Although South Africa’s digital economy makes it a standout among its emerging market peers, the country’s digital adoption has not yet translated into industrial growth, according to a Accenture and Gordon Institute of Business Science whitepaper.
According to the report, South Africa ranks ahead of India, Brazil, and Russia on digital competitiveness based on its strengths in areas such as technology skills, research and development expenditure, access to capital, regulatory frameworks, innovation ecosystems and ICT exports. The country now needs to embrace digital technologies to reinvent how its industrial sector operates and re-ignite economic growth.
The report surveyed senior executives from leading South African companies in manufacturing and production sectors, who formed part of the larger global survey group of 1,000 decision makers spanning over 20 countries. “Our study shows that decision makers are hungry for digital adoption,” says Yusof Seedat, Director at Accenture Research. “This potent mix of digital maturity and executive desire isn’t delivering expected results in terms of economic growth.”
“What is most troubling is the performance of South Africa’s manufacturing sector, where growth has been flat for a decade and negative for three consecutive quarters, falling an average of 3.3% beginning the third quarter of 2016, and expanded marginally (by 1.5%) in Q2 of 2017. This stagnation has both economic and policy implications, given the role of manufacturing in the government’s plans for economic transformation and job creation,” says Seedat.
South African companies also tend to mimic digital strategies of large industrial nations which prevents them from contextualising digital strategies to their own industrial reality and as a result, often fail to customise their offerings to meet rapidly changing customer expectations.
Moving forward, the report shows that for South African companies to generate the improvements that will enable them to leapfrog to digital leadership, companies must reinvent their operating models completely and rethink production and value chains. To succeed, companies need to move to what Accenture calls Industry X.0, which is the full digital reinvention of how companies and industries work by leveraging the combinatorial powers of digital. “Companies must reimagine and rebuild their businesses as smart, connected, living and learning entities to digitally reinvent their industry.” highlights Seedat.
With relative ease, industrial companies in South Africa can now adopt a mix of advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, blockchain, and big data analytics to create hyper-personalized experiences, new levels of efficiency and build new sources of growth. To facilitate this change, the report highlights the following six digital imperatives that need to be addressed by South African companies in order to become Industry X.0 businesses:
- Transform the core. Companies need to build their core engineering and production systems around digital technologies that drive new levels of efficiency. They need to ensure that physical machines and software systems are synchronised to unlock previously-unseen cost efficiencies—thus driving up investment capacity.
- Focus on customer experiences and outcomes. Local companies should invest in creating hyper-personalised experience for customers using multiple “smart” touchpoints. This helps grow core businesses by enhancing customer engagement.
- Innovate business models. Industry X.0 companies ideate and create new business models to drive differentiated value for their clients and new revenue streams for themselves. Such companies inculcate an innovation mindset across the organisation, allowing every employee to contribute ideas towards enhancing customer experience.
- Build a digital-ready workforce. Industry X.0 companies recruit, train, and retain talent with skills for the digital enterprise and encourage collaboration between people and machines. Digital skills are not limited to knowledge of using digital tools or software programs, but also includes intuitive knowhow of how to apply those tools to solve real business problems.
- Build new ecosystems. Companies need to build an ecosystem of suppliers, distributors, start-ups, and customers, which will allow them to scale new business models rapidly. Large industrial companies must assume a collaborative approach to innovation. Despite their size and technological prowess, they must act with empathy and allow creative freedom to smaller ecosystem partners.
- Pivot wisely. Industry X.0 companies are moving into the future, but as they do so, they carefully balance investment and resource allocation between the core business and new businesses to synchronise innovation and growth.
To succeed as digital enterprises, companies must look beyond traditional productivity and efficiency measures, and identify new ones that make the most of the big data and advanced analytics capabilities available to them. In Industry X.0 organisations performance metrics should measure the abilities of digital technology as well as the digital workforce to improve both the top and bottom line.
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.