Connect with us

Featured

How using technology makes us more empathetic

New research by Lenovo reveals that tech has the power to make us more understanding, tolerant, charitable, and open-minded.

Published

on

While few would refute that technology makes our lives easier, new global research from Lenovo has found that a large proportion of those surveyed feel that technology has the power to make us more understanding, tolerant, charitable and open-minded.

The survey polled more than 15,000 people from the US, Mexico, Brazil, China, India, Japan, UK, Germany, France and Italy and revealed that nine out of ten respondents (89 percent) think technology plays a large role in their day-to-day lives.

Although we might presume the main ways in which technology impacts our lives is through daily tasks – such as emails, streaming and so on – Lenovo’s research has found that in many cases, technology is actually having a strong impact on our human values.

For example, 38 percent of global respondents believe smart devices such as PCs, tablets, smartphones and VR are making people more open-minded and tolerant. Meanwhile, over a third (35 percent) believe technology is making us more understanding and empathetic.

It is likely that the rise of social media and video sharing platforms are key to this, allowing people to connect with those from other countries and cultures, gaining an insight into their lives through social posts, video and other content. Technology provides us with a window into other people’s lives and 70 percent of respondents believe it is also making us more ‘curious’.

The study also found that a third (32 percent) of people are of the opinion that technology makes us more charitable. This is likely the result of the increased prevalence of charitable fundraising platforms, which allow people to make donations online, as well as enabling people to share charitable endeavors via their social profiles.

Respondents to the survey also believe emerging technologies could have an even more significant impact on our values in the future. Indeed, two-thirds (66 percent) say that VR has the potential to cultivate empathy and understanding, and help people be more emotionally connected with others across the globe by allowing them to see the world through their eyes.

One respondent in the study remarked: “VR would give those who think the world is perfect an insight into other people’s world and make them realize the pain and suffering some people have to endure in their daily lives.”

There are, of course, two sides to every coin, and some respondents do feel that technology can instead divide people. For example, 60 percent of respondents in the survey agreed that tech makes people more judgmental of others, especially through the lens of social media.

The ‘immediate’ nature of the internet also has some side-effects. For example, 43 percent of respondents believe that technology is making us less ‘patient’, while 59 percent said it can make us ‘lazy’ and 49 percent said that it can make us ‘selfish’.

From Lenovo’s global outlook, as technologies are being developed for widespread adoption, they have the opportunity to actively promote qualities like empathy and tolerance, in ways that can be used for good.

Psychologist, Jocelyn Brewer, says: “Technology is often blamed for eroding empathy, the innate ability most humans are born with to identify and understand each other’s emotions and experiences. However, when we harness technological advances for positive purposes, it can help promote richer experiences that develop empathetic concern and leverage people into action on causes that matter to them.

“Developing the ability to imagine and connect with the experiences and perspectives of a broad range of diverse people can help build mental wealth and foster deeper, more meaningful relationships. Technology can be used to supplement our connections, not necessarily serve as the basis of them.”

Dilip Bhatia, Vice President of User and Customer Experience, Lenovo, says: “In many ways society is becoming more polarized as many of us are surrounded by those who share similar views and opinions. This can reinforce both rightly and wrongly held views and lead to living in somewhat of an echo chamber. We believe smarter technology has the power to intelligently transform people’s world view, putting them in the shoes of others and allowing them to experience life through their eyes – leading to a greater understanding of the world and the human experience.”

“This could be through using smart technology to connect people from diverse backgrounds or allowing you to literally see their world in VR. The more open we are to diversity in the world around us, the more empathetic we can be as human beings – and that is a good thing.”

Featured

The shape of the SME future

What does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s SMEs? COLIN TIMMIS, general country manager of Xero SA and a professional accountant, looks into the tech crystal ball

Published

on

Over the past decade, technology has radically changed the way businesses operate. Now, even small businesses have access to powerful tools that were previously expensive or complicated.

The pace of change has been rapid – and it’s unlikely to slow down. Businesses must keep up with technology to stay competitive. According to research conducted by Citrix, 92% of companies across South Africa’s key industries agree that digital adoption directly affects company profits. However, 54% still feel unprepared for the future.

So, what does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s small businesses? How can the other 46% of companies prepare?

5G and WiFi 6 – faster internet speed

In the foreseeable future, we will see a rapid increase in the use of fibre across South Africa. According to Xero’s State of Small Business Report produced with World Wide Worx, 49% of small businesses surveyed used ADSL connections and only 37% used fibre. When asked to describe their internet connections, 45% said they were ‘great’, while 43% said they were ‘okay but not 100% reliable’. 57% of those who said their connection was ‘great’ were fibre users.

South Africa is still playing catch-up in terms of internet connectivity and speed. However, WiFi 6 is set to improve the way routers distribute traffic to connected devices and increase the transfer speeds by around 30%. For when you’re on the go, 5G is the next generation of mobile data standard. It’s already being trialed by South African carrier Rain, and a broader rollout is expected in 2020.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence – more efficient software

Even if you aren’t aware of it, you’re probably already using smart software which leverages machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in your business. While only a tiny proportion of respondents (0.25%) from Xero’s State of Small Business Report say they are using them, most businesses are aware of how important they are.

AI and ML are great at taking large amounts of data and spotting patterns that humans might miss. They help businesses cover some of the more routine tasks so they are freed-up to focus on the most important priorities. For example, tedious tasks like bank reconciliation, can now be completely automated.

Blockchain – safer, more secure transfers

If you hear ‘blockchain’ and think ‘cryptocurrency,’ you’re not alone. However, the technology also has something to offer when it comes to existing payment technologies. Through its complexity and high level of encryption, integration with blockchain can make transferring valuable assets more secure. It can also be used for more effective fraud prevention and other security-focused tasks.

The cloud – access data everywhere

Cloud computing is starting to become a standard part of life for many small businesses in South Africa today. According to Xero’s State of Small Business report, 19% of respondents surveyed make use of cloud technology. Of these respondents, 98% reported a significant increase in profit thanks to adopting this technology – and 99% identified an increase in efficiency.

The trend towards cloud adoption is likely to continue as we see the development of technologies, like faster speed through fibre, WiFi 6, 5G, and machine learning powering it.

Integrated financial software

When it comes to accounting in a small business, these new technologies will enable much smarter ways of working. Take bank reconciliation, for example, where cloud storage and machine learning will search through documents and expenses on your behalf to compile reports.

Eventually, we will be able to access everything we want in one integrated, seamless hub. We can see this development through the use of app integration. Xero has 800+ apps already compatible, which enables small businesses to automate, gain better insight and grow their businesses all through one ecosystem of partners.

Access to capital

Open banking, the process of banks and financial services opening their APIs to the market, will shape how businesses access funding. By sharing their financial data instantly, potential investors have immediate access to a company’s revenue, profits and cashflow – enabling them to make fast, informed decisions.

Platforms like Xero keep all of a company’s financial data up to date. That way, when the company needs to file for a loan their documents are ready to go. Xero is also continuously pursuing new partnerships to help fuel small business growth. Earlier this year Xero partnered with three new alternative lenders, to help improve access to funding.

Digital adoption offers an island of stability in the volatile South African economy. Technology allows businesses to run more efficiently, remain globally integrated, and maximise their profits. Companies which keep up with the latest technology, from incorporating it into their processes to training staff, will have a real advantage over their competitors.

Continue Reading

Featured

Cash is here to stay, and other trends shaping payments

Published

on

As we enter the next decade, local and African merchants should support payment methods that suit their customers, rather than following global trends just for the sake of it. Peter Harvey, MD of payment service provider, DPO SA, looks at five trends we can expect over the next few years.  

  • Cash is here to stay – for now

Despite common perceptions, South Africa still has more than 11 million unbanked individuals and cash remains the preferred payment method for these and many other customers. 

Harvey says: “As we enter 2020, we can expect a host of new digital payment technologies that sound like excellent options – and they may well be for some – but merchants need to carefully monitor their customer behaviour before they rush to try the latest gadget or fad.”

According to Harvey the banks and card companies like Visa and Mastercard will be placing a large focus on enticing consumers to move from cash to card-based payments in the coming years. 

“Overcoming the reliance on cash will take a fair amount of time and effort,” says Harvey. “For merchants trading in a cash-based community, depositing money into a bank that tracks your spending, charges you to store your money, and then charges you again to withdraw it can seem unattractive. At the end of the day consumers will make their decision based on convenience, cost and risk.” 

Card payments are expected to morph over the coming years. In South Africa the tap and pay method is becoming more commonplace. Harvey believes this and other near field communication (NFC) methods of card payments will continue to grow in use as shoppers become more trusting of the technology and retailers see the efficiency benefits of moving customers through their purchase cycle more quickly and easily. 

  • Mobile is still king 

There is no doubt that the means to facilitate most digital payments in Africa will depend on mobile technology. 

According to South African communications regulator, ICASA, South Africa has a smartphone penetration of 80%. In Sub-Saharan Africa meanwhile, the mobile phone penetration is 50% and the GSMA expects smartphone penetration to grow from around 40% to 66% in 2025. 

Harvey says smartphone technology and wearable technology will allow for the growth in some of the newer payment tech, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but these payment methods will remain in the hands of the top LSMs and have little effect on the bottom of the pyramid customer base. 

“For the moment USSD technology will still underpin the majority of mobile payment methods. Until smartphones increase in penetration, payments like m-Pesa will continue to dominate. Customers know and trust the solution and its these types of offerings that will need to be beaten by any new entrant over the next two to three years at least.”

  • New decade, new banks 

Harvey is upbeat about the new digital-only bank offerings like Tyme Bank, Bank Zero and Discovery Bank. 

“It appears that 20Twenty was two decades too soon,” says Harvey. “The local markets are now finally ready for a new digital offering without the fuss and cost of the traditional offering. These banks stand a good chance of making an impact and making headway towards financial inclusion in the country.”

Harvey believes, that in order to boost the number of people using digital payments, the banking institutions, merchants and payment service providers need to start incentivising consumers to make the switch. Loyalty and Rewards will start playing an even bigger role in the near future.

  • New services for the payment ecosystem

Based on demand, Harvey believes forward thinking payment service providers will work closely with their banking partners to focus on providing their mutual merchants with a ‘fully managed service’. This service includes: instant sign-up; a full suite of payment products; risk screening; account reconciliation; anti money laundering checks; access to shopping cart plugins; and a variety of other value-added services in the online digital payment space.  

These services will enable digital retailers to quickly and easily start selling their services online, while protecting them from the associated risks.

The service benefits the banks as well as the broader digital ecosystem, as the payment service provider actively monitors and manages merchants and transactions, removing risk from the process and facilitating ‘good’ transactions.

  • Identity technology takes centre stage

Looking at newer technologies, Harvey believes biometrics will continue to be the key focus.  

Harvey says voice and facial recognition are set to take off in South Africa in 2020 and 2021 and he believes the key driver in this regard is the increasing use by the government. 

“Banks and Home Affairs teaming up for the renewal of ID documents and passports is a major win for the average citizen,” Harvey says. “This falls neatly into the ‘convenience’ motivator and as people use and trust the biometrics used by the banks for this service,  they will become less afraid to try it for payments.”

As technology rapidly improves, the payments ecosystem can expect some exciting advancements over the coming decade. Chat commerce and even augmented and virtual reality developments will almost all come with payment features. However, Harvey cautions against over exuberance. 

Harvey says “Make sure you cater for what your customer actually wants, not what you think they should want. If working closely with African merchants, banks and customers has shown us anything, it’s that the fastest way to drive away business, is to dictate how customers pay. Provide the options and let them choose.”

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 World Wide Worx