It’s truly a good time to be in the ICT industry in Africa now more than ever because of the level of change and disruption the industry is bringing to the African continent. All businesses, from public to private sector are having to adapt due to the different market demands brought about by advancements in technology and networking infrastructure. Internet connection is getting wider spread and the infrastructure supporting it is getting better allowing us to enjoy the benefits of the next phase of computing…cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the ability to provide data processing, storage and networking services on-demand across a shared platform. The adoption of cloud computing across Africa is still low but has been on the ascendancy in the last 5-7 years. This has been largely through awareness campaigns by both local and international cloud service providers who have actively approached the market to push the advantages of cloud services.

Cloud Adoption

In Kenya, that adoption of cloud services is being led by the public sector. According to research done last year by the Communications Authority (CA) and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), 35% of all government institutions have some form of cloud service as compared to 22% of businesses in the private sector. Successful initiatives such as the e-citizen platform, whose purpose is to have public services accessible conveniently from the Internet, has evolved how government services are offered to the citizens.

This has paved the way for private institutions to develop cloud-based solutions whose benefits far outweigh the traditional method of computing. The Cloud Solutions market in Kenya is supplier-driven as compared to markets such as South Africa which are demand-driven. A survey conducted by KPMG in 2014 showed that 50% of corporations in the South African private sector have embraced cloud computing and another 30% are on the verge of signing up for a cloud solution. All in all, the continent is slowly but surely embracing the cloud.

Cloud as a Solution

Cloud computing may be the most ideal solution for Africa as it allows us to tackle the uniquely African problems we have in every country in the continent. The poor state of our infrastructure has not allowed us to fully enjoy benefits such as motor vehicles due to poor roads or electronics due to poor power production and distribution systems. These shortcomings will prove to be what make cloud computing a key factor in the rise of Africa.

Multiple submarine fiber cables terminate on many countries around the continent ensuring there is fast and reliable connectivity to the outside world. The fast, continuous growth and improvement of the communication infrastructure across the continent, (as compared to transport/power infrastructure) also ensure that businesses can rely on constant availability of the Internet.

Africa has also leap frogged the personal computing era right into the mobile computing era affording us the convenience of being online anytime, anywhere. From a business perspective, it gives the ability to deploy cloud-based solutions that can scale more economically and reach a wider customer base. Using mobile applications with cloud-based servers allow better business-customer interactions through better product/service performance and instant feedback not bound by physical or geographical location.

Cloud computing also allows small businesses to compete with relatively larger corporations in that the same computing power required to run the business is available on-demand without having to purchase the physical infrastructure needed to deploy the services. /p>

Consumers can now enjoy more reliable products and services with more choice and convenience. Knowledge is power, and information is now readily available at the tap of a screen. Consumers can find solutions to all sorts of problems through the power of cloud computing as the resources are on-demand and readily available.

Cloud as a Solution

There are still legislation and infrastructure hurdles to be crossed before we can fully enjoy the benefits of cloud computing. Some sectors need clarity in terms of the legislation with regards to how sensitive data is stored and transferred across the cloud. Governments and telecommunication companies alike have invested heavily in the improvement of communication infrastructure as this is the backbone on which cloud solutions rely. Cloud service providers will have to do more in creating awareness on the benefits of cloud computing over traditional computing methods.

There is still a lot of work to be done but with cloud computing, Africa can rise by making full use of a technology almost purpose built for her.

Article by Kenneth Odera, Pre- Sales Engineer at MTN Business Kenya.

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