Digital transformation is crucial to ensuring that South Africa thrives in an age of mass disruption. That disruption is taking place across a variety of industries but also presents major opportunities for those willing to take them. That was the message from the Huawei Connect Summit, which commenced today.
This year’s event, themed “Dive into Digital”, explores how digital technology can better integrate with business scenarios and industry know-how to address critical business challenges, and how stakeholders can work together more effectively to foster an open industry ecosystem and drive shared success.
“So many organisations around the world have recognised the value of digital transformation and are moving ahead at full steam,” said Eric Xu, Rotating Chairman, Huawei. Technologies like 5G, AI, and cloud are here already. And although these technological underpinnings are essentially the same for everyone, there’s no one path to get there. We still have a long way to go before we reach true digital transformation.”
“You can’t have digital development without digital technology, and you can’t have digital technology if you don’t keep innovating and creating new value,” he added.
In this regard, Xu pointed to the work Huawei is doing in a number of areas. Its native cloud service is, for instance, the fastest-growing in the world. Its artificial intelligence (AI) clusters, meanwhile are helping drive adoptions. Huawei’s helping organisations transform their networks into what it calls autonomous driving networks – networks that run themselves. It also recently set up a subsidiary called Huawei Digital Power that will focus exclusively on powering low-carbon development with digital technology.
All of these technologies have the potential to benefit South Africa.
“We believe that new growth opportunities have arrived – innovative technologies are increasingly being used in more industries and diversified ecosystems are driving a more dynamic market,” said Spawn Fan, CEO, Huawei South Africa. “Digital technologies are becoming an important measure to increase effective investment and stimulate the development of the digital economy.”
Explaining how Huawei is working to help players in both the public and private sectors, he pointed out that, “the fundamentals of digitalisation are connection technologies represented by 5G, all-optical communications and IoT, and intelligent data represented by technologies such as cloud, big data, and artificial intelligence.”
“Investing in digital transformation generally holds the potential to establish a foundation for interminable entrepreneurship and business dynamism, towards establishing South Africa’s digital economy,” said Acting-Director General of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani.
“We believe that by partnering with stakeholders from the private sector we can together firmly establish technologies such as cloud computing in our digital economy for the benefit of our people,” she added.
Acting-Director General of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani.
The acting DG also revealed that the department has been entrusted with rolling out the government’s National e-Government strategy, “which aims to better enable government, through scalable digital platforms that deliver superior services, which will interface between government and its citizens, government to government, as well as government to business, and government to employees.”
The goal is to have these digitised, automated services rolled out by 2024.
Two organisations that have experienced the benefits of digital transformation first-hand are BCX and the Gauteng government.
“If you look at what happened during the pandemic,” said BCX CEO Jonas Bogoshi, “a number of organisations started implementing digital solutions which were primarily around business continuity and was also a cost takeout because they were under siege. But over time, a number of organisations have implemented digital solutions.”
According to Bogoshi, there are “three plus one” important pillars for digital transformation.
“The first one is automation,” he said. “The adoption of robotic process automation (RPAs) has gained momentum. The reasons for this are clear: Getting the machines to focus on repetitive, mundane jobs and letting humans focus on strategic jobs just makes sense.”
The other pillars, he said, are cloud (and more specifically, multi-cloud) and cybersecurity (where he emphasised real-time active monitoring). The final, “plus one”, consideration is “to humanise technology.”
“As you embark on this journey, don’t start with technology in mind, start with the human being in mind,” he said.
But digital transformation isn’t just helping private sector organisations better serve their customers, it’s also helping governments better serve its citizens.
“As a provincial government, and with the help of Huawei, we are trying to digitise the province,” said Khuliso Muthivhi, Chief Director – Gauteng – eGovernment. “We have, for instance, rolled out Thusong Centres, which are equipped with WiFi and designed to help ordinary citizens access government services digitally and apply for jobs online.”
“The future of digital transformation in South Africa is bright,” he added. “We will be able to connect clinics, hospitals, schools, and libraries with technology to ensure that they’re in the best possible position to serve their customers.”
“Digital transformation is a long-term process that won’t happen overnight. Fortunately, the tech sector is more dynamic and vibrant than ever,” Xu concluded.