Information security has rightfully taken center stage position in 2021. World Cyber Security Summit, Africa edition, kicked this off by assembling Africa’s largest cyber security intelligentsia, sharing key insights and providing analysis on the continent's response. South Africa’s cyber security response saw the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the Cyber Crimes Act further securing cyberspace in line with coordinated global efforts.

Understanding the awareness and readiness of South African companies, Zoho together with WorldWideWorkx released a new study that surveyed 448 businesses on benefits associated with adhering to privacy laws and how organizations can accrue greater benefits with an increased focus on privacy.

To capture the intentions behind this research exercise, we sat in conversation with Andrew Bourne, regional manager for Africa at Zoho.

Q&A with Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager for Africa at Zoho

📷 Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager for Africa at Zoho.

iAfrikan: You have a background in wakeboarding, what athletic passions are transferred in your technology passions?

Andrew Bourne: Going from a beginner wakeboarder at age 14 to coming 19th in the World Wakeboard Champs at age 18 taught me what it takes to become one of the best in a sport or industry. I transferred that same thinking to business and technology.

This is what I focused on: Research the subject, educate yourself, ask questions, get advice from others, practice a lot, analyze how you are doing, and keep improving.

This is how I have amassed the skills that I have today which enables me to advise and consult with businesses across the world on technology. I spent years researching various business technologies and Zoho's portfolio of applications kept coming out on top. I joined Zoho in December 2019 and am so proud to be part of this incredible company.

When Zoho talks about not having an ad-revenue model in its products, explain how in app ads, compromise security and/or reliability?

Most likely, in-app ads track your activity. If you see an in-app ad, it is possible that the ad is sharing your personal information, as well as your activity, with the advertising company. It could be your browser history, or the medical information that you may be providing to the free app. If the company that stores your information is hacked, or a data breach occurs, your personal information may be compromised and shared with criminals. This has happened quite a lot before.

In 2018, Zoho experienced phishing violations that resulted in Zoho being taken offline. How has the security culture within the organization changed since that incident?

Zoho takes security very seriously, and builds it into its products from the beginning and not as an afterthought. That has been Zoho's culture for 25 years. In 2018, Zoho's then domain registrar Tierra Net had blacklisted the domain based on three phishing complaints, of which two had been resolved and one was under investigation. This was done without prior notice by an automatic algorithm. The issue was resolved within an hour, though it did impact a few businesses in the US. Zoho immediately moved to another domain registrar after this experience. You can read more about what happened in this blog by our CEO here

With POPIA coming into effect on 1 July 2021, how does Zoho South Africa plan to enforce POPIA compliance?

The regulator will be responsible for enforcing the law, and we will see how they enforce it from the 1st of July when it comes into effect. At this point, businesses must interpret the law to the best of their best of their ability until the regulator begins enforcing the law, judgements are made, and precedents are set.

Are you able to explain how the adoption of privacy laws by businesses could help them become more successful?

As we’ve seen, the majority of people do not want to be tracked and value their privacy. Businesses that provide privacy to their customers will have an advantage over their competitors who don’t. Businesses must now prioritize providing exceptional customer experiences that build customer trust and loyalty. As a result, these customers become the primary brand custodians for your business, and will be encouraged to recommend it to their friends, colleagues and business network.

Zoho is headquartered in India and USA. In becoming more competitive and robust on the African continent are you planning to increase physical capacity on the continent. For example: building more data centers on the continent?

Yes definitely. We are in the planning stage of a data center for South Africa. We are busy setting up a local office in Cape Town, South Africa which will be ready to move into in the next few weeks. We are hiring local staff to support our local partners and customers. We are also going to set up local offices in Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt.

Apple's ecosystem model was challenged in court by Epic Games citing anti competitive tactics. Zoho follows an ecosystem model, comments & opinions on the impact of this case on your business model.  Do you anticipate your clients wanting more open source solutions, cross platform solutions?

Zoho is very open source, we have a large marketplace of integrations and extensions with third-party technologies. We also have a developer platform that allows developers to build extensions and integrations with third-party technologies.

The iOS 14.5 Privacy Update allows it’s users to decide if they want to be tracked or not. 13% said Yes, they are happy to be tracked, and 87% said No, and opted not to be tracked. If this trend of people not wanting to be tracked, and it makes targeted marketing harder, what should businesses focus on going forward?

It is very important for businesses to prioritise implementing  place technology that allows them to harness the data they do get from customers, and make sure they surpass their expectations and provide a superior customer experience. You want your customers to return. This is possible with the use of a good CRM application, as well as a support desk application, and other CRM integrated apps so that all customer information is accessible in one place, allowing your colleagues to provide a seamless customer experience.

Remember to make sure the technology you’re using is secure, and that it doesn’t share your company’s or customer’s data with third parties. You can confirm this by looking over their privacy and security policies, which you should do on a regular basis. At Zoho, we prioritise the security of all our customers’ data, and provide a number of security features in our apps to help them do the same.

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