Thought leadership
    28 May 2019

    William Mzimba

    Building a Gigabit Society

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

    In 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 has unlocked mobility, connectivity and digital innovation. This growth and evolution is a testament to the capabilities that can be unlocked by harnessing the energy and momentum of the transforming world. With this feat, comes the opportunity to truly unlock a Gigabit Society.

    The ability to be always connected, always-on and transact at the point of need instantaneously, demonstrates Africa’s unique innovation. In the Vodacom Group context, that speaks to over 110 million connected customers – 43 million of which are in South Africa. Mobile network operators now have the ability to connect people to what they need and love. 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.

    Gigabit societies are unconfined – they live in a world of possibility and the reality of 1950s sci-fi movies. Here, societies, clusters and nations become a collective of like-minded persons or corporates linked by a need to excel, learn, operate or exist. Ivy League university experiences are no longer confined to hallowed halls; learning has become a universal right. Every individual, regardless of age, is motivated to evolve. It’s this dynamic that has inspired Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis, James Cameron and Richard Branson – the restless doyens who challenged the status quo and lived in the paradigm of ‘good to great’, abundance and convergence of exponential technologies.

    Africa has harnessed that opportunity, germinating unlikely next-generation graduates. Women have become farmers and, ultimately, entrepreneurs supporting global giants that simply buy tea leaves. The previous reliance on teachers solely for educational excellence has been removed. Children in Southern Tanzania, previously illiterate, learn to speak two languages within 18 months via tablet-enabled learning; healthcare logistics and supplies are now managed end-to- end from point of need into production facilities, and mobile wallets have brought buying power into township domains, enabling remote spazas. As an unlikely Gigabitor, Africa has been enabled in unprecedented ways.

    While autonomous vehicle usage still has a way to go, there are other high-impact areas yet to be fully explored. Areas such as Gigabit Offices, Gigabit Homes and Gigabit Clusters – university campuses, industrial parks and small city zones. The list goes on to include Gigabit Districts that have spawned gaming development domains in KwaZulu-Natal, Amazon Developer Communities in Cape Town and have given the Stellenbosch Digital and Biotech Incubation gravitas.

    Enabling digital transformation

    With the availability of fibre-based Gigabit internet systems – which comprise of a higher capacity internet that transmits data faster – Vodacom Business is ushering in the Gigabit Society, introducing it to SA’s government as well as the business community. Doing so will enable them to embrace the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is fuelled 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 (IoT) and cognitive technologies such as computer vision and machine learning.

    These also live in a platform economy. The value of 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 experience 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 economically and intellectually. They are functional; they deftly identify issues, look for solutions, execute fast, learn from failures and move forward. It is this type of interaction that takes for granted the connectivity and interoperability of systems.

    Enabled societies live in the process domain of getting things done smarter, better, faster, and this is where Vodacom exists.

    Gigabit Societies are ushered in by

    • 4G/5G – Fixed and Mobile broadband, bringing low latency, super-fast speeds, superhighways 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 that build unlikely partnerships and collaborations, creating Vodacom’s ecosystems that span our planet and beyond, across industries, geographic boundaries and normal business disciplines.

    For more info on Vodacom's service and offerings, visit Vodacom Business online today.


    William Mzimba