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Pioneering together: Collaborative innovation redefining the ICT landscape

By , Merge X Co-Founder.
09 Apr 2024
Tholo Lerotholi, Merge X Co-Founder.
Tholo Lerotholi, Merge X Co-Founder.

In a paradoxical twist, our journey into the future commences with a retrospective glance at innovation’s history – a lesson in the timeless art of collaboration. Think Thomas Edison, popularly known as the father of invention, this is how far innovation collaboration is traced. His most famous inventions include telecommunications devices like the automatic telegraph, the carbon telephone transmitter and phonograph.

Less popularly known is that Edison’s real genius lay in improving on existing ideas. Consider the evolution of the lightbulb. A year before Thomas Edison’s invention, in 1879 Joseph Swan invented a lightbulb, but it wasn’t commercially viable. Then in 1880, after much testing, Edison came up with a solution that is very close to the lightbulbs we still use today. Edison and Swan both applied for patents in 1880 and after ensuing litigation, the feud ended in 1883 when they formed a joint company.

An innovation on its own only becomes meaningful when it becomes commercially viable and accessible to a vast majority. And commercial viability is only sustainable when there are operational efficiencies. Now I’m not saying Merge X is a modern-day Robin Hood for the ICT industry, but when you look at the business model which enables operational efficiencies for niche ISPs to compete on the big stage, it can be inferred.

Niche ISPs and the evolution of ICT: A convergence of strengths

In the ever-evolving realm of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), where innovation is the heartbeat of progress, the convergence of Fibre Network Operators (FNO) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) has become the crucible of transformative change. At the intersection of segmented products and fit-for-purpose solutions lies the promise of unprecedented innovation.

In a dynamic landscape ripe with opportunities for those who dare to innovate, the role of ISPs in orchestrating innovation is exemplified by a pivotal component: the billing infrastructure. This infrastructure, serving as a cornerstone built by ISPs, not only streamlines operations but also paves the way for novel business models.

Previously regarded as an unfeasible offering in the fixed connectivity environment, pre-paid services (also built by ISPs) have now surged into popularity, catering to a diverse range of consumer needs. Herein lies the ISP’s crucial role as the vanguard of innovation, navigating the intricate dynamic between consumer demands and technological capabilities.

Regulatory challenges and opportunities

However, the winds of change blow not only from the realm of technological innovation but also from the corridors of regulatory mandates. Regulatory bodies such as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) wield immense influence, shaping the landscape within which ICT entities operate. The recent mandate on ownership equity is but one example, presenting both challenges and opportunities for industry players.

In this ever-evolving environment, the industry can ill-afford to pay lip service to concepts such as adaptability – it is simply a prerequisite for survival. Businesses must find their way through the regulatory landscape, charting a course that ensures compliance while also seizing emerging opportunities. This requires an impartial understanding of regulations and a strategic vision that anticipates and embraces change.

Pioneering innovation and collaboration

By enabling ISPs to innovate in a cost-effective manner, Merge X makes it possible for businesses to not only comply with regulatory requirements but also foster a more inclusive and diverse industry. At its core, this hybrid model expedites innovation, and pushes the ICT industry into exciting, uncharted territories. It serves as an anchor for niche ISPs to resiliently adapt.

Embracing the future

As we stand on the precipice of a new era in ICT, let us embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, forging a path towards a future defined by innovation, inclusivity and excellence.

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