IBM looks to Africa’s mobile future


Image: Mweene Monze. By BiztechAfrica
Mweene Monze

While most people don’t associate IBM with mobile phones, the computing giant has been behind the technologies that make mobility possible for decades. With the acquisition of Israeli firm Worklight, the company is adding focus to its mobile platform development.

IBM innovation is behind the call, cell tower, network assurance and other key elements to today’s mobile applications. IBM is proud to state that its innovations underpin the mobile tools used by over a billion cellphone users every day. In fact, says the company, 80% of the world’s smart phone software is generated from IBM development products and 170 of the top 198 communications service providers have selected IBM technology.

With the acquisition of Worklight in February this year, IBM has added an important new component to its mobility strategy.

Worklight develops mobile software for smartphones and tablets. Its acquisition is expected to help speed delivery of new and existing mobile applications for multiple devices.

The Worklight acquisition accelerates IBM's comprehensive mobile portfolio, which is designed to help global corporations leverage the proliferation of mobile devices for B2C, B2E, and B2B. IBM has been steadily investing in this space for more than a decade, both organically and through acquisitions. 

Mweene Monze, Executive Architect at IBM Software Group in South Africa, says the office of the future will be ‘no office’. Already, major corporations – including IBM – have a large proportion of their workforce working from home or on the road.

Offices are becoming smaller, he says, with staff ‘hotdesking’ (sharing desk and PC access) on the occasions when they go in to the office.

With a growing trend for workforces to be based away from traditional offices, managing their access devices becomes complicated, he says. Employees have their own mobile devices and individual preferences for the software and applications they use.

“IT infrastructures aren’t centralised any more,” he says. “Enterprises can no longer ignore diversity in devices and locations.”

“Worklight build on IBM’s existing mobility offerings and helps us to offer complete enterprise mobility solutions.”

Monze says IBM has a complete portfolio of enterprise-grade mobility solutions. He highlights IBM’s Lotus Expeditor software, which supports client integration on laptops, desktops, kiosks and mobile device clients; its Cast Iron cloud solutions that allow for integration into existing infrastructures, and IBM’s Bigfix acquisition that allows it to offer end-to-end security.

“IBM’s latest acquisitions – like Worklight – are specifically targeted at the mobile enterprise,” says Monze.

“Virtual, mobile workplaces are not an ‘if’, they’re a ‘when’. IBM is seeking out the best ways to support this changing environment,” he says.

In Africa, where many enterprises are only beginning their infrastructure growth, Monze expects systems to leapfrog the rest of the world and move straight into mobile.  “The complexity of integrating legacy systems can slow down an enterprise mobility strategy,” says Monze.

“So, in Africa, where many enterprises are in a greenfields stage, they can leap straight into the mobile workforce future.”

Monze says mobility is an important part of IBM’s strategy for the next few years. So are smarter planet initiatives and developing markets.

“We recently opened an office in Mauritius, and now have more than 20 offices across Africa,” says Monze. “IBM is focusing on the continent – growth markets are a key part of our growth strategy.” In 2011, revenues from growth markets – including Africa – increased by 16% and represent 22% of IBM’s total geographic revenue. Growth markets are expected to contribute 30% of IBM’s revenue by 2015.”

“Mobility is very important in these markets,” Monze says. This applies in particular to the private sector, which sees the benefits of being always connected and able to move around.

“IBM has always underpinned the technology driving mobile enterprises, now we are becoming more public about it,” Monze concludes.

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