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Consumer confidence: digital’s ticking time bomb

Consumers need to know the benefits of new tech, writes LORNA HARDIE, regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware.

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BAs we march headlong into the fourth industrial revolution it is important to reflect that history favours the brave. As much as we would like to believe that new disruptive technologies will change the future as we know it, we must look back at how certain technologies shaped the modern consumer before we can even fathom how new advancements will do the same.

If we take the likes of AI (artificial intelligence), Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) there is still a consumer disconnect in terms of how they will impact their lives versus the palpable excitement that the IT industry feels about their rise. So, what is missing? The key here is education.

The consumer impact

Ultimately as a business you develop and create products and services that will at some stage have an impact on a consumer. Even if you are an industrialist who is building bearings for car manufacturers, your bearings will at some stage of their lifecycle be in a car driven by a consumer. If we take this example and apply it to technology, it is quintessential that as business we understand how the consumer feels about technology disruption, their perception of concepts like AI and blockchain and whether or not they have any idea of the true impact on their lives.

At VMware we recently ran a consumer survey in EMEA, where we turned to consumers to get a better idea of how they feel about this new digital frontier we are in. Accordingly, 46% of respondents said that technology was at the heart of their daily lives, recognising its benefits in a multitude of areas. Further, 53% realise this is driving a better customer experience with businesses, such as banks, retailers and even doctors and 50% of respondents also highlighted that they believe new technology can improve environmental issues such as climate change (50%).

But to every positive there is a negative, and 50% of consumers (taken from representative samples in UK, France and Germany) just don’t understand enough about the use and impact of these disruptive technologies. A whopping 45% of the public believe that AI ‘is a robot’ and fear its rise, in the same way SkyNet rose in the cult classic Terminator.

Consumer confidence

In 1879, a scientist and the president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, Henry Morton, stated publicly that one man’s tinkering was a “conspicuous failure” – the man he was referring to was Thomas Edison and the invention in question was the light bulb. Other inventions like the car, talking in moving pictures and even liquid nail polish were met with the same cynicism.

So if history is anything to go by it is no wonder that if we consider technology in banking alone, only 7% of respondents to the survey would give AI control over their money, even if meant they could save money quicker and 65% are scared or nervous about their bank having access to completely accurate data about their daily lives.

Now factor in the fact that reports locally by PWC and even McKinsey highlight that the South African consumer is one of the most cautious in the world – this means that we as business have a big job on our hands.

Capitalise on change

The onus is on us to transform the way the consumer feels and engages with new technologies and solutions. We need to educate them in terms of the positives, communicate the mechanics of how it works and speak specifically to the benefits.

We know the fabric of innovation is a digital foundation built in the cloud and powered by apps and services that combine new technologies to build life-changing experiences and superior products. But your consumer needs to know what impact these will have on their daily lives, that they can trust these apps and that no – AI is not a robot.

Take a look for example at the new Investec advertisement that speaks to data and its role in changing our lives; but then it also comes back full circle to the fact that the company still sees its consumers as human beings, who they will service face-to-face (if needed) and where they are not just considered a number.

Software has the power to help march the world forward, but there would have been no point in building the car if they did not put a steering wheel in it. The consumer is the first step in the new digital frontier and as much as we build apps, services and products for them – we can’t leave them behind in our excitement – even when building solutions for the digital workforce.

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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