South Africa
August 20, 2016

WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS EXPLORE THE POTENTIAL OF VIRTUAL REALITY

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are becoming relevant to offerings of business entities, particularly SMMEs. This was the novel theme explored during an event held for Women Business Owners (WBOs) and local stakeholders. WEConnect International in South Africa was hosted by the team at the Tshwane Interactive Digital Centre (Tshwane IDC) in Pretoria on 11 October 2016. The event included presentations and was attended by 24 WBOs from Johannesburg, Midrand and Pretoria.

Opening the event, Jean Chawapiwa, Executive Director of WEConnect International in South Africa, said, “These are incredibly exciting technologies. This event is all about considering how we utilize them as tools to grow our different business enterprises.”

Tshwane IDC’s MD Dave Lockwood contended that the value of VR and AR applications to Africa lies in the potential of the technologies to achieve effective learning and aid decision making, and overcome language and literacy barriers. He cited real-life examples of how learning in various spheres had been effectively achieved through their varied projects in different parts of Africa. These projects were done in collaboration with local experts to use VR for the introduction of beekeeping, marketing of honey, optimized agricultural practices, and improved sanitation, all of which are now in place. “The resultant impact in terms of local economic development, sustainable farming, and improved health and well-being, is testimony to the effectiveness of the technology in helping to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.   “These technologies are now also available and accessible as applications via smart phones which are becoming ubiquitous.” Tshwane IDC is collaboration between the City of Tshwane and EON Reality Inc. of the USA, and focuses on education, training and industrial development.

During his presentation, Joe Cheben of EON Reality Inc. emphasized that VR and AR applications are limited only by the imagination. “The potential of these technologies is particularly attractive to young people and as we all know, our young people are the future,” he said. His presentation illustrated a number of existing applications of VR and AR in industry and manufacturing, particularly the ability to assist the so-called smart worker, education, development of devices and  training in the medical field, healthcare, architecture and regional planning, marketing, multimedia journalism, tourism, the automotive industry and retail.

Delegates had the opportunity to engage with the presenters during a tour of the Centre, which allowed them to put questions to and test their innovative ideas against the presenters.  Several WBOs expressed an interest to explore VR and AR with the Tshwane IDC in more detail to enhance their business operations and offerings. Jean said, “It was amazing to see the enthusiasm among delegates as synergies emerge between various business interests and offerings of WBOs, and the opportunities presented by VR and AR.”

Jean Chawapiwa, Executive Director of WEConnect International in SA | jchawapiwa@weconnectinternational.org | +27 836606586