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Execs get into blockchain

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In the largest study to date among C-Suite executives seeking their perspective on blockchain, one third of almost 3,000 executives surveyed are using or considering blockchain in their business.

In the largest study to date among C-Suite executives seeking their perspective on blockchain, one third of almost 3,000 executives surveyed are using or considering blockchain in their business. According to the new IBM study, eight in ten of those exploring blockchain are investing either in response to financial shifts in their industry or for the opportunity to develop entirely new business models.

The study, part of a series of C-Suite studies, is based on findings from interviews with C-Suite executives across industries on how they intend to operate, generate revenue, and respond to customers, partners, and competitors alike using blockchain.

Conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the global report compares the organisations that are actively experimenting with, piloting or implementing blockchain the Explorers – with those not currently considering blockchain.

Historically, the biggest business risk was a competitor with new and disruptive goods or services. Today, new and non-traditional competitors with completely different business models intend to topple the incumbents. That’s why some surveyed CxOs are counting on blockchain technology to foster a new generation of transactional applications that are designed to establish trust, accountability, and transparency among an ecosystem of partners, to provide them with a competitive advantage.

“With blockchain, everyone is looking at the same thing at the same time. These new trusted transactions will spawn new business models, processes and platforms where all ecosystem participants can be connected to create new value,” said Brigid McDermott, IBM Vice President for Blockchain Business Development. “Consortia, regulators, and innovators will help create new standards across industries and geographies. Early adopters need to move fast to help shape how these platforms evolve.”

Creating new platform business models is not for the faint of heart as six in ten Explorer CIOs surveyed admit they aren’t yet fully prepared to build blockchain platforms that connect customers and partners across an ecosystem.

Yet, at the same time, some key findings from the study show:

·         Of almost 3,000 cross-industry C-suite executives surveyed, 33 percent are already actively engaged or are considering using blockchain

·         100 percent of Explorers expect blockchain to support their enterprise strategy in some way; 63 percent aim to use it to increase transactional transparency

·         78 percent of Explorers are investing in blockchain either to respond to financial shifts or to develop new business models

·         Of those whose business models are under threat, over half of the Explorers expect to launch an entirely new business model either within their own industry or in that of someone else’s

·         71 percent of those actively using blockchain believe industry consortia are important to advance blockchain efforts

·         78 percent of those actively using blockchain believe customers are important to advance blockchain efforts

CxOs Relying on Blockchain for Business Model Innovation

The biggest strategic advantage of blockchain is enabling business model innovation, which, as one retail CMO from the United Kingdom said, “could replace the centralised business model that most companies follow today.” Every Explorer surveyed expects to use blockchain to support a new enterprise strategy. And as blockchain increases trust and transparency across value chains, organisations and individuals will collaborate and compete in ways that can’t yet be foreseen. For example, as evident in the IBV’s prior “Healthcare rallies for blockchains: Keeping patients at the centre” study, healthcare is setting a fast pace for blockchain adoption in 2017. If every vital sign or piece of wearable health data could be stored on the blockchain, the quality and coordination of care would be expected to rise and costs to fall, causing a potential shift to a patient-centric healthcare and personalised patient services.

Opening the Door to Collaboration

Since blockchain creates new ways of working, they are also springboards capable of launching organisations in new directions. Though eight in ten Explorers admit they aren’t accustomed to collaborating, even selectively, with their competitors, sixty-six percent are experimenting with or implementing a new platform-based business model. By linking people, resources, and organisations in an interactive ecosystem, businesses can create entirely new forms of value. For example, organisations could support micro-payments and skip the fees imposed by intermediaries or put different types of media into the direct control of their creators, which could solve the challenges associated with global licensing and royalty payments.

IBM is working with Everledger on a new service built on a blockchain, which has adopted an ecosystem approach. Everledger can trace an individual diamond across the supply chain, from rough stones certified conflict-free to the same diamond as it’s cut, polished and sold. Partners on Everledger’s blockchain include insurers, financial institutions and diamond certification houses. Through Everledger’s application programming interfaces (APIs), each partner can access and supply data that helps track a diamond over its lifetime. Police reports, insurance policy information and other sensitive information can be kept private and permissioned.

The business model that CEO and founder of Everledger Leanne Kemp envisions would allow all participants to reduce risk, in addition to establishing new revenue models and financial services. Banks could better finance the diamond supply chain; insurers could choose to cover the lifetime of a diamond, rather than its current owner. “We are not a disruptor,” says Kemp. “We are co-evolving the industry.” Everledger, she points out, demonstrates the “power of what happens when consortia come together.” To date, more than a million diamonds are being traced on Everledger, with a beta project for provenance tracking in the fine wine industry launched in November 2016.

Today’s news is supported by the expansion of the IBM blockchain ecosystem, with new services to help industry leaders quickly develop and deploy blockchain solutions for their business.

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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