Happy New Year one and all! I thought I would kick off the year with my ‘3 Things I’ll be watching in 2016’. Note – these are my things to watch! I’m not necessarily claiming them as new trends to watch (some more than a lot of coverage over the past years) but more what has piqued my interest recently and where I am seeing momentum gathering. Please do add your own list in the comments, I would love to hear what everyone else will be following over the next 12 months!
- Emerging market mergers. A wave of mobile operator mergers has taken place in Europe with key examples seen in Germany, Ireland and Austria, sparking much discussion around the need for emerging markets to follow suit. It’s no secret the mobile industry is facing uncertainty given the changing dynamic of the market (arguably this is primarily down to the OTT players but also an oversaturation of market players). A slowdown in revenues has been recorded over the past few years in Europe and mergers have taken place with the aim of facilitating increased investment in networks and services driven by greater economies of scale. With emerging markets tendency to follow developed market trends as they reach maturity, we are already starting to see examples of mergers taking place. In 2005, Chilean operators Telefonica (T/A Movistar) merged with (acquired) BellSouth and today is the market leader in both mobile and fixed line. In 2013, the merger (takeover?!) between Ugandan operators Airtel and the struggling Warid saw the country go from 5 to 4 operators in an attempt to compete with market leaders MTN. Two years on, the results of the merger are still shaky but this does not stop predictions that mergers will be required to sustain business. In fact, in the five years from 2009 – 2015, the GSMA reported that one-quarter of operators with less than 5% market share exited that market. The GSMA stating that remaining operators will find it “hard to justify investing in new technologies unless they pursue a merger to obtain greater scale”.
- mGovernance and eGovernance. The world is becoming more socially aware with technology being the gateway to information and the key driver of collective change. Never before have citizens had more access to knowledge about their rights, or a platform to discuss, connect and demand change. Whilst this has been happening for many years now, I predict the increase in m/eGovernance tools and services will increase exponentially over the next 12 months and will keep on growing. 2015 saw Souktel and the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) to launch the first-ever (and sadly quite timely) mobile phone based legal information service for Syrian refugees. Syrians to send legal questions via SMS at any time to Turkish lawyers who offer real-time advice via secure SMS channel (watch out for an upcoming blog on the service!). Leveraging digital identity technology, 24 million eligible Tanzanian voters were biometrically enrolled for the 2015 election in October with GenKey’s Biometric Election System. This involved identifying a voter by their fingerprints, iris, voice, etc., and registering these voters in the Permanent Voter Register (PVR). The system allows the government to enrol and identify millions of voters quickly and with a smaller risk of mistakes, minimises election fraud and making the voter identification process more efficient.
- India. Speaking of governance…..2015 saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi launch the Digital India programme to create a “participative, transparent and responsive government” and turn the country into a “digitally empowered knowledge economy”. Some of the proposed impacts include:
- 400,000 Public Internet Access Points;
- Wi-Fi in 250,000 schools, all universities and increased public Wi-Fi hotspots for citizens;
- Digital Inclusion: 10.7M trained for IT, Telecom and Electronics jobs;
- Increased eGovernance & eServices;
- India to be leader in IT use in services with a focus on health, education, banking.
Current initiatives include DigiLocker, The Centre of Excellence for IoT and the Electronics Development Fund (EDF) – to name but a few. And with 22 new initiatives launched on December 28th alone, the programme looks set to live up to its hype and will definitely be worth keeping an eye on in 2016!