BY Fast Company Contributor 5 MINUTE READ

Howard Plaatjes, CEO of technology investment group, AYO, takes a look at some of the key technologies that are set to change our future, and provides an insight into where South Africa’s largest listed ICT investment group is headed.Howard Plaatjes, CEO of technology investment group, AYO, takes a look at some of the key technologies that are set to change our future, and provides an insight into where South Africa’s largest listed ICT investment group is headed.

It’s safe to say that the past 10 years of technology have been stratospheric in the disruption they’ve brought and the changes they’ve wrought.

Mobile networks have upgraded from 3G to 4G and now 5G, bringing with them faster internet and transformative changes to industry and interaction.

Social media took a firm grip of the world and changed the goalposts for corporate communication, and healthcare pivoted into the extraordinary spaces of genomics and precision medicine.

Transport also met with new ways of moving people, with electric vehicles growing in both popularity and potential, and driverless vehicles on the horizon, whilst data became the new black gold, the new oil and the new window into the information soul.

From artificial intelligence to Big Data and analytics to cloud innovation and more, technology has disrupted the traditional so significantly that business today can barely recognise the business of 2010. But what lies ahead?

Do the next ten years hold as much potential as those that are past? They certainly do – and perhaps even more so.

While 2020 may have provided the next decade with a rocky foundation, technology developers and providers have quickly found their stride, as technology becomes the ubiquitous backbone for business, life and economics – in developed and particularly, developing economies.

The crisis and chaos that was 2020 (with 2021 looking like it will suffer a similar fate), also has a silver lining though, in that out of necessity, the speed of innovation and re-invention has ramped up several notches. Early adopters were on a scale not hitherto experienced – across the technology spectrum – with late bloomers taking to technology like the proverbial duck to water.

Whereas there will always be some resistance to change, this rapid shove into the technological era has made it easier for advancements that were always coming, to be easily and quickly assimilated into everyday lives. The uptake of technology will grow exponentially over the next decade.

As exciting and eminently essential technology is to ease how we function, it would be remiss of us to ignore that pervasive always-on and ready technology is also a double-edged sword. This state of perpetual connection and flow of information, can, if we are not careful, add weight to the premise of ‘Big Brother is watching you’ explored in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is, therefore, incumbent on all those involved in technology and its implementation, to bear in mind technology’s ability to not only advance life, but control and influence it for purposes other than for the good of evolution.

One of the most consequential developments we will see over the next few years, and that will increasingly influence all manner of aspects of our daily lives, is the uptake of the Internet of Behaviour (IoB), where data is harvested, computed and analysed to not only track how we behave, but can also guide us into acting and performing in a prescribed manner.

An ever-growing spread of infrastructure is enabling millions, if not billions of people to connect for the very first time to the Internet and the information highway. A growing economic democracy tempered by a corresponding Big Data explosion, will feed IoB, IoT and everything else, including an explosion in eCommerce and attendant payment solutions as Africans gain entry to a plethora of hitherto inaccessible goods and services.

Sadly, this expanded connectivity will also open the door for opportunists, so another vital growth area will be the ongoing evolution and necessary sophistication of privacy needs and cybersecurity solutions.

Monitoring the monitor will also step up a gear here, with advances in sophisticated asset and force tracking systems that can also play a part in new horizons for technology-driven logistics solutions – think fleets of drones or driverless cars delivering your daily shopping or medical supplies to remote areas (already a reality and therefore ripe for further development).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning will go from a supporting role to playing lead, as vast sets of data are generated and the need for rapid interpretation accelerates. Of course, where to store all this data and information, who has access to it – whether people or specific geographic locations etc – also continues to inform the future of cloud and according to Gartner’s 2021 top technology insights, “Distributed cloud is the future of cloud”. It will essentially, grow more powerful and pervasive over the next few years.

Increased connectivity is already impacting how education is delivered but, it will also herald a wholesale shift in the content of what future legions of tech-savvy economic contributors will be taught. Likewise, we will continue to see an increase in remote working and the solutions and services that will support, as businesses continue to pivot and fully embrace digital transformation, with unified communications truly making their mark in this space.

That said, advancements in robotics will also come to the fore as organisations look to streamline operational costs and efficiencies, which for Africa, a continent endowed with labour and developing economies, could spell disaster. Consequently, this places an even greater emphasis and need on ensuring that the skills required to meaningfully participate in the digital economy, are developed at a young age, across the continent, which also holds the most promising commercial opportunity for tech-savvy investors.

We already know that technology influences every aspect of how we function, but other key areas that are of specific interest to me, are renewable energy, agri-tech and naturally, healthcare.

As man begins to truly realise that earth’s resources are essentially finite, the requirement for alternative sources of good, clean and renewable energy, will become ever more pressing. The conversation will also grow louder, and awareness will become even keener, so as to ensure that the energy sources that we use to fuel our progress, do not themselves become an issue – what do we do with all those obsolete batteries that drive electric cars for example, and how did we mine the precious components that made them – what of this collateral damage?

With more and more people existing on the planet, food security will join such topics as climate change as an ever-pressing issue. Decreasing available agricultural pastures and an increasing poverty gap, have necessitated the intervention of technology. Here, we will see developments in maximising and optimising of crop yields, better animal husbandry, as well as a long-overdue overhaul of just how our foods are manufactured. Plus, let’s not forget the creation of alternate food sources.

As to healthcare, well it goes without saying that we have been caught napping and unprepared for a global pandemic. Consequently, we will see major shifts in how technology will be applied to protecting the human race – from health informatics with advanced data record keeping systems, better disease and healthcare control, holistic health collaborations facilitated remotely, to predictive analysis and prevention being better than cure including next generation genomics.

The next decade, promises to be an exciting era for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), with perhaps, the 5th already knocking on our doors.

The question is, are we prepared?


Author: Howard Plaatjes, CEO of AYO Technology Solutions.