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Where is the Digital Economy Headed?

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In this blog, our guest authors Randeep Sudan and Yamin Oo talk about the pervasiveness of the Digital Economy, and the key trends that will determine its future trajectory. “That the world in 2030 will be very different from today is obvious. We may, however, be surprised by the extent and sweep of the change ahead of us.”

The Digital Economy – a term first coined by Don Tapscott in 1994 – is not easy to define or measure. At one end, it is limited to the production and consumption of digital goods and services. On the other end, according to the European Parliament, “The digital economy is increasingly interwoven with the physical or offline economy making it more and more difficult to clearly delineate the digital economy“. We are, however, witnessing the Digital Economy transitioning to an economy that is digital.

Given the pervasiveness of the Digital Economy, its future will be determined by the complex interplay of several trends. Some of the trends that illustrate the future trajectory of the Digital Economy are:

Technology

We will see AI becoming ubiquitous as it is leveraged in every sector and sphere of activity. According to one estimate, AI is estimated to contribute USD 15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, which is more than the current GDP of China and India combined! We are also likely to see rapid progress in technologies related to Extended Reality (XR) in the coming years. COVID-19 is accelerating this trend, as we can see from the offerings of companies like Spatial and MeetinVR that facilitate virtual business meetings. The analog world’s rendering into its digital twin will see us moving towards a metaverse – a virtual shared space imagined in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snowcrash. Some of the biggest names in the tech industry – Apple (Apple glass), Facebook (Oculus), Sony (Playstation) – are assiduously working towards this direction.

Given the importance of telecom infrastructure to the Digital Economy, 5G networks are being rolled out in countries worldwide (Figure 1). However, even as 5G is being deployed, the buzz around 6G is getting louder. 6G may transmit data 100 times faster than 5G and may see deployment by 2030 given the decadal cycles for telecom: 1G in the 80s, 2G in the 90s, 3G in the decade following 2000, 4G in the decade starting 2010, and 5G beginning in the 2020s.

Global 5G Deployments

The availability of high bandwidth, low latency networks could lead to newer applications and further breakthroughs in innovative technologies.

The Future of Work

With the rapid growth in automation and AI, we are likely to see significant labour market disruptions. Moreover, COVID-19 has been a watershed for the global economy – its impacts will continue to be felt for many years to come. According to the International Labor Organization, 495 million full-time jobs were lost in the first two quarters of 2020 due to COVID-19.  Lower and middle-income countries have suffered the most, with an estimated 23.3% drop in working hours – equivalent to 240 million jobs. 

A recent report from the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced due to automation and AI, while 97 million new roles may emerge. We will see significant changes and turbulence in labour markets across multiple industries and geographies in the years ahead. If we look at how the top ten skills required by the top 10 US companies have been changing over time, we get an indication of the Future of Work. Companies are more focused on “soft” skills, that are not easily addressed by AI & Automation.

We are also likely to see a shift from humans adapting to technology to technologies adapting to humans. For example, the acceleration in digital twins combined with advancements in XR could allow unskilled workers to do skilled jobs. AR could guide a worker to repair a piece of mechanical equipment without long years of previous training. Similarly, the emergence of ‘Low Code No Code’ (LCNC) applications will allow ordinary individuals to do tasks that previously required specialised training.

Climate Change

Scientists have long focused our attention to limit the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million to avoid catastrophic climate change. In 2016, the World Meteorological Organization reported this concentration had crossed 400 parts per million, leaving us with a shorter runway to prevent calamitous climate change. We are, therefore, likely to see increased efforts to tackle climate change in the decade ahead.

Digital technologies can impact the global climate agenda in multiple ways: smart grids, smart buildings, smart appliances, intelligent transport systems, shared mobility, and 3D printing, to name a few. Digital technologies will also allow new sources of renewable energy to be tapped. For example, the molten core of the earth is over 6,000°C. “Just 0.1% of the heat content of Earth could supply humanity’s total energy needs for 2 million years,” according to AltaRock Energy. Advances in the use of digital technologies that allow for precise directional drilling will allow for advanced geothermal systems to be established as reliable power sources.

Splinternet

Tech bloggers like Doc Searls and Stephen Lewis had begun to theorise about a Splinternet as early as 2008. There was a danger of governments carving the world into geopolitical blocks and creating technology barriers. China’s Great Firewall and the US’s recent responses under the Trump administration are likely to hurtle us in the direction of a fractured internet. We may end up with the US dominating the western internet and China dominating a competing block of countries. The Digital Economy’s evolution would fracture into different camps, making it very different from what it is today.

Tech Regulation

The most valuable companies in the world today are in tech. Seven of the top ten companies in the world by market cap in 2020 are tech companies.

The recent investigation into competition in digital markets undertaken by the US House Judiciary Committee observed: “Over the past decade, the digital economy has become highly concentrated and prone to monopolisation. Several markets investigated by the Subcommittee – such as social networking, general online search, and online advertising – are dominated by just one or two firms. The companies investigated by the Subcommittee – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – have captured control over key channels of distribution and have come to function as gatekeepers. Just a decade into the future, 30% of the world’s gross economic output may lie with these firms, and just a handful of others.

We have also witnessed the rapid diversification of data monopolies into other sectors. See, for example, the diversification of VC investments by Alibaba’s Ant Group over time. In 2015 they were investing in 5 areas, which has doubled in the last 5 years.  

The call for the regulation of big tech will gain momentum in the coming years. The European Union is likely to lead here, just the way just it did in the case of its General Data Protection Regulation.

Governments will also require data monopolies to share data. China mandates its automakers to share data generated by electric vehicles with a government research institute. This data is essential for public safety and planning battery-recharging stations. The Australian Government promotes the concept of sharing “designated datasets” that could include data held by the private sector that has significant community benefits. Similarly, France’s Law for a Digital Republic requires the sharing data by certain categories of the private sector. Such blurring of boundaries between public and private data will become more important.

We will also see the growing importance of data trusts. These are structures where data is placed in the custody of a “Board of Trustees” who have a fiduciary responsibility to look after the interests of data owners. Such data trusts might give individuals better control over their data.

Every aspect of the economy is being digitalised today. In the next decade we are likely to witness foundational shifts in how the Digital or Data Economy is structured. It will also see increasing risks as cyber threats grow exponentially from cybercriminals and state actors. That the world in 2030 will be very different from today is obvious. We may, however, be surprised by the extent and sweep of the change ahead of us.

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Achieving Sustainability: The Tide is Turning

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In this blog, our guest author HE Jo Tyndall, delivers a message of hope for the future and talks about initiatives across all levels to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. “The pieces of the puzzle that will create a sustainable future are all there – it is time to start fitting them together.”

If, like me, you have watched Sir David Attenborough’s “witness statement” (A Life On Our Planet), it is easy to despair of the wanton, wilful destruction humanity has wreaked on the Earth, and to be horrified that so much of this has happened in one man’s (admittedly long) lifetime. The images he conjures – of distressed orangutans, starving polar bears, floods, fires and droughts, and of rampant deforestation – underscore how ubiquitous, urgent and overwhelming the climate change and biodiversity crises are.

But Sir David ends with a message of hope, and it is this I want to emphasise. Everywhere we look, there are green shoots of hope, many growing into sturdy saplings. They are coming thick and fast, and they are becoming mainstream – no longer relegated to the tick-box margins of policy or practice. The pieces of the puzzle that will create a sustainable future are all there – it is time to start fitting them together.

Political Signals Create a Ripple Effect

First, and foremost, in 2015 we got the Paris Agreement (and subsequently its rulebook). This was no mean feat. It set climate goals, gave us global rules for being transparent and accountable, and put governments on a path of continuous improvement to reach those collective goals. It is easy to dismiss global treaties as just words on paper, but this is to ignore the profound ripple effect those words have already had. (The Agreement held firm despite the US withdrawal – but the fillip when it re-joins will be welcome.)  

The political signals set the first ripples off as governments needed climate policies to meet their Paris undertakings. The European Green Deal aims for a sustainable EU economy, with no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, decoupling economic growth from resource use. The UK will host next year’s UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) – and has doubled its climate finance for the period 2021-2025.

In September this year, China – the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases – announced it would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Japan and Korea, too, have upped their mid-century targets to bring net emissions to zero.  

The New Zealand Government has set a legislated goal for the country to be carbon neutral by 2050; has amended our Emissions Trading System (ETS) to ensure price signals encourage a move to low carbon; set up a green investment fund; invested heavily in research into reducing emissions from livestock production; and, most recently, made carbon-related financial disclosures mandatory for specified companies, banks, insurers and investment managers. We have also made it our mission to encourage governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies (some US$400bn each year) that promote excessive consumption.  

The Ripples Reach Cities and Businesses…

The political signals have flowed through to regional and local government. The C40 group (cities around the world working towards sustainability goals) now has 96 participating members – with many cities finding opportunities to collaborate with others in the network on joint projects.

It is becoming obvious that fossil fuel industries are at a disadvantage against increasingly cost-competitive renewable energy. Governments are working out how to manage a ‘just transition’ for the energy sector, while forward-leaning energy companies are re-shaping their business models in anticipation of a low carbon future.

Political signals encourage businesses to factor climate change into their planning and investment decisions. Businesses everywhere have read the political tea leaves and we see weekly announcements of pledges for carbon neutrality, ethical investing, green financing and so on. Whether it is Blackrock or NZ Super Fund making environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations integral to their investments, or Ikea’s IWAY (its ESG code of conduct for itself and its suppliers), business is showing a deeper commitment to sustainability than ever before. 

Some industries will have to be more invested than others in emissions reduction, but this opens a world of opportunity and innovation. Energy & Utilities companies are implementing waste-to-energy solutions – Singapore’s Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) is set to be the world’s largest energy recovery facility – and adoption of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) facilities is at last gathering momentum across energy systems. Industries like aviation and maritime, too, have to play a key role in a circular economy.

… And Individuals (the Last – and First – Pieces of the Puzzle)

The ripples have spread to individuals – people like you and me. I know there are still plenty of climate deniers around. But mindsets are changing – and when that happens, the ripples become a tidal wave of real change. If we each start thinking we can do it and we will do it, the change will happen. If we make it clear, in our preferences as consumers, and in our expectations of the businesses we buy from or invest in, the change will happen.

The numbers who recognise we must live within our planetary boundaries are growing, values are changing (especially in light of the pandemic), and our low-carbon future is a high-tech one – not hemp shirts and home-made candles (unless of course these are your thing). Digital is a critical part of the story. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) is being used to cater to a new generation of consumers, conscious of buying what is good for the world in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. Food products are being branded using track-and-trace capabilities of Blockchain for ‘farm to fork’ visibility. 

Who doesn’t want to breathe clean air, have lower energy bills, and eat safe and healthy food? Maybe we will see more initiatives like America’s Pledge, bringing together an entire ecosystem committed to fighting climate change, growing the economy, and protecting public health – an ecosystem of states, cities, businesses, universities, and citizens.

We now have the rules, the policy tools, the technologies, and – increasingly – we have the will to act. As we re-build our economies, our businesses, and our lives, let us re-build better. So, I would echo Sir David Attenborough’s optimism – it is just that we do not have his (95 years) lifetime left to put things right.


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Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Healthcare Trends for 2021

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The Healthcare industry has had to pivot completely this year and 2021 will see it emerge a transformed industry. The impact will be seen on policies, how ecosystems evolve, and most obviously on healthcare provider organisations. COVID-19 has shifted the business priorities of healthcare providers and how these organisations invest and use technology. There will be another reset in 2021. However, given the immense impact of the pandemic, it would be near-impossible to restrict the prediction to only one year; and several of the trends will firmly define the industry way beyond 2021.

Ecosystm Advisors Aga Manhao, Arun Sethuraman, Krish Krishnan and Sash Mukherjee present the top 5 Ecosystm predictions for Healthcare Trends in 2021. This is a summary of the Healthcare predictions – the full report (including the implications) is available to download for free on the Ecosystm platform.

The Top 5 Healthcare Trends for 2021

  1. The Impact of COVID-19 on Public Health Will Create New Opportunities Well Beyond 2021

The impact of COVID-19 will be on all levels. Increasing pressure from patients will challenge healthcare providers (from primary through to tertiary) throughout 2021. There will be larger global impacts as well – average nourishment is likely to go down in most countries, and there will be lower average (seasonal) immune health in many countries.

This is not all doom and gloom – there will be new business opportunities. Enterprises and innovators will find opportunities in:

  • Supply Chain Arbitrage. Continued asymmetrical supply and demand will drive the movement of healthcare related goods and services across geographies.
  • Investment. Investments in pharma/ vaccine/ diagnostics manufacturing and distribution will be driven more by short-term horizons, defensive capacity building, and supply security concerns. Technology and IP acquisition by pharma and medtech leaders will also accelerate.
  • Innovation. COVID-linked gaps in health, immunity, nourishment, and lifestyles will lead to new products within foods, supplements, medications, and pharmaceuticals; and in tech-enabled personal devices and health monitoring apps or systems.
  • New Businesses. We will see an upsurge in demand and supply of alternative medicines and devices as well, although these may still not be accepted in conventional medicine.
  1. Healthcare Policies Will Focus on Product & Manufacturing Security and Supply Chain Control

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the need for better collaboration and visibility of external resources to handle unprecedented scenarios. Governments in countries that have done well to manage the crisis took the vital step of encouraging and being the hub for cross-agency collaboration. Having a siloed view of resources and the supply chain is not sufficient in combating larger challenges. Healthcare policy makers will work towards a more collaborative, AI-driven, supply chain.

Some of the world’s largest economies have already begun to take steps to reduce manufacturing and supply chain dependencies in pharma, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices. What has shown up as opportunistic stockpiling or supply chain arbitrage will become more entrenched. Various governments will either incentivise or centralise the establishment of manufacturing and long-term supply contracts for their countries.

  1. 2021 Will be a Breakout Year for Community Health

COVID-19 has significantly disrupted current standards of care for chronic diseases world-wide.  Frequency and necessity of patient visits to hospitals and clinics for routine checkups and minor interventions are being evaluated by healthcare planners and providers. There are concerns about the increasing cost of providing basic services, allocation of healthcare capacity to higher priority needs, and the need to reduce risk of exposure to the vulnerable population.

Telehealth and Digital Health technologies have seen a marked increase in adoption during the pandemic, but the real effectiveness of these solutions to solve a healthcare delivery problem is still emerging. We predict 2021 will be a breakout year for Community Health, powered by these two technologies. There will be an increased focus on building resilient communities and early warning systems. Number of visits to hospitals and clinics for routine observations will drop by 15-20% or even more. Privacy and Data security concerns will increase, and this will also lead to better policy and practices to address these concerns. 2021 promises to be a better year for coordinated community care. 

  1. Healthcare Providers Will be More Tech-Dependent Than Ever

In 2020, healthcare providers’ technology investments took off on unexpected trajectories and they have digressed from their technology and transformation roadmap. Many solutions would have gone through an initial ‘proof-of-concept’ without the formal rigours and protocols. Many of these will be adopted for longer term applications.

Healthcare organisations had to pivot their technology spending when COVID-19 hit. There were several changes that were required to be made, including implementing operational measures to ensure staff safety and cutting down on non-essential expenses. When it comes to digital initiatives, the key focus areas were evolving service delivery and empowering employees with the right technology for care delivery – often remote. What providers did not have the time or resources for was to digitalise processes and retain focus on their entire patient demography – and not just those impacted by COVID-19. In 2021, we see a clear indication that not only will their priorities be different, healthcare providers will ramp up their technology investments in all areas.

  1. Medtech and Providers Will Find New Synergies

Medical devices which generate clinical data and/or are driven by clinical data will attract greater investment and higher R&D expenditure; and will either dominate or begin to set the direction for future consumer devices in the Healthcare space.

The popularity of telehealth and digital health will put pressure on healthcare providers to further draw data-driven insights from personal devices. They are likely to mandate the devices that they would be willing to use the data from They will have greater power to demand Interoperability and operating system convergences in the next few years from device developers and manufacturers.

2021 will see an increased use of devices such phones, bracelets and even anklets to track the spread of COVID-19. It will also see the transition of the smartphone to a medical device. The collection, sharing of data, running AI/machine learning will make our smartphones an integral part of remote patient management. 


Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Healthcare Trends for 2021

The full findings and implications of The Top 5 Healthcare Trends for 2021 are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Create your free account to access more from the Ecosystm Predicts Series, and many other reports, on the Ecosystm platform

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Healthcare Trends for 2021
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What is the “Branch of One”

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Ecosystm recently partnered with Asavie to conduct a study into the opportunity and outlook for the “Branch of One”. One of the challenges was actually defining what the Branch of One is. Here’s what we came up with:

Branch of One enables Office Anywhere by delivering secure, frictionless access to all business resources, with full mobility – meeting the security and manageability requirements of CIOs and CISOs.

Basically it is all the data and systems you need to get your job done, in your pocket. Secure. Easy to manage.

What I really like about the idea is that it describes what business is trying to achieve and it gives a common language and outcome for IT and business leaders. Consider all the things that IT and security teams need to do to enable access to applications and data in remote branches – from connectivity to security to data and system access. Often it takes days, weeks or months to open a new office or branch, or to provision a new retail store. Now, imagine having the ability to roll out all of these systems and services in seconds. To a single user or to thousands. Without consideration for location. Business leaders will understand this benefits and will support it.

It also has the opportunity to help nearly every business today. Of the 1005 businesses we interviewed across the globe in our Global CxO Study 2020, 44% admitted to suffering cyber-attack incidents during COVID-19 due to employees working from home – and over half of these attacks were on mobile devices. Compromised devices were the number one target for cyber-attacks in 2020.

Businesses need a new way to manage the devices and applications of their remote employees. They need to be able to extend the benefits of the WAN to them without the downsides of VPNs. Every business we interviewed saw benefits of bringing devices, locations and offices inside the WAN. Turning every device and office into a Branch of One.

A few security and network technologies have promised this capability – SDNs can offer a similar service, but they require client software to be installed. 78% of businesses we interviewed are using VPNs to bring devices inside the WAN – but again, they require client software, and can be inconsistent (and insecure!) on mobile devices.

Companies that embrace the Branch of One can provision new users in a few clicks. No software to install, no cables to connect, no hardware to provision – it makes life easier for technology and security professionals. The Branch of One gives your employees the systems and data they need to get their job done – delivered securely across the mobile network.


Download the report based on ‘The Global CxO Study 2020: The Future of the Secure Office Anywhere’, conducted by Ecosystm on behalf of Asavie. The report presents the key findings of the study and analyses the market perceptions of Office Anywhere and the need for a ‘Branch of One’, which will be the foundation of enterprise mobile security in the future.

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Why Admin Rights need a Zero Trust Approach

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Privileged accounts are gold mines for malicious actors. They offer persistent access to valuable corporate resources and pose massive risk to organisations. Once authentication has been breached and credentials are obtained by an adversary, moving laterally, and accessing multiple resources, is too easy. 

The most privileged access is not always granted to the most senior employees. Administrative and personal assistants often have the greatest access to corporate resources. They are low hanging fruit for attackers -usually among the least well-prepared to deal with breaches or attacks like phishing emails. Privilege promiscuity like this creates challenges around not only Privileged Access Management (PAM), but also other digital risk controls.

Scaling PAM is Complex

Think of PAM as a way of stopping people from abusing privilege. Imagine that you need a handyman for some repairs. The handyman is granted access to your house through the front door and is guided to the kitchen. The handyman is monitored and exits the kitchen as soon as the job is completed. The handyman then leaves the house. The worst outcome is a shoddy job or perhaps the theft of small pieces of cutlery or a few fridge magnets. In other words, the handyman’s access has been managed and privilege was only granted as needed. This is good PAM.

Bad PAM is a scenario where the handyman is granted access to your home and nobody is in to monitor the handyman’s activities. The handyman could be honest do the job and then depart. But, there is a significant risk that the handyman takes advantage of the privileged access granted. The handyman has access to all the rooms in the house and all the items in the house. The handyman can invite other people into the house, including a friend who can remove and copy data from all resident hard drives in the house. This access enables the handyman to steal credit cards, jewelry, PII, credentials and more.

Now, imagine that there are hundreds of handymen and other workers entering and exiting a house at varying times and for different purposes – each with distinct tasks and a need for access to different rooms and items, 24/7. This is the challenge faced by security operations – there are often hundreds or thousands of users with differing privileges to manage. Organisations are struggling to keep up with the sheer scale of the PAM challenge with all its moving parts. PAM also needs to consider the ongoing change in roles and responsibilities of staff, which directly impacts requirements for privileged access.

Privilege Sprawl and Privilege Overkill is Rife In Asia

Once an adversary breaches a privileged account, and is able to move laterally, they can access email accounts, intellectual property, employee data, customer data, sales data, invoicing approvals, expense approvals, and many other systems and processes. In addition to being exposed to short-term financial risk, an organisation also faces operational, legal, and reputational risk from such a breach. The attacker can unload ransomware or other malware to sabotage operations. They can steal PII and credentials, to sell them or use them to cause reputational and legal damage to the victim.

Privilege sprawl is common in Asian organisations. IT departments often struggle to keep track of who has access to what. Worse, IT departments typically over-provision their stakeholders with access. They are usually more concerned with getting positive feedback for the IT resources they provide from the business, than in aggressive risk management.

Specialised PAM solutions have emerged to mitigate the risk associated with unauthorised account access. The term privileged access management is a bit of misnomer. Today’s organisations need to ensure that all access is managed correctly. With an expanding number of devices, bots and people accessing corporate resources, the scope of PAM solutions is much broader than managing privileged accounts alone.

A Zero Trust Approach to PAM is Necessary

Organisations need to take a zero trust approach to PAM. Just-in-time access (JITA) needs to become the norm, ending persistent privileged access. Access needs to be granted for the minimum amount of time with the minimum rights required, ending privilege promiscuity. Zero standing privilege needs to be the default state of systems and networks. Access must be denied as soon as necessary work is complete and only provisioned when needed again. This approach is needed for risk management but few organisations in Asia have achieved this goal. The sheer number of moving parts involved in such an exercise makes it particularly onerous – this is where PAM solutions play a role.


Here’s a list of Ecosystm’s top five predictions that will affect enterprises, cybersecurity leaders, remote workers and the security posture in 2021. Signup for Free to download the report.

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Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Telecommunications & Mobility Trends for 2021

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2020 saw a shutdown in both supply and demand which has effectively put the brakes on many economic activities and forced a complete rethink on how to continue doing business and maintain social interactions. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation of consumers and enterprises, and the telecommunications industry has been the pillar which has kept the world ticking over. The rise in data use coupled with the fervent growth of the digital economy augurs well for the telecom sector in 2021.

Ecosystm Advisors Claus Mortensen, Rahul Gupta, and Shamir Amanullah present the top 5 Ecosystm predictions for Telecommunications & Mobility trends for 2021. This is a summary of the predictions – the full report (including the implications) is available to download for free on the Ecosystm platform.

The Top 5 Telecommunications & Mobility Trends for 2021

  1. The 5G Divide – Reality for Some and Hype for Others

Despite the economic challenges in 2020, GSMA reports that the global 5G subscriptions doubled QoQ in Q2 2020 to hit at least 137.7 million subscribers. This accounts for 1.5% of total subscribers – and is expected to rise to 30% by 2025.

The value of 5G will become increasingly mainstream in the next few years. 5G offers a tailored user-centric approach to network services, low latency and significantly higher number of connections which will power a new era of mobile Internet of Everything (IoE).

However, there are many operators who are still sceptical about 5G. In the US, many operators failed to get any tangible positives from 5G. In the near term, many operators will continue to evolve their 5G capabilities – a full grown standalone 5G technology implementation in some verticals might take longer. 

The unsuccessful launch of 5G by the US operators does not mean that 5G is a failure, however. It also implies that we need to look at other geographies to lead us into 5G – and Asia Pacific may well emerge as a leader in this space. China, for example, leads the drive in 5G adoption; and 5G smartphones account for more than half of global sales in recent months.

  1. Telecom Operators Will Accelerate Digital Transformation

Telecom operators are facing increasing demands for cutting-edge services and top-notch customer experience (CX). The global pandemic has caused revenue loss, due to struggling economies and many operators will aim to reduce OpEX to circumvent these financial pressures, raise the quality of CX and retain existing customers. To realise this, there will be much focus on improvement in efficiencies, better operations management as well as improving the IT stack. These digital transformation efforts will enable rapid and flexible services provisioning, which will be better prepared for the tailored services customers now demand.

Many operators are increasingly incorporating cloudification alongside the 5G network deployment. Operators are moving towards transforming their operations and business support systems to a more virtualised and software-defined infrastructure. 5G will operate across a range of frequencies and bands – with significantly more devices and connections becoming software-defined with computing power at the Edge. Operators will also harness the power of AI to analyse massive volumes of data from the networks accessed by millions of devices in order to improve CX, ramp up operational efficiencies as well as introduce new services tailored to customer needs to increase revenue.

  1. Remote Working Will Transform Telecommunications Networks

The changing patterns in peak network traffic and the substantial movement of traffic from central business districts to residential areas require a fundamental rethink in network traffic management. In addition, many businesses continue to ramp up digital transformation efforts to conduct business online as physical channels will remain limited. Consumer onboarding will also be fervent, as organisations look at business recovery – resulting in increase in bandwidth requirements.

The increasing remote working trend is amplifying the need for greater cybersecurity. Cybersecurity has catapulted in importance as the pandemic has seen a worrying increase in attacks on banks, cloud servers and mobile devices, among others. Cyber-attack incidents specifically due to remote working, has seen a rise. A telecom operator’s compromised security can have country-wide, and even global consequences.

  1. SASE Will Grow – and Sprawl

Although it was perhaps originally seen as an Over-The-Top (OTT) provisioned competitive service to operators’ MPLS services, many telecom service providers have been embracing SD-WAN over the years as part of their managed services portfolio. “Traditional” SD-WAN offers some of the flexibility needed to address the change towards a more distributed access and the workload requirements that the pandemic has accelerated – the technology does not address all of the issues related to this transformed workspace.

Employees are now working from a variety of locations and workloads are becoming increasingly distributed. To address this change, organisations are challenged to move workloads and applications between platforms, potentially compromising security. Despite all the challenges that the pandemic brought with it – both human and technical – it has also provided organisations with an opportunity to rethink their IT and WAN architectures and to adopt an approach that has security at its core.

We believe that secure access service edge (SASE), which is a model for combining SD-WAN and security in a cloud-based environment, will see a drastic rise in adoption in 2021 and beyond.

  1. OTT Players Will Continue their Expansion in the Telecommunications Space

Facebook, Google, Amazon are no longer considered as web companies as they moved from standalone ‘web’ companies to become OTT providers and are now significant players in telecom space. With the Facebook-Jio deal in India earlier this year, and with Google and Amazon actively eyeing the telecom space, these players will continue to explore this space especially in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa. There are telecom providers in these countries which will be prime targets for partnerships. These operators could be those that have a large customer base, are struggling with their bottom lines or are already looking at exit routes. OTT players were already offering services like voice, messaging, video calling and so on which have been the domain expertise of mobile operators for a long time. The market will see instances where telecom providers will sell small stakes to OTT players at a premium and get access to the vast array of services that these OTT providers offer.


Download Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 Telecommunications & Mobility Trends for 2021

The full findings and implications of the Top 5 Telecommunications & Mobility Trends for 2021 are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Signup for Free to download the report.

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Blockchain for a Borderless Transparent Financial Industry

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The ongoing global crisis is expected to drive more investments in FinTech. Blockchain adoption, in particular is expected to lead to a more open and interconnected economy that is borderless, transparent and does not need counter-party trust to operate. One particular area where Blockchain has been piloted is in smart contracts. Financial contracts involve legal work, document handling, sighting, signing, and sending them to the right people. All of this involves both time and people – and proves to be an expensive option eventually. Blockchain can speed this process up in a secure (with no failure points), interoperable and risk-free environment.

While smart contracts are expected to increase efficiency, there are questions being raised with respect to interpretation and technical capacity. The Law Commission in the UK is conducting a detailed study to analyse how current law applies to smart contracts and to highlight any uncertainties or gaps in relation to enforceability, interpretation and so on. The World Bank is looking at the role smart contracts could play in improving financial services in poorer nations – especially in insurance and short-term unsecured loans. Initiatives such as these are a positive step towards adoption.

However, smart contracts are not the only area that financial institutions and governments have in mind when they pilot and adopt Blockchain – and there are several recent instances.

Digital Currency

Many central banks have started identifying potential use cases for digital representation of fiat money that offers them unique advantages at various levels. According to Bank of International Settlements (BIS), 80% of the world’s central banks had already started to conceptualise and research the potential for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), 40% are working on proofs-of-concept (POCs) and 10% are deploying pilot projects. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced last month that it has processed more than three million digital yuan transactions since it began piloting its CBDC late last year. Transactions include bill payments, bar code scans, tap and go payments, and payments for transport and government services.

Singapore’s Project Ubin has successfully completed its fifth and final stage and is a step closer to greater adoption and live deployments of blockchain technology. The commercial applications of the payments network prototype include cross-border payments in multiple currencies, foreign currency exchange, settlement of foreign currency-denominated securities, as well as integration with other blockchain-based platforms to enable end-to-end digitalisation across many industries and use cases.

Crypto Exchange Ecosystems

A crypto exchange or digital currency exchange (DCE) makes it easier for buyers and sellers to securely store, buy, sell, or exchange crypto currencies. Various players across the financial industry have developed tools connecting the transactions, flow of funds, and financial instruments through crypto exchanges – including banks, digital payments and other FinTech providers.

In an effort to expand its retail presence, FTX acquired crypto app Blockfolio for USD 150 million in August 2020. Recently, FTX announced the launch of trade in the stocks of some of the largest global companies – Tesla, Apple, Amazon – by tokens against bitcoins, stablecoin and more. 

In order to empower the emerging initiatives in the decentralised finance (DeFi) space, the world’s largest crypto exchange platform Binance announced the creation of a seed fund in September. Their USD 100 million accelerator fund added five new Blockchain projects – Bounce, DeFiStation, Gitcoin, JustLiquity and PARSIQ that will receive financial support from the fund.

PayPal has announced crypto buying and selling services through Paypal accounts. Paypal’s crypto service in partnership with Paxos is being rolled out in phases across the US. Outlining their plans for 2021, Paypal announced new crypto payments features including enhanced direct deposit, check cash, budgeting tools, bill pay, crypto support, subscription management, buy now/pay later functionalities and more with the integration of the capabilities offered by Honey – an internet browser extension and mobile app which PayPal bought for USD 4 billion in 2019.

It is expected that banks will join in as well – it has been reported that DBS Bank in Singapore is planning to launch a digital asset exchange platform to enable institutional and retail customers to trade cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain Enhancing Banking Features and Services

We are also witnessing several pilots and initiatives in banking industry functionalities such as settlements, identity management, security, transparency, and data management.

In theory, the bank reconciliation is simple, however, in practical aspects things may not work out so easily. The funding, lending, transfer, and transactions reconciliations is a complicated and time-consuming effort. in March 2020 the Spunta Banca DLT system promoted by the Italian Banking Association (ABI) and coordinated by ABI Lab was implemented across the Italian banking sector. Powered by R3’s Corda Enterprise blockchain, the solution streamlines and automates the reconciliation of transactions, provides real-time reconciliation process, handles technical elements with automated feedback and results in more transparent processes. Spunta has attracted broad interest from the Italian banking sector and since October, around 100 banks have been operating on Spunta to manage the interbank process and automate reconciliation of transactions.

Recently, in Spain, ten leading banks including Banco Santander, Bankia, BME, CaixaBank, Inetum, Liberbank, Línea Directa Aseguradora, Mapfre, Naturgy and Repsol, and the Alastria consortium have come together to build a self-managed digital identity (ID) solution dubbed as Dalion built on Blockchain technology. The project based on Alastria digital identity model (Alastria ID) aims to provide users with secure control on their digital information and personal data, making it easier for them to manage their digital identity. The project that was initiated in October 2019, has successfully completed the concept testing phase and is in its second phase, with the final solution expected to roll-out in mid-2021.

Grayscale, is the first digital currency investment vehicle to attain the status of a Securities and Exchange Commission reporting company. The digital assets management company is aggressively buying bitcoins and manages a total of USD 8.2 billion of cryptocurrency. Earlier this year, Singapore’s Matrixport, a financial services firm partnered with Simplex, an EU-licensed payments processing firm to enable buying of cryptocurrencies via VISA or Mastercard credit and debit cards with more than 20 supported fiat currencies.

As Blockchain matures we will see more large-scale adoption bringing collaborators together to form ecosystems that will give them a competitive edge. Solve some of their core challenges and empower their customers.


Singapore FinTech Festival 2020: Infrastructure Summit

Get more insights into the evolution of blockchain and its applications at the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020: Infrastructure Summit. The world’s largest fintech event will explore different uses of blockchain technology, trials being conducted, and the vast opportunities in the financial services industries

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Telstra to Split into Three Entities

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Telstra, Australia’s leading telecom provider has revealed its plans to split into 3 different units which would operate under the umbrella of the Telstra Group. The restructuring – scheduled to be completed by 2021 – is said to be the telecom giant’s biggest restructuring since 1997. The primary reason behind the move appears to be to spin off its infrastructure assets to realise their full value as competition intensifies.

In 2018, the Telstra2022 plan defined a four-pillar strategy to improve business, network superiority, cost improvements and respond to market dynamics for the next three years including the establishment of InfraCo and Global Business Services. Telstra established its standalone infrastructure unit, Telstra InfraCo to hold its fixed network assets. As a part of its recent announcement, Telstra’s infrastructure business InfraCo will split into two units – InfraCo Fixed which will run and manage Telstra’s physical infrastructure assets including data centres, ducts, fibres, undersea cables, and exchanges; and InfraCo Towers which will own and operate Telstra’s mobile towers and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the third unit ServeCo will focus on products and services for the consumer and retail businesses. The company is also investigating ways to push into renewable energy, with plans to exploit its renewable energy investments to re-sell cheaper energy to its customers.

This restructure, should it go ahead as described, is likely to be the biggest legacy that the current CEO, Andy Penn, leaves on the business. Recent CEOs have left a significant legacy on Telstra. Sol Trujillo – who admittedly had a rocky relationship with the Australian Government, which culminated in the conception of the National Broadband  Network (NBN) – drove significant changes in Telstra; rationalising mobile and fixed network investments, driving focus back into the business and building an economically rational business. David Thodey was the great peacemaker, driving pride back into the Telstra staff and customers; he turned Telstra into one of the most customer-centric businesses in Australia in his time, laying the foundation for its ongoing success. Andy Penn has made some significant changes to Telstra, further reducing the cost base to turn it into a more competitive business – but until now, he has not significantly transformed the core business.

This changes now. Telstra ServeCo will build on the customer-obsessed culture of the Telstra sales and service business – one that consistently scores above market average for NPS in both the business/enterprise and the consumer markets. One can even envision a day in the future where ServeCo will be in a position to sell the best network solutions and services in Australia – some of which might not even be owned or controlled by InfraCo. It already does that with the NBN – this may extend to reselling other telecom services too.

InfraCo Fixed will build on the strong engineering legacy that Telstra still has – and will give it the chance to flourish – and not be dictated by customer buying cycles. Ideally investment cycles can be separated from direct customer revenue, and the company can rebuild the network lead that it has traditionally experienced, but which has been eroded over the past 3-4 years (in mobile by Optus and in fixed telecoms by NBN).

InfraCo Towers should be well-positioned to become the core tower provider in Australia. This business makes the most sense to spin off in the medium term. The buildout of multiple – nearly identical – tower networks by the three major 4/5G providers is wasteful and inefficient. 5G in particular, requires a very different tower footprint than 3G or 4G – so having a single provider of shared tower infrastructure will reduce costs for all telecom providers while creating a healthy business for shareholders. As an independent provider of towers, InfraCo Towers should always be the most affordable option – Optus, Telstra and Vodafone would be foolish to attempt to replicate and manage their own similar tower infrastructure.

The NBN-Telstra Dynamics

While Telstra dominates the Australian telecommunications market, their business is also under pressure due to the state-owned NBN. In 2019, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher ruled out selling the NBN to Telstra. However, the new structure has likely been designed with this in mind – with perhaps the option to spin off the InfraCo Fixed unit and merge this with a privatised NBN or perhaps to even the separation of the business units enough to satisfy a future government of the merits of selling NBN to Telstra and merging it with the InfraCo Fixed unit. The question surely needs to be asked what the difference is between a private business with a monopoly on home broadband access and Telstra having that monopoly?

This restructure will help Telstra build a telco for the next ten years. One where agility will be core to its success. The challenge – like with any big transformation – will be to take the employees and the customers on that journey. Employees need to believe that this structure is the right one and that their skills are required and relevant. Customers need to see benefits from this restructure too – ideally, they will see that the service promise of Telstra is delivered in the network and capabilities. Hopefully, they will see a stronger Telstra that can continue to drive the levels of innovation and investment that digitally savvy customers demand.

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Ecosystm Predicts: The Top Cities of the Future Trends for 2021

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Public sector organisations are looking at 2021 as the year where they either hobble back to normalcy or implement their successful pilots (that were honed under tremendous pressure). Ecosystm research finds that 60% of government agencies are looking at 2021 as the year they make a recovery to normal – or the normal that finally emerges. The path to recovery will be technology-driven, and this time they will look at scalability and data-driven intelligence.

Ecosystm Advisors Alan Hesketh, Mike Zamora and Sash Mukherjee present the top 5 Ecosystm predictions for Cities of the Future in 2021. This is a summary of our Cities of the Future predictions – the full report (including the implications) is available to download for free on the Ecosystm platform here.

The Top 5 Cities of the Future Trends for 2021

#1 Cities Will Re-start Their Transformation Journey by Taking Stock

In 2021 the first thing that cities will do is introspect and reassess. There have been a lot of abrupt policy shifts, people changes, and technology deployments. Most have been ad-hoc, without the benefit of strategy planning, but many of the services that cities provide have been transformed completely. Government agencies in cities have seen rapid tech adoption, changes in their business processes and in the mindset of how their employees – many who were at the frontline of the crisis – provide citizen services. 

Technology investments, in most cases, took on an unexpected trajectory and agencies will find that they have digressed from their technology and transformation roadmap. This also provides an opportunity, as many solutions would have gone through an initial ‘proof-of-concept’ without the formal rigours and protocols. Many of these will be adopted for longer term applications. In 2021, they will retain the same technology priorities as 2020, but consolidate and strengthen on their spend.  

#2 Cities Will be Instrumented Using Intelligent Edge Devices

The capabilities of edge devices continue to increase dramatically, while costs decline. This reduces the barriers to entry for cities to collect and analyse significantly more data about the city and its people. Edge devices move computational power and data storage as close to the point of usage as possible to provide good performance. Devices range from battery powered IoT devices for data collection through to devices such as smart CCTV cameras with embedded pattern recognition software.

Cities will develop many use cases for intelligent edge devices. These uses will range from enhancing old assets using newer approaches to data collection – through to accelerating the speed and quality of the build of a new asset. The move to data-driven maintenance and decision-making will improve outcomes. 

#3 COVID-19 Will Impact City Design

The world has received a powerful reminder of the vulnerability of densely populated cities, and the importance of planning and regulating public health. COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on city design in 2021.  

A critical activity in controlling the pandemic in this environment is the test-and-trace capabilities of the local public health authorities. Technology to provide automated, accurate, contact tracing to replace manual efforts is now available. Scanning of QR codes at locations visited is proving to be the most widely adopted approach. The willingness of citizens to track their travels will be a crucial aid in managing the spread of COVID-19.  

Early detection of new disease outbreaks, or other high-risk environmental events, is essential to minimise harm. Intelligent edge devices that detect the presence of viruses will become crucial tools in a city’s defence.

Intelligent edge devices will also play a role in managing building ventilation. Well-ventilated spaces are an important factor in controlling virus transmission. But a limited number of buildings have ventilation systems that are capable of meeting those requirements. Property owners will begin to refit their facilities to provide better air movement.  

#4 Technology Vendors Will Emerge as the Conductors of Cities of the Future

The built environment comprises not only of the physical building, but also the space around the buildings and building operations. The real estate developer/investor owns the building – the urban fabric, the relationship of buildings to each other, the common space and the common services provided to the city, is owned by the City. The question is who will coordinate the players, e.g. business, citizens, government and the built environment. Ideally the government should be the conductor. However, they may not have sufficient experience or knowledge to properly implement this role. This means a capable and knowledgeable neutral consultant will at least initially fill this role. There is an opportunity for a technology vendor to fill that consulting role and impact the city fabric. This enhanced city environment will be requested by the Citizen, driven by the City, and guided by Technology Vendors. 2021 will see leading technology vendors working very closely with cities.

#5 Compliance Will be at the Core of Citizen Engagement Initiatives

Many Smart Cities have long focused on online services – over the last couple of years mobile apps have further improved citizen services. In 2020, the pandemic challenged government agencies to continue to provide services to citizens who were housebound and had become more digital savvy almost overnight. And many cities were able to scale up to fulfill citizen expectations.

However, in 2021 there will be a need to re-evaluate measures that were implemented this year – and one area that will be top priority for public sector agencies is compliance, security and privacy.

The key drivers for this renewed focus on security and privacy are:

  • The need to temper the focus of ‘service delivery at any cost’ and further remind agencies and employees that security and privacy must comply with standard to allow the use of government data.
  • The rise of cyberattacks that target not only essential infrastructure, but also individual citizens and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • The rise of app adoption by city agencies – many that have been developed by third parties. It will become essential to evaluate their compliance to security and privacy requirements.

Download Ecosystm Predicts: The Top Cities of the Future Trends for 2021

The full findings and implications of The Top Cities of the Future Trends for 2021 are available for download from the Ecosystm platform. Signup for Free to download the report.

The Top Cities of the Future Trends for 2021
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