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SA must embrace innovation

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A recent survey has revealed that although we have the resources to innovate, we are not doing so, and if we do not begin to do so the consequences could be dire, writes WILLIAM MZIMBA, Chief Executive of Accenture SA & Chairman of Accenture Africa.

We are living in an era of abundance – we have all the resources required to solve humanity’s biggest challenges. The activating ingredient is the ability to innovate. However, in South Africa, the results of the Accenture’s 2017 Innovation Index show that we have not yet as a nation embraced innovation. If we don’t turn that around rapidly, the consequences will be dire.

South Africa faces key challenges such as poverty, low levels of education and employment, as well as an urgent need for economic growth. We still have more than seven million people in this country that go to bed without food. We have kids today that are not in the education system. We have adults and youth with no opportunity for employment. The status quo cannot prevail. We know that.

We also know that the rest of the world is not going to solve it for us, nor is the government going to do it for us. We have the resources, power, ability and capability to solve this together. But it is going to require new thinking.

Crowdsourcing solutions to global problems

I recently had the privilege of attending Peter Diamandis’ XPRIZE Visioneers Summit 2017 in Los Angeles – it represents some of the greatest crowdsourcing of innovation the world has ever seen – and a few things struck me:

  • We actually don’t have to think about our problems only within the confines of resources we have;
  • We have all the technology we need today to even mine comets; and
  • Through crowdsourcing we have access to the collective resources on this continent, including financial resources – it’s all we need to begin to solve the greatest challenges that we have.

However, we are collectively challenged: we haven’t yet as a nation understood that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in technologies that enable us to change the course of direction of humanity on this continent. If we don’t embrace these technologies and move at a speed, we are once again going to become the forgotten continent.

I believe that if we can collectively unleash the power of our collective genius – apply our resources and mind power, and leverage the available technologies – we can solve many of the challenges we face. This is the reason why year on year, since 2015, Accenture has run the Innovation Conference to ignite the ingenuity that we have within us and see how we can unleash innovation to solve the challenges we have on this continent.

Where are we falling short?

In a world of exponential potential and ability to grow and take giant leap steps, the Accenture Innovation Index shows that South Africa has moved ahead only a miniscule two points in its ability to innovate. We all talk about it, we all believe it’s important, we read the literature, we see what’s happening elsewhere in the world … but we fail to execute.

Our research shows that businesses agree that strategy is important, that there is a need for us to collectively and collaboratively go into an ideation process, that it is important for us to use data-driven innovation and open innovation for us to bring together a lot of ideas. But when it comes to prioritising those ideas and putting a budget behind them to get them to the execution space, we fail.

The biggest unicorns today – Airbnb, Alibaba, Google – are showing the way. These digitally-driven platform businesses have grown substantially in a very short time. Yet, as a nation, we still haven’t embraced the platform economy. We haven’t yet seen the need to disrupt our own businesses and to start operating on the basis of the value that can be derived from platform economics. Using open innovation in a collaborative way seeking to build businesses of scale requires us to adopt the key principles of platform dynamics.

Advantage of the platform

Platform businesses reflect a few fundamental characteristics. Key among them is that they adopt a differentiated value proposition, led by personalisation, analytics, big data, and market responsive pricing. I believe that this is the area of innovation for us.

When we think about the things that we need to innovate around, we should have at the centre of our thinking how we could begin to create platforms, because platforms, through their ability to scale, are going to allow us the opportunity to get to the growth trajectory that we need so desperately. They will also provide the ability to embrace ecosystems.

A great proposition, mass personalisation, responsive pricing, effective cyber protection, scaling their ecosystem and allowing the network effect to come together can, from today, help South African enterprises to start to migrate to a platform world. However, we are far from ready.

Ideas are worth nothing unless you are able to execute

Compared to G20 countries, South Africa ranks low in terms of platform readiness on the Innovation Index. This ranking was determined by the country’s digital user size and savviness, the entrepreneurship in our environment, our preparedness in terms of the technologies that will allow us to innovate, how open innovation is embraced in our environment and how the policy makers and regulators are enabling platform dynamics.

We need to take note. Innovation is fundamental within a platform economy but, to this world, ideas are worth nothing unless you are able to execute. We need to build that capability. How?

Accenture’s Innovation Architecture is built to take ideas to execution rapidly. It combines Research; a Venture component where we co-operate and coordinate a lot of initiatives with fintechs, insuretechs and startups; and our Accenture Labs where we prototype – we get ideas out of the starting block into something that people can see, feel and touch so that they can begin to understand how they can incorporate that into their processes. Once we have that, we can help our clients build it at speed, embed it and scale it.

However, we need to think about innovation in more than the conventional way.

Innovation is not just about invention

Steve Jobs did not invent the concept of a phone; he built a large platform for a something that already existed and perfected it.  He also got into the music business late, but today his $12 billion iTunes platform is the largest of its kind today. What did he see? He wanted to connect music producers with music consumers. He got into the middle.

This is the opportunity for us – to start to think about what exists out there and how we can repurpose it using our collective genius to come up with a market-defining innovation. Our challenges as a country and as a continent are large; incremental innovation is simply not going to get us there.

Alibaba offers another brilliant example. It is not just an ecommerce platform, it’s an infrastructure and a data company. This is its strength and future. It focusses on its big data capability, matching buyers and sellers on its platform and so offering ever more services on its platform. From the foundation of an ecommerce capability, it saw a great opportunity to connect people in the most rural of rural places in China with a huge market. It has the power to move goods from one place to the other – through Ali-pay it reduces friction in the value chain, and through its insurance offering that insures goods in transit it creates a trust equation between the goods producer and the buyer.

The insight? Alibaba has leveraged ‘exponentialising’ technologies in a combinatorial way to become – in just a few years – one of the largest enterprises today. We have the power to unleash the potential in this country in a similar way.

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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