ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK: Fibre in the diet improves the business mood
The rapid shift occurring from ADSL to fibre as a primary form of fixed-line broadband in SA is throwing up fascinating insights. As fast as fibre is being rolled out in suburbs and business areas, small businesses are switching to it from ADSL.
In the next three to five years, we will see a near-complete technology replacement of Telkom's monopoly landline broadband service by the open competition of fibre. It is an almost exact mirror of the shift, from 2003 to 2009, from dial-up to ADSL, revealed at the time in the annual "SME Survey".
Now, a new research report has revealed the dramatic impact this shift is likely to make on business competitiveness. The 2019 "State of South African Small Business" research project, conducted by World Wide Worx for Xero accounting software, shows there is a direct correlation between using the faster and more reliable fibre on the one hand, and being open to embracing new technologies on the other.
The survey, which focuses on small businesses with up to 20 employees, closely matches the connectivity trends seen in the larger "SME Survey", which dealt with firms with up to 200 employees. No matter the size of the business, it seems, the value proposition of fibre over ADSL is blindingly obvious, and migrating is a no-brainer.
Not so much of a no-brainer, however, is the adoption of cloud computing, the technology that allows applications and company documents to be accessed from anywhere, on any device. "SME Survey" showed last year that the number of small and medium-size enterprises adopting the cloud was approaching the halfway mark. In the "State of South African Small Business" report, on the other hand, fewer than 20% of the smaller businesses were seen to be adopting the cloud.
It seems contradictory that both business segments have an equal enthusiasm for connection technology, while the smaller ones have less than half the take-up of the more advanced business technology that this connectivity makes possible.
The answer emerged from a question designed to gauge obstacles to adoption. When small businesses were asked the reason for not adopting cloud, about one-third said it was too complicated. So far, so bad. When correlating this question with the form of connectivity being used, however, a startling trend emerged: of those using ADSL as a primary form of connectivity, 41% said the cloud was too complicated; of those who had made the shift to fibre, only 24% said so.
The difference is so highly statistically significant that it translates into a key factor in cloud adoption, and it is not a technology factor. It speaks to the mindset of those who have access to a faster and more reliable form of technology. Once your connection speeds up, and you don't have bandwidth or capacity restraints, you become more open to what that connectivity makes possible.
In short, having better broadband makes you more prepared to embrace the future.
It's not bad for business, either. The survey found that nearly all the small businesses that had adopted cloud technology had experienced an increase in profit (98%) and an increase in efficiency (99%).
•Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee