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Budget brings (some) relief to business builders

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Business builders and entrepreneurs can heave a sigh of relief that the Budget Speech for the 2017/8 tax year has not brought with it increases to corporation tax or VAT, but instead brings with it a few measures to boost the growth of the SME Sector.

Under the circumstances, I think the Minister has done a good job of balancing competing priorities, though there are a few measures that government could consider to turbocharge entrepreneurialism and business growth. Here are some of the highlights and what they will mean for the country’s Small & Medium Businesses:

1.     GDP growth – 1.3% for 2017

GDP growth in South Africa has been relatively slow since the financial crisis of 2007/8; Minister Gordhan expects to see it increase from 0.5% last year to 1.3% in 2017. He acknowledged the role of Small & Medium Businesses in driving economic growth, although I think if we were to be truly ambitious we could boost GDP growth even more by nurturing entrepreneurs.

2.    Support for small businesses

Government has earmarked R3.9 billion for small, medium and micro enterprises over the next three years and plans to provide 2,000 companies in this category with support from the Black Business Supplier Development Programme.

Meanwhile, the National Informal Business Upliftment Scheme aims to develop more than 5,000 informal businesses and cooperatives through financial and other support. It is a great idea since it will help these organisations grow from survivalist enterprises to sustainable, growing and competitive companies that could contribute towards employment and tax revenue.

These developments are welcome, though 7,000 companies are a small fraction of the estimated 2,8 million Small & Medium Businesses in South Africa. There are many steps government could take in future years to support this larger community of small companies—for example, an increase in the R1 million threshold for VAT registration is long overdue.

3.    Increased budget for the Small Business Department

It’s also positive to see an above-inflation increase to the Department of Small Business Development’s total Budget allocation up to 2019/20. We think that small businesses are vital and it needs strategic focus from government; this department could play a pivotal role in mentoring small businesses and serving as an interface between small companies and the public sector.

In the meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that the department plans to review the National Small Business Act and develop a National Small Business Amendment Bill. Its aim is to create a more accurate definition of a small, medium and micro-enterprise, which will, in turn, support more appropriate policy and support interventions. This sector is poorly understood in South Africa, so we welcome any effort to come to grips with its needs and its imperative role in the economy.

4.    Streamlining government procurement

Minister Gordhan once again reiterated that suppliers who have met their delivery obligations are entitled to payment within 30 days. Slow payment is a pain-point for small businesses, so this is good news. Government remains committed to using its procurement spend to help small and black businesses to grow—which is a wonderful way to support emerging businesses.

  1. Compliance

An issue that should be top of mind for Small & Medium Businesses as new tax laws and compliance requirements fly at them fast is using technology to automate and streamline their processes. It is especially important as businesses stay ahead of changes to schemes such as the Employment Tax Incentive and the possibility of a payroll levy or tax for the planned National Health Insurance. We believe that by 2020 admin-free businesses will become a reality for our customers by using technologies such as the cloud and artificial intelligence.

Closing words

Our customers in the Small & Medium Business sector are working hard for South Africa’s prosperity. It is pleasing to see that they are getting more attention in the Budget with each year that passes. We believe that entrepreneurs hold the key to a more equal and prosperous South Africa, and that it is important for their voice to be heard as government makes economic policies and regulations.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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