Telco Safaricom is known across the world, but most of us are aware about a few of its products: carrier services (voice, SMS and data) and its mobile-money product, M-PESA. M-PESA is perhaps the only product of its kind that has seen such kind of unprecedented growth, with over 30 million monthly active users in Kenya, and a total of 51 million users in Africa. Safaricom’s carrier services are also leading: it owns near 65 percent of the market share in Kenya. Its 4G coverage will soon hit the 100% mark, and before the year elapses, there are high chances that the operator will launch 5G commercially, having announced the service in early 2021.
However, this update is not about carrier services and M-PESA products and solutions. Rather, we want to look into what other things the telco is involved in, including its hand in the enterprise space.
To note, Safaricom services many other businesses, including small, medium and large enterprises. At first, Safaricom’s enterprise solutions included mobile voice, data and SMS offerings. Later, the carrier started offering fixed internet and M-PESA to businesses.
However, any business owner would tell you that customer demands keep changing and evolving, hence, for a forward-looking company, complementing existing ICT business solutions with modern offerings is always key. To this end, such businesses have enhanced customer experiences for growth, and to maintain a competitive edge.
The past few years have, therefore, been marked by solutions that are tailored the ever-changing business needs. We have seen Safaricom enterprise launch IoT solutions for various industries, as well as cloud and cybersecurity solutions. However, what are they and how can they be taken advantage of by businesses that want to grow?
Safaricom and Cybersecurity
An increasing number of cybersecurity breaches adversely affect business performance, by leveraging the vulnerabilities of networked manufacturing machines.
In some instances, cyber-attacks on critical industrial equipment are able to undermine the corporate business model.
However, knowing and evaluating in advance the main critical assets to be protected from potential cyber-attacks and the business impacts that could occur is a source of competitive advantage.
Just three years ago, Safaricom launched IT security solutions for enterprise customers. The development implied that businesses could access a wide range of security solutions to protect their IT systems.
Among the services that were launched included Managed Security Solutions, Security Assurance and Advisory services and Managed Security Operations Centre solutions.
The service ensures that businesses, and even individuals can secure their emails, websites, manage vulnerabilities, test and audit I.T systems and access real time monitoring among other services.
The product is available in a range of prices based on a business’s budget and requirements.
Safaricom and the Cloud
Cloud computing providers are many, and their software-as-a-service offerings have become more commonplace and mature, making cloud technology an increasingly important platform for business services innovation.
While the cloud offers rich opportunities for transforming businesses —innovating existing services and introducing creative new ones —it also involves risks that business managers must identify and resolve to successfully drive innovation efforts. This is something that Safaricom has been trying to do in-house and through partnerships.
Back in 2012, Safaricom attempted to take education to the cloud. The telco launched an e-learning platform at Starehe Boys’ Centre. The pilot project could be accessed via smartboards donated by Intersol Limited to two Starehe Centres and teachers were able to interact and teach using the training tools stored in the Safaricom Cloud.
Although the project never really caught on, Safaricom has since gone big, with partnerships such as its Amazon Web Service (AWS) collaboration.
The partnership was announced at the start of 2020, making Safaricom the first AWS partner in East Africa.
The strategic agreement meant that Safaricom could now resell AWS services in a bid to accelerate Safaricom’s internal IT transformation, cut operational costs and provide it with ‘a blueprint and skilled resources to assist customers with their journey to the cloud.’
Safaricom offers AWS services to other East Africa businesses too.
Safaricom also attained Advanced Consulting Partner status in the AWS Partner Network (APN).
APN Consulting Partners are professional services firms that help customers of all types and sizes design, architect, build, migrate, and manage their workloads and applications on AWS, accelerating their journey to the cloud.
Safaricom and Internet-of-Things (IoT)
IoT is used by enterprises to transform their businesses by automating processes. The devices help such businesses save time and money.
There is an emerging role of IoT in many modern businesses now, and this has impacted their ability to compete in a rapidly changing environment.
In 2018, Safaricom and the Vodafone Group revealed that it was working with local athletes to break the two-hour marathon mark using IoT tools.
The project was named SUB2, and demonstrably showcased the gains of bringing internet-connected network intelligence to a variety of gadgets at work, home and on the move, which in this case, were sport-oriented activities.
In 2019, Safaricom sealed a partnership with Kenya Breweries (KBL) that saw the carrier install sensors that leverage the power of IoT for various functions.
The carrier, which has an entire unit dedicated to smart things, sought to enhance KBL’s refrigerators and coolers in the country.
The new coolers and fridges were provided to vendors and distributors for free.
They are equipped with sensors that gather and exchange critical data for helping KBL access gainful insights to drive and address consumer demands in the market. Think of it as a smart fridge that is connected to the internet and gives you detail about your foods such as their temperature levels and ability to adjust settings remotely and so forth.
The tech helps distributors pinpoint the location of their assets using the technology. They can tell if those assets are in use or otherwise, whether drinks are stored under optimal temperature and if a cooler’s door has been opened, among other many features.
In 2020, Safaricom collaborated with M-Gas to equip LPG home tanks with smart meters, which show how much a customer has paid for, and how much money is remaining.
Once payment is exhausted, the cylinder is shut off until the next payment is made.
The technology is possible thanks to the Narrow Band (NB) IoT network and M-PESA, and is powered by the carrier’s 4G network.
Safaricom had said that the extension of its digital payment capabilities as well as the smart metre technology had been effected to purposely allow low-income households to have control over how they use M-Gas, and by extension, IoT.
Safaricom has also been using smart meters to offer real-time IoT monitoring of water consumption for Embu Water and Sanitation Company. This was under the Upepo Technology project, and was using Safaricom’s NB-IoT Network.
That’s not all: the meters have also been developed for another application, and that is to help Kenya Power reduce power losses experienced in its existing technology.
The partnership with the power provider seeks to address weaknesses from leakages following illegal power connections.
Safaricom will spend up to KES 31 billion to install the smart intelligent system. More than 330,300 smart meters will be installed to households and businesses.
The system will be equipped with CCTV cameras, audio alarms where applicable, and geolocation tech that sends information on movement next to or even on a transformer’s pole.
The project is estimated to net KES 71 billion worth of revenue in eight years, Safaricom earning 75% of this amount before transferring functions fully to Kenya Power.
Safaricom continues to offer a number of solutions to its business partners, which are demonstrably beyond carrier and mobile money services that the telco is known for.
Cybersecurity has seen exponential growth, and so have cloud and IoT services. The operator has dipped its toes into these fields, and has even complemented them with additional products, including digital business solutions and consulting services.
These developments showcase the operator’s willingness to support small and large enterprises, and is willing to offer innovative services to help them grow even further.