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Tech giants must spread benefits of innovation

SIMON MCCULLOUGH, Major Channel Account Manager at F5 Networks, asks whether tech companies could do more to ensure everyone benefits from the fruits of innovation.

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Across the world, countless digital divides between rich and poor nations are emerging, stoking stark developmental disparities and stymieing opportunities for cross-cultural collaborations. The IMF even suggests that technological progress is one of the main factors driving global inequality. It should be the opposite.

Meanwhile, Oxfam figures reveal that the richest 1% hoovered up a staggering 82% of all wealth created in 2017. The poorest half of humanity got nothing. This has a stark and detrimental impact on appropriate levels of connectivity, workforce skill levels, and R&D expansion, all of which can cumulatively and negatively hit global markets in the long term. These are particularly alarming consequences in the context of collectively dealings with major issues, such as climate change, global supply chain sustainability, or food and water supplies.

Today, the Internet is a basic human right, yet far too many regions are being cut out of the loop as cloud platforms and network infrastructures are being rolled out across developed economies. The divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ is widening. Governments can, and indeed are to some extent, helping to mitigate the situation. However, tech leaders need to take more responsibility than ever before when it comes to developing nations and this can be achieved with innovation ecosystems that can benefit existing and nascent businesses.

Now is the time to better unite the tech industry and inspire concrete commitments that go well beyond short-term sponsorships, charity initiatives or perfunctory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) drives. At a minimum, all tech leaders should consider the following:

  • Review company values. Do you currently leverage your expertise and resources to effect positive change? If not, rethink your strategy. It is important to be brave and have a sustainable plan. Tweaking and humanising your priorities could also fuel a range of associated business positives, including becoming a more appealing employer for increasingly ethics-driven millennial talent.
  • Be a bold advocate for change. Collaborate with your partners, clients, and competitors to maximise deployable resources and eventual impact. Your stance should inspire others to champion worthwhile causes and catalyse change in critical areas. For example, you and your peers may have abilities and technologies suited to combating climate change via monitoring, analysis or general resource efficiency. Why aren’t you already speaking up more loudly on the issue and sharing progressive insights with governments, the UN or bodies like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)?
  • Close the tech industry skills gap. Are you really doing enough to expand your recruitment and training in developing countries with significant talent pools like Africa, the Middle East, and India? Address the imbalance by nurturing indigenous skills and proceed with inclusive intent.
  • Make connections. The tech industry is a hotbed of virtuosic problem-solvers, so it is important to facilitate the right connections and communicate progress wherever and whenever it happens. We need an open source approach to the problem wherein every value-adding voice can easily contribute. Feel like there aren’t any idea-sharing platforms suited to your needs and skills? Go ahead and make one.
  • Encourage employee secondments to regions that need them. Purposeful, transformative use of technology always needs local knowledge and feet on the ground. Get out there, get your hands dirty and, while you’re at it, expand key employees’ perspectives and career horizons.
  • Don’t ignore adjacent grassroots. Work with industry bodies to galvanise the wider tech community to endorse a sustainable programme along the lines of “Technology for All”. This can include investment in people, schools, universities and training programmes, as well as disclosing data with the capacity to create, educate and empower.

A charter for change

We can’t stand idle on the side-lines anymore. Technological innovation and development should be synonymous with helping the less fortunate. Ultimately, it is the tech companies that can powerfully back up strong values with substantive resources and decisive action that will be viewed as tomorrow’s true pioneers. Aside from the obvious ethical imperatives, it just makes good business sense.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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