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INTERVIEWS
By 26 January 2018 | Categories: interviews

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TechSmart’s senior journalist Ryan Noik (RN) had the opportunity to delve into the current economic and technological shift that digital transformation has caused, in an indepth and enlightening interview with Nick Watson (NW), the vice president of Ruckus, EMEA.  

RN: What is your view of how today’s economies have shifted? Was any of it foreseen ahead of time and what has been most surprising in these shifts?

NW: Technology has changed everything, from how consumers consume information to how businesses are run. This has had an impact on economies around the world which have become more interconnected, more volatile and more transparent.

Change inevitably leads to change and while shifts where identified and predicted, no one could have anticipated the speed of change. People who have been making market calculations misjudged how quickly people would adopt to technology. They also underestimated that change, how quickly the environment shifts and how those familiar with technology, would make decisions much faster than before. There is a generational gap – and to move forward, we need to transform a few traditional economies.

RN: Can you elaborate on how digital transformation is both disrupting/destroying old business models and creating new opportunities in industries? What is critical for companies to do to be on the right side of this polarity?

NW: Digital disruption is not new. Right from the dawn of the internet, people have been using technology to benefit business, augment an existing model and or disrupt an industry. The only difference today is the speed of change.  For those that are open to change, coupled with strong ideas, technology is opening up new opportunities and new ways of doing business.

The retail industry is a prime example of a traditional industry that has changed. Physical stores complemented by online stores gives the best of both worlds to a fast changing industry.  Additionally, the ability for consumer to interact with goods in a tactile manner is boosted by convenience aspects such as online shopping and delivery. From the retailers’ perspective, the combination of warehousing and store/manufacture to order is also being automated through internet technology. And rather than fighting change, technology is not destroying the industry,  but rather making it more pleasurable and competitive.

For business to be on the right side of this polarity, they need to be open to change. They need to accept that no business model lasts forever. As the new generation becomes the customer, businesses need to understand that they adopt and buy in a different manner. What’s more, to truly understand the change and engage, the business workforce should reflect who they are selling to. And very importantly, don’t underestimate the pace of change, rather be flexible enough to move with it, rather than against it.

RN: What is your view on smart cities in Africa? Is it something we can expect to see but only to a limited extent, or do you believe the continent will realise the full promise of smart cities in the near future?

NW: With the rise of smart cities, the need for connectivity has never been so vital as now. As cities get smarter, they recognise one fact of life right away: any old Wi-Fi technology isn’t going to cut it. Smart city applications demand a wireless network that can deal with tough issues like complex meshing in outdoor environments. One that can communicate with thousands of different devices — smart and dumb alike — simultaneously and one that delivers superior performance for every user, even in high-traffic areas like convention centres, airports and busy downtown shopping districts.

And Wi-Fi is playing a major role in making it all happen. On-boarding millions of connected devices needs to be simple, seamless and secure. Users need to be able to connect to the Wi-Fi from anywhere automatically, without having to constantly re-enter credentials. And no matter how large the smart city deployment grows everything should be able to be controlled easily and centrally from the cloud.

To put this into context: When government departments work as a unit and break away from seeing their functions separately, but rather as one, steps can be taken to improve services provided not only on a consistent basis, but also to ensure better management of sudden natural crisis, such as flooding where emergency personnel can be dispatched quickly to save lives.

In 2018, we anticipate the larger cities to roll out some sort of smart city initiative to improve efficiencies and driver wider connectivity. The technology is available, it’s more of a case of local government comprehending how to really bring budgets and departments together, and someone needs to boldly take this role.

Watch out for Part 2, in which Nick Watson explains the critical role that connectivity is playing to digital transformation.  

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