The customer engagement metrics that your call centre needs to track

The customer engagement metrics that your call centre needs to track

Providing quality customer experience is certainly the way of the future.

According to Econsultancy’s 2018 Digital Trends Report, businesses are most excited about the opportunities that customer experience has to offer, more than about content marketing, mobile, personalisation and social.

Out of the businesses surveyed, 22% were most keen to see where a focus on customer experience would take them, and how content could help them achieve this focus. Providing quality customer experience is certainly the way of the future, but with so many call centres popping up, one needs to find ways to stand out in the customer service crowd.

One important way to do so is to be on top of customer engagement data, data that will give you the insights you need to create a bigger and better customer experience year on year. Whether your call centre is in-house or you make use of customer management outsourcing, written in collaboration with Merchants here are the most important customer engagement metrics your call centre should be tracking.

Customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction, while basic, is a vital metric to track. According to Call Centre Helper’s 2017 report, 95% of call centre professionals found this a very important metric to be on top of. Knowing how many customers are or aren’t happy with your service will help you better understand how much you need to do to increase satisfaction levels, as well as how to do so. You might be receiving a large number of calls daily, but they may not be happy ones. Or you might be achieving just enough happy customers, but not enough to make a positive difference in trust levels of your brand.

Tracking your customer satisfaction rate can easily be done through an online survey that pops up when customers land on your website, a pre-recorded survey that starts once a call ends with a customer, or a follow-up email survey. Asking customers about their satisfaction with your service on a scale of 1-10 will help you quantify how happy your customers are and help you figure out whether you’re on the right track or where you need to up your game.

Query resolution

The query resolution metric looks at how often a customer needs to call your company in order for their query to be resolved, where the fewer times a customer has to call you for a problem to be corrected, the better your service. While this metric can be tricky to measure to 100% accuracy as continuous calls from one customer may be for different problems, it can help you identify which issues are causing the most repeat calls.

With 68% of call centre professionals finding this a very important metric to track, there are a number of ways you can track query resolution. You can either track the number of calls that customers make within a one-week period and then find out what their queries were, or use a post-call survey to determine if a customer made multiple calls for one query.

Social media efficacy

Social media has become a popular means for customers to interact with businesses. Some businesses have diverted their customers to their Facebook pages to solve their basic queries, for example. In South Africa, approximately 97% of brands use Facebook and, while this is a way to free up your agents’ time for more important or bigger queries, you need to make sure that the service your customers receive over social media is both pleasant and effective.

You can track both the efficacy of your social media platforms to provide a good customer service and track how many customers use these platforms to solve a query. Through technologies you can analyse how many queries you receive, how long it takes for your agents to respond to queries and how customers feel about your brand. You can start to see how effective your social media customer services are. One company that provides such technologies is Hootsuite.

Looking at these metrics makes it clear How KNOWN Data Can Improve Your Customer Experience. At every stage of the customer experience there are things which could turn customers away. But fortunately, by tracking the above metrics, it’s easy enough to figure out what is working and what isn’t. Tracking these three main metrics will help you figure out how well your customer service team is doing, and how you might be able to improve your customer experience strategy going forward.

Staff Writer

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Tech in the Wild: The gadgets keeping our animals safe

Tech in the Wild: The gadgets keeping our animals safe

The gadgets keeping our animals safe

From sharks that send a Tweet to bathers warning them of their presence to cutting-edge data collection on animal populations and habitats, technology is fast becoming the biggest weapon in the conservation efforts to protect some of the most endangered species on the planet.

It’s a move that delights Arthur Goldstuck, South Africa’s leading expert on technology trends, who in June will join a unique conservation effort with Vodacom, San Parks and the Endangered Wildlife Trust in the Kruger National Park, and which could result in groundbreaking research on the wild dog.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the African wild dog – or painted dog as it is also known – is Southern Africa’s most endangered large carnivore species with only 6 600 individual dogs still left in the wild.

Vodacom Bulls coach John Mitchell and several players will join a group of Vodacom Red customers who have won the right to be part of an exclusive experience in helping track and collar African wild dogs in the Kruger National Park from 20-22 June, with Goldstuck and wild life enthusiast Nadav Ossendryver from being a part of this pack of conservationists.

“What’s going to be fascinating is getting a complete digital picture of the movements, life cycles and activities of wild dogs,” says Goldstuck.

“The result of that digital picture is that we will almost have an x-ray of the brain of the wild dog community, which has never been possible before. I can imagine the nature of this data will provide incredible insights into the efforts to conserve and protect the wild dogs.”

As an award-winning IT journalist and author and the editor-in-chief of Gadget magazine, Goldstuck says technology is playing an increasingly important role in nature conservation.

“The technology available for nature conservation is far ahead of the attempts to destabilise nature. Drones are being used to fight poachers in the Kruger National Park. Remote camera traps are being used not just to monitor species but also rediscover species. I have even read of a GPS device that Tweets a shark’s location to nearby bathers. And crowd-sourcing is also entering the conservation sphere in the form of a crowdsourced bio blitz where everyone visiting a particular reserve or park is involved in gathering information on every single species they spotted in that environment. It’s incredible the range of technology available to nature conservation. So there is no longer an excuse to not use the latest technology in nature conservation.”

But Goldstuck says some of the challenges to more effective use of technology in conservation are a willingness and ability of those at the forefront of conservation efforts to use this technology, and the need for a more integrated approach throughout South African conservation.

“The problem is the readiness to use the technology as a solution and the ability of people involved in conservation to use this technology. But the fact that you can now do courses at South African universities in the use of technology in conservation is a positive step towards overcoming this.

“I’m seeing a very strong coming together of technology with conservation, especially with rhino projects. But I think the challenge is to make these isolated incidents more integrated across all areas of conservation.
“In the next five years I believe we’re likely to see big leaps forward with organisations like Vodacom possibly joining forces with other companies to develop a more integrated strategy across South African conservation.”

By: Michael Vlismas

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PayChoice offers payment, collection efficiency, wins award

PayChoice offers payment, collection efficiency, wins award

Upperlink’s self-service, payment and collection infrastructure gateway- PayChoice, has won the Electronic Payments Incentive Scheme (EPIS) Efficiency Awards.
 
Upperlink is software and payment company that provides different forms of e-Payment services, with backing from the Nigeria Internet Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) Plc.

The company won the innovation award for efficiency by beating competing brands in the Cash-less Driver: Payment Solutions Service Provider (PSSP) category to the coveted accolade last weekend.

According to the Managing Director/CEO of Upperlink, Segun Akano, by leveraging on the integration to the National Switch and the company’s vast experience in deploying bespoke software solutions, the company has created a payment and collection platform, which makes “for easy, fast and safe payments of bills, vendor and bulk payments”.

He explained that the company’s platform offers customers the opportunity to deliver fast and efficient payment, as it has successfully been integrated into the Nigerian Central Switch operated by NIBSS, which gives customers the ability to route payments via their preferred channels.

“PayChoice stands out from the rest as we have carefully studied the market by interacting with key stakeholders and users to develop a user-customer centric product.

“Unlike other platforms, we have created a robust, yet user-friendly application which solves all payment problems.

“We have streamlined our on-boarding process to ensure that due diligence and integrations are concluded within a week. We have easy to-use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allows third party systems to connect easily”, he said.

Explaining how the payment platform has suddenly risen to stardom, Akano said the market is huge but “our unique selling point is simplicity, efficiency of payments and a feel-at-home-customer service.

“Besides, we have a zero tolerance for payment failure. We have high level of security and are compliant to the regulatory payment standard.”
Targeted at SMEs, government agencies, telecommunications companies, oil and gas, construction, pharmaceutical companies, PayChoice, he said, rides on providing

“efficiency of payments and innovative solutions that make self service possible”.

“It’s indeed a great accomplishment and a reward for hard and smart work. We have a great team driven by a common vision to be the leading bespoke application developer in Africa and most efficient payment solution provider.

“There are other companies that offer payment solutions. They were also nominated for the same award. However, we won it by the grace of God.

We are always providing innovative ways to solve payment problems and with the right policies and enabling environment, we hope to deliver solutions to the African continent.

“We are looking at satisfying more SMEs by further customising our solutions to fit all SMEs and integrating them to other solutions that help SMEs such as the accounting and human resource solutions”, he said.

Specifically, he disclosed that the company has the capacity to create bespoke payment solutions for different clients through bank branches, PoS, ATM and the web using the PayChoice payment infrastructure gateway.

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Biometric tech being deployed in SA could prove risky

Biometric tech being deployed in SA could prove risky

There are a number of key fingerprint sensors in the market today

The use of biometrics is set to go mainstream in South Africa, as Home Affairs local banks roll out major identification projects.

But not all biometrics technologies are equal, and some may ‘come back to bite’ the enterprises rolling them out, warns Marius Coetzee, CEO of South African Identity management experts Ideco.

“Biometrics certainly presents a compelling use case across fraud and risk management, security and access control, so major enterprises are looking to harness biometrics in a broader way,” he says. “But it’s important that the appropriate sensors are used, backed by the right algorithms, or risk can actually be increased.”

There are a number of key fingerprint sensors in the market today, with use cases and some pros and cons around most of them, he explains:

Capacitive sensors, which in some markets are appropriate and fit for use. However, South Africa’s environment is conducive to creating static electricity, which can quickly blow the sensor.

Optical sensors, which typically use light to illuminate the fingerprint tip and so read light and dark areas, are which are more appropriate to South African conditions, can be categorised by:

  • A unique, patented Light Emitting Sensor technology certified by the FBI and manufactured primarily for use in criminal investigations, civil applications and embedded solutions such as Ideco’s BIMS terminal.
  • True Reflective Imaging (TRI) delivering crisp, good quality images with obvious contrast. Most fingerprint identification systems will be able to easily assign the matching points on these images with a high level of accuracy, especially when the technology is certified by the FBI for its image quality.
  • Multi-Spectral Imaging (MSI) designed to use various wavelengths of light during fingerprint capture. This allows the scanner to both read the fingerprint surface information, as well as the sub-dermal information. This technology claims the advantage of being capable of “seeing” through dirt or moisture on the fingerprint. But collating information from multiple wavelengths lowers the resulting image quality and fails to reach the minimum FBI certification.

Supporting the scanner technology is the algorithms ‘reading’ and matching the fingerprint information. Advanced systems will correctly match the fingerprint patterns, or minutiae, and identify the difference between fingerprint minutiae and wear and cuts due to manual labour, or wrinkles due to ageing.

While the new Home Affairs’ Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) system will seamlessly process TRI sensors images, others in South Africa are rolling out MSI scanners. Ideco Labs set out to compare the accuracy of the two technologies and achieved the following results when scanning the same fingerprint.

Coetzee explains: “The picture on the left was obtained using a conventional True Reflective Imaging (TRI) fingerprint scanner. Any experienced fingerprint expert will agree with me that this is a good quality print. The fingerprint ridges, core and delta are clearly visible. The contrast is obvious and even the sweat pores are noticeable. Most fingerprint identification systems will be able to easily assign the matching points with a high level of accuracy.

The picture on the right is of the same finger but was obtained using a Multi-Spectral Imaging (MSI) scanner. Besides the obvious difference in capture size, this image seems to be out of focus and smudged, with many artefacts. In many areas the fingerprint ridges look inverted and all the crisp detail is missing. One can even argue that there is another picture superimposed on this image.”

He notes that research carried out by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs found that spatial processing of fingerprints (looking beyond the two-dimensional surface image) will produce different artefacts on different measurements. It is therefore impossible to produce a consistent image over time and customers may have to be re-enrolled on a regular basis. “According to a Senior Fingerprint Experts, with years of experience in the criminal justice system, it would be impossible to use these fingerprint images as evidence in a Court of Law,” says Coetzee.

In addition, if the fingerprint images do not meet the international Image Quality Standards there is a high risk of false acceptance or failing to identify the person; while fingerprints obtained from these devices are not suitable for processing against their criminal database as part of the criminal investigation process.

With inadequate scanner technology and weak algorithms, the risks of fraud and of criminals illigaly accessing areas are increased, rather than decreased. “We tested the strength of various algorithms and it’s frightening to see how bad some are,” says Coetzee. “We’ve seen up to 25% false minutiae added by flawed or weak algorithms.”

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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New technologies expanding satellite markets

New technologies expanding satellite markets

 

Dr Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON.

Satellite has proved its worth as a connectivity medium in areas where there is no fixed line infrastructure. While it has remained a niche solution as a result of the logistics involved in the installation and management of the dishes, new technology is promising to bring satellite connectivity to new markets that haven’t been able to use satellite links before.

 

Kymeta, a company created to address the need for lightweight, slim and efficient communication systems that do not require mechanical components to steer toward a satellite, has created new antenna technology. These antennas use metamaterials technology to dynamically steer the beam towards the satellite with no moving parts, resulting in flat, thinner, lighter, more efficient and less expensive antennas.

In comparison, traditional satellite dishes are heavy, large, consume a lot of power, cost a lot and have mechanical gimbals for steering. Phased array antennas are very expensive, require cooling, often cannot transmit and receive on a single aperture, consume an extraordinary amount of power and still often require mechanical steering.

Kymeta’s antennas are portable, featuring high-speed internet connectivity and a built-in WiFi hotspot. They are able to be updated remotely, and even boast built-in Azure capability. They use software to electronically point and steer toward a satellite, allowing the terminals to auto-commission and auto-provision, enabling rapid setup and installation.

According to Kymeta’s Håkan Olsson, this is the first satellite antenna that has been designed for mass production, and its features are some of the reasons that the company is introducing the benefits of satellite connectivity across a range of sectors that have not used satellite links before. The technology is currently being used on trains, buses, boats and automobiles, construction sites, first responders and agriculture, he told delegates at the recent launch of the technology in South Africa.

“Satellites provide a global network of available high-throughput bandwidth. Until now there hasn’t been a way to easily access it, except to a limited extent. Kymeta’s satellite technology and services make it easy to bring global access, anywhere, anytime, while on the move,” he said.

Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, says that with the increasing install base of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, added to the growing bandwidth requirements across Africa, satellite connectivity is becoming more popular in sectors such as financial services. Technologies such as the Kymeta antennas could open even more avenues for satellite applications across the continent. He adds that existing antennas will still have their place, and that service provider should use the best available technologies in order to meet the needs of customers.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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MoneyGram launches services to all bank accounts in Ghana

MoneyGram launches services to all bank accounts in Ghana

Gives consumers a new option to receive funds in Africa’s fifth largest remittance recipient market

MoneyGram announced on Tuesday 29 May 2018,  the launch of money transfer service directly to any bank account in Ghana.

Funds can be sent via MoneyGram online or at any one of MoneyGram’s thousands of locations around the world. The money can be accessed in minutes either in person, online or through an ATM.

The new account deposit service in Ghana is a part of MoneyGram’s overall strategy to accelerate its digital growth and provide customers with convenient and accessible, technology-based financial services.

“We see a potential in the increasing adoption of banking services in Ghana and want to drive financial inclusion in the region by offering our consumers more digital money transfer options. Currently our global account deposit network consists of more than two billion bank, virtual and mobile accounts in 48 countries,” said Grant Lines, MoneyGram’s global chief revenue officer.

According to the World Bank, in 2017, $2.2 billion flowed into Ghana, up 4.3% compared to 2016 what makes the country fifth largest remittances recipient in Africa. The inflows come mainly from the United States ($585 million), Nigeria ($395 million), the United Kingdom ($286 million), Italy ($145 million) and Germany ($115 million).

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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Innovation for a smarter world: ITU Telecom World 2018

Innovation for a smarter world: ITU Telecom World 2018

Innovation for a smarter world: ITU Telecom World 2018

Creativity and innovation have driven human development throughout the course of history. From agriculture to industry to the information age, revolutionary innovations in technology have marked major leaps forward in the development of our societies. As the pace of technological innovation increases, the gaps between those revolutions reduce, so that today, just ten years after the arrival of the smartphone, we are already on the cusp of the next major leap: the smart revolution.

Two aspects of the smart revolution stand out as significantly different. It provides the possibility for less developed markets and nations to leapfrog in developmental terms, not just to leap forward. And the creativity and innovation driving it will not only be human.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the great enablers of smart society. AI is a blend of advanced analytical and machine learning applications which can perform processes or actions that would traditionally require human intelligence – and at an often greatly accelerated pace.

The use cases and benefits of AI are multiple, varied – and developing rapidly, with tremendous potential to serve purposes and provide solutions to problems we are not yet aware of, in ways we cannot yet imagine.

One key aspect is AI’s ability to swiftly and effectively analyse the ever-increasing wealth of sensor data available as the growing power and falling costs of computing provides for much faster and richer data analysis. Practical outcomes include identifying and treating disease, accelerating financial and machine to machine transactions, enhancing public safety, and improving city services, from provision of utilities to driverless public transport and city management. The aim is to save energy, time and lives through AI-enabled smart solutions.

AI will not be working alone, however. The data it feeds from is set to grow exponentially in volume as the Internet of Things continues to connect billions of sensors and devices to each other, to the internet and to humans. As the IoT develops and refines, it opens the door to innovation across all vertical sectors, including health, media, transport and energy – and manufacturing, as the paradox of personalized mass production increasingly becomes a reality.

Innovation needs new tools to thrive, and 5G software-defined networks promise a rich playing field for creative minds. The exponential increases in bandwidth, speed, reliability and flexibility offered by 5G will create a powerful critical infrastructure capable of providing solutions to the economic, social and environmental needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanised global population.

Our smarter world will be enabled by these three key technological developments, in parallel and in overlap: AI, IoT and 5G. Three acronyms driving innovation, with the potential to drive human development at a greater speed and with greater impact than ever before. In developing markets and nations in particular, smart can power the leapfrog effect, bypassing earlier stages of development, taking villages in Asia or Africa straight from no connectivity to 3G or 4G networks, from no access to education or health to world-class professionals available online, providing entry to the knowledge economy for the millions of digitally disenfranchised.

But for innovation to flourish, it needs to work in a supportive and positive environment. And for innovation to be fair, it – and the services, applications and products it ultimately produces – must be open to all.

Providing modern and fit-for-purpose regulatory frameworks as far as possible throughout the world of tech is critical to the success of smart innovation. Taking ideas to scale and maximising impact can only happen with international standardization. Privacy, security, trust and reliability are all huge issues when discussing or dealing with data as the lifeblood of innovative products and services. And the debate on ethical and regulatory frameworks for AI has only just begun.

Making a smarter world for all, not just for the elite minority, is an even greater, multi-faceted challenge. It starts, of course, with connectivity for all as a basic human right. Just providing access to the internet and the benefits of the services, applications and knowledge it offers, is not enough, however – even if this can be done at affordable prices, with available devices. There is an urgent need to create awareness of, and demand for, the internet; to provide apps and services in local languages, with local contexts and the needs of local communities at the forefront; and to train, educate and develop the skills to use the internet and bring whole new populations and generations online, releasing untapped human potential for innovation across the world.

Exploring the innovations in technology, policy, and strategy that are driving a smarter world – and the challenges we face in getting there – is at the heart of ITU Telecom World 2018. The leading tech event for governments, large businesses and SMEs, it is organized each year by ITU, the UN’s key agency for ICT matters. This year’s event will be held at the Durban International Conference Centre, Durban, South Africa, from 10 – 13 September, 2018.

The event features an international exhibition of tech solutions and projects, a world-class forum of interactive, expert-led debates, a networking programme connecting organizations, individuals and ideas, and an acclaimed Awards programme recognising innovative ICT-based solutions with real social impact.

As an important regional commercial hub with a diverse, multicultural outlook and a dynamic, growing economy, Durban offers an invaluable perspective as a venue for experts and leaders from public and private sectors around the world. And given ITU’s key role in allocating spectrum and establishing international consensus on industry standards, as well as supporting the critical role of ICTs and smart technologies in meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the event is certain to provide informed, interesting and valuable input on the power of innovation to drive a smarter world.

ITU’s authority and expertise enable it to convene a unique and influential global audience. Heads of state and government will come together with ministers, regulators, leading industry CEOs from major players and SMEs, organizations, associations and consultants. As a UN event, it delivers a truly international perspective on innovation in technology, policy and regulation from emerging and developed markets from all around the world.

Visit telecomworld.itu.int to find out more ITU Telecom World 2018 and how to take part in Durban this September.

Staff Writer

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Creating the best cyber-security defences for the public sector

Creating the best cyber-security defences for the public sector

By Sanjay Vaid, Director, Cybersecurity and Risk Services-Africa, Continental Europe (CE), Wipro Limited

In the public sector, the risks of data breaches are vast, costing millions in halted or impacted operations, lost revenue, data recovery and more. Allied to this is the loss of integrity and reputation when personal and critical data is compromised; as well as the potential for public services – such as national electricity grids – to be disrupted. With governments holding so much sensitive data on citizens, weak data security also poses a real risk to incite cyber-terrorism from international crime syndicates.

Public sector institutions and agencies are prone to facing three types of risks: insider threats, outsider threats and trusted computer-based threats. Within each of these categories, the tactics rapidly evolve – demanding high level of awareness and security measures.

But just what are some of the most important security considerations for Public Sector officials?

Ensure integrated threat management

Government institutions must address every single vector on the attack surface: an ever-growing range of threats including the likes of botnets, distributed denial of service, malware, ransomware, phishing, spyware, worms, trojan horses, hacking, viruses, session hijacking and more.

Threat detection tools should provide ‘360-degree’ visibility of all types of incidents, identifying attempted breaches as they happen in real-time. This analysis should encompass all physical and industrial assets, end-point devices, networks, perimeter and access control points, vulnerability and penetration management, and compliance with standards and regulations.

Such an integrated approach should always leverage security best-practices and technologies that fit within the risk profile of an organisation as well as remain adaptable over time.

Physical security remains a key consideration

Physical security should be part-and-parcel of one’s integrated approach as breaches within offices, datacentres or endpoint assets such as smartphones, laptops and flash drives can be just as devastating as cyber-attacks.

Physical security should incorporate everything from manned security and perimeter control, to biometrics and surveillance. To further tighten controls, government institutions should leverage encryption to ensure that data contained on physical assets is inaccessible and unusable.

At the same time, the data should be backed-up and remain available to authorised parties – to ensure that data is not simply lost in the event of physical hardware being stolen or destroyed.

Frameworks and standards

Government departments should use information security and governance frameworks which align with the principles of the Public Sector Risk Management Framework: a policy designed to guide the way departments manage risks (including the risk of data breaches).

Security standards should also consider the type of government institution in question – so the Revenue Service would need to take into account the various data governances that encompass the handling of financial data, while a department like Home Affairs would need to adhere to the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. They should also look at the evolution in the underlying security technology like Cryptography and Encryption standards and adopt or change them as per the latest development, for example US Government adoption of Elliptic curve cryptographic standard in 1990s and moving away from RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) crypto, however in recent years they have moved away from Elliptic curve cryptographic toward Post-Quantum computing.

Certain overarching frameworks – such as ISO27000, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology – are non-negotiables, always guiding information security in any Public Sector institution.

Tread wisely with Cloud migration

Cloud security solutions offer a number of benefits to Public Sector organisations, allowing then to benefit from the very latest defence technology, to easily integrate different security tools to create a customised suite of protection services, and to only pay for the security services that they actually use.

With Cloud Service providers investing in the infrastructure instead of the customer, capital expenditure is minimised, allowing government departments to redeploy funds to core competencies and enhanced e-government service delivery.

Cloud solutions may not be the silver bullet for all data warehousing, backup, recovery and security needs. In high security environments, highly sensitive data resides in on-premise infrastructure with high levels of encryption and physical security.

Ultimately, Public Sector organisations must remain acutely aware that cyber-criminals are sophisticated professionals, hell-bent on stealing intellectual property and destabilising government operations. As these dark forces never stop experimenting and evolving, it is imperative for institutions to stay ahead of the curve in the race to innovate and protect critical information.

By Sanjay Vaid, Director, Cybersecurity and Risk Services-Africa, Continental Europe (CE), Wipro Limited

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Kora uses blockchain platform to empower social change in rural Africa

Kora uses blockchain platform to empower social change in rural Africa

Kora is the blockchain platform empowering social change in rural Africa

Kora, the blockchain platform that unlocks growth in emerging markets, introduces its blockchain infrastructure for a more inclusive financial system and announces their upcoming sale, which went public on May 11, 2o18. Kora aims to engage with existing communities in rural Africa to combat issues that keep communities circling the poverty drain by using blockchain technology in the current financial system in Africa.

Imagine yourself as a local farmer in a small village in rural Africa. Your work consists of performing agricultural activities and you continuously struggle to make a profit. You don’t have access to a personal form of ID, nor a bank account. It seems that at every step there is something that makes your life journey a little bit more difficult. This is the reality for millions of people all across Africa and many other emerging countries.

Kora’s founders quickly understood the positive impact Blockchain technology could have for those affected by expensive and complicated access to financial services and decided to develop an easily accessible solution aiming to change those people’s lives for the better. The Kora Network is a platform built on four layers of infrastructure to provide low-cost financial services that are universally accessible and have capabilities to utilize existing financial service platforms in emerging markets.

Kora utilizes smart contracts, accessible to any user and designed to be compatible with existing financial services systems. Kora provides community members with a solution for wide-scale, sustainable adoption financial services platform built around three principles:

  • Low Cost: Kora aims to include everyone in the Kora Network. The people with the least wealth are those who need financial services the most.
  • Universal Access: Kora provides a solution that is inclusive to all, even if they lack access to the Internet or lack a technological knowledge.
  • Engagement with Existing Communities: Kora Network enables cooperation with local financial service providers such as local banks and money transfer companies.

Many people at the bottom of the pyramid of wealth are at a disadvantage when competing against larger players, where they experience weak economies of scale, high transaction costs and a high cost of capital, as well as a technology disadvantage where they lack access to optimal materials, equipment, know-how or data.

As Dickson Nsofor, CEO of Kora explains, “the Kora Network uses blockchain technology as an immutable trust engine, increasing transparency and creating a reliable record of business activities, proving them a more stable investment opportunity to stakeholders. By opening up access to more investment capital and resources to better manage their finances, these communities have the chance to better plan their business activities, returning a greater profit and gaining a fair share in the wealth they create”.

Kora has taken its first step already by successfully launching the first User Testing Program in Nigeria, “We are currently conducting a user testing program in Kaduna Nigeria, which involves about 300 farmers. This has given us huge learnings and has been the foundation for the design and implementation of our various products, which will be running on the Kora testnet”.

Kora also plans to launch a Beta in Ghana in July 2018; “We would be using the blockchain for record-keeping, revenue splitting, and access to capital which would grow the agricultural value chain. The various stakeholders are the co-ops/aggregator, farmers, and mobile money providers”.

 

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

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A brave new world for accountants?

A brave new world for accountants?

Anton Colella, CEO of Moore Stephens International Limited.

Accountants need to adapt to a new reality, one where technology is a dominant feature of our financial systems, capital markets, and organisational processes.

This is according to Anton Colella, CEO of Moore Stephens International Limited. He notes that, while it’s understandable to imagine that the evolution of automated processes will remove some of the responsibilities that traditionally fall to accountants, the opposite is in fact true. “Faced with massive changes, society will naturally have questions about trust and truth. We’ll be searching for certainties in an uncertain, unfamiliar world, and accountants are well placed to fill this role.” This is because accountants are often seen as guardians of ethics and values; this, plus their natural tendency to question and find answers, means that they have sound tools to help navigate the new reality.

Colella says that it’s inevitable that Artificial Intelligence will take on an increasing presence in our lives – but that doesn’t mean human interaction will become obsolete. In fact, while the efficiency and accuracy of the former is certainly to be desired, there is no substitute for the latter. “People still want to turn to other people for counsel and advice. They will always want the wisdom and insight that only another human being can provide.”

Of course, even against this backdrop, the accountant’s role will necessarily develop into something new. As Colella observes, “our job will now go beyond scrutinising and auditing companies. Fortunately, the accountant’s innate scepticism serves us well for our new tasks,” he continues.

But if the accountant’s role is, essentially, to protect society and ensure the compliance of the companies and corporates that were established to serve us, who will protect the accounting profession itself? This is a key question, as Colella points out that in their rush to meet the technological requirements of the day, many firms are making an enormous investment in software in an effort to differentiate themselves and provide better service. This ultimately works against them, however – as with any technology, it is often only a matter of months before the next generation of equipment is released. “As such, the question facing firms is this: How do we invest in a way that helps us keep pace with the world’s changes, yet doesn’t become outdated?” Firms also have to find a way to answer companies’ demand for accounting as an ongoing, real-time look at their business, rather than a once-off checkpoint as part of an annual audit.

Not all firms will survive these changes, Colella admits. Those that do will be the ones which have found a new way to function in a new world. It may also help for the industry to implement new standards to govern auditing processes, so that the profession remains relevant in our transforming world. “Some standards need to look at the softer side of businesses; others need to guide how we manage risk. In all cases, however, it is crucial that these standards are developed. We have seen the social, economic and political fallouts that take place when major listed corporates fail us, and we need to prepare a defence against this; one which takes into account the new context in which we operate,” Colella concludes.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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