23 October 2017

IoT (internet of things) is not just another way to say machine-to-machine communication, it represents a communication opportunity for everyone, and everything. And it is important that unconnected people do not get left out of the conversation in favour of connected things.

IoT is a term used in many conversations and debates loosely related to the way the world is moving closer to the 4th industrial revolution, when economies are fueled by knowledge workers and not muscle workers.

It describes a people-machine connection (you use your phone to load pre-paid electricity), a people-people connection (sending your friend a pre-paid electricity voucher), and a machine-machine connection (your phone automatically loads your pre-paid electricity). Now expand this to each aspect of everyday life, for example: Through your phone and fridge sharing your personal data (like sell-by dates on commonly purchased items, and your location settings) your fridge can send you a reminder to buy milk – when you are nearby the shops.

So, beyond personal efficiencies of those already connected to the Internet, how can South Africa use the changing environment it will bring to ensure that more people are connected to this digital environment, and fewer are left without?

Of course, it is important for business and government benefit fully from IoT, and pass on those benefits to their stakeholders and constituents. However, it is crucial that IoT is seen not just another technical advancement for the connected, but rather as a bridge to span the digital divide to those on the wrong side of it.

When our entire society is connected, surely the benefits of IoT and the network effect it enables, will enable us all to move forward quicker, together as a nation.