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Digital Assistants Will Outnumber Us All by 2021- Report

chike onwuegbuchi

The number of devices with digital assistants built-in will grow to over 7.5 billion in 2021, according to new forecasts by the research and consulting firm Ovum. That just surpasses the current world population, according to the US Census Bureau.

In their analysis, Ovum breaks out the various digital assistants and discusses their past and future. In 2016, about 3.5 billion active devices were already on the market, says Ovum, and that number will grow quickly as more types of devices introduce digital assistants.

For instance, most of the devices hosting digital assistants on them right now are phones, but with the rise of smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, smart TVs and connected cars, the territory for assistants to claim will only grow.

Ovum predicts that Google Assistant will reign supreme in the digital assistant realm, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and surprisingly Samsung Bixby. These predictions are likely due to the large share of devices that phones represent. Further behind will be assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana.

One of the biggest variables that will affect these outcomes is language and international presence. Ovum noted that around 95% of Alexa and Google Assistant installations are in North America, whereas it's closer to 24% for Siri. With the massive markets in Asia and even emerging markets in parts of Africa, the question will be who best taps into the international consciousness and provides the most universal vocal interface. For now, that remains to be seen.

IFC, Google, Others Invest in CSquared to Improve Broadband in Africa
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, Google Inc., Convergence Partners, and Mitsui & Co. have agreed to invest up to $100 million in CSquared, a partnership focused on deploying wholesale, carrier-neutral, open-access fiber optic networks across Sub-Saharan Africa.

The investment will help improve broadband connectivity in a region where the lack of dependable internet access impairs economic growth, competitiveness, and the development of basic services. It will expand Google’s existing operations in Uganda and Ghana, with the goal of entering several new markets over the next five years.  

The investment is part of IFC’s Digital Infrastructure Initiative, which aims to increase internet access in under served regions. Improving broadband connectivity through the Digital Infrastructure Initiative is a priority for the World Bank Group—better broadband penetration has a direct impact on GDP growth, increases productivity and transparency, and helps bridge the gender gap.

Fiber optic cable, however, is expensive—just one kilometer can cost between $15,000 and $30,000—and Africa needs at least half a million more kilometers. Deploying and operating infrastructure on a shared basis—Csquared’s business model—can help lower installation and consumer costs. CSquared aims to offer high-quality, affordable wholesale services to all licensed operators.

CSquared has built more than 800 km of fiber in Kampala and Entebbe, Uganda; and more than 840 km of fiber in the Ghanaian cities of Accra, Tema, and Kumasi. More than 25 internet service providers and mobile network operators now use the company’s fiber networks to offer broadband services and 4G data to end users, with over 1,200 tower and commercial building sites connected directly to CSquared’s fiber infrastructure.

“This project demonstrates IFC’s commitment to increasing affordable and reliable internet access under the global Digital Infrastructure Initiative,” said Aniko Szigetvari, Global Head of Telecom, Media and Technology Investments at IFC.

“By supporting broadband business models that promote shared infrastructure, the initiative will reduce entry barriers and deployment costs in the telecommunications sector, increase affordability, and enable the development of digital economies.”

Marian Croak, Vice-President at Google said: “We believe that together under CSquared, we can get more done to roll-out and operate affordable, high-speed, and reliable infrastructure to expand internet access in Africa. Project Link is demonstrating the impact of shared wholesale infrastructure, and we’re excited to see CSquared bring more infrastructure to more service providers and their customers.”