Hellopay and Mastercard announced a partnership to roll out SoftPOS – a contactless acceptance solution that turns any NFC-enabled Android device into a physical point of sale. This move is expected to boost digital payment acceptance at small informal enterprises in South Africa while supporting consumers’ preference for touch-free payments amidst social distancing.
SoftPOS leverages Mastercard Tap on Phone, a simple and cost-effective digital payment technology developed for micro and small businesses like spaza shops, independent retailers, market stall traders, mobile servicemen and tradesmen who tend to operate in a cash economy due to the costs and complexity of obtaining the traditional point of sale devices.
Hellopay has a large merchant network comprising of Spaza Shops and other informal traders in South Africa and servicing millions of customers in rural areas and under-served settlements. The solution turns Android smartphones into secure payment acceptance devices for contactless cards, mobile wallets and even smartwatches — with no additional equipment or set-up costs.
Hellopay’s Tap on Phone solution is the result of a collaborative partnership between Nedbank, Mastercard and SmartPesa. The tap-on-phone functionality aligns with Mastercard’s commitment to delivering quicker and more accessible payments, without ever sacrificing security for convenience.
Hellopay will pilot the solution with 1,000 merchants over the next six months.
Mastercard, which continues to be at the forefront in the design of security requirements for Tap on Phone, will manage the payments infrastructure to ensure the solution remains safe, secure, and seamless.
Businesses can download the free mobile app and offer it to their customers immediately, providing consumers with a checkout experience that is flexible, seamless, intuitive and secure. The solution is ideal for low-value transactions and enables merchants to provide a faster checkout in store, as well as accept payment on delivery – options that are increasingly important as consumers look to touch-free cash alternatives.
The demand for faster, more convenient, safe, and now cleaner ways to pay has driven the transition to contactless, and it’s a one-way street with touch-free experiences expected to be permanent for consumers and businesses even after the pandemic ends.
“We recognise the overwhelming pressure that small business owners are currently facing and are committed to supporting them through COVID-19 and beyond by bringing our tools at a low cost and rapid time to market,” says Amnah Ajmal Sharma, executive VP, Market Development for Mastercard Middle East and Africa.
“Through our partnership with Hellopay, we can further support financial inclusion – especially among informal merchants –and help these businesses deliver new and best-in-class contactless consumer experiences using a device they already own: a smartphone.”
Bolt, a ride-hailing and e-scooter firm, has secured a €20 million (R364 million) war chest of funds to expand in Eastern European and African markets. The funds were secured from the World Bank’s IFC.
Bolt launched South Africa – its first African market – in 2016 and now operates in over 34 towns and cities across all nine provinces, connecting more than 25,000 drivers with passengers.
Since its launch in South Africa, the company currently operates in seven African countries, providing earning opportunities for more than 400,000 drivers in over 70 cities across the continent.
IFC’s funding will be targeted towards Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, and African markets, such as Nigeria and South Africa.
“Half of Bolt’s business is in Africa, and this investment will make it possible for us to stimulate entrepreneurship and enable progress for drivers and passengers by transforming transportation on the continent,” Gareth Taylor, Regional Manager for Bolt in Southern Africa, said.
Bolt is currently piloting a ‘Women Only’ ride-hailing category in South Africa – a new service aiming to address safety needs and improve women’s mobility by connecting female drivers with female passengers. IFC will support Bolt’s ongoing work to empower women riders and drivers by improving their access to safe and affordable transportation and creating new economic opportunities.
“We are looking forward to partnering with IFC to further support entrepreneurship, empower women and increase access to affordable mobility services in Africa and Eastern Europe,” Markus Villig, Bolt’s CEO and Founder said.
“Together with the investment from the European Investment Bank last year, we are proud to have sizeable and strategically important institutions backing us and recognising the strategic value Bolt is providing to emerging economies”.
Bolt has more than 50 million users in over 40 countries across Europe and Africa. Its services range from ride-hailing to micro-mobility with e-scooters and electric bikes to food and parcel delivery.
All Bolt rides in Europe are 100% carbon-neutral as part of Bolt’s Green Plan, a long-term commitment to reduce the ecological footprint of the company.
Investec Mauritius has an online banking platform built around its clients’ distinctive needs, with exceptional security, easy-to-use applications and intuitive self-service all synthesising to create client satisfaction. However, this is not achieved without focus. Ensuring client satisfaction is an ongoing process as clients’ needs, advanced technologies and security threats constantly evolve.
In 2009, Synthesis Software Technologies, innovative software development and consulting company partnered with Investec Mauritius to translate client requirements into technology realities. Since then, Investec Mauritius has developed a fully-fledged banking system that has experienced numerous evolutions and incremental changes over the past decade.
Investec Mauritius has always sought to provide high-touch client experiences. The demand for online banking and self-service meant that its banking platform would need to be a place where high touch and high tech merged. The bank also needed to ensure user journey cohesion with the Investec brand, while meeting the specific requirements of its Mauritius market. This all needed to be built with world-class security features so that clients could transact with confidence.
Together, Investec Mauritius and Synthesis build a full-fledged banking system. The banking system itself has gone through multiple iterations. What began as a basic view-only system in 2009, later went transactional and finally was rewritten in Net Core from 2015 onwards.
The following was built in a decade:
Complex authorisation systems that allow transactions to be gated for review and release
Forex with live market rates and selection for doing cross-currency trades/payments
Admin portals with a complete account, user management and masquerading capabilities
Usual transactional screens such as Statements, History and Notifications.
2FA with Single Sign On (SSO)
Ruchi Jain, Investec Mauritius Team Lead, explains that Investec Mauritius’ clients transact in high volumes.
“The solution that was put into place suited clients by giving them access, multi-user access and authorisation. It gave them the setup they required.”
She also explains that, “We have a very senior client base. They want easy screens to navigate around.”
When designing the platform, the unique needs of the Mauritius client bases as well as the increased demand for self-service, had to be top of mind. Clients are now able to do what they need when they need it with the addition of Investec’s bankers and a global support centre.
Regarding corporate use, the banking platform had to cater to the different needs of Mauritius businesses.
Leandré Roux, Synthesis Senior Developer, says: “The system is not a one-size-fits-all. It’s so tuneable. Each company can work differently. They don’t all have to follow the same patterns. You can mandate the way you want to do your business. It can be configured in such a fashion that it conforms to those mandates.”
This allowed Investec Mauritius to provide high tech with high touch suited for the client at hand.
Obey Makhuvele, Investec Mauritius Technical Lead, explains: “We get to understand the clients and build tailor-made products for them, which makes it easier for them to give us feedback. It is more feedback for us, which enables us to further improve.”
Investec has recently launched One Place. This is a drive to ensure consistency regardless of which platform a client uses to log in. This is important because many clients bank across Investec and have accounts with Investec UK, Investec SA and Investec Mauritius.
It was important that the user experience should always remain the same, even when the back end was built differently. Synthesis assisted with this and provided an updated framework. They also improved the tech stack so that things would work better, faster and would be easier to maintain. This, in turn, was a technical win for the group.
“This is where Investec is going. They want to unite all the different groups under a single platform,” says Roux.
Security has always been a key component of the platform, explains Jain. “The security priority was thought about right from the start.”
The team frequently conducted penetration (PEN) testing in line with this mandate. This is where external companies are paid to try hack into the system and report any vulnerabilities.
Roux iterates: “Since we have never failed a PEN test, the findings from our tests have always been a ‘by the way; this came up as a warning. It’s not a security breach issue but you can improve on it if you like.’ It was never a report of we found a big problem and we need to patch it out.” He continues that, “from a security perspective, Synthesis has always gotten it right and that is because Synthesis has a focus on getting security right the first time.”
In addition, Synthesis and Investec Mauritius also created the Transaction Monitoring system, which allows the business to do due diligence when investigating suspicious transactions flagged by the host’s system. This allows the bank to see transactions flagged on a dashboard. The team can then assign it to investigators, who can add documentation and proofs as a workflow. This is then used to generate reports to auditors and the Bank of Mauritius as required.
An example of this is where Investec offered clients cross-currency trading, but the bank used to decide a rate for the client, which was a very manual process. Alternatively, clients would need to speak to their private banker to confirm the rate. To remove this pressure from private bankers and allow the client to do this themselves, Synthesis built-in client trading.
Roux explains: “What this entailed is that when you would do a cross-currency payment over a certain threshold, the system would no longer select a rate for you. You would get prompted live rates off the market and as soon as you saw a rate that you were happy with, you would lock it in and your payment would be created and traded against that rate.”
This new feature allowed the team to easily set new rates ahead of time, which become active automatically on a set date.
Onboarding changed from a manual process to a seamless automated process, so clients could have a positive experience from the moment they began the Investec Mauritius journey.
A new platform
The old banking system that had been implemented was starting to show its age. It was slow in certain instances but still usable.
Synthesis started building the new banking system in 2015. The updated back end was built on .Net Core, which was released earlier that year. The new system had a 38% increase in performance.
However, this was not a simple task, explains Roux. “It’s tricky to build a system that works properly over multiple jurisdictions. Since he accounts are stored, maintained and handled differently, there were a lot of issues to make it look seamless when switching between Mauritius and the UK.”
The old banking platform also needed to be updated to increase the speed for more complex users.
Roux explains: “We deal with corporate users who bank on behalf of somebody else. There are a lot of banking data and accounts that need to be pulled to the front end with their balances, spend and transactions. This happened in under a second for personal users, but for corporates, it could be a time-consuming process.
“We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of banking accounts. On the old system, it took a while to complete before we optimised it. Now, the maximum time is three seconds: even with the biggest sets of accounts. The new stack was built to allow for a lot less overhead in processing the data compared to the old stack.”
Jain regards “Mauritius online as one of the most stable customer-facing applications running at Investec. Our old online, before the UX, was also one of the most stable applications. No app is error-free, but the recovery time for us as a team to fix an issue or a bug, was small, which adds to client satisfaction. We recently launched a new look and feel. If you look at the journey of how many complaints or problems we have got and if you compare that with other projects that land into client space, I think it was a smooth landing and that clients were happy.”
Building for the future
A significant distinguishing factor has also been using technology that ensures longevity and the ability to make constant updates safely, which ensures client satisfaction.
Regarding the original platform, the foundation created was very strong. “It was ideally designed to last for two years, but it lasted for eight, which speaks for itself,” says Jain.
The same applies to the user experience platform (UXP). “It was suggested from Synthesis to create the micro-services form. It was implemented and it is not something we will be writing in a year or two. It is future-fitted the way it was designed,” comments Jain. Makhuvele adds: “We were able to see where the future was going in terms of coming up with a micro-services application that will basically be called in any pattern. We are reaping the fruits of the decisions we have made back in the days. We can dockerise and deploy the microservices into the cloud, which is a huge win for us.”
The Investec Mauritius team has achieved client satisfaction while achieving brand consistency. One of the proofs for this lies in their call centre, says Jain: “If you see how many calls our calls centre gets, that tells us how good and stable our system is. Our desk is asking if they can help us because they get bored sitting at their desks waiting for calls”. They have also remained up to date with the Investec group.
The key to successful change is change built on truly listening to clients and their requirements. “They are very happy with us. We have been listening to them and build solutions to satisfy their needs,” explains Jain.
When asked about the greatest success over the last decade, Roux answers: “Helping Investec all these years and achieving client satisfaction. You can always get someone to come and build a banking system, but I don’t think building the system was necessarily the greatest success. Building that relationship and Investec Mauritius trusting us to make the right decisions, was more valuable. They wanted to work with Synthesis and building that legacy together, was the greatest success.”
Makhuvele confirms: “You call Leandre at 12pm and he be will on the phone. The relationship has been great.” Jain concludes: “Everyone who came from Synthesis was part of the team. We never thought that they were not a permanent member of the team. There was never an employer-contractor relationship. It is basically a Mauritius team. We have grown with Synthesis. We have grown together as partners and it was a beautiful journey.”
We don’t know what the next decade will bring, but we know that Investec Mauritius will continue to create a legacy built on client needs, brand integrity and future-focus.
The company produces the Smart Motor System, which it says is designed around its revolutionary switched reluctance motor (SRM) technology. SRMs have been used for decades in environments that demand 100% dependability.
But recent advances in supporting technologies have permitted Turntide to develop a patented, cloud-connected SRM that can power anything, using a fraction of the energy of the legacy AC induction motors in 98% of the world’s machines.
Today’s motors are inefficient, unintelligent and unreliable. Over 98% of today’s motors rely on technology invented in 1888 by Nikola Tesla.
Electric motors are the single largest consumer of electricity worldwide – costing businesses and the environment. They account for 70% of industrial power consumption and at least 47% of global power consumption. Until now, high-efficiency motors have required expensive permanent magnets to produce the torque needed to operate, often made of rare earth minerals that are environmentally destructive to mine.
Turntide’s Smart Motor System patented hardware architecture and digital DNA changes the way we move things: from fans in HVAC systems that cool or heat our homes and commercial buildings, to the pumps needed to carry water to our taps and refrigerate our food, and agricultural uses including fans creating conditions for animal welfare in dairy barns.
Turntide’s mission is to replace all the motors in the world with its Smart Motor System.
The US-based firm said this with this new funding; it plans to expand its Smart Motor System’s development and production to meet growing demand and extend it into new applications.
It added that the funding would also be used to accelerate deployment and advance Riptide’s development, a cloud-based building automation software platform that Turntide recently agreed to acquire.
Turntide plans to expand further into building automation by improving and extending its Building Operation System (BOS) platform to office buildings, retail locations, schools, and more.
The electric motors powering our world today account for half of the global electricity consumption – more than lighting, heating, and electronics combined. As our climate changes and the economy grows, electric motors’ global demand will continue to rise.
“Our investors recognize the critical role that technology will play in our fight against climate change. To curb the carbon emissions driving this crisis, we all need to change the way that we use energy. That starts with modernizing the technology that is currently powering our world,” said Turntide’s CEO and Chairman, Ryan Morris.
“With the support from our investors, Turntide will increase production of our Smart Motor System and ramp up motor retrofitting to provide cost-effective and energy-efficient motors to businesses around the world.”
The Smart Motor System advances sustainability goals, saves money, and minimizes maintenance calls.
Turntide’s Smart Motor System is the first digital-first motor that is software-driven, intelligent and sustainable.
The Smart Motor System’s digital DNA enables precise and reliable control to effectively use every watt of energy to reduce electricity consumption and achieve optimal efficiency.
The Smart Motor System is proven more reliable with a simplified design for variable speed operation rigour. For example, suppose a building is getting too hot or too cold. In that case, the Smart Motor System can slow the motor’s speed, lowering the output of conditioned air and eliminating excess energy waste and, thus, cost.
Turntide’s technology goes beyond mechanical design, integrating software that allows for IoT control system capabilities and data integration – delivering lasting value over time through proactive maintenance and updates.
Turntide’s Smart Motor Systems are being manufactured, shipped, and installed at scale across the United States, Canada, and the UK, with further international expansion planned this year.
Additionally, Turntide has pilots in the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico.
Last year, Turntide said it is ramping up to deploying thousands of motors per month.
Its Software Motor Systems are currently being used in Five Guys locations, Amazon facilities, and other retailers, grocers, and commercial buildings around the globe.
No design changes necessary; as a “drop-in” solution, the Smart Motor System reduces customer energy consumption – lowering customer cost and environmental impact, like LED lighting retrofits. As seen by retrofitting commercial HVAC motor systems with its Smart Motor System, Turntide’s customer energy savings reach an average of two-thirds.
South African signal distributor Sentech is leveraging the computing power of Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create streaming services in the country.
The signal distributor provides broadcast transmission services to all SABC radio and television stations, commercial radio, and TV stations, and over 130 community radio stations country-wide daily.
It also provides connectivity and infrastructure services to the retail, telecommunications, and public sector.
Kopano Thage, Sentech’s acting Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, explains that AWS is one of the state-owned company’s suppliers and has assisted it in providing streaming solutions.
“As the country went into Lockdown level 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Easter period, which is important for our customer, we were able to develop a streaming service platform for our religious channels, to answer the call of social distancing as the lockdown regulations prohibited the congregation from mass gatherings,” he says.
COVID-19 has forced many educational institutions to resort to remote learning to minimise the disruptions caused by the pandemic. It is expected that schools will continue to increase and improve their use of remote instruction even after the COVID-19 pandemic abates.
Thage says Sentech is in the process of developing a streaming platform that will enable e-learning and access to educational content for learners during this period.
“We understand the importance of education in our country most especially providing access to rural and underserviced areas with the view of addressing all citizens within our country that do not have access to streaming services,” explains Thage.
“We continue to evolve and develop digital solutions for our customers to ensure relevance in and ever-changing media landscape. Within the COVID -19 era, we have managed to ensure continuity of broadcast services to all our customer maintaining a high level of service availability while adhering to the regulation of lockdown levels.”
Thage says this continuity is being enabled by the AWS Cape Town data centres, which allow for the localisation of data in support of maintaining the sovereignty of the data and improving the efficiency of accessing that data.
According to him, Sentech is also playing a leading role in South Africa’s digital migration process.
Go Digital South Africa is in the process of taking South Africans to a new era of digital television that also brings more choice of television channels to ordinary people who view free-to-air television as provided by SABC, e-tv and M-Net.
Currently, these services are broadcast in an analogue format. The country is, therefore, moving these services, including regional television services, from analogue to digital broadcasting.
“Our organisation has already rolled-out the Digital Terrestrial Network to enable digital migration of services,” says Thage.
“We also intend to assist to expedite migration in collaboration with the stakeholders organised by the government. The completion of the digital migration would enable the release of the spectrum that is needed to further the connectivity needs of our citizen.”
But with so many connectivity options on offer, it can be tricky to decipher what’s worth your money and what’s not, and what the different benefits are. Most recently, providers have launched products with names like “AirFibre”, “LTE fibre” or “wireless fibre” as alternatives to cabled fibre.
And while it’s impressive to see both local and global organisations pushing the envelope and being inventive in their Internet offerings, this has resulted in the puzzling trend of labelling all sorts of connectivity products as “fibre” when they really aren’t, confusing already overwhelmed consumers in the process.
Let’s take a comparative look at fibre optic communications versus wireless or satellite communications to help you decide which is a better fit for your business needs.
The main difference between fibre and fixed wireless solutions
Telecommunications companies are offering wireless Internet services that don’t require trenching to lay underground fibre optic cables. But it’s not the case that these wireless products don’t require infrastructure – they need existing cell phone towers to provide connectivity to citizens.
What’s concerning though, is that many local providers are advertising these products as “fibre connectivity” when they are, in essence, different forms of wireless. Using fibre-related terminology to name or describe these services is incorrect. This becomes misleading when consumers are led to believe that they are paying for “fibre-like services”, expecting faster speeds, greater bandwidth, and better reliability, only to receive a wireless service instead, often leading to disappointment.
Unlike fixed wireless products, only connections that involve physical fibre optic infrastructure can be called true “fibre services”. Fibre works by sending data coded in a beam of light down long, extremely thin strands of glass (called fibre optic cables). These carefully crafted cables can carry light over huge distances without it scattering or dispersing, giving fibre the lightning-speed power it’s known for.
The case for satellites
Satellite communication also has its place – it’s most beneficial in rural and peri-urban areas where the rollout of fibre, mobile, and other broadband infrastructure is more difficult than in major metropolitan hubs. Satellites could serve as a key means of connectivity in rural areas of Africa – particularly for landlocked countries that struggle to build links to subsea cables, especially with Elon Musk’s satellite broadband service, Starlink, opening its pre-order list to South Africans This kind of communication is ideal for poorly connected areas, rough or mountainous terrains, or remote places where it can be costly to install fibre.
While fibre is considered a more popular way to access affordable, fast, and reliable connectivity, fibre optics are better suited for urban areas with good foundations where it is easier to lay communication lines. However, this is changing as more fibre network operators (FNOs) and fibre providers are rolling out fibre in rural areas and townships, making connectivity accessible to all South Africans.
For satellites and other wireless services to work, receivers need to have a physical line of sight to towers or satellites. This means anything that comes between the receiver and the tower or satellite could lead to signal interruptions. As more businesses embrace digital transformation and are moving their services to the cloud, their bandwidth needs and reliance on the Internet are only going to increase, so adequate bandwidth and reliability are crucial considerations.
The fibre sector is committed to finding better, faster, and more affordable ways to deploy infrastructure across the country. We are consistently testing new methodologies and working alongside other companies and government to support the digital economy for South Africa.
If services are named in such a way that they create expectations that can’t be met, consumers will suffer. In a competitive connectivity environment with many players making dubious claims and offering different solutions, fibre providers like SEACOM are focused on building high-quality, sustainable terrestrial networks that can endure the increasing bandwidth demand while satisfying changing business and consumer needs. For small businesses and work-from-home companies, we believe this means that there really is only one option – the supply and servicing of SEACOM’s best-in-class fibre.
Matthew Campbell is Head of SME and FTTH at SEACOM
Customers can now deposit cash directly onto their bank card at the till point in any Shoprite, Checkers or Usave store.
Together with other established in-store services like cash withdrawals, money transfers, and bill payments, this new functionality means shoppers can now perform the most basic banking tasks at all supermarkets within the Shoprite Group.
This move is similar to the one launched by Pick n Pay last year in partnerships with TymeBank.
The Shoprite Group said cash deposits at till points offer customers a range of benefits, including low transaction costs and unbeatable convenience.
The company has 1 700 Shoprite, Checkers and Usave supermarkets located throughout South Africa that will be able to process these transactions during their normal operating hours.
“As these stores are typically open outside of normal banking hours – and over weekends – they are significantly more convenient than traditional banking outlets,” said Shoprite.
Customers can deposit up to R3 000 at any Shoprite, Checkers or Usave till point – at a flat rate of just R19.95 per transaction.
South Africa banks are on board to accept deposits include Nedbank, FNB, Investec, Standard Bank, African Bank, Tymebank, Discovery Bank, Bidvest Bank, Sasfin and Grobank.
The service works much the same as it does at Pick n Pay. The shoppers simply need to present a Visa or MasterCard card at any till point, along with the cash they wish to deposit, and the teller will handle the transaction.
“Cash deposits at till point offer a new level of convenience and safety for our customers, many of whom earn their wages in cash, and live in rural or remote areas without easy access to ATMs,” says Jean Olivier, General Manager: Financial Services for the Shoprite Group.
“Together with a range of in-store Money Market services, this new functionality means we’re now able to process an even greater number of financial transactions, making our supermarkets a real one-stop shop.”
Shoprite has fired the starting gun on its expansion in South Africa, joining the fast-growing digital banking market where new players are signing up thousands of customers.
Africa’s largest food retailer has launched its new Money Market Account, a free transactional account to give customers more ways to save, send or spend their money.
Shoprite operates more than 2,934 outlets in 15 countries across Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands.
The retailer is likely to compete with new digital banks such as TymeBank, Discovery Bank and South Africa’s big 5 banks – ABSA, FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Capitec – the moment it fully launches a full banking account.
Today, Shoprite disclosed its plans to transition the new Money Market Account into a full banking account in the future.
The Money Market Account, which replaces the basic Shoprite Money product launched in May 2018, will grow to have most of the transactional capabilities of a full banking account, the retailer said.
It added that instead of having to stand in long queues to withdraw cash from an ATM, customers can use their Money Market Accounts to pay for transactions in any Shoprite, Checkers or Usave store.
Software programming training academy WeThinkCode has announced plans to open a campus in Durban this July. The new facility will complement the school’s existing campuses in Johannesburg and Cape Town and is part of an ambitious plan to double their student intake to 600 this year. This will give more South Africans the opportunity to join the digital world and help build the country’s technology skills capability.
E Squared Investments has committed R9,2-million to establish the new campus.
“As an impact investor whose mandate is to attack poverty and unemployment in South Africa, there are strong synergies between WeThinkCode’s involvement in assisting disadvantaged young people and E Squared’s social entrepreneurship initiative,” said Cheryl Jacob, Head of Social Entrepreneurship at E Squared.
The capital will be paid out over three years and will go towards equipping the building, staff resourcing as well as costs towards establishing the new curriculum.
“We know that South Africa has a vast pool of untapped talent with the aptitude to be trained in technology. At the same time, our youth unemployment is among the highest in the world,” WeThinkCode‘s CEO Nyari Samushonga, explains.
“Like any successful business, WeThinkCode is evolving and continually improving its operating model and this includes making our programmes accessible to more people. Geography plays an important role here as many candidates are unable to access our existing campuses. Hence our decision to open in Durban, South Africa’s third-biggest metropole.”
WeThinkCode was established in 2015 by Camille Agon and Arlene Mulder who had a shared passion for education and to unlock untapped talent in Africa. Their vision met up with that of two friends and entrepreneurs Yossi Hasson and Justinus Adriaanse, who wanted to start a foundation aimed at training aspirant youngsters to code, thereby helping to build South Africa’s technology sector. The collaboration resulted in a unique organisation that has provided a combination of education, mentorship and vital digital skills to over 600 young Africans.
Commenting on the drivers behind the Durban expansion, Samushonga says, “The CoVID pandemic has accelerated the digitisation process in businesses and demand for these skills is increasing exponentially. The Durban metropole, particularly, has seen significant growth in business activity over the past few years. Hence our decision to open a campus there to satisfy this need.
“While much of our teaching is done online, we do have important teaching phases when our students need to come onto campus. In addition, there are two intern periods within the two-year course that need to be undertaken near our students’ homes. KZN youngsters wanting a start in software programming can now apply for a place on their doorstep.”
WeThinkCode’s two-year software programming course is fully sponsored.
Inclusiveness is central to the WeThinkCode ethos.
“The academy is open for everyone. Specifically, we aim to increase the number of women programmers on our course each year. Our target is for women to exceed 40% of our 600-strong student contingent,” Samushonga says.
Geographical expansion and the inclusion of more women are not the only evolutionary processes happening at WeThinkCode.
“Although we currently enjoy a 98% employment rate of our graduates at average annual starting salaries of R240 000 a year, we are also refining our selection process to reduce the number of young people who drop out of the programme,” Samushonga says.
“Finding candidates with the best aptitudes and attitudes is crucial and we are using a newly-developed approach to identify talent and uncover the required cognitive skills. In addition, we draw on the expertise of leading technologists for the design of our course material. These experts are continually updating the course as technologies change.”
The challenges of remote operations and social distancing in the COVID-19 crisis has fast-tracked the need for digital transformation in retail to enhance customer service, and ultimately boost revenue. With up to 90% growth in South African consumers making purchases online during the pandemic, there’s a shift to a ‘click and mortar shopping experience’, which integrates technology with a traditional physical outlet and requires a network foundation, digital tools, and new streams of data to be analysed.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are emerging as innovative ways to drive profitable business outcomes while driving IT process efficiency.
Here are five key areas that retailers need to pay attention to if they are to deliver a successful omnichannel store experience in the future:
Start with great Wi-Fi. As retailers introduce mobile and IoT-enabled solutions like check-out point-of-sale devices, product scanners, scan-and-go apps and digital signage, and digital-savvy customers expect a seamless network experience online or in-store, reliable connectivity is critical. Retail workers also need to be able to connect to the store network without interruption if they are to use devices in assisting customers quickly, especially when Covid-19-related capacity limits make it critical to optimise turn times of shoppers in the space.
Get a competitive edge using IoT. IoT-enabled devices are able to deliver a multitude of new experiences and drive new efficiencies in the retail sector to stand out above competitors. With the introduction of mobile readers, sensors, and smart shelves, stores can maintain accurate inventory in retail time. Footfall sensors and location beacons can provide real-time analytics for contextual and personalised offers while supporting a safe shopping experience during the pandemic.
Don’t guess on application performance. Connectivity is the foundation, but the applications that customers, store assistants, and warehouse staff use must also perform flawlessly. IT teams have long prioritised business-critical applications, so they perform at peak. Guest traffic is separated from retail workers’ applications, and transactions and payments are highly protected. But even with these steps to ensure optimal application performance, the user’s network experience is often hard for IT to discern until there are vocal complaints. A better way to ensure a quality network experience is by giving IT a real-time view of the end-user experience along with clear action steps to resolve any issues before a service ticket is opened.
Spend your time on innovation, not on network management. It is rare for every store to have its own IT staff member. But it is common for IT to get bogged down in network management, rather than innovating with new digital use cases. A cloud-native, single-pane-of-glass network management solution can allow IT staff to work remotely while maintaining visibility and control over all vital network services. Cloud-managed networks enable retailers to scale back the network when the need for temporary services, such as pop-up outlets, pass, or scale up quickly as needed. Whether the site is a store, warehouse, or corporate headquarters, IT should be able to ensure a secure, high-performance network across all locations, including teleworker home offices.
Extend indoor services to outside. With 44% of South African consumers intent on continuing to use click and collect services into the future, according to a survey by McKinsey, and contact-less trading methods ensure health and safety, many retailers need to extend their Wi-Fi outdoors without compromising connectivity to applications and devices in store. Store assistants need mobile POS systems and inventory scanning devices to help customers, while maintaining secure connectivity to payment transactions.
Aruba’s Edge Services Platform (Aruba ESP) addresses all these imperatives of the retail industry. It is the industry’s first AI-powered platform designed to automate, unify and protect the edge for businesses of any size or type.
Aruba ESP includes attributes of Unified Infrastructure, Zero‑Trust Security, AI Powered Operations (AIOps), and Flexible Consumption/Financing Models. These attributes are designed for the unique challenges facing retail, including being able to adapt quickly for unknown future use cases.
Aruba’s technology solutions provide retailers tested and proven integrations to support staff communications, electronic shelf labels, shopper analytics, real-time data and inventory management, and predictive machine maintenance.
Mandy Duncan is Aruba Country Manager for South Africa
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