Taking action to turn the digital revolution into an accelerator for economic and social progress, to the benefit of populations. This is where the challenge lies for digital transformation, both in France and in Africa. For Guillaume Boudin, Sofrecom Group CEO, four important pillars encourage and propel this digital transformation.
Digital is everywhere in our lives, playing a driving role in shaping how populations, communities, and businesses communicate, exchange, and relate to one another.
Nowadays, it is important to rethink development and urbanism models, strengthen the attractiveness of territories, encourage accessibility through easy access to online services, facilitate the life of each individual, and build upon economic activities.
Digitalisation represents a huge opportunity for the African continent
"Numerous advances have been made on the continent over the past few years. If Africa as a whole seems to be making progress, this does not mean that all individual States are moving at the same pace. Certain ones stand out, paving the way through innovation. However, several challenges must be overcome in order to win the wager on digital transformation, taking into account the continent’s specific trends and particularities," said Guillaume Boudin, Sofrecom Group CEO, at the 6th edition of the Assises de la Transformation Digitale en Afrique exposition.
A few characteristics and key figures on the African continent:
-Population explosion: 50% of global population growth by 2020
-Lack of key resources: Water (40% of the population), Electricity (90% of the rural Sub-Saharan Africa population)
-Prevailing limited Internet access: only 26% of the population for broadband
And to accelerate digital transformation, 4 major pillars:
1. Creation of Digital Strategies
2. Installation of Digital Infrastructures to operate services
3. Innovation to develop a rich offer of services
4. Skills training and development to boost innovation and facilitate new uses.
1. Creation of Digital Strategies
If the objectives of digital strategies come together to improve quality of life, economic development, or the simplification of administrative procedures, the means of implementation remain country-specific and take into account multiple parameters, be they social, economic, geographic, regulatory, etc.
And Sofrecom, through its Consulting activities, can help governments and operators build their digital strategy with:
- master plans for the development of mobile or fibre services
- plans for the introduction of mobile financial services
- eGov services master plans
- Smart City or eAgriculture development policies
2. Installation of Digital Infrastructures
Digital infrastructure is required in order to guarantee connectivity everywhere, or almost everywhere, and we are initially talking about:
- Domestic and regional backbones
- Mobile or fixed network access
- High speed fibre optic broadband network access for large agglomerations
- Network access for connected objects
And regarding the IoT, a symbolic threshold has been crossed: in 2017, there are now more connected objects on Earth than human beings... 8+ billion connected objects vs 7+ billion people!
Networks are required, but it is also important to develop and implement service platforms that will support digital service offers for consumer or business customers.
And Sofrecom, this time through these Networks & IT engineering activities, can help operators and governments implement and operate these digital infrastructures
3. Favour innovation and develop a collaborative culture
For the Sofrecom Group CEO, the emergence of strong digital ecosystems will stem from close interactions that bring together companies, start-ups, universities, operators, public authorities, and financiers.
Through Sofrecom, the innovation of Orange Group will be able to work towards the co-construction of digital Africa.
Annually, Orange invests more than €700 M in R&D on digital networks and services.
Orange is all about research and development centres, in France, but also on the 5 continents close to customers and partners, in order to best respond to local needs.
And in Africa, Orange Labs can be found in Ivory Coast, Tunisia, and Egypt, with strong relationships with the African start-up world.
4. Finally, we must organise the training of different stakeholders to ensure that projects yield the added value expected
"There are many different ways to digitise services, but without the necessary human skills, we would not be successful." This is the view of the Sofrecom Group CEO, who points out that the countries most ahead in digital transformation are those that have really focused on training and developing the skills of their youth and their population.
This is key in order to help the innovation process, but also to enable the proper use of new digital services.
Some concrete examples
On these four pillars, Sofrecom actively participates in Africa’s digital transformation, leading numerous projects:
- Creating the first ICT Corporate University in sub-Saharan Africa, organised into 3 schools: Leadership, Technical and Sales, with nearly 300 training programmes aimed at over 20,000 people.
- Controlling and monitoring the deployment of several national Backbone projects, notably in Burkina Faso in managing the deployment of more than 300 km of optical fibre under PRICAO, the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Project initiated by the World Bank.
- Providing support on various e-Government projects. Notably in Morocco, developing applications for Moroccan Customs; in Senegal for identity management; or more recently in Ivory Coast with the administrative procedures dematerialisation project.
These are just a few examples of projects, and out of the 1,500 Sofrecom consultants and experts, over 50% of them are based in Africa.
"Africa is a very important region for us, and we are excited to continue the co-construction of digital Africa with all our customers,” concluded Guillaume Boudin, Sofrecom Group CEO.