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There are very few players in the tech space who don’t have their eyes on Africa. With its fast-growing economies and reputation for adapting existing new technologies in new and innovative ways, that’s hardly surprising.
But what technologies should people actually be getting excited about? And which ones are are simply over-hyped?
A fairly good indicator can be found in Gartner’s African Hype Cycle. While the technology research company does note that companies trying to grow their business operations throughout the continent must understand the local market conditions within each country, it does highlight some interesting points of commonality.
Africa is emerging in terms of the deployment and use of communications infrastructure. According to Gartner, spending on end-user communications services in sub-Saharan Africa will grow steadily in the next five years, and reach $71 million in 2019.
Gartner says that the largest group of enterprise solutions likely to experience “growing pains” as the ecosystems mature and expectations exceed performance centres on payment. It includes digital wallets, retail mobile payments and direct communications service provider billing.
This is apparent, for example, from the aftermath of the hype surrounding the launch of the Apple Pay service last year. Global adoption of contactless transactions and NFC-enabled mobile payments has been slow, whereas SMS-based solutions have had better adoption in India and parts of Africa. Consumers’ lack of enthusiasm for retail mobile payments (mainly due to security concerns) and the unwillingness of large, multichannel retailers to invest in mobile payment processing infrastructures have put this technology almost in the Trough of Disillusionment. Mass global adoption is five to 10 years away.
Of the 35 technologies on the Hype Cycle, 13 will mature within the next five years and have a transformational or high impact on businesses. Of those, some will enable new ways of doing business across industries, such as bimodal IT operations.
“The mobile telephony revolution that has transformed connectivity in Africa will continue to evolve, with further penetration in the next two years coming from ultra-low-cost mobile devices. The revolution is also drawing investors to mobile learning (m-learning), as this helps promote the evolution of mobile usage in Africa,” says Mbula Schoen, senior research analyst at Gartner.
Through 2015, emerging smartphone apps (such as augmented-reality viewers, smartphone e-book readers and scriptable mapping tools) will offer new delivery platforms for educational content.
However, platform differences will impact m-learning delivery technologies on smartphones for the remainder of the year. For example, technology-neutral content delivery tools, such as HTML5, may not have matured enough. Certain types of innovative apps may evolve more quickly on more open platforms, such as Android, which impose fewer technical and commercial restrictions on developers.
In addition, the continued proliferation of connectivity in semiurban and rural parts of Africa could represent a powerful force to narrow the “digital divide,” one of the biggest social issues in Africa. This goal will be addressed, in part, by Advanced Underserved Area Comms consisting of non-traditional communication systems like high-altitude balloons, airborne drones and very large constellations of small communications satellites, for regions underserved by terrestrial or conventional communications satellites.
Image: Andrew Smith via Flickr.