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MWC: Alibaba Cloud to launch initiative for women coders

The tech giant has established partnerships to enable 1-million young women coders by 2030.

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Alibaba Cloud, the cloud-computing arm of Alibaba Group, announced the Tech for Change initiative at the Mobile World Congress (MWC). The initiative calls for inspiring ideas and joint efforts from enterprises, start-ups and young entrepreneurs. It aims to tackle global, social and humanitarian challenges in areas such as education, economic development, and the environment through technologies.

Alibaba Cloud, which provides cloud infrastructure to transform businesses digitally, will contribute to the initiative by offering partners with access to its technology expertise, global computing resources and talent development programs including Alibaba Cloud Academy and its artificial intelligence competition platform, Tianchi.

One of the first partnerships of the Tech for Change initiative is aimed at supporting female education across the world. The first collaboration revealed at the MWC is with iamtheCODE, the first African-led global movement to mobilise governments, businesses and the philanthropic foundation on STEAMED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, and Design) education. The partnership will support young women programmers in marginalised communities through free online training and free access to cloud computing resources, with the aim to enable one million woman and girl coders by the year 2030.

Dr Wanli Min, Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist, Alibaba Cloud, said: “Through the Tech for Change initiative, we want to bring together creativity and innovation to tackle critical problems and challenges faced by humanity such as equality in education, healthcare for the underprivileged, sustainable agriculture and wildlife protection. By making technology more accessible and affordable, we can inspire creativity and nurture the next generation of game-changers who will make our world a better place.”

The initiative reflects Alibaba Cloud’s long-held value of empowering the community through technology. Alibaba Cloud has been working with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on their social cause projects over the years, including offering cloud and intelligent technologies to: – ROYBI, a robotics company on early childhood education and; – Curefun, a Chinese AI company that creates virtual patients to train doctors and nurses in rural areas of the country. 

Alibaba Cloud also built a technical philanthropy platform, “Green Code” in 2017 to connect professional IT volunteers with non-profit organisations in China for philanthropy programs. More than 3,000 engineers registered for charity programs from 168 organisations in 2018.

Min said: “As an advocate for applying technologies for the social good, we believe that affordable cloud infrastructure and accessible intelligent technologies have the potential to enable smaller organisations to make huge differences in creating a better world for all humankind. We are calling for everyone to join forces and be part of the Tech for Change global community.”

Under the partnership with iamtheCODE, Alibaba Cloud will provide tailored courses on a range of topics including cloud computing, data analysis, machine learning and security. iamtheCODE will also add Alibaba Cloud on their blended curriculum, as certificates will be awarded to young women students who pass the course to help them along with their career path towards engineering and other practical subjects. 

To date, over 13,000 girls have access to the iamtheCODE Curriculum. In addition, each enrolled student will be offered free access to cloud computing resources during their study.

Mariéme Jamme, Founder of iamtheCODE, said: “Having its foothold in 64 countries, iamtheCODE is delighted to partner with Alibaba Cloud to engage more young women and girls from the most disadvantaged background in the world and use its technology to change their lives. Our blended curriculum will become even more accessible as we add Alibaba Cloud on it. For iamtheCODE, priorities are to use technology to change the lives of young women entrepreneur through tech, to create employability and to equip them with the digital skills of the future. We are truly honoured and excited for the young women as they will have access to the new technological advancements of Alibaba Cloud. This moment is truly historic. Working with Alibaba Cloud will make a great difference in the lives of millions of young women globally.”

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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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