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SA must turn tech talk into action

By PRESIDENT NTULI, Managing Director, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise South Africa

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Despite the various economic and structural challenges that South Africa currently faces, there are many market opportunities and reasons to remain optimistic.

An acceleration in cloud services adoption within the local enterprise space and recent investments made by global hyperscalers have served to boost foreign investor confidence, and positions South Africa favourably as an attractive investment destination.

The prevailing circumstances also necessitate that organisations innovate in an effort to survive as they currently face tremendous cost pressures and have to do more with less. As such, many companies are turning to technology to reduce costs, increase revenues and improve operational efficiencies.

In this regard, enterprises are making significant investments in base infrastructure, which lays the foundation for large-scale digital transformation initiatives. In particular, expanding cloud infrastructure and capacity are vital to driving local innovation amid the economic challenges and tough trading conditions.

Improved technological capabilities will also enable South Africa to elevate its international competitiveness, providing the ability to emulate success stories from other developing nations that have successfully harnessed technology to boost their economies.

Singapore, for example, has positioned itself as an innovation hub, and East Asia has emerged as a major global force in manufacturing through digitisation.

South Africa can adopt elements of these successful approaches to drive economic growth within key sectors by embracing innovative technology solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, automation and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The technologies, which characterise the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), can deliver tremendous value to the South African enterprise space, especially from a data perspective.

As such, it has become imperative that digital transformation advances in South Africa from its current conceptual stage to an implementation phase. This will spearhead enterprise innovation and accelerate SMME development.

If the appropriate solutions are implemented by competent and experienced services providers, 4IR technologies can effectively drive growth in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining and business process outsourcing through operations technology. The cumulative effect would allow South Africa to leapfrog other developed economies and gain an early mover advantage.

SA has fostered an agricultural sector that is remarkably productive, however external factors like climate change, unattractiveness of farming to the youth, etc. has put the sector at risk against the backdrop of soaring demand. The global agri sector will be required to feed approximately 9.8 billion people by 2050. As technology becomes more accessible, many farmers are looking to it to help them improve productivity and yields. If science drove the first green revolution, data is driving the new iteration.

IoT technology is helping farmers to precisely monitor soil moisture and effectively water their crops, saving precious time and resources. Sensors also provide detailed topographical data and important variables, such as soil acidity and temperature. This information enables farmers to optimise conditions and boost productivity. IoT systems can also check the health of livestock in real time and ensure that feed is being effectively distributed.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise expects that future opportunities to leverage data and intelligence will emerge around the edge. According to Gartner, it is estimated that 75% of all data will be created outside of the data centre at the network edge due to the explosion of connected things and the adoption of IoT everywhere we live and work, whether it’s in retail, an office building, a factory or in agriculture.

Edge computing allows companies to deploy computing horsepower with lower latency compared to cloud computing, whilst drawing richer insights from the data at source and in real time. With only 6% of the data ever analysed in the cloud, edge computing marks a momentous shift towards decentralised processing, rendering decision-making purposeful and efficient.

To benefit from this trend, companies will need to take advantage of the resultant data. While AI and machine learning (ML) present huge opportunities for enterprises in this regard, deploying enterprise-level AI and ML at scale is challenging, requiring expert partners and solutions.

The other major trend emerging within enterprises is a move to hybrid cloud models – a system of cloud services encompassing public and private, on and off premise that cater to varying requirements and expected business outcomes.

Companies must partner with providers that can deliver across this spectrum to meet enterprise specific demands. These capabilities will enable them to keep pace with the rate of technological innovation and cement their relevance and competitiveness in an increasingly digitised marketplace.

Embracing a hybrid cloud model will also position enterprises favourably to embrace the everything-as-a-service trend. Companies will need to leverage this technology consumption model to realise the cost and operational efficiencies that create nimble and agile organisations that can thrive in the digital era.

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