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Third of companies unprepared for digital

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A recent IFS study has revealed that even though big data, ERP and IoT are noted as top investment areas for digital transformation, only one in three of the companies surveyed are prepared due to talent deficiency.

IFS has revealed the findings of its Digital Change Survey that polled 750 decision makers in 16 countries to assess maturity of digital transformation in sectors such as manufacturing, oil and gas, aviation, construction and contracting, and service.

Strong willingness to invest

Nearly 90 percent of firms surveyed have ‘adequate’ or ‘advantageous’ funding for digital transformation, indicating a strong willingness to invest and an appetite to evolve their business in order to stay competitive and grow. When asked about prioritised investment areas, the top three choices were IoT, ERP and Big Data & Analytics.

“It is apparent that companies today understand the urgency of focusing on digital transformation.” IFS VP of global industry solutions Antony Bourne said: “Technologies such as big data and analytics, enterprise resource planning and internet of things are paramount to transforming a business. Companies need to apply innovative technologies hand in hand with their relevant industry expertise to succeed and gain a competitive edge. It is this combination that makes digital transformation both meaningful and powerful”.

Lack of talented employees

Alarmingly, more than a third of companies (34 percent) feel either slightly or totally unprepared to deal with digital transformation due to talent deficiency. When asked to name the areas that will experience the greatest deficit in talented staff, 40 percent cited “business intelligence” and 39 percent “cyber security”. Other areas of concern are “AI and robotics” (30 percent), “big data/analytics” (24 percent), and “cloud” (21 percent).

Antony Bourne added, “Although new technology is key to digital transformation, it is clear that change communications and access to the right talent are principal catalysts to succeed. It is alarming that more than one in three companies are not staffed to manage digital transformation. These organisations need to focus on concrete talent investment plans to make sure that they establish what roles are critical to success in their industries. After that the key is both to find and attract new talent as well as training and re-skilling existing staff.”

“Industrial IoT investments offer excellent ROI which is driving adoption,” stated ARC Advisory Group, VP Enterprise Software, Ralph Rio. He continued: “But, talent is a constraint as the IFS survey shows. Hence, IoT users partner with companies like IFS that offer leadership IoT solutions.”

Major differences across industries

When asked about the digital transformation maturity level of their organisations, meaning actual progress, 31 percent of the respondents consider their business to be in the two highest levels of maturity on a five-graded scale. The aviation industry is the most progressive with 44 percent of respondents considering themselves advanced in their ability to leverage digital transformation. Runner up is the construction and contracting industry, 39 percent of whom identified themselves as mature. At the other end of the spectrum is the oil and gas sector, where only 19 percent of the respondents consider themselves able to benefit from digital transformation.

“The differences in digital maturity levels across industries are notable. The highly competitive nature of the aviation industry, together with its rapid adoption rate of new technologies such as predictive maintenance and 3D printing for spare part manufacturing, are key drivers of its successful digitalisation”, Antony Bourne said.

Drivers and investment focus

43 percent of respondents identified “internal process efficiency” as the number one driving force behind digital transformation. “Accelerating innovation” (29 percent) and “growth opportunity in new markets” (28 percent) were recognided as the second and third most significant drivers.

Obstacles to digital transformation

Despite the practical and technical complexities of digital transformation, the number one barrier to change is on the human side: “aversion to change” (42 percent). The second and third largest barriers are the more concrete “security threats/concerns” (39 percent) and “absence of the right organidational and governance model” (38 percent).

Which will be the most disruptive technologies?

When asked what technologies will be the most disruptive, Big Data tops the list with a score of 7.2 out of 10. Second is Automation (7.0) and third is IoT (6.6). Although Big Data is ranked the highest overall, there is a significant minority who feel that automation will have the most dramatic impact. Over 40 percent rated the level of disruption by Automation as 8 or more out of 10, while only 32 percent gave such high ratings to Big Data. In the construction, aviation and manufacturing industries 48 percent, 48 percent and 50 percent respectively consider the automation disruption score >8/10, which makes it the highest rated technology for those industries.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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