Do you agree that technology will rapidly change your industry? If you’re reading this, the indications are that you do. A recent Accenture survey found 93% of CEOs agreed with this statement.

However, only 20% of those CEOs feel well prepared for this disruption.

If you are one of those four in five CEOs who aren’t quite ready, I hope by the end of this blog you feel a bit more prepared, and even optimistic about your prospects.

Change is needed in South Africa. We have a rising unemployment rate, and lower productivity than before. And the pandemic has made things more difficult for every industry.

Even in the midst of this global system shock, there is a way to outmaneuver this uncertainty and unlock digital value.

In fact, we think that there is a potential R5-trillion upside to South Africa over the next 10 years. That’s R500 billion a year.

My colleagues and I have written about how current circumstances give us an opportunity to re-invent our industries and businesses, not just re-open them. But how do we do that?

A research report co-authored by the World Economic Forum and Accenture says that by unlocking digital value, we can add four million jobs in the private and public sectors in the next 10 years. In our analysis, the financial services sector can unlock nearly R1,3-trillion on its own.
The agricultural industry can unlock nearly R700-billion.

But how is all this supposed to work? We found three main components driving the digitalization of value:

1. The internet of things
2. Artificial intelligence
3. The platform economy

Let’s look at agriculture first. The main purpose of a nation state is to keep its citizens fed, healthy and safe. How on earth can we apply digital value to agriculture? Tiny Denmark has some answers.
Denmark is strong in the delivery of online public services. It leads the EU in the use of digital technologies by business, and names digitisation and new technologies as drivers of productivity growth.

Here is one statistic that surprised me. Denmark ranks number two globally in food exports by value, second only to the USA. The USA is 270 times bigger than Denmark.

South Africa is 30 times larger than Denmark, but only 13% of our land area is suitable for agriculture. That still means our arable land is 3,5 times larger than the whole of Denmark, and seven times larger than Denmark’s farmlands. And they are number two in the world!

How did they do this? They use satellite imaging and drones to optimise their water usage, optimise seed sowing and produce better quality food. They call this “precision farming.”

Here we can see all three trends at work. Sensors in farm equipment form part of an “internet of things”. Artificial intelligence can analyse data and provide recommendations on a level that no human could. And none of this would be possible without cloud platform solutions, GPS, drone piloting solutions and other platforms.

If Denmark can take its 5-million people and less than 30,000 square kilometres of farmland and become the world’s second-largest food producer, what could South Africa do with ten times the population and five times the arable land?

If this much value can be unlocked in agriculture, which has been part of our history for over 10,000 years, imagine what we could do in financial services, mining, healthcare — or your own industry (if it isn’t listed here).

To be prepared for the digitalisation of your industry, think about AI, the internet of things and the platform economy.

I hope this leaves you feeling a little bit better prepared than your industry peers. Do you agree with my analysis? Please contact me at kirtan.sita@Accenture.com. And to read the report, please  download it here.