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The future holds many uncertainties when it comes to business. But companies need to embrace these uncertainties, using technology to help them along the way, writes DOUG WOOLLEY, GM, Dell EMC South Africa. 

In the future, when historians look back at our age, I believe they will characterise it for its mix of progress and uncertainty. We are currently undergoing some of the greatest shifts in humanity’s story. From individual rights to new political ideas and ideals, it’s remarkable how every day our world seems less and less like the one we’ve experienced before.

Technology has always been a part of the conversation, but in the past few decades it’s accelerated our world in unbelievable ways. This has added to that uncertainty, but also to the potential and progress, creating a delicate balancing act for IT leaders inside their organisations.

The demands on IT

Technology is supposed to represent stability. Businesses do not like uncertainty, which they typically define as problems. Technology is often the way that problems can be solved or at least eased. Technology is meant to do things better and faster. But when they also introduce change, things can get tense.

You know that these uncertainties hold great potential if you can harness them. You are not alone: the world’s top companies all wrestle with this transition, some more successful than others. It’s a matter of pride that I can say many of the success stories are relying on Dell EMC. But this isn’t a surprise, because the Dell Technologies family is built on the principle that these changes are happening and those who don’t embrace them will be the losers.

Our Chairman and CEO, Michael Dell, draws this insight right back to his childhood, when his father brought home a pocket calculator. The young Michael could scarcely believe what he saw: a small machine that took complex numbers and comfortably delivered simple answers. He thought it was magic and represented an overwhelming opportunity to amplify his skills and creativity.

Today that opportunity is now available to everyone, in particular companies. Business opinions reflect this: CEOs want their companies to be a technology company and business units want to be platforms. Agility is the focus, but the burden falls on technology leaders to find that balance.

Yet what to the business is magic comes down to very real technology. With that comes the need for IoT, cloud, workforce and security strategies. You have to focus on data and its tangible uses for the business. You have to realise your company’s digital future, and it is not a simple task. If it were, we’d not even need to have these conversations.

Striking a balance

Digital Transformation needs IT Transformation. You have a datacentre full of applications and infrastructure, carefully planned and deployed over the past few decades. Updating these into a cloud-native, platform-anchored and data-driven world is not easy. But with the right partners and strategies, your IT transformation can fund your company’s digital transformation.

Dell EMC has been walking this journey for a while and today many companies trust us with their transformation. Ninety percent of the top 20 IaaS providers, seventy percent of the top 100 cloud companies, all of the top 20 automotive retail and insurance companies, and the vast majority of the 100 fastest growing companies in the world use our services, insights and innovations to advance their futures.

Join us at the upcoming Dell EMC Forum event at Sandton Convention Centre on the 27th March 2018 (Register Here) where we will be looking at the challenges and opportunities for IT leaders to get transformation going. Uncertainty is a fact of our age, but uncertainty also translates into potential. Like two people arguing over a glass being half full or empty, we believe the right conversations with the right people can shift a business to see the promise in uncertainty, made possible through technology.

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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