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By William Mzimba, Chief Executive for Vodacom Business

2019 is illustrious, it signals 25 years of transformation for South Africa and the digital transformation brought about by this milestone tenure.

Over the last 25 years, the South African telecommunications industry has enabled the country to transition from 2G network technology, which enabled voice-only communication, to 4G network technology, which unlocked mobility, connectivity and digital innovation.

This growth and evolution is testament of the capabilities that can be unlocked by harnessing the energy and momentum of the transforming world. With this feat, comes the opportunity to transition into an era driven by greater technological capabilities.

This opportunity that has been harnessed by Vodacom, which has its sights set on being a driver of this digital era, introducing technological innovation at even faster rate throughout the African continent.

Vodacom Group, which has over 110 million connected customers, 43 million of which are in South Africa, has enabled its customers to connect to what they love and need. This ability has, in turn, broken down the physical barriers of urbanisation and rural communities. It has enabled the transition from voice-only connectivity to endless, data-driven, possibilities.

In turn, consumerisation has driven down the cost of data, which, when coupled with connectivity speed increases, has enabled new business models that can challenge regulatory boundaries and break down previous governance-heavy barriers to entry.

With the availability of fibre-based Gigabit internet systems, which comprise of higher capacity internet that transmits data faster, Vodacom Business is ushering in the Gigabit Society, introducing it to South Africa’s government as well as the business community. Doing so will enable the country to embrace the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This society would essentially be fueled by 4G/5G network technology, which brings with it fixed and mobile broadband, low latency and super-fast super-highways and byways, secure cloud, the convergence of technologies such as social media and mobile, robotics, the Internet of Things, and cognitive technologies such as computer vision and machine learning.

These technologies also live in a platform economy. The value of the platforms is exponential, but it’s not only the tech platform that we have to think about. We have to think about a bank, a telco or even a retail company becoming a platform. We’re building these platform economies that allow us to orchestrate our entire ecosystem and integrate our experiences and expertise into a solution that brings the producers, suppliers and consumers together so that they can exchange value on these platforms.

Gigabit Societies are simply richer, both intellectually and economically, and are ushered in by:

  • 4G/5G – Fixed and Mobile broadband, bringing low latency, super-fast speeds, super highways and byways to secure the Cloud, manage cross-applications and drive predictive analytics on traffic, things (anything on the edge) and big data.
  • Convergence of technologies, such as social media and mobile, robotics, IoT and cognitive technologies resulting in computer vision, machine learning, genomics and nano-enabled devices – this where the leverage between intellectual property and internet protocols becomes blurred and where Vodacom has a market lead.
  • Platform Economies, where you see Vodacom delivering music, gaming, video, supply chain management and financial services such as Mobile Wallets, VodaPay, Banking, Insurance and Lending. This exponential capability has seen Vodacom engage 1.2m small-hold farmers, 1.1m patients managed online, 12,000 schools enabled by eTextbooks and eLearning/Teaching support, 1.25m assets managed, 2.1m social grants paid out to beneficiaries and 4,000 Healthcare Clinics brought into mainline medical streams. This is a world where GDSP connections are added daily and exceeded 4.5m at our last count.
  • Exponential Technologies, which build unlikely partnerships and collaborations, creating Vodacom’s ecosystems that span our planet and beyond, across industries, geographic boundaries and normal business disciplines.