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Cloudy future

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Cloud computing is here to stay—and is being widely used in Africa. To refresh—cloud services are Internet-based services that provide shared computer processing resources, applications and data to computers and other devices on demand.

It is based on the sharing of resources to achieve cost effectiveness, economy of scale, and speed of access for users. The advantages of this approach enable companies to avoid up-front infrastructure costs on hardware, software and support and allow them to focus on their core businesses instead of spending time and money on computer installations.

It enables them to get their applications up and running faster, with better manageability and less maintenance. Most software companies are offering their products as a cloud subscription model. So, the days of purchasing CDs with activation keys are almost over. I do not know how long optical drives will continue to be supplied on the market.

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o, how does this impact on Africa? Recently at the Oracle Digital Day Kenya, Oracle pointed out that the adoption of cloud services in parts of Africa are at a global standards level, and pointed out that Kenya’s technology is now the equivalent of Silicon Valley in the US.

They estimate that cloud adoption is going to be faster in the future—with 80 percent of corporate owned data centres moving to the cloud by 2025. In addition, they predict that 80 percent of IT budgets will be spent on the clouds and not on traditional IT systems. However, the true cost of cloud adoption is still unclear in Africa.

One big grey area is security, but in my opinion this is an issue for both on premises and cloud systems. Another area of concern is data protection. Many businesses are concerned about whether their data is protected if it was hosted offshore and in the cloud. Dele Akinsade, a Cloud Director at Microsoft has pointed out that very few countries in Africa have a clear cloud policy, although he says governments are talking about this.

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Microsoft is currently working with governments and policy makers to help them frame and establish policies that will guide them in cloud adoption and reduce anxiety that is felt by corporates of having their data reside in another jurisdiction. One short term solution to this is utilising the hybrid cloud where sensitive data stays within the organisation, while other data is hosted in the cloud.

Business risks to consider include costs of internet services— which can be prohibitive in many African countries; and the irregular supply of power, now penalising many countries, including Malawi. Recurring incidents of internet shutdowns in Africa (example being Cameroon recently) also concerns businesses, IT experts and cloud service providers alike.

There is nothing currently that can be done when a government or regulator forces the service down. The United Nations Human Rights Council recently spoke against internet shut down according to Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (Cipesa).

It is pointed out by the CEO of Liquid Telecom that access to telecommunications or a communications network is now more and more being recognised as a fundamental human right. Freedom of speech is no longer about the right to stand up and say what you wish, it is more about having the ability and the network to do so over social media.

Increasing global policies that classify access to the internet as a right may deter forced shutdowns. I have long written about the internet being perceived as an essential service on a par with water and electricity, even in Malawi.

With the advent of mobile data services, the enhancements to the quality of life in the rural areas cannot be under-estimated, with massive benefits regarding education, health and mobile banking amongst many other benefits.

What would be your take on this? Should the internet be seen as a luxury or an essential service in one of the poorest countries in the world? Email me with your comments.

 

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