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SA slips in global ICT index

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Falling lower down the World Economic Forum (WEF) global information and communication technology (ICT) rankings is becoming an annual occurrence for South Africa, writes GARETH VAN ZYL.

The WEF this week released its Global Information Technology Report  2015 which contains its Networked Readiness Index (NRI) ranking. This ranking measures 143 economies in terms of their capacity to prepare for, use and leverage ICTs.

The index uses factors such as the political and regulatory environment, infrastructure and digital content, usage of ICT as well as economic and social impacts to calculate the overall NRI ranking.

And South Africa has slipped five places to 75th, meaning that it is now third in Africa behind Mauritius (45) and Seychelles (74). SA is wedged between Seychelles and the Philippines on the ranking.

In contrast, Mauritius has been climbing up the NRI ranking. The country has leaped from position 55 in 2013 to 48 in 2014, and now position 45 this year.

The gap between South African and other African countries is closing. Kenya, for example, has jumped six places to 86 on the index this year. Meanwhile, South Africa is also lagging far behind the top five countries on the NRI index which comprise Singapore (1), Finland (2), Sweden (3), the Netherlands (4) and Norway (5).

“Despite a score unchanged from last year, South Africa loses five positions to settle at 75th place in this edition. The country’s overall political and business environment remains one of its strengths (31st). In contrast, the general state of ICT readiness remains very low (102nd), the result of the poor quality of ICT-related infrastructure (85th), notably the limited international Internet bandwidth (128th),” reads the report.

“The cost of ICTs in South Africa is also a drag (107th). Nonetheless, individual usage has further increased with a 10-place jump to reach 68th. However, government still lags behind (105th), earning very low marks in terms of online services provided to the population (82nd). Overall, the potential of ICTs has not been fully unlocked. Their social impacts have not yet materialised, and they have not significantly improved access to basic services (101st) or facilitated citizens’ e-participation (88th),” adds the report.

However, the report has noted that Africa’s performance overall on the index has been “particularly disappointing” as 30 countries on the continent included in the sample appear in the bottom half of the NRI rankings.

Even Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, dropped seven places on the ranking to position 119.

ICT experts in South Africa have weighed in with their views on South Africa’s diminishing position on the NRI ranking.

Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of technology research company World Wide Worx, said SA is stagnating in the global ICT stakes.

“The new rankings confirm our contention that the South African government, regulator and parastatals have put the brakes on ICT development, particularly through their failure to license spectrum that is required for high-speed mobile broadband, inability to finalise digital TV migration, and unwillingness to open up fixed-line broadband,” Goldstuck told Fin24.

“The South African government’s ability to deliver in ICT has been examined, and has been given a ‘fail’ mark. Only the continued investment by private enterprise has prevented it from falling even further down the rankings,” said Goldstuck.

Adrian Schofield, director and vice-president of the Institute of Technology Information Professionals South Africa, also highlighted government’s failure to spark ICT development.

“It comes as no surprise that SA is continuing to fall down the global rankings,” Schofield told Fin24.

“The ANC government has – with few exceptions – consistently failed to grasp the opportunities arising from the adoption of technology, with the principal failure being the abysmal disaster of the move to DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) and the related lack of real broadband access for the majority of the population.

“Only a complete change of attitude in the DTPS (Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services) – and the removal of the DOC (Department of Communications) from this policy arena – will reverse the trend. We have all the policies we need but we are lacking the

will to implement those policies,” Schofield said.

Fin24

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http://www.fin24.com/Tech/News/SA-slips-in-global-ICT-index-20150415

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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