When Reshaad Sha stepped into the role of CEO at Liquid Telecom, many raised their eyebrows. How would the young rebel of the South African telecommunications and ICT industry disrupt the sector now?
Sha didn’t leave them wondering for long, leading a massive restructure of the company and introducing a refreshed operational strategy, that he describes as “a digitally enhanced operating model”. As he told Fast Company South Africa in late 2018, his immediate goal was to focus on transforming the operational land-
scape of Liquid Telecom and the customer experience of its large and diverse clientele.
Just a few short months later, this vision has come to fruition. Liquid Telecom recently announced the modernisation of its network, essentially replacing the underlying infrastructure across the company’s entire core network. From the way in which traffic is rerouted to the way the company’s structure responds to failover systems, the network is now much more resilient and redundant, with a very low latency.
“The modernisation of our network has not only addressed legacy performance issues, but has placed Liquid Telecom in a position where we have one of the most technologically advanced, modern and reliable networks on the African continent,” Sha says.
And that is no understatement. After these recent improvements, the network now runs on the latest technology, delivering an improved overall performance at 10 times the previous capacity and – most importantly – configured for the demands 4IR is expected to bring to Africa.
From a connectivity perspective, Liquid Telecom now has almost unlimited capacity – good news for its clientele. “We are ready to help our customers embrace digital transformation,” says Sha. “This modernisation increases our relevance in the enterprise space and, certainly, in the government space.”
It has also propelled Liquid Telecom light years ahead of other players in the sector. The company has become a more compelling competitor to some of the other large ICT companies in the African region. This powerful position will be one that its customers will want to leverage – especially as the infrastructure promises greater stability and easily adaptable technology for the immediate future of business.
Although many businesses are embracing new forms of technology, there is still a long way to go. Over the past few years alone, one of the greatest concerns for executive-management teams has been the need to reimagine their processes and rethink how their companies, municipalities and teams operate.
At its core, Liquid Telecom understands this. Which is why the company is currently in the process of developing digital services and creative connectivity solutions to help its customers future-proof their networks and embrace cloud technology. And – at the speed at which Sha works – these services will make it to market in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“The next 12 months will be interesting,” he says. “We are accelerating our innovation practices and, in the process, enhancing our product set to maximise the positive impact of the new infrastructure for our customers.
“We know that – whether from a government or enterprise perspective, or even from the position of a small-to-medium-sized business – using the internet and technology is hugely topical. In South Africa, and Africa, one of the most pressing constraints has been network capability, butLiquid Telecom is now changing that.”
Modernising Liquid Telecom’s network hasn’t been the only thing occupying Sha’s mind. In addition to the restructure and system overhaul, he supports the broader group’s plan to implement and operate the first fibre-broadband network in East Africa – specifically in South Sudan, – viewing it as a positive for Liquid Telecom’s South African customers. The first phase of the project will be completed before the end of 2019, providing reliable and affordable internet connectivity to South Sudan’s approximately 13 million citizens.
To achieve this feat, the Liquid Telecom network will connect the country to the One Africa broadband network that spans nearly 70 000 kilometres and 13 countries around the world. The result: An ICT infrastructure that provides a voice to the voiceless and encourages the East African community and the world to address some of the pressing challenges faced by the region. Although it is not a South Africa-specific project, Sha is excited about what it means for the country – and the continent.
“It will help improve economic diversification, making cross-border investment and trade easier,” he says. “It will also help create jobs across sectors and increase social mobility.”
Another project he is proud to support is the company’s 21CSkills digital e-learning platform, launched earlier this year. Designed with the African learner in mind, the platform focuses on skills required in 4IR: Blockchain, data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, and cloud and game development. Registration and enrollment is free and each course is delivered in bite-sized chunks. The longest course is six weeks and the shortest a mere eight hours.
Why free? To benefit not only African youth but also government operational teams, NGOs and those already employed who are looking to reskill or upskill, is Sha’s answer. And, if utilised as envisioned by its creators, the implementation of the fibre-broadband network in South Sudan, combined with the 21CSkills platform, will help propel Africa into 4IR. With this checklist ticked, what is next on the agenda for Reshaad Sha and Liquid Telecom? Only time – and the technology of the modern world – will tell.