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Innovation

  • Chariot for Women, an Uber-like service for women launches this month

    Uber trips can be rather hair-raising for women if recent news reports are anything to go by. So it's rather refreshing to see one app rising to the challenge, called Chariot for Women. Marketed as a smart cab service for women only, the US app is the brainchild of former Uber driver Michael Pelletz and offers a number of standout features. For one, the service makes use of female cab drivers, but only children under the age of 13 and women are allowed as passengers. The service also utilises an in-app system to ensure passenger safety. "When the passenger requests a ride, a safe word...

  • 5 Megatrends driving the second wave of inclusive digital innovation

    Technological innovations, particularly in digital and mobile platforms, have boosted inclusive growth in developing African markets over the past several years. Inclusive growth is defined as economic growth and development that enables lower income segments to gain access to basic goods and services – at more accessible price points and of a higher quality than was previously possible. The mobile telephony revolution, which allowed for the proliferation of connectivity via low-priced feature phones, marked the first wave of innovations to spur inclusive growth in African markets. Mobile payment solutions like M-Pesa are a good example of this. New Delivery Models This...

  • SA ranks 30th globally in fostering innovation

    Attend enough South African tech events and you'll inevitably hear someone say that South Africa needs to do more to foster innovation. As it turns out though, the country could be doing a lot worse. According to a new report from The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), which shows ranks South Africa 30th out 56 countries in how its domestic policies support worldwide innovation. These countries, it says, make up more than 90% of the global economy. "Robust innovation is essential for economic growth and progress,” said co-author Stephen Ezell, ITIF’s vice president for global...

  • Can a real fighting lightsaber be built with current technology?

    The Star Wars saga borrowed (some say outright stole) its mythological theme from Budo (the art of the warrior) which was the societal philosophy behind the ancient Japanese culture of bravery, loyalty, and technical mastery of weaponry. The influence of Budo is especially evident in the preferred weapon of the Jedi and Sith lead characters… the lightsaber. The outward appearance and functionality of this fictional weapon is clearly an homage to the ultimate personal weapon of Japanese antiquity, the Samurai sword (katana). With a length of approximately one meter, deadly slicing efficiency, and prerequisite dexterity and training, it is...

  • Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors to set up office in South Africa

    Major US automotive and energy storage company Tesla Motors plans to set up shop in South Africa, the birthplace of its CEO Elon Musk. According to a report by Htxt, Tesla will open an office early next year to bring industrial-scale energy storage solutions to the country. This would be a welcome addition to South Africa's unreliable energy grid, which is prone to load shedding. Read more: Is Elon Musk’s Tesla Energy just what Africa’s energy grid needs? The office will be run by Evan Rice, who's the CEO of not-for-profit GreenCape. "Tesla will have one employee here from mid-January. But if we...

  • Is Ethereum the world computer that could just change it all?

    Do you want to know how to build a better democracy in under a 100 lines of code? Or what about building your own transparent bank on the blockchain? Well, Ethereum might just be the thing you're looking for. And no, it's not the title of an awful sci-fi novel. Ethereum goes under a lot of monikers. Some dub it the "world computer" or a "decentralised app network". Others simply refer to it as "Bitcoin 2.0". Whatever it's called, this exciting online experiment is as thought-provoking as it is ambitious. While still in its infancy, Ethereum is changing the way applications...

  • 4 fascinating uses of Microsoft Excel: artistic, uber-geeky, life-saving, and paranoid

    What if you could only have one productivity software program? It might surprise you that your most versatile electronic tool is already loaded on your computer. Yes, it’s Excel, the spreadsheet program you probably think of as mind-numbingly unexciting. The software engineers at Microsoft loaded Excel with so many features and gizmos, that imaginative end users have found very interesting ways to express themselves, going far beyond long lists of data and number crunching. Vector Graphics Included in Excel are layered graphics, an autoshape function, and the full spectrum of colors that allow talented and inventive artists to create artwork...

  • Is your bank really about to experience Uber-style disruption?

    To the average person on the street, Uber is amazing and has done more to change the face of transportation than any vehicle manufacturer has done in decades. But to big established players in a variety of industries Uber, or at least the kind of disruption it represents, is terrifying. Thing is, if ex-Barclay's CEO Antony Jenkins is right, then people in the banking sector aren't nearly scared enough. Speaking in London last week, Jenkins warned banks that they "risk becoming merely capital-providing utilities that operate in a highly regulated, less profitable environment, a situation unlikely to be tolerated...

  • 10 Reasons why 2001: A Space Odyssey stands as the best Sci-Fi movie ever made

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, MGM) was filmed before man stepped on the moon (1969, Neil Armstrong), before the use of Computer-Generated Imagery (1973, Westworld), and before most Star Wars fans were even born (1977, Episode IV). Despite intervening decades of scientific discovery, film-making advancements, and computer technology, it remains the best science fiction movie in terms of realism, prediction of future technology, mystery, and thought provocation. A good movie extends reality for the purpose of entertainment, but a great movie also suspends the viewer’s disbelief in order to be convincing. If something is depicted on film that makes...

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, others join to fast track clean energy innovation

    Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft's Bill Gates -- alongside a group of 26 other powerful business leaders -- have launched an initiative which seeks to fast track innovation around clean energy. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is made up of wealthy investors and tech influencers, including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group's Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and many more. It also includes South Africa's Patrice Motsepe from African Rainbow Minerals and Nigeria's Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group. "Solving the clean energy problem is an essential part of building a better world," Zuckerberg writes in an announcement. Read more: Following criticism,...

  • Innovating Africa means practical solutions to unique challenges

    Innovation is one of the most important contributors to economic growth in any market. Innovators create wealth, attract investment and provide job opportunities. They also create new supply chains and boost exports. This is a universal reality. However, the reasons why individuals become innovators (and the subsequent output), depends upon the context. A desire to become rich by becoming the next Apple might motivate the majority, but here in sub-Saharan Africa, there are often other, more nuanced reasons for inventing new products and services.

  • Beyond Einstein’s brain: the anatomy of genius

    When Albert Einstein died in 1955, his brain was removed, weighed and measured, preserved in formalin, photographed, and sectioned for microscopic study. Although we often think of technologic breakthroughs as coming from corporations or industry sectors, ideas come from individual brains. Human brain tissue is the source of the invention, conceptualization, and implementation of new technologies. Einstein was the preeminent genius of his era and one of the greatest scientists of all time, on par with Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton (whose brains were not preserved). What can we learn from the anatomy of Einstein’s brain that might...

  • Singularity University: reflections on 10 weeks of innovation

    Michael Fichardt recently spent 10 weeks at Singularity University. Located in Silicon Valley, the institution is part university, part think-tank, and part business-incubator, which aims is to "educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges." In a series of five articles, Fichardt details his experiences at Singularity University, ranging from the ideas and technologies he saw to the lessons he learned there. In this, the fifth article in the series, he reflects on what he learned during the 10 week long programme. From the beginning of time, when man first tamed fire and...

  • Singularity University and the philosophy of the moonshot

    Michael Fichardt recently spent 10 weeks at Singularity University. Located in Silicon Valley, the institution is part university, part think-tank, and part business-incubator, which aims is to "educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges." In a series of five articles, Fichardt details his experiences at Singularity University, ranging from the ideas and technologies he saw to the lessons he learned there. In this, the fourth article in the series, he outlines the "moonshot" mentality that's changing the future of technology and humanity as a whole. On 12 September 1962, in a famous...

  • It’s time for bold digital innovation in South Africa

    The digital marketing world is moving forward at a rapid pace and South Africa risks falling behind if we don’t focus more on user-centered innovation. For me, this was one of the key insights to emerge from Google’s All Star Summit in San Francisco, attended by 500-plus representatives from Google business partners from more than 50 countries. During the presentations and workshops, we heard a great deal from Google about what it is doing in an effort to amaze its users. The bar is high these days, and it’s getting harder to impress people with new digital offerings. But...