[Column] Kabelo Makwane: Agriculture and its future on Mars

Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services, from applications to storage and processing power, which is typically on a pay as you go basis over the internet.

One benefit of using cloud computing services is avoiding the upfront cost and complexity of owning and maintaining your own IT infrastructure, and instead simply paying for what you use as and when you use it. 

When thinking about the agricultural industry, there are practical applications for the use of cloud computing that create a whole ecosystem, from sensors and monitoring tools that collect soil data to agricultural field images and observations from human actors on the ground accurately feeding data repositories along with their GPS coordinates.

Agribusiness needs more effective tools to engage with the smallholder farmer. At the same time, the smallholder farmer needs to be empowered with information, access to markets and financial services. To achieve this, mobile phone technology from Vodacom Business can play a game-changing role.

The Vodacom Business technology the Connected Farmer service gives a readily available message functionality allowing for real-time communication with other farmers on the database, transactional capabilities which support electronic vouchers and a companion application called AgriSuite Plus that provides content of practical agricultural value to field workers.

This content includes topics such as crop and livestock production management, crop descriptions, production programs, soil preparation and pest and disease identification (farmers using smartphones are able to download the AgriSuite Plus app.

Vodacom Connected Farmer is a cloud-based web and mobile software solution that links enterprises to smallholder farmers through the transfer of industry-related information, which equips the farmer to make better decisions about crop rotation and improve efficiencies in order to deliver better produce and consistently improve yields 

Farmers can also take advantage of knowledge-based repositories that contain information related to farming practices, agriculture innovations, pesticides, seeds, fertilizers, nutrients and equipment.

However, with the onset of technology, there is the valid fear and resistance that comes with it, especially considering the fact that the agriculture industry is driven by smallholder farmers, who more often than not do not have access to technology. 

Kabelo asserts that Vodacom Business is aware of the fact that rural areas of South Africa are under-serviced with regard to connectivity. This has presented real challenges to not only the farming community, but to their customers, service suppliers and rural communities in general.

Smallholder farmers need to be empowered with information, access to markets and financial services. To achieve this, mobile phone technology from Vodacom Business can play a game-changing role. Vodacom Connected Farmer is a phone enabled enterprise solution. 

Once smallholder farmers are registered mobile enterprise users, such as agronomists, and field officers then profile these farmers and their farms and verify their identity during field visits, using Vodacom Connected Farmer on their mobile devices. The enterprise is now able to communicate with its smallholder farmer base via their mobile phones, whether individually, as a group or across the entire smallholder farming community.

Vodacom is also alive to the risks that come with the internet like breach of privacy. That is why in the Vodacom Business Connected Farmer program, there are a number of security measures which ensure that personal or financial information is protected. There is a secure, role-based authentication and authorisation that allows users to only access to those system functionalities that are relevant to them. Connected farmers also use secure cashless value and transactions through electronic vouchers. 

Potential challenges

While these resources can be used in developed countries with ubiquitous Internet access, this is not as easy to accomplish in developing economies where there may be challenges with internet access, bandwidth and power. However, even in these circumstances, we are seeing technology made available on mobile phones, providing a wealth of services to farmers powered at times by renewable sources of energy and enabled by mobile devices

Three main challenges in Africa include performance, costs and availability. 

Performance: Whether locally- or internationally-hosted, it can be a challenge to deliver reliable Cloud services to certain regions – particularly in smaller towns and rural or remote areas.

Costs: Uncontended, enterprise-grade networks can be extremely expensive, often making it challenging for the cloud business case to be compelling to both small and large enterprise

Availability: For many businesses in outlying areas, the availability of internet connection, in general, is a huge problem. South Africa still has vast patches that are underserved or entirely unserved. Certain agricultural sites for example, experience problems with basic telephonic and crude internet connections – which makes high-powered Cloud services seem like an impossibility. 

Effective adoption and implementation of this technology will encourage other sectors also, which will lead to optimal  benefit of shifting towards cloud. This will definitely have a positive impact in the overall economic development of a nation. Above all, cloud computing is a newly introduced concept and most of the developing nations are not readily willing to accept and implement it. Therefore, it needs a mass awareness and promotion among the prime stakeholders to acquire the full potential of it and have a well established information base for the nation. This will in return lead to a well-connected world.

Kabelo Makwane is the Managing Executive for Cloud, Hosting & Security at Vodacom Business

Alibaba Cloud offers AI, cloud services to help battle COVID-19 globally

Alibaba Cloud, the data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, says it has offered medical personnel around the world advanced cloud-based technology applications in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The artificial intelligence-enhanced innovations are based on learnings and insights garnered during the initial outbreak of the virus.

The series of cloud-native anti-coronavirus solutions stem from joint efforts of Alibaba Cloud’s solution experts, scientists and researchers from Alibaba DAMO Academy and the technical team at DingTalk, one of the platforms UNESCO has tabbed as facilitating distance learning during the coronavirus outbreak.

While DingTalk might be better-known for supporting more than 120 million students across China with their live-streamed online classes, the team has taken it up a notch to launch DingTalk’s International Medical Expert Communication Platform, hosted on Alibaba Cloud.

 It provides a means of free communication for medical workers all over the world to directly contact doctors from medical institutions such as the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University and others in China, who have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 battle.

Through video conferencing and real-time AI translation into 11 languages (Arabic, Bahasa, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese), Alibaba Cloud aims to build a virtual community, inviting Chinese doctors to share their experiences and answer questions from global peers.

From Alibaba DAMO Academy, a global research initiative by Alibaba, three proven solutions are being made available via free trial for medical professionals and research institutes worldwide. Alibaba Cloud will work with local partners to deploy relevant services and solutions in accordance with local laws and regulations.

Epidemic Prediction Solution models epidemic characteristics of COVID-19 in a particular region, providing estimates of size, peak time and duration of the epidemic, as well as the spreading trends under three conditions – optimistic, neutral, and pessimistic.

Based on machine learning, the algorithm was already tested on 31 provincial data in China and averaged 98% accuracy. It can serve as a reference to policymakers and medical researchers on prevention and control measures, medical resource allocation and travel advisories.

CT Image Analytics Solution is a CT image analytics technology service that can significantly improve testing accuracy and detection efficiency for diagnosing COVID-19. With deep-learning algorithms trained by data in China, the trained model can predict the probability of different pneumonia types, including the variety associated with COVID-19.

It also performs computations of the proportion of lesions and the affected volume ratio to the entire lungs, by using the lung segmentation method. The whole test takes about 3 to 4 seconds to run and 15 to 16 seconds of transmission time, making it nearly 60 times faster than human detection. More than 160 hospitals in China are currently using the solution.

Genome Sequencing for Coronavirus Diagnostic Solution, an AI algorithm from Alibaba DAMO Academy and running on Alibaba Cloud, is a virus genome sequencing solution for coronavirus analytics, including viral genetic data screening, evolutionary analysis, protein structure analysis, and diagnostic reporting. It can complete the diagnosis of new coronavirus within 14 hours, which is five times faster than other available sequencing solutions in China.

 It can screen more than 20 people simultaneously, making the averaged time for each sample just around half an hour, much shorter than the normal two hours with the PCR method. The solution helps disease control centers, hospitals and clinics, and laboratories to address challenges such as insufficient nucleic acid detection capacity, high false-negative rates of the PCR method, and possible virus mutations.

Supporting advanced innovations during emergencies like COVID-19 requires extremely scalable supercomputing power. For this, Alibaba Cloud offers Elastic High-Performance Computing (E-HPC) Solution for Life Sciences, a cloud-native high-performance computing cluster solution designed for researchers working on life sciences applications, especially for Computational-Driven-Drug-Design (CDDD) and AI-Driven-Drug-Design (AIDDD).

The solution already supports 20 research groups in China. For example, the intelligent CT diagnostic system on COVID-19 pneumonia developed by Tsinghua University can complete diagnosing in 10 seconds, and the performance of gene assembly by Sun Yat-sen University is accelerated by 25% utilizing the solution. Alibaba Cloud has also partnered with Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI) in Beijing to launch an AI-driven-drug-discovery platform based on E-HPC.

www.alibabacloud.com

[South Africa] SA Taxi adopts FICO’s cloud-based solutions to drive lending growth

SA Taxi, a financier of over 10 percent of South Africa’s minibus taxi fleet – the nation’s most affordable public transport used by 15 million people daily – has introduced FICO’s cloud-based decision management solution to drive lending growth of 25 percent. The FICO® Blaze Advisor® Decision Rules Management System has also reduced decision time on applications from two hours down to 10 minutes, while improving controls, capturing rules and creating an audit trail.

Rapid growth had meant the company’s manual processing system was becoming overwhelmed – with a lack of consistent and timely decisions adversely affecting business growth.

“When credit changes were required, they were simply added to the queue with the rest of our IT changes – which always had a higher priority,” said Itumeleng Nomlomo, senior credit analyst at SA Taxi. “This left the business with no option but to resort to manual decisioning, which really constrained our agility and created a number of issues such as inconsistent credit decisions.”

SA Taxi implemented FICO’s Blaze Advisor solution to integrate automated decision-making into its origination process. The decision management solution ensured reliable and consistent credit decisions that were in line with its strategy and business rules. Its cloud-based application lifted the infrastructure burden being placed on the business, which had become considerable. And its flexibility allowed SA Taxi’s business managers to configure rules without development/technical support from FICO, as and when its strategy changed.

“SA Taxi has embraced the power of a cloud deployed solution and reaped the rewards through incredible improvements in agility and efficiency,” said Michelle Beetar, managing director for sub-Saharan Africa at FICO.  “By automating the decisioning element, the team has been able to spend more time on strategy, analytics and enhancing the current process.”

For its achievements, SA Taxi won a 2019 FICO® Decisions Award for Cloud Deployment.

“SA Taxi has overcome the challenge of translating what seems to be a simple idea into a workable solution,” said Denise Sleem, functional specialist Afrocentric Technologies, one of the FICO Decisions Awards judges. “SA Taxi has really impressed by building a flexible solution to support the growth needs of their business and their clients through their digital transformation project.”

www.sataxi.co.za

www.fico.com

[Column] Andrew Skudder: Digital trends that will shape the construction industry in 2020

From cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), to 5G and mobility, a key trend in 2020 is the accelerated digitization of construction companies.

This is critical for future proofing their businesses and maximizing efficiency and profitability.

As one of the least digitized industries in the world, with about 1.5% of revenue spent on IT compared to an average spend of about 3% across all industries, the construction industry has suffered a notable lack of growth in productivity. This is in contrast to the manufacturing industry, which has embraced technology significantly – relative to construction – and recorded a consequent increase in productivity.

By embracing digital technology, construction companies will have more efficient control over their costs and be able to collaborate more effectively on projects, especially mega projects.

The power of cloud computing

Digitisation requires an enormous amount of computing power. A good example of this is the design phase of a project. Over the years, the design process has evolved from designs being created on paper, to the use of CAD tools and, today, through 5D BIM modelling.

Now, with virtual reality, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) also coming into play, the design aspect requires vast computing capacity. Setting the computing infrastructure up and employing the right skills to maintain it would be an expensive – and unnecessary – exercise for a single company.

The likes of Azure, AWS and Google Cloud have made large amounts of computing power easily accessible to companies around the globe. It is accessible, safe, relatively cheap and maintained by experts.

This allows users to handle much more data, more efficiently and more securely. Once construction companies have garnered big data in the cloud, it can be converted to smart data, allowing them to access comprehensive analytics and use these to make informed and more real-time decisions about current and future projects.

Artificial intelligence and leveraging big data

AI allows construction companies to harness big data and make sense of it. New algorithms are written every day to analyse big data and leverage it in an effective and productive way.

There are numerous use cases for AI in construction. For example, CCS has initiated a proof of concept (POC), using robotic process automation (RPA), to design and build a software robot that is able to read an organisation’s mobile phone statement and process it in conjunction with the invoices in its ERP solution, BuildSmart.

Previously, this process could take an accountant up to two days to complete. The robot, however, is able to read the statement and invoices, extract all the required data and process the purchase order along with various Excel reports in just over eight minutes, with a 100% accuracy every time. This allows the accounting team to focus on work that adds more value to the business.

In the construction industry, hundreds of deliveries from multiple suppliers are made to construction sites every day. Traditionally, a clerk would capture every delivery note manually, a labour-intensive and time-consuming process. AI allows this to be done rapidly and accurately, freeing employees up to interrogate the quality, quantity and relevance of the products ordered.

AI is also highly effective in interrogating past projects. One of the big opportunities in the industry is for estimators and project managers to learn from past projects. Much of the knowledge rests in their heads, which is then used to improve the scheduling and costing and estimated for upcoming projects. If all historical data is stored on a database, AI will be able to prepare more accurate predictive models, making future projects more productive and predictable.

Another higher use case for AI is in 3D modelling. A big issue in planning and designing projects relates to design clashes between different engineers or stakeholders. When something is being built, there will typically be several designs for different aspects of the project – architectural, mechanical, electrical, amongst others. Often, when they are overlaid, there are clashes. AI has the ability to help detect these clashes and adjust designs quickly.

The holy grail of construction is to have 100% design before construction commences, that is, no changes during the course of a project. Of course, this rarely happens, but it’s what everyone strives for. AI enables users to simulate a 3D model to determine whether it is constructible and can be constructed cost effectively and within the clients construction deadlines. By exploring different scenarios, in terms of what happens first, second or third, AI can help optimise the construction process. This saves time and money, something that can have far-reaching benefits for a country like South Africa where changes to projects such as Medupi and Kusile have resulted in an enormous amount of cost and time overruns.

Yet another use case for AI is risk management. By harnessing historical data, it allows for greater understanding of project complexity. It can analyse complexity factors around issues such as design complexity, labour availability and weather patterns and place them into risk management models, allowing for greater risk mitigation.

Greater connectivity with 5G

5G gives everyone access to greater connectivity. It offers higher speeds and a more reliable and bigger capacity, which ties in with construction companies’ need to harness big data. Once they start digitising their business processes, construction companies will create huge amounts of data.

One of the major constraints for site-based solutions has been a lack of connectivity to construction sites. 5G will take it to the next level in terms of reliability, speed and capacity. This will allow for more data collection, data management and data analysis on site, which will allow project managers to make informed decisions, more quickly.

Mobility

Mobility has already taken hold on construction sites, with laptops, smart phones and tablets allowing people to conduct work in remote areas, capture data and complete tasks that were ordinarily paper based.

One example is clock carding or time and attendance-type systems. In the past and at many sites today, attendance at construction sites is recorded on paper, which then gets captured into some system. Today, this can be done more accurately and effectively via mobile phones or tablets.

The next level of mobility relates to wearable technology. Think Microsoft’s HoloLens, which offers the ability to mix virtual reality with reality on the construction site. With the lenses, users are able to see the design and if they look into a room, they are able to see how it is meant to be constructed. It allows users to detect defects and pull up diagrams showing the correct design. While it may not manifest in the construction industry in 2020, wearable technology is definitely the next big leap forward.

3D scanners are another form of mobile technology that are invaluable for the construction industry. When a building is being constructed, 3D scanners can be used to scan rooms, measure them and create as-built drawings.

Drones are becoming increasingly popular for various construction projects, especially roads. By flying a drone over a construction site every day, users can see what progress has been made in every phase of a project and deliver progress reports to relatively accurate tolerances.

Virtual and physical, side by side

Ultimately, the increased use of digitisation will mean construction companies can create virtual projects alongside their physical projects, allowing them to be more efficient in the way they construct their projects. This is because they will be able to build their construction projects in the virtual world up front, ensuring they are well planned when they begin construction in the physical world. It also allows them to monitor their progress against the virtual plan every step of the way and address issues as soon as they crop up.

Andrew Skudder is the CEO of Construction Computer Software

Data management, security driving global healthcare cloud market, report

Global healthcare cloud market revenue is expected to surge at a compound annual growth rate of 25.1 per cent from 2018 to 2023 according to a recent report by Research and Markets.

Cloud computing in healthcare is gaining momentum as a variety of factors create a significant need for the value propositions that a successful cloud implementation promises to offer.

Cloud computing involves the use of external suppliers of infrastructure, platforms, and software. As a result, former capital expenses or owned software systems are transitioned to a service offered by a cloud provider or participants within a cloud service provider’s ecosystem.

The study focuses on cloud services that are used by providers and other healthcare stakeholders seeking to manage clinical and business workflows and reduce certain costs associated with the data-rich global healthcare environment.

The study reviewed the significant drivers that are propelling cloud computing in healthcare. For example, the data flow resulting from digital health systems will transform healthcare into a Big Data environment. This trend will include data from telehealth and increasingly from consumer-generated remote monitoring systems. There is a consistent view across the industry that healthcare providers are eager to take advantage of the cloud, but this is offset by the reality that careful planning and diligence must be performed in order to ensure that the configuration of the selected cloud implementation is the correct path forward.

 Also challenging is the fact that providers are finding it difficult to staff the IT cloud management experts needed to ensure a smooth transition from in-house systems. The transition to usage-based cloud services must be well planned to avoid the potential for higher-than-anticipated costs.

For example, the migration of data from internal data centers to cloud services can be complicated, depending on the systems involved. There is also the ever-present need to maintain data security and patient privacy.

Cloud computing offers a compelling financial proposition for healthcare providers. By utilizing the infrastructure of a cloud service provider, healthcare providers should be able to achieve increased scalability and reduce their IT costs. In addition, the use of software-as-a-service will relieve medical staff from time-intensive management of various software-related maintenance and update functions.

The study also reviews the potential for the healthcare cloud to accelerate the deployment of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and advanced data analytics.

The evolving healthcare cloud will increase the potential for data system interoperability across the healthcare industry. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the cloud will be the growth of a new generation of ecosystems that will revolutionize the way that clinical and operational data can be used to support improved patient outcomes and customer relationship management.

 Although a great deal of media attention is devoted to tracking familiar cloud market leaders such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, this report will identify and summarize the activities of key participants of the emerging healthcare cloud ecosystem.

This dynamic ecosystem will be the catalyst of new growth opportunities for specialized service suppliers across the global healthcare industry.

www.researchandmarkets.com

Dimension Data to implement SAP Solutions on Microsoft Azure in MEA

NTT Ltd., a global technology services company, has announced it has earned the SAP on Microsoft Azure advanced specialisation, a validation of a solution partner’s capability to deliver high-quality services in a specific solution area.

Representing NTT Ltd. in the Middle East and African territory is Dimension Data, who has been named as the preferred partner for the region due to their breadth of cloud, application, migration and integration skills and expertise enabling effective execution and enabling clients to leverage the full value of the SAP ecosystem.

The SAP on Microsoft Azure advanced specialisation demonstrates NTT and Dimension Data’s deep knowledge, extensive experience and proven success at implementing SAP solutions on Microsoft Azure.

As mainstream support for the SAP ECC platform ends in 2027, and as core SAP products are being re-optimised for the SAP HANA database, many enterprises are looking for a partner with advanced skills to migrate their existing SAP environment to the cloud. There are currently only eight companies in the world to have obtained SAP on Azure Advanced Specialisation accreditation.

“Organisations that harness the true power of cloud and effectively leverage its capabilities to become intelligent enterprises are able to realise tangible financial, operational and customer experience benefits,” said Jay Reddy, CTO, Dimension Data. “We understand that organisations have different cloud strategies with regards to infrastructure, platforms, applications, and security requirements and have an intensity of skills and intelligent technologies to meet their strategic and operational needs across the entire cloud ecosystem and value chain. This recognition of our SAP and Microsoft Azure skills and expertise is great news for enterprises across the region looking for a partner that understands and is highly skilled in ensuring that their cloud strategy delivers the required business outcomes. Adding this certification to all our globally recognised skills certifications from all major cloud and business application providers, gives organisations choice, flexibility and confidence that we can execute their cloud strategy with the right combination of infrastructure, platform and applications for their business.”

Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner (OCP) at Microsoft Corp. added, “The SAP on Microsoft Azure advanced specialisation highlights the partners who can be viewed as most capable when it comes to migrating enterprise SAP applications over to Microsoft Azure. NTT clearly demonstrated that they have both the skills and the experience to offer clients a comprehensive and professional SAP to cloud managed service.”

www.sap.com

www.dimensiondata.com

[Column] Joel Chacko: Harnessing the value of cloud by rethinking how new services are operated

As companies embark on their application and data modernisation programmes and look to the cloud and infrastructure required to support their plans, most land on a hybrid cloud strategy with application and data workloads balanced across both public and private clouds.

Hybrid deployments combine the hyper-scalers’ public cloud benefits of innovation, speed, consumption, and scale with private benefits of regulatory compliance, performance, data gravity, and recouping of existing investments.

Hybrid also enables increasingly dynamic workload placement over time, allowing them to optimise for performance, service levels, security and compliance, and cost. The downside to a hybrid deployment is managing and keeping track of multiple vendors and security across platforms. Inherently, this requires expertise across different cloud platforms. Some argue that adopting a hybrid environment may require more complex IT management that could equate to higher overall costs. This is where Accenture is valued partner for our clients because we’re platform agnostic, we’re purely focused on the business outcomes of our clients.

In order to harness the value of cloud, a key part of any company’s cloud transformation requires rethinking of the operational model. Historically, companies managed their data centers and networks separately from the data,applications, and business services those data centers and networks supported. Today, this siloed approach is ineffective, and perhaps even harmful.

Accenture’s deep expertise in leading on SAP and other application migrations to Microsoft Azure means that clients can benefit from a more secure, scalable and agile operating environment that is more cost effective than standing up a new on-premises data centre. This will improve business processes and continuity, as well as free up resources to focus on achieving superior business outcomes.

Consider how much more complicated technology landscapes are becoming. As a result of digital decoupling and the adoption of microservices, applications are evolving to more complex patterns and topologies, increasingly requiring more dynamic underlying compute, storage, and networking infrastructure. Cloud native patterns and technologies are typically more ephemeral than traditional environments, where containers may last hours, minutes, or even seconds, compared to servers and virtual machines that may be in production for months or years.

The extreme is serverless computing, where functions are spun up on demand to execute service and are torn down immediately upon completion. Not only are these environments more ephemeral, but they increasingly scale up and down more rapidly as Kubernetes controllers orchestrate their deployments.

 At the same time business users are far more focused on outcomes than the underlying applications, data and infrastructure that enable them. The boundaries between the services delivered to customers or the business, and the applications, data and infrastructure that deliver them are blurring. Consequently, it is critical to manage “services” and technologies more seamlessly. To effectively manage and optimize this increasingly complex landscape, enterprises need to rethink how they construct and operate new services to improve innovation and agility, enhance service levels, streamline operations, and minimize costs while seamlessly managing the applications, cloud, and infrastructure that deliver these services.

We refer to this as “Build Different/ Run Different.” To effectively operate in the New, companies should: Standardise: In order to take advantage of new capabilities and drive operational efficiencies in a hybrid cloud, it’s important to standardise services and the underlying infrastructure that supports them.

 This includes not only aligning the organisation around an enterprise-wide IT services catalog, but also standardising hardware and platforms to allow for increased automation. Create an agile cloud operating model: Dual velocity application delivery is critical. That means supporting the agile delivery of cloud-native applications while maintaining legacy code bases that are increasingly exposed through microservices.

This operating model should also deliver on the promise of DevSecOps by tightly aligning and integrating cloud, infrastructure, security, and operational requirements. Upskill organisation and transform culture: New application patterns, technologies, and operating models require new skills. This includes not only upskilling developers, but also transforming “eyes on glass” operators into developers who write data ingestion scripts, create analytics algorithms and visualisations, develop automation scripts, and tune AI engines.

Use hyper-automation and applied intelligence: Companies should be investing in platforms and tools that deliver the hyper-automation needed to drive agility, streamline operations, and minimise cost. Such hyperautomated intelligent operations – sometimes referred to as AIOps – leverage analytics to drive predictive operations, automation to eradicate unnecessary tasks, and AI to continually optimise environments.

 To effectively deploy and manage the next-generation of IT services, enterprise strategies must be application and data led, cloud and infrastructure enabled, secure, and optimised for the operational run. For these reasons, a hybrid application and data placement will be the natural choice for most large enterprises. Accenture has strong technical knowledge and capabilities, robust partner ecosystem, local expertise and its deep experience implementing large-scale cloud migrations.

 We have worked on more than 21,000 cloud computing projects for clients, with 80 percent of the Fortune Global 100, and have more than 77,000 professionals trained on cloud technologies and architectures, and more than 50,000 SAP professionals. Accenture has been innovating n cloud technology for nearly a decade and holds more than 300 granted patents and pending applications across its global cloud portfolio.

Joel Chacko is Associate Director for Accenture Microsoft Business Group in Africa

Standard Bank South Africa migrates SAP cloud platform to Microsoft Azure to boost efficiency

Standard Bank South Africa is moving its core SAP Cloud Platform services to Microsoft Azure to significantly improve the experience customers have with the bank, while enabling it to introduce new solutions to market more efficiently.

This accelerates the digital transformation of SAP customers to S/4HANA by partnering with Microsoft and using jointly developed reference architectures, roadmaps, and industry best practices. Many enterprises are looking to reduce their reliance on their own datacentres and moving more of their core workloads to the cloud.

Sabelo Nkwanyana, Standard Bank’s CIO for Personal and Business Banking SA, says leveraging the computing power of Microsoft and the product innovation capability of SAP demonstrates how Standard Bank is embracing partnerships and ecosystems to develop customized solutions for its clients.

“SAP has a deep understanding of our business requirements and how we want to ensure our customers are happy with our service offering. This partnership continues our focus on innovation by leveraging the respective skills of SAP and Microsoft to transform the digitization and personalization journey for our customers,” says Nkwanyana.

Lillian Barnard, Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa says, “The Project Embrace initiative between Microsoft and SAP announced globally last year is centred around the customer journey to SAP S/4HANA and SAP Cloud Platform on Microsoft Azure. The work that we are doing with Standard Bank is the first local demonstration of this partnership, and another milestone in the journey Microsoft is on with Standard Bank, to bring innovation into every aspect of the bank’s IT system and enable enriched interactions with the bank’s customers.”

The partnership brings together SAP and Microsoft, along with a global network of selected system integrators, to move on-premise SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA customers to the cloud through industry-specific best practices, reference architectures and cloud-delivered services.

Barnard continues, “Enterprises are migrating to cloud providers at an accelerated rate. This makes it critical for our customers to have the right cloud infrastructure in place, enabling them to unlock the power of innovation. Microsoft’s significant investment on the African continent, with our first hyperscale datacentre regions in Johannesburg and Cape Town, means many more partners and customers are enjoying the benefits of our intelligent cloud platform.”

Speaking on the SAP partnership specifically, Barnard adds, “Project Embrace has three tenets at its heart: simplify, accelerate and innovate. By accelerating our customers’ digital transformation journey, we are enabling them to become agile, efficient digital enterprises on Microsoft Azure – with a cloud platform optimised for SAP – leveraging best practice and specialist expertise.”

“Today’s announcement is the biggest partnership centred on SAP implementation in Africa. With client experience a key strategic pillar for Standard Bank, Project Embrace reflects the shared commitment of both SAP and Microsoft to accelerate our customers’ journey to the cloud,” says Cathy Smith, Managing Director at SAP Africa.

This project will deliver a unified approach to how Standard Bank runs SAP S/4HANA in Microsoft Azure. Ultimately, this will help the bank deliver a faster time-to-market on products and services, while ensuring its IT infrastructure is optimised. By moving workloads to the cloud, Standard Bank will be able to access a range of features that it can deploy instantly and scale according to demand. This will result in cost reductions, improved system performance, and access to innovation.

“This will empower the bank to create new business models and deliver more personalised outcomes in today’s dynamic business environment. By providing Standard Bank with consistent engagement and delivery models, SAP and Microsoft bring both industry-specific best practices and deep local insight to deliver a compelling value proposition for their clients,” says Smith.

“Through Project Embrace, we are now able to better identify our business pain points and effectively address them through technologies that deliver a demonstratable return on investment. Having the ability to more accurately predict where customer challenges and dissatisfaction will occur enables a more flexible enterprise environment. We can help our customers transform their businesses and their lives in a secure way. This is much more than SAP and Microsoft supplying us with products. This is about fundamentally enhancing our digital journey for the future,” concludes Nkwanyana of Standard Bank SA.

In addition to the work done with Standard Bank, the Microsoft and SAP initiative is assisting customers around the world, and in a variety of industries, accelerate their journey to becoming digital, intelligent enterprises.

www.standardbank.co.za

www.sap.com

[Startup Interview] Freeman Addico, CEO, Addicnet, Ghana

With customers spread across 10 countries, Pan-African cloud computing and ecommerce solutions provider Addicnet is redefining cloud computing landscape in the continent through its unique offerings. The CEO Freeman Addico explains.

Tell us abit about Addicnet and your role in it

Addicnet is a Pan-African Cloud computing and ecommerce solutions provider aiding African companies to deploy their operations on the cloud with stability, scalability, security, and efficiency.

Our solutions span from multi-public cloud managed service, encrypted cloud, enterprise file sync and share on- premise, white label cloud backup and sync and bespoke ecommerce development and management services.

I lead the overall Technical Development of our Company’s products and services and the Company’s long-term vision strategy of becoming a top Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) in Africa.

Why was it formed and to what extent has it achieved its purpose?

It was formed to serve the cloud computing and encryption niche markets in transforming the African Enterprises Technology Landscape. Here is how we are helping businesses in Africa.

Develop Cloud strategy, deployment and managing their cloud resources so companies can focus on their core business and innovation

 We help companies with Data protection through secure hosting, end-end cloud encryption, with our partner Datacentre based in Switzerland and protected by Swiss Law.

Help companies to have their own secure File sync and Share on- premise with encryption and Data governance instead of using public file sharing platforms like dropbox, OneDrive, Sharefile etc. that have failed to protect their customers’ data. With us, clients can easily collaborate with teams and with business partners by providing them remote access to a limited set of internal files or folders. Share files while maintaining administrative controls. Simplify multi-site collaboration with automatic version controls and file locking.

We help telecom and ISP companies with white label backup and sync and share solution, AI cloud backup to rebrand and give to their customers as a VAS.

We provide end-to end ecommerce development and management solutions

How big is your reach?

Currently we are serving customers in 10 countries and have regal presence in 4 countries in Africa, but our solutions are open to all across the world with special focus to business in the African continent. All businesses out there, who want to benefit from utilization of cloud computing solutions, encrypted cloud and data protection.

What is Addicnet bringing to the market that isn’t present at the moment?

Addicnet provides premium services to businesses of all sizes, enterprises and small business alike with niche products in cloud and ecommerce coupled with a business model that’s quite different from other companies out there ie. Multi-public cloud managed service, encrypted cloud solutions, enterprise file sync and share on-premise and white label cloud backup on-premise, as well as managed bespoke ecommerce solutions on single platform.

These are 3 different models that also differentiate us from others.

  • Onboarding of end users on our own and provide them with custom solutions that meets their needs. We don’t provide “one solution fit all” kind of services.
  • Service providers also depend on us to manage their infrastructures so they can focus on their core business to their respective clients
  • We provide white label solutions to businesses of all sizes with their brands to resell or provide a value added service to their end user on a revenue sharing business model.

What do you consider the biggest threat to your business?

The biggest threat to my business has been the fragmentations of the African markets. We provide premium custom solutions that are needed on the continent and we get referrals across the continent; however, doing business in most of these countries is quite difficult to deal with, the processes and legal issues are in most cases not pleasant in my experience. But then, there is hope with the African free trade agreement and I look forward to when it will be fully implemented so as to have integrated market to work in.

What kind of collaborations do you expect and need for Addicnet to succeed?

We need collaborations from all service providers, ISP’s, Telecoms, IaaS, Device manufacturers, Device distributors etc. who are looking at giving their customers a VAS (Value added service), our white-label solutions hosted on-premise is the right solution for them and best of all, we give that solution on revenue sharing business model. It is a secure cloud file sync and share solution that enables clients to relish a complete on-the-go experience with automatic backup, advanced tasks scheduling, selective restore, and file versioning features.

Where are your plans for Addicnet in 2020 and going forward?

We have already won an award as one of the 20 most promising tech companies in Africa in 2020 by CIO review magazine. In the coming years, we wish to surge ahead of the competition to be the biggest provider of cloud computing technology in the region. With clients in more than ten countries, the company is currently looking to cross-over into other promising territories and create an extensive customer base. We want to have footprints as a company that provides capable cloud services, cloud encryption and e-commerce solutions.

What is the latest news from Addicnet?

We have succeeded in forming two major partnership arrangements with Artmotion a datacenter in Switzerland for our encryption and data protection solutions, protected by SWISS privacy laws for clients, this means we give you SWISS privacy. And also, KnowIT Cloud (IaaS) in Israel with datacenter across Europe as our infrastructure platform. With those partnerships, plans are far advanced to setup datacenters in 3 countries in Africa in coming years.

Who should contact your company, and why?

All companies who are interested in secure cloud hosting, cloud encryption, data protection, enterprise file sync and share on-premise for data governance, those who are interested in providing a secure cloud backup and sync solution as added value service, as well those who want to create bespoke ecommerce for B2B, B2C Omni-channel platforms. We are known as Africa’s premium cloud solution provider that delight clients with many user case studies. With us you truly have a premium partner.

www.addicnet.com

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Healthcare cloud computing market to reach $40 billion by 2026, report

The healthcare cloud computing market is poised to reach $40 billion by 2026, growing at an annual rate of 14 per cent over forecast period 2019 to 2026 according to a report by Acumen Research and Consulting.

Cloud computing in healthcare increases the efficiency of the industry, while decreasing costs. Cloud computing makes medical record-sharing easier and safer, automates backend operations and even facilitates the creation, and maintenance of, telehealth apps.

The growing demand-supply gap in the healthcare industry has led to increased need for IT, boosting the adoption of cloud computing in this industry. Moreover, technologically advanced healthcare infrastructure, especially the hospitals in developed economies, is one of the key factors impelling market demand.

With rising population and volume of patient information, integration of data and having real-time access has become the need of the hour. Increase in investments by several private and public organizations in healthcare IT infrastructure is also one of the factors expected to positively impact growth in the near future.

www.acumenresearchandconsulting.com