Africa’s telecoms transformation
In South Africa, there are several issues affecting the telecom industry. In the mobile space, competition is fierce with players vying for market share by lowering pricing and bundling with additional products and services to offer value adds. In short, telecommunication companies must become more competitive. However, this competitive pricing war is set against a backdrop of a volatile currency where the weakened foreign exchange rate is impacting telcos’ direct input costs. The weakened exchange rate impacts the huge investments needed to roll out and expand networks as well as handsets (that are often bundled with contracts). These are mostly sourced from international suppliers. As such, telcos face a challenge in balancing competitive pricing strategies against investments required to build network capacity.
We are also seeing movement in the fibre connectivity space. There are more than 40 companies that are rolling out fibre services to homes and businesses in South Africa, also making this a highly competitive environment. We are seeing massive growth in data consumption – from businesses and consumers – which is driving these initiatives. However, we have also started to see some consolidation in this space where larger players have acquired or partnered with smaller players. We expect to see further consolidation in this space.
With regards to LTE and the introduction of uncapped services, the over-arching theme of an exponential increase in data consumption means that these players are also having to invest heavily in upgrading their backhaul networks to accommodate this surge in consumption.
The rest of Africa is also challenged by the volatile exchange rates, resulting in them experiencing similar problems to South Africa. They are also experiencing increasing volumes of data consumption and a need to expand and invest in networks. This is core to supporting the growth of business and the economy in the region. However, many countries in Africa also face the challenge of extending coverage as they feature dispersed communities with small, rural villages. This makes it difficult to justify investment in infrastructure due to the sparse population of these areas. Another challenge is that there is less ‘revenue per user’, which further hinders expansion of networks.
Fibre to the home and business hasn’t really gained as much traction in the rest of Africa as what we are now seeing in South Africa. This is likely due to the limited and sparse demand for these services. Fibre network growth in the rest of Africa is mostly being driven by the need to interconnect cities and dense population areas with backhaul networks.
Africa is unique in that we are seeing lots of innovation introduced to the region due to the uptake of smartphones and mobile communication. Disruptive apps are being developed that are changing business models and supporting business operations. Telecommunication is at the core of this. The attraction to information driven opportunities is being assisted by the lower barrier to market entry.
Moving forward, African countries need to work cohesively and build infrastructure across the continent in order to create a ‘free flow model’ where telecommunication and data flow is not restricted. Governing bodies need to come together to create policies and regulatory frameworks that support and stimulate this. After all, telecommunication infrastructure is just as vital to economies as road and rail infrastructure for example. This will create an environment that attracts foreign investment with sustainable returns as well as sustainable competition.
1) What has Wipro achieved since entering the African market in 2007?
We have grown from 2007 to a multi-industry business delivering value to many customers across the African continent. During this phase of growth, we have localised our delivery team through skill development programmes. Also, we have proven our commitment to South African transformation by being compliant to a Level 2 BBBEE status.
2) How does Wipro plan to expand its African presence?
We have a strong delivery track record in the telecommunication and financial services sectors and have a strong delivery track record in several African countries. We will continue this growth in Africa through a focus on other select industries, a continued commitment to localisation and partnerships to assist in ensuring timely access to these new frontiers. We will remain relevant by offering services that addresses our customers Run and Change IT services requirements with a focus on digitisation.
Hrusostomos Vicatos is the Telco Business Development Executive for Wipro Limited. Gavin Holmes is the Country Manager for Wipro. Wipro is a multinational Information Technology, Consulting and Business Process Services company.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”