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Career disruption is real

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Technology is reinventing how we live our lives, and while it me seem like another trend, MARTIN PIENAAR, COO at Mindworx Consulting, cautions every employer and employee to take note that this is a real thing and it is likely to eliminate 60% of the jobs we know today.

Everyone is talking about disruption and disruptors and how technology is reinventing how we live our lives at home and work. And while it may seem like just another trend or catchy business phrase, I caution every employer and employee to take note: this is a real thing! Exponential technologies are likely to eliminate 60% of the jobs we know today and if you don’t get to grips with what this means for your company and how you work, you’re not guaranteed of work in the future – which is closer than you think.

The next industrial revolution is here

Not for the first time are we experiencing a revolution that is threatening jobs and disrupting industries. Just think agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and even more recently in the technology age, how word processors obliterated the typing pool.

The next industrial revolution is here. People connected in real time by mobile phones and billions of connected sensors, are resulting in a revolution driving efficiency and productivity. Devices are getting cheaper, more powerful and more efficient which is pushing the internet into the industrial world. In this world, capital expenditure is giving way to monthly operating costs, where for example, the low cost of cloud computing allows for the growth of greenfields organisations which means more entrepreneurship and resultant innovation.

Companies need to gallup with technology

In this tech-era, companies should measure themselves on their responsiveness, not just the traditional assets and regulatory frameworks that have secured their success in the past.

Competitors of the future will likely not be the same as the past, and they will be faster, cheaper and do it better than you can. There is not an industry unaffected.

Employees need to reinvent themselves too

It’s highly unlikely that businesses of the future will insource all functions. The business model is likely to be a mix of own and outsourced pieces and “employees” will need skills in managing outsourced relationships.

“On-demand” skills must be mixed with full time teams in order to allow companies to rapidly scale up and down based on innovation cycles, but also to ensure they’re constantly resourced with current and best-of-breed skills. In order to stay competitive, companies will need to ensure that their permanent employees stay current too.

Over 53 million Americans are already participating in the part time, “gig” or “on-demand” economy. We expect this to grow over time.

Websites like Freelancer and Upwork (which is not yet active in South Africa) have allowed employers to find skills more easily. These trends will continue. In fact over the decade ending in 2015, the only net growth in staffing in the US market was in the “gig” economy, primarily Uber drivers.

Reskilling for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence/machine learning, big data, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, robotics and the internet of things will soon be essential. Many of these technologies are coming out of a deceptive phase and becoming disruptive in the unlikeliest of industries. Robots are advising financial services clients, virtual reality is being used to solve pain issues in the medical realm and driverless cars have completed many millions of kilometers in California and Texas.

21st century skills are not about reading, writing and arithmetic

Companies and individuals who want to stay relevant will need to be up to date and competent in many of these technologies. If we carry on providing “broadcast” education rather than training for the attributes required in the 21st century, we are doing our youth, and ourselves, a disservice as they will be incompetent to cope in the workplace.

The qualities of curiosity, initiative, persistence, adaptability, leadership, social and cultural awareness are the basic foundational requirements for success in the new world of work.

And cross-team collaboration, creative thinking and prototyping are going to be the key attributes in a high-speed world.

And when you think that people are also starting to live longer – the current mean lifespan of 67 could well start to reach 100 over the next 2 decades – workers may be forced to work for longer and have to stay up to date with technology changes too.

The good news is that significant opportunities exist to grow skills outside of schools and universities, with massive online open courses (MOOCs) being offered by organisations like MIT, Coursera and iTunesU.

Real proof of a real change

Just in case you’re still not convinced that the disruption trend is here to stay, and will have a significant impact on the world of work, consider the following…

Business messaging service Slack is working on bots that will replace managers’ roles to get updates, follow up on tasks and send information to others. This type of technology will start to erode the roles of middle managers. Expect big improvements in productivity.

Airbnb has bought a blockchain company. The reason is to build a digital reputation system, which makes ratings immutable and could be used on the site to access premium properties, or elsewhere as a form of digital ID (not unlike a credit rating). It’s early days yet, but one gets a sense of how this technology will be used in future.

Many new industries will use people initially, but automate tasks as technology matures. An example is Uber and Lyft investing in self driving cars, Airbnb looking to unlock doors to rented homes using a mobile app (as against a person playing the key giver role), and online concierge services using artificial intelligence to replace humans.

We are living in very exciting times, but they are scary times for those who are not investing in their skills. Short term shedding of jobs is inevitable so standing still it just not an option when it comes to upskilling. But there are lots of new opportunities being created also. Think about how Airbnb and Uber have absorbed excess capacity; imagine when excess human capacity can be economically harnessed, it will create exciting new markets. I hope you’ll be ready.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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