2020 has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced companies to rapidly digitize to support their employees working from home.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown crushed many industries like travel and tourism, restaurants, and entertainment.
For the ICT industry the lockdown was both a blessing and a curse, depending on which services was offered and which clients they were serving.
The demand for broadband access and video conferencing services spiked when the lockdown kicked in.
Webcam and laptop sales also increased to support remote working and streaming services enjoyed great uptake with people stuck at home.
IT companies which supported the travel, restaurant, entertainment, and retail industries, however, took a hit during the lockdown.
The lockdown prevented many industries from operating which means they did not require IT or telecoms services.
The biggest benefactors of the lockdown were data providers like Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile operators.
Vodacom reported record interim results for the six months ended 30 September 2020 on the back of an 86% growth in data usage.
Rain said its sign-ups quadrupled after the lockdown kicked in which rapidly increased its subscriber base.
Fibre ISPs like Cool Ideas and Afrihost also reported record growth on the back of increased broadband demand.
The biggest South African tech stories of the year
While many companies just wanted to survive the year, others took the opportunity to gain market share and even launch new services.
The biggest surprise was the launch of a new domestic airline Lift amidst a pandemic and travel restrictions.
Lift was started by Kulula founder Gidon Novick who remains upbeat of the future of leisure travel despite the pandemic.
Another big story was Alviva’s acquisition of Tarsus for R185 million to form an IT distribution powerhouse.
There were also a few high-profile executive moves, like Rain CEO Willem Roos stepping down and Liquid Telecom CEO Reshaad Sha resigning.
Here are the biggest South African IT and telecoms stories of the year.
Alviva announced in November that it has entered into a share purchase agreement to acquire Tarsus for a maximum purchase consideration of R185,388,000.
Rain CEO Willem Roos will step down and move to a non-executive role from 1 March 2021. Hewill be replaced by Brandon Leigh, who is a founder of the business and current chief strategy officer.
Reshaad Sha resigned as Liquid Telecom South Africa CEO in June to head up a new artificial intelligence venture. He was replaced by Deon Geyser.
Rain is facing a backlash from its subscribers for slow speeds and poor support which has been dogging the mobile operator for months.
South Africa experienced the worst ever load shedding in 2020, with the total gigawatt-hours shed surpassing the 2019 record in August.
Group CEO Rob Shuter stepped down from his position and was replaced by Ralph Mupita on 1 September.
MultiChoice has officially launched its new Explora Ultra, which includes built-in access to Netflix.
Telkom has partnered with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to launch a new online streaming service named TelkomONE.
Cell C is in deep financial trouble. It is unable to pay its debt and its total liabilities are three times higher than its total assets.
The African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) has revealed the full extent of the theft of IP address blocks after conducting an audit of its WHOIS database. Conservative estimates value the stolen IP address space at $80 million (USD), which is over R1.3 billion at an exchange rate of R16.50 per US dollar.
The recent assassination of Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear has uncovered the unlawful use of location-based data from Vodacom and MTN to track his movement.
Telkom approached the Competition Tribunal today to declare the suite of spectrum arrangements between Vodacom and Rain as a merger. According to Telkom, this merger should have been notifiable in terms of the Competition Act.
Actis has entered into an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in fibre-to-the-home operator Octotel at an enterprise value of R2.3 billion. At the same time, Actis signed an agreement to acquire a non-controlling interest in Internet Service Provider (ISP) RSAWEB.
A hacker collective calling itself Anonymous ZA has released explosive details about Mirror Trading International (MTI), stating that at least R4 billion in bitcoin has flowed through the scheme.
Four high-profile MultiChoice executives have resigned or have left the company in 2020, raising questions as to what is behind these departures.
The South African Banking Risk Centre (SABRIC) has warned that a major data breach at Experian has exposed the personal information of as many as 24 million South Africans and nearly 793,749 business entities to a suspected fraudster.
MTN has launched its new 5G service in Gauteng, Western Cape, and Free State with data plans from 75GB to 500GB.
Webafrica has announced the appointment of Sean Nourse as its new CEO, taking over from Tim Wyatt-Gunning.
In May Vodacom launched Africa’s first live 5G mobile network in three cities – Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town – with further rollouts planned to other parts of the country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on special leave for two months. One month of the leave will be unpaid. This follows the minister coming under fire for visiting a friend for lunch during the national lockdown.
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has highlighted that overall job cuts at Telkom in 2020 could be around 6,000 – a large portion of the company’s 15,197 employees, and nearly double what was originally indicated by Telkom.