Changing visions of the future


Image: By BiztechAfrica
Changing visions of the future

At the SAS Executive Forum, held this week in Newtown, Johannesburg, the organisation that tackles big data spent the day tackling big issues – like finding a common business language, how to create growth and equality in South Africa and changing the way a futurist sees the future.

The SAS Executive Forum is an annual event where executives from leading industries that tackle the demands of a modern workplace are gathered to “share ideas and be inspired”. Because the modern business landscape is populated with more information than any individual or even a single, high-powered computer can effectively work with, one of the burning issues confronting executives is how to tackle big data.

“The marketers of tomorrow are going to be mathematicians and statisticians,” said Paul Kent, VP of Platform Research and Development at SAS, USA, in his keynote address. “We're already seeing this in the United States, where Visa are able to predict with 98% accuracy, when a couple is going to get divorced based on their credit card spending patterns.”

He explained that while every two years, we double the amount of data we are producing on Earth, and pressure is driving storage costs down, so organisations just keep everything, we have reached what he termed “the end of science”, where it's no longer possible to have a faster computer.

“So what if we could figure out how to make them smaller, massively parallel and use 100 or 1000 at the same time,” he says. “You have grid computing, where performance is gained by breaking work into tasks that can be done in parallel by nodes.”

He listed a couple of SAS's noteworthy endeavours in dealing with big data. For Catalina, which manages customer loyalty programmes in the United States and Europe, the analysis of customer behaviour has now been reduced from four and a half hours to sixty seconds, meaning that customer behaviour can be scored in real-time at the point of sale.

“Fraud detection, terrorist network detection and targeted marketing were not possible with a single computer approach, but with grid computer, it's now possible,” he says.

Werner Swanepoel, an associate director at Deloitte, was next on the podium, and he discussed how necessary data management has become in the modern workplace that's dealing with big data. “The first major step is accepting that data is an asset,” he says. “If we explore this, organisations will probably find that they are not treating data as an organisational asset. Data management is all those things you should be doing to our data that you are doing to your other assets.”

He says that one of the biggest issues in this is that a common business language is needed. “We need that thing that creates consistency among all people in an organisation. Without a consistent definition of what a product is, it becomes extremely difficult to analyse product behaviour.”

He pointed out how, if an organisation is able to define clearly and understand their products through data management, then this will allow it to create and sell more products through opportunities in direct revenue generation.

The event then took on a broader social focus with Lullu Krugel, senior economist and associate director of Advsory Business at KPMG, and Eusebius McKaiser, political analyst and Radio 702 host, discussing how South Africa is positioned in the global economy and as a gateway to Africa. They agreed that economic growth was necessary to address inequality in South Africa, with Krugel cautioning that our current growth, we are falling far short of the 5.5% stipulated in the National Development Plan.

“We're still seen as a major power house in Africa,” she said. “But the fact is that our African neighbours are doing a lot to change their positions, opening up markets and making it easier to do business there. We can't just sit back and think we have the best infrastructure and a lot to offer.”

McKaiser added that growth alone is not sufficient to guarantee the closing of the economic gap. He cited the time of Thabo Mbeki's presidency, when South Africa enjoyed considerable growth, but little impact was felt by those at the bottom end of the economy.

“There is often the assumption that with growth comes the delivery of jobs,” he said. “I have never understood why that is the perceived wisdom, when there's no causal link. Growth doesn't mean that we will have fewer social and political challenges in this country. The obvious point is that growth is necessary, but it is not sufficient.”

The last speaker of the day was Glen Hiemstra, international futurist and author, who explained that with the acceleration of technology, the computers of the future will be tiny devices all around us.

“Computing technology has transformed to analyse data in ways that weren't possible before and are so much faster than what was possible before,” he says. “Computers have been smart and have done many things for us, but we've really only been dipping our toe in until now. Really smart computing is about to make the things we've done so far seem like child's plan.”

He described data mining as the “new oil” that we're just beginning to figure out how to make money out of, and that we know isn't going to come to an end. “I am a futurist, and as a result of what I heard here this morning, I now see the future differently. If you want to change what you're doing today, change your vision of the future.” 

Share the News

Get Daily Newsletter

comments powered by Disqus


The importance of quality data

Africa has the benefit of not having massive numbers of legacy systems to contend with when moving to extract value from data and ensure data quality, says KPMG. Read More

Time for CIOs to change strategy in the fight against consumer technology

Shadow IT is simply not going away, says Sumash Singh, Country Manager at CommVault South Africa. Read More

Virtualisation in the age of smart data

Actifio solution strategist Gareth Donald discusses virtualisation in the age of smart data: the next frontier on the march to the cloud. Read More

SATA confers on customer service and billing

The Southern African Telecommunications Association (SATA) held a Customer Service, Quality of Service (Qos) and Billing Conference.  Read More

Study: Payments industry in flux

A new study indicates that cards will account for 273 billion transactions at a combined value of some US$30 trillion by 2018, but as mPOS grows, new forms of payment will flourish.  Read More

Nissan parades ‘ICT built’ brand in Malawi

Nissan has paraded its brand new 2015 y62 Patrol Ti series in Malawi, which is said to have taken advantage of ongoing ICT innovations and features built-in navigation and digital entertainment. Read More

Digital fuels growth in Africa’s entertainment and media industry: PwC report

African entertainment and media industry has entered a new landscape – one where the media is no longer divided into distinct traditional and digital spheres, according to a report from PwC. Read More

Deloitte unveils Tech Trends 2015

The sixth annual Deloitte Tech Trends report examining disruptive technologies with the best potential to impact businesses within the next 18 to 24 months, will be released in Johannesburg today. Read More

Microsoft promotes Africa’s innovators through DEMO Africa 2015

Using the Demo Africa platform as a veritable vehicle for the development of African innovators, Microsoft, under the 4Afrika Initiative, has confirmed its support for the upcoming DEMO Africa event in Lagos.  Read More

NITDA affirms confidence in DEMO Africa 2015

Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has affirmed its confidence in the ability of the DEMO Africa forum to become the continent’s rallying ground to discover technology leaders and entrepreneurs. Read More


Sage ERP AfricaSAP AfricaSage Pastel AccountingTrust PayVMWareSamsung ElectronicsMitsumi DistributionPhoenix DistributionMTN BusinessSchneider ElectricMultichoiceMicrosoft 4Afrika


Connectivity critical for Nigeria's ICT sector, says SES chiefConnectivity critical for Nigeria's ICT sector, says SES chief

Connectivity is vital for any country to fully optimise the huge potential of cyberspace, SES Sales Manager for West Africa Joy Nma Emenike tells Kokumo Goodie.


High tech homes: Just press playHigh tech homes: Just press play

High tech, digital homes where everything is automated and connected aren’t the stuff of science fiction any longer, says BNC Technology.