Beyond connectivity: The role of business leaders in Africa’s digital evolution

Posted by Flux on 

6 February 2024

As the digital evolution accelerates, business leaders have a crucial role in propelling tech transformation beyond connectivity. They must adapt swiftly to avoid falling behind.

This was the main topic at the recent Business Day Dialogue, “Connect Africa”, in partnership with Open Access Data Centres (OADC).

In 2023, SA led the world in internet access, with 72.3% of its population online, according to 

Bronwyn Williams, guest keynote speaker, futurist, economist and business trends analyst, emphasised the importance of control over a business’s digital message and infrastructure, and the dangers of service denial, such as economic green-lining and deep-stack denials.

To retain control and take advantage of the internet of things, businesses need data sovereignty.

Pointing out that artificial intelligence (AI) presents a challenge but is the baseline for business competitivity in an edge-based economy, she said businesses must rely on third-party help to use it effectively. 

“The internet is no longer where you go,” she said, “It’s more like you swim in it.”

Technologies in the metaverse will one day transform the 3D virtual world into reality.

The education system in SA will have to change from rote learning to learning how to access information on demand, how to distinguish between true and false, and how to attain individual sovereignty.

“We need to work together to be sovereign as a society” said Williams.

[AI] a natural shift in the third age of digital transformation, enabling seamless connections between end-point computing and the internet of things

Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Open Access Data Centres

OADC CEO Ayotunde Coker said AI will a key part of the digital future.

“It’s a natural shift in the third age of digital transformation, enabling seamless connections between end-point computing and the internet of things, by using interconnected data centres to provide fast, reliable connectivity to the point of content consumption.”

Coker said the West Indian Ocean Cable Co, Africa’s digital backbone, has landed Meta’s 2Africa subsea cable at the OADC core data centre in Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu-Natal, offering SA a huge increase in international capacity and the promise of more reliable internet.

At present, there are four core OADC data centres in SA and more than 30 edge data centres.

AI has presented businesses with significant opportunities, and co-location gives the opportunity for business agility and a pivot to leverage emerging technologies.

“We make tomorrow happen today,” said Coker.

Sayuri Moodliar, environmental, social and governance (ESG) director at OADC, advised businesses to integrate ESG into their business strategy and use their sustainability performance to create competitive advantage.

She highlighted that when companies use co-location facilities, such as OADC’s data centres, this reduces the need for them to allocate resources for data centre operational complexities such as ESG compliance, energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, regulations and information security certification.

The fact that OADC does all the hard work towards this compliance makes it easier for its clients to scale and thrive.

On the issue of Africa-specific challenges with regard to the “S” in ESG, Moodliar said the focus in Africa is on socioeconomic development at a very basic level. 

This includes providing information and communication technology skills for the youth, who are the continent’s biggest resource. An effective way to achieve this is through community programmes that offer skills training with the goal of employment once completed.

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