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QR Codes invading – even if you don’t know it

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Those strange little square barcodes now popping up everywhere represent a quiet rebirth of QR Codes, once left for dead, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

A funeral director in Gauteng uses it to help mourners find the right funeral; a shopping mall in Cape Town employs it to help shoppers build wish lists for gifts; and across the country, it’s beginning to appear on business cards.

Its called a QR Code, which stands for Quick Response Code, but most people will know it as a square, barcode-like pattern seen at points of sale or in apps like  BlackBerry Messenger. The latter represented many South Africans’ first exposure to QR Codes, when it became the quickest way to add a friend on BBM.

The upcoming release of the Online Retail in South Africa 2015 study by World Wide Worx will shed light on the take-up of QR Codes, providing the first insight into one of the most mysterious emerging area of ecommerce: the QR Code.

In the past year, QR Codes have quietly gained new life as mobile apps like SnapScan roped it in for payments at small merchants, flea markets and the like.

By the end of 2014, more than 2,1-million South Africans were using QR Codes, even as a debate raged around the question, “Are QR Codes dead?” Of these, 1,1-million were male, with female users only marginally behind, at 1,04-million.

Mobile payment systems are quickly becoming mainstream, and it will be fascinating to see how the more mechanical systems like QR Codes compete. Ideally, there should be room for any system, with each one finding its ideal niche. But there are no certainties in a sector that is moving so fast.

One aspect of QR Codes that is achieving consensus is where it does NOT work. Billboards along a highway probably represent the single most bizarre category of QR Codes. They carry the assumption that motorists will activate a QR Code app on their phones, focus on the billboard and follow the relevant link that is opened, all in the time it takes to drive past the billboard.

Better examples abound. In the USA, Wal-Mart uses it in store to guide shoppers to virtual “pop-up stores” that exist for a specific promotion. In Germany, bus passengers use them to simplify route planning. In the United Kingdom, supermarkets use it to provide additional nutritional information on food – including an edible QR Code used on rice paper.

QR Code usage is strongly age-related, with 673 000 users in the peak age group of 25-34. In contrast, the 15-24 segment amounts to only 471 000, while 494 000 are aged from 35 to 44. A similar amount – 425 000 – makes up the 45-65 age group. Usage drops significantly with retirement age: the 65+ age group comprises 88 000 users.

qr code users

The report is based on primary research by technology market research leaders World Wide Worx, as well as collaboration with Ask Afrika, the leading market research organisation on the continent. Data from Ask Afrika’s Target Group Index (TGI), a research project with a sample of more than 15 000 respondents annually, will provide demographic and behavioural components of the report.

“TGI is a single-source database that provides brand and product consumption trends for South African consumers, coupled with detail around spending and retail shopping habits of South Africans that can be tracked over time,” says Andrea Rademeyer, CEO and founder of Ask Afrika. “It allows us to build benchmarks and currency data which are both reliable and up-to-date.”

World Wide Worx is partnering with Ask Afrika to refine the communications, electronics and technology elements of TGI, in order to produce the most detailed picture yet of the digital habits of South Africans. The TGI research is conducted in two six-month “waves” every year, with a nationally representative sample of more than 7500 respondents in each wave.

The resultant data will be included in World Wide Worx’s annual reports on Internet Access, Online Retail, Social Media and Online Banking in South Africa, among other. World Wide Worx will also collaborate with Ask Africa on a Digital Barometer, to provide a clear understanding of the digital evolution of the South African consumer.

* Online Retail in South Africa 2015 will be released in June 2015.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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