IIG News

How Emerging Technologies are driving business operations into a New Era

Sam Nkosi, CIO of Sasria

One cannot refute the fact that rapid technological advancements from the fourth industrial revolution (4iR) have significantly contributed to our ability to create new industries and recreate existing ones. And like with all preceding revolutions, 4iR is characterised by its ability to help us generate, exchange, and distribute value quickly and efficiently with the use of technology.


The development of sophisticated emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) – which we never imagined possible a decade or so ago – have opened up several opportunities for businesses to not only drive cost optimisation and efficient workflows but also reinvent themselves within their respective ecosystems.


By taking advantage of emerging technology such as IoT’s ability to quickly generate massive data from unlimited sources, businesses can immediately recognise a need for changes in workflows and use the insights gathered to implement preventative measures well ahead of potential losses and/or risks. Smart warehousing in the manufacturing and retail spaces is a great example of this. Smart integrated systems, use various sensory connected devices to track inventory volumes in real-time and because these devices are in constant communication with each other, they can facilitate considerable operational efficiency and eliminate human error, giving decision-makers the ability to identify trends and improve their strategies to adapt to changing market conditions.


In using these emerging technologies, not only can we find a better way to do business, but we can also create a safer world. Though not a fair comparison, take the US Department of Transportation for example. They are currently looking into vehicle-to-vehicle communication to help drivers communicate with each other and warn of hazardous road conditions, in a bid to reduce accidents on their roads. Reading such reports always begs the question of how South Africa (and Africa as a whole) fare on the global tech stage?


The 2019 “Unlocking the Potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa” report prepared under the African Development Bank (AfDB) argues that there is already notable absorption of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the African continent. Yet, last year African countries ranked extremely low in the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report compared to other developing countries. In fact, South Africa ranked 67th from 140 countries, seeing it drop five places from its position in 2017.


Now, whether this slow adoption of technological disruption is due to the complexities of this emerging technology or from the lack of resources and poor infrastructure, it remains incumbent on South Africa (and other African countries) to embrace this new paradigm shift in order to accelerate the necessary investments needed to help drive businesses and ultimately the country into an exciting new era. But all is not lost, if the recommendations from The Presidential Commission of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are anything to go by, exciting times lie ahead for businesses and citizens alike.


Unfortunately, despite the many advantages of using IoT devices, history teaches us no revolution ever came without any risks. Businesses still need to be mindful of how to protect themselves against the impending cyber-risks of these remarkable technological disruptions we see today.


According to the latest Accenture report, South Africa has experienced a cross-industry spike in cyberattacks in 2019, making it the third-highest country in the world with the most number of cybercrime victims. Their research found that approximately R2.2 billion a year is lost to cyber-attacks and that in 2019 alone, overall malware attacks increased by 22% which translated to 577 attempted attacks per hour. The recent attacks experienced by companies and government departments in South Africa also tell us that we moving to tough cyber wars in future.


Cybersecurity, as with any new piece of technology, has to be an integral part of the security in any business. And even though the threat of cyber-attacks is real, it is often easy to forget all about it until one fateful strike. However, if your company has an online presence, stores customer and company data on digital devices and uses cloud-based software, a thorough cyber security strategy is critical and should include clear procedures in place such as an incident-response capability, post-incident analysis, backed up data, anti-DDoS measures, and cloud access security brokers can help to overcome challenges should your business ever find itself in an unfortunate position.


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