There is no better time in developing markets and the current industrial revolution than right now to contribute to the discussion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the alarming PR messaging that it has, some well-intentioned misdirection and the other half split with an overflow of information of which skillset to prioritise and which technology to employ. The job losses, the new technology and the illiteracy to name a few of this incoming era can indeed create a barrier of intimidation on entry, and what adds to the complexity of the situation is that the data lies.
Exploring Data Bias
You should be familiar with the notion of data being the new currency, at least in comparison to oil as an infinite resource that can empower economies. And data, having been undocumented, raw and undigitized has always been around, it is rather the scramble for the science and technology of it, and who gets access to it first that impacts the narrative and gets an opportunity to score some points for their industry, economy or group of privilege that they belong to. It’s the data scramble, it’s the data rush. This is what’s caused, I believe, the insurmountable backlash and inaccuracies, the product bias towards chatbots or products otherwise, whether its towards gender, race or access. The question that then follows up to this statement would be where the data is, and exploring the intentional bias and opportunities for solutions to the bias, and what stakeholders can do create inclusive economies.
The Impact of Bias Practices …
Machine Learning which is an application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that studies the sciences of how machines can automatically learn and improve from experience by learning from themselves, is learning from the bias of the producers of the algorithms, and these makers of algorithms are largely white males as can be seen in an example of this through facial recognition products created by IBM, Microsoft and Face Plus Plus. That means that, so is the (informed) data, which breeds much room for prejudice.
A recent example of a sector that informed this bias is financial services, mostly with credit, and is now building the intelligence tools to either enforce or break away from this. In South Africa, usury expert Emerald van Zyl, claims that Standard Bank (including banks like First National Bank), which is Africa’s oldest bank is currently under hot fire for billing its black customers at a higher interest rate in financing. This is not the first time this occurred with Standard Bank, as in 2012 they were also charged with violating the National Credit Act where eventually customers were refunded by 2013. Now, if the machine learns these algorithms and continues to grant the same product bias, the discriminatory practices are more than likely continue.
This is kind of problem is also consistent in the health sector. In a New England Journal of Medicine article published on 15 March 2019, researchers of the Framington Heart Study showed the risk and capability of AI algorithms to demonstrate bias. The research used AI to predict the risk of cardiovascular occurrences in non-white populations and the results demonstrated bias in both over- and underestimations of risk.
People's lives are at stake through the products of 4IR. And, beyond the glitter of Sophia The Robot and the New Generation Kiosks at companies like McDonalds, there is a community that is not being intentional about being inclusive and rather duplicating structural socio inequalities that implicates another.
Data bias does only one thing, it mirrors what is socially ingrained, which means that it lies and tells a partial truth, of which is not meant for consumption by those who produce it.
Dismantling the Structural Bias
The call for inclusive economies goes beyond teaching young, black girls how to code and having strictly women only data science clubs. Practices like hiring more diverse teams leads to impactful and informed product creation and is a good contribution to mitigate prejudice algorithms and encourage more accurate data on a model. A sub-division of AI, Natural Language Programming (NLP) is a study that is concerned with the processing of computers and human natural languages, and can be used as a great example and opportunity for the necessity of the inclusive call in the sector. Translating open source of data sets in different parts of the world requires an understanding of the language being translated so that we can not only have Siri being able to understand my instructions in English but also the opportunity to preserve and digitise languages like the Khoi which are diminishing, mostly because, especially with African languages, the impartation of language happens orally. A great example of this opportunity is Ajala Studios, which a Nigerian startup that builds natural language and speech processing applications for African languages, which means that they can too synthesize speech from African languages presented as digitized text, a gap that’s mostly recognises Western accents, voices and names.
The responsibility of creating these opportunities is also a shared responsibility, especially with the public sector. Governments in both developed and developing markets need to invest more in Research and Development (R&D) and in the social concept of open innovation (engaging the public with the data) especially as the impact of this investment is quite telling. And although it is a long term investment, the return on this investment is worthwhile. Researchers from the United Kingdom (UK) and Saudi Arabia looked at 40 Asian counties and how their spend on R&D lead to the production of quality research publications across sciences and social sciences; and with more research in the UK showing the positive impact that public investment has in the increment of private sector investment and in attracting foreign direct investment. Through this R&D investment and its impact in the knowledge economy, it also presents an opportunity to lead to more computational intelligence and feeding it the missing data, and the greater economic impact through the indicator of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The next solution is not only costly but risky, but if there is one thing that I’ve learnt about being in the innovation space, whether the product is out to market or still in the proof of concept phase, no matter how good it looks on paper, it’s that it is never too late to take the product off market if it doesn’t serve its purpose. A great example of this is Vodacom South Africa’s failure, thrice to launch its sister Kenyan network SafariCom’s M-Pesa to the South African market. Factors like an onerous regulatory environment, the competitive advantage that the larger and established banks have with their products to low-income consumers, and some have also argued due to the mixed messaging upon launching, from introducing it as a mobile money wallet to a platform that is linked to your VISA card. This case study is also an example of the danger of wanting to copy and paste a one-size fits all product into an Africa that is not a country.
At the end of the day, it's about investing in the visibility of the communities so as to include better, impactful and innovative products and profitability for all ecosystem stakeholders a part of the operation chain.
The data samples ARE there. And unfortunately (or an opportunity), so is the bias. But all is not lost, not with the desire of visionary stakeholders to operate in a transformative world that uses the enabler of technology for sustainable good business.
On LinkedIn, I recently uploaded a post that had a graphic recording themed on the discussion of mobile banking unpacking challenges, opportunities, the pillars of the ecosystems and the key stakeholders in the markets. It was a piece of art and knowledge that was created about 4- 5 years ago, and however powerful the discussions in the room, the micro-themes still echo the non-silver bullet industry that’s catapulted Africa’s invitation to the global seat of innovation, and particularly financially inclusion. Although the hotbed of the financial inclusion conversation is mobile money in Africa, in this article we’ll explore and propose ways to continue enhancing the distribution mechanism of mobile to employ an economically inclusive society.
Exploring Mobile Money Mission
It was not so long ago when MPESA launched in Kenya, and successfully so that not only did it grant Africa the opportunity to drive the mobile money conversation and allow the unbanked to access financial products but, for some, create and enhance digital footprint, and a chance to be economically active.
Traditional banks notoriously have, for a long time created financial products that were only accessible to the middle class and above, those who were already economically empowered. In the exclusivity of these financial products, the role of startups, data (open or big) and technology became important in leapfrogging the traditional banking industry and getting credit right. The rise of the living standard in emerging markets also created an opportunity for the mobile economy to continue to thrive, whether with an Android phone or if you’re living in the townships.
Who Gets to Participate?
According to research by the PEW Research Center, in emerging economies, the population in some of the poorest communities do have access to a mobile phone, even though the ownership is not of a smartphone. What this does, is that it gives rise to Opening Demand so that the non-digitally savvy citizens may participate, and Supply Inclusion for manufactures, such as now, the new smartphone manufacturer in Africa with the Mara Phone Project.
Mobile money products bank on the vision of a society where the individuals are economically active and visible, from women owned businesses who in some economies didn’t have access to credit to spaza shop owners and the super paranoid cashless user. And in doing this, it is also giving them a digital footprint, and an identity that is tailored for edifying their lifestyles as well as their businesses and financial products.
However, the cost of this inclusion also comes with its own price for the service providers, which includes finding ways to enhance the user and experience centric for the customer.
The Cost of Digitisation, for the Supplier
The high level of customisation to operate in data-lite countries, where data is not enriched and infrastructure is needed to augment results is quite costly. At this moment, this is where the call to government to participate in the market is quite loud in knowledge sharing spaces like conferences and roundtable discussions – an opportunity to serve its citizens better, create more competitive markets and empower lessening the digital divide.
Looking at creating cheaper solutions will cost spend of engineering and predictions analytics, investing in more talent, having the processes to refine the data in order to have more value, the urgency to transform through infrastructure and the list goes on to be an enabler. The return on investment in this cost is not in just the adoption of more products, but also in customers being better informed and better buying customers.
What’s In It For Me, the Consumer?
For a customer like myself, I’m constantly looking for ways to continue leaving my credit and debit cards at home and having my own money market on my phone. The question of “What’s In It For Me?” is what’s constantly at the back of a consumer’s head, whether one has a mobile phone that’s a smart or feature phone – all phones matter.
For the smartphone user, products like Whatsapp, Google Suite, UBER, Booking.Com and BiNu or Facebook which states that 94% of its 170 million African users access the platform via mobile, and with even 100% of the Nigeria population accessing it through mobile. And for feature phone users, products like Mobile Banking, Bwenzi Lathu, JUMO, Kopah Doh or Telecommunications Services are also what make this particular phone a market of the present and future.
While we wait on the digital divide to close and for an all inclusive society, let’s be mobile and invite stakeholders to continue creating enabling ecosystems and environments to innovate for a thriving present and future mobile market.
The trip to Malaysia was unplanned, it is actually fault to Airbnb that it kept directing me to Johor Bahru when I was looking for accommodation in Singapore that wasn’t a hostel or any sharing type of accommodation, but still wouldn’t break my bank balance. The location pin kept moving further away from Singapore to a place that’s about 30 – 40 minutes away from the country, and this further curbed my curiosity and enthusiasm about this city, and it turns out that it was in Malaysia.
Getting to Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Relatively cheaper than Singapore, Johor Bahru proved that although not hot on the Asia travel list, can be quite a city for one to visit. After my arrival at Changi International Airport, immigration was swift and it came with a fair warning of watching my back as a solo female traveller, because the city tends to be rough around the edges. From the airport, I took a shuttle to Johor Bahru, Malaysia which cost S$10 which would take me to Woodlands CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) which would then need me to take a bus to Johor Bahru CIQ which was another S$1 to get my last passport stamp. I then left the Johor Bahru CIQ for my apartment at Suasanna Residences with a cab where I paid double the market cab rate, of course, I didn’t know any better and I was the gullible jet-lagged tourist who just wanted to get to her apartment.
As you may have figured out already, I ended up with Airbnb’s advice and booked an apartment in Malaysia. This decision was also motivated with being budget friendly, and Suasanna Apartments being really central to the city and about five minutes away from Johor Bahur Sentral and closer to the location of the activities that I’d planned to do.
New Experiences, New Travels
I arrived in the city around 11h45 and had some breakfast at one of the local restaurants and because I was in the city, finding an ATM to withdraw Malaysian Ringgit was no trouble at all. First mission was to go to Johor Zoo which is about about a 5 minute drive from where I lived, and cost RM2 entrance fee. Slightly underwhelmingly unkept, I did get to see the biggest lion and lioness that I’ve ever seen in my life (and this coming from an African lady, it should tell you), and for the first time, was able to see and feed a camel, and a tiger. This place also became my first experience of the Asian fascination with black skin, it became annoyingly heigtened when the pictures that were being taken were slyly taken with no consent, my tolerance and appreciation for my patience were practised severely here. From wives wanting this object of desire for their husbands to kids having a stare down with you, it comes in all shapes and manners.
The Culture of New Food
Because it was already mid-afternoon, I‘d been told that Danga Bay Country Gardens was the best lunch strip, and that I’d be doing myself a disservice if I went anywhere else. I delighted in a Wantan Soup and a Sweet and Sour Fish from a local, family eatery that tasted heavenly and was quite filling too. I paired that with a Heineken because it was the only beer that I recognised, but I swore to taste another one that I’d never had, and it was Tiger beer which was slightly sweet but enjoyable nonetheless. My driver then advised me to head over to Medan Selera Meldrum Walk which was about 5 minutes from my apartment, to grab a souvenir and although I didn’t get anything, it lived up to the buzz and craze of what a market is supposed to be.
For my last Johor Bahru adventure in a day, I really wanted to have an early dinner at Whisky House but unfortunately jetlag got the better of me and instead decided to order from the restaurant upstairs from the apartment building a Lamb Rendand Tok, which is a traditional sow cooked spicy Malay lamb dish that’s served with steamed rice, and while I waited, took a short dip at the rooftop of the apartment building, now THAT was a way to end off an evening.
Solo Traveler in a Day?
So, Malaysia in a day you wonder? This is how I did it, with unsettling jetlag!
I definitely wish that I had more time to explore the city and even see the many other treasures that I’m sure makes Johor Bahru a city worth the exploration.
Have you been to Johor Bahru? Or any parts of Malaysia? Id love hear from you about your Malaysian experience, solocation or not!
Have you ever delayed finishing a book because it’s so damn good? Then a fair warning, this may be the consequence for you if you decide to pick up this book by entrepreneur and expert on women’s leadership and well-being, Tara Mohr. Playing Big: A Practical Guide for Brilliant Women Like You is an empowering consultation of one’s fears, a practical guide in engaging with the danger of playing small and a kind friend in helping you shift gears into operating in the divinity of your greatness.
In a brief introduction, Tara defines that “Playing Big is about bridging the gap between what we see in you and what you know about yourself. It’s about you living with a sense of greater freedom to express your voice and pursue your aspirations. It’s about refocusing your attention on your longings and dreams, and playing big in going for them.”. Sounds easy, right? Well, if it was, I don’t believe this ten brilliantly chaptered book would have been written, coupled with a course.
In this review, I’ll unpack a few of the themes highlighted in the ten chapters in the hopes that my experience of the read will give an informed decision on whether to 1. Explore the concept of Playing Big and/or 2. Purchase the book and engage with the content and concepts influenced by the Playing Big Leadership Programme for Women and finally, 3. That if you’re already Playing Big, then pass this information along to someone who’s overstayed their position in playing small.
This book is for women, tailored exclusively for us who have those constant dress rehearsals of playing big but the imposter syndrome veils our efforts. For those of us who collide with the opportunity to shift from a place of purpose and calling, and then fall short because systematically we’ve been coddled to not have too much ambition or aspirations – you know, for a girl. It’s for the crazy woman who’s crazy enough to dream big and with every muscle wants to play big, but there’s always something holding you back. Mohr unpacks a couple of themes in the book, and mentioning them all would be giving the whole plot away, so I’ll discuss a few that resonated with me:
Deciding with Discerning Fear
In the book, Tara details the two different types of fear as per Hebrew teachings, and that is Yirah and Pachad. The one that I want to focus on is Yirah, which is a fear that we recognise when we are inhabiting a larger space than we are used to – you know, that one that you honour for a few seconds when you speak into your dreams and power, and then abandon because it becomes overwhelming? That is the one. What’s comforting about this type of fear, is that it’s a kind of fear that operates on the council of your inner mentor when worked with wisely. How common of a relationship do you have with this fear, and how often do you honour it?
Being Kind to Yourself
I’ve mentioned it briefly above, and so does the author many a times in the book, and that is the power of the inner mentor. We’ve heard of the inner critic and let it protect us so many a times, that we shun the brave ideas that keep us from playing big because the risk was too high. In this chapter of Inner Wisdom, not only does Mohr introduce the concept of the inner mentor but she also calls for the introspection of the character development and nurturing of one’s inner critic. You’re going to love it!
Changing Your Language – Let it be Powerful!
With this particular theme, undermining speech habits used in networking environments and meetings or via email are analysed. Terms such as “Just”, “Kind of …” and disclaimers are a few of the ones that really hit home, and does no one any justice in delivering inarticulate messages. Are there any of these hedges or apologies sounding familiar? Then I’d recommend that you explore chapter 8, it’s the one for you.
One thing that this book is not, and upon the transparency of Tara, is a quick fix, so if you’re looking for one, then this book is not for you. It’s also not a motivational book (I honestly cannot stand those) that you put away once you’ve closed the last chapter. It’s a continuous and patient guide that only works unless you do, one day at a time and one powerful conversations with self at a time which then action into you playing big.
Wishing you all the best as you enter into your Yirah and collide with your destiny, and feel empowered to Play Big – you deserve it!
I believe Kofi Annan put it best when he delivered a speech to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2013 when he broke down how multi-layered the digital divide is. South Africa, as one of the most developing countries on the continent is quite the emerging player in the age of the digital, as industry honours the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). However, to even compete on a global stage with other 4IR economies, we need to focus on how to continue to participate in a digital world with profound inequalities that impedes social equality. And, in order to do that, these are the issues that I believe the nation can, and should prioritise:
February 11 is the date that the United Nations and its key partners and stakeholders worldwide marked for International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day is important as it highlights the matter in question that sees less women in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) fields, and to promote and empower more young women to take a role in the industry, especially as we’re in both the Digital and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. In South, the numbers aren’t inspiring either, as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that South Africa has approximately 40% of women scientists. Gender and cultural inequality has played a major role in the lack of adoption of women in this field as from a young age. The content that’s desired for young girls when it comes to aspirations (this from the toys played to gender specific assignments) is also culturally rooted. It’s no surprise that South Africa (and the rest of the world) is seeing a rise in programmes particularly tailored for young women who code like GirlHype and GirlCode to mention a few; it goes beyond the content of technology, but also what the community of other women coders can do to impact the psychological output inspired and having role models to look up to.
Tied to gender inequality is the cultural inequality that exists that enables the digital divide to thrive. South Africa is a country with much diversity, and in this diversity is many languages even though English is predominantly the teaching language of the country across all stages of learning across institutions. Can teaching in one’s native language impact the adoption and remove the intimation barrier of entering the market? Dr Mmaki Jantjies who is the Head of Information Systems and Lecturer at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and lecturer definitely believes so.
“I dedicate much of my research to seeing how can develop mobile learning software systems, accessible in South African languages in STEM subjects, that support teaching and learning in this area. In developing various adaptive mobile systems, I hope to address the existing contextual challenges in these sectors.” – Dr Mmaki Jantjies, who has worked with organisations like Mozilla and has, at present as a Google grant to develop curricula in native tongues and teach teachers how to navigate digital classrooms, and has had success.
Needing the language to decode the science is the argument. In a country where assessment is only majorly assessed in two languages (namely Afrikaans and English), and where Section 29(2) of the Constitution of South Africa is conditional on teaching in a learner’s language, more can be done to remove the veil of language intimidation. If leading economies like in Europe, North America, USSR and China have seen success with such and with it, seen students acquiring education and participating in the knowledge economy, then through political and societal will, it can be possible too for this nation.
South Africa has one of the most expensive data costs globally. According to research conducted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the country has the 3rd most expensive costs across BRICS countries. The country’s market is not a monopolistic one in telecommunications, there are a number of service providers including Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Cell C and newly launched Rain which is a mobile data-only service at 5c per meg (R50 per gig), of which was introduced to the market as a call to action and gap to the high data costs. As costs continue to rise, for both consumer and producer, the market requires more competition, which as a result will offer us as consumers an opportunity to participate in the digital economy. As briefly mentioned, the cost of operating in the digital age is costly not only the consumer but also the telecommunication companies due to lack of availability of spectrum because of the delay in the government-led process of digital migration. According to Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub, because South Africa has not had access to spectrum of data for nearly over 14 years, this has caused the continuous hikes in prices and this needs and can be reduced by almost half if its introduced. At the end of the day, in as much as projects like Project Isizwe and Broadband Game Changer are implemented, the quality and speed of data of these public wifi hotspots are limited and for a long term play, could impede the stride that the strategy’s goal has.
The president of South Africa, in his recent State of the Nation address highlighted 4IR and mentioned that “…over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.”. This is inspired, and through the pipelines of education and infrastructure, government has a major role to play as an enabler of attempting to close the gap of the digital divide that exists. The reliance on aided development from the private sector and creating development policies that are only inclusive and benefit certain players in the industry is not wise, engagement with other strategic and key ecosystem players like universities, startups, STEM-focused NPCs are going to play a major role in pivoting acceleration at the matter at hand. On infrastructure, while it has taken over a decade for the spectrum issue to be resolved between the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services and ICASA for digital migration to take place, President Cyril Ramaphosa cemented confidence in that a new deadline for the completion of digital migration had been placed and that is was July 2020. As Ramaphosa mentioned, that this solution could provide “ …unlock significant value in the telecommunications sector, increase competition, promote investment and reduce data costs." , which in turn, will enable many more South Africans to access data, and access it cheaply, if only government plays its role in enabling.
Development comes in many perspectives and is no silver bullet, especially because its an answer framework that invites and honours practices from diverse disciplines like academia and culture and not just politics. What’s needed before access to tools and capital distribution by key stakeholders, is a policy that focuses on the strategy of ICTD and serves it as a precondition to the strategy, this is one of the key ways that we can continue our efforts in bridging the digital divide.
As I write this blog post, I’m looking at my vision board, with some spaces left to fill throughout the year and I’m affirmed of the great things that I can do if I avoid not the hard work that is required in order to make these visions a reality. It’s the second annual vision board that I’ve made, and the difference in this one I can tell is in the devilish details on intentionality. Facilitated by Selebogo Molefe who is an entrepreneur and social activist, and joined by some industry peers, the journeying into 2019 through a Vision Board Retreat took place in Bilene, Mozambique and it was an experience of a lifetime.
Missioning to Mozambique
From Johannesburg in South Africa, the drive to Bilene was a 13 - 15 hours (with stops in between), and the moment you enter the Lebombo Border, you collide with the true realities of an emerging country, one that can’t be veiled by the islands and palm trees that the tourism industry promotes. Once you get to the border, the hustle for the best sim card and cash exchanges is sold to the best negotiator and if your Shona or Portuguese is great, you may even get a local price. The road stretches for a couple of hours to Bilene from the border, and as a result we arrived in the evening, having left quite mid-afternoon. Informal trade, the hypervisibility of Vodacom and Mpesa and versatile coconuts palm trees were some of the sights seen around Bilene that were hard to miss.
Vision Boarding ...
The initial trip for Mozambique came about through a post on Facebook that asked for the audience to do something with a difference, and do so in the company of like-minded individuals with the picturesque Bilene and its blue waters to serve as the ultimate inspiration – who’d say no to this work and play vacation? The vision board facilitation concluded personal business model canvases, skillset inventory and an instant personal board of advisors as sound boards and accountability sponsors to your visions to mention a few. Over the course of the days, one got an opportunity to refine and add, fill the board up as the days or weeks go by that followed as you ushered into the new year.
Beautiful Bilene ...
In as much as we worked hard, we played as hard across the city. Having spent the few days in Mozambique in December, the weather was quite favourable and saw temperatures rising to as much as 34 degrees Celsius, which saw the perfect opportunity to rent a speed boat and delight in the beauty of the lagoon of Lake San Martinho with some gin and champagne. With some of the best seafood I’ve tasted, the group and I visited local restaurants which served the most amazing seafood. It’s not only the beach and seafood that Praia Do Bilene can boast about, it’s the various marketplaces that I couldn’t resist shopping at, I must admit that the strong South African Rand to the Mozambique Metical did help acquire a couple of headwraps and materials, and a most gorgeous red beach bag. On the last night of the trip, we took a sunset drive to Lake Uembje while sipping on some cocktails, to take in the last nightly view of this experience, and later hosted a house party with some of the friends that we’d made along our stay.
Bilene was a vision, one that allowed me to see the beauty of the picturesque islands that its commonly known for and what the tourism and trade industry doesn’t want us to see, what at the end of the day doesn’t appear on the retreats pages of blogs. Most importantly, this trip was a retreat that was invested in recharging in personal growth strategies and networking to what will be an incredible year of actualising visions.
Contact the Organiser
To find out more information about the next Vison Board trip to Mozambique, together with all inclusive costs (excluding flights to Johannesburg), please email email@example.com . The November/December retreat amounted to R6890 ($499) .
When discussing emerging markets and the future of work and profit, “Data is the new oil” is an expression that has solidified its place in the conversation. If data is the new oil, as the popular phrase goes, then data is our most valuable resource, it powers almost everything we use today to work, move and live, and it is virtually unusable if unrefined.
Innovating beyond proprietary data is becoming more and more important. This is especially true in Africa, the continent that some of the world’s youngest and fastest growing economies call home, where business intelligence and revenue models are calling for a new framework of doing business. This framework, the open innovation ecosystem – where a good number of leap-frog innovations are necessary – requires the need for speed through collaboration from not just the private sector, but the public sector and its stakeholders – such as universities and innovation agencies – as well as the agility and prowess of startups.
Companies across the continent are using external data in addition to their internal data, to better understand and pursue new business developments in the continent’s innovation ecosystem. Here, we’ll explore how African corporates are innovating intelligently which is resulting in the ability to make better business decisions.
How It’s Being Played Out IRL
In his book Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data, Meltwater’s founder, Jorn Lyseggen, unpacks the edge of the intelligence and value that both proprietary and third-party data has an impact in, in what he calls the “new decision paradigm,” giving corporates a competitive advantage and enhancing their decision making.
One of South Africa’s oldest banks recently invested in Cape Town-based aerial data-analytics startup, Aerobotics, which makes use of aerial imagery and machine learning algorithms to solve problems in the agriculture industry. Of course, the options for using the same technology and concept across industries like finance and insurance, are endless. This bet on the technology of drones and data science was a deliberate focus on the strategy of the future of agri-finance for the major bank, understanding and recognising that in an aim to win more business, the third party data and use of Aerobotics technology will be a shift in new business and product development across customers and competitors for the corporate.
And, with technological trends like artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and cloud computing, one way in which Accenture in South Africa is making and informing industry with their data, and leveling up competitive intelligence is through thought leadership positioning. This has enabled Accenture to create and enable themselves and other companies to change how people work and live beyond industry, like platform economies through their intelligence, and thus influencing the business intelligence of industry through data.
African businesses are thinking about ways to truly innovate under a framework of open innovation, even though the resources and capabilities may not always be plentiful. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018, revealed that “ … South African executives (73%) agree with their global counterparts (79%) that organisations are basing their most critical systems and strategies on data, yet many have not invested in the capabilities to verify the truth within it.” Herein lies the opportunity to better scope the future of African innovation.
2020, 2025 and 2030 agendas set by organisations and corporates are not too far from actualisation, and the reality is that innovation is not self-driving but it’s a social concept that needs humans to execute visions. The appetite and curiosity for this new oil that is data and operating through the framework of open innovation is at its peak for intelligent enterprise, so how do we prepare for such innovation?
These present future institutions are the pipeline of talent that will be nurturing the future of work in businesses and its tools in order for us to be technology ready, and to have a workforce that is future-proof.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the latest report for South Africa has revealed that the country’s entrepreneurial activity is as its highest level since 2013; this is good news, and in order for SMMEs to continue playing their role in the economy, we need to cultivate the space.
Perhaps more entrepreneurs are needed, my argument lies in the kind of capital that’s invested to groom and scale the current businesses that we have to produce the quality entrepreneurs that the country needs. A matter of quality of quantity. In order for this space to thrive, more capital, intentional collaboration and a government enabling and agile platform needs to be enabled.
Open Innovation Culture
The new kind of innovation that’s occurring across industries is able to be done through collaboration. This kind of culture allows for more opportunities to develop products, new customers, charter new territories of innovation and technology, add value to proprietary data and so many new possibilities.
Keep Learning, Keep Going
Lastly, in order to truly crack the code of innovation, this opportunity needs to be taken from a systematic, actionable perspective. Modest investments are being made to continue to study the strategic, operational, regulatory and societal implications of data and intelligence in South Africa’s industries and more capital needs to influence policy. In order for South Africa to participate in such an economy, more research needs to conducted so as to play the game and create an environment where intra-trade may happen.
The Future of Africa
The biggest, oldest and most established companies are most vulnerable to disruption and innovation and the way to beat archaic systems and not end up like a Blackberry or Kodak is to not just look at a company’s proprietary resources and capabilities, but to establish an innovation culture that’s for the present future. In order for Africa to truly be at the forefront of innovation globally, and be prepared for such, all stakeholders will need to realise that innovation requires the trust of stakeholders to collaborate, and the risk appetite for new technology and data to penetrate businesses and the lives of customers to enhance them and make intelligent paradigm-shifting decisions.
This article was first published on Meltwater.
I have to admit, cognac or any kind of brown liquor is the last kind of liquor that you’d see me voluntarily drink. I’ve always found it, like sushi, as something that’s an acquired taste and personally, found it too harsh on my palate; but a few weeks ago a Bisquit experience invited a sweetened and new experience through their Women’s Dinner hosted by Bisquit Africa Brand Ambassador Xolisa Ndlala. The theme of the dinner was one of empowerment and a cultivated elegant experience, and the brand promised like their cognacs, that it would get Better with Bisquit.
Upon arrival, two cocktails were available to consume, a Chocolate Old Fashioned which comprised of the Bisquit VSOP (I really don’t like chocolate, even in alcohol) and the sweeter option of the Joie De Richese made with the fruitier Bisquit VS, Lime Juice, Sugar Syrup and Basil Leaves. Besides the cocktail’s lovely sweet taste, its ingredients were also something that one could recreate the cocktail at home with friends when hosting. Ndlala highlighted that the reason for the cocktails was also to introduce newbies to cognac like myself and the Biquit brand to women, exploring ways to make the brand inclusive to its drinkers.
Introducing the brand’s direction and his involvement in his new ambassadorship role, Ndlala addressed the ladies, who were from the sectors of financial services, technology and social development to advocacy on the brand’s drive to get more women to be knowledgeable about cognac and drinking more of it, as its still seen as a man’s drink.
True to the cognac experience and its roots, the dinner pairing experience was hosted at HeadQuarters (HQ) which is a Parisian-inspired steakhouse lounge located in Cape Town. The tasting menu was, for each course accompanied by a unique Bisquit product namely the VS, VSOP and the immaculate finish of the XO with the dessert, which even for a newbie like me can have it on the rocks and sip into it into the evening after a well deserved day, to celebrate or to relax.
With the right food pairing, the cognac experience was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be, and having the consumer education made it just as enlightening as I confessed in the first paragraph that my alcohol consumption is only limited to wine, champagne, gin and the occasional cocktail.
Thank you Bisquit for an incredible evening with great company, and great cognac – my first cognac bottle purchase has definitely been influenced.
- Women in Tech
- University of the Western Cape
- Mzukisi Qobo
- Circle of Young Intrapreneurs
- Chapter Lead
- Cape Innovation Technology Initiative
- Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation
- Young Corporate Leader
- One Young World
- fourth industrial revolution
- Venture Capital
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the website, and between work, school and the new role with Circle of Young Intrapreneurs as Chapter Lead, an incredible global organisation for young intrapreneurs, it’s been a tough balance but I want to thank you for the continued support and constant resharing and engagement with the content. As such, I thought it only fair to share on some of the activities that’s been keeping me busy on these streets which includes some speaking, mentoring and some contributions on other platforms.
Some speaking engagements included:
1. Facilitating the Cape Innovation Technology Initiative Tech Skills Readiness Programme with their Software Engineering cohort as they embark on their careers. This is a great programme that looks at aspiring software engineering students largely from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, and seeds knowledge and skills so as to cultivate the STEM future workforce for South Africa! An incredible knowledge sharing afternoon it was.
2. When this email came into my inbox, I couldn’t stop beaming. It was the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and what made me happier was the request to mentor for the day and share my journey was with their Youth@Work and their 60 phenomenal young women, who looked like me and came from the same township and a desire for knowledge and access was there. The opportunity was to engage with these young women on finding employment and choosing a career path – which as we all know how intimidating it can be when you’re still in your late teens. I’m so honoured to be able to get the constant opportunity to engage with young, black women and use my platform for such, to empower with information and access more than anything - be it through work or otherwise. I was left inspired ?❤
3. About two weeks ago, I flew to Pretoria to facilitate a panel discussion on Power and Influence of Young Trailblazers in Corporate and Business that had fellow One Young World Ambassador Farai Mubaiwa on the panel. The Young Corporate Leader‘s Women’s Day celebrations included a keynote addresses by Ipeleng Mkhari and Dr Matete Madiba, just to mention a few of the phenomenal women who got to use their platforms and engage with us. Well done to fellow Ambassador Kamogelo Lesabe for pulling this stunning event together with your team
4. I really do enjoy spending my time with my peers and those even younger, especially still in their teens and impressionable when it comes to making impactful decisions like what subject choices and the career choices that are available for their choosing – of course the bias in me leans towards STEM careers, especially in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I got to have some time with these students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) recently. Mmaki Jantjies, Head of Information Systems at UWC shared the experience.
Associate Professor at SARChI, Chair of African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, University of Johannesburg on his podcast. In it, we looked at the role of Venture Capital as well as other ingredients for start-up success in South Africa, which can be found in this link - https://soundcloud.com/mzukisiq/start-up-opportunities-and-venture-capital , aswell as a feature on Daily Maverick on South Africa’s Silent Start-Up Revolution which he authoured
One the most impactful and growing technology entrepreneurial schools in Africa is Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), which over the years has premise in Ghana and recently Nigeria and South Africa, with plans to launch in Ivory Coast and Kenya soon. I had the opportunity to host a session on Open Innovation and Community Building at one of their Community Conversations in Cape Town, as well as share some of the nuggets from the experience and my journey as a junior executive in corporate innovation- https://meltwater.org/open-innovation-and-community-building-with-vuyolwethu-dubese/
It happened! Exactly a month ago on the 24th of July, I turned 24 years old, and as you’re aware – it was my crown birthday and since those only come once in a lifetime, a birthday solocation seemed the only reasonable way to celebrate this new age. Early in 2018, I had planned a trip with a girlfriend of mine, which unfortunately didn’t work out, but I was determined to add another stamp onto my passport and see at least one country in Africa; this was the birth of Birthday Solocation. I’ll admit, this adventure cost a little more traveling alone (around R20 000), but the picturesque island of Mauritius and the friendliness of the Mauritian Rupee to the South African Rand were pretty compelling arguments for me. The adventure awaited …
Traveling to an African island is on my 2018 vision board, so I had started saving earlier to actualise this goal, and it was between Seychelles (which my budget wasn’t ready for unfortunately), Mozambique (the unfortunate failed trip) and Mauritius. After some research and comparative pricing with flights and accommodation, I settled on an Africa Stay package (assisted by Karlien) which included return flights with Air Mauritius (and airport transfers), a 5 night stay at 3 star Tropical Attitude Hotel (all inclusive) and complementary activities to mention a few. I’ll admit, the reason why I chose to go via the agency route is because I was intimidated at the thought of navigating a foreign place on my own, this option also saved me time, and it was with a reputable firmUpon my arrival on the evening on July 26th in Mauritius (+2 hours ahead of South Africa), I had the chance to have a walkabout at my hotel, and after I was settled, very pleased to find that they stock and import a lot of South African wine, so I was right at home. Through Kreola, I was assigned an incredible agent, Marie, who came to my hotel and helped me choose a series of activities over the duration of my stay and making a decision to not do them all was one of the toughest I’d had. Two of my favourite trips including island hopping (including Ile au Phare, Ile de la Passe, Ile aux Aigrettes) on The Love Boat (did I mention the Nigerian and SA playlist was fire?), a tasting and private tour of at Premium Distillery Rhumerie de Chamarel and visiting the capital city of Port Louis and Pamplemousses Garden which is not too far from the capital.
I could not have asked for a better way to usher me into this new chapter into my life, perhaps learning a bit of French or Kreole before I left for Mauritius might’ve given me a bit of an edge as a tourist, but these are a part of the learnings of traveling. Traveling alone as woman in a foreign, I ofcourse was worried about my safety, which was another reason why I chose to do this trip via agencies, I needed that confidence – and I have to say, I felt quite safe in the Mauritian streets, even in the evening. Coming from the airport, I even forgot my bag which had my laptop, router, wallet, passport and just about everything my life was about but I went to the Airport Police Station the following morning and ALL my belongings were intact.
I definitely would love to do this more, inside my country and outside my continent, not only to add more stamps to my passport but to add to the confidence of traveling alone and enjoying being challenged by one of life’s great litmus tests. I’d definitely love to commit to another birthday solocation next year for my 25th birthday, I’m thinking Thailand and cruising on their islands, the gorgeous Caribbean or the undisputed Contiki trip across a couple of European countries. Where’s your next vacation? I’d love to hear more from you!