While growing its presence on communication platforms geared for the variables demanded by its membership, over the year under review the SA Canegrowers Knowledge and IT Management team have focused on not only accurate, timeous and increased communication with its members, but on safeguarding its intellectual capital through the effective use of South Africa’s protection legislation. The team has also paid particular attention to safeguarding all the association’s grower member information through diligent compliance with the law which is designed to protect the privacy of the country’s citizenry. SA Canegrowers has a long and illustrious history in its contribution to South Africa’s agricultural economythrough research and development projects, innovation, training and funding all aimed at supporting its substantial and diverse membership community. With this in mind, the organisation has moved to legally protect the integrity of its story, its corporate branding and knowledge capital for the sake of competitive advantage and in the interests of posterity.
To effectively represent the interests of any grower, SA Canegrowers has recognised that it is key to reach out and communicate with the community using a diversity of languages and platforms. Most service providers take for granted in this time that technology is ubiquitous, that the internet is everywhere, and that everyone can be reached on email. However, the socio economic reality of many rural farmers in South Africa is that poor infrastructure and high data costs makes it difficult to receive communication. Ensuring that growers receive information in a language that is accessible to them is a challenge that SA Canegrowers has addressed and met since its inception. Enterprise-level Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software platforms are prohibitively expensive and, coupled with the cost of on- demand translation services into isiZulu, isiSwati and Afrikaans, such a system would ordinarily remain beyond the reach of an organization on the scale of the SA Canegrowers. SA Canegrowers has stepped up to the challenge by working with a startup software developer to set up a system that enables us to account for each of our individual members. Combining this with local knowledge provided by our regional staff across the 14 mill areas means that we are able to communicate with our growers via SMS and email in their preferred language. For the first time, growers are able to receive information in real-time, in a language that is accessible to them, on a mobile device. In leveraging this type of technology and information, SA Canegrowers also recognises that it needs to maintain a strong focus on safeguarding grower information and complying with legislation that protects the privacy of our individual growers. Most prominent among these are South Africa Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Maintaining the confidentiality of grower information remains a guiding principle for SA Canegrowers in line with its fundamental values statement. Since its inception, our CRM system has continued to expand its role in the organisation. Accurate records of growers by area have enabled us to match growers to government support and has been indispensable to the roll-out of the SA Canegrowers Funeral Benefit Scheme for small- scale growers. The enhanced communications offered by this system has enabled the organisation to increase the range and scope of its impact in the sector while continuing to reduce the costs associated with delivering this level of service.