Fewer than three in 10 telecommunications operators in Africa and the Middle East have established a digital transformation roadmap, putting the region far behind the rest of the world when it comes to monetizing digital sales channels. That’s according to a new report from the Technology Innovation Council commissioned by mobile technology specialists, Upstream.
The report, titled “The Road to Digital”, provides a cutting edge glimpse into how telco operators around the world are preparing for digitalization during a global pandemic that has seen a dramatic increase in the demand for digital services. Despite the huge precedent for digital sales, more than one-third of telcos in the Middle East and Africa are still at least 70 percent dependent on physical channels when it comes to engaging customers and facilitating sales.
This puts telcos in the region at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other markets that are already digging deeper into digital and selling online. More than 70 percent of telcos in Latin America, also regarded as an emerging market, have established actionable blueprints for digitalization. That figure increases to more than 80 percent for the Asia-Pacific region.
Technology a barrier to entry
The report, which delves into the telco digitalization progress region-by-region, concludes that only around half (55 percent) of telcos in the Middle East and Africa have carried out a technology needs assessment – one of the crucial steps in building a roadmap toward a digital-centric future.
Concerns around data management and compliance
More than two-thirds of telco operators in the Middle East and Africa have no data management strategy in place. This suggests that even they had the means and infrastructure to innovate digitally, they may inadvertently put their customers’ data at risk and struggle to retain consumer trust.
Skills gap unknown
The report, which went into great detail around the planning required for digitalization, also concluded that only one in three telco operators in the Middle East and Africa have performed any kind of IT skills assessment. Telcos in the region are therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to talent acquisition, often slow off the mark to attract capable and appropriate candidates.
Desire to innovate
Despite the region ranking low in many key facets of the digitalization process, telcos are prepared to invest and recognize the advantages of moving to digital sales channels. Eight in every 10 telco operators surveyed in the region ranked ‘automation’ and ‘improved customer experience’ as top drivers for digital innovation.
Data from the report goes onto imply that a phased approach toward digitalization is in the best interests of telcos worldwide in order to ensure interoperability between technology and services, while also maintaining a seamless and uninterrupted customer experience.
Upstream CEO, Dimitris Maniatis, commented: “Telcos in emerging markets like the Middle East and Africa are least prepared for digital innovation, yet arguably the ones that could benefit most. Since the pandemic began, telcos in the region have had to work overtime to ensure that communities stay connected, but being so dependent on physical sales channels has made engaging with customers more difficult than ever before. By accelerating their plans for digitalization and, crucially, putting an achievable roadmap in place to hit their digitalization goals, telcos in the region could dramatically enhance customer engagement and reduce their costs through automation and self-service.”