November 23, 2022

5G-Related Activities Are Picking Up in Sub-Saharan Africa

"As countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world, transition into a post-pandemic economic recovery phase, mobile connectivity is set to play a crucial role in defining the 'new normal,' according to the GSMA. In its latest annual report on the state of region's mobile economy, the UK-based organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide adds that "Authorities see an opportunity to leverage digital technology and services to build economies that are more resilient to future shocks, enhance productivity and efficiency in service delivery, and ensure more inclusive socioeconomic development."

What is more, "In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of the adult population are now connected to mobile internet services. However, another 44% live in areas covered by mobile broadband networks but do not yet use mobile internet services (the usage gap)." The report importantly notes that "Addressing the main barriers to mobile internet adoption for these people, including affordability and digital skills, should be a priority for stakeholders in order to realize the potential of mobile connectivity to drive economic growth and development in a post-pandemic world."

Other key findings from the report include:
  • In 2021, the mobile ecosystem supported more than 3.2 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $16 billion raised through taxes on the sector.
  • By 2025, mobile's contribution to the GDP of Sub-Sahara Africa will grow by $65 billion (to almost $155 billion), as the countries in the region increasingly benefit from increased take-up of mobile services.
  • By 2025, 4G will account for a third of mobile connections in the region, compared to under a fifth of connections in 2021.

The report encouragingly explains that "5G-related activities are beginning to pick up across the region. These include 5G spectrum auctions, 5G pilots and commercial trials, and efforts to develop locally relevant 5G use cases." Moreover, "While the general consensus remains that a widespread 5G rollout is more of a long-term prospect in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a strong case to utilize the technology in some scenarios to serve certain connectivity requirements for individuals and enterprises."

With respect presence in the metaverse in Sub-Saharan Africa, the GSMA says that while "The metaverse (which continues to lack a universally agreed-upon definition) is still nascent. ... significant levels of investment in metaverse initiatives and market-size estimates reflect the opportunities possible from the rapid advancement of the metaverse over the coming years."

The report adds that "The metaverse ecosystem is growing around the world, including in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the region presents significant growth prospects for the metaverse, given its young tech-savvy population and thriving tech startup ecosystem. This is beginning to attract the attention of global metaverse ecosystem players."

The GSMA correctly asserts that policymakers can help spur inclusive development. "Mobile connectivity has the potential to accelerate Sub-Saharan Africa's digital transformation and drive socioeconomic advancement in areas such as healthcare, education, digital commerce, industrial automation and smart city infrastructure. Realizing this potential requires policy measures to support network investments and improve the affordability of digital services for consumers. Governments and regulators in the region should therefore adopt forward-looking spectrum management and fiscal policies:, which includes:
  • "creating a spectrum roadmap to ensure there is enough spectrum to meet surging demand for mobile services in both the short and long term
  • "ensuring access to mid-band spectrum, in particular 3.5 GHz, given its importance to the future of 5G
  • "accelerating access to sub-1 GHz spectrum to provide widespread rural mobile broadband services
  • "applying best-practice principles of taxation as recommended by international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF."

Infographic: GSMA

How do you see mobile connectivity driving the acceleration of Sub-Saharan Africa's digital transformation and driving socioeconomic advancement?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 19, 2022

KOTRA Silicon Valley Forum Presents Benefits and Risks of the Metaverse

Under the theme of "The Metaverse is Yours," the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Silicon Valley, a non-profit agency operated by the South Korean government that serves as one of the 127 overseas KOTRA branches worldwide, held its annual convention, K-Global @ Silicon Valley 2022, from Nov. 7th-8th in Santa Clara, Calif. The event started with an information and communications technology (ICT) forum focused on innovation which included discussions about the metaverse and its four key aspects of content, platforms, networks, and devices. After welcoming remarks from Korean dignitaries, the event featured the following keynote speakers:
  • Shilpa Kolhatkar, who serves as Global Head of AI Nations Business Development at NVIDIA, talked about how the metaverse is the next evolution of the internet, the home to connected virtual worlds and digital twins, and a place for real work as well as play. She said NVIDIA's platforms provide enterprises the ability to develop physically accurate, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled, virtual simulations that are synchronized with the real world. Ms. Kolhatkar also noted that digital twins are transforming industries and scientific discovery, as well as enabling developers, researchers, and enterprises who use them to design, simulate, and optimize products, equipment, and processes in real-time, before ever going to production.
  • Heesuk "Ricky" Kang, Head of Business at Naver Z, discussed how his company's ZEPETO Studio platform features 68 million Studio items sales created by over 2.3 million creators to 300 million users worldwide. Mr. Kang said ZEPETO, which is the fastest growing avatar platform in Asia, is popular among Gen Zs who express themselves while meeting, collaborating, and creating with others.
  • Jason Mayes, Head of Business, Lead Web ML & AL Developer Advocate at Google, focused his presentation on TensorFlow.js, a library for machine learning (ML) in JavaScript. He explained how TensorFlow makes it easy for beginners and experts to create machine learning models for desktop, mobile, web, and cloud. Mr. Mayes added that data can be the most important factor in the success of a user's ML endeavors and TensorFlow offers multiple data tools to help consolidate, clean and preprocess data at scale. I appreciate his assertion that TensorFlow empowers "machine learning for everyone."

The next segment of the ICT Forum focused on a panel discussion. Shawn Flynn, Principal of Global Capital Markets and host of "The Silicon Valley Podcast," moderated an insightful discussion featuring Pouneh Kaufman, Group Project Manager at Microsoft, Ray Wu, Managing Partner at Alumni Ventures, and Sean Jun, Product Manager at XL8. Key points from the moderated session included:
  • The metaverse is an evolution, not a revolution. And it is one that businesses should not ignore.
  • The metaverse may profoundly change how businesses and consumers interact with products, services and each other (i.e., enriching the customer experience and introducing virtual products).
  • The metaverse will help support sustainability efforts by saving both time and resources used to travel to attend meetings, lectures, and social gatherings (I expect the use of the metaverse will help companies achieve their environment, social, and governance goals).
  • The metaverse allows the ability to collect new data on customers.
  • The metaverse will have profound benefits in various sectors including education, healthcare, and e-commerce.

Image Credit: KOTRA Silicon Valley
The panel, however, presented a number of risks associated with the metaverse which will require new strategies and methods to build trust. What is more, as with Web 2.0 (the current internet), users of Web 3.0 will need to contend with cyberbullying and harassment issues, as well as identity theft, unauthorized data collection by corporations, and cybersecurity threats from malicious actors.

Lastly, the event featured an expo featuring metaverse and AI-related small- and medium-sized enterprises from Korea that showcased their products, services, and technology. While you can view a listing containing all of the exhibiting companies here, below are a few that I found of particular interest: 

  • Corevalue Ltd. is developing a service that can help everyone manage their health conveniently and easily. Accordingly, a smart camera and telehealth app were developed and the Dr. Clobo brand was launched in August 2020. Its healthcare camera can take detailed pictures of the mouth, ears and nose, and based on this, non-face-to-face medical consultation and health management.
  • Grebt developed a bloodless-based diabetes measurement sensor and diabetes measurement device that eliminates the fear of blood sampling and the pain of blood collection. Its urine glucose meter measures the concentration of glucose in urine and reacts blood glucose in urine. It consists of a strip, a disposable consumable that generates an electrochemical signal.
  • NdotLight is the developer of NdotCAD, a 3D/AR/VR content design tool which allows any users including non-professionals to express and share their imagination in 3D with ease. The company has lowered the hurdle for 3D content creation by making intricate 3D design process easy with increased usability while maximizing output quality by applying advanced technologies. With their 3D engine, they serve enterprise clients also by providing customizable solution to meet any B2B needs.

As we transition into the post-pandemic era, the K-Global @ Silicon Valley event provided a good opportunity to explore the future of the metaverse, AI, and other ICTs. What benefits and risks do you think the metaverse will bring to consumers and businesses alike?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 7, 2022

GSMA Report Presents Recommendations for Policymakers to Help Realize Europe's Digital Agenda

In its latest annual report on the state of Europe's mobile economy, the GSMA, a UK-based organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, says "Mobile networks are vital to economic recovery and realizing green and digital transformation across Europe. Two years into the EU's Digital Decade, the connectivity target of 'Gigabit for everyone, 5G everywhere' has never felt more urgent." The report also notes that "The Digital Europe Program, the Connecting Europe Facility and the recovery funds provided to EU Member States offer an opportunity for operators to partner with governments to improve connectivity across society and drive post-pandemic economic recovery across the region."

While the adoption of 5G is accelerating in Europe, 4G remains remains "the dominant technology across the region, accounting for just over half of total connections by 2025," the report explains However, "4G adoption in Europe will peak in 2022 and then decline." Moreover, "The pace of 5G coverage expansion across Europe will be a key factor in the transition from 4G to 5G. Although 5G network coverage in Europe will rise to 70% in 2025 (from 47% in 2021), nearly a third of the population will remain without 5G coverage. This compares to 2% or less in South Korea and the US."

As for the mobile industry's contribution to Europe's economy and social well-being, the GSMA notes that "In 2021, mobile technologies and services generated 4.5% of GDP in Europe – a contribution that amounted to approximately €760 billion of economic value added." Furthermore, "The mobile ecosystem also supported approximately 2.6 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with €109 billion raised through taxation. Over the period to 2030, 5G technologies will drive further contributions to the region’s economy, impacting key industries such as manufacturing and public administration."

"As the first industry to have fully committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," the report notes that "the mobile industry continues to have substantial positive effects on lives and livelihoods. In 2021, the mobile industry increased its impact on all SDGs, with the average year-on-year increase accelerating compared to 2020. The average SDG impact score across the 17 SDGs reached 53, up from 49 in 2020 and 32 in 2015, meaning the mobile industry is achieving 53% of what it could potentially contribute to the SDGs."

With respect to how European policymakers can help realize the digital agenda, the GSMA points out that "As economies and societies around the world digitalize, the acceleration of 5G in Europe is necessary to ensure that traditional industrial and manufacturing strengths are not dragged down by weaknesses in the ICT sector. With the limitations of existing networks becoming more apparent amid an increasingly distributed workforce, there is also a need to ensure fair and even access for all."

To achieve this, the GSMA says "it is vital to create the right conditions for private infrastructure investment, network modernization and digital innovation. A financially sustainable mobile sector is key to the delivery of innovative services and the deployment of new networks. Policymakers should collaborate with the private sector to stimulate investment in next-generation networks that will form the backbone for Europe's economic recovery by enabling employment, entrepreneurship and innovation while helping achieve essential climate-related goals."

Practical steps that authorities in Europe can take include the following:
  • Rethink competition policy and enforcement in terms of harmonized conditions for investment and doing business.
  • Fairly allocate the costs of network traffic to the largest drivers, to deliver an economic incentive to use network capacity more efficiently.
  • Foster supply-chain diversity and competition, to improve network security and resilience through disaggregation and greater interoperability.
  • Adjust the regulatory framework to enable the data economy to thrive in Europe, by ensuring a level playing field in digital markets, services and taxation.
  • Implement fair spectrum licensing conditions and avoid excessive charges and limited durations of licenses, which can undermine investment.
  • Implement cost-reduction measures and simplification for network deployment to achieve Europe’s Digital Decade connectivity targets.

Infographic: GSMA

While I appreciate how the economic contribution of mobile industry continues to expand in Europe, it is discouraging that market dynamics are impeding European 5G progress. As GSMA's press release puts it directly: "Europe’s ambitious Digital Decade goals remain threatened by slower 5G rollout compared to competitor markets" and "tough market conditions are leaving Europe trailing its global peers." On a more positive tone, European operators are "at the forefront of cutting-edge, energy-efficient technologies and the use of renewables, with many already reaching 100% renewable electricity use across their footprints, powering their network infrastructure, data centers and other sites."

What are your recommendations for how policymakers can help realize Europe's digital agenda?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 4, 2022

Indonesia's Opportunity to Leverage Digital Assets and Wireless Technology Infrastructure to Address the Climate Emergency

If there is any chance of meeting the goal set forth in the Paris Climate Accords, an international treaty on climate change that was signed in 2015 that aims to keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels, various industries will need to make efforts to employ climate technology help achieve this ambitious goal to substantially reduce the effects of climate change. Having both extensive experience working in Indonesia and within the mobile industry worldwide, a report by the GSMA caught my attention that explores the potential for mobile-enabled technology solutions to enhance Indonesia's climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the report notes, "Indonesia faces a unique set of climate change challenges, from extreme flooding to extended drought, changes in rainfall patterns and temperature and sea level rise." Moreover, "These risks are intensified by a dense population of 270 million people living in hazard-prone areas, and approximately 60 percent living in low-lying coastal cities. Indonesia is the world's eighth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Forestry and other land use practices, energy and waste are key contributors."

The GSMA, a UK-based organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, explains that its report "presents an overview of the main climate challenges facing the country and examines the potential role of mobile-enabled technology in unlocking novel and innovative responses to climate change. All this centers around three focus areas for climate action in Indonesia: energy, waste and natural resource management."

What is more, "To create a clear picture of the distribution of climate technology in Indonesia, including where investment is primarily focused, the Mobile Innovation Hub Indonesia team reviewed publicly available literature and compiled a list of 48 examples of technology-enabled climate solutions currently deployed, piloted or in the proof-of-concept stage in Indonesia’s energy, waste and natural resource management sectors." The report also points out that "The highest concentration of climate technology was found in the energy and waste sectors, with just under half of climate solutions relating to waste. Technologies for sorting and recycling in the waste sector, as well as energy management and natural resource management are some of the most prevalent solutions."

"Interviews with stakeholders, including MNOs, mobile infrastructure organizations, government officials and ministries, revealed technical, political and behavioral barriers that are limiting the uptake of mobile-enabled solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation."

Three key barriers that is slowing uptake of mobile-enabled solutions in Indonesia include:

Technical barriers: The availability of mobile and digital infrastructure and access to affordable and connected devices. Although robust government approaches are making strong headway, there are still regional and remote island locations without sufficient connectivity. When it comes to implementing climate technologies these are important considerations.

Political barriers: The political, social and ecological decisions and actions affecting climate change decision-making or uptake of mobile-enabled technologies.
  • Collaborative environment: Limited collaboration between governments, the private sector and communities
  • Data sharing and management: Lack of data integration and reliance on manual data collection processes
  • Policy and regulation: Lack of policy incentives and weak regulations that hinder industry
  • Investor appetite: Investments in Indonesia focus on technology in general rather than climate technology specifically
  • Access to capital: Weak appetite for investment has left innovators with low access to capital
  • Talent: Limited access to talent to develop, roll out and monitor mobile-enabled technology solutions
Behavioral barriers: The individual and collective assumptions, beliefs, values and worldviews on climate change responses:
  • Unclear value propositions: Inability to demonstrate the value proposition to end users, coupled with cultural barriers
  • Digital literacy: A barrier for end users that lead to suboptimal use or the need to embed manual back-up methods when rolling out solutions

To address these barriers, the GSMA recommends an ecosystem approach in which mobile-enabled solutions would provide a clear path to achieve Indonesia's climate goals. This would include:
  1. Investing in mobile-enabled connectivity and digital and climate literacy to reach the most rural areas and offer innovative climate technologies.
  2. Building trust between stakeholders operating in the same ecosystem, creating forums to share lessons, building on successful innovations and developing science-based narratives to strengthen coordination.
  3. Building the capacity of the public sector and communities to implement or use mobile-enabled climate technology to increase uptake.
  4. Using a human-centered design (HCD) approach to ensure climate technology is relevant and the value proposition is clear to end users.

I appreciate how this report explores the potential for mobile-enabled technology solutions to enhance climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in Indonesia. It also presents a useful overview of the main climate challenges facing Indonesia and examines the potential role of mobile-enabled technology in unlocking novel and innovative responses to climate change.

What are you recommendations for how emerging markets like Indonesia can leverage their digital assets and wireless technology infrastructure to address the climate emergency?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 2, 2022

Southeast Asia's Digital Economy Could Reach $1T GMV by 2030

Southeast Asia's (SEA) top digital economies grew faster than expected in 2022 and are set to reach $200 billion in total value of transactions made this year, according to a report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company. And in the face of economic headwinds, the future looks bright for SEA as the report says investors remain confident in SEA's long-term prospects and the opportunities they bring in up-and-coming countries and sectors.

Among the ten countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which serves as a political and economic union of member states promoting intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic, political, security, military, educational, and sociocultural integration between its members and countries in the Asia-Pacific, the report focuses on ASEAN's six largest members: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The report's key findings include:
  • Navigating macroeconomic headwinds: Just as countries in SEA embarked on a return to pre-pandemic normality, global headwinds started to blow, threatening to derail a full economic recovery. Rising interest rates and high inflationary pressure have also been impacting consumer demand, particularly the discretionary sectors that sit at the core of the digital economy.
  • Approaching $200B in rough seas: Despite these macroeconomic headwinds, SEA's digital economy remains on course to reach ~$200B in gross merchandise value (GMV) in 2022. In fact, it is reaching this threshold three years earlier than expected in the e-Conomy SEA 2016 report. Digital adoption continues to rise even today, albeit at a slower pace than the steep acceleration seen at the height of the pandemic.
  • Urban consumers still drive the economy: Across urban areas, affluent consumers and their young digital native counterparts continue to represent the largest portion of the digital economy. For these two segments, the opportunity for growth lies in deeper engagement, including more frequent and valuable orders, subscriptions, or cross-selling services such as consumer lending. Meanwhile, adoption and spend by urban consumers 'on a budget' and suburban consumers remain lower, leaving digital players to figure out more economically sustainable ways to serve them.
  • Sectors encounter different growth trends: SEA's digital economy sectors are following three distinct trendlines. E-commerce follows an S-shaped growth curve, in which it continues on its growth trajectory, but from a higher starting point after the steep acceleration during the pandemic. Others, such as food delivery and online media, are returning to their trendlines after a two-year spike. And lastly, travel and transport are moving along a U-shaped recovery, with pre-pandemic levels still some miles away.
  • Favorable conditions uplift financial services. The adoption and usage of digital financial services (DFS) have flourished across the board, propelled by a shift from offline to online and the positive financial market conditions of the last few years. With rising interest rates and a riskier lending environment, however, fintech players, platforms, and newly launched digibanks will see their business models stress-tested. Meanwhile, banks and insurance companies are rapidly digitalizing their services and maintaining a stronghold on affluent consumers.
  • Prudence clouds tech investments. Tech investments in SEA remain robust this year. However, the funding landscape tells a tale of two ends: early-stage deals are continuing with strong momentum, while late-stage deals are seeing more pronounced dips and a pause in IPOs. Meanwhile, DFS has overtaken e-commerce in investment volume. Investors will be cautious in the short-term as most do not expect a return to 2021 deal activity and valuation peaks in the next couple of years. Nonetheless, most investors remain bullish in SEA's medium- to long-term potential, and have $15B dry powder on hand. The report notes that increasing interest in emerging markets, like the Philippines and Vietnam, and in nascent sectors, like SaaS and Web3.
  • Towards a sustainable digital economy. The SEA digital economy is expected to produce 20MT of emissions by 2030—significant, albeit an order of magnitude lower than other environmental impact-intensive sectors. Digital players have been rolling out reducing and recycling initiatives, but more can be done to further lower impact by up to 30-40% over time. In the meantime, platforms can play a positive role in raising awareness among SEA consumers, and move towards closing the prevailing ‘say-do’ gap.
  • Economic contribution meets social concerns. On the social front, the digital economy has created 160K high-skilled jobs and indirectly supports nearly 30M jobs, while platforms have enabled over 20M merchants and 6M restaurants to grow their businesses online. Concerns exist, nonetheless, around the welfare of worker-partners, necessitating dialogue between institutions and platforms.
  • Charting the course for the digital decade. SEA's 'digital decade' has just begun. The course to exceed $300B by 2025 depends on the shape of recovery amid today's uncertainties, while the path to a $600B-1T digital economy in 2030 remains geared on SEA's economic fundamentals. A growing emphasis on sustainable growth means profits may become as relevant as GMV when it comes to measuring progress.
Existing enablers like payments and logistics have come into place, but the talent challenge is now shifting from quantity to quality. New enablers, like digital inclusion of consumers ‘on a budget’ and suburbanites, are key to unlocking SEA's full potential. Progress has been limited, however, with institutional support potentially the missing link to bridging the divide. All in all, SEA's digital economy is grounded on strong social and economic fundamentals, and offline to online trends, which provides much to be optimistic about especially as the region settles into its digital decade.'

Over the past 20 years, I have observed Southeast Asia's impressive economic rise. When my clients supporting the digital economy ask which global markets should they consider for corporate expansion, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are almost always at the top of my list. Despite economic headwinds, I remain optimistic about the sustainable development of the region's digital economy which could reach $1 trillion GMV by 2033 provided such growth is pursued in a sustainable way.

What are your thoughts about SEA's future economic outlook?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.