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SA SMEs upbeat – but still rely on basic systems

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A new report reveals that South Africa’s small business
owners are optimistic about the future. However, a high proportion
still use spreadsheets to run their finances – making them highly
vulnerable to errors.

Released by Xero, in partnership with market researchers World Wide Worx (WWW), the ‘State of SA Small Business’ report surveyed 400 South African small businesses across 22 sectors. The results suggest that South Africa’s small businesses are optimistic about the future: 58% expect to grow in the next year, while 29% expect to stay the same and only 12% expect to shrink. The report marks Xero’s arrival in the South African market.

The research also revealed that a shocking 40% of SA’s SMEs rely on error-prone spreadsheets and paper records. Studies have shown that 88% of all spreadsheets also contain errors of some kind. Considering that the economic output of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa is estimated at 52% of GDP, that’s a potential R1 trillion of GDP at risk.

27% of small business owners cited access to funding as a major barrier to starting a business, with a large majority (83%) relying on personal savings, friends or family to start their business. Although SA’s SMEs are confident about their prospects, 86% don’t think the government does enough to support them.

“We are passionate about helping small businesses operate more efficiently, both because of the impact it makes to individuals but also for the impact we can make on the larger business community,” said Gary Turner, Xero co-founder and managing director for Xero in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

“Our research highlights the key challenges facing the small business community in South Africa, and we’re encouraged that while some of these challenges are particular to the region, many of them are common across other countries we operate in. This is a large and vibrant entrepreneurial community, but this research shows that significant opportunity exists for small businesses and their advisors, and Xero is perfectly placed to help.”

The report was produced by WWW, in partnership with Xero, leading cloud accounting software, to celebrate their arrival in South Africa. Xero is easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors, founded in New Zealand in 2006. This month, Xero announced it has passed a quarter billion annualised revenue and hit 717 000 subscribers in 180 countries, with 242,000 subscribers added in the 12 months to 31 March 2016. Xero boasts more than 500 third-party integrations, and was ranked No. 1 by Forbes as the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company in 2014 and 2015.

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Jaguar drives dictionary definition

Jaguar is calling for the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries to update their online definition of the word ‘car’

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Jaguar is spearheading a campaign for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Oxford Dictionaries (OxfordDictionaries.com) to change their official online definitions of the word ‘car’.

The I-PACE, Jaguar’s all-electric performance SUV, is the 2019 World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year. However, strictly speaking, the zero-emission vehicle isn’t defined as a car.

The OED, the principal historical dictionary of the English language, defines a ‘car’ in its online dictionary as: ‘a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use’.

Whereas the current definition of a ‘car’ on Oxford Dictionaries.com, a collection of dictionary websites produced by Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishing house of the University of Oxford, is: ‘A road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.’

To remedy the situation, Jaguar has submitted a formal application to the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com to have the definitions updated to include additional powertrains, including electric vehicles (EV).

David Browne, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, said: “A lot of time and thought is put into the name of any new vehicle or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated. We are therefore inviting the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update its online classification to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) towards more sustainable powertrains.”

The Oxford English Dictionary is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.

Jaguar unveiled the I-PACE, its first all-electric vehicle, last year to deliver sustainable sports car performance, next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) technology and five-seat SUV practicality.

Featuring a state-of-the-art 90kWh lithium-ion battery, two Jaguar-designed motors and a bespoke aluminium structure, the I-PACE is capable of 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and a range of up to 470km (WLTP).

While both the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries review the application, Jaguar is encouraging people to get behind the campaign by asking how the word ‘car’ should be defined. Contact Jaguar on TwitterFacebook and Instagram using #RedefineTheCar with your thoughts.

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How Internet blocks visually impaired

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Picture: Amelie-Benoist / Getty Images

A pervasive “digital divide” inhibits blind people from accessing the Internet, according to a study conducted by Nucleus Research for Deque Systems, an accessibility software company specialising in digital equality. This results in visits to websites being abandoned, further resulting in a missed market opportunity for the websites in question.

The study, which conducted in-depth interviews with 73 U.S. adults who are blind or have severe visual impairments, revealed that two-thirds of the Internet transactions initiated by people with vision impairments end in abandonment because the websites they visit aren’t accessible enough. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they regularly call a site’s customer service to report inaccessibility and have no choice but to visit another, more accessible site to make the transaction.

The Nucleus study also scanned hundreds of websites in the e-commerce, news and information and government categories and found that 70 percent had certain “critical blockers” that rendered them inaccessible to visually impaired users.

“Besides the moral dilemma and legal risk, businesses with inaccessible websites are missing a huge revenue opportunity by ignoring an untapped market,” says Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems. “Among internet retailers specifically, two-thirds of the top ten online retailers had serious accessibility issues, meaning they are leaving $6.9 billion in potential North American e-commerce revenues on the table.”

Web accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities to independently gather information, complete transactions, or communicate on the Internet. Most visually impaired Internet users rely on assistive technologies like screen readers or screen magnifiers to render sites perceivable and operable. However, these assistive technologies require that websites be built with accessibility in mind and optimized to interface with assistive technology, in order to convey information in an accurate and understandable manner.

Critical accessibility blockers can vary across industries. In e-commerce, problems include issues like missing form and button labels (thereby making forms or the “checkout” button invisible without context). Amazon, Best Buy and Target were found to be accessibility leaders in this space. Additionally, the study found:

  • Eight out of ten news sites had significant accessibility issues.
  • Seven out of ten blind persons reported being unable to access information and services through government websites, including Medicare’s site.
  • Fewer than one in three websites have clear contact information or instructions for blind persons to seek help if they encounter accessibility issues, meaning many have low levels of success in reporting and solving these problems.

“A focus on accessibility needs to be a core part of the website design and development process,” continues Kumar. “Considering accessibility as early as the conception phase, and proactively building and testing sites for accessibility as they move towards production, is significantly more effective than remediating it later, helping organizations save significant time and resources while avoiding unnecessary customer grievances.”

To download the report, visit: https://accessibility.deque.com/nucleus-accessibility-research-2019

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