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Autonomous Cars? Try autonomous computers…

By NIRAL PATEL, Managing Director at Oracle South Africa

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Since the mainstream embrace of the Internet globally, the Digital Age has advanced in leaps and bounds; with the emergence of software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing as standout moments of development. South African businesses have been pioneering in their uptake of emerging technologies, with Gartner ranking South Africa fourth globally in terms of countries with the fastest-growing IT spend. 2019 spending is predicted to surge to R32 billion, a 11.4% increase from 2018.

With companies growing comfortable with the need for digital transformation and migration of their operations, the next fundamental shift is already on the horizon: autonomous computing.

1. The difference between “traditional” cloud and autonomous cloud – and the biggest benefits

Greater all-round efficiency, from operations to costs. This is the primary driver behind companies’ escalating uptake of cloud, particularly in terms of migrating core business functions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP). Cloud migration is a smart choice, taking advantage of the vast computing power enabled by data centre processing, combined with algorithms, to make better sense of a company’s information.

Autonomous cloud computing takes business value-add to the next revolutionary level by putting the actual task of database management on autopilot. By utilising the latest advances in computing power, AI and machine learning, autonomous information systems self-tune, self-secure and self-repair as needed without the need for manual intervention. This essentially eliminates downtime and reputation damage due to security lapses and error-plagued maintenance processes that still require a human clicking a mouse.

2. Two to three years is how long you have to make the move to autonomous

Of course, with the vast majority of business decision-makers adopting cloud-first strategies – 77% of South African companies are already using cloud services, according to the MyBroadband 2019 Cloud Survey – the question is how to secure advantage when everyone is enjoying the speed and reliability benefits of cloud services?

On a levelled playing field, autonomous systems provide that differentiator, especially as South Africa lags on the Automation Readiness Index, placing 22 out of 25 countries in terms of preparedness for intelligent automation.

The wholesale shift from cloud to autonomous cloud will not happen overnight. However, autonomous has already seen a lot of traction in financial services and the public sector, and there are currently around 5,000 pilots of Oracle Autonomous Database worldwide. This number is predicted to grow as users take advantage of the Oracle Cloud Free Tier.

3. Autonomous fills the skills gap

Autonomous systems have a special significance for Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that has a problem with digital skills development. Despite the ICT intensity of jobs in South Africa increasing by 26% over the last decade according to the World Economic Forum, there is a digital skills shortage in the country, particularly in areas such as data science and security. With such crucial roles hard to fill locally, companies can struggle to harness the full growth potential enabled by new technologies.

As we enter Generation 2 Cloud, autonomous computing is evolving further, helping to bridge the digital skills gap at the same time. At Oracle OpenWorld this year, the first autonomous operating system, Linux Autonomous, was unveiled. Requiring no supervision to run, the system continuously optimises and patches itself based on parameters, images and diagnostic data, once again sidestepping problems caused by human error. It automatically executes management tasks for Linux systems, such as patch and package management, security and compliance reporting, as well as configuration. As a result, Database Administrators are liberated from mundane daily tasks to focus on the more valuable activity of innovating company processes.

4. Autonomous systems mean more security, not less

Traditionally, business resistance to the cloud has centred on the issue of data security, particularly in relation to accessing public cloud platforms.

The reality, though, is that autonomous cloud databases are extremely secure, even without turning to dedicated infrastructure options. Strong data encryption is a default. And, as already noted, such autonomous information systems are self-securing, automatically implementing new security patches without the need for downtime, and alerting IT staff to suspicious external and internal behaviour. Again back to the topic of skills shortages, globally, Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021. Technology is the only viable way to rectify that shortage, particularly through autonomous information systems.

Autonomous cloud is the only feasible solution for the new business reality of 24/7 requirements. It helps to access value faster through its rapid mining of company data for new insights, in combination with other operational benefits that stem from its stronger data management strategies. Turning to an expert technology partner will start the process.

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AppDate: uKheshe bring banking to the masses

In his apps roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights uKheshe, FNB’s banking app with its will feature, Split Payments, Momentum Safety Alert and Fleetonomy.

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uKheshe micro transaction platform

Financial inclusion took another step forward as local start-up, uKheshe, South Africa’s cheapest and most convenient QR cash card and micro transaction platform, won the 2019 Global Fintech Hackcelerator @ Southern Africa competition. 

“The issue of financial inclusion is a global one and the more we can do to uplift the unbanked and under banked, the healthier their respective economies will become,” says Clayton Hayward, co-founder, uKheshe.

While 1.2 billion people have opened a financial account since 2011, there is still an estimated 1.7 billion adults worldwide (or 31% of adults) who don’t have a basic transaction account.  Globally, two-thirds of adults without an account cite a lack of money as a key reason, which implies that financial services aren’t yet affordable or designed to fit low-income users.

To find out more about uKheshe click here

FNB’s banking app with will feature

First National Bank now lets its customers draw up their own wills via the FNB Online Banking platform at no cost. To date, the bank has seen a significant increase in the number of clients who drafted their own wills online, with over 52 000 clients already accessing the functionality.

Approximately 80% of South Africans don’t have a valid will in place; and many people believe that it’s a need only when they get older, or later in life. 

“Whilst the digital process is simple and easy to use, the solution also helps with a dedicated client support centre should clients need further assistance or advice regarding the drafting of their wills,” says Johan Strydom, Growth Head, FNB Wealth and Investments. “The solution aims to simplify the process and allows customers to easily draft a will online anytime and at any place, at no cost. In addition, FNB will keep your original will in safe custody at no extra cost.”

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Available the FNB app which can be be downloaded here.

Split Payments

PayFast has launched Split Payments, a South African-first that instantly splits a portion of an online payment with a third party. The service is designed to facilitate fast, safe payments for platform-based businesses, including online marketplaces.

For those who run a marketplace that brings together multiple sellers or merchants looking for new sales channels, Split Payments addresses payment headaches with a simple API integration.

Consumers are used to engaging with large global transactional platforms such as AirBnB, Uber, and Amazon. The benefits and extended reach of these types of platforms are catching on locally, and organisations like estate agency groups and even community marketplaces are setting up digital trading platforms.

The app allows businesses to instantly split out commission, membership or listing fees, when a payment is made via one of its supported payment methods.

For each online payment received  the business can determine what the split is, either a fixed amount, a percentage, or a combination of both. Custom recurring payment integration, such as subscriptions payments, can also be split automatically.

Platform: iOS and Android

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Download Split Payments here

Read more about Momentum’s new Safety Alert app and Fleetonomy.

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Why 4G is still a thing

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Even with the 5G era already upon us, investment in 4G/LTE networks is still vitally important for operators in sub-Saharan Africa and must remain a core focus of network construction for the immediate future. This is according to David Chen, Vice-President, Huawei Southern Africa. 

“Currently, the mobile broadband penetration rate in Africa is only 47%, while 4G penetration rate is merely 10%,” Chen said.

“Insufficient coverage causes LTE users to fall back to the 2G or 3G networks, resulting in significant decline in user experience. It also leads to congestion on the 2G and 3G networks and makes it difficult to release spectrum used by 2G and 3G.”

Chen said that LTE and 5G complement each other and are evolving in parallel. In the next few years, 5G will mainly be used in more industrial communications.

LTE will remain the primary choice for global mobile communications through 2025. It will form the basic layer of national networks, especially when it comes to the mobile broadband access.

“It will take a long time for 5G to provide nationwide continuous coverage. Before that, enhanced LTE networks can guarantee optimal user experience for 5G users, including services such as VR, AR, and cloud gaming,” said Chen.

He said that it is important for operators to invest in 4G to secure future growth, as it is estimated that there will be an additional 80 million LTE users in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

Driven by this growth, LTE traffic in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by a factor of 8.8. By 2025, about 80% of all data traffic in the region will be over an LTE network.

LTE will also be the main source of future revenue for operators.

“According to GSMA Intelligence, 2G and 3G users in sub-Saharan Africa will gradually migrate to 4G,” said Chen. “By 2025, the proportion of 2G users will drop from 46% to 12%.”

Part of the reason for the migration to 4G is because the ecosystem is mature.

“The price of feature phones supporting VoLTE in the sub-Saharan Africa market has been as low as $25,” Chen said.

Since 5G equipment is already available, there is an opportunity for operators to build out their 4G networks while ensuring that they can evolve to 5G in future.

Chen offered the following tips to operators to ensure they are ready for 5G:

  • All future equipment installations should be 5G ready, allowing easy upgrades to 5G through software updates.
  • Software should support multi-standard spectrum sharing to improve spectrum efficiency, and to allow the smooth migration of 2G and 3G users.
  • Networks must support 4G and 5G coordination, in terms of spectrum, operation and maintenance. This will ensure that users have a consistent experience as we enter the 5G era.
  • The value of existing ICT infrastructure, such as base station sites, must be maximised to avoid overlapping services and wasted resources. This would mean boosting the capacity and coverage of every station for optimum efficiency.
  • Carriers should explore the business case for all possible 5G innovations when building 4G networks, and not just embrace 5G for its own sake. This will mean building business models around IoT, video, live broadcast, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
  • It is important that operators build partnerships with providers that can support the ongoing spectrum evolution with fast site upgrades and large-capacity solutions. The idea is to maximise the value of 4G networks, and smoothly evolve to 5G without unnecessary infrastructure investment.

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