December 03, 2020

The digital future: Trends that will shape the ICT industry in 2021

By Steve Briggs, Chief Commercial Officer at SEACOM

“Unprecedented” has undoubtedly become the buzzword of 2020. While COVID-19 caused a global economic slowdown, it was also a catalyst for – though not the sole cause of – rapid digital transformation.

Here are some of the big developments that I think we should be paying attention to as we move into the new year:

New kinds of connectivity

The introduction and roll out of 5G is expected to transform any industry that relies on connectivity – and not just mobile connectivity. While 4G can only transfer around 1 GB of data per second, 5G has the potential to improve this a hundredfold.

The global economic potential for 5G is expected to create $13.1 trillion worth of revenue as well as 22 million jobs by 2035. Combined with SEACOM’s continued investment in subsea and fibre infrastructure, Google’s new Portugal–South Africa undersea cable, as well as Elon Musk’s Starlink low Earth orbit satellites, connectivity has the potential to bridge the digital divide by providing universal Internet access to communities across our country.

The future of cloud and edge computing

Improved connectivity is good news as we embrace remote work, but now’s also the time to be investing in cloud infrastructure. Currently, the cloud is being pushed to its limits, and is expected to grow by 41% within the next two years. Cloud technology enables improved and secure communication, remote collaboration, and streamlines various business processes with effortless scalability.

Edge computing is also bringing information processes closer to where they’re needed. More cloud hosting services will be putting their physical servers closer to customers, improving connectivity speeds and customer experience. For African countries that rely on European servers for many cloud services, this will be especially significant.

Privacy and cybercrime

As digital transformation continues, so will the commodification of personal data. Many companies have been fined heavily for leaking user data, like Equifax. While these fines are often a slap on the wrist for tech giants, privacy concerns will continue to be a priority into 2021 for individuals and businesses.

Additionally, businesses will have to take steps to protect themselves and their customer data against cybercrime. If organisations want to avoid seeing themselves in a brand-damaging headline, they should make 2021 the year that they take digital security seriously. SEACOM’s enterprise security offerings are a good place to start.

The rise of intelligent technology

Artificial Intelligence, automation, and machine learning are indisputably laying the foundations of a digital future.

AI-optimised manufacturing has led to greater efficiency in outputs and product quality, while reducing waste. The same effects can be seen in agriculture as it helps analyse farm data, raise yields, and reduces costs of labour. AI is also transforming healthcare as it is becoming an increasingly reliable tool for research and data-analysis.

While many people may think AI will take jobs away, it is more likely to become a tool that people will use to complement their work, and could allow them to focus their skills on tasks that are less menial and repetitive. AI is not going away, so businesses should be looking at ways to harness its power in 2021.

A brighter tomorrow

Though 2020 was a difficult year, it has accelerated digital adaptation and transformation. Partner with SEACOM and let’s move into 2021 with smart strategies in place so that we are ready to grasp the opportunities that better connectivity, cloud computing, and AI will provide.