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The future fast: AI will
rule the 2020s

In the first of a new Gadget series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK previews the most pressing questions to be addressed in the upcoming Dell Technologies Forum

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Four out of five of Dell Technology’s enterprise customers in South Africa have accelerated their journeys to digital transformation over the past few months. Yet, a third of them are concerned that their organisations may not be in existence in the next two years.

These dramatic contrasts in the new world of the enterprise will come under intensive scrutiny at the Dell Technologies Forum coming up on November 25 (click here to register), says Jason Jenkinson South African country marking manager for Dell Technologies in South Africa.

“The consensus is a deep sense of concern in the markets around, around the way things are going, “ he said during the first of a new series of video and podcast interviews, under the title “The Future Fast”, hosted by Gadget in a new YouTube channel.

“That … will be unpacked, as well as to how can you make your transformation within your organisation real? How do you become more relevant?”

Dell Technologies Forum is the company’s flagship event in South Africa, with several thousand delegates attending the physical event last year. This year it goes fully virtual, which has given the local office the unique opportunity of compiling a speaking roster of the company’s top global executives, including founder and CEO Michael Dell.

“Our CTO normally comes over and maybe a couple of other speakers, but this time we have 27 sessions, presented by the best authority on that specific topic in the world,” says Jenkinson. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the local market to get exposure to that kind of thought leadership.”

There will be a fundamental difference in the digital transformation message this year: no one has to be persuaded that it is essential. The next big sell – which will no doubt also become a no-brainer before long – is likely to be artificial intelligence (AI).

The Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index shows just why AI will be such a powerful accelerant. Companies using AI will double their productivity over the next five years.

Clearly, AI will be one of the vital themes of this entire decade, both in driving competitiveness and acting as a foundation for the survival of businesses, in much the same way that the cloud has been in recent years. During the pandemic, cloud computing enabled the vast majority of organisations to continue functioning. The Cloud in Africa 2020 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Dell, Intel, F5 and Digicloud Africa, found that the cloud was the basis of disaster recovery for 91% of enterprises across 8 African countries.

In the same way, AI will be one of the dominant themes of the 2020s, with organisations depending on it for remaining competitive, but also simply for survival.

It must, however, follow in the wake of digital transformation, which for many has been a buzzword of the last few years, but has now been recognised as critical for the future.

Have all companies truly woken up to digital transformation?

“Our customers were actually already there,” says Jenkinson. “This just accelerated that … the big security measures were there, they had the platforms in place, and what they had to do was now shift everyone onto that same platform that they had already set up.

“There was another interesting stat, that 83% of customers surveyed said that they want customised products, and they want them fast. Does that lend itself to this AI angle around how you automate that process? How do you give customers what they want based on data? How do we customise things for our customers in an easier way into something that’s more intuitive?”

Ultimately, Dell’s long-term strategy is not only about transforming business, but also about transforming the planet. A core theme of the upcoming forum is “Make progress real”.

“Our vision for 2030, and this is something I’m very passionate about, is that we want to make sure that 50% of our workforce are women and 40% of our leaders within our workforce are women as well. We are passionate about the environment. By 2030 we want to make sure that our packaging is 100% recycled. But we also want to make sure, by that time, that 50% of the content within that product is also made from recycled material. And we want to transform 1 billion lives within on the planet. It’s quite a big number, and how we plan to do that through education. We’re also looking at how we can help with health care and we can accelerate processes around health care.

The last one is around economic opportunity, how we source our products, how in South Africa we are using local suppliers as far as possible. We try to use small businesses as far as we possibly can. We are trying to create economic opportunities and economic upliftment.”

 Clearly, for digital transformation to have a positive impact on organisations and the people who work in them, it has to go hand in hand with transformation of the planet.

  • Click here to view the full Future Fast discussion between Arthur Goldstuck and Jason Jenkinson.
  • Click here to listen to the full Future Fast discussion on Spotify.
  • Click here to register for Dell Technologies Forum on 25 November.

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