Orange: digital transformation in Africa
Orange is one of the largest global telecommunications operators in the world, and is recognised for its expertise in the field of innovation. With over 5,000 employees across its international research labs, the “Orange Digital Centre” in Tunis, Tunisia was launched in April 2019. Providing a wide range of activities, the Orange Digital Centre is a support system for startups and offers training to young people, with its unveiling recognised as the first of its kind in the Middle East and Africa.
Asma Ennaifer, Chief External Relations, CSR and Innovation Officer for Orange, has held these roles for almost 10 years. “From training young people in coding, prototyping to startup support, acceleration and finally investment in budding entrepreneurs, these new sites are intended for all kinds of different people,” she says. The Orange Digital Centre has four strategic programs which target various types of individuals, such as:
1. The coding school
The coding school is a facility that is free of charge. It is aimed at students, young graduates and young entrepreneurs.
2. The FabLab Solidaire
This is a digital workshop that allows users to create prototypes and leverage 3D printers, milling machines and laser cutters. The centre is open to all young people regardless of their educational background.
3. Orange Fab
Orange Fab is a startup accelerator that is designed to build upon relationships with the Orange Group. This program is tailored toward entrepreneurs to assist them with the development of management skills, and commercial capabilities within startups.
4. Orange Digital Ventures Africa
This is a $55.6mn investment fund for startups in the Middle East and Africa. This program is also aimed at entrepreneurs.
Tunisia: an emerging digital hub
Ennaifer believes Africa is a lucrative region to export fintech to. “Africa is a virgin area for the fintech market,” affirms Ennaifer. “In fact, the fintech landscape has grown at an annual rate of approximately 24% over the last 10 years. If we compare it with the developed region, the African continent must become more digitalised, so that the fintech market will grow. This makes it a very attractive market to invest in.”
Ennaifer notes that technological leapfrogging in Africa has led Orange to fight digital exclusion and pushed the company to provide accessible innovations to the largest number of people through “inclusive innovation,” across the 19 countries in the Middle East and Africa where it operates. When cementing the success of Orange’s new programs, Ennaifer emphasises: “The success of digital transformation inevitably relies on inclusion!” Orange has established partnerships with 27 universities in Tunisia throughout the country and has deployed five subsidiaries of coding school - the “Orange Tech Clubs” - in universities in the regions of Kef, Sousse, Nabeul, Tunis and Sfax. “With the support of the Orange Foundation, Orange has deployed five FabLabs Solidaires, including one mobile FabLab, with the aim of covering the entire territory,” she explains. “Thanks to these programs, Orange Tunisia was able to accompany and train more than 16,000 young students in the coding school.”
Creating opportunities for young people
Young people are important for Orange, and reinforcing young people’s preference for Orange is crucial for Orange’s business. “Youth unemployment is a worrying problem worldwide,” explains Ennaifer. “According to the World Bank, the global youth unemployment rate in 2017 was around 13.4%. The majority of African countries are struggling with significantly higher rates (e.g. Tunisia 36.3%; Ivory Coast 25%).” Ennaifer points to the fact that young adults in higher education are facing the same unemployment rates, yet the services offered by the Digital Centre will assist in combating this issue. “The Orange Digital Centre is the place where the youth can be trained to get ready for their first job or professionally reconvert if needed,” she explains. “They also can develop their ideas by putting at their disposal machines that are not affordable, and also coaches to accompany them.”
Yet despite a large pool of potential recruits, Ennaifer shares that the initiative has struggled to reach a maximum of young people, and in particular in girls. “At launch, the coding school existed only in the capital. We were quickly solicited by the universities with whom we enter into partnerships to provide training on the latest technological trends.” With a determination to overcome this challenge, the is centre pushed to encourage younger girls to take an interest in ICT through the international competition Technovation where they would compete with girls from all over the world. “This collaborative approach helps to create an entrepreneurial dynamic, generate new ideas and incubate innovative startups. The project will thus contribute to building local digital ecosystems outside the capital.”
“Orange’s objectives of supporting inclusive economic development, youth employment, and to accelerate Africa’s digital transformation are in line with the development goals formulated in the Agenda 2030.” As Orange employs 18,000 people in Africa and the Middle East, which are mostly locally recruited and trained, the Group has a direct interest in creating local “pools” of well-trained young people.
According to Ennaifer, the challenges of the future for Orange aren’t related to the size of a country, but the economic and political climates. This is because the economy of the country needs to be able to support those trained to enter the market as both the public and private sector are involved. “As Orange continues to build on the Orange Digital Centre, its expanding network will allow the exchange of experience and expertise between the beneficiaries to address international markets,” she concludes.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
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.”