10 finalists announced for Innovation Prize for Africa 2014
Ten African innovators, who have created practical solutions to some of the continent’s most intractable problems, from a domestic waste biogas system to a wafer matrix for paediatric antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment, have been selected as finalists for a prestigious prize.
Chosen from almost 700 applications from 42 countries, the finalists for The African Innovation Foundation (AIF) Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2014 represent Africans’ potential to address the challenges that are unique to the continent.
The IPA 2014 finalists are:
1 Ashley Uys (South Africa)- OculusID Impairment Screening
The OculusID Impairment Screening device is designed to measure pupil response to light emissions. The pupil response can then be measured against pre-determined benchmarks. These benchmarks are applied to measure substance abuse, physiological defects and even fatigue. The device is a far less invasive procedure than existing methods.
2 Daniel Gitau Thairu (Kenya)- Domestic Waste Biogas System
The Domestic Waste Biogas System is a new type of biogas digester which utilizes any material capable of decomposing instead of relying on animal dung to generate gas. Materials that can be used include dirty water, leftover food, spoiled grain, and vegetable and fruit peelings. This makes biogas usable even by households that cannot afford animals.
3 Elise Rasel Cloete (South Africa)- GMP Traceability Management Software CC
This software is programmed to capture, store and trace data about livestock and enables data to be captured in real-time. The data is then stored in an ear tag placed on livestock and backed up on a remote server.
4 Joshua Okello (Kenya)- WinSenga
This innovation is a low-cost mobile phone based antenatal diagnosis kit that captures foetal heart beat sounds and provides diagnosis which is sent to the mother through SMS. The data can also be uploaded to cloud storage.
5 Logou Minsob (Togo)- Foufoumix
This is a device designed to replace the mortar and pestles used in preparing the popular West African dish, foufou. The “FOUFOUMIX " is a small electrical food processor that allows generates discreet, quick and hygienic foufou in 8 minutes, substantially reducing the amount of time needed to prepare the dish, while also enhancing the hygienic conditions during production.
6 Dr Nicolaas Duneas (South Africa)- Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (Altis OBM™)
Altis OBM is the world’s first injectable bone-graft product containing a complex mix of various bone growth compounds derived from porcine (pig). It is used to stimulate the host’s own tissue regeneration system in a way that leads to the healing of a fracture or bone void, much in the same way as occurs in a normal unassisted fracture healing processes.
7 Maman Abdou Kane (Niger)- Horticultural tele irrigation
The "Horticultural Tele-Irrigation system is a technological process that allows growers to remotely control their market garden irrigation system through a mobile or landline regardless of geographic location.
8 Melesse Temesgen (Ethiopia) - Aybar BBM
The Aybar BBM is a low-cost farming device that can be used by farmers to plough fields that are usually waterlogged and helps them easily drain the water. This turns soils or fields that were otherwise unavailable for farming into high yielding fields.
9 Sulaiman Bolarinde Famro (Nigeria)- Farmking Mobile Multi-crop Processor
The innovation uses centrifugal forces to process cassava, sweet potatoes, soy, she-nuts, grains and cereals. It helps to separate the tubers from liquid, particles and impurities/toxic elements. The extractor is designed to replace the present crude fermentation and pressing technology which is extremely slow and wasteful and offers limited output and profitability. The extractor reduces a process that normally takes 3 - 4 days into a 5 minute process offering higher quality product outputs.
10 Viness Pillay (South Africa)- WaferMatTM
WaferMatTM is a tasty paediatric formulation of ARV therapy in the form of a wafer that dissolves within three seconds of being placed in the mouth. The wafer makes the process of administering the drug to children easier and also makes absorption more efficient.
The winners of the IPA 2014 will be announced at an awards ceremony on May 5 in Abuja, Nigeria, where keynote speaker, the Honourable Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of finance, will highlight the importance of innovation to unlock Africa’s potential for sustainable development and economic growth.
The winner will receive US$100,000 for the best innovation based on marketability, originality, scalability, social impact and clear business potential.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”