Telecoms operators are increasingly aware that to fully monetize their investments around technologies such as cloud, AI, automation and 5G networks they will need to innovate beyond their core connectivity services. However, deciding which opportunities will deliver the best value and sustaining innovation over the long term remain some of the biggest challenges. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review Africa - Alpha Barry, Head of Africa, and Mohammed Saad Miss, Telco Media & Technology - Africa Head share their strategies in building a foundation for greater agility, security, efficiency, and innovation in Africa.
The emergence of mobile money services has opened new business potentials. How do you see telecom’s potential role in mobile money and mobile payments?
- Barry: In Africa, each country/region has its own experience. In the northern side of the continent, the mobile money system is not very developed. This is the case for Morocco, for example, where almost everyone has a bank account. While if we head to the Central and Southern part, in Burkina Faso or Kenya for example, around half of the population do not have a bank account. In this case, mobile banking offers to the people the services they lack to compensate for the weakness of the classical banking system.
- Miss: Communication Service Providers are transforming themselves into banks. They are managing millions of transactions, providing more and more banking services, and there will be almost no boundaries between a bank and a CSP in the future. It’s noteworthy that mobile phones will deliver almost all services including financial ones.
How is Atos involved in accelerating Africa’s digital transformation, from building momentum, to crushing barriers, and creating impact?
- Barry: We are helping Africa’s digital transformation as we are a leader in this field and have the right skills, expertise and experience. Today, Atos has more than 2600 people in Africa who are dedicated to provide our customers with the digital transformation they need and also to help them bring their end-customers a much more digitalized relationship. For instance, in Egypt, we are working to build a full digital bank in the country.
In addition, we are developing our resources both in Morocco and Senegal where we have a delivery center in each of the two countries, which consolidates our presence in the continent to support the digitalization of the economies.
In South Africa and Nigeria, we are the partner of one of the largest telecom companies through our security operation center (SOC) where we provide all of the necessary security services to avoid cybersecurity attacks. We are undertaking some application development as well for them in Uganda and Ghana.
What added values do CSPs get from operational support systems, business support systems and CRM transformation?
- Miss: For years, Telcos have undergone major transformation projects around back office operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS). They have also launched initiatives to better support strategic customer engagement, product catalog automation and network transformation.
The first important value towards this transformation is cost: By transforming its BSS and OSS, a CSP can achieve a permanent downward step change in information technology fixed costs (and better align variable costs to either growing or declining revenues). Moving from the legacy systems to a lower-cost target platform typically leads to fewer applications and lower maintenance costs.
The Second is efficiency: Migrating to new and consolidated platform creates opportunities to streamline systems and processes across BSS and OSS which leads to substantial and effective operational excellence in both front office and back office function. They will be able to improve and shorten the time of handling customer calls and will be able to support growing transaction volumes more easily. This will systematically reduce their revenue leakage.
Moreover, business reinvention is a key element for BSS and OSS transformation. CSPs can more quickly and easily reinvent their core business, develop ecosystem partnerships that will help them to create richer and newer offerings.
Revenue growth is also a key driver for BSS and OSS transformation. A customer-centric approach gives a significant benefit in cross-sell and upsell promotions.
The new trending technologies such as 5G and NFV, among other, require a new BSS/OSS design to ensure amortization and proper operation of the service.
Today, data is considered the new oil. In light of this, what’s the importance of data monetization and how does it impact smart city transformation?
- Miss: Currently, data monetization is very important. It ensures getting the maximum value from data by maximizing your profits and productivity, reducing costs and optimizing opportunities for your organization, your customers and your partners.
Data monetization helps you understand your target customers, create meaningful segments, improve customer experience and strengthens customer loyalty and satisfaction. So, the more you know about your customer, the more you can customize a service or a product.
Today, all cities are trying to monetize data. Many of them have already implemented some data exchanges, city sensors, smart parking meters, fleet management, and departments of transportation, in order to provide for startups and companies all the information available that they can monetize. So, it is a new revenue generation for cities as well.
Atos presents a wide portfolio of cloud B2B offerings. How is it deploying these solutions to help develop the marketplace?
- Miss: The journey to the cloud differs from one customer to the other. In fact, while some are dealing with their legacy infrastructure, others are well on the way with hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environment.
Atos OneCloud has been launched as a new strategic program. It helps enterprises shape a cloud forward future. Atos OneCloud is a groundbreaking initiative that blends cloud advisory consulting, application transformation expertise with cloud accelerator and also innovate talent in end-to-end set of service to help our customers in their cloud journey.
Our vision regarding cloud is very clear. We help organizations navigate and execute data center transformation to lower risk and cost while maximizing business value.
How does cybersecurity influence CSPs and what are the benefits of cybersecurity in this area?
- Miss: Cybersecurity is critical for telecom infrastructure and services. It is a major business driver for value-added services for CSPs today. In most countries, regulators consider CSP infrastructure as vital.
CSPs have understood that cybersecurity is a revenue generator. On top of implementing their own Security Operation Center (SOC), they have started converting themselves to Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) to provide cybersecurity services to their end-users or to the enterprises.
As Atos, we are a global leader in managed security services. We have more than 15 SOC today, more than 6 000 security experts, and we have also reinforced our capabilities by acquiring several companies such as IDnomic for PKI cards, Evidian for Identity Access Management (IAM) and Single Sign-On (SSO), Trustway (data Encryption) and Paladion for SOC.
Furthermore, our latest new generation SOC or what we call Managed Detection and Response (MDR) –based on Artificial Intelligence for Security-as-a-Service – supports the CSPs and more globally all the companies in order to build and secure their infrastructure.
How can Atos support in building a foundation for greater agility, security, efficiency, and innovation in Africa?
- Barry: Our strategy in Africa is based upon three main domains:
First, we make available for our prospect end-customers in Africa, both private and state organizations, the wide offering that Atos has. We address main industries with a specific focus on three sectors: the public sector, where we have already started helping in the digitization of the ministries of finance and interior in several countries; the banking sector, to help modernize its legacy application and also digitalize its applications with native internet banking systems; and the telecom sector, which is booming in Africa.
Second, we have noticed a large wave of startups in Africa, namely in Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Senegal, and Ivory Coast. We have started to see how we can work with these startups on the ideas and innovations they provide and bring them to the public. The process is a bit long but there are a lot of ideas and innovations which could be generated in Africa and could even be sometimes exported to the rest of the world.
Third, we are helping African business thrive by deploying “offshore” projects outside of Africa, working remotely for large European companies, for example. This is important for two main reasons: it is an exposure for our Engineers to more matured markets which in turn will be beneficial to the African market and it brings strong monetary currencies to the country in Africa where Atos operates to deliver the offshore services.
Atos aims to reach a net-zero state. What are the steps the company is taking in order to achieve and accelerate its decarbonization journey?
A.Barry: In Africa, decarbonization is a matter that is just starting. Atos’ target is to reach net zero by 2025. Hence, we support our customers to move forward and support them in how to step into it encouraging them to adhere to the net zero ambition. However, some of our large customers in Morocco are strongly addressing decarbonization.
On the other hand, EcoAct, which was acquired by Atos over a year ago, is developing projects in Africa, especially in Kenya, where the objective is to help the population of some Kenyan villages to reduce their carbon footprint when they are burning wood to cook. So, EcoAct is providing cook stoves to families in small houses so that they don’t need to use a lot of wood.
- Miss: Decarbonization is a new topic we are introducing to our customers to help them reduce their carbon emissions and hopefully reach a net zero in the near future. Thanks to the acquisition of EcoAct, we are leveraging their know-how on this particular topic to support us in providing this kind of service to all companies but also to CSPs in order to decrease their carbon emissions.