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I watched an interview yesterday with Futurist Gerd Leonhard (@gleonard).  I’ve included the interview at the bottom of this post.

He talks about the massive amount of data becoming available through the social web. Every like, tweet, share or update adds to the vast amount of data that can be mined.  In fact it has been postulated that data is the new oil. It’s a fascinating interview and well worth watching.

He makes a passing comment about the amount of data that will be available when 5 billion people are connected.  It struck me then that connected and social platforms are changing the world so drastically yet this is with only a third of the worlds population connected.

Bringing this more local in the South African context only around 12% of our population is connected.  This figure is set to radically increase in the next 18 months with bandwidth becoming more available and cheaper. I tried to imagine what it will be like when 25 million South Africans are connected.  Honestly it is difficult but the potential and the possibilities are amazing.

Imagine a scene at a rural school, with kids sitting in what barely passes as a school, with tablet computers connected to the Khan institute or a similar initiative with full access to abundant knowledge. That would represent a seismic change in our education.  Fantasy? Only just.  But it becomes more and more real the more access is available.

From a business perspective corporate South Africa only has around 12-18 months to position themselves for the rising tide of connected customers.  A business may not see a need right now to have a digital and social strategy when the majority of their market are not currently connected.  In about 18 months that won’t be the case and I believe many will be caught napping.

The new CEO of Cell-C, Allan Knott-Craig has announced plans to shake up the mobile market.  He will have a heavy focus on data, making it faster and cheaper.  This will in turn put pressure on MTN and Vodacom to follow.  At the end of June we may no longer be paying for landline rental along with our ADSL connections and there are at least two more undersea cables coming providing even more bandwidth.

The trend is irreversible and inevitable.  Any business without a solid social strategy is going to find their markets usurped by those that have move along with their market.  Connected customers will be more powerful than ever.