Torch attended the My Broadband 2019 conference and the quality of the event was excellent.  They veered away from the usual sponsored headline speakers only and introduced some thought leadership key note addresses which added a great deal of value. Disappointingly there were no women on the speaking agenda, though at least Brian Armstrong, Wits Business School Chair of Digital Business, quoted Cher.

It was especially good to see MTN there, which for several years were MIA or under represented, but this year were the headline sponsor and the MTN COO Godfrey Motsa was saying all the right things.  It was interesting to hear how MTN unintentionally broke their network by releasing low WhatsApp data prices – the uptake was so high that the network did not have the capacity to serve the demand.  MTN subsequently had to put the price up quickly to curb the demand incurring an ICASA fine.

Without the release of more spectrum, data prices cannot fall as the networks need this spectrum to provide the increased capacity lower pricing will create.

Reshad Sha from Liquid took us through a thought provoking “Game Changers” model motivating for the identification and development of the appropriate skills to empower South Africa to be able to create 1,2mil jobs in South Africa during a 1% GDP low-growth economy ready for the 4IR context.

In Torch’s view CEO’s, COO’s, and CIO’s should be doing this together; to identify the digital transformation journey that will enable the business strategy of the future, and then working out what skills will be required to resource it.  Torch is working on a few projects like this at the moment, so it is very fulfilling to hear that the approach is being ratified.

After MTN and Liquid had paid the bills, Brian Armstrong gave an excellent Key Note address on the lessons learned from the deployment of 3G and how they can be used to predict large scale disruption that 5G will bring. He warned of a 2-track world where there will be digitally disconnected vs. digitally empowered economies.

The overarching themes of the morning were:

  • The government’s continued delay in releasing spectrum is keeping data prices high, limiting South African economic growth, and keeping our people poor by perpetuating the digital divide.
  • Cell C must be rescued for the good of the South African economy and those who work there. MTN are working with Cell C to see what is possible (whilst maintaining the best interest of the MTN shareholder of course).
  • 4th Industrial Revolution technologies will create new economic opportunities, but also will disrupt jobs. We need to think about putting proactive, rather than reactive, strategies in place to deal with this.