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State of 5G and AI Services in South Africa

Based on an Omdia survey that examines South African enterprises’ digital agenda with a focus on 5G and AI/ML services. Enterprise adoption of those technologies is increasing in South Africa to improve competitive differentiation.

Enterprise adoption of 5G and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) technologies is rapidly taking off in South Africa as business activities and processes require transformation to increase resilience and competitive differentiation. This ongoing transformation has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a greater focus on agility, cybersecurity, operational efficiency, and sustainable supply chains.

Many South African enterprises are looking to use 5G technology in 2021, with major application scenarios focusing on system and process automation, as well as improving the customer and employee experience. Although 5G is primarily used in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios in manufacturing and logistics, it can enhance the speed of communication and data insight across all verticals.

South African enterprises are increasing their budgets for AI/ML technologies, which are essential for automating repetitive human tasks. However, the true value of AI goes beyond automation and includes actionable insights derived from real-time analysis and self-service portals for clients and employees. AI also enables enterprises to gain a deeper understanding of customers’ specific needs.

Service providers, including systems integrators (SIs) and telcos, are looking to take advantage of vast opportunities in 5G and AI/ML-based enterprise services and need to understand enterprises’ digital priorities and barriers to adoption while also showcasing vertical expertise, quick turnaround, and flexible service-level agreements (SLAs).


Key findings

Businesses seek faster and deeper insights to improve the customer experience and gain a competitive edge, which opens up further consulting and integration opportunities for SIs.

Service providers need to demonstrate how 5G and AI technologies can be integrated across business processes and operations with clearly articulated ROI and operational efficiencies.

Main focus is on business benefits rather than technologies—demonstrating the ability to achieve cost efficiency while growing innovative capabilities at speed is crucial.


5G in South Africa

Businesses want to speed up their transformation processes to emerge stronger and more resilient in the post-pandemic period. Business transformation always triggers an increase in IT spending, as IT underpins the transformation. This will provide vast opportunities for services.

The opportunity for a service provider or integrator is to ensure a quick turnaround and demonstrate the business benefits and clearly link them to transformational plans, such as leveraging 5G and AI to improve business effectiveness.

Skills shortages is one of the biggest triggers for outsourcing. This bodes well for IT service providers with strong capabilities in these areas as enterprises will engage with them to fill up skills gaps.


AI in South Africa

While it is encouraging to see solid adoption of AI/ML in South Africa, the moderate budget increases by many businesses put some limits on potential deployments.

The major driver of AI is process automation and the replacement of human resources, as well as customer and operational insights that help enterprises to gain an edge.

Service providers need to offer solutions that go beyond automation and integrate into business processes and workflows while minimizing any disruption and keeping the workforce engaged.

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Blog provided by Andreas Olah, Senior Analyst, Digital Enterprise Services at Omdia.


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