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How public sector can make the most of Big Data

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The South African public sector is seeing the value in the analysis of Big Data. With enhanced service delivery in mind, there has never been a better time for it to invest in suitable IT infrastructure, writes GARY DE MENEZES, NetApp Country Manager for Southern Africa.

Now that the dust around the local elections has settled, the spotlight will be on the various municipalities to prove that they are worthy of the public’s votes.  Enhanced service delivery will no doubt be top-of-mind for all South Africans. One of the key approaches that government can adopt to meet their campaign promises is by making the most of the significant volume of data that they have.

There’s no doubt that the amount of data at our disposal is increasing every year. IT departments, including those of the public sector, have to be equipped to handle this volume. While smart cities present a huge opportunity to enhance metropolises, and provide considerable information about their inhabitants, the data they create needs to be properly managed and IT infrastructure must be robust.

This infrastructure needs to be able to integrate existing enterprise storage silos so that all data within the organisation can be processed. In addition, many companies use different storage tiers, such as disk and Flash, and use resources from the cloud. Here, integration is key to make sure all of the different platforms are optimised and working together. Cloud technologies enable the public sector to be citizen-centric, as they lend themselves to customisation, agility and effectiveness. In addition, the cloud enables new services and flexible scaling.

Many municipalities also collect a lot of private data on behalf of their constituents. Certain levels of domestic and international data storage and compliance standards therefore need to be adhered to, as the public sector can become a popular target due to the nature of the data it has. Losing this information would have a severe impact, losing trust and misusing tax money.

There are various levels of risk pertaining to different types of data, which will influence the IT infrastructure solution that public sector organisations should choose with regards to on-premises versus cloud. In any case, as a prudent IT strategist, each CIO requires airtight security and complete control over data, at all times. Organisations are searching for the right blend of availability, security, and efficiency. The answer lies in achieving the perfect balance of on-premises, private cloud, and public services to match IT and business requirements.

One of the suitable solutions for implementing a multi-cloud infrastructure for big data is NetApp’s Data Fabric concept. Organisations can use cloud resources from different vendors, while retaining full control over their data. The use of cloud resources puts IT departments in a position to integrate the most powerful data analysis engines without investing big money in a new on-premises IT infrastructure.

The technologies from NetApp support enterprise-wide data management and create a link between on-premises systems and resources from the public cloud. As a result, organisations achieve high flexibility in the use of their IT resources and can move data and workloads across all resources. This creates the basis for the efficient infrastructure that is necessary for big data projects that build the foundation for open data initiatives and enable smarter cities.

If a suitable IT infrastructure can be implemented to cope with the huge influx of data from smart cities, then it will have the ability to transform the way South Africa’s public sector organisations operate and what they are capable of doing in future.

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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