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Embracing digital disruption

Harnessing technology to leverage the internet of things

By Isaac Mophatlane, CEO of Business Connexion

The internet of things is driving the need for organisations to transform into digital businesses and this is disrupting business operations like never before.

Being globally competitive means being able to make rapid business decisions. For companies this means digitisation of process, automation of workflow, access to global information affecting ones business and being able to respond with agility, based on factual information.

Digitisation is not just about scanning and saving a document but having the ability to scan, extract, analyse and search information in a document automatically as an example.

Customers are more connected and this has resulted in an enormous increase in the amount of data flowing into the organisation. If a company is to survive this revolution, they will have to become digitally enabled and take advantage of business analytics to make sense of this data.

Through the internet of things we are seeing a vast increase in the amount of devices connecting to organisations.

You can no longer ignore the fact that you can control everything remotely and that is being driven through the internet and the cloud.

Isaac Mophatlane, Business Connexion Group CEO
Isaac Mophatlane, Business Connexion Group CEO

For companies to remain relevant in this age of the digital business, they will have to have a solid strategy in place to manage these access points, devices, increased data and the potential security risks that come with it.

You must be able to monitor these devices, knowing where they are in your organisation and what information they are accessing, otherwise you are leaving your organisation extremely vulnerable.

 

Removing complexity

The proliferation of data, increased customer demands and the evolution of service-orientated technologies are forcing organisations to disrupt existing infrastructure to develop new systems and processes that drive business value. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), 44 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) in South Africa are already prioritising aligning IT and business needs.

Today’s chief executive and chief financial officers know what value IT can bring to the business and the pressure is mounting for the CIO to show innovation and drive business agility to deliver on those expectations.

IDC also states that already 56 percent of CIOs in South Africa are prioritising driving innovation through IT.

The complexity of the digital age is forcing organisations to consolidate and underpins the need for automation and analytics across industries. We have experienced it within Business Connexion – due to the number of mergers and acquisitions made over the years, we became a complex business.bcxlogo

However, we as Business Connexion have now developed a new operating model that simplifies the business, making it easier to support its customers and drive additional value.

We are not just talking the internet of things talk, we have the building blocks in place and are bringing it alive as an organisation, which means we are best placed to take our customers on this journey to digital transformation.

 Taking advantage of opportunities on the continent

While South Africa has already reached some level of IT maturity, the rest of the continent presents massive opportunities. IDC has predicted that a new cloud model will emerge in 2015 and that markets such as Kenya and Nigeria will catch up to more mature markets.

We are definitely seeing growth in cloud and data centre outsourcing in other African markets. The retail, health and education sectors are already experiencing increased growth and previously untapped markets like Rwanda are seeing huge investment in IT, infrastructure and telecommunications.

The key to success in other parts of Africa is understanding the market.

You have to know how each country operates and have a deep understanding of the rule of law and legislation. You also need to work with locals who will understand and embrace your culture and way of working.

Companies also need to understand whether the right skills exist within the markets they are exploring and here, selecting the right partner to take you on this journey could mean the difference between success and failure.

Orange Horizons’ first South African retail store opens in Cape Town

By Staff Writer

Orange, French telecoms group, will open the doors to its first physical retail store in the country, situated in Claremont, Cape Town, on June 26.

“The opening of a physical store is a logical step for us,” explains Orange Horizons CEO Sébastien Crozier. “The response to the Orange Online Store by South African consumers exceeded all or expectations, which led to a local warehouse being established to service this market. We therefore have sufficient stock levels to justify the opening of our first retail store in the country.

“We are excited about the store, as it not only provides a further platform for the brand’s growth into Africa – which is a key market for us – but is also an additional step in our commitment to our customer base in the region.”Orange-3-700x350

In addition to offering consumers a wide range of the latest gadgets and accessories, the store will also offer click-and-collect facilities, act as a drop-off point for repairs and returns, act as a point of sale for Orange’s Top-Up products and provide customer service for Orange’s travel products. These travel products are of great benefit to South Africans travelling abroad who wish to take care of their communication requirements before departing.

Crozier says that in future, the store will also act as a point of service for the brand’s soon-to-be-launched ISP activity in the country.

“Further to the Orange Wi-Fi offering in South Africa, our plans to launch as an ISP in 2015 will be made easier by having a point of service and contact with our customers,” he says, noting that Orange plans to open additional stores in the future, in key provinces and geographical areas.

Facebook to bring Internet.org free basic services to Cell C customers

By Staff Writer

Cell C has teamed-up with Facebook to bring affordable Internet access to consumers through the launch of Facebook’s initiative, Internet.org free basic services in South Africa.

Internet.org was developed by Facebook and its technology partners to create a way to bring affordable Internet access to under-served communities.

“We are excited to bring Internet.org free basic services to Cell C customers in South Africa,” says Markku Makelainen, Director of Global Operator Partnerships at Facebook. “With Internet.org free basic services, more people in South Africa will have access to resources and information that can create new opportunities and ideas, and help improve their lives.”

Bringing access to those that need it most has become an imperative in SA, with only 10,9% of South African households having access to the Internet at home, despite 85% of them having access to a mobile phone.

“Given that so few people have access to the Internet despite the number of mobile phones in SA, shows the need for organisations like Facebook and Cell C to partner to overcome challenges such as affordability,” says Cell C CEO, Jose Dos Santos.

From 1 September for a period of 12 months, customers who want to continue using Facebook Messenger, post comments, view and share posts and view News Feeds and profiles free of charge, can do so by accessing Facebook through the Internet.org application.

Viewing and posting pictures, as well as, breakout Internet browsing, VOIP calling, Facebook videos, YouTube and Instagram will be charged at standard data rates or will deplete data bundles where available. Customers will also have the option to buy Cell C data bundles while on Facebook or Internet.org.

During the 12-month period, all the sites available through Internet.org on the Cell C network will remain free when accessing links through the application.

The Internet.org initiative will bring these households free access to services like healthcare information, educations sites and job searches. A full list of sites is included below.

Cell C customers can access the Internet.org application through the Google Play Store or visit www.internet.org.

Furthermore, building on its strategy to embrace over-the-top (OTT) players, Cell C is now offering promotional zero-rated access to Facebook.

“We were the first and only mobile player in SA to offer zero-rated access to WhatsApp and now we are building on that with this Facebook offering,” says Santos.

Through this offer, Cell C is reaffirming its commitment to provide the best value offerings to its customers through innovative partnerships. The popularity of the WhatsApp promotion has allowed Cell C to expand its OTT value adds and will continue to look at innovative ways to bring these services to its customers.

Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos
Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos

“Facebook is one of the most popular services used by our customers and this offering will make it more affordable for them to share their lives with those closest to them,” says Dos Santos.

From 1 July, Facebook usage will be free to all existing and new postpaid, top up and prepaid customers and will continue until 31 August 2015.

Customers will be able to use Messenger, post comments and pictures, view and share posts and pictures and view News Feed and profiles at no charge. Breakout Internet browsing, VOIP calling, Facebook videos, YouTube and Instagram will be charged at standard data rates or will deplete data bundles available. Customers will also have the option to buy Cell C data bundles while on Facebook or Internet.org.

Postpaid and top up customers will automatically get free access to Facebook and Internet.org while prepaid customers need to ensure they recharge once every 30 days to show they are active on the network.

Vox Telecom buys Wishlist

By Staff Writer

Vox Telecom has expanded its consulting and integration capabilities, with the acquisition of Wishlist Corporation, a certified Microsoft Dynamics partner, for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition makes Vox Telecom, through its Microsoft Consulting and Software Integration division, one of the largest Microsoft Dynamics partner for the mid-market in southern Africa.

“One thing we are certain of, is that companies are becoming increasingly dependent on cloud-based solutions and even more dependent on bandwidth. Our ability, through our expertise, and Vox Telecom’s infrastructure, to offer these critical functions, under one banner is very exciting and presents a number of opportunities,” says Neville Levinthal, former shareholder of Wishlist Corporation, and business development manager for Vox Telecom’s Microsoft Consulting and Software Integration division.

The acquisition, which was finalised in April, has seen the Wishlist Corporation team, as well as its customer base, migrate to Vox Telecom.

“But,” adds Heath Huxtable, executive head of the Microsoft Consulting and Integration division at Vox Telecom, “this does not mean that one product will be considered more important than the other. Our vision is to run both Microsoft Dynamics GP and NAV independently, and enable us to cover a broader spectrum of midmarket and corporate companies as part of our divisional and business growth objectives.”

“This acquisition, which is the fourth in just over a year, forms a strategic part of our differentiation strategy and is intended to further entrench us as an end-to-end technology partner to our customers.” says Huxtable.

  • Email TechFinancials.co.za at editor@techfinancials.co.za

MTN SA bags Total Telecoms Best Brand Award

By Staff Writer

MTN has scooped the much-sought after Total Telecom Best Brand Award in recognition of the popular MTN Sky “Win a Plane” competition.

The fiercely contested Total Telecom Best Brand Award is conferred to companies that have elevated their brand awareness in the past 12 months and demonstrated a positive impact on market share, valuation and bottom line.

MTN was recognised for its first-to-market MTN “Win a Plane” competition where MTN subscribers stood a chance to win a four-seater Sling aeroplane, or its cash equivalent of R1.7 million.

 

The MTN Sky “Win a Plane” Competition had a positive impact on product uptake and increased MTN’s market share during its tenure.

MTN saw subscriber numbers increasing by 5.7% and recorded 1.4 million net additions for the quarter ended 30 September 2014. MTN attributed this performance to an aggressive marketing campaign that was underlined by attractive voice and data offers.

Millions of South Africans still prefer over-the-counter banking

Kaspersky Lab: Almost half of Internet Users in South Africa still Think Visiting Their Branch is Safer than Online Banking

 By Staff Writer

 

Almost half (43%) of Internet users  in South Africa believe traditional over-the-counter banking is safer than banking online, according to a survey carried out by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International.

Despite these fears most people still make some payments online but many fail to take even basic security measures, putting their money and banks’ reputations at risk.

One of the easiest ways for criminals to access online bank accounts is to pose as the account owner. This can be done by getting information about the account, setting up a phishing page where users unwittingly hand over their usernames and passwords, or by intercepting username and password data with a banking Trojan when users log on to their bank’s legitimate pages. Traditional computers and mobile devices are both vulnerable to these attacks.

The survey shows that a significant number of users (64%) feel vulnerable when making financial transactions online. Moreover, just less than half (49%) reported they believe making payments offline is more reliable than online and 43% agreed that offline banking is the safer than online banking.

However, in spite of these fears, the majority of Internet users make online payments: 74% of those surveyed use their desktops or laptops for online payments, 22% locally use their tablets, 32% use their smartphones, and 14% of Smart-TV owners admitted using their Smart-TV for such operations. At the same time, according to the survey, 15% of users do nothing to protect their financial data online.

If customers choose traditional over-the-counter banking, from fear of falling victim to Internet fraud, it will hamper the adoption of high-margin online and mobile payment systems. This will force banks to invest more of their resources in low margin branches instead,” said Ross Hogan, Global Head of the Fraud Prevention Division at Kaspersky Lab.

“Meanwhile, among those who have adopted online and mobile payments, there is a persistent security concern as they may be putting their money – and the bank’s reputation – at unnecessary risk. That is why today it is vital that banks invest in technology ensuring a secure banking environment for their customers. This approach will not only reassure customers who prefer in-branch banking that online and mobile banking is secure, it will also reduce the risk for careless customers, who might otherwise lose important financial data.”

Telkom retrenchments ‘revives’ architects of Apartheid

Telkom’s race obsession and Solidarity’s penchant for playing the race card conspire to revive apartheid

While Telkom – South Africa’s largest fixed-line telephone group – professes to be focused on restructuring on its business strategy, which involves trimming off some fat it is the issue of race that is taking centre stage.

Lately, the Solidarity union has been accusing Telkom of using employment equity as criteria for retrenchments.

While Telkom has lambasted Solidarity for what it says are inflammatory and misleading inferences suggesting that race “is the key selection criterion and that white employees will be targeted.”

Telkom adds: “It’s regrettable that Solidarity has chosen to play the race card again, in the context of a process that needs to address critical challenges that the company is facing,” Telkom spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan said on Tuesday.

In the past Solidarity, which represents mostly white employees, has dragged Telkom into race politics.

Last year in July Solidarity was up in arms over claims that white workers were being targeted by Telkom for retrenchment.

“If you work at Telkom and you’re white, you’re guilty! Guilty, because you’re the ‘wrong’ race and you’re costing the company BEE points,” claimed Solidarity at the time.

“Forget about the years of loyal service, your qualifications and the positive contribution you make.”

Solidarity has uploaded a parody video of Telkom onto YouTube, which is from a scene in the film Downfall, depicting Adolf Hitler’s last days in a Berlin bunker.

“We have a major (ity) problem … we are being pushed into a corner,” says Hitler in the video. The character could have been depicting Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko.

Solidarity is at it again.

On Tuesday Solidarity reiterated that Telkom had deliberately listed race as one of the selection criteria in its section restructuring notice.

This was after Telkom earlier said Solidarity was playing “the race card”.

The union said that the use of employment equity as criteria for retrenchment would contravene the Employment Equity Act.

“Last year, following an agreement between the parties, Solidarity obtained an urgent court order against Telkom that forbade Telkom to use race as criteria during restructuring,” said Marius Croucamp, the Solidarity spokesperson.

“Telkom is well aware of the fact that the courts do not allow it. Telkom is the one that chose to play the so-called race card – not us.”

Croucamp said that Solidarity would continue to oppose Telkom’s use of employment equity as criteria for retrenchment.

In a letter to the Telkom on Tuesday Solidarity demanded that the company withdraws the controversial race criteria.

“It is clear that Telkom has an obsession with race, despite the fact that the court forbade it to continue with this practice,” said Croucamp.

“If race is not a factor in the restructuring process, Telkom should have no problem withdrawing the said criteria. We will approach the court again if Telkom does not withdraw the criteria.”

However, in its notice issued to the unions in terms of section 189 of the LRA, Telkom proposes that “LIFO (Last in First Out) subject to the retention of scarce and critical skills and where applicable, employment equity considerations” be used as the selection criteria.

“As with any company, Telkom looks at a number of employment criteria in deciding to bring people into the company or to retain them during times of change,” says O’Sullivan.

There is no doubt that the restructuring process that includes retrenchments undertaken by Telkom is a painful but necessary exercise. The question is it really necessary to shift the main goal and refocus it on race?

The architects of racial politics must be smiling in their graves.

Telkom bosses should remain resolute and restructure the business to make it leaner, more efficient and profitable.

FNB launches comprehensive online property tool

By Staff Writer

FNB launches FNB Property Leader, an online property tool that gives step-by-step advice and solutions to manage the entire property process from buying to selling.

FNB Property Leader was developed with the customer in mind as the ultimate electronic innovation helping them through the often emotional property process. The solution is not only comprehensive, but convenient as it lives online and can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

“For many people the process of buying and selling a property can be overwhelming. This tool is a way to hold the consumer’s hand throughout the entire process from before starting to look for a first house to when it is time to sell,” says Marius Marais, CEO of FNB Home Loans.

Potential home owners can receive preapproval within seconds.

 “With our preapproval process, the customer literally becomes a “cash buyer” and it solves one of the biggest quandaries, “what is my affordability,” says Marais. “The system checks the customer’s credit score and, depending on customer’s risk profile and affordability, automatically creates a pre-approval letter which serves as a provisional guarantee giving the buyer the necessary negotiating power.”

Once a home loan is ready to be submitted the entire process can be completed quickly and easily through the site.

“We have created a platform that accepts all the documentation and information required for a home loan application with FNB. The process is quick to log and the customer can track their home loan application through the site,” says Marais.

The site also offers free area and property reports that are pulled from a number of sources including the Deeds Office to give a comprehensive overview of a suburb or particular house.

Area reports include details such as average house prices in the area, average increase or decrease in property prices, the types of homes and profile of the buyers.

A property report includes the last bought and sold price of the property as well as an estimated current value calculated through a model developed for the FNB Property Leader site.

Additional features such as check lists for each of the buying and selling processes, questions to ask the estate agent as well as current properties listed for sale provide users with in-depth information and advice on being a property owner.

All you need is the air that you breathe… and bandwidth

By Brian Timperley of Turrito Networks

South Africa’s bandwidth pricing has experienced less dramatic reductions of late, after several years of more aggressive price drops – but a new round of disruption is due under the twin pressures of fibre rollout to consumers and the growth of international “over the top” (OTT) services like WhatsApp.

We all know that South Africa lags far behind when it comes to bandwidth availability, cost and speed.

In urban areas in developed countries the availability of bandwidth is likened to air – the idea of rationing it by capping services is very foreign. Fortunately, we are now seeing the beginnings of a new wave of bandwidth rollouts that will make up some of the backlog.

Brian Timperley co-owner for Turrito Networks
Brian Timperley co-owner for Turrito Networks

The fibre to the home (FTTH), now beginning to be rolled out in major centres around the country, spells a beginning to the end of Telkom’s monopoly over the last mile.

Local loop unbundling – making Telkom’s copper network available to other service providers to increase competition in the market – has been promised for more years than we’d like to recall, and the market has finally given up waiting. FTTH pricing is very aggressive at the moment for a service that’s far more stable, and often much faster than ADSL… copper theft also becomes a thing of the past.

While rollout is still restricted to a handful of suburbs, we should expect the FTTH footprint to expand rapidly, paving the way for the end of capped services.

 In addition, local operators should brace themselves for a wave of competition from big international players on OTT (Over the Top) services.

WhatsApp’s introduction of free voice calls is an indicator of what’s to come. The quality of service may not be equitable to fixed-line, but even with the cost of cellular data factored in, it’s one twentieth the cost of a traditional call. People will forgive occasional jitter at that price point. That means existing providers are facing the real threat of a mass exodus of traffic from their voice platforms.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook is looking to Africa for its next billion users.

And it’s not just Facebook. Google has also announced plans to start providing free access in many parts of Africa. With these global giants getting in on the act, local providers are going to have to shape up and face competition they’ve never encountered before.

Telkom irked at Solidarity for playing race card

Telkom is furious over reports about Solidarity union allegations that race will be one of the factors considered by the country’s biggest fixed-line telephone group on its restructuring process, which include retrenchments.

Telkom’s plans include reducing its workforce by 4 400 through Voluntary Severance Packages and Voluntary Early Retirement Packages. Earlier this year, 724 employees have already accepted packages.

If this new target is not met, forced retrenchments will follow in July to attain the desired number. Another approximately 3 200 permanent employees will be transferred to other companies.

Solidarity alleged in a statement on Monday that Telkom indicated in a section 189 notice to trade unions that employment equity will be one of the selection criteria during the restructuring process. “If Telkom proceeds with this, it will mean that white employees will bear the brunt of the telecommunication giant’s retrenchment process,” the union said.

However, spokesperson of Telkom, Jacqui O’Sullivan on Tuesday said: “The inflammatory and misleading inference by Solidarity that race is the key selection criterion and that white employees will be targeted, is unequivocally rejected. It’s regrettable that Solidarity has chosen to play the race card again, in the context of a process that needs to address critical challenges that the company is facing.

“Telkom would prefer to focus on the consultation that it has been initiated and will take place within the structured LRA process, rather than pursuing media headlines with misleading hyperbole.”

The company said in its notice issued to the unions in terms of section 189 of the LRA, Telkom proposed that “LIFO (Last in First Out) subject to the retention of scarce and critical skills and where applicable, employment equity considerations” be used as the selection criteria.

As with any company, Telkom looks at a number of employment criteria in deciding to bring people into the company or to retain them during times of change.

“Most importantly, we are a technology company so our people must be equipped with the necessary skills to perform the required body-of-work. They would also be required to have the correct qualifications and training and importantly, the necessary aptitude and attitude to be a part of the Telkom of the future,”said O’Sullivan.