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By Prenesh Padayachee, SEACOM Chief Digital Officer

It’s hard to imagine a world without technology – the speed and ease of the Internet, and daily innovation that continues to disrupt business models. Across industries, we are starting to notice businesses of all sizes embrace the digital economy to create value, increase efficiency, and adapt to stay ahead of competitors.

As the world accelerates into a digital future, more companies are leaning towards digital solutions, unearthing critical lessons that business leaders can learn from their journeys. Not to mention the far-reaching impact digital has on the lives of ordinary South African citizens.

Most notably are the healthcare, manufacturing, and financial sectors that have created disruptive digital opportunities that are transforming life as we know it.

Digital healthcare

The healthcare industry is constantly innovating and trying to find sustainable ways to curb both disease and inefficiencies in health systems while improving patient care. Artificial Intelligence’s capacity for seamless big data analytics has accelerated many medical breakthroughs, including Google’s DeepMind AI system. This AI-powered innovation diagnoses eye diseases with 94.5% accuracy. Additionally, machine learning can now improve MRI image reconstruction and the speed of scan results.

Yet, according to McKinsey, even though 70% of US consumers use an online channel to manage health and wellness, 40% of healthcare companies admit to not understanding their customer journeys well enough to align them with a digital strategy. What this shows us is that, although there are still many opportunities for digital improvements in healthcare, patient analytics and electronic healthcare records can be used to improve outcomes for both patients and healthcare professionals.

There is a significant opportunity to leverage digital health technology to address common challenges and enhance the experience for healthcare workers and their patients. EM Guidance developed an app to help doctors easily cross reference information on treatment guidelines and medication dosages, lessening the need to consult various different reference books or other online sources.

More so, digital technologies like Discovery Health’s DrConnect app allows patients to book virtual consultations with doctors they’ve seen face to face in the previous 24 months. Users can also access reliable medical information through a worldwide network of over 105,000 doctors in 174 countries, and search a growing library of doctor-created answers to common medical questions, at no cost.

Reimagining manufacturing

Companies are becoming more reliant on data and how machine learning can influence real-time decisions. The manufacturing industry is also utilising the power of technology and big data to unlock the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including heightened connectivity, intelligence, and flexible automation at our fingertips.

Proving to advance product development, production, and supply chain management, one company is leading the charge – Waymo. Specialising in self-driving technology, its cloud-based infrastructure powers self-driving vehicles – an opportunity that Volvo Cars simply couldn’t pass up. Earlier this year, Volvo announced their partnership with Waymo, however, it hasn’t been revealed when they plan on launching these self-piloting cars. For now, we can only theorise on how self-driving cars could work in a South African context – but the thought is certainly exciting.

Streamlining finances

Many banks now rely on fintech to expand their offerings and change how they provide financial services. Mobile banking has established itself as a platform that will be used in the long term, and data mining and AI have helped banks process vast amounts of valuable user data.

Virtual assistants, blockchain tech, hybrid banks, and behavioural banking are all at the forefront of innovative tech emerging from this sector. Take Standard Bank’s Quantum Leap programme, for example. This future-looking business model collaborates with the bank’s clients on their growth journey, allowing customers to reimagine transactional banking solutions that are client-led and digitally enabled.

Essentially, digital technologies create a platform for South Africa to develop into a virtual and cashless economy. AI can help financial practitioners evaluate customer data in a way that gives them insight into how to upsell and cross-sell products. And based on big data, they can predict outcomes and make well-informed decisions that better serve their clients.

The concept of digital transformation is nothing new, and at the heart of it lies connectivity. With faster and more reliable connectivity, industries are in a better position to streamline their operations across the globe. Quality connectivity solutions are a must for any business to embrace new technologies and solidify their footing in the digital economy.