At the first-ever Future of Work Virtual Conference hosted by CNBC Africa, in partnership with FORBES AFRICA, on August 20, in which more than 2,000 global viewers engaged with industry experts on digital opportunities for the continent, the final thought-provoking discussion was on ‘Empowering the workforce to harness IoT and big data analytics’.
The all-day virtual summit came to a fitting close looking at how the mass of information we have at our disposal today can be harnessed for improved and sustainable business operations. The panel’s moderator, Kavitha Prag, Director, Digital Supply Network and IoT Lead, Deloitte, was joined by Peter Malebye, Managing Executive, Internet of Things (IoT) Africa, Vodacom Business, Arthur Goldstuck, CEO, World Wide Worx, and Rebecca Enonchong, Founder and CEO, AppsTech.
The discussion unpacked how business is able to create information out of data – one of the most valuable modern resources for businesses of all sizes. As Malebye noted: “The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have changed the way we work as we know it. This lockdown has fundamentally tested the boundaries of collaboration, and it’s up to companies to acknowledge the power of technology and IoT to unlock value across business.”
Prag kicked off the discussion by asking Goldstuck to explain the key acronyms dominating digital technologies like IoT and big data.
“Blockchain, AI, ML,” Goldstuck explained, “all make up the underlying technologies that tend to be described as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). That includes technology that relates to robotics. But when you look at each of those individually, you discover that we’re at very different levels of uptake.”
Enonchong talked about the businesses and industries that use a deeper understanding of the data to the benefit of consumers, businesses and government. “We have mobile money, which is a real game-changer. All of a sudden, we see where and how the money is being spent. This is information we didn’t have when everybody was transacting in cash.”
Discussing how various sectors use IoT, Malebye said: “The automotive industry has continued to lead in terms of the adoption. You can start to collect that data that enables users to interact with the OEM providers about when the car needs to be serviced.”
He further explained how resources in healthcare, energy and water supplies can be tracked to predict and manage potential scarcity.
Prag referred to the study on remote working conducted by World Wide Worx with Cisco Systems.
Goldstuck said it was a fascinating study and they got a sense of how the culture of work had changed.
“We did come up with startling findings. We looked at the success factors for remote working. And there were three real critical success factors, not all of them to do with technology. The single biggest one was the ability of managers to delegate tasks effectively to people working remotely.
“The second one was about whether staff were allowed to spend time with children during the work day. But the third key factor was whether there’s good connectivity at home.
“Another fascinating category of findings was the impact of digital transformation on productivity. You do expect some companies to become more productive, and others, obviously, to become less productive when people are working remotely.
“Being digitally transformed is a major factor in productivity from anywhere.”
Lockdown showed that most schools were not ready for a digital future. And that’s where the skills base of the future starts being built.
“It’s very clear that there has to be a massive emphasis on skills training for AI and it has to begin in primary school where basic coding becomes part of the curriculum…” said Goldstuck .
The Cameroon-based Enonchong said their tech hubs are “actual locations where young people and entrepreneurs can come to learn how to better build their business”.
In her closing statement, she said, “If you have an innovation, if you have an idea, and you don’t know how to take it to the next level, become a member of a tech hub.”
Technology and the future thus ruled the day at the summit.