Following our look back at our most widely read posts in 2013, we are now looking ahead: what might be some of the big tech/ICT stories in the Caribbean in 2015?
The tech/ICT issues that made the headlines or had us talking in 2014 were diverse and interesting: from telecoms companies across the region blocking Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) based services and the continued reports of unauthorised surveillance by the United States, to the proposed purchase of Columbus International by Cable & Wireless Communications. As we begin to come to grips with what 2015 has to offer, here are five developments we believe will be evident in the Caribbean in this year.
1. Changing competition/regulation dynamic in the region
In the last quarter of 2014, Cable and Wireless Communication plc (CWC), the parent company of LIME, had declared an intention to purchase Columbus International, which operates Flow, Columbus Business Solutions and Columbus Networks in the Caribbean. CWC shareholders were reported to have enthusiastically approved the transaction, but as at the end of 2014, Caribbean regulators, some of which are also required to approve the sale, were still carefully reviewing the matter.
However, regardless of whether the regulators approve the sale, it is likely that the competition-regulation dynamic across the region will be irrevocably altered. The sale, if approved, would most likely result in the merger of two major players in the region, which in turn could limit consumer choice, competition, pricing, along with the control of infrastructure, which the regulator may need to address. On the other hand, if the regulators decide to veto the sale, litigation could ensue, resulting in acrimony on all sides.
2. Computing everywhere
Although there is a sense that computers and computing are well established in the region, over the next 12 months, more intensive integration and harnessing of the benefits of computing are expected. Ways this trend might be manifested include the continued conversion of analogue/paper-driven systems to digital or online processes; greater efforts to optimise processes electronically to facilitate greater ease of doing business.
3. Mobile computing goes to greater heights
As more Caribbean mobile/cellular users transition from the simple mobile/cellular handset to smartphones, and as a mobile data rates become more affordable, the Caribbean consumers’ appetite for mobile services is likely to increase. This in turn could present a wealth of business opportunities to provide relevant content, applications and services to suit their needs.
Further, businesses might be more inclined to introduce mobile/portable devices, especially tablet computers, on their front lines, thereby not restricting their employees to their desks or behind a cash register, and enhancing their engagement with customers.
4. Network security is not ignored
Over 2014, a number of government and private commercial networks in the Caribbean were compromised, though very few details of those incidents have been made publicly available. However, it is becoming more widely accepted that the Caribbean – both the individual countries and the region as a whole – are not in any way under radar of hackers.
As developing countries with limited resources, compared with more developed countries, there might be a general sense that our systems and defences are not as robust and can be easily breached. The incidents that have occurred in recent months could be the much needed impetus for both governments and private organisations to: complete establishment of CERTs/CSIRTs (Computer Emergency Readiness Teams/Computer Security Incident Response Teams); access much-needed network security expertise; and/or undertake major upgrades of existing networks.
5. Internet of Things begins to get a foothold
Coupled with an the anticipated marked increase in computing use and integration in the region over the next 12 months, it is also expected that the Internet of Things will begin to get some traction. The stores across the region are already selling “smart” appliances, and increasingly other devices are being built with some Internet-ready capability, and may soon be available within the region. Hence from your watch and clothes, to your refrigerator and television, they can all be connected thereby transforming the user experience and opening up a wealth of opportunities that presently we might be unable to conceive.
Is there anything we missed? What topics or issues do you think will be big in 2015?
Image credit: Master isolated images (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)