Changing visions of the future

COMPUTING

|
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

MORE COMPUTING NEWS

Continual service improvement: key to tackling top ITSM challenges

A lack of understanding of ITSM and its impact on business hindered its effectiveness in 2014, says Marval Africa.  Read More

Advanced analytics and telecoms – a power combination

Telecommunications and advanced analytics are a symbiotic duo that can help fast track African development and revolutionise business, says LGR Telecommunications. Read More

Cameroon college gets affordable, quality Keepod devices

Teaching and learning have since dramatically changed and improved at the College Socka Bongue in Cameroon thanks to the supply by Keepod of 650 computing devices and 26 laptops, with each device costing as little as US$7. Read More

Elephant census not ready for drone technology

Dr Chase and Minister Khama Elephants Without Borders, a Botswana conservation project which is bankrolled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has shelved the use of drone technology during future elephant census expeditions. Read More

Indigenous technical skills critical to growth, says Skysat chief

Skysat Technologies Limited CEO Izzat Debs says the conscious development of indigenous technical skills in Nigeria remains one of the ways of developing the ICT sector of the country to make it grow the nation’s GDP. Read More

Products and services to go on show at WATSE 2015

Telecoms operators, smartphone companies, ICT service companies and other allied companies will showcase their products and services at this year’s  West Africa Telecom Summit and Expo (WATSE 2015), to be held on 21 – 22 May at Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra. Read More

Silicon Congo project to boost ICT entrepreneurship

ICT entrepreneurs in Congo Brazzaville have been given a platform to take off, grow and prosper by Silicon Congo, a new project launched early this week in the capital Brazzaville by the BantuHub Foundation. Read More

Cisco opens 5th academy in Botswana

Cisco Systems has opened its 5th Cisco Academy in Botswana, with online curricula, virtual learning tools, instruction support as well as teacher training and professional development opportunities.  Read More

According to VMware the future of the SAN is virtual

Customers looking to deploy SAN based environments that can scale quickly, support software-defined computing and deliver on increased performance need look no further than VMware’s new Virtual SAN 6. Read More

Nigeria’s computer body urges revisit of e-voting

The Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) has once again advised Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission and the government to heed its call to adopt electronic voting for the coming general elections. Read More

PRESS OFFICES

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

FEATURED STORY

Malawi Govt denies clinging to ‘Cashgate’ softwareMalawi Govt denies clinging to ‘Cashgate’ software

The Malawi Government will not exclude the software brand that has been in use for the country’s Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS), but it has rejected reports implying that it is ‘clinging’ to the old system.

IN DEPTH

Kenya’s digital TV battle hots up Kenya’s digital TV battle hots up

Kenya’s journey to Digital TV broadcasting took a new turn this week, when the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) accused three local media firms of intent to disrupt the process.

COMPANY NEWS

MTN demonstrates the benefits of its video on demand offering

MTN showcased the benefits of FrontRow when it streamed high bandwidth video content onto multiple mobile devices using its video on demand (VOD) offering.

VMware appoints Bask Iyer as chief information officer

VMware has announced the appointment of Bask Iyer to the role of senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO) of VMware.