The year 2017 is over and done with. I often review the key ICT events of the previous year but this time I want to flip this around and instead highlight key global events that will shape the ICT scene in 2018.
One such event happened last month when the US communication regulator, the Federal Communication Commission, revoked what is known as Net Neutrality rules instituted during the Obama administration.
Proponents of Net Neutrality advance the view that the internet should remain open, non-discriminatory and decentralised.
In other words, all internet traffic should be treated equally and so telco providers or ISPs should not discriminate or filter user traffic based on source, content or destination.
But the US regulator has removed this requirement and so ISPs and telcos are no longer obliged to follow these broad principles. The US action is likely to be copied across the globe, given its unique role as the creator and somewhat the overall custodian of the global internet.
We are likely to see a more aggressive traffic discrimination that would manifest itself in various forms. Already telco providers are giving ‘free’ access to some content such as Facebook, Twitter and other popular social media sites.
Other discriminatory moves we are likely to see is where telco providers may increase access charges for users accessing certain sites like Netflix or even YouTube, while charging less if users access the telco provider’s equivalent and competing offerings.
Super internet uptake
The debate is still on as to whether such traffic discriminatory moves are negative in that they are anti-competitive or if they are actually positive in that they promote user uptake of internet services that may otherwise be too expensive to access.
Another key development on the global scene that will have impact is the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018.
Intended to protect the digital data of European citizens, its impact is expected to be felt locally in that any organisation wishing to transact with European organisations or citizens will have to comply with their data regulations.
This means that countries without their own data protection laws will be disadvantaged. This is because European enterprises would prefer not to transact with local enterprises that are not compliant in terms of protecting citizen data.
The penalties for non-compliance with the GDPR are quite severe and the sensible thing to do for European enterprises is simply to trade with relatively compliant countries like Ghana, Mauritius or South Africa, which already have a working data protection ecosystem.
The above two events are more policy and regulatory-oriented. There are, however, two technologically oriented developments that are likely to impact our local ICT scene this new year.
These are cloud computing and blockchain technologies.
Cloud computing has been around for 10 years and is likely to be embraced locally since its technology has matured enough to be accepted in mainstream business processes.
Essentially, more and more enterprises are going to accept and adopt cloud services as global cloud providers solidify their presence around Africa.
However, the more successful companies will be those that revamp their business processes to leverage cloud computing models. In other words, enterprises will have to do serious business re-engineering in order to reap the benefits of cloud computing.
Finally, we will see many blockchain experiments both globally and locally as many tech startups begin to move blockchain technology beyond the bitcoin revolution, and into the mainstream enterprise and government environments.
The year 2018 is clearly going to be an exciting one for ICT, at the local and at global levels.