Why Africa must embrace Cloud Computing:
Development of the private sector
Information technology has been a major factor in the growth of small firms in developing countries. However, most companies are impeded in their adoption of information technology to boost their work due to many reasons. Issues such as cost of hardware and software and lack of local availability of technology are some factors. If Africa wants to increase the acceleration of its growth, the private sector must embrace cloud computing the way mobile phones have been embraced.
Melissa Leon writes in her blog about how they help local leaders in Kenya use the cloud for improved efficiency and to safe guard against loss of data.
Current infrastructure – Mobile Cloud Computing
Looking at the current infrastructure for internet access in Africa, mobile platforms seem to be the preferred means available for online activities. As at 2008, the International Telecommunication Union stated that Africa had over 300 million mobile subscribers and as at 2009 David Smith of the Guardian predicted a rise of 550% in mobile users across Africa in 5 years. In Africa, the number of mobile users far outnumbers the number of internet users, therefore any business looking to go into the mobile cloud stands at an advantage as it will be easier to increase internet usage by providing needed services on mobile platforms which your clients are already used to.
As the internet revolution sweeps across Africa, the mobile cloud will likely be the first to kick off. It seems Kenya is taking the lead with companies like RedCloud Technologies coming up with solutions to improve the M-PESA money transfer mobile application so that micro-finance institutions can connect to M-PESA to deliver financial services simply and cheaply without queuing in the bank, using mobile money transfer.
Mobile banking and mobile money transfer are also becoming increasingly popular in Nigeria, with financial institutions delivering mobile applications to aid customers carry out transactions.
Will the mobile device be an important tool in the growth of cloud computing for Africa? It certainly will.
Online Security Infrastructure:
One major problem facing Africa in terms of computing and internet usage generally, is that of infrastructure. Without the required infrastructure, growth is impeded, when growth is impeded security becomes irrelevant as there is nothing to secure. This is why a company like Paypal will not do business with Nigerian based payment merchants. While we see companies like Pesapal in Kenya, East Africa and CashU in North Africa making massive inroads into the online payment industry, we find companies such as Etranzact in Nigeria, West Africa still not able to fully take control of the vast opportunities available to them.
The right infrastructure to make good and fast internet access affordable is necessary for cloud computing to take off fully in Africa. The mobile companies seem to be ahead in providing this service.
It is interesting to know that African Governments are beginning to pick an interest in this. The Rwandan Government recently hosted the 12th Forum on Telecommunication/ICT Regulation and Partnership in Africa in June 2011. We need more of such interests and activities from Governments in Africa.
Trust and Credibility:
The International Community has not fully embraced opportunities in cloud computing in Africa due to the fact there is very little trust base. A lot of people might argue against this point, but if you look at the number of companies ready to work with Kenya, with M-Pesa being initially sponsored by the UK-based Department for International Development (DFID) compared to those ready to work with countries always in the news for the bad reasons, then you will understand that IT services, including cloud computing has taken off much faster in places like Kenya due to a better trust base.
Multinational companies still prefer to open their computing centres in places like South Africa with a better trust base. IBM opened Africa’s first major cloud computing centre in South Africa in 2008.
Bigger African countries with huge potentials for profit must step up their game with government policies that provide conducive environments for companies to have enough faith in, to invest.
Secondly, local companies must seek cooperation with multinationals with proven track records, this gives them a voice and adds credibility to their services.
Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm, forecasts that by 2012 industrialized utility and cloud-based services will account for at least 50 percent of the new demand for managed IT infrastructure services. The opportunity for African businesses and locals to fully join this cloud world is likely based on the widespread use of mobile and tablet devices on the continent. Businesses will do well to focus on mobile cloud options in the interim, to enable them reach a wider audience and therefore have more impact. This is an opportunity for Africa, we do not have to wait for the infrastructure which we lack, we can simple harness the potentials of the mobile cloud, and get almost all the advantages of cloud computing.