Smart cities top Gartner’s hype cycle for Africa

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Smart city frameworks, the Internet of things (IOT) and low earth orbit satellite systems are the three technologies that will transform business in Africa within 10 years, says Gartner.

To help business leaders discern what emerging technologies will be commercially viable, each year the Gartner Hype Cycle plots new technologies on a hype graph and highlights trends.

This year’s ICT Hype Cycle report identifies 24 key technologies and describes how they will impact business performance on the continent during the next 10 years.

The research and advisory firm says 13 of the identified technologies will mature within the next two to 10 years and have a transformational or high impact on businesses.

“IT spending continues to rise in Africa alongside the maturity of technologies locally. Seven technologies have entered the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ and are climbing toward the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ in 2019,” says Jeff Mann, research VP at Gartner.

Mann elaborates: “For example, cloud office has entered the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ this year. Companies in Africa have made the move to cloud because of general preference for cloud deployments, but also because of the desire to reduce costs, redeploy IT staff, drive simplicity and provide more functionality to users.”

Smart city ambitions

The Gartner report points out smart cities have an intelligent urban ecosystem that is designed to improve citizens’ lives, stimulate the economy and protect the environment.

As a result, a smart city framework determines the data exchange and information required to build user-ambient services and experiences.

“Smart city frameworks will have a transformational business impact in the next two to five years as cities in Africa apply diverse strategies to accelerate the development of smart city frameworks based on traffic, social and safety issues,” states Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research VP at Gartner.

“In many countries, citizens are moving from rural areas into cities, and urbanisation strategies are key to supporting the increasing infrastructure needs, and to aid the urbanisation growth both on a demographic and business level.”

Referencing the City of Cape Town, the firm notes the Western Cape capital is investing heavily in wireless communications, not only as a growth engine for the city’s financial, manufacturing and tourism industries, but also to create new jobs and build an entrepreneurial base for people.

In Johannesburg, Gartner says the city is using electrification, water management, traffic and green strategies to provide sustainable urban growth. 

In West Africa, Sierra Leone plans to use a data visualisation system that collects and manages data through blockchain and other sources, in order to understand rural and urban infrastructure and development trends.

“The impact of a smart city framework on businesses in Africa will be driven by the ability for public and private companies to automate and deliver better service experiences, as well as by how well citizens feel recognised in their desire to innovate their city and how safe their data will be,” explains Tratz-Ryan.

IOT hype

IOT is a core building block for digital business and digital platforms, and regarded as a game-changing technology by CIOs in Africa, according to Gartner.

The Gartner 2019 CIO Survey shows 24% of CIOs in Africa ranked IOT as a game-changer for their organisation.

The firm predicts IOT will reach between 5% and 20% of its local target audience and is set to have a high business impact in the next five to 10 years.

“Organisations in Africa continue to address cost, complexity and scaling challenges implementing IOT-enabled business solutions,” notes Alfonso Velosa, Gartner research VP. “Some noticeable challenges include security concerns, end-to-end integration complexity and a large number of start-up vendors that will have trouble surviving the trough.”

Emerging technologies

While low earth orbit satellite systems are an emerging technology, they have reached the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ and will have a high business impact in the next five to 10 years in Africa, the Gartner report reveals.

According to the research firm, low earth orbit satellites can provide global broadband or narrowband voice and data network services to regions with little or no existing terrestrial or satellite coverage.

Organisations with current or planned business interests in remote or underserved areas in Africa should closely follow the development of these systems, it advises.

“This technology is important for African countries as satellites can cover all remote or underserved geographies, providing the broadband connectivity critical to operating in remote areas in Africa,” says Bill Menezes, senior principal analyst at Gartner.

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