Microsoft announces new TV white space projects for Ghana
Microsoft has announced new TV white space partnerships and projects on four continents, including its newest partnership with SpectraLink Wireless and Facebook to provide low-cost wireless connectivity to students and faculty at universities in Koforidua, Ghana.
The announcement was made at the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Global Summit in Accra and means that Microsoft is now involved in white spaces pilots in 10 countries.
TV white spaces, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally set aside for television transmissions, can be utilised for a range of applications including: Providing low-cost connectivity; Connecting rural areas to broadband; Improving in-building wireless networks; Creating hotspots for Internet access; and Offloading mobile traffic.
Microsoft’s commercial partnership with SpectraLink Wireless and research partnership with Facebook will deploy wireless networks covering entire campuses at All Nations University College and Koforidua Polytechnic.
A core goal of the 4Afrika Initiative is to facilitate access to technology for the masses and to empower African students, entrepreneurs, developers, and others to become even more active global citizens.
For students and faculty at the universities, access to the network will be coupled with productivity and communications applications as well as Internet-enabled devices.
The networks will use TV white space-enabled radios and other wireless technologies to connect campus buildings, as well as off-campus hostels where students live, to ensure they have access to fast broadband.
The project is operating under a TV white space pilot license granted by the Ghana National Communications Authority and is the only TV white space license currently issued in West Africa.
Facebook’s main involvement in the project will be to collaborate with Microsoft and SpectraLink Wireless on joint technology research to better understand how TV white space spectrum and equipment can support wireless Internet users today.
These efforts will be led by Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team who are working on new technologies to support Internet.org’s mission to make internet access available to the two thirds of the world not yet connected.
Facebook, Microsoft, and SpectraLink Wireless have a like-minded view that a more abundant supply and flexible use of spectrum are important aspects to affordably connect more people to the Internet, and the companies plan to collaborate on the policy front.
All three companies involved in this pilot project are also members of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance — a global, cross-industry alliance focused on increasing dynamic access to unused radio frequencies.
Paul Garnett, Director in Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, said: “TV white spaces technology when combined with other low-cost wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, offers a substantial opportunity for businesses, consumers and governments around the world to improve the economics of broadband network deployment and service delivery.
“Through these projects worldwide, we are working with local private and public sector partners to enable new consumer experiences, while encouraging governments to make needed legal and regulatory changes to allow this technology to be deployed more broadly.”
John Sarpong, Chief Executive Officer of SpectraLink Wireless, said: “This project will provide substantial benefit to students and faculty at the universities.
“Until now, students at these universities have not had consistent access to fast broadband, which is key to students’ ability to access information and learning resources online and compete in the 21st century economy.”
Microsoft’s other white space projects are happening in Asia, Latin America and the UK.
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.”