Digital transformation in Africa

Posted on January 28, 2017 12:02 am

African countries digital transformation policies which will help drive the continent towards cloud services and platforms, and the transformation into digital transformation for the private sector are major factors behind IT spending growth. Data shows banking, healthcare and manufacturing are the main sectors driving higher IT spending in Africa, as businesses try to utilise IT and innovation to support consumer behaviour and adopt their system into digital transformation, so that they are able to connect with their customers and provide new products and services to support new customer experiences. The way Africans work is evolving, the adoption of new technologies and innovation, this has brought a lot of attention to apps and technology that connect users, information and devices.Digital transformation is one way to raise Africa’s competitiveness in a global economy. Across the continent, there are innovation packages promoting the adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing.The endpoint of this journey is to minimise inefficiencies and streamline work processes for overall organisational improvement. In my view, African countries having the growing capabilities of technologies like cloud computing and big data is not enough to effect the benefits of digital transformation. However, if capability is harnessed in line with the needs of the business that digital transformation is beneficial for producing lasting change in Africa.No doubt that with the current surge of cloud uptake, it is essential for firms in Africa to direct their use of the cloud towards business objectives. Cloud capability is wasted if it is not used to meet business criteria.

African organisations need to internally outline their business purpose for moving onto the cloud and how it streamlines business inefficiencies. It is up to each business to leverage these resources for the business to improve operations.For transformation to take place, a clear direction is critical. African organisations driven by increasing critical applications, must have a central vision in order to progress based on the capabilities of applications and ensure these application services are efficient and secure. It is also important to have infrastructure that supports the delivery of these applications. In my recent research I found that more than half of all organisations greater than 15 employees in East and Southern Africa are using public cloud to some degree for their IT infrastructure. Selecting the right provider and the level of service is fundamental to supporting any cloud efforts. Although it looks obvious, the foundations of cloud activity is in the infrastructure and ability to adapt and provide for business objectives.Digital transformation will help African countries attain macroeconomic scale over the next few years, changing the way enterprises operate and reshaping the African economy. In this new economy, enterprises will be measured by their ability to hit and exceed a whole new set of demanding performance benchmarks enabled by cloud, mobility, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, and the digital transformations fuelled by these technologies.Already, African countries are seeing massive shifts in enterprises’ demand for technology as firms use it to transform the way they develop products, engage with customers and run their businesses.More and more enterprises will see the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally enhanced products, services and experiences. I expect digital transformation will shift to an entirely different scale of macroeconomic scale as many companies generate more than half of their business from digitally transformed offerings, operations, and supplier, distribution and customer networks.In effect, every growing enterprise will become a digital native.

Also, I foresee a situation where IT projects will create new digital services and revenue streams that monetise data.In Africa, information transformation is one of the key factors for success. Information transformation is the focused approach to extracting and developing the value and utility of information relative to customers, markets, transactions, services, products, physical assets and business experiences. Data becomes true digital capital. The monetisation of data will drive the need for an enterprise-wide information architecture and maturity in analytics. There’s also a growing appetite for customer-support interactions which are being digitalised and occurring in online communities. For example in South Africa and Nigeria, customer support and service has become a part of brand experience rather than just a service. With an increasing proportion of the African population actively using social media, I think its correct for me to expect more organisations to interact with customers through social and online communities.Online customer support helps solve customer problems, but it also improves brand image. Going forward, African organisations will use IT to integrate existing customer services and support systems, like integrating pre-built connectors, mining the community for insight to customer behaviour, and proactively solving any emerging issues.  In the process towards digital transformation, disruption in Africa is inevitable. In overhauling old processes there are upheaval in the adjustment period where new, unfamiliar technologies integrate with everyday work processes. From my personal experience, I see a scenario where the middle ground will involve a dependence on an agile hybrid IT infrastructure equipped with resources and skills capable of processing information. This need for highly available, secure, real-time social intelligence stems from the advent of IoT driven intelligence and creates the demand for a suite of application services to reside with the apps.

IoT is a connected fabric of users, devices, apps and data, promises compelling benefits in our personal lives and business environments. Inevitably, technology will need to keep up with these developments and become ever more sophisticated in the Digital era.Africa as a whole is becoming more reliant on the cloud and applications, leveraging them both to drive customer engagement, improve productivity and increase revenues. The extension of integrating technologies into the workplace is for this to spill into other aspects of life, as existing technologies are leveraged for other uses.Some African cities are already implementing their smart city program with smart lighting and parking sensors and Nairobi is said to have IoT sensors to collect data on temperature and light. The expansion of technologies is never limited to a single industry or process.IT organisations will definitely commit to multi-cloud architectures driving up the rate and pace of change in IT organisations. African enterprises are migrating from traditional IT to cloud platforms, which have been commonly ranked as the most important technology gaining pace across the continent. The deployment of cloud technology has already impacted African businesses not only in terms of cost benefits, but also in operational efficiency, quick deployment of functionalities, and scalability.Am also of the view that over-the-top also known as OTT linear TV, subscriber growth will drive a traditional pay TV overhaul via cloud migration.The growth of video infrastructure and enabling technology solutions will be the key. I expect incumbent pay TV providers to compete more aggressively with the evolution of streaming multiscreen video applications, and to continue to execute on multiscreen strategies not only with TV streaming extensions of traditional services, but also by launching of new OTT only services.  Technologies are used in greater numbers with more diverse methods of use, ever more creative developments are made and this benefits the possibilities of digital transformation as a whole, as technology only becomes more relevant for a digitised Africa.

Contador Harrison