Digital initiatives can unlock value for South Africa – Accenture

4th April 2019 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

South Africa can unlock financial value and create meaningful outcomes for citizens in their daily lives by implementing key digital initiatives across government services and key industry sectors, professional services multinational Accenture said in a statement on Thursday.

Research indicated that the value that can be added to society through such digital initiatives would be about R2-trillion and the value-add to industry could be about R3.6-trillion, and could be unlocked by 2026, said Accenture Africa CEO Vukani Mngxati.

The analysis measures the impact that digital technologies and enablers, such as analytics, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), could have on South Africa’s industries and society.

The research revealed that three core digital technologies and enablers – IoT and connected devices, AI and platforms – have the greatest potential for value creation, accounting for 68% of the total value-add at stake.

“The value potential of IoT is likely to be the highest, owing to the combined effect of the increasing affordability of smart devices and the widespread adoption of such tools by individuals and companies.

“Digitalisation of public infrastructure maintenance, administration and healthcare alone can add over R1.2-trillion to society (environment, government and citizens) over the next decade,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, about R2.5-trillion of the estimated R3.6-trillion value-add to industry would accrue to industry and the balance to societal outcomes. Transformation across agriculture, manufacturing and financial services presents the highest potential for gains, Accenture found.

In the agricultural sector, the combined use of autonomous vehicles, drones and sensors had the potential to enable precision agriculture, improving the use of resources and increasing yields.

In the manufacturing sector, the implementation of technologies such as IoT and connected devices, and AI throughout the value chain, has the potential to improve responsiveness to demand and enable the introduction of many value-adding services, effectively turning production companies into service companies.

For financial services, some of the key initiatives for unlocking value are platform businesses, new technologies replacing legacy systems, shifting channels and ways of interacting with customers as well as intermediaries, and the move to driving real outcomes for clients rather than products alone.

“Unlocking the value from digital transformation within the South African economy will necessitate efforts by both the public and private sector,” the report noted.

Physical and digital infrastructure will require investment, with ubiquitous and unified access to physical connectivity, including ports, roads and airports, and mobile connectivity, such as fourth-generation and fifth-generation technology, being equally imperative.

“Skills development will also be critical, as will public–private partnerships. The research provides an incentive to advance cross-sector collaboration on digital transformation efforts and a compass to guide strategies.

“These could help drive economic growth and improve the way South Africans work and live, setting the pace and trajectory for the country’s economic growth for the next decade,” the company said.

The research, titled ‘Unlocking Digital Value for Business and Society in South Africa’, uses a value-at-stake framework, which was developed by Accenture and the World Economic Forum (WEF) as part of the WEF’s multiyear Digital Transformation Initiative.

The study assesses financial value, as well as digital value to society (DVS), a measure encompassing the effect of digitalisation on factors such as health and safety, employment, the environment and labour.

“We hope that these findings will help initiate broader dialogue on the impact of digital technologies in South Africa and, importantly, inspire the collaborative action needed by stakeholders in the country to define effective digital policies and strategies, as well as guide investment in digital transformation to deliver the greatest benefits for all,” concluded Mngxati.