Technology is an amazing thing, for many it’s miraculous, and once enjoyed, the benefits are hard to give up. Ten years in technology is a long long time. Many are predicting a technological utopia that will bring solutions to many of the problems the world is experiencing right now, with big data, the internet of connected everything, and new advanced gadgets fixing many of the ills facing society at present.
The reality will most probably be far more mundane. Technology will race ahead and many will benefit. Overall, the next 10 years will bring massive advances, but they will be unevenly distributed and affect different countries and regions in very different ways.
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Five key areas will be worth watching:
1. The Internet of Things or everything
The internet will connect most things by 2025, these connections will be between people and people, machines and machines, and even dumb objects like roads and bridges will send info to huge data centres globally. The usefulness of all this connectivity will not be fully realised with some benefiting more than other. Africa will still be behind the curve on this front thanks to issues with basic infrastructure.
A great example is autonomous cars. Google recently reported that its test autonomous vehicles have driven over a million miles without incident. An autonomous car is basically a mobile artificial intelligence or AI, they are here now, but will they be the norm in 2025? It is highly unlikely for many legal, moral, and philosophical reasons that autonomous cars will take over in the next ten years.
Just because technology can, does not mean it will.
Despite predictions that there will be more than 100-billion connections by 2025, business and society will still be moving slowly into the internet of everything.
2. Connections everywhere
Moore’s law shows little sign of stopping any time soon, processing power is growing exponentially with intelligence moving from the data centre to the edge. Connected devices will become smarter much more interconnected by 2025.
Many mundane tasks will become more fully automated and most of us will be able to focus on analysis and thinking rather than executing in many of our day to day tasks. Processing power will revolutionise technology with smart-everything connecting to smarter-everything making many tasks simple and automatic. Processes and people will not keep up and much will change. Most things will however remain the same.
3. More people will have access to the internet at far higher speeds, except in emerging markets
According to Staistica around 83% of the world uses the internet and 52.4% use mobile phones. Both categories are expected to grow close to 100% by 2025. With the vast majority of connections being mobile rather than fixed. In April 2015, the number of Google searches on Mobile exceeded fixed searches in the USA for the first time. The net result is that there will hardly be anyone not connected by 2025.
The key will be the quality of the connection and usefulness of that connection. The challenge for emerging markets and particularly Africa will be the huge infrastructure deficit that will not be fully closed by 2025. Whilst most of the developed world will be connecting at over 1 gig a second Africa may still be struggling to get past 100Mb a second on average.
The overall usage in emerging markets will still be fairly basic on average, with special services for emerging low speed territories dominating, whilst other more advanced services will exist outside. The internet of thing will have a very different flavour in low bandwidth versus high bandwidth areas.
4. Augmented reality and virtual reality
Many technology companies are racing toward a science fiction world of virtual or at the very least augmented reality. This will be far more pervasive by 2025, but won’t reach quite the heights of mobile phone ubiquity. More likely it will be used for very specific uses such as training or medical research, and most definitely gaming. Don’t expect Google glass style eye-wear on everybody. Handheld and wrists worn devices will still dominate, however interfaces will have advanced to embrace gestures and voice far more completely.
Virtual surgeons will become commonplace due to these advances in connectivity and virtual realty, and this will have a huge impact on less developed regions such as Africa. We may see some advances in combating cancer and other dread diseases but 10 years is not a long time in medical research. There is a low chance that we will have 3D printed hearts and lungs regrown to order.
5. Big data and the big data centre in the sky
Call it perfect information coupled with massive computing power and you should have the answer to everything. Bring on artificial intelligence, AI, and what problem can’t be solved. Well that may well happen in some distant future, in the next 10 years the combination of points 1 to 4 — along with massive computing residing in smart agile data centres globally will bring fundamental changes to all aspect of our lives. From medical treatment to weather prediction.
What won’t change for Africa, and much of the developing world, is the rate that people can actually benefit from these advances. Basic infrastructure will need to be rolled out, such as housing, water, electricity, and some form of high speed connectivity. Coupled to that the emerging populations will need to be educated to use and hence benefit from all these innovations.
Technology can’t feed the cattle or water the plants, but it can help to predict drought and move resources to where they would be best utilised.
Big data lays the foundation for this and will make huge strides in the next 10 years. The changes will filter down and invade all aspects of life on the planet. It will however take far longer to reach an even spread and bring some form of technological parity to the worlds least advantaged people.
In short everything will change, yet much will remain the same, especially in Africa. Civil servants globally will continue to fail to serve, governments will remain less that spectacularly efficient, and current generations will fail to use the advances for many good and fundamental reasons. Smart cities and countries will emerge, and the benefits will be tangible, just don’t expect the technology to solve it all in the next 10 years.