We must be ready for the internet of things: Nelson Chamisa

A forensic assessment of the funds allocated to ICTs in the 2015 national budget manifest straces of cluelessness and a total dearth of appreciation of the positive role Information and Communication Technologies can play in transforming the fortunes of our beautiful Zimbabwe.

By Nelson Chamisa (MP)

Former ICT Minister and Kuwadzana (MDC-T) MP Nelson Chamisa

The vote appropriations for 2015 locates the ICT ministry in the bottom seven of the 29 vote appropriations. Sadly, the ranking of the Ministry dropped from 23rd position in 2014 to 25 in 2015. The ICT ministry only got a paltry 0,18% of the national cake.

The government policy mix on ICTs is a mismatch to the global dictates and demands of the modern day economy. With Nest on the horizon (A home management app that was recently acquired by Google) you can now manage all your home appliances and activities remotely via your smartphone.

With google glass, which will be able to see through clothing and current apps and development will enable the gadget to perform CT scans and other health related scans.

Every person is becoming a technology extension as the digital industrial economy kicks off. As data grows exponentially, the virtual and the physical will collapse into one business reality. Business is moving from being virtual to being viral.

As we migrate from the traditional to the digital dispensation, the Internet of things and everything will mean governments, organisations and companies will compete with a whole new set of players and a new menu of tools.

Knowledge workers and practitioners are definitely going to be replaced and outpaced by smart systems they would have created and conceived. The traditional teacher will face extinction on many fronts if there is ineptitude to react and innovate fast enough.

We are likely to literally and metaphorically loose our dear headmasters and senior teachers.

The models and modules are changing. Citizens must transform from being digital aliens to being digital natives. Digital aliens are those who were either born before technology or are foreigners to the world of ICTs – the technophobic of our society. The digital natives on the other hand, are those who are techno-savvy and at home with the ICT gadgets, processes and applications.

A cursory perusal and helicopter view of global developments point to an increase of labour demand especially in Europe yet the supply of labour will significantly drop. Africa and the whole of Europe are likely to suffer a skills mismatch. Nations must urgently revisit their education curriculums.

The resources of the future shall be resources of the mind. Nations that have technologically-able citizens will be able to better manage the factors of production better. This shift in the global technology architecture will also likely to create an opportunity for nations with highly skilled people and talented citizens. Engineers, scientists and technologists are the next big thing in the new world ahead of us.

Whereas today, those in the United Kingdom, South Africa or Australia would ask us as Zimbabweans to send more of us because Zimbabweans are known to work like machines.

In 2030, I foresee the discourse and demands would have changed. Those countries would be asking Zimbabwe to send more machines which work like Zimbabweans. We are known for our industriousness and work output as a people. Aren’t we?

I strongly believe and accurately predict that robotics, robots, automation and artificial intelligence will replace the traditional workforce. Nations must focus on the information revolution. We need an extra focus on productivity, growth, investment and innovation.

For that reason, we need to prepare more software developers and engineers we need to revamp our education model, skilling and training structures and systems.We must change our mindset and philosophies of education weneed a radical change of our traditional paradigms, attitudes and mindset.

We must embark on some serious workforce planning. How to forecast supply and demand? How to up skill and educate our people? How to attract great talent and skill in the country, economy and government? How to train and retain great talent and best people.

My thinking is in the year 2020;

  •  20% of computers will learn not just process, but actually action things and make them.
  •  Lobola including Rusambo, Matekenyandebvu and Rugaba will be paid online, Just look at ecocash, telecash or One wallet which are only, but the beginning.l With the new webagogy from the old pedagogy, the teacher is changing with the black board and the chalk up for permanent burial.
  •  Commuter Payments and Bus or Kombi Fares will be paid online. Either on the M-Platform and E-Platform.
  •  One in three knowledge workers will be replaced by enterprise owned smart machines they trained. Again, this prediction makes sense. IT is being automated and people will too.We better start thinking about unemployment, its possible new meaning and implications.
  •  The Internet of things will create economic value for all organisations and sectors and create a global additional $1,9 trillion for the economy.
  •  By 2017, 65% of data center capacity will be private, down from 80% today. Enterprises aren’t going cloud happy en masse. The run to the cloud may be slower — due to depreciation and other non-IT issues. It is safe to say that if you bought a server today it’s going to be really hard to justify a purchase three years from now.

In a few years, the combined IT and telecom market will hit almost $4 trillion, or 5% of global GDP. A believable statistic — someone has to network the Internet of things.

By 2020, 30 billion things will be connected as every product more than $100 will be smart. I can see the reasoning as sensors are embedded everywhere. The things projection is largely a guess based on a growth rate.

3D printing will revolutionise the supply chain. This one is totally believable and on-demand parts will be critical for both new and mature products. Production, distribution and consumption trends are changing.

The Internet is supersonically mutating and advancing at such a blistering pace that by 2020, we are probably going to see a lot of changes, hopefully for the better. For example, right now, this December 2014, we’re already attesting to a vast amount of data being uploaded to the cloud, as more and more people abandon concepts such as hard drives and CD/DVD disks, in favour of cloud services such agoogle music and Evernote.

We’re also seeing file storage solutions offer us even more space in the gigabytes and terabytes, while wireless Internet connections continue to proliferate everywhere in homes, bars, coffee shops and other public places.

This will mean more people, from a wider area of the world, from a wider variety of backgrounds, will be able to enjoy the benefits of the net and it won’t become a toy of the privileged richer nations. This tells our story in Africa.That is the story of the internet of things.

But as usual, every good thing has its cost and a price. With more people, services and infrastructure going online, the Internet becomes an even bigger and rewarding target for criminals and hackers who want to take advantage of unsuspecting and pious digital consumers. Policy makers have a great task in this regard.

The internet dividend that is sure to come is akin to a baby that is still a pregnancy. As parents, we have a choice to make before the baby is born. Either we spend our all on beer and other side pleasures at the expense of pampers and other baby clothing for our sure to come baby.

The advantage we have is that the pregnancy is a warning of the responsibilities to come. Fortunately, during preparation time, clothing is God given through the mother’s womb albeit for a short time.

Lest we parent a naked baby, we need to buy the pampers, we need the budget and we need to budget for ICTs.

With the above exposition, it admits of no debate that more resources are required to prep and prepare for the developmental struggles ahead of us.

The government has to put ICTs at the core of all policies, programmes and projects. Government must terminate the silo mentality withing government organs by creating an ICT government champion possibly through the ICT Ministry or the President’s office to steer and drive the ICT agenda in government across ministries and departments.Legislation to deal with ICT governance is imperative.

The nation needs a raft of pieces of legislation to deal with the possible fortunes and dangers of ICTs proliferation. Policy makers must move with speed to rationalise government ICT infrastructure and bodies for capacity optimisation. Government ought to answer to the call of convergenceof broadcasting and telecommunications in line with global best practices.

Having failed to beat the Sadc 2013 deadline, government must also hasten the pace to meet the ITU 2015 digitalisation migration to avert international embarassment and system inconveniences.

We must be ready for the internet of things!

Nelson Chamisa is a former ICT Minister in the 2009 Zimbabwe coalition government

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