Monday, 15 December 2014

Internet Of Things(IoT) To Take Centre Stage In 2015

The Internet of Things will not be stopped in 2015. The train has left the station and it is building up a head of steam and will wait for no-one.

The Internet of Things represents a vision in which the Internet extends into the real world embracing everyday objects. Physical items are no longer disconnected from the virtual world, but can be controlled remotely and can act as physical access points to Internet services. An Internet of Things makes computing truly ubiquitous – a concept initially put forward by Mark Weiser in the early 1990s.

Today 50 billion devices are connected to the Internet. Most of us are connected through at least one device, but more than often not, through a number of devices. Now smartphones are being used to control certain functions for us, for example remotely setting your house temperature, activating your alarm, security surveillance. This is just the beginning.

Imagine if connections could be made intelligently with us. Your air-con switched on half an hour before you got home, because it knows it has been a hot day, or the heat comes on because it is a cold day, the fridge tells you what is off... This is the Internet of Things. It is not about things at all, but about connections and this has huge implications for how we communicate.

According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to unleash as much as $6.2 trillion in new global economic value annually by 2025. The firm also projects that 80 to 100 percent of all manufacturers will be using IoT applications by then, leading to potential economic impact of as much as $2.3 trillion for the global manufacturing industry alone.

Technology innovations across computing and communication infrastructures , as well as the things themselves, have converged — after all, the Internet now connects the car, the home appliance, and the office building.

One of the criticisms being levelled against the Internet of Things is that it is being developed rapidly without appropriate consideration of the profound security challenges involved and the regulatory changes that might be necessary. In particular, as the Internet of Things spreads widely, cyber attacks are likely to become an increasingly physical (rather than simply virtual) threat.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Digital Economy in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s average local broadband speed has reached a new high of 6.5 Mbps in the month of May according to NetIndex. Before now, the highest average ever reached was 5.8Mbps. Local broadband speed, loosely explained, is the rate at which one can access internet content from a locally hosted website or app.
This new internet speed ranks Zimbabwe among the countries with the highest local broadband speed in Sub Saharan Africa with only Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Madagascar ahead who have 7 Mbps, 7.2 Mbps, 10.4 Mbps and 13.2 Mbps respectively.

These developments are largely due to the heavy investments that companies like Liquid Telecom and others have done in laying fibre networks across the the country connecting with undersea cable routes. This has brought relatively fast internet and more areas are now set to be connected to the internet.

But what does these developments mean for the economy of Zimbabwe?

It means a digital economy is opening up in the country. A Digital Economy refers to an economy that is based on digital technologies.

The widespread adoption of handheld computers, mobile phones, digital cameras, satellite navigation, embedded sensors and a host of increasingly interconnected devices marks the beginning of a shift towards a world of ubiquitous computing that will ultimately see people served by many thousands of computers.

ICT is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy of Zimbabwe and it is obvious that a greater  number of the population is employed in the ICT industry. If we aggregate the numbers of people employed by all the 3 mobile network operators( MNOs) and the downstream industry of retailing of airtime vouchers cards and other value added services like Ecocash  one can have an insight into the power of a digital economy in Zimbabwe and Africa.

However, if small economies like Zimbabwe are to benefit from this ICT revolution that is currently underway, we need to first appreciate the immense benefits that this sector has to our economy. The results are all there to see in the employment creation capabilities of the ICT industry. It is from this firm understanding that we can give this sector the attention and priority it deserves in policy making.

Having clearly ascertained the benefits in ICT for our economy, we need to ask ourselves one pertinent question that will drive us toward creating the capacity and preparedness to benefit from these revolution. Do we have the skills to tap into the developments happening around the globe with regards to ICT? Indeed, our people now have greater access to the internet. The statistics are encouraging. We now have internet penetration rates of over 50 %, one of the highest figures on the continent. The question we need to ask is, what are the places that Zimbabweans are visiting on the internet? Beyond social media platforms and accessing their emails, what activity do Zimbabweans do on the internet? With the power to access internet, also comes the power to stop at certain places, we are sites. With that ability as well, comes the power to create CONTENT! Beyond Facebook, Twitter, and other new sites that internet users visit, do we see any other meaningful activities from internet users? Zimbabweans will not benefit from ICT developments, if they do not have digital skills that can make them compete in this connected global village. Inasmuch as we laud the developments that have been taking place with regards to internet connectivity in Zimbabwe, these developments will not mean much to the ordinary young graduate who is coming out of college with diminishing prospects of being gainfully employed. However, the only way of giving people the power of the internet is to build skills and capacity that can make it possible for them to create content that can be monetised on the internet.

Indeed, we seem to have gotten it right with regards to connecting people to the internet. What we need to get right Now, is to build ability to be productive on the internet. Much of the content we are consuming on in the internet is not produced in Africa, it is produced elsewhere, notably, USA and other European countries.

How do we get our people to begin to do basic things like creating blogs and start blogging? How do we create mobile application developers in Zimbabweans with Android and IOS development skills? How about animators and filmmakers? Hardware makers? Young engineers who create internet hardware applications? Such is the kind of conversation that we need to begin to have in Zimbabweans in order to have a lot of people joining this bandwagon.

In 2014, we have seen the local technological ecosystem growing especially with coming on board of technology hubs like Muzinda Hub, HyperCube and others. Tech competitions like the ZOL StartUp Challenge are very commendable and we need to build on this backdrop in order to get more people equipped with ICT skills. Notably, Muzinda Hub is running a digital skills scholarship meant to impart digital skills to young people and working on job placements or finding an entrepreneurial opportunity for them. These initiatives need the support and backing of the government to give them the nationwide appeal and momentum to make significant impact in the economy.

Digital economy is here and it is growing and for young Zimbabweans to compete on the global stage they need relevant skills. Now is is the time to join this bandwagon and build digital skills for the 21st century.