It’s hard to imagine life without connectivity – both in our personal lives and especially in business. It enables collaboration between co-workers in different cities, opens up opportunities to new markets, and gives us access to applications that make many processes more efficient. Just as the introduction of technology like steam power and machine automation led to exponential leaps in productivity at the turn of the 19th century, the Internet has led to increased productivity in this century. Mckinsey estimates that the Internet accounted for 21% of the GDP growth in mature economies from 2005 to 2010, and research shows that the Internet promotes development by lowering transaction costs and overcoming information problems.
If these are the benefits that economies and societies are already experiencing, it’s exciting to think about what connectivity could do for us in the future. Now that we have the technology to make universal connectivity a reality, we should be focusing our efforts on making that happen. Studies show that a 10 percentage point increase in high-speed Internet connections is correlated with a 1.3 percentage point growth in GDP, and doubling a country’s Internet speed could lead to a 0.3 percentage point increase in GDP.
This means that it’s not just about connecting as many people as possible to the Internet, but making sure that those connections are high-capacity, high-speed connections. Connected buildings are a key part of the future of connectivity, and as they become more mainstream, businesses will be able to reap productivity and efficiency benefits. As engineering, architecture, and tech firms design new buildings and retrofit older shells with smart features, better connectivity will enable IoT, cloud, and AI applications.
What this means for small businesses
When connected buildings become the norm, business parks and offices will be fibre ready. This means that all businesses – big and small – will be able to benefit from instant access to connectivity. In this future, there will be no need for lock-in or unnecessary inflexibility via contracts; it’s a world where online ordering leads to plugging you in to an existing fibre network in minutes.
What does this mean for small businesses? For starters, it removes one of the many barriers to entry for new companies to get off the ground, making it easier for them to compete with existing organisations. As the Internet enables new business models that rely on connectivity, once connectivity is secured, we’ll start to see entrepreneurs really take advantage of decreased transaction costs, better access to information, and network effects. Businesses like cloud kitchens, low-cost insurance, remote health services, and inclusive agricultural platforms couldn’t exist without connectivity, and innovation will only increase as access becomes universal.
Connected buildings also allow businesses to be more flexible. Small businesses will have the ability to move premises at any time – just plug and play without worrying about business being disrupted while you wait for your fibre line to be installed at your new location. Mitigating Internet disruptions is good for business and the economy. Deloitte estimates that Internet shutdowns ordered by public authorities cost medium Internet connectivity economies $6.6 million per 10 million people per day.
Fibre-backed buildings mean that start-ups won’t be held back by low-quality connections. High-speed Internet access opens up opportunities to tech solutions that incorporate IoT, cloud, and AI. Think connected sensors that can help manage stock more efficiently, cloud applications that monitor employee wellbeing, or logistics software that optimises productivity. Previously, only large businesses may have had the resources to harness these technologies, but with low-cost, high-quality Internet, the cost of fibre will no longer be a deterrent.
With the UN declaring Internet access a human right, many people are realising that online connectivity is just as important as other services like water or electricity. Now, a digital presence is as critical as the physical equipment people need to run their core businesses. It should not be treated as an afterthought, but should be up and running from the time you open your store or business.
The role of Internet providers
As we see this future materialise, choosing the right connectivity partner will be essential. Just as businesses add capacity for stock, staff and equipment as they grow, their Internet capacity needs to be scalable too. Your growth should never be hampered by initially choosing an Internet provider that cannot scale along with you.
Find a partner that offers you future-forward advice or services. Caps, limits, and fair-use policies belong in the past – the future is always-on, unlimited Internet. Soon, your customers will expect wireless access points that they can use to stream content, buffer free, while they wait. Will you be able to improve their overall experience and your competitive advantage by providing that?
With connected, fibre-ready buildings, we can expect increased productivity, agility, flexibility and scalability that will enable frictionless growth. Providers that understand where we are headed and support this journey are the first step towards a digital-first future.
- Matthew Campbell is Head of SME and FTTH at SEACOM