South Africans are finding it harder to make ends meet with the ever increasing costs of petrol, electricity and personal tax. However, the rise of microjobbing platforms like M4JAM (Money 4 Jam) are making it easier for the average person to make some extra cash, writes ANDRE HUGO, Co-Founder of M4JAM.
Thanks to rising electricity rates and fuel prices, not to mention an imminent increase in income tax, making ends meet as a South African has never been harder. Now more than ever, we need to find alternative ways to make it to the end of the month and microjobbing in the digital space is a great opportunity of doing so.
In March this year, South Africans were warned to prepare for an even higher cost of living, with economists forecasting price hikes from April. This followed Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene’s budget speech outlining a one percent increase in personal tax (the first in 20 years), as well as increased fuel levies and sin taxes. We’ve already seen this come to fruition with the recent R1,60 petrol price increase, coming soon after the short-lived joy of the petrol price decline at the end of 2014. Along with these price hikes, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has said that electricity prices are set to rise by an average of 13% for the year from April until the end of March 2016.
These heightened expenses make life difficult for the average South African to make ends meet. In fact, the 12th UASA employment report said that the last time the average person’s disposable income increased faster than his or her gross salary was in 2008. Once expenses such as taxes, UIF, municipal rates, medical aid and other necessities are taken care of, the average adult has less than 17% of his or her gross salary available to spend. And it’s not just the low earners feeling the pinch – roughly 70% of South Africans earning up to R1 million annually are living beyond their means and struggling to make ends meet, according to a study by Old Mutual.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With the rise of the digital economy and microjobbing platforms like M4JAM, the way we define work is evolving and the boundaries between work and play are blurring. This is why the concept of microjobbing is really taking off; allowing people to use the mobile devices that have become so much a part of their lives, to complete small, simple tasks in the course of their daily lives – in exchange for much needed cash when their formal income just doesn’t cut it.
In the short time that M4JAM has been around, it’s been incredibly insightful to discover the ways in which our ‘jobbers’ find creative ways to leverage the platform and get as much return as possible. For some, it really does mean the difference between just scraping by or having some financial peace of mind; for others, it means they can continue to enjoy the finer things in life even when rising living costs make this more difficult.
We’ve recently been involved in a study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute to better understand the digital economy and its societal implications, and some of the Institute’s discussions with our jobbers illustrate just how much of an impact microjobbing can have. With proper planning, it’s possible to make up to R500 per week, working just a couple of hours a day, perhaps on their way to and from a full-time job. We’ve heard stories of jobbers being able to buy half a week’s worth of groceries or paying for petrol with their microjobbing earnings, and others have even been able to afford their medical bills, rent or pay off some of their loans thanks to the series of small tasks they have completed. Some have managed to put some of the money away as savings despite rising living costs, while others have managed to keep enjoying an occasional meal at a restaurant – a luxury when money is tight and each bottle of wine or beer will set you back an extra 15 cents.
M4JAM is not an alternative to having a formal job with a regular salary, but it certainly helps when money is tight – and let’s be real: when is it not, given our ever-increasing expenses? It’s about not accepting the status quo that you can’t make ends meet; there is always a way to make some easy money, even if it’s one job and R20 at a time. Now more than ever, the question becomes a reality: can you afford not to be part of the digital economy?
IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines
Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it
The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.
“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”
Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.
“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”
Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.
“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”
The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.
“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”
The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.
“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”
Oracle leads in clash of
Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews.
The three vendors received the following citations:
- Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search.
- Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
- IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.
The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.
“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group.
“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”