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Education needs rethink for digital future

Africa faces a set of potential scenarios brought on by the disruption of digital technologies. But we need a workforce that has the skills and understanding to drive these potentials and bring them to reality, writes SIMON CARPENTER, Chief Technology Advisor at SAP Africa.

Africa faces a set of potential scenarios brought on by the disruption of digital technologies. This in turn provides the continent exponential opportunities for transformation in every aspect of work and life. But we need a workforce that has the skills and understanding of digital technologies to drive these potentials and bring them to reality.

The world of work now faces unprecedented disruption. There is no profession that will be untouched by the advances in machine learning and AI: a recent PwC report on the impact of automation found that 38% of jobs in the US are at risk. As far back as 2012, Dr Thomas Frey has predicted that more than 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030 thanks to technological advances.

The skills imperative

Africa largely missed the Industrial Era; since the continent is immensely rich in mineral wealth and arable land, most countries had little need to industrialise. This has left most African countries underdeveloped and lacking the infrastructure that has made more developed nations so wealthy. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there is optimistic talk about Africa taking a leap forward in its development to not only catch up but surpass some of its Western peers.

But unless we drastically accelerate STEM skills development, Africa will be left trailing in the dust of global progress for decades. New skills such as computational biology, data science, and algorithmic programming will replace huge numbers of middle class occupations. Without a solid grounding in science, technology, maths and engineering, young workers will simply not have the skills needed to survive – and thrive – in tomorrow’s economy. Initiatives such as Africa Code Week, which is this year aiming to teach basic coding skills to half a million youngsters, and the so-called MOOCS (massive open online courses) such as Coursera and OpenSAP will become invaluable to educators as the pace of change outstrips governments’ and education departments’ ability to maintain a relevant and future-looking curriculum.

Rethinking how we prepare our children for the future of work

While technology poses risks, its potential benefits are immense. The same machine learning technology that is making many jobs irrelevant could be deployed to understand how children learn at an individual level, allowing educators to tailor the classroom experience and curriculum to maximise each unique child’s talents.

Teachers need to be equipped with the tools and content that will inspire a new generation of learners to be curious, learn, and apply new technologies to solve problems that are not even known to us yet. Without great teachers, great teaching is impossible. Clever use of gamification, video content, augmented and virtual reality, and social media can transform the learning and teaching process and inspire learners and teachers alike.

As technological progress further accelerates, we will need to continuously learn new skills and update and augment our knowledge. In the 1950s, the half-life of what you learned at university was as much as 30 years. Today, it’s closer to 5. If you want to work for what we now consider to be a normal working life of 40 years, you need to keep learning or face irrelevance.

The new face of work

The inevitable result of this is that a new type of worker will emerge, challenging organisations by forcing them to radically rethink not only their employment policies but their entire business vision. We are already seeing how the hyper-connected millennial workforce is upending long-held beliefs of what constitutes meaningful and worthwhile work.

These Millennials are generally not interested in the accumulation of material goods at all costs. The hallmark of the 80s and roaring 90s was an accelerating consumerism as technology enabled us to provide convenience and luxury at an unprecedented scale. This new generation demands more from companies and governments: matters such as environmental sustainability, social impact, and equitable distribution of wealth take priority over capitalism’s “profit at all costs” approach.

This has given rise to a new type of organisation, one that strives for a purpose that transcends pure profit. It’s no longer enough to show only positive bottom-line results: if your business is harmful, inequitable, discriminatory, or otherwise counter to prevailing ethical behaviour, you will soon find yourself unable to compete with more socially conscious companies that are able to attract the very best in digital talent.

All exponential organisations have a massively transformational purpose that extends beyond pure profit. SAP’s is to help the world run better and improve peoples’ lives. And, like any organisation, our ability to fulfil that purpose rests wholly on the digital workforce we have to invest in today.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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