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Dealing with data - A major risk management factor in Africa

27 September 2007 Ovations

Effectively understanding, managing, moving, integrating and aggregating data has become a significant risk management issue for South African companies with operations in other African countries, says Thys Bruwer, managing director of business performance improvement firm Ovations.

"Bandwidth is a problem, satellite technology is extremely expensive and some countries frown upon data being moved across their borders," says Bruwer, who has wide experience advising financial services companies operating in various parts of Africa.

Increasingly, he says, companies are moving data to geographic "hubs" as they try to negotiate their way around the communications challenges that the continent poses to the management and evaluation of everyday business activities.

Among the major risk factors is the disparity of software systems being run, sometimes making it difficult for companies to gain a single view of a customer as has become the norm in South Africa and most of the world's developed nations.

In addition, very few companies have effective policies and processes in place to ensure they have up-to-date documentation on their data at all times this renders them unable to effectively access data sources to provide for regulatory reporting.

Often, says Bruwer, vendors of business solutions do not provide the necessary documentation when implementing their solutions as a result of which they are able to charge companies significant additional fees when the time comes to access this data.

"Even when this documentation is available, due to the continents bandwidth and connectivity constraints, getting access to data and moving data can be difficult. Companies operating across the continent need to be mindful of these data related obstacles as part of their overall risk management profiles," says Bruwer, who adds that it has to become more affordable to move data around the continent "not using cables."

Significantly, Bruwer believes that Africa can leapfrog many parts of the world in technology if it can get its communications infrastructure sorted out, a move that is also viewed as a vital pre-requisite for sustainable economic growth.

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