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Digital can deal with Africa’s legacy problems

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Many businesses are grappling with the challenges posed by digitalisation as fears mount on the impact on jobs and growth. However, this view overlooks the real economic value that a digital industry will bring, writes WILLIAM MZIMBA of Accenture.

However, this myopic view of the future comes with a significant risk as it overlooks the real economic value that digitally driven industry initiatives will bring to growth, development, jobs and society at large. While research has generally been scarce on exactly what this means in rands and cents, the World Economic Forum launched the Digital Transformation Initiative (DTI) in 2015, in collaboration with Accenture, to maximize opportunities for businesses and society stemming from digital technologies.

Since then the DTI has assessed how digitalization in 13 major industries is transforming business and wider society. This work has brought us into direct contact with more than 1,000 executives, policy makers and experts, who have helped uncover some key themes for ensuring the value of digitalization is captured by both business and society.

Thanks to this initiative it is now possible to more adequately determine how these initiatives can make an extremely positive contribution over the next decade if harnessed early enough.

While embracing something new is always hard to do and a desire to stick to your knitting is only natural, key role players in Africa must realise they are on the cusp of a real game changer and by embracing digital change in a strategic fashion they can leapfrog many legacy problems they face.

It certainly won’t happen overnight but the first step is for business, labour and government to understand the potential and to work together on making changes that matter.

Many are too quick to focus on the negatives as a reason for not taking action – for instance, estimates of global job losses due to digitalization range from 2 million to as high as 2 billion by 2030.

Could it be they have never actually been able to quantify the benefits in their sector? If that is so, a white paper by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture, throws considerable light on the potential value for industry due to digital transformation. To date, the research has confirmed that digitalization has immense potential: we estimate it could deliver around $100 trillion in value to business and society over the next decade.

There is therefore little doubt DTI represents an immense opportunity for new value creation and lead in the new, often against a backdrop of a stagnating market, regulatory pressures, or changing consumer preferences.

What is urgently needed, however, is a new framework for public-private dialogue, as we are still at the early stages of discovery about the true benefits of DTI. It is no use paying lip service to these realities and far more discussion and input is required from all stakeholders as this journey unfolds.

Breaking down traditional barriers to entry and expansion will be key and our DTI research across the automotive, consumer, electricity and logistics sectors estimates the value of DTI in the region of $8.4 trillion; and value for society of approximately $12.7 trillion, between 2016 and 2025.

Zoning in on a specific industry of critical importance to Africa – electricity – optimizing the grid to manage real-time supply and demand is worth $191 billion for electricity companies, while the value this could deliver to society is three times as much ($623 billion). This is derived from cost savings for customers (offering an incentive to postpone consumption during peak hours), lower fuel emissions and jobs created.

Nothing could be more important in Africa today than making a difference to broader society. The dialogue I mentioned above needs to take numerous realities into account if the benefits are to be realised. For instance, in many instances, digital initiatives are projected to deliver high value to business and society. This means that no intervention is likely needed to realize those benefits – industry has a clear incentive to act of its own accord. For example, omni-channel retail is likely to deliver such huge benefits to industry (estimated at $1.4 trillion) and to society (from a $5 trillion reduction in costs and productivity improvement, amounting to 300 billion hours saved), that there would appear to be little need for policy/regulatory intervention.

However, in logistics the value to society of shared warehousing is equivalent to approximately 500 times the value to industry. In the automotive industry, the value to society of automotive partners agreeing on usage-based insurance to help reduce road deaths, insurance premiums and crash costs is worth approximately 200 times the value to industry. This is where multi-stakeholder collaboration is needed and, potentially, new incentives required to change the direction of the market.

The bottom line is DTI needs to be used to augment and fast track growth, development and education in Africa, but this will require significant buy-in from all stakeholders. That journey needs to start today.

* William Mzimba, Chief Executive of Accenture South Africa and Chairman of Accenture sub-Saharan Africa

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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