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Two Microsoft data centres go live in South Africa

Microsoft now operates its cloud services in two data centre regions: Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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In a move that it says will drive digital transformation in South Africa, Microsoft yesterday announced that its new enterprise-grade data centres had gone live. They would form part of a multi-million-dollar investment to create economic opportunities for South Africa through an Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP).

At the opening of the data centres, Yousef Khalidi, corporate VP of Azure Networking at Microsoft, announced that Microsoft Azure is now available from Microsoft’s new cloud regions in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“The combination of Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure with the new regions in Africa will increase economic opportunity for organisations in Africa, as well as connect businesses across the globe through improved access to cloud and internet services,” said Khalidi. “In addition, the availability of Microsoft’s cloud services delivered from Africa will mean local companies can securely and reliably move their businesses to the cloud while meeting compliance requirements.” 

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Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, said bringing data centres onto South African soil would advance the fourth industrial revolution.

“Our people cannot be scared because we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution,” she said. “It is a necessary disruption. We will prepare South Africans by making sure we enhance our skills and equip our citizens with the tools to cope in this revolution.”

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With this announcement, Microsoft has become the first global provider to deliver cloud services from data centres on the African continent. The company has announced 54 cloud regions worldwide, which is more than any other global provider.  Amazon Web Services currently has 19 AWS Regions, as it calls them, with Cape Town set to become a new region early next year.

Azure is the first of Microsoft’s intelligent cloud services to be delivered from the new data centres in South Africa. Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity solution, is anticipated to be available by the third quarter of 2019, and Dynamics 365, the next generation of intelligent business applications, anticipated in the fourth quarter.

Newly appointed Microsoft South Africa managing director Lillian Barnard revealed that the Microsoft EEIP has evolved to include investment in technology solutions in agriculture and digital transformation in manufacturing – just two sectors where key government priorities and Microsoft focus areas overlap.  

Microsoft’s EEIP is also funding skills development among South Africa’s young software developers, making them more employable.

“The evolved EEIP demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to digital transformation, skills development and experiential learning, as well as the enablement of innovation and technological advancement in South Africa,” said Barnard. “It economically benefits the country and demonstrates that we are investing in the right initiatives to ensure the inclusion, diversity and success in the digital economy.” 

Barnard said both the evolved EEIP and the new Microsoft datacentres were indicative of how important South Africa was for Microsoft. 

“We are already seeing great examples of how Microsoft’s investment in local innovation is having an impact on many of the partnerships we have with our customers in both the private and public sector. This will accelerate following today’s announcements.”

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TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.

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TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform

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The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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