With the current drought in South Africa, farmers need to find ways to properly manage their resources. IAN THEUNISSEN of Rectron believes e-agriculture, or the use of technology in the farming industry will help farmers get the results.
Ahmed Ibrahim Wakea Allah is a farmer in Sudan. By taking part in an e-agriculture project, he quadrupled his wheat yield in just one year and went from making a loss of 8000 Sudanese pounds in the 2013/14 season to a profit of 80 000 Sudanese pounds in 2014/15. E-agriculture is an emerging field that sees agricultural services, technology dissemination, information and communication delivered or enhanced through the internet of things (IoT).
Combing farming and ICT yields positive results
Agriculture is strategically important in supporting the livelihoods of the majority of the rural population in Africa and closer to home in South Africa. The growth of e-agriculture has the potential to accelerate agriculture and rural development, promote food security and reduce rural poverty in developing markets.
While farmers and their machinery are still key for the agricultural industry, technology is starting to play a more significant role in uplifting communities. This goes beyond basic computer training to using ICT to improve sustainability, efficiency and profitability of small scale farming. ICT can facilitate relationship building with trusted suppliers of seeds and fertiliser; purchasing aggregation where multiple buyers can result in lower pricing; access to cultivation information and best practices; and an overall reduction in labour costs and wastage.
Ahmed experienced this first-hand when he took part in FieldLook Sudan. The project uses satellite imagery to improve water management and crop husbandry. Satellite images are used to provide information on crop growth, humidity and the nutrient needs of plants. Based on this, along with the current state of the farm, expected weather and the date of last irrigation, specialists send SMS messages to farmers’ phones informing them of the best time to irrigate, when to apply fertiliser and other crop husbandry advice. Ahmed and other farmers participating in the project now irrigate their crops more often, but use less water. They have all seen increases in their crop yields averaging 60%, and their confidence in using ICTs continues to grow.
Beyond this project, the 2015 eLearning Africa Report shows that ICTs are having a significant impact on the productivity and efficiency of the continent’s agriculture. A survey reports that 71% of farmers have used ICTs to improve their farming practices, with 90% saying ICTs are helping to improve food security and sustainability, as well as boost yields and improve income.
The need for partnerships to make it rain
However, an important caveat is that 60% of the same farmers questioned feel they do not have sufficient access to ICTs. The main barriers preventing a greater uptake of e-agriculture include issues around connectivity, bandwidth and electricity supply, as well as the high cost of equipment and services and lack of government support. What is needed is the buy-in and partnering of the public and private sector to scale projects like FieldLook Sudan so that they impact the large proportion of farmers on the continent. In South Africa, the government needs to realise the importance of e-agriculture and the IoT in the agricultural sector and upskill emergent farmers.
Global brands get their hands dirty
Companies like Intel are already on board with various e-agriculture initiatives globally. In India, a joint collaboration between the Grameen Trust and Intel, called Grameen Intel Social Business, is addressing low agricultural output, which impacts poverty and food security. In this initiative, support for e-agricultural programs includes productivity software, technological advice and training, community empowerment, ecosystem structures and building, training of entrepreneurs and capacity building for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
e-Agriculture on home soil
Closer to home, Ronin PFS is providing guidance and precision farming equipment in South Africa – just beginning to fill a gap in the ICT sector.
The Bredasdorp Agri Mega Week also recently showcased just how ICT is being used in the agricultural space. Motorola promoted its IRRInet irrigation syste, which makes use of a typical Motorola communication network for solenoid control. Sustainable food security was also a prominent topic, with e-agriculture touted as a solution to this issue.
Israel and New Zealand’s involvement in modern farming techniques was apparent at the Agri Mega Week, but South Africa and particularly the Western Cape is beginning to understand the significance of IoT in agriculture. The hope is that there will be a lot more local innovation at the next Agri Mega Week.
Cultivating solutions at the heart of the ICT sector
However, e-agriculture does tend to be overlooked as a viable and profitable sector and the result has been the development of in-house solutions as opposed to solutions coming from the ICT distribution sector. Intel is a great examples of the success of providing solutions at the heart of the ICT sector. The sector is, after all, at the centre of solutions like developing better weather mapping thanks to faster computers and more accurate data input; implementing wireless to help curb cable theft; and making use of solar energy and battery storage to circumvent power shortages. These are all building blocks in constructing workable e-agriculture solutions.
In this vein, the Rectron distribution model lends itself to e-agriculture with its green energy solutions, wireless and fixed line communication networking, security surveillance, Intel Next Unit Computing (NUC), the cloud, industrial computing and embedded systems. In addition, premium 3D printing brand in the stable, MakerBot, has the potential to assist in the prototyping and manufacturing of unique and industry-specific parts and tools.
Rectron is certainly evolving, seeing the importance of IoT in paving the way for areas including green energy solutions, industrial computing and of course e-agriculture. Most importantly, new partnerships now include many more market verticals than before, all connected through the common gateway of IoT.
Reaping the rewards
As agriculture makes up a large proportion of Africa’s GDP, boosting agricultural growth and sustainability is a priority – and ICTs have the potential to support agricultural development in poor countries by functioning as innovative solutions to agricultural challenges. Agriculture might be a relatively new area for the ICT sector to think about, but it is an important one. In fact, IoT and e-agriculture is no longer a luxury, but rather tantamount to every farmer’s profitability and existence.
Stop being creepy! An essential guide for digital marketers
Advertising and marketing is becoming increasingly creepy as personalisation strategies lose the plot, writes JOAN OSTERLOH, authorised Forrester Research Partner for South Africa.
Marketers need to be aware of the “creep factor” when deploying strategies of personalisation and individualisation in their marketing efforts, Forrester’s Brendan Witcher, VP and principal analyst serving eBusiness and channel strategy professionals, warned as early as December 2017.
Six months later, Forrester senior analyst Susan Bidel was even more direct in her message: “Marketers, you need to take control of your advertising strategies and adtech stacks now to better address today’s consumers.” She cautioned that those who didn’t, were at a high risk of annoying and creeping out the very customers needed for business growth.
In its latest research, “Marketers Versus Customers: Opposing Forces Erupt” Forrester now finds that even though marketers set out with the best intentions to implement customer-obsessed marketing and customer experience strategies, they still end up alienating and ‘creeping out’ customers, resulting in lost loyalty.
Marketers use personalisation to make their marketing more relevant and to help it stand out, Forrester says in a blog on the study. The irony is that with all the customer data that marketers use to personalise, the one thing they seem to have forgotten to find out from consumers is whether they even want personalised communication at all, the firm writes. Combined with identity resolution and increased automation, companies have created adtech and martech stacks that are creeping people out. We think our phones are listening to us. And then Facebook admits it is doing this. So, what’s gone wrong?
The report by Melissa Parrish, Forrester’s VP and group director serving marketing professionals, highlights that marketers are ignoring their customers’ desire for anonymity, by assuming that they all want personalised experiences. They are foregoing the authenticity of their own brands by “giving lip service to brand values they think resonate with customers.” There’s an overt focus on martech at the expense of human creativity. Lastly, they’re profiling customers on precarious connections and getting it wrong, sometimes with harmful and even traumatic results, she explains.
The solution is to return to true customer-centricity by going back to basics by looking at the following, Parrish writes in the report:
- Remember that customers are different. Here it’s not about customer segments or personas, but rather the extent to which they expect you to know them. Treat customers and prospects differently – e.g. prospects “want value, not a background check”.
- Customers are tired of lookalike ads and direct mail that is poorly personalised, trying to get them to buy things for which they’re not even in the market. Choose your target audience, focus on them, and then let go of the others.
- Programmatic marketing has its upsides and downsides. Avoid the two extremes of advertising at scale across multiple channels on the one hand and limiting advertising to channels where everyone seems to be at once, such as Facebook, on the other. Instead, target your audience with responsible content and choose platforms on which you can reach them online and offline.
- Consider whether you should be using cookie, key-stroke and audience data at all for your brand. Intent-based target marketing through search optimization might be a smarter choice.
- Don’t assume that personalisation will make customer experiences more relevant. Rather interview your customers and test different variations of personalised content to find the right balance between information, recommendations, simplicity and empathy.
- Don’t ignore the 20% who don’t want any personalisation at all – use your customer insights data to identify them, and then meet their expectation of no personalisation.
Parrish offers important recommendations for the winning marketers of the future. Since the success of marketing is measured by the bottom line of revenue generation, truly customer-obsessed marketers need KPIs that are “fine-tuned” to understand what customers value, not what’s valuable to the brand, she writes. What customers want and value should be defined in terms of four dimensions along the axes of functional-experiential, and economic-symbolic. Then, measure the dimensions along the entire customer life cycle, she explains. What this requires is the following:
Firstly, marketing and Customer Experience (CX) teams need to unify and leverage one another’s unique skills to deliver best-in-class customer experiences that drive loyalty, customer retention and growth. Truly customer-obsessed brands will bring CX and marketing together to harness the best that both have to offer.
Secondly, brands need to rebuild trust. As consumers become more privacy-savvy, they will become more selective about the brands with which they are willing to share their data. Marketers need to develop ‘Privacy Personas’ as a new marketing segment to ensure that they deliver experiences their customers are comfortable with.
Thirdly, refocus on creative excellence. In Parrish’s words “new prospecting strategies will center on great creative making an emotional impact and contextual targeting driving relevance.”
Lastly marketers need to find ways to extend customer obsession throughout the enterprise. Employees need to be empowered to deliver on the brand promise, which must align to and be in harmony with CX. The companies that thrive will be those whose CX truly reflects brand values, Parrish concludes.
Sources: “Marketers Versus Customers: Opposing Forces Erupt” 18 Sept 2019. By Melissa Parrish with Sharyn Leaver, Brigitte Majewski, Caroline Robertson, and Stephanie Liu.
Which should you use: PIN or Password?
By CHAD HAMMOND, a digital security expert at NordPass
As users of this digital age, we have many different choices. You can enable or disable web cookies, depending on how much information you want a website to gather about you. You can use encrypted services or unencrypted ones, depending on how much you’re concerned about your privacy and security.
You can also use a PIN (Personal Identification Number) or password to secure your digital devices or online accounts. However, in this particular case, the choice for most of us is not as straightforward as it seems.
The other day I also had the very same discussion among my friends with three different sides of opinion. One side was backing PINs and claiming that they are safer than passwords. Others couldn’t believe that PINs made up of four, six, or eight digits can be more reliable than long and complex passwords. And the third group was claiming that both PIN and password serve the same purpose of identification and are safe to use. All sides had valuable insights, but we couldn’t reach an agreement. Sparked by this discussion, I decided to look deeper into this topic and look for the truth.
When should you use a PIN?
PIN stands for a Personal Information Number and is used the same as a password to prove that you have the right to access your data. A PIN usually consists of a string of four to eight numbers, and it was first introduced in the 1960s together with cash machines (ATMs). The obvious drawback is that a PIN is limited to 0-9 numerical digits. A PIN made up of four numbers offers 10,000 possible combinations. That may seem like an easy nut to crack, but it’s not as straightforward.
PINs are normally used on touchscreen devices and always require manual data entry. An automated brute-force attack may not work as most of the systems that use a PIN also specify maximum attempts count before disabling the device.
For example, if your device limits PIN entry to six attempts, there is a 0.06% chance that someone will be lucky enough to crack the four-digit code. Of course, if your PIN is ‘0000’ or ‘1234,’ the probability of being hacked increases massively.
When should you use a password?
A good password is a combination of numerical digits, upper- and lowercase letters, and various special characters. It could also be a phrase made up of words with the same requirements. Like the PIN, the password concept first appeared in the early 1960s and has been used ever since. A 10-character password has 59,873,693,923,837,900,000 different variations, and most of you are probably thinking you know which of the two is more secure. However, it’s not all about mathematics.
Passwords are used online or for devices like computers, which usually don’t have any limits on failed attempts. That’s why passwords can be compromised with the help of an automated brute-force attack. Of course, not all attacks are practical, as most of them would take years to crack a strong password. Buthacking technologies are evolving fast, making such attacks more sophisticated and successful.
Password vs. PIN: the verdict
Going back to the discussion that I had with my friends, we can safely say that all the opinions were correct in one way or another. The answer to this question depends on where you use your PIN or password.
If you want to unlock your touchscreen device, the safest and easiest way is to use a PIN because of the manual entry and the attempt limit. When it comes to online accounts or computers, passwords are much safer due to the simple math of available combinations.
Also, you can enable multi-factor authentication (2FA) in most online accounts . The 2FA adds another layer of safety, minimizing the risks of automated brute-force attacks. Even if someone manages to get your strong password, they won’t be able to access your account, as the second step of verification will stop them.