Kate Krukiel is Managing Director of Sera Afrika based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work with the United Nations at Microsoft, driving policy through data across Africa with Sera Afrika and facilitating the newly formed UN Digital Solutions Centre for shared innovation across the UN family, has spanned the Middle East and Africa, focusing on private and public sector partnerships, non-profits, the UN and civil society groups to break down political, social, and language barriers in creating lasting technological change in emerging markets. In this interview with Heath Muchena of Business Africa Online, Kate explores tech, women empowerment, business leadership and work-life balance, amongst others.
Heath: Africa has the largest concentration of young people in the world. How can private-public partnerships and policy help youth take a right-first approach to digital transformation and how should businesses in Africa define a digital transformation process?
Kate: With young people representing over 65% of the population in Africa, we should focus on them for opportunities for digital transformation and growth. It’s exciting to note that we can leapfrog ahead exponentially in business areas from finance, mobile access to Agtech, opening new markets, new jobs and new job types. Given current technology constraints in Africa, we need to focus on access to affordable connectivity to access such e-services and enable new and growing businesses to participate online. Africa still has the most expensive Internet access on the globe – and this must change.
Heath: Is Africa ready for the transformative change the 4IR brings and the impact on businesses across the continent? How can private-public partnerships and ICT leaders to foster this change?
Kate: Of course! Africa is ready for a giant leap into accelerating growth. It countries and tech counterparts have the resources to do this. But there are a few barriers to getting there, including more maturity in technology infrastructure and skill development in these new areas of innovation. While there has been progress in eliminating the digital divide (people with no access to smart devices and the Internet), there is much more to be done there.
Connectivity, trade and collaboration between countries, accurate policies to allow this growth are just a few areas that need advancement. The majority of consumers are youth who are under-skilled without relevant jobs available in the digital economy. For this we need to work with governments and organizations create new types of jobs, build capacity and modernize fragmented policies to enable this growth.
Heath: What do you think is the best part of being a woman leader in the tech industry and what advice would you give to women looking to break into the tech field?
Kate: Being the only woman in my computer science university class at Mary Washington College to moving into a world where I’m working with 95% men, it’s all I know. I am lucky in that I was raised with strong and supportive male figures who gave me a good foundation for this field.
The best part of being a woman leader in tech is knowing that women have the inherent characteristics of collaboration and inclusion. Mapping these female strengths to technical capabilities and digital innovation and knowledge makes me unique. The second-best part is, at this time, knowing that I am and must be a role model for other women moving into this career path. We don’t have enough women in tech as thought leaders and movers and shakers!
I mentor my staff, my teams and interns but also, I choose to create open dialogue and spaces for fellow women to get guidance – this is incredibly important. My advice? – get mentors. Surround yourself with strong women and men that possess skillsets and characteristics that you need.
Heath: How do you maintain work-life balance and what are your views on goals, timelines, and measuring success?
Kate: Work life balance means something different to everyone you ask. We have different times when we’re productive or not – we have different priorities in life and at work. To me, having flexibility in my days to do things like avoiding the traffic or going on walks to clear my brain are important.
I’m a morning person and the first thing I do is make a list, for the week (on Sunday) and for each day. That keeps me on track with timelines, to set clear goals, long term and short, but also know my own balance. I’m a big fan of having events, launches or a moment in time to mark progress and this offers milestones for commitments and results. I’ll be at my desk at 6 a.m. and be on a walk at 9.
Heath: How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business in order to be an effective leader within your Sera Afrika business?
Kate: Incredibly. From the very basics of using advice from Oprah Winfrey to always ‘sign your checks’ (transparency) down to understanding the different leadership styles my directors have and how they differ and augment mine, to sectors we work across and to the talent that we possess. Every organization is a machine of moving parts and I don’t need to understand the deepest aspect of each, but general knowledge core areas of business is key.
Heath: What influences your leadership style and what values are important to you?
Kate: I need to be me – which means I need humour in each day, I need transparency and honesty, passion and hard work. I’m a very flexible leader in that I don’t need my team to be in the office when I am but allow them to work in the best method and manor for each of them, as I do too. This creates trust, as we work hard and value each other.
Most important? Value our commitment to growing and changing lives. At the end of the day, if we aren’t having fun while trying to change the world, we are doing something wrong. The Kate you see at the office will be the same Kate you see on the weekend.
Heath: In your experience, what is the key to developing a good team and how do you manage performance?
Kate: One thing I learned years ago during my first management role is that you must know what motivates members of your team in order to build a good relationship. Knowing their passions and strengths, at work and out of work.
I don’t agree that work and personal life should be separate. I found out one of my interns is an artist (as well as a wonderful lawyer). When we needed art for our office, I called her. Now our office is full of personal touches. For managing performance, setting clear objectives, understanding work styles and allowing employees to have ownership and flexibility, plus having regular check ins.
Heath: How far has Sera Afrika gone with its digital transformation?
Kate: As a policy tech start-up, we’re able to begin from a different place. In addition, having a leadership team that has been entrenched in technology for a collective 70 years, we fully understand the power but also the enabler that technology must be in changing the lives of Africans.
Visit: Sera Afrika
Electric Vehicles and the Future of Service Stations
Electric cars have been gaining popularity in recent years as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. As more and more people make the switch to electric cars, it raises the question of what the future holds for gas stations. In this blog post, we will explore the potential impact of electric cars on gas stations and how they might evolve to meet the changing needs of consumers.
Electric cars have come a long way since their inception, with advancements in technology and infrastructure making them more accessible and practical for everyday use. With zero tailpipe emissions and lower operating costs, electric cars offer a greener and more economical transportation solution. As a result, the demand for electric vehicles has been steadily increasing, leading to a surge in sales and production.
Challenges for Gas Stations
As the number of electric cars on the road continues to grow, gas stations may face some significant challenges. With fewer customers needing traditional fuel, gas stations may experience a decline in revenue. Additionally, the need for charging infrastructure will become more prevalent, requiring gas stations to adapt and invest in electric vehicle charging stations.
To stay relevant in the era of electric cars, gas stations will need to undergo a transformation. They can consider incorporating electric vehicle charging stations alongside traditional fuel pumps. This diversification will allow gas stations to cater to both electric and gasoline-powered vehicles, ensuring they remain a convenient stop for all types of motorists.
One of the key factors in the success of electric cars is the availability of charging infrastructure. Gas stations can play a crucial role in this by installing fast-charging stations that can replenish an electric car’s battery in a matter of minutes. This will encourage more people to adopt electric cars, knowing that they can easily find a charging station on their journeys.
Gas stations can also explore partnerships with automakers to provide exclusive charging services for their electric vehicle customers. By teaming up with manufacturers, gas stations can offer branded charging stations and loyalty programs, creating a unique selling point that sets them apart from competitors.
As the demand for traditional fuel decreases, gas stations can consider diversifying their offerings by providing additional services. This could include amenities such as electric vehicle maintenance, battery swapping, or even hosting electric car events. By embracing the electric vehicle market, gas stations can adapt and thrive in the changing automotive landscape.
The rise of electric cars presents both challenges and opportunities for gas stations. While the need for traditional fuel may decline, the demand for charging infrastructure is on the rise. By adapting their business models, investing in charging infrastructure, and exploring partnerships with automakers, gas stations can play a vital role in supporting the transition to electric vehicles. The future of gas stations may look different, but with innovation and forward-thinking, they can remain an essential part of our transportation infrastructure.
PHD Media Unveils Ocular, Research Tool for Real-Time Data Analysis
PHD Media, one of the world’s fastest growing media and communication agency networks, and part of the Omnicom Media Group has launched an innovative proprietary cloud-based media data tool, Ocular, that answers age-long questions that clients have asked around the recency of the data used in the industry.
Ocular, the result of two years of continuous research aimed at closing some of the gaps that exists within the current industry tool, with unparalleled features that surpass what already exists within the sector, was launched at a well-attended stakeholder’s event at the Lagos Marriott Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday, 7 November 2023.
The Managing Director of PHD Media, Mr. Dozie Okafor, said with Ocular, powered by 2,800 active respondents surveyed daily, businesses can glean insights into consumer habits and lots more to help make better decisions for their marketing activities. He said Ocular is designed to be a seamless tool such that it is accessible on devices and smartphones, with the ability to collect responses from respondents using Short Message Service (SMS), Mobile web and APP.
Okafor stated that surveys currently cover seven key markets with an ongoing commitment to quickly scale this up to include more markets over the coming months as subscriptions increase.
On the unique features, the PHD Media honcho explained that a client can deploy custom surveys relating to its business anytime on the platform, and can analyse not just the product/services, but can leverage the deep insights on the platform to also look into consumer habits.
“Parameters like social media and internet, video-on-demand, and any new trend can be added to it. There are also bespoke capabilities to enable clients to conduct focus groups, dipstick research, as well as other services relating to their businesses, and quickly,” he explained.
Features available in the cutting-edge solution which are currently in others include audience demographics, audience profiling, psychographic analysis, product usage and consumption analysis, and media consumption habit analysis.The different features are real-time data, bespoke surveys, qualitative audience surveys, brand health checks, ad (asset) testing, and Client access to a real-time dashboard.
On her part, the Research Lead at PHD Media, Mrs. Cornelia Babatunde, pointed out that clients can conduct pre-campaign, during-campaign, and post-campaign surveys with Ocular, likewise dive deeper into an understanding of consumer behaviour using the Market Research Online Community (MROC) feature.
Also, at the launch were panel discussions involving the Digital and Media Manager West Africa, Pernod Ricard, Ojie Arthur Ehianeta; Marketing Lead Nigeria, Lipton Tea and Infusions, Motunrayo Babalola; Head of Marketing, Kingmakers, Oludare Kafar; Media Manager, West Africa, Unilever Nigeria, Oge Maduagwu; and Head of Marketing, HPZ – Haier Thermocool, James Odejimi; who stated that the introduction of Ocular was timely, as it encompasses the data required by companies to improve their business advantageously.
According to Motunrayo Babalola, data helps in understanding, planning, and evaluating issues relating to the implementation of set objectives. Ojie Arthur Ehianeta said PHD is in the right direction with Ocular and that if the data is gotten right, Ocular should be extended to the rest of the industry and not just be a PHD tool; while Oludare Kafar stated that data helps in making informed decisions and enables the benefits of investments. James Odejimi averred “Data gives us insights into what we do.” Others affirmed that real-time data is crucial for the growth of any sector, and they all applauded PHD Media for the novel innovation embedded in Ocular.
PHD is known globally as an innovator in communications planning and buying across broadcast, print, digital, mobile, social, and emerging media. PHD’s performance at the 2023 Pitcher Awards is evidence of the agency’s outstanding commitment for strategic planning and innovation, having secured an impressive tally of ten awards.
The Gig Economy Today: Leveraging Blockchain and AI
The gig economy, characterised by short-term contracts and freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs, has seen explosive growth facilitated by technological advances. In particular, two technological juggernauts – blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are reshaping how gig work functions, promising a more efficient, secure, and equitable marketplace. This fusion could not only redefine how we work but also lay new groundwork for the future digital economy.
The Gig Economy Today: A Landscape Ripe for Revolution
Traditionally, the gig economy has hinged on platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and Fiverr, which connect freelancers with opportunities. Despite their popularity, these platforms often face criticism over high fees, payment security, and opaque dispute resolution processes. This is where AI and blockchain step in as game-changers.
Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, offers decentralised and secure ledger systems. For the gig economy, this means several transformative changes:
- Direct, Secure Payments: By using cryptocurrencies for transactions, payments can be processed without the need for traditional banking, reducing fees and increasing security. Smart contracts – self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into lines of code – ensure automatic and conditional payments, dependent on the fulfilment of agreed-upon work, reducing the scope of disputes and delays.
- Transparent Work Histories: Blockchain can provide a transparent, unchangeable record of a freelancer’s work history and reviews. Unlike current platforms where profiles can be manipulated, blockchain’s immutable records ensure reliability and authenticity, helping employers to hire with confidence.
- Decentralization and Ownership: By decentralizing the marketplace, blockchain takes power away from centralized platforms, reducing unfair censorship or control. It also hands back ownership of personal data to the individuals, aligning with growing demands for data privacy and control.
AI’s role in revolutionizing the gig economy is no less impactful, particularly in personalized job matching and enhancing work efficiency:
- Personalized Job Matching: AI algorithms can analyze a freelancer’s skills, work history, and preferences to match them with the best-suited gigs. Unlike traditional methods, this reduces the time spent searching for and applying to irrelevant jobs, increasing efficiency and job satisfaction.
- Enhanced Productivity Tools: AI-powered tools help freelancers manage tasks, track time, and optimize their workflow, effectively increasing their productivity. Predictive analytics can help in forecasting workload and income, aiding better financial and time management.
- Dynamic Pricing Models: AI can analyze market rates, skill demand, and job complexity to suggest dynamic pricing, helping freelancers in setting competitive yet fair rates for their services.
The integration of blockchain and AI in the gig economy isn’t just a futuristic concept; it’s already underway. Companies like Upwork and Freelancer.com are exploring blockchain for secure transactions and reputation management, while AI continues to refine the art of job matching on these platforms.
However, challenges remain, including the digital divide, the need for robust AI ethics, and the energy consumption concerns associated with blockchain technologies. Tackling these will require concerted efforts from tech developers, policy makers, and the freelance community itself.
As we step into this new era of gig work, blockchain and AI stand as pillars that promise to build a more transparent, fair, and efficient marketplace. Their convergence could well redefine not just how we work or get paid, but also how trust and reputation are built in the digital freelance economy. The future of work in the gig economy, powered by these technologies, looks not only promising but also excitingly inclusive, bringing us closer to a world where work is more about talent and merit, less about control and intermediaries.