Thoughtonomy, DigiBlu boost virtual workers in Africa

Read time 4min 10sec
Terry Walby, CEO and founder of Thoughtonomy.
Terry Walby, CEO and founder of Thoughtonomy.

Local intelligent automation firm DigiBlu has partnered with UK-based robotic process automation firm Thoughtonomy, to bring its human-digital workforce platform to local organisations.

Thoughtonomy's Virtual Workforce solution integrates artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities to emulate human workers in executing business processes and decision-making tasks, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.

The companies claim this is the first software-as-a-service-based intelligent automation solution in Africa. It is targeted at organisations across sectors, especially those wanting to expand their operations to other countries, without the burden of deploying an entire workforce and new infrastructure.

Thoughtonomy is an automation technology company founded in 2013. It specialises in combining cloud computing, software robotics and AI in an integrated platform to bring a virtualised workforce to more than 200 organisations globally.

Terry Walby, CEO and founder of Thoughtonomy, explains: "Intelligent automation offers organisations looking to set up or expand operations in emerging economies across Africa a rapid, agile and cost-effective means to do so.

"By deploying a flexible virtual workforce within these operating units, businesses can deliver a first-rate service to customers without having to develop a sizeable infrastructure, which is invariably slow, difficult, or prohibitively expensive. Our platform also opens the door to a large number of AI capabilities, giving companies the flexibility to automate a wide variety of processes across their business without encountering technical barriers."

Cape Town-based DigiBlu implements robotic process automation solutions. The company becomes Thoughtonomy's first partner in Africa, distributing the Virtual Workforce platform to organisations across a range of sectors on the continent.

"Thoughtonomy's intelligent automation platform will be a real game-changer in Africa, enabling non-African organisations to enter new markets in the region, as well as allowing local businesses to expand their footprint, bringing greater investment and more jobs to emerging economies," explains Steve Burke, CEO of DigiBlu.

"We're hugely excited about the potential of this partnership and see huge opportunities for our clients across a range of sectors, including financial services, logistics and mining, to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution space while leveraging their legacy IT."

Thoughtonomy says its partnership with DigiBlu supports its own strategy for international growth. The company recently announced its move to a 90% partner model in order to scale and expand its operations globally, building on two years of 300% revenue growth.

"With intelligent automation, digital labour transfers from being primarily a cost reduction exercise to becoming a strategic asset, with many firms now looking to intelligent automation to fulfil more strategic objectives, such as compliance, innovation, international expansion and skills shortages," Walby points out.

Human versus machine

The application of RPA and AI into modern business processes is seen as a game-changer for most organisations globally due to their ability to automate repetitive and menial tasks.

However, there are growing concerns that advances in AI and robotics will wipe out many low and medium-skilled jobs across the globe.

According to a report issued by Accenture, titled "Creating South Africa's Future Workplace", around 5.7 million jobs in SA will be at risk over the next seven years due to digital automation and this will have a crippling impact on the country's economic growth.

"In general, the more predictable and repetitive a job, the more at risk the employee is from being replaced by automation," notes the study.

The World Economic Forum, in its recent "The Future of Jobs" report, found that nearly 50% of companies expect automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022.

"However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise," notes the World Economic Forum.

Walby believes Thoughtonomy's Virtual Workforce solution and similar automation technologies are business improvement solutions rather than job-replacement mechanisms.

"Automation isn't always about automating entire processes; it is often about targeting specific bottlenecks within a process. In our experience, only around one in 10 organisations use automation to replace jobs. More often, organisations are looking to automate specific processes or tasks which are time-consuming and often frustrating for existing staff, and instead free up these workers to focus on more strategic and creative work that is of higher business value," he concludes.

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