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Telcos in quest for new revenue streams

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Although voice revenues for telecom operators – fixed line and mobile – are expected to increase in Africa over the next five years, alternative revenue sources are urgently being considered by telcos, some of which will be addressed at the upcoming AfricaCom 2015 work sessions.

How to harness data and whether big data can be successfully monetised by operators, will be a pivotal discussion at ‘New Revenue Streams’, an addition to the AfricaCom 2015 line-up.  Matthew Reed, Principal Analyst at Ovum, noted recently that mobile data revenues in Africa are expected to almost double over the coming five years, rising from about $10.8bn in 2014 to $20.9bn in 2019. This figure also includes the shift towards digital service offerings from the operators to consumers and enterprise alike.

Supporting this premise and adding fuel to the data burning, is the emergence and rapid adoption of new character-based languages, such as Emojii.  From pen pals, to email and now to graphic engagement, the world of communication is changing.  This is also good news for African MNOs as these graphic lingos are catching on fast, aiding social inclusion with their easy-to-understand representations and subsequently boosting data traffic across all income groups.

However, data continues to be expensive in Africa and in order for fixed line and mobile network operators to remain profitable for the foreseeable future, diversification of service and product offerings, has to occur.  For this reason, topics at the ‘New Revenue Streams’ session will also include: Opportunities for revenue from the Triple Play Model as well as the role that Machine to Machine (M2M) services could play in Africa – how the technology works, what business models and what standards would need to be agreed on and implemented for device to device communications to succeed.

Discussing the various opportunities that are currently available and even those of the future, are numerous industry achievers.  Included in the line-up is Rapelang Rabana, founder of Re-Kindle Learning – acknowledged by the World Economic Forum as Entrepreneur for the World – who will share her insights as to how learning and mobile can be combined for revenue and social enhancement.

“As the digital economy evolves, telcos have a unique opportunity to play a more active role in the ‘advancement’ of society and, global enterprise” commented Julie Rey-Gore, Research Director for Com World Series.  Indeed, Telcos are integral and influential to many aspects of our connected lives ranging from media and information, to trade and finance as well as education and healthcare.  As such, an increasing part of this ‘ever on’ segment is the growing ‘Wearable Device’ market and its influence on digital retail.

Globally, Wearables are currently valued at approximately USD 8 billion and are predicted to grow to between USD10 billion – USD 12.6 billion by 2018 as we march towards singularity and a brain-computer interfaced society.  For Telcos, owning a slice of the connected living market is an opportunity not to be ignored, consequently this will also be debated during the session on Wednesday 18th November, day two of AfricaCom 2015.

Other notable organisations taking part in the discussions on this day will be: Malawi Telecommunications, Zamtel, Airtel Africa, Procera Networks, Wananchi Group, NEC Corportaion, BCSG, Huawei Technologies and BTCL. 

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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