07.22.24

When Systems Fail, We should take note and learn

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

Computer users recently experienced what could be described as an important warning for the digital world. For some it manifested in the form of a blue screen (also known as Blue Screen of Death) which stopped from working. For some it was cancelled flights and inability to access important information to carry out work. Essentially, the global community experienced what it feels like when systems fail. What happened and what can we learn from the failure of systems?

A cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, a Texas company, that specialises in protecting corporate clients from cyberthreats pushed out an automatic update to its security software on its clients’ machines.

Unfortunately, the update inadvertently contained a bug that forced machines that received it to crash, resulting in the Blue Screen of Death, the screen that appears on a Windows PC when there has been a critical error in the software. Due to this bug and its resulting system crashes, services that rely on these computers were also down across the world. This incident perfectly illustrated what happens when society places its reliance on technology for its operations. It also illustrated the extent to which most businesses rely on dominant technology companies for their functions. This outage was not the result of a flaw in Windows itself. Rather, it was a flaw with Windows security software provided by the independent cybersecurity company CrowdStrike. Because of this, only PCs running the impacted CrowdStrike software were affected, and not every Windows PC across the world. CrowdStrike’s services are used by scores of Fortune 500 companies. These companies will probably evaluate their use of Crowdstrike, a company that was founded in 2011 and now with 8000 employees. If lawmakers are paying attention they will be emboldened to discourage monopolies.

The recent technology outage should inspire society to reflect about the use of technology and how it is used.

In most cases, when new technology is used, very few factor the possibility of outages. As we adopt technology for daily functions, there’s a need to also enable the ability to function manually without impacting productivity when systems fail.

More importantly, there’s a need to assess the impact of potential technology outages. Such an assessment process should pay attention to over reliance on dominant companies. The recent incident has shown that over reliance on a single entity can negatively impact society. This is more important now as we adopt artificial intelligences (AI). It would be a great error for most companies to rely heavily on dominant AI companies. The effects of reliance on a dominant AI company could be disastrous at a point at which AI is highly adopted. The more connected we are the more danger we are likely to have when something goes wrong. None of this should hamper innovation however there’s a need to begin a process of introducing responsible innovation. Now more than ever we should ask ourselves, what could go wrong? Failure to anticipate future negative consequences of using technology will cost us dearly. So far we have not seen much damage with the Crowdstrick incident, in future technology outages may affect our very lives. We should adopt future technology with caution and responsibly.

07.16.24

Meet Joshua Schulman, the new Burberry CEO

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

In little more than a decade, Burberry, the 170-year-old luxury fashion house, has cycled through four different CEOs in a bid to keep up with the industry’s ever-evolving demands. And as of this morning, a fifth contender is stepping up to the proverbial plate—effective immediately.

The new CEO, Joshua Schulman, is set to take over from Jonathan Akeroyd, whose tenure at the helm lasted just two years. The replacement appears to be part of an effort to rescue the company from dire financial straits: Alongside the new appointment, Burberry reported that first-quarter revenue was down 21%, with sales declining across all regions. Other luxury companies are experiencing their own money woes as the industry at large faces a slowdown.

Here’s what you need to know about Schulman as he gears up to make plaid hot again:

HE’S A SEASONED LEADER IN THE LUXURY INDUSTRY

Schulman, 52, has an extensive résumé that features key positions at a slate of other luxury brands, including Gucci, Coach, and Yves Saint Laurent. He headed the iconic pumps brand Jimmy Choo for five years and later worked as president of New York department store Bergdorf Goodman for another five.

HE’S FRESH OFF A SEVEN-MONTH STINT AT MICHAEL KORS

Schulman most recently served as CEO of Michael Kors from August 2021 to March 2022. He was even slated to take over its parent company, Capri Holdings, before abruptly stepping down.

HE’S REPLACING AKEROYD EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

According to Burberry, Schulman will step in for Akeroyd right away “by mutual agreement with the board.” Prior to this role, Akeroyd led Versace as CEO for almost six years.

“Our first-quarter performance is disappointing,” chair Gerry Murphy told the Associated Press. “We moved quickly with our creative transition in a luxury market that is proving more challenging than expected.”

HE’S AN L.A. NATIVE

Schulman grew up in Los Angeles and later attended New York University and Parsons School of Design in New York. He’s currently in New York City, but will make his way to London to take over at Burberry, which is headquartered there.

FastCompany

07.15.24

We are in the Era of AI Hardware

BY Wesley Diphoko 3 MINUTE READ

There’s an AI race underway between technology companies. It started with AI software, however, now it’s about hardware. A major part of it is about which company will integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its hardware products. It is for this reason that you’ve seen some launch AI smartphones, laptops and other hardware products. There’s even new companies that are developing special products for the AI era, think AI Pin and Rabbit R1s. In 2024, Apple and Samsung entered the AI hardware race. So far, it seems Samsung is leading the race. Earlier this year Samsung launched their AI phone, now the South Korean tech giant has launched a suite of AI powered products.

Last week, Samsung launched its first AI powered foldable phones, the Fold 6 and Flip 6. The AI functionality which stands out about the devices is the Interpreter mode which can be used when translating a conversation. The translating functionality has Conversation mode and Listening mode. The functionality lets the user run the microphone as someone talks in another language, and the user is able to see their speech translated as text on the screen. In addition to the foldable devices, Samsung also launched new Galaxy buds (earphones) which may take translation to another level. The earbuds have real-time translation via Samsung’s Interpreter mode. If these earbuds perform as intended they will enable you to easily communicate with people who speak other languages.

To enable its AI powers, Samsung has partnered with Google. This partnership allows Samsung to have access to Gemini. The Google AI technology,Gemini, enables Samsung’s devices to have direct access to Google’s best family of AI models on your phone so you can get help with writing, brainstorming, learning, and more. One such functionality that has now been enabled on Samsung devices will enable a user to conduct Circle to Search to get solutions to mathematical equations.

Once again Samsung is pursuing a new technology category with the Samsung Ring. The wearable is another tool that can be used to measure health and wellness status. Samsung launched the product earlier this year however now it highlighted another functionality for the wearable. The ring will look at your data and then recommend your readiness to take on the day based on factors like sleep quality and your recent activity levels. Samsung seems to be focusing a lot on health and wellness. The tech giant has introduced another watch, the Samsung Watch Ultra, for sport enthusiasts and adventurers. For the first time, it seems hardware products are getting a new life through AI integration. The latest products from Samsung are showing us what we are about to see from other manufacturers. If devices were dumb in the past they will now become smart on the basis of using AI to assist the user.

I was impressed by how the Fold 6 was able to enhance my simple drawing into an impressive artwork. As we adopt AI powered products consumers need to be aware that they will require more of their data. AI powered hardware will try to understand the user based on their input in order to assist further. Most tech companies have promised that they will do everything in their power to protect user data. If user data is protected, consumers lives will be transformed by AI powered hardware. We now know about Samsung’s approach to AI hardware, it will be interesting to see the AI hardware approach of other leading companies.

07.08.24

SA Health Tech needs to be overhauled

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

No one has ever imagined that someone could die due to a malfunctioning and compromised health technology system at one of South Africa’s health institutions. It seems such a scenario is possible now that there’s a security breach in SA’s key health entity.

South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has indicated that it is dealing with a ransomware attack that is affecting the dissemination of lab results. The NHLS runs 265 laboratories across South Africa that provides testing services for public healthcare facilities in the country’s nine provinces. The security breach has significantly affected the ability of health professionals to provide care.

What is disturbing is that South African health entities have been held ransom for days resulting in chaos across SA’s health institutions. How could such an important system fall into such a situation. The answer to this question is complicated and includes various factors. A key part of the cause has a lot to do with the poor state of technology in the South African public health sector. For many years technology has received limited attention even though it is becoming a critical part of providing health care.This incident should change the attitude towards technology in public health institutions. At the national level there’s a need to improve security systems. In addition to better systems there’s a need for capable technology professionals in South African health institutions. Chief Health Tech Officers need to form part of leading national health institutions.

In addition to these interventions. There’s a need to reconsider the centralisation of health technology systems. While the need for centralisation is understandable, it should not be done in such a way that a problem in one part leads to chaos everywhere. Some form of decentralisation should be enabled to counter cyber attacks such as these.

In addition to these interventions there’s a need to get the basics right. One such basic intervention is health data management. These are key if South Africa is to reap the benefits of Artificial Intelligences in health. This health systems breach should serve as a wakeup call to turn around the health sector.

The cost of establishing the fundamentals and ideal systems may be high but they are necessary. The cost of neglecting technology in the health sector is too high considering the impact on lives.

Technology cannot be wished away in health care. We will see more situations that requires the use of technology systems. If the technology skills and infrastructure is poor health systems will become a victim of hackers. Adding technology to the health sector should be accompanied by the right workforce and infrastructure.

South Africa is not the first to be hit by health technology attacks. The UK has been a victim before. SA will not be the last and such situation may come back to test the strength of health systems. Now is the time overhaul technology systems in health in preparation for a better health care future.

07.02.24

The Minister of Communications will need Tech and Innovation to save National Dinosaurs

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

The South African Communications Ministry for the first time is led by a young person in the form of Solly Malatsi. The youthful factor alone is enough to suggest that there’s change on its way for organisations such as the (1) SABC, (2) SA Post Office and (3) State Information Technology Agency (SITA). He will face tough issues that require maturity and leadership with youthful flair.

He will be faced with the challenge of taking the SABC to the future, something that requires a young leader with imagination. The SABC is a dinosaur that has remained with the same infrastructure that was developed during the old order. In recent years the entity has tried to introduce innovations such as the SABC Plus app however this is not enough to make the national broadcaster relevant for the future. Malatsi will have to turn SABC into a revenue generating digital platform of the future. In media, the SABC is probably one of the future entities with the muscle to create the most powerful digital giant in the African continent by just using technology and startup thinking.

The same can be said about the South African Post Office (Sapo). This critical entity is in ICU currently however it can still survive. A youthful mindset and leadership is exactly what the SA Post Office needs to create the Post Office of the future. This could include the development of a Digital South Africa that enables citizens to interact with government and businesses through the use of apps on their mobile devices. The Post Office could achieve this through the creation of the national app economy to enable access to government services. Malatsi has an opportunity of creating a completely different Post Office by leveraging the current infrastructure for citizens to access digital tools for communications and other critical services.

The digital transformation that can be enabled by the youthful leadership of Malatsi at SABC and the SA Post Office could be made possible by another entity under his wings, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). The national technology infrastructure is managed by SITA and through it the Minister has the weapon to turn around not just the communication portfolio but the entire country. The databases of the country which could one day enable Artificial Intelligences for health, agriculture and other portfolios are managed by SITA.

This national technology giant (SITA) is the only one that could enable SABC and SA Post Office to become relevant entities in the future.

The Communications ministry under Malatsi can become the catalyst required by South Africa to survive. He must however be careful of touching Telkom which is one of the semi-government entities that is showing signs of survival. The ministry ought to be careful of taking the privatisation approach with entities such as the SABC and the Post Office. These are national assets that need to serve without creating a structure that will restrict access for all. SABC, SA Post Office and SITA can still survive with the right focus on technology and leadership that appreciates innovation.

In addition to SITA as an enabler, Malatsi has a capable technology startup ecosystem in South Africa that he can rely upon to turn around ailing entities that need technology boost. If he does, South Africa will become one of the most innovative countries in the continent by just infusing technology and innovation on current national entities that are in trouble right now. Malatsi can become the face of innovation in government if he focuses on the future.

06.19.24

Is Apple Intelligence – Just what the Doctor ordered?

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

Apple has finally,officially, entered the Artificial Intelligence (AI) race. Some of its upcoming products, Macs, iPhones will be filled with AI. The Apple version of AI will be transformative for Apple products. It will turn some of your Apple devices into assistants that manage your schedule, remind you, guide you and informs you through an upgraded version of Siri.

Apple promised to deliver its AI features wrapped in privacy to safeguard your data.

This however has not convinced some who care about AI. One non believer is Elon Musk. After AI announcements by Apple, Musk took to X (Twitter) to express his displeasure. Musk claimed that Open AI powered AI for Apple is a recipe for opening up Apple users to data merchants. Elon Musk may be on point here. Many will remember that Open AI has been accused by some, including publishers, of using their content to train their systems and provision itt in the form of answers for ChatGPT. What will stop Open AI from treating Apple users fairly? It remains to be seen how the Apple relationship with OpenAI will unfold.

This move by Apple is deeply concerning for a number of reasons. In the past, we’ve been accustomed to Apple products that keep everything Apple. Other software solutions were only entertained at a surface level. For this reason users have trusted Apple privacy. One wonders to what extent will Apple deliver on its privacy promises when other AI companies will have backdoor access to the Apple products.

It has to be emphasised that Apple has been a leader in privacy protections and it promises to do so even with this AI move. At the same time, users will have to understand that some AI solutions are still at an experimental stage. Rules of engagement are still being developed. In the process of deploying solutions, tech companies will make mistakes. In future, I will not be surprised when they are fined for some of their actions. It’s safe to say users will have to tread carefully. AI will deliver major benefits, at the same time it will surprise us in many ways that we have not imagined. We all have to open our eyes as we use these tools. It won’t be easy. It may be necessary to choose different brands as most trusted brands are beginning to lose their ethics in the interest of being ahead in the AI race. It may be necessary to scale down while everyone is still trying to find a balance between innovation and safeguarding human rights. Apple has been a vanguard of privacy, it is now entering a slippery slope to a point of return. If Apple delivers privacy protections while entertaining tech companies it will have solved a major AI challenge.There’s no doubt that this AI addition may move users to devices that only deliver what consumers want, basic communication. Tech companies will have to work hard to earn the trust of consumers to avoid an exodus from tech products we’ve trusted for many years.

06.11.24

You Need more than Coding to make it in Tech

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

Over the past few years young people have been advised to acquire coding skills to improve chances of getting jobs in the future. This advice requires an update. AI developments are showing us that more will be required than just learning coding skills. We now know that some AI tools could execute some functions that are performed by programmers.

How can one then prepare for the future if coding will no longer be a sought after skill?

All skills matter, including coding, if one is to add value in the tech ecosystem. The history of tech tells us that there’s more than just technical skills required and that there’s a need for creative thinking skills. If you study founders of some of the leading tech companies some of them had no coding skills however they were creative thinkers. In addition to creative thinking, leadership skills are critical if anyone is to convince other people to use a technology they’ve developed. Once the technology product is developed one of the most important skills is the ability to communicate about the product. Communication skills are underestimated and yet they are what gets a product adopted even if it has not reached perfection.

One leading academic institution was developing a new programme for students aspiring to launch technology startups. To create a framework for this joint degree programme, they sourced valuable expertise, posing a simple question to alumni actively engaged in the industry: What skills are needed to start a tech company? The answer? A little bit of everything. Respondents indicated that founders need to be management jacks-of-all-trades, the resulting study concluded. Being “technical” by the classic definition of learning to code was not a prerequisite. And that’s not all that surprising. Brian Chesky of Airbnb and Chad Hurley of YouTube famously have fine arts degrees. While working to build a company, there are many skills that are needed, and building a tech startup is no different.

Steve Jobs stands out as one of the most successful leaders in tech and yet he had no coding (coding) skills. This tells us that in getting more young people in tech, there’s a need to move away from just focusing on technical skills. This thinking has chased away many who could have entered the field. To get more young people in the sector there’s a need to start focusing on what one can accomplish through the use of technology in society. The more young people are inspired to think about how technology can address challenges in society chances are we will have more of them getting into the industry. Young people need to view technology as a tool that they can use to achieve their objectives. Young people with an interest in addressing health challenges can get into tech with an aim of tackling health challenges through tech. This is true of any other field that can use technology to make life better. Coding is good for critical thinking, let us not consider it as the only skill required to be valuable in the tech industry.

06.04.24

Anatomy of an AI Mobile

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

When OpenAI unleashed ChatGPT other tech companies felt pressured to reveal their AI powers..

Many were not ready to share their AI capabilities. As a result, many have claimed AI powers where they don’t exist. Hardware and smartphone manufacturers however have been impressive about their AI integrations. The hardware and smartphone market has brought forward products together with the AI tag which raises the question about the makeup and anatomy of an AI device.

At the foundation of it all there’s data. The device needs to have data about behaviours in general and in addition to that, data about its primary user. Data about behaviours in general will assist the device to recognise certain actions and act as expected. As for data by its user this is what would make an AI device a personal device. Imagine a device that has data about your health, finances, food and clothing preferences. Such a device would be in a better position to warn you about allergies based on two forms of data, health and food. It’s a device that can become your official financial planner and coach by accessing your financial data. Clearly, an AI device would force you to give up access to your data in return for a personalised service. This brings me to another important part of an AI device, its hardware features. In addition to data, an AI device will come packed with powerful chips that process data and all this critial information.

Smartphones have always had chips however an AI device will need to come packed with chips that enables the device to process data without handing it over to the cloud.

The more we use AI devices, there will be a greater need to safeguard personal data. Countries will have to demand that its citizens data is processed without crosising borders .

This will place a heavy burden on device manufacturers to design products that avoid data violations.

While taking care of all these elements an AI device will have to solve some of our challenges. Some of these challenges include language barrier, multitasking and other basic things that we need to function and live with others. An AI device that can be our personal assistant in communicating with others is what would make it a device that adds to our intelligence in a way that does not threaten us.

I’ve seen a couple of AI devices and one that stands out so far is developed by Samsung, the GalaxyAI. One of the most impressive features is it’s ability to enable a call that translate a language of the caller to the language of the receiver. This is one great example of using AI to assist human beings. My other favourite functionality on the Galaxy is its ability to transcribe notes from my interviews. After recording I’m able to get written notes from the device. For now all of these tools are not perfect however I foresee that in the future they will become very useful in our lives.

The devices that we have currently have some AI capability. Be prepared to see some form of AI in your devices.I do see gaps and I can’t wait to see more AI smartphones.

06.03.24

AI revolution is getting ready to shake the Media and Publishing industry

BY Wesley Diphoko 3 MINUTE READ

When Google launched Artificial Intelligence products at their annual event (Google IO 2023) it was clear to me then that at some point they would threaten the publishing industry. What I’ve always feared about Google AI products was confirmed during the latest annual (Google I/O 2024) event. One of those latest AI products is AI Overviews.

They are a new search feature that provides users with AI-generated answers to certain queries. And they appear above all other search results. AI Overviews work very differently than chatbots and other LLM products that people may have tried out. They’re not simply generating an output based on training data. While AI Overviews are powered by a customised language model, the model is integrated with Googles core web ranking systems and designed to carry out traditional “search” tasks, like identifying relevant, high-quality results from Googles index. That’s why AI Overviews don’t just provide text output, but include relevant links so people can explore further. Because accuracy is paramount in Search, AI Overviews are built to only show information that is backed up by top web results.

It’s worth noting that this feature has now been rolled back after the new technology errors. I have no doubt it will be improved and returned on Google Searches firstly in the US and thereafter rolled out to other countries.

The A.I.-generated summaries are the latest area of tension between tech companies and publishers. The background to this issue has a lot to do with the fact that links on Google Search have been a source of income for the publishing industry. A highly ranked website stood a chance of receiving more attention. Google is now beginning to tamper with this important element of the publishing industry. Most big publishers, receive a significant chunk of traffic from people going to Google, searching for something and clicking on articles about it. Thereafter the online traffic, in turn, allows publishers to sell ads and subscriptions, which pay for the next wave of articles, which Google can then show to people who go searching for the next thing. AI Overviews in its current format seems to be showcasing Google information on top followed by other links. The publishing industry is concerned that this move by Google could impact their earnings. The industry is justified in raising concerns. The AI revolution has already shown terrible signs for publishers. We now know that some AI companies have used content from the media and publishing industry to train AI models. The use of articles from news sites has also set off a legal fight over whether companies like OpenAI and Google violated copyright law by taking the content without permission to build their A.I. models.

As a result of concerns raised by the media and publishing industry some AI companies have begun cutting deals with major media companies. OpenAI, which scraped news sites to build ChatGPT, started cutting deals with publishers. The company indicated that it would pay companies, including The Associated Press, The Atlantic and News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal, to access their content. But Google, whose ad technology helps publishers make money, has not yet signed similar deals.

It’s also important to note that these deals are mainly done with US based media companies. What about media companies in the African continent? Is it possible that AI companies have avoided content from African media companies in the process of training their models? If content from African media entities has been used, it is only fair that they also receive a cut on the basis of their content being used for AI platforms.

These developments should be watched closely by African media and publishing companies. Part of the strategy should be about engaging with tech companies as a collective. On the other hand there’s a need for African media and publishing companies to find alternative means of income. It seems that In future, Google will no longer be a source of income.

05.28.24

Countries and Governments need an Operating System to deliver

BY Wesley Diphoko 2 MINUTE READ

Everything (almost) now is governed by an operating system. Initially it was our mobile phones, the cars joined and later followed by homes. Your mobile phone is either running on Apple or Android operating system. This is also true of some latest cars. The systems have given us and other objects super powers. Considering the struggle faced by governments in delivering on promises, is it not about time they consider country operating systems? Human leaders have tried to address health, transport and economic challenges however they often fail even though some of their intentions may be good. What has not been tried are operating systems that are designed specifically to run governments and countries. What do I mean by an Operating System for a country and government. In simple terms, it’s a tool that can be used to deliver a task with minimal intervention from a human being. Of course such a system would still require an input from a human being and the rest will be taken care of by a machine. Most tasks that are carried out by governments are repetitive. Education ministries at an administrative level are mostly carrying out tasks that are repetitive. Most of these tasks often require an annual visit to the government office to provide tiny details over and above known personal details. Is there an opportunity to assign these tasks to operating systems that work with human beings?

The advantage of adopting operating systems within governments could enable efficient delivery. Such systems could limit the chances of a government that begins its term of office with major promises and end it with minor deliverables.

The process of enabling operating systems to form part of government delivery would involve hard work in the beginning. Most government departments would have to digitise their operations. This would form the basis for enabling Country Operating Systems to run the show in future.

This process would also require some governments to take the lead in pioneering some of this work. The South African Revenue Services is one of the few that is already paving a way in this regard. In future, Home Affairs could also join others judging by their current work with digitisation. To ensure that countries adopt operating systems in governance, leaders would be required at the highest level. In the case of governments, a Ministry of Technology would be one entity that could make this a possibility. Tech leadership within governments can play a significant role in designing systems that can enable them to deliver.

In addition to all the above, there’s a need for countries to develop their own digital versions. As society digitizes governments will also have to find ways of exisiting fully in digital spaces.

If one day metaverse will be a reality, we have ask, will your government exist in metaverse?

It is time for governments to start viewing themselves as digital entities. All other things will be governed by operating systems and exist as digital beings. In what form will a government exist as a digital entity? This digital thinking should form of anyone who is planning society in the future. Society will have dual existence, physical and digital. It’s time for governments and countries to go digital.