When you look at Africa’s unique youthful demographics and its exceptionally talented and rapidly growing entrepreneur communities – especially in the high tech sector – it is clear there is huge potential for the African continent to transform itself on the back of the emerging global digital economy.
The digital economy is about two mega trends – the delivery of truly ubiquitous high quality broadband connectivity for populations, and the development of a pervasive Internet of Things (IoT) environment in which machines increasingly run our world autonomously and efficiently. Connectivity is what glues it all together and as such it is going to become as important to human society as electricity. In a world where it will not be politically, socially or economically acceptable to have human beings ‘out of coverage’, or for networks to be unreliable or insecure, it will be a fundamental human and societal enabler.
If Africa can mobilise itself on a pan-African basis, then it can avoid investment in legacy networks and jump straight to a next generation capability that can support home-grown entrepreneurs, industry and communities with connectivity that Western nations can only dream about.
This is where satellite services come in. Working in concert with companion technologies like IMT, Wi-Fi and Low Power Wide Area Networks (LoRaWAN), we will deliver unique coverage, reliability, security and redundancy features, as well as certain differentiated capabilities like broadcast and precision location services. We’ll be part of Africa’s next generation, critical national infrastructure, helping these nations to deliver on their extraordinary potential.
At the Transform Africa Summit we are announcing plans to develop a blueprint for smart cities that can be rolled out across nations under the Smart Africa Alliance. Together with the Republic of Rwanda, we are piloting a range of satellite-enabled services – including a city-wide IoT network, education programme, agritech precision farming project, and unified mission critical communications for first responders and security services – in Kigali over the next 12 months.
The smart cities blueprint is just one example of our transformation into a digital services enabler. Through our continued investment in our satellite communications network and an extraordinarily rich applications ecosystem we are set to play a pivotal role in creating the new digital economy – in Africa and around the world.
About the author
Rupert Pearce joined Inmarsat in January 2005 as Group General Counsel and, from January 2009, additionally held the position of Senior Vice President, Inmarsat Enterprises. He became Chief Executive Officer in January 2012. Previously, Rupert worked for Atlas Venture, where he was a partner working with the firm’s European and US investment teams. He was previously also a partner at the international law firm Linklaters, where he spent 13 years specialising in corporate finance, M&A and private equity transactions. Rupert received an MA (First Class) in Modern History from Oxford University and won the 1995 Fullbright Fellowship in US securities law, studying at the Georgetown Law Center. He has been a visiting fellow of the Imperial College Business School, London, lecturing on the school’s Entrepreneurship programme, and is the co-author of Raising Venture Capital (Wiley).