Digital transformation has taken the globe by storm. Countries are adopting digitisation to streamline operations to achieve a competitive edge in global marketplace. The pandemic has further pushed businesses over the technology tipping point transforming the digital roadmap for the future.

Africa is on an exciting journey to digital dominion. At the destination is a continent burgeoning under an information and knowledge economy, with increased financial inclusion and socio-economic empowerment for every one of its citizens. Ascend Digital Solutions works to make this vision a reality.

Ascend Digital Solutions is a trusted partner to public institutions across Africa in enabling the real potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Harkirit Singh, CEO of Ascend Digital Solutions was with the CEOViews team to share details about how they are serving the critical requirements of Africa and bringing in digital transformation.

CEOView: Ascend Digital Solutions is a trusted partner to public institutions across Africa in enabling the real potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution. How did it all begin? What was your mission at the outset?

Harkirit Singh: Africa is on a new journey of growth, socio-economic empowerment, and digital transformation. This is a journey that is destined to transform the face of Africa. Ascend Digital made the conscious decision to be a part of that journey focussing on solutions that accelerate digital infrastructure and meaning connectivity working with technology partners globally. Right from launch, our mission was and still is to upskill and prime local talent to serve the critical requirements of Africa’s burgeoning knowledge and information economy.

CEOViews: Ascend Digital Solutions Limited has been recognized as the, “Most Innovative companies to watch 2023.” How was your journey so far?

Harkirit Singh: The journey has been a learning process for Ascend, our strong teams and our partners who share our commitment to realize a Africa digital transformation.

Delivering mobile voice and data services through a shared wireless open access network to every mobile user in a rural community for the first time brought a lot of excitement to the people.

We also had a bit of challenge getting our clients to accept some of our innovative products using solutions such as wireless optical communication (wireless fibre) to connect the unconnected.

Our team of dedicated and experienced industry professionals share in the vision and mission of the company and this shared belief provides the energy and drive to deliver our digital solutions and connectivity for all in Africa agenda.

CEOViews: What innovative services does your firm provide to enable Africa’s connectivity and e-government goals?

Harkirit Singh: Through our smart infrastructure venture we have upgraded the national backbone, metro fibre, tier 3 data centres and LTE Fixed wireless access. Ascend Digital Solutions has enabled a national wide area network ensuring all the government offices and agencies are seamlessly connected to deliver e-government programs that revolutionize socio-economic development. We have also partnered with the government to deliver universal access broadband by deploying a full-scale shared mobile network to cover rural communities in Ghana bringing seamless internet and voice communications to over 1.4m people and businesses. As part of our corporate social responsibility, we partnered with the government of Ghana to develop a covid tracking app which enabled the tracking of covid-19 cases during the pandemic.

The investments in digital infrastructure and fixed and mobile networks will reduce the digital divide and increase financial inclusion. This will allow for a reliable network for the delivery of seamless e-services focused on health, education, agriculture, medium small-scale enterprises and hospitality to grow beyond the urban centres to rural areas.

CEOViews: What does it take to become a trusted network and IT services provider to public institutions across Africa?

Harkirit Singh: To be trusted, one needs to deliver on their promise and exceed expectations. Ascend Digital Solutions has ensured that it listens to the needs of all the stakeholders and work in collaboration across public and private enterprises to deliver within the agreed timeframe. We anticipate the needs of our customers and the with help of strategic partners, we provide solutions that satisfy our customer’s digital needs. We constantly challenge each other to think outside the box with the customer at the core of every decision-making.

CEOViews: How do you manage to stay abreast with new developments globally?

Harkirit Singh: Ascend Digital Solutions has a global mindset with a focus to deliver localised solutions. We continuously learn from ourselves and our partners, challenge our thinking and consistently look for smarter and more efficient ways in providing solutions. An innovative mindset, exceptional customer experience and speed to market are the keys to our success. We work with global technology partners and participate in key industry forums to stay ahead of the curve, trial new innovative solutions in our core markets and design innovative financial models to unlock the value of underlying assets that helps to accelerate the development & expansion of digital infrastructure.

CEOViews: How does your firm foster innovation in thought and technology to catapult digital revolution in Africa?

Harkirit Singh: First we offer an open culture where everyone is free to think and be creative. Secondly, we have an enabling environment that does not conform to the status quo of a corporate organization. We work in cross-functional teams, challenge and reward ourselves via healthy competition and promote inter-functional coordination. This way, team members do not box themselves into functional units. We all see ourselves as one big team with a common goal. Collaboration and responsibility are two of our core values and we live this to the latter. At Ascend Digital Solutions, no idea is “stupid”. We look for the nugget in every idea and turn this into a value proposition that transforms the lives of our clients.

We solicit feedback on a rolling basis right from the ideation stage through to execution. Each new idea is presented to the cross-functional team where the idea is critiqued in a constructive way. Once we are satisfied, we roll out on a pilot basis and follow up with the customer for feedback. Furthermore, we seek periodic feedback from our clients. Their satisfaction is our goal and the most valuable performance indicator.

CEOViews: What challenges did your firm come across throughout its journey so far?

Harkirit Singh: We had extreme challenges in our journey starting from the Covid lockdown, rising interest rates, inflation, currency fluctuations and global security issues threatening our survival. However, we stayed on course true to our strong belief and values that every hurdle will bring us closer to our goals. We were able to convince our stakeholders and partners and get their commitment to deliver as per the plan. Our reliance on the infrastructures of our partners such as the mobile network operators and tower companies occasionally affected our speed to market. We adjusted our execution timelines to accommodate the relatively slower pace of some partners and our internal teams worked hard to augment any gaps in service delivery to meet the committed timelines.

CEOViews: What according to you is the success factor for Ascend Digital Solutions?

Harkirit Singh: Every business must learn to put the customer first and listen to them. No organization will survive without the customer. Hence, they are the reason we are in business and their satisfaction should be our primary focus. Secondly, we must invest in our people. They help us deliver value to our customers. They must feel a part of the company’s journey. Once you do these two and do them well, profitability and growth will follow. Surely, there are other key structures and processes that need to be put in place. However, at Ascend Digital Solutions, we regard these two to be key success factors.

CEOViews: What type of future vision do you have for your firm?

Harkirit Singh: Our vision is to be the digital catalyst for reducing the broadband usage gap through technology and financial innovations leapfrogging Africa into the 4th industrial revolution. We envision Africa to be the technology playground in the near future with its vast natural and human resources transforming itself to be the world’s largest digital platform. It will only be possible through high-speed connectivity reducing the digital divide, igniting a revolution towards mass entrepreneurship & innovation, access to low-cost capital and developing solutions in Africa and for Africa.