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How digital can save brands from themselves

The rapid pace of digital change is re-writing the rule book and forcing companies to innovate and exceed customer expectations to stay ahead – and afloat, writes HANS ZACHAR, Managing Director of Technology Strategy at Accenture Africa.



Accenture research finds that only 7% of brands are exceeding customer expectations and, even worse, 25% don’t meet customer expectations at all.

Company leaders need to be awake to the fact that customer expectations are outpacing their brand experiences. The ticket to success is improving their understanding of what consumers actually want – and then exceeding them – while simultaneously identifying opportunities to save and grow.

After all customers are increasingly brand and quality conscious and expectations are being forged by their experiences of leading brands across industries. They seek out the latest trends but watch their budget‚ and look out for personalised as well as unique shopping experience. However, many companies are still failing to deliver on these standard expectations. In the Expectations vs. Experience: The Good, The Bad, The Opportunity, survey, Accenture highlights that brands are more pessimistic, with only about 2/3 believing they have technology, processes and organisations in place to deliver. Furthermore, only 1/3 believe their data and analytics are differentiating.

Prioritising the customer mindset is therefore the key to overcoming the hurdles to expansion and retention in the modern marketplace – and then unlocking opportunities to grow.

Essentially, the ability to harness digital acceleration needs to be inculcated in the corporate mindset. A vista of new savings and growth opportunities awaits for those who enter the journey to the Cloud, the intelligent customer and intelligent enterprises.

What I mean by this is that companies need to be able to adapt to a dynamic state of constant flux and this entails embracing digital at a rate that is about double that of their peers. They need to turn data into insights and action and identify and secure more partnerships to become high performers.

These trends are in play across Africa, where large-scale smart phone adoption, a decline in data costs and increase in internet penetration is totally changing the landscape. African businesses have the unique advantage of leapfrogging legacy architecture which can keep them a step ahead. But for this to happen digital acceleration needs to be seen as a friend rather than an enemy.

The reality is digital is driving convergence across a number of industries, enabling new competitors to enter, and forcing companies to redefine how they compete. At the same time, there is added pressure from active investors in various industries who have a higher expectation for profitability. Speed is the new normal and companies need to become more determined to survive this perpetual state of uncertainty by becoming lean and agile enough to focus on aggressive, sustainable growth.

The task may be great and the stakes high, but the path forward is clear: to grow, companies must proactively identify activities that drive value, take out costs that are not contributing to business goals and reinvest those savings into growth.

In this regard, Cloud is not the future. It’s already here, and more businesses are finding that the sooner they adopt cloud technology, the better positioned they will be to compete in an increasingly brisk, aggressive marketplace. Companies that want to achieve the type of agility they need to succeed in today’s business climate, migrate to cloud while embracing a robust ecosystem of cloud solutions. And they’re teaming with Accenture to make the journey a safe, affordable and profitable one.

The next level of operational excellence will emerge from the latest gains in software intelligence. Business and technology leaders must now view software intelligence not as a pilot or a once-off project, but as an across-the-board functionality – one that will drive new levels of evolution and discovery, propelling innovation throughout the enterprise. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the many great examples.

Accenture strives to be Africa’s true digital accelerator and enabler and we are going to do that through innovation that has been tried and tested in the market.

Being a global entity plugged in to the latest innovation has immense benefits too. For instance, innovation by us in Japan can land here the following day. Equally, when we develop something powerful in Africa it can be exported into the mobile marketplace just as quickly.

At the end of the day customers are becoming more intelligent and demanding and technology around those demands does exist – but is not being harnessed quickly enough. We know that the mall of future, for instance, will be on mobile devices and so we need to be helping clients to figure out what to do with a Sandton City, for instance, when a lot less is happening in a mall.

Sometimes decoupling old technology can quickly enable oganisations to begin moving at pace and with scale. We therefore need to go inside that enterprise in Africa to help clients accelerate digitisation and thereby capture what is happening on the outside. Artificial intelligence, for instance, can be harnessed to weed out fraud and improve trust for entities at a time when there is a trust deficit in many markets.

Essentially digital acceleration means you will need to work in a more agile, nimble and smaller world. This is why we are investing more in our people and in innovation itself. That is our differentiator – being at the centre of true innovation to be an enabler of digital acceleration.


Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.



By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals



Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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