The Future is Digital – Even in the Bush

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Say what you will, the world is going digital. And I’m not just talking about convenient online banking or confiding in Siri. With the next wave of technological revolution sweeping the globe, the Internet of Things is connecting the world like we’ve never seen before.

This digital transformation is most apparent in the workplace. Business has become a real-time experience where a relentless stream of instant communications bombard our electronic devices daily. Business meetings can be conducted remotely, information is captured and stored directly onto computers, and the latest company updates can easily be shared via social media (what business doesn’t have their own Facebook page these days?).

But technology has disrupted business models and, according to Forbes, the idea of digital transformation scares at least 70% of CEO’s. And who can blame them? These baby boomers grew up without mobile devices let alone hashtags and often do not believe that they have the right leadership team or the technical skills to adapt. This attitude often acts as a barrier to moving forward with digital. A costly decision. With failure to digitize leading to many cases of bankruptcy (Kodak being a prime example in this case), city-based companies have been quick to realise that going digital is not an option. It’s a necessity. Game reserves on the other hand have been slow to adopt this same attitude, if at all. The epitome of wilderness, most people shun the idea of incorporating technology into an area that should otherwise be a digital cleanse from the city bustle. But a recent cyberattack on the Reserve’s outdated IT server proved that digital does not discriminate.

Management’s logistical world was turned upside down when a ransomware virus infiltrated the network. With access to emails and certain documents denied, business as usual skidded to an abrupt halt. Our fragile connection with the outside world had been sabotaged. Unable to perform simple work related tasks, management nervously twiddled their thumbs while IT technicians attempted to resolve the situation. A month and a half later and all systems are “still not” go. Needless to say, plans to improve Reserve digital infrastructure and cybersecurity are well underway.

True. Digital transformation ensures that companies remain relevant, connected and aligned with customer demand, but it is so much more than that. It is a powerful driving force in propelling companies forward as it promotes the development of creative, innovate solutions. From efficient farming techniques to improved vehicle safety and protecting wildlife species, digital is transforming corporations of every discipline. While at the IoT Conference and Awards earlier this year, one of the guest speakers (was he from Deloitte?) said something along the lines of, “The future is digital whether you like it or not. And it’s moving at such a rate that if you don’t choose to run with it now, you’ll never manage to catch up”.

So, we’re running with it. With plans in place to erect a LoRa network within the Reserve, a robust computer network under development, and a technologically savvy security department, Welgevonden is fast closing in on the digital divide and proving that technology does have a place in the bush. This change in attitude will by no means result in an altered bushveld experience. In fact, it could be the reason that it remains exactly the same – abundantly diverse and undeniably wild – for years to come.

Jessica Oosthuyse, a journalist in the bush, is responsible for keeping you up do date with the latest and greatest news from Welgevonden Game Reserve