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SA’s female tech trailblazer
wows Barcelona

At the Cisco Live expo in Barcelona last week, a South African rags-to-riches story highlighted the role of women in tech, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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There is nothing new about women leading major global technology organisations. From Ginni Rometty at IBM to Safra Catz at Oracle, female CEOs are no longer a rarity. In South Africa, women head up the regional offices of multinational tech companies like SAP, Intel, VMware, UiPath and, soon, Microsoft.

However, there is a vast gap when it comes to men and women lower down the ranks. It is nowhere more obvious than at international and local technology conferences and expos, where male delegates outnumber women by between 10 and 20 to one.

It was no different on the show floor at last week’s Cisco Live conference in Barcelona, where the global networking giant unveiled the next generation of technologies that will connect enterprises and their customers. But there was one dramatic difference: many of the key speakers and role players at the event were women.

Karen Walker, Cisco senior vice president and chief marketing officer, and Wendy Mars, Cisco senior vice president for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia, took centre stage. But it was a South African who all but stole the show with her inspiring story.

During the main opening keynote address of the conference, the face of Ntombozuko “Soso” Motloung  flashed up on screen as an example of Cisco transforming people’s lives through technology. With the title of chief solutions engineer, Soso heads up Cisco’s networking academy in South Africa, focused on building a community of instructors who will in turn help train the next generation of aspirant technology workers.

For someone in her early 30s, her achievement is impressive in its own right. But when one discovers her background, it is nothing short of astonishing.

“The village where I grew up, you can’t find on Google maps,” she said in an interview during Cisco Live. “There was no electricity, no running water. It came into the town when I was almost finished with high school. Until then, we had to go to rivers to fetch water. We used fire to boil water and cook everything.

“The house was a shack, with a bit of mud on the inside. You would really be scared of any extreme weather conditions and when it was raining it was wet inside the entire house, so you literally had to find a dry spot to sleep. It was a communal house, everyone slept in one room. You really envied the kids who lived in brick houses.”

For many, these circumstances alone would have been enough to crush ambitions for a better live. For Soso, it was the spur.

“Those conditions were the reason why I pushed myself harder in everything I did. It seemed the only hope of us getting out of those conditions. It was pretty much unconscious: usually people started school at 7; I  started at 5. During my school career, everything I was doing was to the max, with no resources. We didn’t even have TV or radio.

“It was about you pushing yourself to the limit to get to be better, to get the marks that could get you a scholarship. I could tell no one was going to fund my education from home; my parents were unemployed and living off a government grant. You either get mediocre results and stay at home, or get exceptional results and get a scholarship.”

Even then, career prospects seemed limited to the kinds of jobs that were visible to children.

“The only careers we were exposed to were nurses and teachers, which were known as the normal careers, especially for a young girl growing up there.”

Click here to read about how Soso’s life changed by seeking out technology.

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Car buyers to start abandoning fuel-power by 2025

Car buyers in the United States and Europe expect electric vehicles to become a viable alternative to fuel-powered cars in the next five years.

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A new report outlining consumer expectations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and their viability as replacements for traditional fuel-powered cars or internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles suggests a massive shift beginning in 2025.

The conclusion emerges from a report by human behaviour and analytics firm Escalent, entitled The Future of BEV: How to Capture the Hearts and Minds of Consumers. It reveals the intent of many consumers in the United States and Europe to abandon ICE vehicles altogether, citing the improved infrastructure and range of BEVs.

The Future of BEV gives auto and mobility manufacturers a strategic view of the benefits of their products in the eyes of consumers and highlights the areas of opportunity for automakers to push the innovation boundaries of BEVs to spur broad adoption of the technology.

“While most buyers don’t plan to choose BEVs over gasoline-powered cars within the next five years, consumers have told us there is a clear intention to take BEVs seriously in the five years that follow,” says Mark Carpenter, joint managing director of Escalent’s UK office. “However, manufacturers will need to tap into the emotional value of BEVs rather than just the rational and functional aspects to seize on that intent and inspire broader consumer adoption.”

The study demonstrates a significant shift in consumers’ expectations that BEVs will become viable alternatives to—and competitors with—ICE vehicles over the coming decade. Though 70% of Americans plan to buy a gasoline-powered car within the next year, just 37% expect to make that same purchase in five to ten years. Similarly, while 50% of European consumers favour buying vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel in the near-term, that figure drops to just 23% in five to ten years.

At the same time, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic see BEV adoption rising to 36% in Europe and 16% in the US, with respondents also indicating intent to purchase hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars.

Infrastructure clearly continues to be one of the biggest barriers to adoption. While some work is being done in Europe as well as in the US, the data show there is a significant need for some players to take ownership if manufacturers want to move the needle on BEV adoption.

US and European consumers have stark differences in opinion as to which entities they believe are primarily responsible for providing BEV charging stations. American consumers consider carmakers (45%) the primary party responsible, followed by fuel companies, local government/transport authorities, and the national government in fourth. On the other hand, European consumers view the national government (29%) as the primary party responsible for providing BEV infrastructure, followed by carmakers, local government/transport authorities and fuel companies.

For a full copy of the report, visit https://landing.escalent.co/download-the-future-of-bev.

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New cell phone to help with dementia and memory loss

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A new cell phone that takes simplicity to the extreme is designed to address the unique needs of people with dementia and other forms of memory loss. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone, developed by RAZ Mobility, a provider of mobile assistive technology, was launched this week. The handset is also well-suited for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s dementia, with one in ten people over the age of 65 diagnosed with the disease. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase rapidly as the proportion of the population 65 and older increases. The American Psychiatric Association reports that approximately one percent of the population has an intellectual disability.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone consists of one primary screen, and one screen only. It is always on and includes pictures and names of up to six contacts and a button to call 911. That’s it! There are no applications or settings to cause confusion. No notifications or operating system updates. No distractions. Users can simply tap and hold the picture of the person they wish to call.

Caregivers manage the RAZ Memory Cell Phone through a simple online portal. The portal is used to create and edit the contacts, track the location of the phone/user and select certain options, such as the option to restrict incoming calls to people in the user’s contacts, thereby avoiding unwanted calls such as predatory robocalls.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone can now be ordered at https://www.razmobility.com/solutions/memory-cellphone/.

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