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Industry 4.0 promises a new level of collaboration between man and machine

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Businesses hoping to leave their mark through the possibilities that digitisation digital transformation presents will need a game plan, says Microsoft.

Businesses hoping to leave their mark through the possibilities that digitisation digital transformation presents will need a game plan, says Microsoft.

Anyone who works in the technology field is likely to say that with today’s lightning-fast pace of change, no-one really knows how technology will change business over the next 10 years.

So says Yesh Surjoodeen, device sales lead at Microsoft SA, adding that we are currently sitting on the very edge of Industry 4.0, the potential of which is only becoming apparent now.

“Building upon the birth of internet-enabled telecommunications systems, Industry 4.0 promises a new level of collaboration between man and machine, the age of automation, mass data exchange, proliferation of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things (IOT), and cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Truly on-demand

“Cold-calling, door-to-door sales techniques are ripe for extinction right now. And gone are the days when businesses could manufacture their product supply and only afterwards go out and pursue demand,” he adds.

The digital age has already flipped this power dynamic (with marketing playing the dominant role in attracting consumers), but Industry 4.0 is giving rise to an even more attractive model in which speed and personalisation are becoming defining features.

“Chatbots and social media communication channels are already addressing this need for instant, always-on customer service, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and other sectors are using tech to improve customer experience (CX) to unimaginable levels of speed and convenience.”

Surjoodeen believes it is likely that the manufacturing and retail sectors will feel this change most strongly. In the near future, pre-manufacturing and expensive warehousing and logistical issues will be a thing of the past. “For example, let’s say a car owner requires a certain part for their engine. Rather than pulling the item from stock and shipping it across the world, car manufacturers could make their designs available online for anyone to print in a 3D printer, anywhere in the world, at exactly the time the product is needed.”

Democratisation of digital resources

Currently one of the most exciting prospects for greater digitisation is the access to information, products and services that will be granted to the world’s most underserved communities.

“Let’s take healthcare as an example. In a future where voice recognition parity has been convincingly achieved, and millions of people have true interactive AI in their very living rooms, will visiting a GP in person (except in rare cases) even be necessary anymore? AI has already shown itself to be as capable of fast, accurate diagnosis as most doctors are, so at what point will these consultations be fully digitised?”

Even in SA’s private healthcare facilities, queues are long, data management is frequently inefficient, and prices continue to exclude the great number of citizens. He says to consider the condition of our public healthcare system as well, and the case for digitisation of such services becomes all the more urgent.

But why stop at healthcare? Technology and connectivity will allow rejuvenation of the third world’s educational systems as well, bringing international-quality learning resources to even the poorest learners and the most under-resourced teachers. “And as years go on, the application of augmented and virtual mixed reality, already used in educational and training applications in many industries, will enrich our businesses and our lives in ways that are difficult to imagine today.”

Mobility

“We’ve discussed customers, and we’ve discussed employers, but what about employees? No view into the future of business is complete without looking at the workplace itself.” Surjoodeen emphasises that more and more businesses are already seeing big benefits from mobile workplace policies, including lower infrastructure costs and higher employee productivity.

Moreover, collaboration technologies such as Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Slack, SharePoint and many others, mean that the physical distances between workers count for far less, and this trend is only likely to accelerate in the coming decade, he says.

“Better, smaller, smarter devices mean that working on the go is as efficient as being desk-bound, and even traditional communications, like telephone calls, can be routed anywhere in the world instantly, with a simple VOIP telephony system. We’re seeing a renewed call from employees for better work-life balance, and mobility will be an essential component when it comes to attracting top talent and retaining it in the long run.”

Creating a 10-year roadmap

However, for businesses hoping to leave their mark through the possibilities that digitisation digital transformation presents, will need a game plan, he adds.

“It won’t have to include every new technology out there. For sales-centred businesses, artificial intelligence is a great place to start, while manufacturing businesses will find 3D printing and IOT more in tune with their needs.”

Surjoodeen asks us to remember, digitisation digital transformation is not a once-off project, it is a business model transformation, and a long-term investment that doesn’t come without some upfront expense, plenty of trial and error, and a considerable amount of fear in this era of cyberthreats and ever-more complicated compliance requirements.

But for those businesses committed to outmanoeuvring the competition, and who take the time to strategise their digital transformations sustainably, the rewards will be more than worth the effort, he concludes.

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City of CT accused of dragging feet in CTICC probe

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Members of opposition parties say nothing has come of the latest investigation and believe the report will be swept under the carpet.


FILE: The Cape Town International Convention Center. Picture: South African Tourism.

CAPE TOWN – The City of Cape Town (CoCT) has been accused of dragging its feet on the completion of a forensic investigation into the expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) after several irregularities were detected in previous reports.

In December last year, an investigation was ordered by council following heated deliberations on the matter.

The expansion of the CTICC was at one stage the subject of an investigation by the Public Protector.

A forensic investigation was also initiated by former city manager Achmat Ebrahim, but nothing came of it.

African Christian Democratic Party councillor Grant Haskin now claims nothing has come of the latest investigation.

“It seems to me like there’s no sense of urgency by the city administration in implementing that council decision. The process can’t be ignored because it doesn’t suit some people.”

African National Congress councillor Xolani Sotashe believes the report will be swept under the carpet: “They have been trying hard to hide information in the past, so we have no reason not to believe that. We can count a number of issues that they have tried to sweep under the carpet.”

The city’s spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the investigation is still underway.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)

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Moody’s: Mboweni’s Budget shows further erosion in SA’s fiscal strength

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Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance wa

Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance walks with members of the Finance Ministry up Government Avenue to deliver his medium-term budget speech on October 24, 2018. (RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images) ~ AFP

Moody’s, the only major ratings agency that has not already downgraded SA’s sovereign debt to junk, on Wednesday responded to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden Budget by saying it “highlights the government’s limited fiscal flexibility amid a challenging economic environment”.

Moody’s currently has SA’s debt at Baa3 with a stable outlook, one notch above junk status. Rival agencies Fitch and S&P downgraded SA’s sovereign debt to non-investment grade in 2017.

Were Moody’s to downgrade SA to sub-investment grade, the country would automatically be ejected from the major Citi World Government Bond Index. This would force asset managers to sell billions of rands’ worth of SA bonds. Moody’s is scheduled to issue updated ratings in March.  

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Lucie Villa, a Moody’s senior credit officer and lead sovereign analyst for South Africa, said the Budget showed a further erosion in fiscal strength after the October mini budget already pointed to wider deficits. 

“Government support for Eskom, which will be only partially compensated by a reduction in other spending, and revenue under-performance lead to a renewed upward revision in fiscal deficits and debt levels, while contingent liability risks persist,” she said. 

Villa’s statement does not constitute a ratings action. 

In his maiden Budget, Mboweni announced that Treasury would allocate R69bn in financial support over the next three years to help cash-strapped power utility Eskom pay its debts, as it undergoes a restructuring to make it profitable.

Speaking to journalists at a pre-Budget briefing, Mboweni said the state was basically placing Eskom “under curatorship”, and warned the R23bn a year lifeline came with conditions attached.

Part of the support package includes the installment of a “chief reorganisation officer” at Eskom who will be jointly appointed by Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Earlier Investec Chief Economist Annabel Bishop said the Budget could possibly stave off a credit negative response from Moody’s. 

“Government expenditure is projected to rise only in one year to provide financial support to Eskom. This may be seen as credit negative by Moody’s, but as it is only one year it may be enough to stave off an actual credit rating downgrade or even change to the outlook for the year,” she said.

A negative outlook can indicate a ratings downgrade within 18 months, she said. 

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FA Cup: Wolves v Man Utd quarter-final live on BBC

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FA Cup fifth round: Watch the best goals

The FA Cup quarter-final between Wolves and Manchester United will be broadcast live across the BBC next month.

The Red Devils’ trip to Molineux will be on BBC One and the BBC Sport website at 19:55 GMT on Saturday, 16 March.

Millwall against Brighton – at 14:00 GMT on Sunday, 17 March – will also be screened live on BBC One and online.

Watford v Crystal Palace and Swansea v Manchester City – both of which will take place on the Saturday – will be live on BT Sport.

There will be live in-play clips available for all four games on the BBC Sport website, as well as highlights after full-time.

FA Cup quarter-final fixtures

Saturday, 16 March

  • Watford v Crystal Palace (12:15 GMT) – Live on BT Sport
  • Swansea City v Manchester City (17:20 GMT) – Live on BT Sport
  • Wolves v Manchester United (19:55 GMT) – Live on BBC One

Sunday, 17 March

  • Millwall v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00 GMT) – Live on BBC One

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