The challenge of connectivity in remote/rural areas
Rural areas are known to suffer from poorer broadband and mobile coverage than affluent urban regions. However, while pretty much all citizens of the wealthier economies can enjoy at least basic connectivity, millions of people in the developing world have no mobile or broadband coverage whatsoever. According to recent data, 51 percent of the world’s population remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the internet can offer. This leaves more than 3 billion people without affordable digital access, particularly in emerging markets, which are currently underserviced by current providers.
Most importantly, the huge connectivity gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ economies is creating a worrying disparity between countries, putting a significant proportion of the world’s population at disadvantage. And with the recent growth of connectivity in urban areas, fueled by mobile technology, this digital gap between rural and urban areas is continuing to widen. So why are telco and CSPs (communications service providers) failing to close this digital divide?
The key challenges for the provision of telecommunication services in rural areas are driven both by technological and economic considerations. Setting up backhaul connectivity remains extremely expensive in remote locations with poor or no city infrastructure. Another major challenge to the wider adoption of telecommunication services in remote locations is the erratic power supply or complete lack of energy sources to power the telecoms networks. There are also significant operational costs related to maintaining sufficient backup systems. This, coupled, with the heightened geo-political uncertainty in many developing countries, makes them a challenging market for telco providers to operate in.
What might be the answer?
Despite the challenges in these regions, there are ways to ensure affordable connectivity. Choosing efficient, cost-effective and fast-deployment technologies will improve accessibility and lower the operational costs required. Finding a way to reduce the infrastructure costs can further alleviate the pressure on telco providers and CSPs and help widen access to connectivity across the world.
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One answer lies in investing in narrow-band connectivity services provided by nano-satellites. Building a constellation of nano-satellites which covers the equatorial region will provide telecom operators and service providers with low-cost coverage in remote locations and allow them to expand their existing networks without having to invest heavily in building costly infrastructure networks on the ground.
Using nanosatellites enables us to lower the cost of building and launching them, which in turn allows for the financial feasibility of affordable connectivity services to remote locations in a reliable manner. This means that service providers will be able to offer more affordable services to people in remote locations, providing them with the voice and text services that they need. The introduction of this kind of new-space satellites and technology is of mutual benefit to those developing the technology, those launching the satellites, the telecom providers, and most of all, the people on the ground whose lives will be positively impacted by gaining access to these services.
Creating new possibilities for connectivity allows use of ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) benefits such as better healthcare, better education, better financial ecosystem, better governance and more. It is important to have the support of organisations such as the UN, local governments, and the World Bank but we also need the expertise of the entrepreneurs and start-ups that are working to solve this connectivity problem by investing in the latest technology. Ultimately, it is essential to foster cooperation between those developing the technology to enable affordable communications services, the service providers and the political institutions needed to support these ventures.
We envision a world where digital inclusion is universal and affordable connectivity is considered not only a basic human right but an elementary service. We have the technology to make this a reality and we seek meaningful partnerships with others in the space and telecoms industries in order to deliver the vision of affordable connectivity to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Meir Moalem, Sky and Space Global CEO
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.”