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AI: Leave no-one behind

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By CATHY SMITH, managing director for SAP Africa

Early September in Cape Town means one thing – and it’s not the rites of spring. It’s something bigger: the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, which will draw 1000-odd business executives, academics, politicians and celebrities from around the world. And with a theme of ‘Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, this edition of WEF could be pivotal to the future of the entire continent.

Right now, we’re seeing significant political and socio-economic change across Africa – and most of it is for the good. At a time when the rest of the world is fragmenting, Africa is embracing multilateralism on an unprecedented scale. The continent’s new free trade bloc of more than 50 countries will open up a market of more than 1.2 billion consumers, give it a unified voice on the global stage, and dramatically boost infra-African trade.

At the same time, the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, and its associated technologies, is transforming every aspect of our lives. Modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) have the potential to foster development on an unprecedented scale.

In Africa, AI’s potential is limitless. It can solve a host of business and societal challenges, from providing better healthcare and basic services to creating more efficient governments, and helping businesses become intelligent enterprises that drive growth and prosperity.

But here’s the burning question facing the WEF delegates later this year: how do we harness these opportunities to drive sustainable economic growth and wellbeing, end poverty, curb inequality, confront discrimination and ensure that millions of Africans are not left behind?

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is a grouping of 36 of the world’s leading economic powers, estimates up to half of all people in their member countries alone will be displaced or affected by the rise of new technology – and those are largely developed, First World economies.

The OECD estimates that 133 million new jobs may emerge in the shake-up between humans and machines by 2022. However, at the same time, 75 million jobs may be displaced. More worryingly, one billion people worldwide lack the necessary digital literacy and skills to participate in the digital economy, and many of these are in Africa. Uneven broadband access means that less than half the world’s population uses the Internet, and globally, 200 million fewer women are online than men.

So how do we empower and support the workers that will be affected? How do we give them the skills they need to survive and thrive? What do we do with the millions of young Africans who have not yet been incorporated into this new order?

We can’t wait for WEF to do something about it. We have to create a level playing field. We must use digital technologies as a great equaliser, and not create a situation where millions of people are unable to participate in a new digitally-driven economy. 

Our challenge is clear: we need to not only empower our businesses with the necessary technology to compete in the global marketplace, but give the people of Africa access to broadband, and the skills they need to create meaningful futures for themselves in a bold new world of technology. We’ve already taken a bold, world-leading collaborative approach to our continent’s economy – it’s time we did the same for our technology.

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Jaguar drives dictionary definition

Jaguar is calling for the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries to update their online definition of the word ‘car’

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Jaguar is spearheading a campaign for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Oxford Dictionaries (OxfordDictionaries.com) to change their official online definitions of the word ‘car’.

The I-PACE, Jaguar’s all-electric performance SUV, is the 2019 World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year. However, strictly speaking, the zero-emission vehicle isn’t defined as a car.

The OED, the principal historical dictionary of the English language, defines a ‘car’ in its online dictionary as: ‘a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use’.

Whereas the current definition of a ‘car’ on Oxford Dictionaries.com, a collection of dictionary websites produced by Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishing house of the University of Oxford, is: ‘A road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.’

To remedy the situation, Jaguar has submitted a formal application to the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com to have the definitions updated to include additional powertrains, including electric vehicles (EV).

David Browne, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, said: “A lot of time and thought is put into the name of any new vehicle or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated. We are therefore inviting the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update its online classification to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) towards more sustainable powertrains.”

The Oxford English Dictionary is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.

Jaguar unveiled the I-PACE, its first all-electric vehicle, last year to deliver sustainable sports car performance, next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) technology and five-seat SUV practicality.

Featuring a state-of-the-art 90kWh lithium-ion battery, two Jaguar-designed motors and a bespoke aluminium structure, the I-PACE is capable of 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and a range of up to 470km (WLTP).

While both the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries review the application, Jaguar is encouraging people to get behind the campaign by asking how the word ‘car’ should be defined. Contact Jaguar on TwitterFacebook and Instagram using #RedefineTheCar with your thoughts.

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How Internet blocks visually impaired

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Picture: Amelie-Benoist / Getty Images

A pervasive “digital divide” inhibits blind people from accessing the Internet, according to a study conducted by Nucleus Research for Deque Systems, an accessibility software company specialising in digital equality. This results in visits to websites being abandoned, further resulting in a missed market opportunity for the websites in question.

The study, which conducted in-depth interviews with 73 U.S. adults who are blind or have severe visual impairments, revealed that two-thirds of the Internet transactions initiated by people with vision impairments end in abandonment because the websites they visit aren’t accessible enough. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they regularly call a site’s customer service to report inaccessibility and have no choice but to visit another, more accessible site to make the transaction.

The Nucleus study also scanned hundreds of websites in the e-commerce, news and information and government categories and found that 70 percent had certain “critical blockers” that rendered them inaccessible to visually impaired users.

“Besides the moral dilemma and legal risk, businesses with inaccessible websites are missing a huge revenue opportunity by ignoring an untapped market,” says Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems. “Among internet retailers specifically, two-thirds of the top ten online retailers had serious accessibility issues, meaning they are leaving $6.9 billion in potential North American e-commerce revenues on the table.”

Web accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities to independently gather information, complete transactions, or communicate on the Internet. Most visually impaired Internet users rely on assistive technologies like screen readers or screen magnifiers to render sites perceivable and operable. However, these assistive technologies require that websites be built with accessibility in mind and optimized to interface with assistive technology, in order to convey information in an accurate and understandable manner.

Critical accessibility blockers can vary across industries. In e-commerce, problems include issues like missing form and button labels (thereby making forms or the “checkout” button invisible without context). Amazon, Best Buy and Target were found to be accessibility leaders in this space. Additionally, the study found:

  • Eight out of ten news sites had significant accessibility issues.
  • Seven out of ten blind persons reported being unable to access information and services through government websites, including Medicare’s site.
  • Fewer than one in three websites have clear contact information or instructions for blind persons to seek help if they encounter accessibility issues, meaning many have low levels of success in reporting and solving these problems.

“A focus on accessibility needs to be a core part of the website design and development process,” continues Kumar. “Considering accessibility as early as the conception phase, and proactively building and testing sites for accessibility as they move towards production, is significantly more effective than remediating it later, helping organizations save significant time and resources while avoiding unnecessary customer grievances.”

To download the report, visit: https://accessibility.deque.com/nucleus-accessibility-research-2019

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