Africa must invest in infrastructure that will ease the process of digital transformation, said South African Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Dr Siyabonga Cwele, at the recent GE Africa Digital Day held in Johannesburg.
GE customers, partners, global executives and local government representatives gathered to discuss and share knowledge about Africa's industrial challenges. GE estimates investment in the industrial internet of things (IIoT) is expected to top $60-trillion during the next 15 years. Industrial data is growing twice as quickly as data in other sectors and it is estimated that more than 50-billion assets will be connected to the internet by 2020.
However, Africa still faces many challenges that need to be addressed before the continent can fully enjoy the benefits of digitalisation. "We need to start with the basics. It is important for rural areas to have access to broadband in order to stimulate economic growth. We need to prioritise skills, innovation, resources, infrastructure and reliable connectivity," said Cwele.
Cwele also urged African policymakers to embrace the industrial revolution as an essential "tool for development" to bolster Africa's financial growth. He also called for more collaboration across industries as he acknowledged that governments were not equipped to handle challenges surrounding digital transformation.
Speaking at the event, Sean Maritz, Eskom Chief Information Officer, says that African youth need to be inspired to adopt new technologies and take the continent to the next level. Maritz mentioned that it is important to embrace partnerships that will assist in changing the business models as we know them today in order to remain relevant in the future.
The conference discussed several topics relating to digitalisation, including cyber security, Sub-Saharan infrastructure required for a digital economy, the implementation of industrial operating system Predix and the digitalisation of electricity. Predix is used to power modern digital industrial businesses, to connect industrial assets, and collect and analyse data for real-time insights.
Makano Mosidi, Transnet Chief Information Officer, said the role that Transnet plays is one of an industry leader on the continent. "Information technology [IT] is the foundation of digital and this is the reason why we, as an organisation, focus on modernising and transforming our IT in order to carry out the expectations that we have for digitalisation. Current Transnet statistics indicate that we need to be aware of the digital revolution as we have the biggest market-share. If the organisation is slow to react, we might hold back the whole continent from being able to compete globally."
GE is actively promoting digitalisation in all its markets, according to Thomas Konditi, CEO of GE South Africa.
"Over the last couple of years, GE took a big step forward in focusing on digital as a business and as a way to transform not only the industry but also the African continent. The recent GE investment of R500-million on the Africa Innovation Centre based in South Africa is just one of the many ways in which GE is making moves in developing the continent with state-of-the-art facilities that will assist with research, innovative solutions and transformation processes that come with the digital age," says Konditi.
GE MEA Power Vice President and CEO, Joe Anis, was pleased with the discussions. "GE is a digital industrial leader and it was a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our expertise and to offer constructive ways to support Africa's digital development," said Anis. "We look forward to sustaining this enthusiasm with annual Digital Day events that will take place in different countries across the African continent."