Africa trailing on digital transformation

Africa needs to do much more to exploit its potential in the fourth industrial revolution say business leaders.

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In an evaluation of the continent’s ability to respond adequately to digital challenges and opportunities, Edward Agostinho, Consulting Systems Engineer in IOT and Digitalisation at Cisco said Africa is still lagging behind.

“When we look at the US or even Europe and compare the type of innovative projects in IOT for example, we do not have that rapid force of innovation happening in Africa that we would like to see. In Europe the guys are starting to connect roads by putting sensors in them to understand the conditions on the road. They are putting down infrastructure that is already enabling vehicle-to-vehicle communication. We’ve got a little bit of catching up to do, although there are sectors where we are doing well like mining, where we are leading, but it is not the same in other areas.”

Agostinho said a holistic approach is needed if businesses on the continent are to leverage digital opportunities.

“There is no one single person that a business can partner with to roll out an IOT solution. Usually somebody develops sensors and another is good at connection and somebody else is good at applications. Even in the applications space you may be using multiple people like Microsoft Azure, but then you are using IBM for analytics et cetera. You’ve got this ecosystem that you’ve got to put together. I don’t see a lot of the African CIO’s embracing this ecosystem because they usually go to a single person who can provide a portion of the solution. They’ve got to look at this ecosystem to provide end-to-end solutions.”

Mining potential

Johan Pistorius, Chief Information Officer at African Rainbow Minerals Limited agreed that mining could be ahead of other sectors in adopting digital technologies, although progress in that field is also slow.

“Mining is not going to change very much in the near future. We see a lot of technology challenges and the adoption thereof. Whereas in the past we could plan for three or five years, it is now difficult to plan for six months. We need to optimise how we deal with our resources and there is some technology going into that. In broad terms yes it is true that mining is changing heavily, with the adoption of things like drones and various other technologies. That is why we partner with various technology providers – because we know mining, but we are looking to them to provide us with packages that can help to change the face of mining going forward.”

Thinus Mulder, Chief Executive Officer of Dark Fibre Africa stressed the relevance of a viable business case.

“I think there should be a viable business case when you plan this digital transformation and it should add value either to your own business or to your stakeholders, like your customers. I think that is crucial as well as being able to transform while you operate.”

In its FutureScape: Worldwide Digital Transformation 2018 Predictions, the International Data Corporation (IDC) stated that global digital transformation spending will reach US$1.7 Trillion worldwide by the end of 2019, a 42% increase from 2017.

Shawn Fitzgerald, research director for Worldwide Digital Transformation Strategies at IDC said this prediction represents the latest thinking on the key programs, technologies, and processes needed to achieve success in the digital economy as more companies are embracing and engaging their enterprise transformations.

“While we are seeing more companies becoming more digitally capable, there is a widening gap between leaders and laggards, with significant implications for those organisations that cannot make the transition to a digital-native organisation.”

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