Vodafone and Microsoft have announced a mammoth new strategic partnership aimed to bring advances in generative AI, digital services and the cloud closer to more than 300 million businesses.
During its ten-year collaboration, the duo plans to leverage their respective strengths in offering scaled digital platforms to public sector organizations and consumers across Europe and Africa.
As the main goal of the partnership, the companies will collaborate to transform Vodafone’s customer experience leveraging Microsoft’s GenAI, hyperscale Vodafone’s leading managed IoT connectivity platform, develop new digital and financial services for businesses – particularly SMEs across Europe and Africa – and overhaul the telecommunications company’s global data center cloud strategy.
In the meantime, Vodafone is gearing up to invest $1.5bn over the coming decade in cloud and customer-focused AI services developed in conjunction with Microsoft, as Microsoft will use Vodafone’s fixed and mobile connectivity services.
The digital services generated by the new partnership will use the latest generative AI technology to create a highly personalized and differentiated customer experience across multiple channels. They are poised to be built on unbiased and ethical privacy and security policies under Vodafone’s already-established framework for responsible AI.
Emphasizing the advantages of this partnership to consumers, Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group chief executive, called it “a bold commitment to the digital future of Europe and Africa,” adding:
“This unique strategic partnership with Microsoft will accelerate the digital transformation of our business customers, particularly small and medium-sized companies, and step up the quality of customer experience for consumers.”
As part of its grand ambition to accelerate digital transformation across Africa, Microsoft intends to help further scale M-Pesa, already the largest financial technology platform on the continent, by housing it on Azure and enabling the launch of new cloud-native applications.
In addition, the partners are launching a purpose-led program that seeks to enrich the lives of 100 million consumers and 1 million SMEs across the African continent with the goal of enhancing digital literacy through youth outreach programs, as well as offering digital services to the underserved SME market.
IoT and cloud advancement
The Gates-founded tech corporation also revealed an envisioned investment in Vodafone’s managed IoT connectivity platform, that connects 175 million devices and platforms worldwide, which is planned to become a standalone business by April 2024. With this step, the duo hopes to attract new partners and business customers, driving growth in applications and expanding the platform to connect more customer devices, vehicles and machines.
Expressing hopes that the new generation of AI will unlock new opportunities for every organization and industry around the world, Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, commented: “We are delighted that together with Vodafone we will apply the latest cloud and AI technology to enhance the customer experience of hundreds of millions of people and businesses across Africa and Europe, build new products and services, and accelerate the company’s transition to the cloud.”
As one of the partnership’s key goals, Vodafone will accelerate its cloud transformation by modernizing its data centers on Microsoft Azure. This will help improve its responsiveness to customers while simplifying and reducing the operational costs of its IT estate.
As an outcome, Vodafone plans to replace multiple physical data centers with virtual ones across Europe, simplifying and reducing the operational costs of its IT estate, as well as reducing energy requirements and helping deliver on its sustainable business strategy.
Last but not least, as part of its strategy to become Europe’s leading platform for business, Vodafone will extend its commitment to distributing Microsoft services, including Microsoft Azure, security solutions and modern work offerings such as Microsoft Teams Phone Mobile.
This will allow business customers to deploy Microsoft’s cloud-based services at pace with low adoption and running costs, as well as support the estimated 24 million SMEs across Europe through the provision of a managed platform that grows with their business.