After a period of rapid growth, economic uncertainty, rising cases of theft and vandalism of network resources, energy price shocks, and the normalisation of COVID-19-era consumption habits bared down on the technology sector in 2022. While the past year challenged us to be more resourceful and resilient, we remain optimistic as we continue to see signs of increased digital adoption, tremendous investment impact, and sustainable growth for new and emerging local innovations.
As 2023 unfolds, we expect government and private enterprises to continue many of their digital transformation initiatives, likely at a moderate pace, while they contemplate the ongoing impact of inflation and prediction of a global recession this year. While consumers will also be considering the impact of these potential headwinds on their wallets, we predict that they will still be on the lookout for smarter devices and highly modernised virtual services that enable them to live their best digital lives.
Expect highly personalised AI-powered experiences
I predict that we will depend more on computer systems to perform additional tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as speech recognition, visual perception, decision-making, and language translation. Artificial intelligence (AI) will become more commercialised in ways that will reinvent engagement with employees and customers, while opening up access to new markets in the digital space.
For Digicel, we are using AI to improve the customer experience when they chat with Ruby, our chat bot in the MyDigicel app; get answers to frequently asked questions; and through lead generation when website visitors sign-up, submit information or show interest in our services.
AI is part of the broader lifecycle with customers that enterprises of all sizes and industries will take more seriously in 2023 as they leverage data-driven decision-making to scale offerings, create hyper-personalised experiences, and increase the pace of product and service delivery to their customers. This is an aspect of business transformation that our team of innovators in Digicel Business have been actively working on with business operators that are focused on going deeper into digital with their customers.
In this regard, the Government of Jamaica is also showing some encouraging signs through its roll-out of a digital health-care management system during 2023. We commend this effort, which, in addition to delivering operational efficiency, can also support the testing and development of AI technologies that enable faster response to public health emergencies, and treatment of a range of health conditions.
At the time of writing this message, Chat GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the latest AI innovation is taking the digital highway by storm, using deep learning to produce human-like responses in the form of text, code, poems, stories and more. Millions of people have been tapping into the technology, which is already changing the way we present information as being the product of authentic human input. This, due to Chat GPT's ability to, in seconds, write and rewrite thousands of variations of, for example, an essay topic.
'App-ortunities' in 2023
The latest State of Mobile 2023 review by data.ai, a leading digital analytics and data science provider to the mobile industry, highlights the growing influence of mobile apps influencing consumption across verticals, including gaming, retail, food delivery, ride hailing and sharing, edutech and fintech. According to data.ai, daily time spent on apps in mobile-first markets increased by three per cent to five hours per user, or a third of our waking hours. New app downloads spiked by 11 per cent to 255 billion, even as App Store spend dipped by two per cent. Advertisers spent 14 per cent more or US$336 billion on in-app ads — another clear sign of the further shift towards targeting specific audiences, based on users' preferences.
As a mobile-first market, there are opportunities for Jamaica's app developers and enterprises of all sizes to better position themselves in 2023 to monetise on the global boom that consumers' increased in-app time and spending is creating. In addition to their traditional role as customer engagement tools, apps are evolving into powerful hubs for leads, sales and revenue generation.
As Jamaica's digital operator, we have been supporting the HEART/NSTA Amber Coding Academy in its efforts to transform the country in the technological hub of the Caribbean, through skills training in coding and software development, mainly among young people. In 2023, I anticipate that we will continue to build on the innate talent and digital competencies of these budding innovators, to the point where they develop at least one breakthrough app that will top the download charts and influence the next wave of digital interactions. I remain confident that we can get it done.
IoTs and social will get more personal
Gadgets that help us to manage our homes efficiently and make our lives easier were among the top items shopped last Christmas. As they connect to our true fibre Internet service, more consumers are able to lay the digital building blocks for their smart homes. The evolution will continue well into 2023, as Wi-Fi connectivity becomes standard on more home appliances. In addition, around-the-clock monitoring of homes and businesses will become commonplace, as remote cameras and sensors become more affordable.
Social media will use AI even more to tell short, impactful stories of our lives, based on the images and videos we record throughout the day. AI will go as far as to understand what our friends and followers would like to see in those reels and stories by curating a select cut of photos and videos on our devices. Highly engaged Gen Z audiences are committed to creating more user-generated content that feeds proprietary AI algorithms with invaluable insights for mobile operators, advertisers, data analytics enterprises, digital retail channels, and app developers.
Greater opportunities for content creators to own their audiences
Subscription communities that have been setting up camp in the digital landscape will become ubiquitous and influential as they forge relationships that are more direct with the content creators they would usually follow on traditional platforms. By truly owning these relationships, content creators can also leverage new tech to further monetise on their interactions, and become an invaluable portal for sales leads — the result of AI-generated insights on customer preferences and behaviours.
This is an exciting area for our local content creators to collaborate and build sustainable online communities that can help them to generate new revenues and evolve their business model.
Cybersecurity will remain top of mind
In 2023, threats will continue to proliferate, but best practice still provide the most robust form of protection. Cyber-attackers who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to exploit the vulnerabilities of households and organisations have not yielded. Their persistence requires swift countermeasures, especially as more of us go deeper into digital with our banking, service delivery, business collaboration and transformation, and national utilities infrastructure.
On the defender side, at Digicel, our cyber-response teams, backed by the latest approaches, technologies and talents to tackle the most complex threats, will remain vigilant in offering the best defence and protection to our enterprise and government customers. We continue to work with them to identify vulnerabilities, while addressing new and emerging threats, even as we anticipate new extortion tactics from ransomware organisations. Consumers are a major part of our consideration; through engagements around Safer Internet Day, Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and periodic cybersecurity tips @DigicelJamaica on social media, this year, we will continue to increase their awareness and protection.
Our investments will drive Jamaica deeper into digital
We began 2023 at the hallway mark for our huge commitment to building Jamaica as a digital hub with our massive US$200 million ($31 billion) 'Digital Jamaica' investment. To date, we have spent US$100 million toward delivering super fast LTE data speeds and coverage, expanding our home and business fibre network into more rural parishes, including Clarendon and Manchester. In addition, we will complete the final phases of installing state-of-the-art broadcast facilities for SportsMax during 2023.
To date, our Digital Jamaica investment has delivered 99 per cent LTE coverage and reached over 100,000 households or over 500,000 Jamaicans with true fibre-to-the-home Internet and TV service. In the months ahead we will expand our deployment and strengthen these networks as we provide the most robust and comprehensive connectivity solutions that will enable consumers and business to take full advantage of the tech trends that will emerge this year.
While the life-changing impact of these investments happen throughout 2023, we look forward to leading an industry solution to address blocking of stolen phones on all mobile networks in Jamaica. We will also step up our advocacy for stiffer penalties for theft and vandalism of telecom equipment — we cannot afford to put at any further risk all the technological gains that Jamaica has made over past decade.
In our opinion, 2023 will be the year that Jamaica makes great advancements towards creating a truly digitally connected society, bolstered by a conducive economic environment, enabling legislation, a growing cadre of digital creators, greater opportunities for digital learning and upskilling, and a progressive digital mindset.
As I say goodbye to Jamaica and its extraordinary people, I wish to thank, in particular, our team of hard-working and committed employees, our customers, stakeholders and friends of the Digicel brand for being part of our phenomenal digital journey. I am confident that, working better together, our incoming CEO, Stephen Murad, and our highly motivated team will make a positive contribution towards securing Jamaica's digital future.
— Jabbor Kayumov is the outgoing CEO of Digicel Jamaica.