Is Africa Ready For The ‘Internet Of Things’? MTN Thinks It Is

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Africa’s largest telecom operator MTN has partnered with global technology firm ZTE to bring one of world’s most talked about tech ‘internet of things’ (IoT) platform to the continent.

The platform, which was launched in South Africa, allows devices and systems such as washing machines, fridge and wearable to interconnect via a dedicated network.

While still a very controversial issue across the world, statistics show that over 50 billion units will be connected to the internet by 2020 which will generate nearly $2 billion in total economic value by the same year.

According to MTN, IoT is a “cutting-edge technolog[y] suited to developing markets, bringing flexible connectivity for devices in the region”.

Brent Lees, a senior product marketing manager at Riverbed Technology, says that as long as internet connectivity remains a challenge in many African countries IoT will be difficult to implement.

According to the World Bank, Africa has only 7 percent of her households on the Internet; this is far behind the world’s figure of 41 percent.

“IoT demands a significant number of homes to have reasonable high speed internet connections, and when connectivity strays across international boundaries then latency can become an issue,” Lees told IT Web Africa.

But despite these challenge, Africa is already fast off the block in adopting IoT, according to global telecoms group GSMA, with  a total 128 million or 52 percent of the global number of devises (mainly mobile-to-mobile or M2M) connecting to each other. This is estimated to rise to 575 million in the next six years.

“In Africa sometimes you can leapfrog and go to the latest in innovation and technology at the same time. It is absolutely excellent,” The Africa Report quoted Anne Bouverot, GSMA’s Director General, saying.

“M2M started earlier in developed markets but now it is another area that the developing world has overtaken the developed world.”

MTN has identified IoT  and M2M has some of the key drivers of growth in the middle east and Africa across sectors such as finance, energy and transport via smart city development. The operator has partnered with several organizations on new smart city initiatives.