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The road to 5G
Last week the Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona. As could be expected, part of the agenda was devoted to network technology 5G; including announcements about 5G-capable network infrastructure technologies and devices, 5G demonstrations and 5G’s potential for increasing operator revenues. Many announcements focus on speed: 5G will be around 100 times faster than 4G. However, what distinguishes 5G most from previous technologies is its low latency – sending and receiving signals almost instantaneously – and its capability to create massive digital ecosystems by connecting many devices to the same network. These three capabilities define 5G as an ingredient technology that will empower many future applications. For instance, its speed will fulfill future consumer demand for AR and VR experiences. For self-driving cars, the low latency will prevent dangerous situations by enabling instant communication with other cars and roadside infrastructure. Moreover, as connectivity provider for massive digital ecosystems, 5G will realize IoT applications by enabling communication between refrigerators, garbage cans, cameras and streetlights. Just like 4G enabled video streaming, 5G will bring new digital practices.
Next to breaking many records, Marvel Studio’s Black Panther generated a lot of debate as the first movie about an African superhero. Set in the fictional and technological advanced African nation Wakanda, the movie contrasts starkly with the general picture of a poor and conflict-ridden Africa. Although a work of fiction, Black Panther provides an interesting perspective on reality. It builds on three trends that point towards a more optimistic view of Africa’s future. First, it ties in with the popular culture of African millennials. This connected generation is distancing itself from the authoritarianism of the past and creates African music, fashion and pop icons with global appeal. Secondly, Afro-Americans – from Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey to young artists – are increasingly creating awareness for Africa. Finally, the leadership transition in South Africa points to a brighter African future. Previous leaders Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Thabo Mbeki formulated inspiring ideas for Africa’s future such as Ubuntu and African Renaissance. Under Cyril Ramaphosa the country might reclaim its position as the continent’s leader, bringing Black Panther’s utopia a little bit closer.
Opening banking innovation
Since on January 13 the E.U.’s Revised Payment Service Directive (PSD2) came into force, European banks are obliged to allow trusted third parties — such as retailers, technology groups and rival lenders —access to the accounts of any customer who authorizes it. These changes introduce ‘open banking’ in the E.U. with two types of services: opening up access to customers’ account information and direct initiation of payments. The European initiative has caused a wave of innovation among banks worldwide. The U.K. is leading the pack with its Open Banking directive already in full force. In the U.S., large banks are also enabling data exchange deals with selected third parties. Australia is moving towards an open banking regime with draft legislation on the way, and in Asia (including India and China) fintech companies are experiencing strong growth around the open-banking tools APIs and data-sharing. Though some banks may fear it, open banking can be viewed as a global catalyst designed to accelerate change in the financial services sector, enabling greater transparency, competition and a richer customer experience.