Future Telcos and Digital, Cloud and Big Data - convergence, innovation, mobile customers and e-payments

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Media article for South Korea summit on ICT, telecom and digital trends.

The future is about convergence and divergence. The industry trend is for companies, products and services to converge – but many of the most important future innovations in ICT will be divergent: doing things differently to serve customers better.

Firstly we are seeing accelerating convergence on a global scale eg computer software, hardware and mobile companies (Microsoft /Nokia, Google / Motorola). Expect rapid convergence of telcos and banking. Mobile payments are being driven by growth in emerging markets.

70% of all mobile payments take place in the fastest growing economies, mainly in Africa eg m-Pesa, which now handles 33% of Kenya’s GDP. 

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Expect a mobile-based global revolution in banking. Over 1.7 billion mobile users have no access to banking or insurance. Expect at least 400 million of those to access their first banking services in the next 4-5 years using a mobile device. Expect telcos or banks to offer complete packages of free devices, free web access, free entertainment, free calls and so on, in exchange for customers agreeing to replace their bank cards with mobile payments.

We need to think “Beyond Mobile” to embrace the “Internet of Things”: a world where trillions of devices are able to talk to each other, broadcasting and storing information about their location, identity and relationship to other things. Most of these devices will be the size of a grain of sand. They are increasingly part of the clothes we wear, the components inside the products we buy, built into other electronic devices, into buildings, tickets.

We have already seen huge gains in manufacturing, wholesale, logistics and distribution efficiencies as a result. However the biggest prize of all will not be in manufacturing, but in marketing. Combining Big Data to predict what a customer is likely to be thinking and feeling about next.

In a convergent world, every technology ends up looking the same, with a very similar operating system, similar specifications. Convergence can lead to a very boring world for consumers where the only way left to compete is on price – a very dangerous way to try to make money.

All real innovation is by definition divergent: doing things differently to serve customers better. Divergent companies can charge a premium price, if they change people’s lives for the better. But divergent products are usually imitated very fast. Before long, what was unusual and special, becomes common and un-remarkable.  So companies need to go on diverging from what they have done in the past, constantly exploring new horizons.

So where does divergence and fresh innovation come from? Often if comes from being really close to customers: understanding exactly how they often feel and think in different situations.  Divergent thinking is often easier in smaller companies which are able to create the future in radical, fresh ways.

ICT is changing very rapidly as global computer users replace their PCs less often, and migrate to more powerful mobile devices. Tomorrow’s greatest opportunities are likely to be in growth of software to develop the maximum potential from each device, and link the world together in more efficient and effective ways. Expect rapid growth in all products, software and other services relating to security – whether remote storage, or preventing cyber-attacks, hacking and so on.

Expect growing pressures from other countries in Asia with lower labour costs – take for example the opening of Intel’s new $1bn chip factory in Vietnam, where labour costs are half those in China.
While South Korea can expect more companies to outsource to the nation, we should also expect an increasing number of ICT activities to be outsourced from South Korea to lower cost nations. That means that South Korea will continually need to develop more sophisticated products and services, keeping the country as a global leader.

Big Data presents huge opportunities for very smart companies. You do not have to be a big company to benefit from Big Data. For example, if a company stops using their own call-centre system and converts to a Cloud-based system like Sales Force, they can add Big Data information to their customer profiling in just a few mouse clicks.

The truth is that many smaller companies do not need the power of Big Data: they already know their customers much better than most larger companies. They do not have enough customers to carry out the kinds of changes that maybe for example a large food retailer would do, in response to local consumers with different tastes than in other parts of the country.

One of the first places to think about Big Data is on your website if you sell to large numbers of customers online. Take a good look at your web traffic data. Use software like Google Analytics.

Cloud-based computing is radically changing how some corporations are managing ICT – but consumers are years ahead.. Every day they use cloud-based services such as Gmail or YouTube, or Facebook, while the younger generation play cloud-based games within networked communities. The revolution will be huge, but at the same time many corporate boards are growing more anxious about Cloud security.

There has been 600% growth in malicious web links in the last 12 months, and some types of attack have grown 1000 times in India in just two years. We are regularly seeing denial of service attacks on websites where they are being hit by more than 3 gigabytes per second.

Cyber-security has moved from threats by individual hackers, to sophisticated groups, to global syndicates of attackers, to government- sponsored attackers. The truth is that in most companies, their greatest security threats may be internal from staff, rather than hackers. One of the greatest challenges is to make sure that company employees take their own security seriously – eg choosing strong passwords. Cyber security offers huge opportunities for consulting and software companies, as well as for manufacturers of firewalls, remote data storage, automatic backup, disaster recovery and related services.

Privacy I think it is really important that all ICT companies understand how sensitive the issue of privacy can be.  For a start, we have a moral duty to protect personal information from being disclosed to others in ways that customers or staff find worrying or upsetting.  This can sometimes affect how we use Big Data. Some customers would be horrified if a website message started revealing all the different things you already know about the person – which maybe led to a particular advert being displayed.

Need a world-class digital disruption keynote speaker? Phone Patrick Dixon now or email.

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