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How comms service providers can fight back

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The competitive landscape for communications service providers is shifting. With barriers to entry collapsing, a new class of digital competitor is leveraging scale to spend far more than traditional providers, says PETER SINCLAIR, MD for Communications, Media and Technology at Accenture.

For example, one of the leading Over The Top (OTT) providers of streaming video spends more than 20 times as much on customer recommendations as the average Pay TV provider, and has roughly five times more resources who describe their roles as primarily dedicated to customer experience and user interface (UI). These digital disruptors have established a new standard of simplicity for the customer experience and a rate of new feature introduction that incumbents in both communications and media are struggling to match.

In seeking to fight back, CSPs have so far found it difficult to convert incumbency into an advantage. Their traditional approaches to revenue growth are no longer sufficient – the commoditised core of their business is not generating adequate returns and their legacy operating as well as technology models are highly siloed, proving to be unscalable. Meanwhile, a “me too” approach to digital initiatives has been insufficient to offset an ongoing, progressive reduction in customer stickiness and loyalty.

The good news for CSPs is that they now can take advantage of the emergence of a new, exciting world of living services, starting with services to the home, that is creating new ecosystem value chains and new potential for profitable revenue growth. “Smart home” technology uptake has been slowly building over the last few years, with early-adopter consumers introducing elements such as connected security, smart thermostats and voice activation systems into their homes.

 

Now, however, such services are simply “aggregated,” rather than truly integrated. In other words, consumers are engaging with each home device and application separately, using one company for broadband/TV, another for connected security, and other providers for other services.

 

Accenture believes this tendency toward aggregation is unlikely to persist. Instead, consumer mass market uptake and ease of use for the smart home will be driven through integration: by bringing together everything consumers need – including traditionally operated delivered services, such as broadband and TV, as well as newer smart home services – via one platform, with fully integrated, highly personalised service.

 

The demand is certainly there: Accenture research found that 80 percent of consumers surveyed want a single provider for all their digital needs. Now, CSPs need to develop platform businesses and ecosystems that deliver everything their customers want together in one integrated offer. If CSPs can create the platform of choice for customers and third-party businesses alike, then the smart home opportunity will prove extremely fruitful.

 

CSPs’ knowledge of consumers offers significant advantages. The data available through the platform about consumer behaviour will enable CSPs to identify potential additional services, and to pass these vital insights onto service partners.

 

If they are to take advantage of the new hypergrowth markets that are available to them, CSPs who need to become platform-based digital service providers will need to:

  • Build exclusive control points on three levels: the devices, data, and the API gateway that enables the partner ecosystem, making possible a full portfolio of digital services.
  • Focus on building reach, versus Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), working across traditional boundaries and providing service subsidies, as needed. This means rethinking the traditional boundaries between “inside” and “outside” the home, and potentially departing from their legacy network footprint.
  • Use this reach, along with evolved platform capabilities, to onboard third-party service providers on an open API platform.
  • Trade reach for authentication to capitalise on their opportunities for monetising B2B data, insight and marketing capabilities.

In all of this, they will need to build their platform capabilities at web scale – global, efficient, and priced to compete – while at the same time, providing customer engagement that is truly differentiated. The offering starts with getting the in-home connectivity experience right, and migrating to the next-generation hub that will enable the smart home to take off. The key to success is for every part of this journey to be built from the customer perspective.

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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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