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In data-driven business, people are now miners

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As a goldsmith can double the value of gold, so can skilled people turn data into insights or business models, says NIRAL PATEL, MD of Oracle South Africa.

Data, as a raw material with a recognised value, is often likened to gold.  Just as prospectors once crossed continents in search of gold, many companies today spare no expense in collecting as much data as possible to inform their decision-making. Like gold, data also has a market value even in an uncertain economy and just as gold must be mined and processed in order to be crafted into items of even greater value, so data must be collected, collated and analysed in order to present businesses with valuable insights from their ‘digital gold’.

At every stage of that process, people are crucial. Much is made of the volumes of data being created and churned by machines with huge processing power, but without people the value of data cannot be unlocked. As a goldsmith can double or treble the value of gold by turning it into a ring, so skilled people can turn data into insights, applications or whole business models with incredible value. To succeed in a data-driven economy, businesses need the visionaries who can imagine and explore the value that exists within their data. They need the inspirational thinkers who can plan a path to unlocking that value and they need the technical minds and problem solvers who can harness the full power of technology such as cloud to connect data and mine it for insights.

Any business planning to unlock the value of its data must not underestimate the role people play alongside data and machines. Every business needs to find the right balance of each; a ‘golden ratio’ where the right people are working with the right data, with the right tools at their disposal to deliver maximum value.

Consider the many businesses sitting on huge stockpiles of information from a growing number of sources. There have been a stream of predictions around how the Internet of Things (IoT) will change the way companies work, for example. But apart from a few major players, most industrial organizations use a fraction of their IoT data. Most are still only scratching the surface of what’s possible when it comes to analysing that information.

So what is holding companies back? They certainly have enough data and the technology exists to collect and analyse it. It is often the right people who are missing. People are at the centre of planning and decision-making and for all the advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, only people can ensure the business is working with the right data, asking the right questions of its analytics, and most crucially applying those learnings in the right way to address human needs and problems. In many instances, there are not enough people asking the right questions of their data, or using it in the right ways. Some businesses may think more machines and more data are the answer, but it is about striking a balance and that means having the right people.

There is undoubtedly a digital gold rush happening right now and it will favour those businesses with the right people in place; people who know where to look, how to mine their data and how to turn it into something far more valuable than the sum of its parts. People will be the gold miners and goldsmiths of the data-driven businesses of tomorrow.

* This is the first in a series of three blog posts

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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