With the African ICT sector viewed as a vehicle for economic growth, TechSmart Business spoke to Dimension Data’s Basha Pillay about the challenges and opportunities facing enterprises in the coming years.
It should come as no surprise that a strong and stable ICT sector is one of the key drivers in ensuring that South Africa, and Africa, develops and matures economically. Compared to their global counterparts, Africa as a whole has been less aggressive in creating ICT-focused strategies. With a renewed focus in this area, it’s important for enterprises to negotiate their respective country’s obstacles in order to avoid stifled growth. To gain a better insight into what these issues may be, TechSmart Business spoke to Basha Pillay, head of technology for end-user computing at Dimension Data. Part of Pillay’s role lies in working closely with enterprises and pulling together all the aspects of end-user computing from the device to connectivity.
The influence of connectivity
When looking at the current climate within South Africa’s ICT sector in relation to the rest of Africa, Pillay was quick to point out that our country, along with a number of tier one nations, stands at a relatively mature state and has shown a “healthy rate” of growth. Pillay believes that this level of maturity is a result of technology being so heavily entrenched into businesses in these regions today that from a strategic perspective, “essentially every business is a digital business.” As connectivity becomes increasingly more pervasive and affordable, other African nations will also reap the benefits, with Pillay noting that exponential growth tied directly to the adoption of cloud and mobility-based technologies will only intensify. “Part of this growth is due to pure necessity and we are already seeing countries leap-frogging each other on the adoption of more recent technologies purely due to the lack of traditional infrastructure,” he said.
Pillay added that as a result countries like Nigeria, Morocco and Angola, do have pockets of ICT maturity in the financial services and telco sectors, but that they are still well behind others. He went on to state that this is mainly due to legislative issues that hamper accelerated progress for the ICT sector.
While identifying the key drivers pushing the focus of the ICT sector, Pillay asserted that cloud services along with mobility will both play “major roles” in accelerating the development of ICT growth. However, he also warned that there remain issues surrounding the dependency of enterprises on more inclusive regulatory laws, which could still stifle sector growth if handled incorrectly. It is at this stage that enterprises and government bodies have to work more cohesively. “This can be effectively managed by creating a standards and compliance approach across Africa to ensure that we are able to service this market properly,” he said.
As far as the main challenge facing ICT sector growth goes, Pillay believes it centres around a somewhat limited infrastructure. An example of this, is the laying of undersea cables within the African region, which often only serves the cities they have landed in, with the required infrastructure for technologies like cloud-based services not having worked its way inland as yet. Another hindrance according to Pillay is the restrictive in-country ICT policies and the large cost of ownership for ICT infrastructures.
Dimension Data is one such service provider aiming to ensure ICT growth both locally and across the continent, with Pillay highlighting three key areas of the company’s focus. The first is affordable access to bandwidth, something its subsidiary, Internet Solutions, is hoping to address through new innovative products to offer low-cost to free internet connectivity across South Africa. An example of this is the recent announcement of 500 Gbps super-channels to provide ethernet services to its clients across the country. Next is limiting the high cost of ownership, which Dimension Data is able to negate with its major investment in cloud, mobility and virtualisation. Lastly is the development of skills and experience, with Dimension Data partnering with a number of NGOs and tertiary institutions to provide an ICT-focused graduate programme. As development of the ICT sector gains momentum through increased cloud and mobility solutions, there are still some growing pains to negotiate. If these are well handled by enterprises and governments alike, the potential growth down the line can provide a great deal of sustainability for the continent.
Article first published in TechSmart Business (July 2014)