[Column] Vukani Mngxati: Enabling remote workers at scale during Covid-19

COVID-19 has turned into a global crisis, evolving at unprecedented speed and scale. Experts don’t know how long it will take to contain the virus so businesses are challenged with not only preparing for the short-term, but also developing new capabilities and ways of working that will seamlessly enable longer-term changes to how they operate.

The most immediate priority should be to protect the health and safety of people. That requires leaders to make rapid, highly-informed decisions, and take actions to protect and support their people while also ensuring that critical business operations continue.

The first step is enabling remote workers at scale. Accenture’s Elastic Digital Workplace roadmap outlines six dimensions which have proven effective in quickly transitioning to a remote workplace environment.

Culture and adoption

For many companies, the shift to remote working can take time to adopt. Tools and coaching are needed to help leaders create the right environment to test and learn, and help people rapidly adopt new ways of working. There are three main aspects:

Radical transparency: embrace a truly human approach: Prepare leaders to be empathetic and available to their teams. Accelerate adoption of collaboration tools by embracing a change champion network to demonstrate and promote behaviours such as document collaboration and using video in virtual meetings.

 Cloud first: Shift away from working on local versions of data and documents by adopting cloud-based applications and storage, which can support everything from document creation and application development, to task management processes and more.

 Optimize for remote working right now: Provide best practices to improve the employee experience, from creating an effective workspace at home, to sharing recommended local network settings. One example is turning off video to improve audio and collaboration during peak network loads.

Elastic collaboration

Elastic collaboration requires a rapid, and in some cases, exponential expansion of your current collaboration capabilities. Case and point: As the largest user of Microsoft Teams in the world, Accenture has 448,000 people communicating and collaborating on the platform.

With the vast majority of our people working remotely due to the pandemic, our usage of Microsoft Teams audio conferencing has more than doubled, from an average of 350 million minutes per month, to 760 million minutes per month; and our use of video conferencing has increased six-fold, from 14 million minutes per month to 84 million minutes per month.

With more employees working remotely, collaboration tools must be able to immediately handle an increase in volume and load while also improving usability and productivity. Actions to consider include:

Adopt and measure collaboration: Expand the existing footprint of collaboration and communication capabilities to employees who need them. Launch an employee education campaign, complete with user stories and relevant examples to encourage adoption.

Cross business enablement: Identify key business contacts and relationships across your ecosystem. Assess current virtual meeting capabilities and deploy a pilot of video and messaging bridging services for seamless interaction with partners, suppliers, and customers.

As a resource for other organisations, Accenture recently worked with Microsoft to launch a Microsoft Teams Rapid Resource Center that provides useful how-to instructions, best practices and additional resources at no cost to help quickly put Teams to work.

Virtual work environment

Virtual work environments provide employees with key resources they need to be productive, such as a secure laptop, and provide seamless access to corporate applications and data. Key aspects that should be addressed include:

Device enablement and mobility: Prioritize enabling workers who have critical roles in driving the business by ensuring they have the tools and access they need. Reclaim devices from users with more than one device and use contractor devices or explore creative sourcing options. Accelerate a “bring your own device” or mobility strategy for remote workers, and provide protections and management solutions.

 Virtual desktops: Implement virtual desktop solutions such as Microsoft, Citrix, VMware or Amazon which offer virtualised workspaces that can extend across boundaries while allowing secure access to remote applications and data for employees who do not have access to secure mobile devices.

Large scale virtual sessions: Enable interactive broadcast and web conference platforms to support the shift from physical to virtual workshops and conferences. Identify and train high touch session facilitators and support to attain the best user experience possible.

Seamless networking

Working productively from home or other remote locations requires seamless, secure, and reliable network connectivity to corporate networks, cloud assets, and to strategic partners. Consider the implementation of the following:

Virtual Private Network (VPN) capacity: Rapidly compliment your traditional VPN technology with new cloud remote access solutions that will improve remote worker experience, performance, and security while alleviating capacity risks on your legacy VPN solution. At the same time, confirm your capacity on traditional remote access technologies.

Remote and home networking: Provide clear and prescriptive guidance to employees about broadband connectivity options and packages in their home locations. Give advice on how to configure the solutions to prioritise voice, video, and collaboration traffic, and help employees troubleshoot issues.

Partner connectivity: Establish a SWAT team to quickly provide, or to expand, business-to business connectivity solutions to strategic partners.

Distributed continuity

The most important thing to get right during the COVID-19 outbreak is the protection of customers, employees, and partners. This requires clearly monitoring and assessing a quickly evolving environment, making rapid business decisions, and communicating clearly and prescriptively to your people on how to navigate the situation.

Monitor and assess: Continuously analyse intelligence from leading health institutions, activate crisis management processes and institute a task force as necessary.

Business planning: Incorporate pandemic planning into your business continuity plans. Run full scale human and department-based continuity tests.

Adaptive security

While moving quickly to enable remote workers to respond to COVID-19 is very important, you cannot do so in a way that puts your business at risk of a security breach. This means rapidly addressing your security protocols and solutions to enable the expansion of remote connectivity, including:

Zero Trust network access: Rapidly deploy a Zero Trust model with built-in technologies to enable secure application access without relying on traditional VPN solutions.

Endpoint managed protection, detection and response: The expanded use of a multitude of devices in potentially less secure locations require additional protection. Build analytics and automation into endpoint management detection and response programs to reduce the amount of human intervention required.

While COVID-19 is serving as the catalyst for an immediate implementation of an elastic digital workplace, the crisis will fundamentally alter how we work and engage. A comprehensive implementation plan will enable companies to quickly scale and dynamically adapt to changing business needs based on global and local conditions.

Vukani Mngxati is the CEO for Accenture in Africa

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CTI Africa selects Vonage to implement telehealth solution in Uganda

Vonage, a global business cloud communications company, has announced that eHealth platform provider CTI Africa Limited has chosen Vonage to power its LifeHealth telehealth system.

With Vonage’s Video API, CTI Africa Limited is bringing advanced telehealth capabilities to the developing world, providing rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa with high quality, affordable medical care and holistic solutions to address economic and social challenges.

Through the LifeHealth system, CTI Africa provides innovative digital health services to its medical insurance clients through a network of 150,000 patients, with more than 5,000 active monthly patients throughout Uganda. Powered by Vonage, LifeHealth provides subscribers with access to medical care via real-time video consultation and video chat wherever they are.

“When we launched the LifeHealth system, we knew we needed seamless, secure and real-time connectivity to provide patients with the best possible care,” said Michael Landau, Founder and CEO of CTI Africa Limited. “Vonage  provided us with the ability to build a solution specific to our unique needs that can also grow and adapt as our needs evolve. Our mission is to create the future of healthcare for the people of Uganda – together, CTI Africa and Vonage are creating a unique and powerful model for all developing countries facing these same challenges.”

“Vonage is honored that an organization like CTI Africa has chosen us to enable the life-changing solutions it is bringing to Uganda,” said Eric Le Guiniec, Global SVP – Communication APIs Sales for Vonage. “As the need for remote and virtual medical care increases, especially during these challenging times, we are proud that Vonage’s video  technology is helping to make healthcare available to those who need it most.”

As demand for solutions to enable virtual medical care has increased during the current global health crisis, usage of Vonage’s Video API has experienced significant growth over the last three months, especially in the telehealth, social and education industries, and has delivered more than 50 billion minutes of video since inception, across a virtually unlimited number of use cases. Vonage powers many of the world’s largest telemedicine providers. Vonage’s video has been a worldwide leader in webRTC video solutions since the webRTC standard was established in 2012.

For organizations like CTI Africa that need the benefit of video conferencing but also have complex compliance and security requirements, the programmability and flexibility of Vonage’s Video APIs enable embedded security measures to protect the privacy and security of patient information.

www.vonage.com

www.ctiafrica.com

ContinuitySA launches cloud-based backup and replication solution for SMEs

ContinuitySA, Africa’s provider of business resilience services and a Veeam Platinum Partner, is launching Cloud Connect, a cloud-based backup and replication service for the small and medium enterprise (SME).

 The offering is particularly relevant now as companies of all sizes move aggressively onto digital platforms to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, according to Renier du Plessis, Cloud Manager at ContinuitySA.

“The current emergency demonstrates graphically just how important a company’s ICT systems are in giving it the flexibility to adapt to today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. The shift to digital is now irreversible,” he says. “Now, more than ever, it is vital that, in the event of a disaster, companies can recover their systems and data in the shortest space of time, or risk losing customer confidence, revenue and even brand equity.

“The cloud has emerged as a key platform not only for ICT systems but for their recovery. However, SMEs have typically lacked a genuinely easy-to-use solution that will not commit them to high management costs—until now.”

Mr Du Plessis says that ContinuitySA Cloud Connect is an unmanaged service, which keeps costs to a minimum. No upfront capital needs to be committed as payment is based on a monthly fee depending on usage. This fee includes the necessary Veeam licence, unless the client already has one, plus the storage space for the backups on ContinuitySA’s world-class cloud infrastructure.

 “The Veeam console is extraordinarily well-designed and easy-to-use, so companies have full control of the backup process, from configuration through to reporting, scaling up or down, restores, failovers and configuration changes. It’s literally a point-and-click environment. This reduces costs considerably but also means that everything happens very quickly—there’s no waiting for a third party to get things done,” he points out. “And because it’s an OPEX model, it’s easy to manage costs.”

Veeam Cloud Connect thus provides a cost-effective way to tailor an effective, safe and reliable way to mitigate risks in line with the company’s risk profile and appetite. It makes it possible for an SME to follow the 3-2-1 rule for data backups: three copies on two different media, one offsite.

All data is encrypted from the moment the backup process is initiated until it’s safely in ContinuitySA’s cloud repository. As a leading provider of business continuity services, ContinuitySA’s data centres are maintained to world-class standards, with 24/7 monitoring, backup power, UPS systems, backup diesel and water, and fully redundant communications links.

With more than three decades of experience in business continuity experience across the continent, ContinuitySA has the know-how to help clients build resilience into their operations, providing executives, directors, suppliers, clients and regulators with peace of mind. ContinuitySA will help with scoping the solution and provide training on the Veeam console as needed.

ContinuitySA’s skilled and experienced support staff is available for any post-implementation help that is required—again on a pay-as-you-use basis. The company has a name for the quality and responsiveness of its support.

“Cloud Connect finally gives SMEs a way to create and manage their own, individually tailored, cloud-based backup and replication solution easily and cost-effectively, while also gaining the peace of mind of a trusted partner in ContinuitySA,” he concludes. “This is the backup solution the SME market has been waiting for.”

www.continuitysa.com

Cloud-computing solutions can reduce banking costs in Africa, report

More than 700 million Africans lack access to a bank or mobile money account and only 41 per cent of Africans are financially included.

This is due to the high cost of providing financial services in Africa which forces many financial services providers to remain focused on serving wealthier customers.

These are some of the many insights from the report Cloud Banking in Africa: The Regulatory Opportunityby Genesis Analytics and Orange Business Services on how the application of cloud computing in financial services can help financial services providers reach and serve the poor. 

Part of the cost problem is that financial institutions in Africa are so much smaller than elsewhere – the biggest bank in Africa (SBSA with assets of $148 billion) ranks 296th globally; most banks in Africa have assets of less than $5 billion. But African consumers are increasingly expecting these banks to provide the same range of digital services as banks in other countries. This is why consumers have been turning to mobile banking in such numbers. The telecommunications companies have been much more successful at delivering affordable financial services than banks are, but also need to find new ways to reduce costs if they are to reach out to even poorer customers. 

Cloud computing creates an opportunity for providers of financial services to rethink their technology spend and significantly reduce costs. Cloud computing involves using internet technologies to provide virtual infrastructure that is scalable and delivered as a service. Fixed costs can be converted into a subscription-based approach and upfront capital investments are converted into operational costs. Cloud computing allows banks to pay less for ICT infrastructure and services and achieve higher utilisation on ICT spend. Particularly for small banks in small markets where specialised ICT skills are in short supply, cloud computing can ease a critical operational constraint.

The most compelling reason to move to the cloud is undoubtedly cost savings, but there are other business reasons too. The flexibility of cloud-based operational models allows financial institutions to experience shorter development cycles for new products, which supports a faster and more efficient response to the needs of customers. Cloud computing provides the computer power necessary to deliver analytical insights in real time, which enables financial institutions to move towards a customer-centric model where the financial needs of customers are fully understood. Financial institutions can also gain a higher level of data security, resilience, fault tolerance and disaster recovery from cloud computing.

A few international and African banks have already realised the value of cloud banking. WeBank is China’s first digital bank that is based in a private cloud and uses innovative technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, to effect an extraordinarily high volume of transactions at a very low cost. WeBank has been able to run at 95% lower cost than that of traditional banks’ IT operations and has passed this cost saving onto their customers in the form of low account fees. TymeBank is a new digital entrant to the South African banking sector and has made a 56% cost saving compared to other startups by using cloud services from AWS.

Before financial service providers can adopt cloud banking, regulators need to support and approve the use of cloud technology within the financial sector. Some international regulators are already allowing the use of cloud banking in the financial sector. The European Union has been at the forefront of defining an enabling regulatory environment for cloud banking services, which has involved both the regulation on the use of data and privacy and protection of data. Under the regulations, financial institutions have to ensure that consumer personal data is gathered legally and under strict conditions and that consumer data is fully protected. Other developing markets like Turkey and Argentina have adopted similar legal and regulatory environments, which has enabled the use of cloud banking in their financial sectors. 

Africa’s financial sector regulators’ approaches are very much work in progress. The report urges African regulators to develop clear policy positions and regulations on data privacy, risk and security; data sovereignty; cybercrime; protection of intellectual property; vendor risk; and migration complexity and operational risk to enable financial institutions to reap the benefit of cloud banking.

Genesis Analytics is a global African firm that has worked in more than 74 countries across the world, 41 of which are on the continent, and Orange Business Services is a network-native digital services company and the global enterprise division of the Orange Group, connecting, protecting and innovating for enterprises around the world.

The full report can be accessed here

www.genesis-analytics.com

www.orange-business.com

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Apple introduces services to more countries across the world

Apple® has announced that more customers around the world can enjoy many of Apple’s most popular Services.

The App Store®, Apple Arcade™, Apple Music®, Apple Podcasts® and iCloud® are now available in 20 more countries, and Apple Music is available in 52 additional countries.

“We’re delighted to bring many of Apple’s most beloved Services to users in more countries than ever before,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and International Content. “We hope our customers can discover their new favorite apps, games, music and podcasts as we continue to celebrate the world’s best creators, artists and developers.”

The App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and iCloud are now available in the following countries and regions:

  • Africa: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, Rwanda and Zambia.
  • Asia-Pacific: Maldives and Myanmar.
  • Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
  • Middle East: Afghanistan (excluding Apple Music) and Iraq.
  • Oceania: Nauru (excluding Apple Music), Tonga and Vanuatu.

Apple Music is also expanding to the following countries and regions:

  • Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Tunisia.
  • Asia-Pacific: Bhutan.
  • Europe: Croatia, Iceland and North Macedonia.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: the Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos and Uruguay.
  • Middle East: Kuwait, Qatar and Yemen.
  • Oceania: Solomon Islands.

The App Store, now in 175 countries and regions, is the world’s safest and most vibrant app marketplace, with over half a billion people visiting each week. It is the best place for users to discover new apps and allows developers of all sizes to distribute their apps to customers around the world. The App Store features many ways for developers to build their businesses, and since it launched in 2008, developers have been creating innovative apps that influence culture and change lives.

Apple Arcade is a groundbreaking game subscription service within the App Store, offering users unlimited access to the entire catalog of more than 100 exclusive games, all playable across iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, Mac® and Apple TV®. Apple Arcade is adding new games and expansions every month from some of the world’s most visionary game developers.

Apple Music is the most complete music experience, now available in 167 countries and regions and offering more than 60 million songs.  With world-class music experts and tastemakers curating thousands of playlists and daily selections, and the renowned global radio station Beats 1, Apple Music is the best music service for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch®, Apple TV, Mac, HomePod® and CarPlay®, and is also available on Android and and other devices.

New Apple Music subscribers in the 52 additional countries can enjoy a six-month free trial of the service, with locally curated playlists including Africa Now, Afrobeats Hits, Ghana Bounce and more. In addition, users have access to world-class music experts, tastemakers, and artist-led programs from globally celebrated creators including Virgil Abloh, Billie Eilish, Elton John, Pharrell, and more.

Apple Podcasts is the best place to browse and listen to the world’s largest catalog of podcasts, now featuring over 1 million shows in more than 100 languages and 175 countries and regions.

iCloud is an essential service that keeps users’ personal content safe, up to date, and available across all their Apple devices, allowing them to store a lifetime of photos, keep important documents at their fingertips, and share and collaborate with ease. iCloud backs up iPhone, iPad and iPod touch automatically and includes Find My to help locate and secure missing devices. With Family Sharing, up to six family members can share access to Apple Services, including Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, iCloud storage, as well as individual music, movie, TV, book and app purchases. Available in 175 countries and regions, iCloud comes with 5GB of free storage and offers affordable 50GB, 200GB and 2TB plans.

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple’s five software platforms — iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple’s more than 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

www.apple.com

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