We are in the midst of exciting times. Developments in technology spurn us forward into the future at an ever-faster pace. The world is an increasingly-connected place where we share, create and explore the myriad forms of information that is available to us. Our lives are getting richer, as borders are being erased and new relationships are being formed.
Nevertheless, all progress comes with a price. The market has changed, rapidly and inexorably, and the success that traditional telecommunications providers enjoyed on the market is a product of a bygone era. The industry is now dominated by OTT service and content providers and power rests in the hands of the consumer. Individuals are increasingly able to tailor and adapt the many platforms and services on offer to craft the ultimate bespoke digital experience.
Telecommunications providers need to be increasingly mindful of these trends if they are to survive at all amongst the competition. A huge part of the struggle is in understanding the consumer and realising that no two consumers are the same. Hence, the earlier metrics that were used to rank and assess consumers along the lines of the data and bandwidth they used are redundant. A more comprehensive digital fingerprint has to be developed for every individual. This can be achieved through the increased digitisation of operators’ internal processes and even radical new approaches, such as through the utilisation of artificial intelligence (AI).
The developments of these processes need to be consolidated with the support of wider geopolitical and socio-economic parties. We witness that disparities in technology use and access still persist, and in some regions, they are of particular concern. The development and roll-out of new technologies need to be effectively streamlined to reduce inequality as much as possible. A failure to do so would result in the creation of glaring ‘technological bubbles’, which could have unwholesome socioeconomic and political ramifications to the detriment of all.
Similarly, turbulent times call for increased action by regulators, and part of these efforts lie with telecommunications providers as well. We witness this urgency in the present, as the world, despite its many advances, still falls party to unwelcome trends. Technology-wise, these include the proliferation of misinformation on the Internet, cyber-crime and cyber-violence, and the eroding of human relationships as people isolate themselves into ‘echo-chambers’ on social media. A failure to address and rectify such issues would have disastrous consequences on the progression of the telecommunications industry as a whole, as consumers would become increasingly suspicious and averse to novel developments and innovation.
Nonetheless, the influence that OTT service providers wield over the industry will not dissipate in the years to come. Telecommunications operators should correspondingly adapt to this trend. This may involve joining forces with OTT players to develop new business models, such as those based on the creation of premium content or the optimisation of video services. The development of premium content could entail the creation of tiered packages, targeted advertising and integrated billing mechanisms. Similarly, optimised video services could involve using analytic technology to identify a target audience and creating curated content of interest to the user. Ideally, this would represent a veritable value-added service that would resonate strongly with users.
There must also be a holistic adaptation of upcoming technologies to all spheres of the economy and correspondingly; an individual’s life. Sectors such as commerce and entertainment represent fully-integrated examples, but much more work has to be done to popularise these services in education and healthcare. The education sector requires content that is not just engaging, but retentive; and healthcare users require high-quality solutions that are accurate to the minutest degree.
Finally, there is the omnipresent issue of ecological sustainability that must be addressed. The rising problems of eWaste and the taxing effects that the production and disbursement of technology pose on the environment need solutions that are rapid, prudent and effective.
As ever, we eagerly anticipate the developments on the horizon, and SLT is well-poised to lead forward for the benefit and success of all individuals in Sri Lanka.