When discussing emerging markets and the future of work and profit, “Data is the new oil” is an expression that has solidified its place in the conversation. If data is the new oil, as the popular phrase goes, then data is our most valuable resource, it powers almost everything we use today to work, move and live, and it is virtually unusable if unrefined.
Innovating beyond proprietary data is becoming more and more important. This is especially true in Africa, the continent that some of the world’s youngest and fastest growing economies call home, where business intelligence and revenue models are calling for a new framework of doing business. This framework, the open innovation ecosystem – where a good number of leap-frog innovations are necessary – requires the need for speed through collaboration from not just the private sector, but the public sector and its stakeholders – such as universities and innovation agencies – as well as the agility and prowess of startups.
Companies across the continent are using external data in addition to their internal data, to better understand and pursue new business developments in the continent’s innovation ecosystem. Here, we’ll explore how African corporates are innovating intelligently which is resulting in the ability to make better business decisions.
How It’s Being Played Out IRL
In his book Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data, Meltwater’s founder, Jorn Lyseggen, unpacks the edge of the intelligence and value that both proprietary and third-party data has an impact in, in what he calls the “new decision paradigm,” giving corporates a competitive advantage and enhancing their decision making.
One of South Africa’s oldest banks recently invested in Cape Town-based aerial data-analytics startup, Aerobotics, which makes use of aerial imagery and machine learning algorithms to solve problems in the agriculture industry. Of course, the options for using the same technology and concept across industries like finance and insurance, are endless. This bet on the technology of drones and data science was a deliberate focus on the strategy of the future of agri-finance for the major bank, understanding and recognising that in an aim to win more business, the third party data and use of Aerobotics technology will be a shift in new business and product development across customers and competitors for the corporate.
And, with technological trends like artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and cloud computing, one way in which Accenture in South Africa is making and informing industry with their data, and leveling up competitive intelligence is through thought leadership positioning. This has enabled Accenture to create and enable themselves and other companies to change how people work and live beyond industry, like platform economies through their intelligence, and thus influencing the business intelligence of industry through data.
African businesses are thinking about ways to truly innovate under a framework of open innovation, even though the resources and capabilities may not always be plentiful. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018, revealed that “ … South African executives (73%) agree with their global counterparts (79%) that organisations are basing their most critical systems and strategies on data, yet many have not invested in the capabilities to verify the truth within it.” Herein lies the opportunity to better scope the future of African innovation.
2020, 2025 and 2030 agendas set by organisations and corporates are not too far from actualisation, and the reality is that innovation is not self-driving but it’s a social concept that needs humans to execute visions. The appetite and curiosity for this new oil that is data and operating through the framework of open innovation is at its peak for intelligent enterprise, so how do we prepare for such innovation?
These present future institutions are the pipeline of talent that will be nurturing the future of work in businesses and its tools in order for us to be technology ready, and to have a workforce that is future-proof.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the latest report for South Africa has revealed that the country’s entrepreneurial activity is as its highest level since 2013; this is good news, and in order for SMMEs to continue playing their role in the economy, we need to cultivate the space.
Perhaps more entrepreneurs are needed, my argument lies in the kind of capital that’s invested to groom and scale the current businesses that we have to produce the quality entrepreneurs that the country needs. A matter of quality of quantity. In order for this space to thrive, more capital, intentional collaboration and a government enabling and agile platform needs to be enabled.
Open Innovation Culture
The new kind of innovation that’s occurring across industries is able to be done through collaboration. This kind of culture allows for more opportunities to develop products, new customers, charter new territories of innovation and technology, add value to proprietary data and so many new possibilities.
Keep Learning, Keep Going
Lastly, in order to truly crack the code of innovation, this opportunity needs to be taken from a systematic, actionable perspective. Modest investments are being made to continue to study the strategic, operational, regulatory and societal implications of data and intelligence in South Africa’s industries and more capital needs to influence policy. In order for South Africa to participate in such an economy, more research needs to conducted so as to play the game and create an environment where intra-trade may happen.
The Future of Africa
The biggest, oldest and most established companies are most vulnerable to disruption and innovation and the way to beat archaic systems and not end up like a Blackberry or Kodak is to not just look at a company’s proprietary resources and capabilities, but to establish an innovation culture that’s for the present future. In order for Africa to truly be at the forefront of innovation globally, and be prepared for such, all stakeholders will need to realise that innovation requires the trust of stakeholders to collaborate, and the risk appetite for new technology and data to penetrate businesses and the lives of customers to enhance them and make intelligent paradigm-shifting decisions.
This article was first published on Meltwater.
It was after a much needed catch up with my mentor, over some lunch where education was the theme of the few hours we spent building the trust of the relationship and updating each other on what was new and how we could continue building each other and our ecosystems. It was intimidating to sit down with an accomplished, educated and intelligent woman, but I’m glad the tough conversation was had. It was one of the keys that led me to making a decision that was about opening up to being more, experiencing more and living more – getting out of my own way.
I was going to go back to school to obtain my under graduate degree, 6 years post matriculating from high school. Besides the reasons mentioned above, the two other motivations was the value that I know education has the potential to add to my professional and personal life, and this was also a promise that I had made to my father before he passed away.
So why did I wait 6 years to pursue my under graduate qualification? I’ve got very good reasons and excuses which were very good delay tactics, please see below:
· Pending …
- · My application was unsuccessful in two universities through past
- · I was just really lazy and afraid to start all over again
- · I didn’t think I still had it in me, curriculums and times change – insecurity’s timing is perfect. It’s a good thing that it was no measure for faith!
- · I didn’t want to save for the course because I enjoyed being careless with my money, and I didn’t know that my company had a study assistance policy
· You get my drift …
After many dress rehearsals with myself and my mother, close friends, mentors and sponsors, I decided to get over myself and begin the journey, I enrolled.
- 1. Picking the Qualification
After I finally had plucked up the courage to sit on the University of South Africa (UNISA) website, I went through the qualifications that appeared not only intimidating, but relevant for the future of corporate innovation, startups and strategic partnerships through data and modelling in preparing or the current and future economic and industrial revolutions. The data led me to BCOM Business Informatics qualification. The modules looked relevant to the objective of my desire to go back to school. I applied and got accepted. I was extremely nervous and happy at the opportunity to become a better employee and a corporate innovation practitioner.
- 2. Preparing for the Qualification
I was accepted, so what was next?
I had been accepted and found out about my company policy, but because of the university administration and a strike that happened, I was late to apply which meant that the money had to come out of my own pocket. Because I had been intentional about going back to school, I had saved up a couple of thousands of rands, and my mother was also a gem and made an investment in my first semester, that helped. The cost of studying is high, if I were to advise someone on going back who has no financial aid, it would be to starting saving yesterday, a little does go a long way.
I also had to be transparent and disclose the decision to my manager, this so that should time come needed for studying and exam time (quite a few UNISA tutorials are on Saturdays), it would be no issue.
- 3. Doing the Course
You’re going to war, so strategize!
· Prepare a Timetable - To be honest, what’s really helped is having this timetable saved as my phone screensaver and putting in alarms on my phones. Be nice to yourself and schedule in a night off during the week.
· A Strong Ecosystem - Get yourself some considerate and supportive friends who will understand when you cannot go out (time and money) because of the current investment you’re making. In the long run, this will also
· Work Smarter – If you get an assignment that aligned to the theme that you’re already doing at work, or as a side hustle, complement the two and kills as many birds as you can with the assignment stone.
· Be Kind to Yourself – By this I not only mean spa days and popping a bottle of champagne when you’ve aced that exam, but eating better and taking that digital detox when necessary because the stress can manifest in pimples and headaches.
It’s been a tough few months, I won’t lie. To be honest, there was a period where I’d given myself one week off studying because I was just lazy to, even with the grace of my alarms attempt at reminding me only to be snoozed until it stopped. The truth is that you know you and your behaviour better than any tips that I could give you, and the reason of you going back to school fulltime or part time should be motivation enough.
Congratulations to us on taking the step to go back to being educated and seeing its value in our lives, and may continue to pursue by preparing and being ready to participate in our destinies.