Sean Wainer (South Africa) - Virtualisation: What it can Really Mean for Africa

Virtualisation is proving to be a boon for its ability to reduce costs and changing the work world. Sean Wainer, country manager for Citrix Systems, discusses the potential virtualisation can have on the remote connectivity in Sub-Sahara Africa.

There is a lot of talk about the benefits of virtualisation - how desktop virtualisation, for instance, can reduce costs, increase flexibility and encourage workshifiting, to change the working world forever. And it's true, the technology can and does offer all those benefits.

Yet working with organisations across Africa, puts virtualisation into a whole new context. It is a fascinating and challenging experience, as connectivity surges and businesses look for ways to overcome the huge distances between economic hubs; ensuring remote locations remain in touch. Although Africa is undergoing significant growth, particularly in the Sub Saharan region, the geographical distance between major economic hubs and the lack of access to copper or fibre based connectivity and basic infrastructure presents a great challenge in connecting the African community - both for businesses and the general population.

From a cost and connectivity point of view, virtualisation is the obvious solution to connect remote parts of Africa with the rest of the world. A significant portion of the continent now has internet access through the use of second or third generation mobile networks. When coupled with devices such as a tablet PC or cost effective netbook, virtualisation could deliver a centralised platform to even the most remote areas of the continent. In fact, such a suggestion holds a number of implications for education, healthcare and local government organisations, as well as businesses.

For example, through the use of virtualisation, remote villages may gain access to an educational mainframe which would allow teachers to plan classes, download new study material, track their student's progress, and discuss problems with other educators. By the same token, with the provision of cost-effective computers, students might be able to use virtualisation to access school books, study for tests and exams; and be given assistance from teachers on the other side of the continent.

From a health perspective, doctors may be able to use the technology to track and update patient records in hard to reach areas, interpret medical data with the help of a centralised database, or give follow up assistance and advice to villages without ever being present in the flesh.

Local and national government in Africa could also benefit greatly from the application of virtualisation to daily processes. This would allow national government to monitor constituencies to ensure that productivity is being maintained and even to stamp out corruption through the regular monitoring of financial records on a municipal level.
If applied effectively, the technology can exist not only as a cost saving productivity measure for businesses, but also as a solution to a number of uniquely African social and economic issues. Indeed, with the help of international aid and a clear development policy Africa could become one of the first examples of a country to benefit from sweeping economic and social changes via a technology ordinarily associated with the corporate world. Let the revolution begin!


By Sean Wainer, country manager for Citrix Systems, Southern Africa