Sun, 31/05/2015 - 14:39
Current Issue 71
The multinational technology corporation’s presence on the African continent has long been unparalleled within the industry, and the Company continues to innovate in 2015
Oracle Africa Enhances its Presence on the Continent
Oracle Africa has offices in South Africa, Mauritius, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. In the past two years, Oracle Africa has taken even greater strides to enhance its already extensive partner network, embracing the acceleration of cloud adoption among customers, and becoming more active in its commitment to the communities where it does business in the region.
“Over the past two years we have doubled our workforce in the region,” says Oracle Vice President Technology AFTA Cluster Leader and VP A&C ECEMEA, Janusz Naklicki. Referring to Oracle Africa’s most recent expansion of office space into Kenya in the east, and Nigeria and Ghana in the west, Naklicki adds: “Our country leadership teams in Africa consist of local nationals and our primary offices in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa act as hubs for the West, East and South African markets.
“We have recently committed to new office space in Lagos and Nairobi to accommodate our growth in these locations.”
The drive to keep investing, and to keep expanding, is key as part of the wider Oracle Africa continuous improvement strategy, where “in today’s world, business agility is key,” comments Naklicki.
This flexibility is further supported by rapid growth of its Oracle PartnerNetwork.
Helping partners thrive and build local businesses is an imperative. Oracle partners are an extension to the Oracle Africa sales force, as they help Oracle Africa drive new innovations and products into local markets.
Naklicki adds: “We have been engaged in doing business in Africa for decades, and we know the importance of personal engagement with customers.
“We do this through our local partners; we empower them to provide customers with high-value products and services, build local relationships, and help their communities prosper.”
A more comprehensive partner network and ecosystem, coupled with a more concerted physical presence, helps Oracle Africa align itself with the very latest customer trends.
With cloud adoption rates accelerating in Africa, this ability becomes even more prevalent, with not only Software as a Service (SaaS) becoming engrained in the sector’s consciousness, but the Platform as a Service (PaaS) space is also gaining traction.
“IT systems have to be fast and simple to be able to be agile,” Naklicki notes. “We believe organisations that run Oracle software, Oracle hardware, or the combination, either on-premises or in the cloud, immediately move to the forefront of innovation and cost-effectiveness.
“Our customers face many of the same challenges in Africa as our customers in the rest of the world,” Naklicki states. “Oracle technology is based on open-standards. If you want the power, performance, scalability and agility that computing needs to deliver today, then we recommend Oracle on Oracle.
“From the data centre to the cloud, Oracle Africa not only helps to eliminate the complexity that can stifle business innovation, but it also engineers in speed, reliability, security, and manageability.
“Skills and ongoing workforce development are essential to create a stable, affordable and, most importantly, local workforce; local knowledge and experience combined with technology can help give rise to new innovations,” Naklicki says, concluding that: “Our customers are using information technology as a very powerful tool. They are saving money, they are delivering services that weren't possible before and they are finding very smart ways to bring their products to market.
“Throughout Africa we have seen innovation and transformation beyond even our own expectation and as economic recovery starts to gather momentum, Oracle Africa plans to play a key role in this transformation.”
Offering Tangible Business Benefits through the Cloud
When considering the rise of global cloud computing, you don’t have to read far down the list of pioneers to find Oracle. While the uptake of its comprehensive cloud service varies across its extensive international footprint, the Company’s presence in Africa is especially fascinating having grown on the continent alongside the very trends that the business is helping to introduce.
When discussing cloud computing in Africa, you have to discuss Oracle.
Given the rise of cloud technologies over the past decade, the challenge to differentiate and optimise the offering is monumental, but the rewards for finding the right solutions are invaluable, as Oracle has found to its credit across all of its regions of operation.
At a recent Oracle Media Day, Oracle executives told journalists that Oracle customers benefit from using a development platform that supports the same Java programming language used to develop Oracle’s own SaaS applications. They offered five reasons why Oracle should be considered a cloud company.
Oracle’s President of Product Development, Thomas Kurian emphasised the importance of strategic levers given to customers via integrated applications including ecommerce, sales and service to ensure an all-encompassing real-time customer service. “This type of tight integration between traditionally standalone applications is where we think the future is,” he said within the blog.
Unrivalled levels of understanding regarding database security, coupled with the ability to continuously expand its cloud functionality, further sets Oracle apart from competitors across key areas of innovation, and while PaaS looks set to overtake SaaS as an option in the years to come, the latter still formulates a large aspect of the Company’s service uptake in Africa.
Ready for business
“We are the only ones now in the market with all three layers of cloud,” says Kenya’s Country Leader, Dr. Gilbert Saggia.
For Oracle, repeat business and long-standing client relationships are achieved through the evolution to PaaS, and then on to IaaS, but for many of its customers over the past decade, the initial SaaS connection is what defines the Company’s development as a cloud entity and partner.
As an independent survey carried out by IDC recently indicated, the majority of global enterprises now recognise SaaS as a solution that offers tangible business benefits due to the enhanced access to technology, and the improved productivity that is achieved as a consequence.
“Oracle Cloud delivers a full suite of integrated, enterprise-grade applications services, enriched with social capabilities and embedded business intelligence, and providing easy access via mobile devices,” emphasises Saggia.
“Oracle’s modern approach to cloud applications can help businesses innovate faster with less risk; quickly execute integrated business processes; transform user experience and mobile accessibility; and deliver new insight with transparent and actionable reporting.”
“We are comfortable dealing with vendors that are able to provide us with both on-premise and SaaS options for certain applications” - Kevin Kinyanjui, Information Systems Director, Kenya Airways
“Oracle was selected as the foundation for this new technology platform based on its global expertise in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) deployment and its track record of delivery in the Kenyan and East African markets. We were looking for a world-class solution that is agile and that could seamlessly integrate well with our multiple core business and support systems. I commend the contribution of Oracle and TransSys, our partner, to the project so far. They have demonstrated global expertise, coupled with a local team that has experience within the Kenyan and regional environment” - Jack Maina, CIO, Britam
Customer Spotlight: Britam
Project Jawabu Set to Deliver an Optimum Customer Experience
Jack Maina, CIO, Britam
British-American Investments Company (Kenya) Limited (Britam) is a diversified financial services group, listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, offering a wide range of financial products and services across the insurance, asset management, banking and property domain.
Boasting a presence across East Africa – including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania - the Company has launched “Jawabu”, as the project is known, an ambitious IT-enabled business transformation project designed to deliver the technology capabilities required to provide the best customer experience.
It is part of the diversified financial services Group’s quest to achieve its strategy for regional and local expansion through IT business transformation, and to also respond to the growing requirements of its customers. Project “Jawabu” is supported by the implementation of Oracle’s E-Business Suite, Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle Middleware, Oracle Taleo Learn Cloud Service and Oracle Business Intelligence tools.
Africa Outlook (AfO): Can you firstly talk me through the company’s affiliation with Oracle and how it began?
Jack Maina, CIO, Britam (JM): In July 2014, Oracle was selected as the foundation of Britam’s new technology platform based on its global expertise in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) deployments and its track record of delivery in the Kenyan and East African markets.
Britam also engaged with Oracle Consulting Services and TransSys Solutions, an Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Platinum level member, to ensure the system was implemented effectively and that the process of transferring skills to Britam’s IT team was seamless.
AfO: What made Britam choose Oracle’s service over other market operators?
JM: We were looking for a world-class solution that is agile and that could seamlessly integrate well with our multiple core business and support systems. I commend the contribution of Oracle and TransSys to the project so far. They have demonstrated global expertise, coupled with a local team that has experience within the regional environment.
Oracle has a strong delivery team on the ground. Since the initial launch of the ERP project in July 2014, we have seen both Oracle and TransSys actively leading at our project office.
AfO: What other benefits have you enjoyed from this relationship with Oracle since the services’ adoption?
JM: The ERP system is expected to deliver major benefits for Britam, including timely, accurate and reliable financial information and relevant management reports due to the integration capability. We expect that the system will strengthen our management and statutory reporting, incentive calculations and also facilitate improved cash flow management and investment returns.
The implementation of structured workflows to enforce discipline in transaction processing and to track/escalate points of delay should improve our internal control system, and increase the efficiency of our internal audit and enterprise risk management functions and controls. We expect end-to-end straight through processing of some transactions, significant reduction in manual processes/interventions and work-arounds particularly where processes such as procurement/supply chain and HR were largely manual, resulting in accelerated operational efficiency.
Through the HCM (Human Capital Management) modules, we expect increased productivity as a result of an enhanced performance management solution, more accurate and timely computation of benefits and reimbursements, efficient recruitment and on-boarding process for staff across our seven countries and extended branch networks, and overall increased security and confidentiality of staff information.
The Business Intelligence tool will enable intelligent information, for intelligent decision making and increased market responsiveness.
AfO: Finally, what would you say sets Oracle apart from its competitors, based on the experience you have had working alongside the company?
JM: Apart from providing world-class, integrated technology, Oracle has developed strong presence in the region through its own offices as well as partners like TransSys Solutions. It is also focused on education to ensure its whole ecosystem is able to deliver cutting-edge cloud and shared services solutions to customers.
Integrative Solution Instils Customer Confidence
Over the past decade, Africa has become one of the most rapidly evolving regions on the planet in regards to embracing new technologies, despite traditional challenges still engrained into some areas of the continent.
The desire to reach levels of western connectivity and accessibility is there in such abundance that cloud computing, especially, has gained previously unthinkable levels of traction over the past decade or more. Getting SaaS off the ground was challenging enough, but the infiltration of PaaS, IaaS and now even DaaS signifies that more and more regions across the continent have the infrastructure to at least be introduced to these new trends, for the good of the future of business and industry in Africa.
“Despite several challenges, African countries have continued to outperform global average growth indicators since the turn of the century,” emphasises Africa’s Cluster Leader, Cherian Varghese. “The world did not expect such a rapid adoption of cloud, especially from the African countries.
“Platform as a Service (PaaS) sounded like a non-starter in African markets 12 months back. However the global push on cloud has made a significant impact on the African decision makers. With the emergence of mobile as big player in Africa, services like Oracle Java Cloud Service, Oracle Database Cloud Services and storage as an infrastructure service has captured the mind of both SME & large customers in Africa.
Research firm, IDC forecasts that, on a global scale, the PaaS market will grow to more than $14 billion over the next two years; an astounding figure given that the benefits of the trend are still debated and ambiguous across different sectors.
“When they move to the cloud, people are no longer only looking for software as a service or infrastructure as a service,” said Mike Lehmann, Oracle’s Vice President of Product Management in a recent Forbes article. “They’re thinking of bringing over application platforms and workloads to gain some of the same benefits for the application layer; standardisation, faster deployment, automation with more flexible capital expenditure approaches, and seamless integration.”
Varghese explains how this has transpired in Africa: “The adoption of PaaS in our market space has been the result of both intense education to our customers, our partners & our sales ecosystem. Oracle - PaaS FIRST initiative has yielded great results from market penetration perspective. African customers are well abreast with our cloud solutions.
Our marquee event “Oracle Cloud World” has pulled customers from this part of the world to attend and interact with global customers. We are backing the African markets with tailored Africa events branded as “Africa Cloud Day”.
Research does suggest that the level of understanding surrounding PaaS is improving, allowing Oracle to really benefit in the world’s fastest-improving adopting continent.
Additional services across database Java, mobility, integration and on-demand offerings being delivered in the cloud has set the Company apart in this particular market arguably more so than in any other, and customer feedback only goes further in supporting this claim.
“Customers have had challenges to be early adopters, however with a few wins, we have been able to replicate and grow faster than expected,” Varghese states. “Companies have realised that power and infrastructure is a constant challenge in African shores. The enormous amount of electricity required for running large data centres and cooling them, has led them to believe that a failover environment can easily be hosted in remote countries.
“This has led to CXO’s easily adopting the PAAS platform and thereby reducing capital expenses. Oracle PaaS gets everything onto one platform, so integration becomes easier. This also leads to better economic sense in serving their customers better and bringing faster services to customers.
Varghese concludes: “In a nutshell, customers are feeling confident about investing in Oracle’s PaaS solution.”
Big Data: Who Needs It?
As today’s enterprises embrace big data, their information architecture must also evolve. Every sizeable organisation has probably run a data warehouse and used business analytics to interrogate the information generated by its IT systems. But data today is far more complex; it consists not only of figures and facts, but also video, data collected outside of the organisation on social platforms, the internet, commerce sites, voice, and many more elements.
“Every enterprise has some sort of data warehouse today, but best practice embraces emerging technologies such as Hadoop and NoSQL,” explains Oracle South Africa’s Country Leader, Kevin Attard. “Today’s information architecture recognises that data is not only stored in increasingly disparate data platforms, but also in increasingly disparate locations; on premise and potentially multiple cloud platforms.”
The idea of a single monolithic “enterprise data warehouse” has faded as a new more flexible architecture has emerged. Oracle calls this new architecture the Oracle Big Data Management System.
Attard adds: “In Africa, we believe both the private and public sector enterprises are poised to go through the evolution of data warehousing into fully-fledged data management systems consisting of three components: ‘data warehouse’, ‘data reservoir’ and ‘franchised query engine’.”
2015 is the year
Now recognised as a kind of capital, data is just as necessary in establishing new products, services and methods of working as it is as financial capital.
“For CEOs, this means securing access to, and increasing use of, data capital by digitising and data-fying key activities with customers, suppliers and partners before rivals do,” Attard continues. “For CIOs, this means providing data liquidity; the ability to get data the firm wants into the shape it needs with minimal time, cost and risk.”
To meet the needs of these aforementioned CEOs in Africa, Oracle has set itself apart through its unparalleled levels of innovation to address specific industry criteria, and to produce bespoke solutions across the full range of benefiting sectors.
This, in turn, has laid the foundations for what Attard believes will be yet another pivotal year of big data evolution in 2015: “2015 is the year of big data for enterprises, and it is essential for solutions to evolve as trends for technology usage change in the market. Oracle has an excellent understanding of big data trends predicted in the market and our R&D is geared to address these trends.
“We are focusing on the expectation that corporate boardrooms will talk about data capital rather than big data, big data management will ‘grow up’, companies will demand ‘a SQL for all seasons’, just-in-time transformation will transform ETL (extract, transform and load) activities, self-service discovery and visualisation tools will come to big data, security and governance will increase big data capabilities, and production workloads will blend cloud and on premise capabilities.”
Also addressing the need for different readiness and maturity levels for progressive technologies in Africa, Oracle’s all-encompassing approach has aligned itself with recent Gartner research which has shown that early adoption of big data solutions can generate as much as 20 percent difference in performance between themselves and later adopters of the same solutions; Globacom in Nigeria being just one of the numerous enterprises to have enjoyed a close, big data-orientated relationship with Oracle over the years.
“In Africa, telcos and banks are the early adopters. So, we believe that the parts of the equation are poised to bring about a positive difference; Oracle’s offering in Africa being state of the art, and the African enterprises – some of them – being ready to adopt early,” Attard concludes. “Oracle will extend its current Big Data Management System to provide fast, integrated, secure access to all data; not only data stored in an Oracle Exadata-based data warehouse or Oracle Big Data Appliance, but also data stored in operational NoSQL databases, transactional relational databases, streaming data sources and more.
“Our future Big Data Management System will provide a framework for easily incorporating new data sources, ensuring that these new data sources can be seamlessly managed. Oracle will execute its BDMS vision incrementally, spanning multiple product and release cycles.
“Oracle’s core big data products will be available in the cloud. In line with Oracle’s corporate strategy, the same capabilities and products that are available on-premise are also being delivered as Oracle cloud services. This allows customers to easily migrate existing Oracle systems to the cloud.”
Customer spotlight: SKA
The World’s Biggest Radio Telescope Triggers SA Big Data Activities
The South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project sees the telescope as a trigger for big data activities in South Africa and reaching into other African Partner Countries. The aim is to bolster development on a large scale as part of a national, multi-disciplinary programme, bringing together local universities, government and industry to tackle a range of big data challenges and to develop skills in big data management.
Focused on the MeerKAT and SKA, a range of projects are underway in the fields of high performance and power efficient computing, advanced algorithms, artificial intelligence and data visualisation, to name a few.
A number of other initiatives are also under way, including collaboration with the Western Cape government that will result in the construction of a big data-focused, high-performance computing facility in the province. In Carnarvon, an e-learning programme for young students, as well as a community knowledge centre, has already taken shape with a view to drive skills development in the area.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an international project to build a radio telescope tens of times more sensitive and hundreds of times faster at mapping the sky than today’s best radio astronomy facilities. Simply put: the world’s largest radio telescope. The SKA will also be the world’s largest public science data project. Once completed, it will generate data at a rate more than 10 times today’s global internet traffic.
The process of building the biggest radio telescope in the world is rapidly moving forward, located in South Africa and eight other African countries and Australia. The core of the African component of the telescope is being built in the Karoo, near the town of Carnarvon. A green field site for the telescope has been established that is now fully provided with infrastructure; power lines, a very fast optical fibre connection to the national network, specially constructed buildings, roads and accommodation. The site is protected from radio interference (which would make the telescope blind) by regulations promulgated in terms of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act.
A team of South Africa scientists and engineers in the SKA South Africa project office has designed and is building the world-leading MeerKAT telescope on the site. It will consist of 64 dish antennas, each 13.5 metres in diameter, so that each antenna stands about four stories high. They will be distributed over 10 kilometres and are connected by buried power lines and optical fibre connections to very fast computers in the underground Karoo Array Processor Building (KAPB) on site. An Oracle SL150 Tape Library is being used to archive the massive amounts of data being ingested from MeerKAT. It is able to scale to high data transfer rates and can store large volumes of data in an energy efficient form.
Oracle’s StorageTek SL150 modular tape library provides simple and scalable data storage, ideal for backup and archival applications. The SL150 delivers an industry-leading combination of ease of use and scalability, scaling seamlessly from 30 to 300 slots and hundreds of terabytes of data. “Unlike what you may consider in life, when observing the universe, size does matter. Ingesting exabytes of radio telescope data requires a secure, long-term and high capacity storage system like the SL150,” says Manfred Gramlich, Systems Executive at Oracle South Africa.
Dr Bernie Fanaroff, SKA SA Project Director says: “There is intense interest from the international astronomy community in the MeerKAT and teams including South African scientists and more than 300 international scientists have been allocated observing time. The MeerKAT will begin “early science” in 2016 and its full science programme in 2017. A seven-dish array, the KAT-7, has been built on site as a prototype and although it was intended as an engineering test bed, it has worked so well that it is in demand by scientists for their observations and is producing important science.
“In March, 2015, the board of directors and the members of the organisation agreed to the proposal for re-baselining the first phase of SKA, called SKA1. This was done to ensure that SKA1 could be built within the cost cap of €650 million but still have the capability to carry out the science that it will be expected to do. SKA Organisation will build 133 dishes at Losberg in the Karoo - all of them will be 15 metres in diameter - and 125,000 low-frequency antennas in Western Australia. The 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope will be integrated into the SKA1-MID telescope when the MeerKAT science programme is completed. So the SKA1-MID will consist of 197 dishes in an array spread over 150km around Losberg.”
“The MeerKAT alone is set to generate the equivalent of 700,000 x32 gigabyte (GB) iPods a day, with the SKA1 and SKA2 set to produce exponentially more. The data is structured but flows in firehose-like quantities through dedicated stages of computing, designed to extract very weak signals from the universe. This is then reduced through various stages of processing, resulting in approximately 7,000 x32GB iPods’ worth of data being stored in the long-term MeerKAT archive each day. This is really big data, which presents its own set of challenges, as well as numerous broader opportunities” - Jasper Horrell, Manager of Science Computing and Innovation, SKA South Africa
Fulfilling the Needs of the Millennial Generation
New research from Oracle has revealed that a majority of millennials would be less likely to use a company’s products or services based on a poor mobile application experience, highlighting the importance of apps in the tech industry’s progression, and also the necessity for R&D into the topic by companies like Oracle.
Mobile Applications are a modern day ever-present in the tech domain having a profound relevance to the new systems entering the market, and the generations of people adapting more rapidly to these new technologies.
The demand for enhanced usage across smartphones, tablets and phablets is particularly palpable across what Oracle calls the ‘millennial’ demographic; the population aged between 18 and 34 to which this evolution most applies to.
“Recent research suggests that 85 percent of people aged 18 to 34 own a smartphone and the effect on businesses globally has been dramatic in a relatively short period of time,” notes Nigeria’s Country Leader for the Company, Adebayo Sanni in relation to the study carried out by a Nigerian Telecommunications Commission. “Nigeria ranks seventh in the world by the number of mobile phone users with nine out of 10 people owning at least one mobile phone.”
The pressure on groups like Oracle to subsequently monitor, analyse and then capitalise on these statistics is significant and has led to critical studies being carried out to forecast the future of mobile applications.
“Companies must understand that their mobile apps now serve as one of the most important extensions of their business when it comes to engaging customers. They have become the new conduit between modern companies and the millennial generation, but this will only hold true if organisations can deliver something of value,” adds the Vice President for Mobile Strategy and Product Management, Suhas Uliyar.
The millennial generation
“The research reveals that nearly 55 percent of millennials say a poor mobile app experience would make them less likely to use a company’s products or services,” notes Sanni. “According to the global report, ‘Millennials and mobility: how businesses can tap into the app generation’, 39 percent of millennials would also be less likely to recommend a company’s products or services to others following a poor app experience, and 27 percent admit it would even give them a negative view of that organisation’s products or services altogether.”
Alienating the millennial generation, and consequently the key demographic for smartphones and tablet sales, is a risk certainly not worth taking, with the importance and saturation of mobile applications only set to increase further in the future.
For Oracle, this means that the extent of innovation and research must continue at an equally rapid rate: “There clearly remains much room for innovation when it comes to tablet apps, as well as apps for larger form phablets, and companies that answer the call will be well-placed to capitalise on a still maturing market,” the Company’s research revealed. “However, apps for smartphones and tablets should not be developed independently from each other.
“Many millennials own multiple connected devices, and businesses will need to deliver a consistent, high-quality app experience across all of these if they want to add value for their customers.”
Disruptive in the digital age
The key moving forward, therefore, is flexibility; to ensure that companies are not only meeting millennial customer demands now, but they are also developing a service that can be adaptable to future demands also.
“We are now in the age of the digital business; one in which mobile, social and the cloud have converged and put companies in a position to build themselves around a fully digital platform and better serve both their customers and employees,” Sanni says. “For millennials, mobile devices are at the very heart of how they interact with companies and with each other.
“Unless they can tap into how this generation actually uses these devices, then organisations will struggle to differentiate themselves in the era of all-things digital. For those that do get things right, the mobile opportunities are plentiful indeed.”
Optimising the cloud in meeting all requirements in the field seems the best way forward, in allowing devices already outside the firewall to access data both in the cloud and on-premise; subsequently enabling businesses to vary their resources and achieve that necessary flexibility.
Sanni concludes: “With their databases, applications, and platform services all tied together in this way, companies will ensure that relevant data and services are easily accessible to everyone that needs them – including customers, partners, and employees – whenever they need them.
“Access, convenience and added-value are the primary requirements of the millennial generation, and a successful digital business will define itself and its services based on these principles. Putting mobile first is crucial to this endeavour, and to being truly disruptive in the digital age.”
“Companies must understand that their mobile apps now serve as one of the most important extensions of their business when it comes to engaging customers. They have become the new conduit between modern companies and the millennial generation, but this will only hold true if organisations can deliver something of value” - Suhas Uliyar, Vice President for Mobile Strategy and Product Management
Building IT Skills & Innovation in Africa
IT Promotes Social Inclusion
Today there is a new “third platform” for IT. The first platform emerged in the 90’s when workers had computing delivered to their desktop from a central mainframe. This client server technology made computing accessible to more people. The second platform was the internet age, where people and systems could communicate with each other all over the world.
The third platform is built on cloud computing, mobile computing and social media. All three of these elements can be easily consumed, and are being adopted at an unprecedented rate. Just like other platforms, highly technical skills are needed; these are skills with a strong foundation in math. Oracle Africa is finding new ways to empower people to embrace and use the new third platform.
“Turning the skills gap into an opportunity requires a multi-stakeholder effort between government, the private sector and the technology industry. Training at various levels must be addressed; from helping to ensure existing employees have the skills they need to keep pace with the changing technologies, to supporting workforce development programmes and working with national education systems,” says Oracle Vice President Technology AFTA Cluster Leader and VP A&C ECEMEA, Janusz Naklicki. “We need to combine our efforts to build a vibrant and innovative skills pool in Africa that can help create a foundation for sustainable economic growth and a pipeline of innovative solutions.”
Addressing the skills gap
Oracle Africa is aiming to tackle the skills challenge from four perspectives: employee readiness, ecosystem readiness, workforce readiness and youth readiness. “The elements within these areas are tailored to meet the needs of each audience and also take into consideration the time to market, and help foster a pipeline of IT talent for the future,” explains Naklicki.
Today, IT holds the promise to promote social inclusion, combat corruption, expand the digital economy and enable stronger links between citizens and governments, businesses and customers, NGOs and the communities they serve. They can do this and at the same time dramatically reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Implemented in conjunction with government agencies such as Lagos State and Edo State in Nigeria, the Ministry of ICT and Education in Kenya, the Workforce Development Agency in Rwanda and the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia; the Oracle Africa engagement also incorporates collaboration with the private sector and organisations such as MTN Foundation Nigeria.
“Innovation hubs help support the acceleration of technology innovation, and are often the birthplace of the digital disruption we hear so much about. Oracle Africa is working with a number of these hubs across the region to leverage Oracle product experts to engage the local tech community via knowledge transfer sessions. We are pleased to be associated with a community of tech entrepreneurs whose creativity and energy are contributing to the creation of new and exciting African businesses,” says Naklicki.
Oracle Africa also has an internship programme designed for Information Systems and Business Science graduates. At the end of the internship, candidates can graduate armed with initial on-the-job experience. In FY 14, Oracle Africa retained many of the interns and the remainder had opportunities to seek employment in the Oracle partner ecosystem.
The recent collaborations referenced here are just examples of what Oracle Africa foresees to be a long-term commitment to growing and developing local talent to support Africa’s digital transformation.
Customer Spotlight: UNIVERSITY OF DJIBOUTI
Djibouti Invests to Become Education Leader on Horn of Africa
Interview with Dr Nabil Mohamed Ahmed, Minister of Higher Education and Research
On the 15 - 16 June this year, Djibouti will host the first Oracle Africa Higher Education Summit in the country, hosting delegates from much of West, Central Africa, the neighboring country Somalia, and composed of various ministers, university presidents and rectors to showcase on the experience of this small country with great vision.
The capacity building event has been geared towards less developed areas of the continent and, to achieve this goal, the University of Djibouti possessed the foresight to adopt Oracle’s PeopleSoft E-campus solution last year; a decision which acknowledges the Company’s reputation for simplifying IT, tailored to the needs of specific markets.
Sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education, the University of Djibouti e-campus has been designed to help deliver tertiary education to students in countries on the horn of Africa, and was unveiled at a ceremony attended by the Djiboutian President, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh and students from the university.
Dr Nabil Mohamed Ahmed, Minister of Higher Education and Research, states that the PeopleSoft system would entrench global best practices in delivering and managing higher education. “This is the perfect platform upon which to build our continuing investment in the youth of this region, for whom world-class education is essential.”
He added that modern technology is a key requirement to advance education in Djibouti and beyond.
“The significance of this implementation lies in the vision of Djibouti’s President, who recognised that modern technology today is a vehicle for progress,” says Alfonso di Ianni, Oracle Senior Vice President, East Central Europe, Middle East and Africa. “This implementation has proved that information technology is a very powerful transformational tool for business and government.”
The long-term goal of the university is to provide degree and post-graduate courses to students in surrounding countries, a service the university believes will be supported by the system.
Implementation was conducted jointly by Mahindra Satyam and Mega Bureautique, a Djibouti-based partner that assisted the University during the project and trained up a team of software engineers to provide support. Oracle provided both servers, storage (Oracle Sun X3-2), and software (PeopleSoft Campus, Oracle Database, Oracle WebLogic and Oracle WebCenter).
Principal of the university, Dr Djama Mohamed Hassan, comments that the software platform constitutes a complete university system delivering teaching, research and administrative management in line with international modern practices: “The University would not have had the skills to implement these processes manually, but the PeopleSoft system already has best practices built into the workflows.”
“Students, academic staff and administration can have a fluid, seamless engagement whether virtual or physical, thus allowing them to address student and academic needs dynamically,” he says.
The University of Djibouti today offers its more than 7,000 students 29 distinct educational channels comprising four faculties: Faculty of Letters, Languages and Social Sciences; Faculty of Law, Economics and Management; Faculty of Sciences; and the Institute of Technology.
Engaging, Insightful and Knowledgeable Specialisation
Much of Oracle’s success in Africa over the years can be attributed to its unparalleled network of partners, which has increased further still over the past two years.
Accounting for more than 40 percent of Oracle’s global revenue and 80 percent of its global transactions, the Partner Ecosystem that has subsequently been formed is now an integral facet in response to its equally diversifying and expanding customer base, as the Company’s Alliance and Channel Directors in South Africa, Stefan Diedericks and Africa, Donald Thomas explains.
Stefan Diedericks (SD) and Donald Thomas (DT): The Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Programme offers customers a structured approach to differentiate the competencies and capabilities of partners called “Specialisation”. Specialisation is preceded by a partner obtaining distribution/reseller rights for products within a knowledge zone and thereafter obtaining transactions and references within a given period.
The Programme was launched in 2009 in response to our customers becoming ever more diverse and to ensure customers can rely on a trustworthy programme that drives quality, engagement, skills and excellence.
Africa Outlook (AfO): What benefits does the partner ecosystem bring to customers?
SD and DT: OPN’s Specialisation Programme is a trusted status and brand, which allows our most experienced and committed partners to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and gain a competitive edge by spotlighting their strengths and special skills. Specialised status provides customers with proof that they will be engaging with an insightful, knowledgeable partner who is an expert in the defined product or industry area, and able to work with them to develop and implement specific solutions.
Learn more about Oracle’s Specialisation Programme by visiting: http://www.oracle.com/partners/en/partner-with-oracle/get-started/index.html#cw01step-3
AfO: What feedback has Oracle subsequently received regarding this system?
SD and DT: Oracle has listened to both its customers and partners in enhancing the Oracle PartnerNetwork Programme over the past number of years by including incentive based programmes that enable our partners to drive their own growth. In addition, OPN offers a unique Solutions Catalogue that showcases our partners based on unique competitive offerings utilising leading Oracle Technology, but also gives the customer an easy to use portal to find that ideal partner.
The OPN Solutions Catalogue can be found at: http://www.oracle.com/us/partnerships/solutions-catalog/specialized-partners/index.html
AfO: How pivotal now is the partner ecosystem in attracting new business, given the extensive benefits it can provide?
SD and DT: The OPN Specialised Programme, status and brand forms a pivotal element in the way in which Oracle goes to market, identifying and highlighting those partners that have differentiated, evaluated and optimised solutions that have been certified and recognised to provide defined value for our customers.
The Programme allows a positive form of differentiation based on a partner’s unique competitive positioning and allows partners to carve out their own niche within the Oracle ecosystem which protects their investment, whilst it allows our customers the opportunity to know they’re dealing with a market leading organisation.
AfO: How do you foresee the partner ecosystem progressing further in the future and how does Oracle plan to innovate the process even more moving forward?
SD and DT: The OPN Specialised Programme is advancing and modernising its offerings in support of Oracle’s latest technologies within the cloud and software-as-a-service space and has also launched the Oracle Cloud Marketplace where customers can find thousands of cloud applications and services that extend Oracle’s world leading SaaS and PaaS stack.
Providing the Right Tools for Lower Operating Costs
Most companies have IT “spaghetti” when it comes to applications, and are seeking ways to consolidate them onto a more manageable platform. Customers wanting to move their infrastructure to a private cloud are seeking advice from their IT partners to find ways to further consolidate applications onto a shared infrastructure which they know will also decrease their hardware costs.
DBaaS provides a tremendous opportunity. By standardising and consolidating on a shared database and middleware platform for as many applications as possible, companies can dramatically increase cost savings and accelerate application development.
Companies can look to their local Oracle partner to help them:
1. Standardise and consolidate at the database and middleware platform layer, even though some applications may require testing and updates to run on the standardised platform.
2. Consolidate at the infrastructure layer when it is not practical to standardise on a database and middleware platform. This approach requires a clear vision and solid roadmap.
3. Deploy new projects on such a platform. They can be delivered quickly with measurable ROI, with the longer-term strategy to consolidate proceeding in parallel.
This route can deliver great business value. Organisations that have implemented DBaaS have seen 50 percent lower operating costs, 10 times faster deployment of new databases, and availability to improve to more than 99.95 percent.
“Our partner eco system enables our partners to assist customers to maximise their IT investment and take full advantage of a private cloud. Oracle’s DBaaS solution provides a fast path to the cloud, giving them all the tools they need to quickly provision database services in the cloud, helping them to jumpstart their cloud efforts,” says Donald Thomas, Alliances and Channel Manager, African Operations.
Further, by focusing on a standardised and optimised platform, providers can also offer the possibility of opening up capacity to their consumers through improvements in procurement, capacity planning, and resource management.
Key capabilities of DBaaS include:
• Support for multiple databases efficiently sharing the underlying resources
• Catalogue of standard database services to enable rapid, consistent deployment
• Self-service to enable end users to rapidly provision, monitor, and manage databases
• High degree of security and isolation between databases
• Elasticity to support dynamic workloads
• Metering to enable chargeback or showback for cost recovery
Oracle’s Complete Solution for Database as a Service:
• Complete, out-of-the-box DBaaS solution: software, hardware and services; integrated and engineered to work together
• High-consolidation efficiency and low total cost of ownership with Oracle Database 12c with multitenant architecture featuring pluggable databases and Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Oracle SuperCluster engineered systems
• Rapid deployment and complete DBaaS lifecycle management with Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c
• Standardised DBaaS supporting all database workloads
Benefits to customers:
• Self-service provisioning and management means that partners or customers can quickly and easily deploy new applications for the business
• Standard service definitions allow customers to understand exactly what capabilities and service levels they should expect from the provider
• Metering allows for greater transparency into utilisation and IT costs, allowing consumers to make more-informed decisions about where to spend their time and money
“Oracle is 100 percent focused on ensuring that the benefits of DBaaS and Platform-as-a-Service goes beyond multitenancy, standardisation and cost-optimisation and extends to including the Oracle Partner Network eco-system in reselling these products as part of their outsourced technology managed service contracts with their end customers which allows increased service value for our joint customers in using these latest technologies to transform their IT architecture” - Stefan Diedericks, Alliance and Channel Director, Oracle South Africa
Oracle’s Smart Future
Smart Cities Make for Smarter Citizens
For the best part of 40 years, Oracle has innovated and adapted its technological services and solutions in-keeping with the continuously evolving global parameters; ensuring it is both ahead of the curve on an international scale, and considerate of more specific, regional conditions and maturities on a local level.
In Africa, cloud adoption acceleration, the development of skills capacities, and an increased saturation of the market has been Oracle’s key drivers over the past 12 months but, as always, one eye is always fixed on what is to come in the future.
In 2015, this forecast for the years to come embraces one of the most exciting tech developments the world over, and the significant role that Oracle will look to play in the advent of the smart city revolution.
This is a hot topic in countries where many economies have shown dramatic growth in recent years. Sharply rising standards of living and increased social mobility have been marked by a demographic shift away from rural areas towards life in urban environment and cities. And associated massive investments in urban development have heightened the opportunity, and indeed the need to focus very sharply on how those cities are designed and built to become liveable urban environments.
Capitalising on the new model of using knowledge as the fundamental element of economic and social change – primarily through the portal of advanced technologies – is a development very much within Oracle’s skill set.
Older cities can enter the digital age through the modernisation of their operations, and Oracle has supported this trend with its Oracle Smart City Platform, an integrated set of powerful IT solutions that bring city governance into that aforementioned digital age.
City operations can now be modernised with advanced back-office systems that make day-to-day operations more efficient and cost effective. Old, isolated legacy systems can be replaced by a harmonised set of processes and applications that are simpler to maintain and update.
That paves the way for collaboration between different city departments and services as their IT systems can now talk to each other and share data more easily. And the integration of arrays of smart sensors within the city infrastructure adds to the capabilities of city governance to better understand usage of key systems such as power and water utilities, and traffic and public transport patterns.
With all these systems in place, cities can now become truly smart with analytic systems that can provide key insights into city operation for more effective planning.
These smarter, more open systems within city governance have an inevitable knock-on effect on making the businesses within these cities equally smart, and laying the foundations for enhanced entrepreneurship and flexibility across a range of industrial sectors.
Filtering down the value chain even further and Oracle’s Smart City Platform is also set to directly impact the lives of individuals as they become more exposed to advanced technologies and - especially within regions more in need of development - are able to capitalise on digital opportunities previously unthinkable to them.
When local governments open up their data to their citizens, people can make better decisions based on information that’s relevant to them, such as when to use a certain traffic route, where to find a parking space, and how to best regulate their use of electricity to save money. Smart cities make for smarter citizens.
For example, when alerts are sent out about transportation delays, people can react in a smarter way and find alternative routes. In turn they can also push out the information to their own communities so more people can become smarter.
Going one step further, the community can even be brought into the planning phase, asking people about their opinions for planning changes and next steps for city development. Citizens are no longer just end-users but begin-users; becoming involved in planning and design, as the city benefits from their imagination in a way not possible with purely centralised decision-making.
Equipped for the future
As is the case in everything that Oracle does, this Smart City Platform provides a digital arena that will no doubt play a key role in bringing data, people, and resources together.
Iemke Idsingh, responsible for Smart City activities at Oracle, emphasises: “A sentient city infrastructure helps cities to almost literally sense, listen, hear, and action upon what is happening in the city. Connectivity and closed loops are key to that end.
“With the Oracle Smart City Platform, cities can establish a city-wide nervous system, enabling the citizens and the city to share responsibilities while offering maximum control at the lowest level in the community.”
Service optimisation, process harmonisation, and legacy modernisation prepares the city to move to the next level. Open standards link businesses back to cities, the Internet of Things enables closed loop feedback, and social networks allow citizens to engage with their cities as well as each other; all leading to open and connected smart and imaginative cities, with smarter citizens that are better equipped to move ahead into the future.