Technologies Forecast to Impact Africa the Most

Smart city frameworks, IOT and low earth orbit satellite systems – the technologies Gartner says will have a transformational impact on businesses in Africa within the next ten years, and also drive spending.

This is extrapolated in Gartner’s 2019 ICT Hype Cycle, released today by the company, which identifies 24 key technologies and describes how they will impact business performance in Africa during the next ten years.

Gartner said seven of these technologies have entered ‘the slope of enlightenment’ and are climbing toward the plateau of productivity, and thirteen will mature within the next two-to-ten years, and “have a transformational or high impact on businesses.”

Speaking ahead of the market research and analysis firm’s IT symposium/Xpo in Cape Town in September, Jeff Mann, research vice president at Gartner said when it comes to these technologies, the company generally describes them as “low moderate high transformational” meaning that the impact will vary from low level (impacting some users) to high impact (affecting all employees and creating new areas of business).

Mann reflected on Gartner’s 2019 ICT Hype Cycle said IT spending continues to rise in Africa alongside the maturity of technologies locally. “Generally, it is in line with the impact overall of technology and the role that it plays in operations. As organisations are looking to become more digital businesses, where the impact of technology generally has a bigger impact on what most of the businesses are doing. Across the board, we will see top-line spending increasing.”

He continued: “For example, cloud office has entered the Plateau of Productivity this year. Companies in Africa have made the move to cloud because of general preference e for cloud deployments, but also because of the desire to reduce costs, redeploy IT staff, drive simplicity and provide more functionality to users.”

The plateau of productivity is one aspect of the structure of the Hype Cycle said Mann. “So, when it reaches the plateau of productivity, basically that means it (the technology) has arrived. It is understood, it’s doing what it is supposed to do, nobody is really talking about it anymore … it is just there.”

Gartner’s research backs up the notion that the hybrid cloud model is gaining momentum in the Africa market – but specifically for highly customised applications. “We do see quite a bit of hybrid, not so much with email, but we do see it with a lot of other kinds of applications – particularly things that are highly customised, like Sharepoint or if you build applications, it’s difficult to move those things into the cloud in many cases. So that’s a common model that we see people doing hybrid. We’ll also see it for physical network access reasons.”

Bandwidth issues and legacy infrastructure is also driving up adoption of cloud services across the continent. Interestingly, issues like security concerns around cloud migration and data sovereignty have diminished as reasons to invest in hybrid.

Smart city development

Gartner researches list smart city development as an area of significant transformational business impact in the next two-to-five years – influenced by the advent of strategies to manage urbanisation.

“Smart city frameworks will have a transformational business impact in the next two to five years as cities in Africa apply diverse strategies to accelerate the development of smart city frameworks based on traffic, social and safety issues,” said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president at Gartner. “In many countries, citizens are moving from rural areas into cities, and urbanisation strategies are key to supporting the increasing infrastructure needs, and to aid the urbanisation growth both on a demographic and business level.”

Mann said when it comes to smart city initiatives need to be rolled out with a local context. “There are lots of opportunities, some of them are going to work, some of them aren’t – because these things are naturally innovative, means that they are new, means some of them are not going to work, or work as expected the first time round. So sometimes it requires a bit of patience and to learn from the experience.”

According to Gartner Cape Town is investing heavily in wireless communications not just as a growth engine for the city’s financial, manufacturing and tourism industries, but also to create new jobs and build an entrepreneurial base for people.

Johannesburg is using electrification, water management, traffic and green strategies to provide sustainable urban growth.

As part of its smart city/smart country strategy, Sierra Leone is planning to use a data visualisation system that collects and manages data through blockchain and other sources in order to understand rural and urban infrastructure and development trends.

“The impact of a smart city framework on businesses in Africa will be driven by the ability for public and private companies to automate and deliver better service experiences, as well as by how well citizens feel recognised in their desire to innovate their city and how safe their data will be,” said Tratz-Ryan.

Satellite systems

While low earth orbit satellite systems are an emerging technology, they have reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations and will have a high business impact in the next five to ten years in Africa.

“This technology is important for African countries as satellites can cover all remote or underserved geographies, providing the broadband connectivity critical to operating in remote areas in Africa,” said Bill Menezes, senior principal analyst at Gartner.

Low earth orbit satellites can provide global broadband or narrowband voice and data network services to regions with little or no existing terrestrial or satellite coverage.

According to Gartner, organisations with current or planned business interests in remote or underserved areas in Africa should closely follow the development of these systems. They should also align narrowband and broadband connectivity requirements that cannot currently be met in targeted areas (such as backhaul from remote cellular phone towers) with emerging low earth orbit satellite technology capabilities and service availability.

IOT hype

Gartner added that the hype surrounding the IOT has decreased from the highs of 2016 through 2018.

IOT will reach between 5% and 20% of its local target audience and is set to have a high business impact in the next five to ten years.

“Organisations in Africa continue to address cost, complexity and scaling challenges implementing IOT-enabled business solutions,” said Alfonso Velosa, research vice president at Gartner. “Some noticeable challenges include security concerns, end-to-end integration complexity and a large number of start-up vendors that will have trouble surviving the Trough.”

According to Gartner’s 2019 CIO Survey, 24% of CIOs in Africa ranked the IOT as a game changer for their organisation.

IOT is an opportunity rich market, especially in manufacturing and retail, for example said Mann, but it’s a market made for tinkerers.

“It is not necessarily going to be a top-down big deployment. A lot of the breakthroughs in IOT are going to come from engineers or students who get a ‘raspberry pie’ device and start to find something cool to do with it. And that’s why I think it has a lot of potential in Africa, you know, there’s a lot of that. You don’t necessarily need a huge investment, you need skills and access to some tools, but it doesn’t need a mammoth investment.”