What to expect from tech in 2021 and beyond: with Ozow’s Mitch Adams (Part 1)

There’s no denying that 2020 has been a year of rapid tech adoption at a global scale, with a swift movement towards mass ecommerce spurred on by the necessity of shopping during Covid lockdowns. And, while the last year has been a tough time for local and international businesses alike – out of the proverbial ashes, technology is finding a much needed rebirth in the minds of consumers and entrepreneurs. The general populace is waking up to what it can do for global optimism and advancement – now that people are truly understanding the benefits and finding it easier to engage with generally.   

 

Ozow Director, Co-Founder and Head of R&D, Mitch Adams, has always been an innovative thinker and instrumental in driving some of our technological growth and product innovation over the course of the last year. We sat down with him to map out some of the trends that can affect your business in the short-to-long term, with a view towards future innovation and navigating new opportunities.  

 

Trends to watch out for 

 

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning for growing entities. Technologist Anez Ussaman has cited AI as the next big thing In 2021, (Forbes) not a unique proposition but one that’s picking up steam. He says we expect to see huge demand and rapid growth of artificial intelligence (A.I.) this year. While this can be an exciting avenue for established businesses, does this potential viability extend to smaller businesses? According to Mitch, AI is already presenting exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs at every level, particularly in combination with machine learning and the rise of more accessible platforms.  

    “AI is a very loose term that people use. People also use the term “machine learning” and say it’s different to AI. To me, machine learning and AI come down to tech that uses “if” statements: if this happens, technology responds in a specific way. AI handles the parameters at a base level but machine learning learns on the fly. If we can personify AI for a moment, it’s saying “If something happens I’ll do this but specifically for one person” and it makes a record and then it comes up with a genetic of how to engage. There is a marriage of the 2 where you can take machine learning and AI and make a front end, and this is where the most opportunity lies for entrepreneurs”. 

    If we break this down to an everyday level we can look at a piece of tech that almost all of us have engaged with at some point.  

    “Chatbots are a good example of this”, says Mitch. “They start with an if statement: If the user says “x”, the chatbot responds with “y” for example. Machine learning would say “I don’t know how to do this but let me look for solutions, run through scenarios and see what kind of responses to get back to a specific user when they choose a scenario.  We’ve already seen how with time, this kind of technology gets better – for example, Will Smith going on a date with Sofia. And we will continue to see this, as accessibility to tech grows”.  

 

  • Accessibility is already on the rise. In the past, dabbling with AI was extremely complicated and you needed a lot of computing power. Now it’s a lot easier to get that power through cloud services. You pay for it still but it’s much less expensive to access than ever before. Over 120 years or less people will have access to the technology which allows them to do great things. More people are participating and collaborating”.

    How can entrepreneurs start preparing for this increased access, to strike when the iron is still hot?
    “I would recommend signing up for a cloud computing account” says Mitch. “Google CloudAzure and AWS offer a year of free service. So, any person can sign up and create a virtual machine, choose services and get vouchers. So you can play around and learn, in combination with free courses and exams if you’d like to be certified”.
  • Human-capital-automation hybrids. Another hot topic at the moment is the idea of automation at a large scale. We know that automating daily and recurring tasks can be an efficient way to save on resources and cut costs but are there immediate downfalls that come from this at a larger scale? 

    According to Mitch, the trajectory of things, pre-Covid, was to automate  but the perception that this will risk human livelihood needs to be challenged.  

    “I don’t think people are going that way. People are banning together and noticing that they need to survive as humans on Earth. In order to do this, there are certain things we need to sustain. While the value of money is diminishing and the paper is becoming redundant – humans see it as a representation of value, false or not, and the need to bring value in conjunction with automation is an accepted belief.

    In China, you’ll find there’s a merger of human capital and machinery capitol happening”.  

    So, if this human element underpins everything, what kinds of trends in behaviour and industry can we expect to see growing? 
     

 

Defining value in purpose 

“Let me put it this way, there’s two dots that exist in everyone’s life”, says Mitch. “You have a  dot when you’re born and when you die and in between is the time you spend here. Either you’re spending that time surviving or you’re enjoying that time. If you find your purpose you’ll enjoy your time. 

If everybody had a house and a meal and all your needs were sorted then it comes down to passion. That is what you can expect to see growing in humanity, and we’re already seeing it. People are pursuing their passions. Wherever technology can facilitate that, you will see growth”. 
 

 

So, if passion is the cornerstone of creating thriving, future-proofed organizations that do meaningful work, how does Ozow walk the talk?  

 

“Ozow has always been about digitizing the economy and making payment easier. When we started there were 18 million people shopping online in South Africa. Here we have a population with foreign nationals close to 70 million. So why weren’t there more? It’s the access and the ability to engage with technology that has always posed a problem. 

That is our drive: How can we empower people to shop online without them needing to change their status and stature? Opening up the economy through better access to safe online payments grows businesses online, which makes them wealthier; they hire more people, with the result of employees improving their lives, saving time and money. These may be small tweaks, but they create a snowball effect.  We see our work as setting foundations in place for a stronger economic future. 
 


People are now interested in Africa and payment is a distinctly emerging economy issue. China has solved this problem for themselves. Now, we need to get to Africa and South America to make greater strides here.
 

 

Want to know more about what to expect from 2021 and beyond in tech? 

 

Stay tuned for part two of this future trends installment with Mitch.  

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