Annalie Spickett is technology strategy analyst at Gijima.
SUMMIT TV: The global economy is still in a bit of a recession — we are talking information and communication technology (ICT) trends — Gijima has put together the top 10 trends we are seeing. First is mobility — what are you seeing in that space?
ANNALIE SPICKETT: Mobility is definitely my top trend for the year — companies will find it hard to ignore mobility. There is so much growth in mobile device sales — people are using it everywhere — and consumerisation of IT drives users of these devices that they use at home (and) in the workplace as well. That also leads to the trend of bringing your own device. I’m sure every company IT executive has looked at the trend where people bring their own devices, and they need to find ways of bringing this into companies, especially with regard to securing their data.
STV: We can take a look at getting into security of data and compliance in a bit — but looking at that trend, are we seeing an increased move towards people bringing their own devices?
AS: We are definitely seeing that. Companies that have not looked at mobile-device management yet should look at it this year. You can’t really stop it. That’s what we are talking about as the "battle of 2013", where IT departments are saying they’re standardising and people can’t bring anything in, but the users are demanding to bring their own devices in and use them in the ways they want to.
STV: What are the cost implications? I assume one would save if an employee is bringing their own device in?
AS: There are some savings, but there’s also a lot of concerns around security and how data are being used, compliance and using the different applications of the organisation on these devices, which can’t always be used. I think it does allow organisations to work faster and employees are demanding the freedom to use these devices. Companies can also get a lot of business benefits out of this, so smart companies are looking at how they can use this to their benefit, instead of looking at the cost.
STV: How does a company use this to their benefit?
AS: If we look at some organisations, they’ve realised people can now use these devices to do the work any way and any place they want to, so they’re looking at developing applications to solve specific business problems.… If we look at some of the banks, they are using applications smartly to grow the top line.
STV: Looking at applications, everybody knows about the banks. Are there any other sectors that are developing specific applications for business?
AS: Yes, if we look at mining and industrial, the idea of having your data available on your mobile device wherever you are, and a view into your processes, to have executive data available before you enter meetings — those are all benefits of this technology. Even in government, health and education they’re looking at how these mobile applications can be used to drive more effective usage and worker relationships.
STV: The cloud is almost a buzzword. What is happening in that space, particularly from a business perspective? We are talking about data storage — what are you talking about there?
AS: I do see big growth this year — companies that have had cloud on the agenda for years now can finally start putting a tick next to that. Companies are looking for cost savings; they also want a very fast way to realise value from applications and projects they launch. Cloud can give that value. Businesspeople should look at putting mobile applications and noncore business applications in the cloud this year.
STV: If I had my own business, are you going to tell me to invest in a cloud-based solution for my data? In that case, what about my concerns about security?
AS: Cloud often has better security than you would have in your company — cloud vendors have very robust security. There is concern though because it’s also very attractive to malicious people and hackers to try expose that data. There is a bit of a concern, but the security you can get from a cloud vendor may even be much better than the security at your company.
STV: LTE has been introduced recently — one of the criticisms has been that we are not really at a place where we can take advantage of that technology ...
AS: At the moment there is hype to attract consumers and there is a lot of debate around what can be called 4G, and what’s called 4G overseas you’re not allowed to call 4G in South Africa. Mobile operators are trying to get into this space and make sense of it, but realising the real business value in this will take some time.
STV: How long will this take?
AS: Towards the middle or end of the year we will see networks with this technology, and more smartphones on the market will be enabled so, as more of the devices are sold and the technology is provided by the players, then more people will start using it and we may see applications using faster broadband.
STV: You’ve compiled the top 10 for South Africa. If you compare us as a country to our global counterparts, how do we fare on the technology front?
AS: South Africa isn’t far behind the rest of the world. We do still have some inhibitors like broadband that’s doubled over the past couple of years, but that’s still not enough with the demand. We are definitely investing in cloud computing in South Africa and mobile where we are not far behind the rest of the world. If you look at sales of mobile devices in South Africa, it’s right up there with the rest of the world, so I do think these are relevant trends.
STV: What in your opinion is the next big thing?
AS: The next big thing is the use of the data we have in our organisations and analytics. At the moment businesspeople are struggling and not all data are equal — what data should they analyse and which data not? What do they do with these huge stores of data in their organisations? To make sense of that is a bit of a problem. Once businesses are more comfortable with the value they are going to get out of that, we are going to see a big uptake in data analytics and data usage.
STV: If we look at the sector as a whole, what are you seeing for South Africa?
AS: I do see vendors will start creating ecosystems — that’s a big buzzword out there with application, hardware, software and network vendors. Service providers want to create products they can sell to the market cohesively, so you will see companies buying other companies, or strong partnership relationships and appliances being launched with complex products on them. We are seeing these ecosystems growing and customers can expect to buy products that contain many vendor products.