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We can change the world

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Michael Dell kicked off this year’s Dell EMC World by saying the tools for a digital transformation are out there and it is up for companies to grab the bull by the horns and make the change, writes DOUG WOOLLEY, Dell EMC GM: South Africa.

“You are some of the world’s greatest organisations and you are leading through a time of unprecedented change and opportunity. This is your show. It’s about how you are changing the world: reshaping industries, reinventing processes, transforming your organisations to shape your future.”

With those words, Michael Dell started his keynote at Dell EMC World, held in Las Vegas. This year more than 13,500 people attended the event, ready to learn how they can take their transformations forward.

To me it served as a reminder of what we can do and what is at stake. Later, back in South Africa, I spoke to renowned analyst Arthur Goldstuck, who also attended Dell EMC World 2017. He said something very true and crucial: there are no more excuses. The future is being built on digital transformation. The tools and platforms are out there. What remains is for companies and countries to grab the bull by the horns and make the change.

I completely agree with him. But it is easier said than done. Many still struggle to start and maintain the journey to this new era. That’s because it is a fundamental challenge. Digital transformation is not a bolt-on to a business. It starts at the foundation and works its way through the entire organisation. It is both top-down and grassroots. It is corporate, functional and operational. The business vision remains intact, but everything about how it will realise that vision changes. This is a daunting shift.

That problem stayed with me long after the event. Dell Technologies, which emerged from the highly successful combination between Dell and EMC, is an undeniable leader in this transformation. The high utilisation of our services and solutions prove that. But this brings a certain responsibility as well: if we expect the world to change, we must help lead and define that change. Our customers – current and future – look to us for guidance. What I have to ask is how can Dell EMC be a partner for South Africa’s digital transformation?

IT maturity is key. You can’t simply flip a switch and digital magic appears. But it shouldn’t be as complicated and daunting as it appears either. The primary outcome is to get businesses away from the burden of technology procurement and maintenance, and back to what they do best. In the Dell EMC hallways we call this Radical Infrastructure Simplicity. Through a variety of products, we are equipped to create the digital foundations businesses can build on.

An often-cited example is our Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, which deliver turnkey systems ready for digital services to be deployed on them with the littlest of fuss. But we need to go further, which is why Dell EMC has introduced elastic financing models such as Financial Services Flex. We don’t want upfront costs to drain your digital ambition, so we have designed industry-first financing solutions that cater for every type and size of business.

Another example, announced at the Las Vegas gathering, is PC-as-a-Service. This unique offering takes advantage of Dell EMC’s leading consumer devices to equip staff with top computer systems without the hefty capital layout. Let’s be honest: change is not cheap and this is keeping many companies, particularly smaller businesses, from transforming. Both of the aforementioned services are here to take that pain away.

It is obvious that I want to promote what Dell EMC offers the market. But this is not my primary goal. That question of how we can help accelerate digital transformation in South Africa remains the brass ring. I am just fortunate to lead the local office of a very dynamic and progressive company.

Dell EMC has a vast ecosystem, and is rich for its extensive investments in consultation, methodology research and toolsets. We were early evangelists for cloud and pioneers of cloud management and infrastructure. Today that expertise spans across seven major companies, modernising data centres, improving security, driving virtualization and much more. Whether you need a turnkey upgrade of your servers, develop your Internet of Things strategy or place the best devices in the hands of employees, we’ve thought about the challenges and created solutions for you to consider.

This commitment goes beyond product. One of the most exciting announcements I saw at Dell EMC World 2017, beyond the virtual reality sets and mind-blowing gaming systems, was that of Alice: a virtual assistant that specifically serves women entrepreneurs.  The event also made it clear that Dell EMC is very concerned about the environment and sustainability is a guiding principle of our organisation.

Arthur Goldstuck was right: there are no excuses. But to me, there are no excuses for us, Dell EMC, to help you change your business and your world for the better. This is the commitment I reaffirmed after Dell EMC World 2017: we all really can change the world and Dell EMC will be there to help every step of the way.

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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