By Mervin Miemoukanda, senior research analyst: Software and Market Intelligence in Africa at International Data Corporation
While businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa have steadily been adopting 3rd Platform technologies such as cloud, mobility, big data analytics and social business, there has now been a shift in focus towards the uptake of innovation accelerators. These innovation accelerators are disruptive technologies that enable companies to enhance the way they engage with customers and deliver services and experience, as they move to transform their business operations.
At IDC, we define the core innovation accelerators as the Internet of Things (IoT), cognitive systems, 3D printing, robotics, next-generation security and augmented or virtual reality. The adoption of these solutions varies significantly across the region, but already South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are emerging as early adopters. Discussions with CIOs in the region show that market awareness is increasing, which has translated into a wide range of exploratory activities to evaluate their viability.
Interest in innovation accelerators is growing
Public sector entities in the region have been leveraging ICT to address service delivery challenges. The Presidential Digital Transformation of Government programme in Kenya, for example, has prioritised the launch of a national digital registry, a citizen service portal and a government shared services up, with the objective to expand eGovernment services to half the Kenyan population in 2017. These efforts are resulting in government investment in 3rd Platform and advanced IoT technologies.
Smart cities are also a potential driver for adoption. Many governments in the region have undertaken highly ambitious smart city projects, such as Konza Technology City in Kenya and several smart city projects in South Africa. Innovation Accelerators figure prominently in such projects, particularly IoT technologies, with some municipalities already using IoT to improve traffic flow, reduce accidents and crime, and thus helping to boost tourism and better market their cities as smart choices for foreign investment.
In the private sector, businesses looking to transform their operations, improve customer experience and devise new business models are deploying innovation accelerators to achieve that. Already technologies such as IoT, wearables and drones are being adopted across different verticals. One example is the short-term insurance industry where insurers reward customers with lower premiums if they allow them to track their driving behaviour through telematics.
What is holding wide-spread adoption back?
High connectivity costs, coupled with low-quality telecom networks and limited network coverage continues to prohibit the widespread adoption of IoT in some Sub-Saharan African countries. Ineffective data protection regulations are also a major challenge in certain countries in the region and security remains a concern, particularly where innovation accelerators that share content and data across multiple platforms are concerned.
The high cost of hardware is another limiting factor, as the slowdown of many economies in the region has resulted in organisations reprioritising their IT spend and only making minimal investments in IT infrastructure. Other major hindrances include a lack of regulations or stringent laws, especially regarding drones, limited awareness, unreliable power supply and data privacy regulations.
Where to from here?
IDC believes there is a need to educate both customers and partners about innovation accelerators as many people in the region are still trying to understand the concepts behind them, particularly when it comes to cognitive systems and virtual reality. Vendors must also invest in application development skills and in skills development programmes for partners that will market innovation accelerators.
With the cost of augmented reality and robotics so high, vendors will need to showcase the total cost of ownership and return on investment of these technologies. Furthermore, they need to lobby governments to create regulations that support the uptake of innovation accelerators.
Finally, in terms of next-generation security, partnership and ecosystems will be key to providing a compelling value proposition and customer security teams must be confident that they can guarantee acceptable levels of risk to business operations when deploying disruptive technologies.