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Digital Economy: a platform to scale IOT and M2M in emerging markets

Qatar's Communications Regulatory Agency and the International Institute of Communications (IIC) co-hosted the second Telecommunications and Digital Media Forum in Doha from March 21-23. The first forum was held in 2008 under the auspices of ictQATAR.

This year's forum tackled a host of TMT topics including impact of digital content and OTT regulation, IOT and M2M scalability in emerging markets, convergence of regulation within different sectors particularly telecom and media, consumer protection (privacy versus cyber-security), competition and investment in the sector by telecom service providers. And in all areas the thread theme was debating the role of regulators, policy-makers, operators and industry at large.

Since IIC forums are based on Chattam House rule, I won't attribute the below observations to any particular speaker or company. However, legacy regulations, role of new media players particularly OTTs, and creation of new business models - tend to be the underlining issues for regulators/operators across the board regardless of the geography.

In preparing for my panel at the forum on Digital Economy, I gathered key findings which may be useful for sharing in this blog and resonates with my observations from the forum. Today, digital has become “business as usual”. Enterprises that adapt to digital are 26% more profitable.

The four themes in digital economy at enterprise-level are :-

  • Customer expectations (leveraging big data)

  • Product enhancements (leveraging platforms)

  • Collaborative innovations (leveraging networks)

  • Organizational forms (leveraging on algorithms + data scientists)

The organizations that will win in the Digital Economy are mainly those :-

  • Collaborating with competitors, partners, suppliers and combinations’

  • Putting consumers at the heart of decision making process

  • Consistently innovating

  • Building scale and reach

International trends indicate that Global Digital Economy will reach 4.8 trillion by 2025. Enterprise technology spending will claim 32% of total digital enablement market in 2025, almost doubling to more than 1.5 trillion by 2025. Communications and broadband connectivity will account to 28% and spending will decline by 8% by 2025. Digital advertising will grow the fastest from $166 billion in 2015 to 385 billion by 2025 but will account for only 8% of the total spending in 2025 (source informa)

An EY study entitled "Navigating the road to 2020" summed the top challenges facing telecom service providers as follows :

  • Disruptive competition is the principle industry challenge

  • OTTs are the leading drives of change in demands

  • Regulatory uncertainties continue to unsettle the industry

  • Customer experience management becomes top priority

  • Service levels and personalization can unlock customer centricity

  • Network quality remains a key point of differentiation

  • A new interplay of people and processes can boost agility

  • In-market consolidation is the leading driver of sector M&A

  • Digital services will transform 2020 revenue mix

  • Confidence is high in TV and cloud but IOT revenue growth potential is still uncertain.

The Middle East particularly the GCC states are in the right path by building the right infrastructure (connectivity) which is the first layer of the digital economy value chain. The second layer is soft infrastructure (data analytics, privacy legislations and cyber-security), and the third layer is collaboration and governance - both require further readiness.

The Internet of Things (IOT) is expected to surpass mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018 (Ericsson mobility report). IOT in the developing world is not a hype anymore. The Broadband Commission and ITU Report on harnessing IOT for global development have managed to map IOT interventions or solutions to 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. And the key verticals leveraging IOT solutions are financial services, agriculture systems, healthcare, environment and conservation, education, infrastructure and energy.

IDC estimated the Middle East would invest more than $6.6 billions in IOT solutions in 2016. The bulk of spending in MENA IOT will be in freight monitoring followed by smart grids (electricity) and manufacturing operations. In addition, use cases in healthcare monitoring, smart buildings and smart homes will also see significant investment over the next few years.

Telecom service providers are the best enablers of IOT platforms but will need to identify the right business model to become part of their revenue mix. The challenges facing IOT scaling are technical and policy in nature. But the key areas needing development to set the right ecosystem for IOT growth are standards, interoperability, security, privacy, spectrum bandwidth and constraints.

In Qatar, we are pleased to see QMIC promoting this week its IOT platform "Labeeb". The pricing model listed in the platform seems affordable for entrepreneurs, enterprises and industry. I haven't subscribed to the platform yet but hopefully its data sets will meet the needs of clients in different sectors.

Qatar's Agricultural Exhibition have also shown a couple of agricultural systems using M2M and IOT solutions to monitor climate change ( in farms, the other other system is for monitoring genetic behaviour in cattles.

Below are some reports mentioned and shared during the forum that may of benefits to the readers of this blog including:-

International Institute of Communications (newsletter and quarterly magazine)

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