[Column] Habib Mahakian: Technology is the accelerator that will lead businesses across Emerging Africa into the digital future

We are well into 2021 and are already seeing that organizations across Emerging Africa are investing in technology as an accelerator to fuel socio-economic growth and business success. It’s clear that innovation has been a key contributing factor to sustaining some of our most vital sectors and the sheer speed and scale at which digital transformation took place and supported entire industries as they adapted has been remarkable. Technology took the spotlight; keeping businesses open, students in (virtual) classrooms, social lives connected, and essential services flowing.

Technology as an enabler

Last year we were reminded of the force for good that technology can be – providing a glimpse of what is possible now and, in the future, and we have learnt that a digital future will be a central pillar within our societal evolution. If harnessed effectively, tech will continue to lead global efforts to support recovery, playing a pivotal role in enabling governments to ‘build back better’ for the long-term.

As businesses across Emerging Africa design and implement recovery strategies, it is not surprising that across the board we are seeing a real emphasis on technology, connectivity and bridging digital divides. Today, we are seeing the positive impact of digital transformation – with remote working, online education, digital banking services and tele-medicine becoming the norm. In fact, digital transformation is at the heart of national digital strategies in major African countries, with ICT powering socio-economic transformation.

However, ccontinuous digital transformation is not easy, with many businesses facing entrenched barriers to transformation as they navigate their future.

Staying connected is key

Many countries across Emerging Africa, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola and more, have a high number of internet users, vibrant e-commerce ecosystems, large youth populations and diverse digital banking and financial inclusion policies. In order to leverage and drive growth across these sectors and others, it is crucial for government and businesses to harness the transformative power of ICT. Connective technologies will support the roll-out of digital services, keeping organizations, businesses and public sector services operating efficiently. This is underscored with a focus on connectivity in recovery planning, setting out to improve internet access and preparing for bandwidth connectivity.

Another key element is the potential of technology to make a meaningful impact in education and youth skills development. As a growing number of students are exploring careers in computer science and machine learning, we are seeing a large, untapped pool of talent who want to pursue careers in ICT. Furthermore, the digital skills gap must be closed to build the digital workforce of the future.

Keeping up the pace of innovation to account for major shifts

As countries across Emerging Africa, continue to push forward with their efforts for a diverse and digital economy, organizations must continue to accelerate their digital transformation plans as three major shifts are expected to dominate the business and IT landscape.

1.         Cloud adoption is no longer a nice to have, it has become a necessity

Investments in cloud operating models that span public, private and edge environments will continue to grow, enabling rapid scale and management of IT everywhere, with the security and visibility organizations need to keep their data protected. In fact, in conversations with our customers in the region, one thing is clear. Many have already begun their cloud journey or are currently in the process of implementing cloud-based technologies. Moreover, for many businesses, the increasingly diverse cloud landscape is resulting in an enormous amount of IT complexity and having a multi-cloud strategy that unifies environments and reduces risk, will be the way forward.

2.         Data protection and business resiliency planning is critical

In today’s always-on economy, businesses are under pressure to enhance their cybersecurity strategy. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020 ranks cyber-attacks as the second risk of greatest concern to businesses in the coming decade. As the tools of the Darknet become more sophisticated and accessible, cyber-attacks are increasingly borderless – taking advantage of jurisdictional constraints of regional authorities. In cyber-security, new threats and vulnerabilities appear at break-neck speed, so, as new technologies create opportunities to innovate, we’re seeing more large-scale data loss and the rise of ransomware attacks – so business resiliency planning is key to survival.

3.         Work is an outcome, not a place

In 2020, we experienced work as an outcome, not a place, and this mindset is here to stay. In addition, in many countries across Emerging Africa, businesses are using remote working as one of the partial solutions to address connectivity challenges, address the needs of millennial workers and to encourage women to be part of the workforce while having flexible careers.

As the future of work continues to be a hybrid model, businesses will need technologies that drive business continuity and collaboration – all at reduced costs. As a result, businesses may find that consumption and ‘as-a-service’ solutions on-premise will help – particularly with economics and the short turn-around they have been faced with. For example, ‘Virtual Desktop Infrastructure’ (VDI) provides secure, high-performance access for critical users while the ‘Hybrid Cloud’ can scale data-centre resources.

In conclusion

With the tremendous push for recovery and businesses to remain successful for the long-term, ICT will be key drivers of progress in accelerating the digital transformation agenda across Emerging Africa. It is simply a matter of choice – do organizations want to wait and fall behind, or do they want to be the digital disruptors of the future?

Habib Mahakian is the Vice-President – Emerging Africa, Dell Technologies.

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