The recent Business Day Dialogues event, ‘Connect Africa’, in partnership with Open Access Data Centres (OADC), centred on the crucial role of business leaders in propelling digital transformation beyond mere connectivity. As digital evolution accelerates, leaders must adapt swiftly to avoid falling behind. In 2023, South Africa led the world in internet access, with 72.3% of its population online (, 2023/07/18).

As the guest keynote speaker, futurist, economist, and business trends analyst, Bronwyn Williams, emphasised the importance of control over a business’s digital message and infrastructure, and the dangers of service denial, such as economic greenlining and deep stack denials. To retain control and to take advantage of the internet of things, businesses need data sovereignty.

Pointing out that AI presents a challenge but is the baseline for business competitivity in an edge-based economy, she said businesses must rely on third-party help to utilise it effectively. “The internet is no longer where you go,” she said, “It’s more like you swim in it.”

Technologies in the metaverse will one day transform the 3D virtual world into reality. The system of education in SA will have to change from rote-learning to how to access information on demand, how to distinguish between true and false, and how to attain individual sovereignty.

“We need to work together to be sovereign as a society, going forward,” she observed.

Dr Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Open Access Data Centres (OADC), added that a key part of the digital future will be artificial intelligence (AI).

“It’s a natural shift in the third age of digital transformation, enabling seamless connections between end-point computing and the internet of things, by using interconnected data centres to provide fast, reliable connectivity to the point of content consumption”.

Coker explained that the West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC), Africa’s digital backbone has landed Meta’s 2Africa subsea cable at the OADC core Data Centre in Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu-Natal, offering SA a huge increase in international capacity and the promise of more reliable internet. At present there are four CORE OADC data centres in South Africa, and more than 30 EDGE data centres.

Artificial Intelligence is also presenting businesses with significant opportunities and colocation gives the opportunities for business agility and pivot to leverage emerging technologies.

“We make tomorrow happen today,” said Coker.

Dr Sayuri Moodliar, ESG director at OADC, advised businesses to integrate ESG into their business strategy and use their sustainability performance to create competitive advantage.

She highlighted that when companies use colocation facilities, like OADC’s data centres, this reduces the need for them to allocate resources for data centre operational complexities like ESG compliance, energy and water efficiency, waste reduction, regulations and information security certification. The fact that OADC does all the hard work around this compliance makes it easier for its clients to scale and thrive.

On the issue of Africa-specific challenges with regard to the ‘S’ in ESG, Moodliar pointed out that the focus in Africa is on socio-economic development at a very basic level. This includes providing ICT skills for the youth, who are the continent’s biggest resource. An effective way to achieve this is through community programmes that offer skills training with the goal of employment once completed.

Image source: Thapelo Morebudi – Sunday Times