BY BISI OLALEYE With the gradual adoption of Bring Your Own Device by most employers of labour in Africa, experts have predicted that the number of mobile internet devices will outnumber humans by the end of 2013. According to them, there will be more smartphones and internet-connected tablets and monitors than there are people on the planet. BYOD is when employees take their various internet enabled devices to the work place and get it connected for the next job. In a recent report by Informa, UK, smartphones sales are on the increase and headed to take over the top spot in device sales, effectively outdoing feature or non-internet enabled phones. This follows closely the global stats where out of 423 million mobile phones sold in Q2 of 2013, 225 million were smartphones while 210 million were feature phones. Kenya is expected to have 4.3 million smartphones by end of 2013, according to Informa, which will have surpassed feature phones sales with 51 per cent for smartphones and 49 per cent for feature phones. Africa will have 60.95 million smartphones in the same period, with South Africa taking the lead at 15.07 million smartphones. Egypt comes second at 11.03 and Nigeria third at 10.12 million smartphones. At a recent technology forum, Vice President of Regus (Regus is the world's largest provider of flexible workspace) for Africa, Joanne Bushell, disclosed that Africa will be one focal point of the boom in smartphones. Bushell maintained that Microsoft/Huawei and Samsung are launching new smartphones for the Africans and Blackberry is already well established there. Over 2012-17, Africa is predicted to have the strongest mobile data traffic of any region, increasing more than 17-fold over the period. Bushell said: "Clearly, smartphones are hugely empowering for Africa. They'll spur the growth of entrepreneurship and local businesses, and bring improvements to areas of life including healthcare and education. But, at the same time, 24/7 technology brings market with it stresses and strains, making workers feel they are always on call. "These feelings may be exacerbated as manufacturers find new ways to keep us online. In the US, Sergey Brin of Google and other early adopters are already wearing the Google glass spectacles which allow wearers to use the internet. And it's widely expected that Apple will launch a smartwatch. If we don't even have to reach into our pockets for our phone in order to connect to work, it's going to be harder than ever to switch off." Bushell stated that in spite of the hurdles of poor service quality, the implementation of mobile services in Nigeria has made a huge difference in the lives of Nigerians individually and jointly, increasing economic growth by facilitating cross-industry linkages and improving efficiency. She added that mobile operators are also encouraging the smartphone boom, which was good enough. According to the latest subscriber data, released by the Nigerian Communications Commission, MTN Nigeria retained its lead in the telecoms market, with more than eight million active lines, which is more than the combined subscribers of its two rivals, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria. MTN and Globacom remain market leaders in the Nigerian telecommunications industry as the industry crosses 120 million active lines. While smartphones have started to enhance big data penetration in the Nigerian market and mobile phone manufacturers have shifted from feature phones to smartphones, Thierry Vernet, Area Director, North and West Africa, for Regus, noted there is still need for flexibility in the work life space. Vernet explained that the current edition of the Regus Work-Life Balance Index revealed 41 per cent of respondents globally said their companies were doing more to help employees reduce commuting than two years earlier. In several African countries, including Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania and Tunisia, the percentage was higher than the global average. In a recent global survey by Accenture, 78 per cent of workers said technology lets them be more flexible with their work schedules. But 70 per cent said technology brings work into their personal lives. Feelings are clearly mixed. Buttressing his point, Kirsten Morgendaal, Area Director, South Africa, also from Regus, said benefits of flexibility are possible because technology allows people to work anywhere. Morgendaal stressed that technology should not be blamed, rather the very positive changes that technology has brought to work and work-life balance over the past decade should be hyped saying: "Think how much easier it is to do your job when the cloud means you no longer have to go to the office to access corporate information or applications. Remember how video-conferencing has reduced the need for time-consuming corporate travel. "It's no coincidence that the launch of devices such as the Blackberry in 2003, the iPhone in 2008 and the iPad in 2010 has been accompanied by a steep rise in the number of people using Regus business centres and drop-in business lounges to work. There are now over one million customers in 100 countries using Regus flexible workplaces, because people are choosing to work at locations that suit them and their customers, instead of doing the old-fashioned fixed, daily commute. "In the latest edition of the Regus Work-Life Balance Index, 41 per cent of respondents globally said their companies were doing more to help employees reduce commuting than two years earlier. In several African countries, including Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania and Tunisia, the percentage was higher than the global average." Bushell further added that as smartphone ownership and usage proliferate in Africa, there is need to intensify the debate about work-life balance and people's availability in a 24/7 world. She said: "People may need to do late-night conference calls, but they may be happier to do so if flexible working patterns let them cut their commuting time or juggle home and work commitments. And office workers may need to think about their own habits too. One reason colleagues and clients can easily reach us out of hours is that we are already online; using social media or checking the football scores. We are more likely to hear the ping of an email arriving, so we're more likely to deal with it. The sender assumes we're happy to work out-of-hours, and bombards us even more in future. It's not just employers who need to learn the lessons about technology and presenteeism (at the desk or on the end of the phone), and how we can work most productively."