Changing visions of the future
COMPUTING| Sept. 15, 2012, 6:27 a.m.
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.”
MORE COMPUTING NEWS
Cloud, Mobility, Big Data to shape North African IT in 2015The North Africa region will push ahead with IT transformation initiatives throughout the course of 2015, spurred on by growing adoption of '3rd Platform' technologies such as cloud, mobility, and Big Data, says IDC. Read More
One Channel Botswana acquires top technical skillsAs part of its future growth strategy, One Channel Botswana has announced that it is acquiring top industry skills. Read More
Cloud - the perfect weapon for SMEsCloud Computing gives smaller companies unprecedented access to enterprise-grade software and infrastructure services – allowing them to grow rapidly and compete with larger, more established competitors, says T-Systems. Read More
AfDB, MasterCard to expand financial inclusion in AfricaThe African Development Bank (AfDB) and MasterCard have announced a broad collaboration that aims to expand financial inclusion across the African continent by broadening access and usage of digital financial services. Read More
Partnership expands ICT support for Ebola fight in West AfricaCollaboration among NetHope, Facebook, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cisco, EveryLayer and Inveneo will provide sustainable Internet connectivity solutions to support frontline response efforts and long-term recovery in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Read More
IT hiccups put Botswana varsity in disarrayBotswana’s biggest university, the University of Botswana (UB) has been hamstrung by an IT problem that threatens to throw the institution into disarray. Read More
Soronko Solutions takes Tech Needs Girls programme to deprived regions in GhanaOver 300 girls in the Upper West region of Ghana will be receiving hands-on education on ICT, thanks to the Soronko Solutions Road show known as the Tech Needs Girls programme. Read More
Mascom to hand over Kitsong centresAs has become tradition, this year, Mascom will hand over ten Business Communication Centres, popularly known as Kitsong Centres. Read More
Hot five tech trends for 2015In2IT Technologies South Africa predicts this year’s top five tech trends. Read More
Human interface services revenue to break billion dollar barrier within 5 yearsJuniper Research says that by 2019 the global market for services based on gesture and biometric interface technologies will be worth an estimated $1.2 billion. Read More
FEATURED STORYUCC launches 2015 ACIA awards
Uganda has launched the fifth Annual Communications and Innovation Awards, which celebrate and foster ICT innovation and achievement.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHKenya’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 NEWSAlbany CTG, Microsoft, collaborate on School of Government Program
The University at Albany’s Center for Technology in Government (CTG) has announced its collaboration with Microsoft Corporation to deliver executive level training to government leaders in Africa ...VMware reports fourth quarter and full year 2014 results
VMware, the global leader in virtualisation and cloud infrastructure, has announced financial results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2014.