The United Nations’ ninth Sustainable Development Goal is the building of resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation. An important way in which the world can do this is through investments in information and communication technology. One of the organisations doing this is the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). The organisation, founded in 2003, prides itself on being the leading organisation in driving the adoption of wireless broadband and championing the development of the converged wireless ecosystem. From 27th to the 30th of June 2016, I, alongside a number of my colleagues, attended the organisation’s Wireless Global Congress, where a number of leaders in the Wi-Fi ecosystem, came together to discuss Wi-Fi developments, emerging strategies for monetising Wi-Fi and data offload whilst also acting as a forum to facilitate dialogue concerning best practices, shared learning and global trends. In this post, I will highlight some of the key points that stood out for me at this event.
The session titled the Connected City Summit was one of the standout sessions as it emphasised how critical this would be when it comes to developing societies. A Smart City is a city where technology has been integrated with a strategic approach to sustainability, cost reduction, citizen well-being and economic development. Global investment into such cities has grown substantially, with it expected to hit $27,5 billion by 2023. One of the speakers during this session resides in Singapore, where the smart city concept has been expanded further, making Singapore a smart nation. He attested that the adoption of such an attitude has shown improvements in Singapore’s socio-economic well-being.
The concept of Wi-Fi Day, which is celebrated on the 20th of June annually, was established by the WBA and it is the driving force behind it. The purpose of Wi-Fi Day is to promote being connected, critical due to the fact that 57% of the world’s population (2,2 billion) remains unconnected.
The emphasis on connecting the world’s unconnected was what I ended up drawing inspiration from on the panel I was invited to speak on Next Generation Wi-Fi & Spectrum. The reality is that most of this unconnected section of the world population resides in the emerging economies. My fellow panelists discussed the various initiatives their countries are engaging in when it comes to improving and making Wi-Fi more accessible to their citizens. We can learn from and replicate these models as South Africa but there was still not enough emphasis on the strategy to be employed in connecting the 57% who remain unconnected. As the only representative on this panel from the emerging economies I felt it was absolutely critical to put on the table the issues holding us back, as emerging economies. These issues include creating Apps that will operate in environments where the power supply is intermittent and what is the best alternative (LTE, 4G or 3G) when it comes to connecting societies, in terms of costs? These are issues that play a great role within the emerging economies and the market power of such economies simply cannot be ignored. They represent a huge part of the market, in excess of 800 million smart devices.
The event proved to be interesting and beneficial to my colleagues and I, largely due to the sharing of best practice. We will definitely be implementing some of the lessons learnt there within the South African market. In terms of recommendations to make such events more effective, I truly believe it is necessary that as Africa, we have a bigger representation present. We need to ensure that the emerging economies are part of the table, conversation and dialogue.