Jim Goodnight, SAS founder and CEO, said in 2016, "Digital disruption is now a fact of life, and every organisation must have a plan to deal with it."
And yet his observations could not be more apt today. Furthermore, the impacts of the global pandemic have accelerated digital disruption. I see the proof of this at work every day.
Whether it’s modeling the spread of infections based on up-to-date community health data, using digital twins to stress test and shore up supply chains or applying AI to detect fraud in financial systems, analytics is at work all around us, all the time. And we need analytics now more than ever before.
Recent research suggests that the global digital economy is expected to grow to be 24% of the world’s GDP by the year 2025. But the process of digital transformation is not about the technology alone. Rather, it occurs at the intersection of people, business and technology, guided by purpose and strategy.
Success comes when organisations can effectively leverage data in a way that enables change to occur dynamically. Data that hasn't been analysed is a value that still hasn't been realised. Applying analytics makes the digital economy more effective, customisable, relevant and smart. And it shortens time to business value.
The effects of digital disruption in Africa
Africa is no exception when it comes to witnessing the potential of digital disruption.
In fact, a report by McKinsey suggests that with the proliferation of the Internet Africa’s digital economy could account for as much as 10% of total GDP. The $300 billion generated produced a leap forward in economic and social development.
It’s therefore critical to keep people at the centre of our plans for technological progress. Africa has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population and is uniquely poised to leapfrog the West in creating unthought-of value chains and pathways for growth.
You can see this in the curiosity and fearlessness in our youth, who break down barriers and do things in new ways. Their digital savviness and early adoption of emerging skills are leading to thriving technological ecosystems.
Their innovation underscores the importance of investing in infrastructure and education that drives technological enablement in Africa. Consider how pervasive analytics is in your daily life—remember the health data and supply chains and financial systems I mentioned earlier? Digital disruption calls for ensuring the people building algorithms and data models used in Africa are also from the continent. This helps reduce the unconscious bias that stems from being unfamiliar with societal norms and cultural reference points.
Additionally, there is a global dearth of skilled data professionals. There is still a lack of general awareness of the benefits of data-driven business intelligence and information technology in Africa. The youth of Africa are in a prime position to bridge both of these gaps.
Opportunities for Africa
Harnessing technological potential means investing in young people through access and support for the right education, training and tools. We must prepare them for the data-driven digital age where they can mobilise their talents and skills.
This will require far more collaboration between governments, academia and the private sector to ensure a cohesive plan is in place to leverage and scale-up skills. This will better grow talent pipelines that are ready to uncover the answers of tomorrow.
With a population skilled in data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud engineering, Africa can lead the rest of the world through digital disruption. We can, collectively, lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution and sustainably grow industries and economies well into the future!
Together, we can achieve inclusive prosperity and sustainable economic development that will serve our nations in the future.