Always treat the future as now!

Always treat the future as now!

Always treat the future as now!

____”Before anything else, preparation is the key to success…”*
The other day as I read your comments here, I came across this question: โ€œStrive Masiyiwa what’s the current position of Liquid Telecoms with regard to Artificial Intelligence? What’s your word to Africa regarding Artificial Intelligence and the need to fast follow it?โ€
Iโ€™m sure some of you who saw Innocent Madanhire’s question thought to remind him about the extensive interview I did with James Manyika, Senior Vice President of Alphabet, the parent company of Google last year. Just in case, he didnโ€™t see it, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXiVw1jZybA
As James noted in the interview, I have been talking about Artificial Intelligence in my own tech circles for at least 15 years. As a professional engineer, I make it my business to stay current in developments in my field, as you would expect say a doctor to remain current in theirs. AI has been the hot topic for electronics and computer engineers for the last 10 years!
I wanted as always to be an early adopter and pioneer, so I was reading ferociously and listening to as many geeks as I could. The “Aha!” moment came round about 2016, whilst visiting Silicon Valley: โ€œMY GOODNESS, THIS AI THING IS GOING TO HAPPEN, AND $TNs ARE GOING TO BE MADE BY ENTREPRENEURS WHO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING!โ€
I then began to think seriously about the opportunities that AI would bring to our business. As my thoughts became first and foremost a vision, and then a strategy, I decided to get more engaged.
Whilst I did not want to telegraph to the whole world my strategy, I gave a hint of this when I changed the name of our company called โ€œLiquid Telecomโ€ to “Liquid Intelligent Technologiesโ€. It was more than a slogan [I donโ€™t do slogans] but a signal to a STRATEGIC PIVOT that we were going to implement.
Surprisingly, not many people asked me to explain this change or what I meant by โ€œINTELLIGENT technologiesโ€…
Not long after that, we launched a company called Liquid Cloud in which we partnered with Microsoft to sell a Microsoft Cloud product called Microsoft 365, which was followed by Microsoft Azure. It was a spectacular success. Soon after, we launched Google Workspace to our customers, giving them an option, and that, too, was a spectacular success.
Today we sell what we call a โ€œmulticloudโ€ platform across Africa and the Middle East known as โ€œCloudmaniaโ€, which enables big and small businesses to go onto the Cloud using various platforms. It is the pathway to AI!
One of the key reasons we were able to #FastFollow is because we have a โ€œRIGHT TO PLAYโ€ and a โ€œRIGHT TO WINโ€. Why do I say this?
Firstly, we are the biggest provider of Digital Infrastructure on which such AI operates [high-speed fibre optic networks spanning the entire continent in the sea and on land]. We have more than 100,000 km of fibre across the continent, and we have strategic interests in most of the undersea cables.
Secondly, our Data Center infrastructure in Africa creates nodes around the continent like a neural brain. We can move the data, and we can store it, better than anyone in Africa. We help Africa keep its data in Africa!
Over the years, some of you might have come across billboards that read โ€œAfricaโ€™s Cloud is Liquidโ€. For the IT professionals working in Africaโ€™s largest companies and organizations, that campaign was a trumpet call to say: โ€œThese are the guys who can help me get our business in the Cloud, and give us the tools to work in the Cloudโ€.
Liquid Cloud was joined by a new sister companyโ€”Liquid Cybersecurityโ€”to help those customers who were concerned about protecting their data. Soon we started referring to the guys who worked on Cloud and Cybersecurity as โ€œLiquid C2Africaโ€.
This was an internal term until two years ago when we actually branded that cutting-edge Business Group under the name Liquid C2. You can visit their website to learn more about what they do: https://liquidc2.com/
Many of you know Liquid as the fibre optic guys digging around in your neighborhood… but few people appreciate that we actually have people in 31 African countries, as well as 6 Latin American countries like Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. We also have people in India, the Middle East, the UK, the USA, and parts of Eastern Europe!
Liquid and its sister companies under Cassava Technologies employ more than 7,000 people. We call these colleagues our โ€œboots on the groundโ€: Highly skilled mostly technical professionals who are the basis of our #RightToPlay, and #RightToWin! In all our businesses, we have put together awesome teams of #People with world-class skills.
โ€œNow, what about Artificial Intelligence?โ€ you might ask.
We started to gear up for AI almost at the same time we started to push into Cloud. Initially, we were just researching and watching trends, and onboarding techies who understand this new technology. They were embedded in the Liquid C2 business for incubation. They have been allowed to build things like Chatbots and to write code for some of our activities.
Finally we gave them a leadership team led by a CEO, and we instructed them to start making money! โ€œNow Go Play, and make sure you Win!โ€
I have said more than I want to say at the moment, but let me tell you, this is the most extraordinary opportunity I have seen since the launch of the mobile industry in 1994, and Iโ€™m grateful to God for the opportunity to participate in another revolution in my lifetime. In my case, it is the third revolution, after mobile telephony, then the Internet [building broadband infrastructure], and now AI…
There are so many lessons embedded in this response and much of my playbook is classic entrepreneurship: Joshua said to the Israelites as they approached the Jordan River: โ€œPay attention because you have not been this way beforeโ€.
If ever there was a time to pay attention it is now, because… the future is now!
Image caption: In all our companies across the continent, we’re very serious when we say we don’t want to leave a single African behind in the digital technology revolution. Wherever you are, whatever age, across all our nations, that means you! We must all do our part to #SkillUp our kids for this #Revolution. It’s an urgent priority.
*Quote by Alexander Graham Bell. I sure hope you know about him and his #Inventions… the earliest patented tech that led eventually to some of our telecoms businesses 100+ years later! If you don’t know your tech history, check out Afterthought 5.
Strive Masiyiwa
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