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Tech can increase SA’s resilience when floods hit

By TJEERD DRIESSEN, Director of Business Development for Water in Africa for Royal HaskoningDHV



The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group says that South Africa will likely experience more frequent flooding and drought events in coming years due to climate change – and the data is already there to confirm this.

More than 80 people died in severe localised flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in April 2019, with damages estimated at R1 billion. A year earlier, flash floods in Gauteng and Limpopo left seven dead and a massive sinkhole on a motorway. Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town almost experienced ‘day zero’, when a severe water shortage threatened to force municipalities to turn off supply and ration water to residents.

With poorer communities often hardest hit by severe weather events because they’re built near rivers, homes are badly built, or they have insufficient infrastructure, it’s crucial that South African cities become more climate-resilient. And although floods are devastating, they should be seen as opportunities to design more resilient cities that better incorporate and cater for informal settlements and are better equipped to deal with changing weather patterns.

It’s also important for South African cities to become more climate-resilient so that they can handle the extremes of having too much or too little water. But there are hurdles in the way, including insufficient investment in the tools and technology required to maintain water infrastructure, and inadequate urban planning to build ‘water sensitive’ cities.

Striving for Water Sensitive Cities

A ‘water sensitive’ city integrates all aspects of the water cycle. It adopts a land planning and engineering design approach that integrates the urban water cycle (i.e. storm water, groundwater, and wastewater management and water supply) into urban design and ‘closes the water cycle’.

Water sensitive cities also integrate green infrastructure, like mangroves and wetlands, in traditional infrastructure planning. Some organisations in South Africa already subscribe to the Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) guidelines to facilitate a water sensitive urban design, as well as the Green Book, which supports municipal planning with the development of climate resilient settlements.

But since water demand is expected to exceed supply by 10% by 2035, we need an intensified commitment from business and government to develop climate-resilient settlements.

Part of a city’s transition to become water sensitive should be a focus on flood resilience, which involves managing floods effectively to protect people, property and infrastructure, and exploring how flood water can be retained to help insulate cities from future droughts.

Building flood-resilient cities

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building flood-resilient cities, because each setting has its own climatic, environmental, and social complexities. However, with the right planning, new technology, public participation, and robust infrastructure, we never have to be caught off-guard by floods again.

Achieving a flood-resilient city requires a four-phased approach, which is often used in disaster risk management: mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery.

Focusing on each phase and applying state-of-the art technology gives us new ways to protect against flooding, to make people and municipalities more risk-aware, to change their behaviour, and to implement early warning and response strategies.

Labelling risk

To plan, implement, and manage flood-resilient activities, we need to understand and quantify climate-related risks – for which we turn to technology.

New technologies allow us to pinpoint flood-prone areas by running digital water vulnerability scans. These scans give detailed information into rain-induced flooding, as well as drought and heat stress, down to the square metre, which lets us assign a risk label to individual buildings, streets, and infrastructure. It also helps municipalities to mitigate risk and prioritise preventative maintenance, like unblocking drains, which were exacerbating factors in the recent flooding in Durban.

Digital risk maps can be presented in easy-to-understand, visual formats that can be accessed from phones and computers. Citizens can see what risk label has been assigned to their immediate environment, and policymakers can use it as a monitoring dashboard for city planning and preventative measures.

Flood-forecasting tech

Weather services can predict heavy rainfall and flooding to provide early warnings to residents, but these forecasts cover general areas – like Johannesburg – rather than specific locations – like X Street in Zandspruit. People are less likely to react to general warnings, which is why flooding catches them unaware and unprepared. In situations where information dissemination is poor, collateral damage is often disastrous.

Solutions like the Flash Flood Forecast App can predict a flood up to 12 hours before it is likely to occur, providing real-time detailed flood information down to the street level, to help emergency response services plan ahead, protect property, and keep people safe. This also helps communities, municipalities, and businesses to prepare better. 

Floods will happen no matter what we do, but early warning systems enable us to lessen the impact by enhancing people’s response. And when we rebuild after a flood, we must design with resilience in mind, so that next time – and there will be a next time – we’ll be even better prepared.

The power of the data, tools, services, and global experience that Royal HaskoningDHV offers makes it possible to identify the most cost-effective flood resilience interventions that can save lives and avoid the massive cost of rebuilding flood-ravaged communities.


Second-hand smartphone market booms

The worldwide market for used smartphones is forecast to grow to 332.9 million units, with a market value of $67 billion, in 2023, according to IDC



International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, to reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019. This represents an increase of 17.6% over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018. A new IDC forecast projects used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to 2023.

This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable. Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, says: “In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe. Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services, and accessories.”

Worldwide Used Smartphone Shipments (shipments in millions of units)

2018 Market
2023 Market
North America39.022.2%87.226.2%17.4%
Rest of World136.877.8%245.773.8%12.4%

Source: IDC, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023, Dec 2019.

Table Notes: Data is subject to change.
* Forecast projections.

Says Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phones: “Although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth. Overall, we feel that the ability to use a previously owned device to fund the purchase of either a new or used device will play the most crucial role in the growth of the refurbished phone market. Trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans (EIP) will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.”

According to IDC’s taxonomy, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a “hand me down” or gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023 (Doc #US45726219), provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market and its expansion and growth by 2023. This study also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers, and consumers.

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Customers and ‘super apps’ will shape travel in 2020s



Customers will take far more control of their travel experience in the 2020s, according to a 2020 Trends report released this week by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry.

Through independent research with thousands of global travellers – including 500 in South Africa – hundreds of travel professionals and interviews with leaders of some of the world’s biggest travel brands, Travelport uncovered the major forces that will become the technology enablers of travel over the next decade. These include:

Customers in control

Several trends highlight the finding that customers are moving towards self-service options, with 61% of the travellers surveyed in South Africa preferring to hear about travel disruption via digital communications, such as push notifications on an app, mobile chatbots, or instant messaging apps, rather than speaking with a person on the phone. This is especially important when it comes to young travellers under 25, seen as the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

Mobile takeover

With the threat of super app domination, online travel agencies must disrupt or risk being disrupted. Contextual messaging across the journey will help. Super app tech giants like WeChat give their users a one-stop shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travellers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels.

Retail accelerated

In the next year, research shows, we will see an accelerated rate of change in the way travel is retailed and purchased online. This includes wider and more complex multi-content reach, more enriched and comparable offerings, more focus on relevance than magnitude, and an increase in automation that enables customer self-service.

“How customers engage with their travel experience – for instance by interacting with digital ‘bots’ and expecting offers better personalised to their needs – is changing rapidly,” says Adrian Roodt, country manager for Southern Africa at Travelport. “We in the travel industry need to understand and keep pace with these forces to make sure we’re continuing to make the experience of buying and managing travel continually better, for everyone.”

Read the full 2020 Trends report here: 2020 Trends hub.

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