How does the 4th Industrial Revolution affect communications?

Posted by Johnny Kromer on 05 Mar 2020 12:00:00 PM

The SA government is spearheading a 4IR revolution. How will this affect communications in SA? How will it affect employment in the industry? Which skills are critical for the 4IR?

The 4IR is a fusion of technologies namely: robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things, digitalisation, and automation. 4IR is now possible at scale using cloud technology. 4IR has touched every industry, including the communication industry.

4IR communication

The first thing that the 4IR has done is that voice is no longer divorced from data. Voice and data have now become the same thing. Voice is now just another application that forms part of the suite of applications required to do everyday tasks. An example of this is how a data line automatically has access to voice, internet data, and video, they are all part of the same service. Everything has become interlinked to provide one seamless user experience.

A lot of applications in the market are built to bridge the divide between the old standard way of doing things with the new virtualised way. For example, older generations who still want to use the telephone can have the same experience as a person who wants to use a fully digital platform.

Companies, especially those that employ many millenials are moving away from owning solutions to renting services as and when needed. This shift has been enabled by the cloud which provides high - end communications capabilities. The cloud framework and software is available on an opex model (monthly payments) rather than the capex model (huge initial investments and maintainace) of legacy systems.

4IR Network

A crucial aspect of future communication in the 4IR will be the networks it will operate on. Communications and Digital Technology Minister, Stella Ndabeni Abrahams, gazetted government's policy on how high demand spectrum will be managed. It provides guidance to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) on how to allocate network capacity to South Africa’s telecoms service providers and other information communication and technology (ICT) players;

  • 5G spectrum will be put on hold until the department finishes consultation on how to best manage it.
  • New high demand spectrum will largely go to a wireless open-access network (WOAN), which will manage the spectrum for industry players like mobile network operators, broadcasters, and internet service providers.
  • The South African ownership of WOAN must be a minimum of 70%, largely private (government entities are restricted in ownership), and include historically disadvantaged groups.
  • Access to communication networks and services should be fair, open, and non-discriminatory. For example, spectrum cannot be used until the provider can serve rural and underserved areas first.

In its most recent findings, the Competition Commision found that telecom providers were expensive and not providing sufficient access to consumers. particularly that;

  • South African mobile network operators’ (MNO) data prices were more expensive in South Africa than in comparative markets. Furthermore, it was found that local players charged higher prices in South Africa than they did in their other international markets.
  • Data pricing structure was more expensive and discriminatory to poorer, low volume users than it was for richer, high volume users.
  • Despite the entrance of new players, the mobile market is still uncompetitive.
  • The lack of spectrum and shared infrastructure has driven up costs.
  • Providing mass access to Fibre to the Home (FTTH) was hampered by Telkom’s IP Connect product’s excessive pricing along with the administrative burden and cost of laying fibre.

To remedy the situation, the Competition Commission has recommended that;

  • Mobile operators reduce their data prices by 30-50%.
  • All subscribers get a lifeline package of daily free data along with zero-rated access to Public Benefit Organisations content.
  • Price reduction on IP Connect products from Telkom.
  • Legislative changes to facilitate cost-based access to facilities.
  • Alternative infrastructure to provide data services in lower income areas and smaller, secondary cities and towns nationally.

4IR Employment

The 4IR will result in the automation of a lot of tasks. This will require workers to acquire a new set of skills. Workers will not be able to compete with the productivity and efficiency of machines, but they can excel in soft, technical. and entrepreneurial skills that robots cannot emulate. These skills are;

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Judgement and decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management and coordinating with others
  • Create interpersonal relationships and interactions with others
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Complex problem solving

Experts agree that a worker with the above skills will never become obsolete.

In it's Preparing tomorrow’s workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution for business: A framework for action , Deloitte stated that to deal with youth workforce development in the 4IR, stakeholders should  address the following challenges;

  • The view that 4IR is a threat to employment, it should rather be seen as an opportunity.
  • Reposition education to prepare the workforce of the future.
  • Realign fragmented programmes and have a bold, unified solution at scale.
  • Use this as an opportunity to cater for all historically marginalised groups.

McKinsey's paper, The future of work in South Africa: Digitisation, productivity, and job creation, revealed that with the right policies, South Africa could have a net gain of 1.2 million jobs by 2030. 

4IR Training

Previously, if there was a need to train someone, an organisation would have had to send  technicians overseas for training and bring them back to South Africa to train other staff members. Today, people choose how and when they want to train. There are virtual spaces that allow people who are eager to learn to use these virtual spaces to do so. There is not one specific technology that allows people to do this but multiple technologies that work hand - in - hand to give users a seamless experience.

4IR Nashua Communications

The 4IR has widened the scope of solutions that Nashua Communications can offer to the market. Now voice forms part of the complex solutions that Nashua Communications provides. Nashua Communications is no longer limited to just voice which allows it to increase its scope substantially.

The 4IR is all about consumers: what they want and what they need. Companies such as Nashua Communications have to adapt to what the consumer wants. This means that Nashua Communications participates by coming along for the ride and adopting the consumerisation of the 4IR. Nashua Communications has moved away from selling products to selling solutions that meet the needs and wants of every client.


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