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The 2009 factor

Nelson Mandela South Africa 2010 WorldcupLast week I offered an analysis of Internet growth, electronic banking and e-commerce that showed there was still a five-year wait for the latter to really kick in. Today, he ties the threads into the winning of the bid to host World Cup 2010.

There is hardly a South African who does not realise the significance of the year 2010. The staging of the soccer World Cup finals in this country is arguably even more significant than would have been the Olympic Games, had Cape Town won the 2006 bid.

Over the next five years, most South Africans will feel the impact of the World Cup in the upgrade and creation of infrastructure throughout the country. The arrival of tens of thousands of soccer fans in 2010 itself will be the icing on the cake. And the sweet, unbudgeted cherry on top, of course, will be the potential ongoing tourist flow that will follow from the exposure of South Africa’s attractions to the world.

All of these benefits will occupy headlines, talk shows and debates for the next six years.

But there is another picture developing in the background, outside of this relentless spotlight.

Hidden in the statistics that show rapid uptake of cellular phones, steady uptake of Internet connectivity and slow uptake of e-commerce, is a graphic image of a country heading into an electronic, hi-tech future.

Consider these direction signs to the future:

In 2009, more than half of all South Africans will own a cellular phone or equivalent.
In 2009, close to five million South Africans will have full Internet connectivity.

  • In 2009, three and a half million South Africans will have been on the Internet for more than five years, and a million will be shopping online.
  • More than two and a half million South Africans will be banking online.
  • Wireless Internet connectivity will be pervasive, with Sentech’s MyWireless and equivalent offerings from other network providers available in most urban areas; computer hardware and software will be far more compatible with these new systems than our current options, and it will be a matter of switching on a device, clicking on an option, and the user will be online.
  • The second network operator will (finally) be up and running, making for a range of competitive choices in communications and telecommunications.
  • The Convergence Bill will finally have made it past an array of vested interests, and VoIP, or voice calls via data signals like the Internet, will be legal.
  • Thanks to initiatives like Gauteng Online, tens of thousands of children in high school today will emerge into the working world by 2009 with knowledge of the Internet, convergent technologies and the world of electronic communication.

With luck, even the Gautrain will be ready to roll, providing high-speed and, we hope, efficient, transit across Gauteng, improving general efficiencies in the region.
The South Africa of the 2010 World Cup will be an integral part of the new world of high-speed, ubiquitous connectivity and connectedness. Visitors to this country will barely notice the transition from their global communications systems to the local network.

With luck, even the Gautrain will be ready to roll, providing high-speed and, we hope, efficient, transit across Gauteng, improving general efficiencies in the region.
The South Africa of the 2010 World Cup will be an integral part of the new world of high-speed, ubiquitous connectivity and connectedness. Visitors to this country will barely notice the transition from their global communications systems to the local network.

Is this too much to wish for?

The truth is, it is a reality we will find ourselves facing in 2009, whether we want it or not. The progress towards this vision is inexorable. It will take far more to stop it from happening than to make it happen.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is editor of The Big Change and Managing Director of World Wide Worx, South Africa’s leading independent technology research organisation. He leads World Wide Worx’s research into Internet access, online banking and online retail.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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