amazing delivery experience from the moment they order their food to the moment it arrives. Our partners – the restaurants and delivery fleet – make that happen by living our purpose of improving people’s lives using our services.
“iFood exists for our customers and, with an increased investment commitment of this size, we will be able to build out our state of the art technology platform, and increase our courier and restaurant partners to even better serve our current and future customers in Latin America.”
Hide your sheep, Spyro is reigniting
Spyro, the iconic purple dragon that entertained living rooms worldwide in the late ‘90s, is making a return with the release of Spyro Reignited Trilogy.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy introduces players to a fully remastered game collection with a re-imagined cast of characters, animations, environments, new lighting and recreated cinematics—all inHD. Now fans can explore more than 100 lush environments filled with new detail, that brings the Dragon Realms and Avalar to life . The trilogy is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro and the family of Xbox One devices from Microsoft, including the Xbox One X.
South African distributors Megarom provided the followjng information:
In Spyro Reignited Trilogy, lead developer Toys For Bob is giving fans an all scaled-up version of the original three Spyro games that started it all, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon, but with a modern-day feel that makes it fresh and fun for today’s player. Adding to the fun, voice actor Tom Kenny is returning to the franchise as the voice of Spyro in all three remastered games. Longtime fans will be treated to Toys For Bob’s reimagined version of the classic soundtracks, in addition to an all-new title-screen theme from original soundtrack composer Stewart Copeland.
Additionally, the new game brings an in-game audio feature that allows players to switch between the original and the newly remastered soundtracks, for those who want a more classic gameplay experience. Players can simply fly in to the “options menu” at any time during gameplay, unleash their preferred nostalgic or scaled-up groove, and glide right back into the Spyro action without losing saved data.
“It’s been a real pleasure to bring back one of most iconic video game characters of all time through the Spyro Reignited Trilogy,” said Paul Yan, Co-Studio Head at Toys For Bob. “We’ve poured everything we’ve got into making sure every detail was done right to deliver a great Spyro experience for fans. We hope players will have as much fun revisiting the Spyro world and characters as we did remastering them.”
In the road up to the official release of Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, created a first-of-its-kind, life-sized, fire-breathing and talking Spyro Dragon drone. The drone took off from “Stone Hill” castle near New York City, spreading his wings across the U.S. to explore the cities and iconic landscapes that resemble levels and themes from the original Spyro games. As part of the tour, the Spyro drone chased sheep, fired up some BBQ and delivered an early copy of Spyro Reignited Trilogy to fellow O.G. and entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg. Highlights from the Spyro drone’s delivery to Snoop Dogg can be found here.
“Fans have been asking Activision to bring Spyro back for some time now. The response to Spyro Reignited Trilogy has been great thus far, and we’re absolutely thrilled that we’re able to continue to reimagine and reinvigorate some of the most iconic videogames and characters of all time with our remastered experiences,” said Steve Young, Chief Revenue Officer at Activision. “With this year being the 20th anniversary of Spyro, there’s no better time to pay homage to everyone’s favorite purple dragon.”
The Spyro community is invited to geek out and elevate their fandom even further through the elite global partnerships from the Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group (ABCPG). Collaborations with Funko, Traly Pins, Exquisite Gaming, KidRobot, USAopoly, Trends International, Rubber Road, and Changes have created new avenues for fans to share their love for the return of Spyro, the original roast master. Spyro consumer products across apparel, collectibles, figurines and more are now available at retailers worldwide. Fans can also take advantage of the GameStop exclusive Spyro TOTAKU Collection.