Source: Fin24 

With its colourful hammocks and table tennis table, a new tech hub in the Lagos metropolis wouldn’t look out of place among the start-ups on the other side of the world in Silicon Valley.

But the NG_Hub office is in the suburb of Yaba – the heart of Nigeria’s burgeoning tech scene that is attracting interest from global giants keen to tap into an emerging market of young, connected Africans.

In May, both Google and Facebook launched initiatives nearby.

This week, Nigeria’s Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was in California to court US tech investors for what he said could herald a “fourth industrial revolution” back home.

But it isn’t just Nigeria that is piquing the interest of tech giants.

Last month, Google said it would open Africa’s first artificial intelligence lab in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

Demographics are a key factor behind the drive: Africa’s population is estimated to be 1.2 billion, 60% of them under 24. By 2050, the UN estimates the population will double to 2.4 billion.

“There’s a clear opportunity for companies like Facebook and Google to really go in and put a pole in the sand,” said Daniel Ives, a technology researcher at GBH Insights in New York.

“If you look at Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, where is a lot of that growth coming from? It’s international,” he told AFP.

Facebook is operating from the NG_Hub as it doesn’t yet have a permanent office in Nigeria.

The company’s Africa head of public policy, Ebele Okobi, said at the opening of the premises that the goal was to cultivate the nascent technology community.

The social network has pledged to train 50 000 people across the country to “give them the digital skills they need to succeed”, she added.

In exchange, Facebook, which currently has some 26 million users in Nigeria, gets more users and access to a massive market to test new products and strategies.

“We are invested in the ecosystem. Just the fact that they are engaging… that in of itself is a goal,” she added.

Cyber colonialism?

Many African governments have given the tech titans an enthusiastic welcome.

In California, Osinbajo said the Nigerian government will “actively support” Google’s “Next Billion Users” plan to “ensure greater digital access in Nigeria and around the world”.

Few sectors in Africa inspire as much hope as technology, which has the potential to revolutionise everything from healthcare to farming.

Examples include Ubenwa, a Nigerian start-up that has been described as “Shazam for babies”, after the application that identifies music and films from snippets.

Ubenwa analyses a baby’s cry using AI to diagnose birth asphyxia, a major cause of death in Africa when babies don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients before, during or immediately after birth.

Detecting the problem early could save thousands of lives.

“Africans should be responsible to come up with the solutions,” said Tewodros Abebe, a doctoral student studying language technology at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

“Unless we are involved, no one can understand the existing problems in our continent.”

Abebe dismissed fears that what Facebook and Google are doing represents a form of so-called cyber colonialism.

“Working collaboratively I think is a good way of technology transfer for Africa,” he said. “If they are only looking for business, that’s colonisation.”

‘Epocalypse now’

As Africa’s technology sector grows, fuelled by growth in mobile phone use, so too does pressure on governments to protect its citizens’ personal data.

Osinbajo told tech leaders Nigeria was keen to create the right environment for development, including for regulation.

But the debate over privacy is muted in many African countries, unlike in Europe, which recently passed tougher new data protection laws.

Facebook has also been at the centre of a storm for failing to protect user data in connection with claims of manipulation in the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

Global Justice Now, an anti-poverty group, fears tech companies are being given free rein to create a global surveillance state.

“We could find ourselves sleepwalking towards a world in which a handful of tech companies exercise monopoly control over whole swathes of the world economy, further exacerbating inequality between the global north and the global south,” said the activist group in a May 2018 report titled “Epocalypse Now”.

Renata Avila, from the World Wide Web Foundation in Geneva that campaigns for digital equality, said that has not come to fruition but there were pressing concerns.

“The message is that Africa needs investment and it needs to develop these industries, so usually it’s a pro-business narrative,” said Avila, a digital rights researcher.

“But there is little oversight,” she added, warning that without regulation, people were vulnerable to exploitation.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

If 2017 is anything to go by, Black Friday is quickly becoming one of the busiest South African shopping days and, like the US, marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

This year, online retailers are preparing for even more hype, but are we getting ahead of ourselves? Let’s take a step back and review what we can learn from previous years:

1. Start early to reap rewards
As early as October 2017, the N1 in Gauteng bore the fruit of well-planned marketing campaigns with enticing billboards. Research shows that more than 50% of holiday shoppers start researching gift ideas in October or earlier. This tells us that we need to plan ahead, and by early November, you’ll need to kick off your campaign to ensure marketing ROI.

Not only does this give you more time to generate opportunity, but useful, published links will start building page SEO – crucial in the ever-competitive e-commerce sphere. Major retailers are pulling out all the stops from well-segmented email marketing to encouraging customers to add products to their carts ahead of the day. But, Black Friday does not only attract the big players but the smaller retailers too. In 2017, Nichemarket listed more than 500 participating stores from niche to e-commerce giants.

2. Integrate and personalise
Sure Black Friday has a certain, recognisable look, but marketing efforts have become more personalised. Think beyond the homepage and set up custom product landing pages. Integrate these with your social media platforms for wider reach. Remember to include your marketing material throughout for a consistent, familiar message. Entice consumers with a clear USP.

3. Set the clock to create urgency
It’s a one-day-only type of thing, so get in with the hype and add a countdown timer to your website. Like Takealot, you can offer exclusive discount newsletter sign-ups with early deal leaks to get your customers on board. If you decide to extend the frenzy to Cyber Monday, communicate this with your customers before-hand. In 2017, Superbalist did this well by gamifying their deals with locks. Not only did they keep their customers informed but engaged throughout the entire weekend.

4. Make the most of seasonal shoppers
Before Black Friday, you need to have your Christmas specials in place to benefit from the Black Friday hype that still lingers. Allow it to link with Black Friday and continue to drive sales after the big day as people continue to shop over the entire holiday season.

5. Involve the entire team for great customer experience
On Black Friday you’ll be very busy. Whilst it’s important to drive sales, involve the entire team to ensure that you don’t neglect your customers. Done right, Black Friday is a great brand awareness tool, but if your customer experience suffers, even the brand loyalists may stray afterwards. You may need to hire extra staff or work longer hours.

6. Consider an omnichannel approach
Customer satisfaction extends to shipping, so consider offering free delivery or perhaps an in-store collect option for those yearning immediate gratification on their spend. It is important to understand the interchange between physical and online stores – consumers prefer an omnichannel approach where they can research and shop both online and in-store.

7. Offer generous discounts
Leading up to Black Friday, Game launched its online store with generous discounts knowing that it would motivate new and on-the-fence consumers to purchase. In the US “Black Friday bargains were bigger, on average, last year“.

Small, negligible discounts just don’t match the hype and it certainly won’t attract the powerful (and savvy online shopping) millennial consumer market. Before your brand jumps on the BF bandwagon, it may be wise to assess whether it’s worth it? Some shops choose deliberately to opt out and so could you.

8. Accommodate mobile users
Make it easy for customers to shop online by optimising your mobile checkout process. Consider adding a one-click checkout option to streamline the process, and offering real-time online support for quality customer support.

Netflix retaliates in DStv battle

By Lynsey Chutel for Quartz

For months, the chief executive of South Africa’s biggest TV company, MultiChoice, has suspected Netflix was messing with him and the rest of the DStv parent company. Calvo Mawela was clearly spooked, yet it seemed laughable that relative newcomer, Netflix South Africa was going after DStv in particular, until it actually turned DStv’s corporate paranoia into a joke.

To market to South Africans fed up with DStv, the streaming service created a character, Man With A Van. Played by prominent local comedian Jason Goliath, he makes a living faking Netflix installations. Man With A Van visits clients houses, with pointless wiring and over-the-top installation, even carrying an empty box with the words Premium HD—a direct dig at DStv’s premium service.

DStv has always suspected that Netflix is coming for it. First, Netflix sent a helicopter over MultiChoice’s Johannesburg headquarters, flying a banner over their heads, Mawela told local press in May. Then, MultiChoice employees started seeing Netflix billboards going up on roads around Johannesburg.

In all of this Netflix has been almost silent, making moves instead of releasing statements. Getting a formal comment out of them has been near impossible, but their actions have illustrated that they were making a real play for the market.

In a recent article in MyBroadband, Mawela stated that Netflix needs to be regulated by ICASA, and should be BBBEE complaint.

There are no official figures about how many users Netflix already has in South Africa, but in compiling their own 600-page report on their new competitor, MultiChoice estimates Netflix has 300 000 to 400 000 compared with 6.6 million MultiChoice homes. MultiChoice is also blaming Netflix for its loss of more than 100,000 satellite television subscribers in the last financial year, and an additional 40,000 in this cycle.

Apart from not requiring installation, at R165 a month for a premium subscription, Netflix has a price advantage over DStv, which costs R900 a month for a premium subscription. Of course, Netflix requires a reliable internet connection, which is still costly in South Africa. For customers fed up with DStv’s high prices and frequent re-runs , Netflix is already winning the battles for hearts and eyes.

By Annie Palmer for DailyMail 

Facebook will soon be able to notify you if Russian trolls are sliding into your DMs.

The social media giant is testing a new feature that will include additional information from unfamiliar contacts who have direct messaged you on Facebook Messenger, showing things like when the account was created and the country where their phone number is registered.

It marks Facebook’s latest effort to stave off the spread of fake news on its platform.

Should the feature become available to the public, it would help prevent users from receiving potentially malicious or spammy messages from unknown users.

“We are testing a way to provide people with more context on folks they may not have connected with previously,” Facebook Messenger spokesperson Dalya Browne told Motherboard.

“This is just a small test,” she adds.

Technology is making workspaces and work styles more flexible and collaborative by the day. Cutting-edge personal devices continue to infiltrate the workplace and with cloud computing and superior Internet connectivity, the idea of working from anywhere is the new norm. The physical workspace is evolving from static to dynamic to meet changing business and employee needs.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a growing trend that permits employees to use personal devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones in the workplace to access company information and applications. From increased productivity and reduced hardware, software and networking costs, to increased convenience, employee satisfaction and work-life balance, there is no reason not to foster a BYOD culture.

To BYOD or not to
Studies show that a BYOD policy can boost productivity by 34% and save workers well over an hour every day as employees work faster on devices they are comfortable with. New employees have a decreased learning curve associated with new devices. When tech hungry employees bring trailblazing technology into the workplace, it is bound to save time and boost productivity.

Roughly 75% of employees in high growth global markets and 45% in developed markets are currently using their own devices at work. In South Africa, BYOD is still in the early stages of adoption. Nevertheless, it is fast becoming an achievable must-have with the aid of security, device management and network scalability solutions to manage BYOD on business networks.

Overcoming the challenges
Data is the lifeblood of any business but giving employees access from anywhere on personal devices is enough to keep business owners up at night. Do their devices have the right security measures in place? Who else has access to their devices? What happens when devices are lost or stolen?

Start with the right cyber security. With Nashua’s Managed Document Solutions (MDS), businesses can harness the remote workforce by enabling secure access to documents from any device, provided employees have the appropriate access privileges. It considers whether documents can be saved onto personal devices and if so, what security measures need to be in place. MDS also takes into account the workforce’s need for secure and convenient access to business applications, bearing in mind that these are no longer protected by the business’ IT security.

BYOD is marred by grey areas, particularly regarding security, device monitoring and employee privacy and reimbursement. That said, best practices and policies are continually refined to strike a balance between business and employee needs. BYOD offers a win-win situation so instead of fretting about risks that may never materialise, invest in solutions that can bridge the gap.

Before stepping into the BYOD space, start preparing for device integration with a detailed digital strategy. Draw up a policy that stipulates usage terms at work and outside of the office. It must clearly communicate the implications of data breaches and should make employees aware of any device monitoring technologies used to track business-related activities.

Consider your network scalability and capability to accommodate the influx and simultaneous use of personal devices. Studies show that businesses need at least 20% more Wi-Fi capacity and sufficient wireless bandwidth to support mobile devices. As far possible, businesses should specify access rights and only authorise access to confidential information on a need-to-know basis. Businesses can also improve end-point security by enforcing the installation of the latest security programs and anti-malware and by linking devices to secure cloud-based network and data storage services.

To capitalise on the benefits of an increasingly flexible workspace, businesses must embrace BYOD as a powerful tool that can empower workforces and boost business productivity.

By Jason Karaian for Quartz

This week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos saw his net worth soar above $150 billion, giving him the most billions among all the billionaires on the billionaire lists. Bill Gates, in second place, is worth a modest $94 billion, according to Forbes. Bezos first appeared on Forbes’ list in 1998, with a $1.6 billion fortune.

He made that much this week alone, on paper, as Amazon’s shares jumped in anticipation of “bigger than ever” sales on Prime Day, which ran from Monday to Tuesday. Amazon is now worth nearly $900 billion, and Bezos owns around 16% of the company’s shares. He became the world’s richest person earlier this year.

Although he is clearly doing pretty well for himself, a financial advisor might tell Bezos that he should consider diversifying his portfolio. It’s rarely wise to concentrate one’s wealth in a single asset, whether it’s a house or shares in a company you founded in a garage in the 1990s that now accounts for half of all e-commerce sales in the US.

So let’s say Bezos wanted to add some exposure to Europe. He’s familiar with Luxembourg—Amazon does a lot of business there. He could buy some stocks there. Or, actually, he could buy all the stocks in Luxembourg. Twice.

The Amazon founder’s vast wealth is enough to buy several countries’ stock markets outright. Currently, for example, he could purchase every company listed in Ireland, another popular place for tech firms, and still have a few billion dollars left over. Bezos may be better off, though, sticking with Amazon, which has gained more than 50% this year, adding around $50 billion—the total market cap of the Egyptian exchange—to the founder’s net worth.

By Tom Warren for The Verge

Microsoft and Walmart are teaming up for a strategic partnership that will take on rival Amazon in both technology and retail. Walmart is announcing today, at Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference, that it’s partnering with Microsoft to use the company’s cloud services. The five-year agreement will see Walmart use Azure and Microsoft 365 across the company, alongside new projects focused on machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data platforms.

Walmart is Amazon’s biggest retail competitor, and Microsoft is Amazon’s largest cloud services rival. That rivalry isn’t lost on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who hinted in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that it’s “absolutely core to this” new partnership. “How do we get more leverage as two organisations that have depth and breadth and investment to be able to outrun our respective competition,” says Nadella.

While the tech partnership will obviously benefit both companies, it also comes just weeks after reports suggested Microsoft is working on rival Amazon Go technology for cashier-free stores. Microsoft is reportedly in talks with Walmart for this technology, and the software maker has hired a computer vision specialist from Amazon. Amazon’s Go store in Seattle uses multiple camera and sensors that use computer vision algorithms to detect what items you’re taking out of the store so you’re automatically charged. Microsoft is reportedly experimenting with attaching cameras to shopping carts to track items.

Both Walmart and Microsoft don’t reference too many of the future-facing parts of this strategic deal, and it’s mostly timed for Microsoft’s big partner conference in Las Vegas this week. However, this new deal could be a unique test ground for Microsoft’s bigger AI ambitions and any future plans it has to push other retailers to use its range of cloud services.

Was Absa’s drone show illegal?

By Timothy Rangongo and Jay Caboz for Business Insider SA

Absa put on Africa’s first “drone firework” show in partnership with technology giant Intel above Johannesburg last Wednesday night, but it is not clear how it got permission to do so.

Questions have been raised about the event because neither Absa nor Intel seems to have a licence to operate drones, nor do they seem to have registered the 300-odd drones that were involved.

South Africa has strict licensing requirements for drones, in part to protect those beneath them.

Current rules require companies to have an air-service licence issued by the Air Service License Council (which resides at the Department of Transport) as well as a remote operator’s certificate (ROC) from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), responsible for regulating the civil aviation industry.

Drone operators must also have a Remote Pilot License (RPL), as they would be using the drones for commercial purposes, says technology lawyer at Michalsons, Lisa Emma-Iwuoha.

Strictly speaking, each of the 300 Absa drones should be individually licensed before they can take off, she says.

Such licensing is a tedious process that has taken local companies years to organise, according to Jono O’Connell, owner of Timeslice, a licensed drone company in the film industry in Cape Town.

“Many of us were contacted only a month ago to quote on this project and we all said it could not happen in such a short space in time,” O’Connell tells Business Insider South Africa.

“I have waited nearly two years for one [letter of approval] and at best around eight months. I said organising a job like this within the time frame would be impossible.”

In response to the allegations that they were flying drones illegally over Johannesburg, Absa told Business Insider it had received the correct permission to use the airspace above two sites, Nasrec and the Johannesburg CBD, from the CAA in June.

But a CAA letter seen by Business Insider shows approval was granted on 5 July for safety and security procedures for a “once-off special event”.

The letter also mentions a company called NTSU Aviation Solutions, which Absa says was contracted to acquire permissions for the use of the airspace only.

To obtain such permission, a company must either have an Air Service License (ASL) or an operating certificate, according to aviation lawyer, Chris Christodoulou of Christodoulou & Mavrikis Inc.

One of NTSU’s co-founders, Sam Twala, confirmed to Business Insider that the company is not a drone operator, as it doesn’t have a certificate for operating drones.

Twala said he couldn’t comment on whether the company has an Air Service License, and referred us to the company website – which does not contain that information.

NTSU is not listed on the CAA’s organisations that currently hold ROC licenses.

Further investigation shows that the founders of NTSU are former employees at the regulatory body.

Twala worked in the remotely-piloted aircraft division at CAA while his co-founder, Dale McErlean, is a former flight inspector responsible for new drone company applications.

Drone company owners verified their former positions.

But Absa says all is above board and Intel was given “special permission” by the CAA.

“I really want to promote drones and what Absa is doing is fantastic. How can it be fair to fast-track one operation while dozens of others get left lying in limbo? The way this was done goes against the regulations we are strictly held to,” says O’Connell.

“We’re all happy to play by the rules. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Unfortunately what seems in this case is that is not what’s transpired,” says O’Connell.

Even the chairman of the council responsible for granting licences to fly drones in SA, Michael Mabasa was perplexed at the operation.

By Sarah Wells for TechCrunch

If you’re endlessly distracted by your co-workers in the gaping open office space you all share, you’re not alone. Compared to traditional office spaces, face-to-face interaction in open office spaces is down 70 percent with resulting slips in productivity, according to Harvard researchers in a new study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B this month.

In the study, researchers followed two anonymous Fortune 500 companies during their transitions between a traditional office space to an open plan environment and used a sensor called a “sociometric badge” (think company ID on a lanyard) to record detailed information about the kind of interactions employees had in both spaces. The study collected information in two stages; first for several weeks before the renovation and the second for several weeks after.

While the concept behind open office spaces is to drive informal interaction and collaboration among employees, the study found that for both groups of employees monitored (52 for one company and 100 for the other company) face-to-face interactions dropped, the number of emails sent increased between 20 and 50 percent and company executives reported a qualitative drop in productivity.

“[Organisations] transform their office architectures into open spaces with the intention of creating more [face-to-face] interaction and thus a more vibrant work environment,” the study’s authors, Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, wrote.

“[But] what they often get—as captured by a steady stream of news articles professing the death of the open office is an open expanse of proximal employees choosing to isolate themselves as best they can (e.g. by wearing large headphones) while appearing to be as busy as possible (since everyone can see them).”

While this study is far from the first to point fingers at open office space designs, the researchers claim this is the first study of its kind to collect qualitative data on this shift in working environment instead of relying primarily on employee surveys.

From their results, the researchers provide three cautionary tales:

  • Open office spaces don’t actually promote interaction. Instead, they cause employees to seek privacy wherever they can find it.
  • These open spaces might spell bad news for collective company intelligence or, in other words, an overstimulating office space creates a decrease in organizational productivity.
  • Not all channels of interaction will be effected equally in an open layout change. While the number of emails sent in the study did increase, the study found that the richness of this interaction was not equal to that lost in face-to-face interactions.

Seems like it might be time to (first, find a quiet room) and go back to the drawing board with the open office design.

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