Cloud Computing

Hennie Loubser (Africa) - Is Africa Ready for Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has become a defining trend for the technology industry. It's something Microsoft has been investing in heavily for over a decade - 70% of our 40,000 R&D engineers work on cloud based solutions, and this will rise. So it's not surprising that in my role as GM for the company's West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands region, I am often asked the question: Is Africa ready for cloud computing? My answer is always an emphatic "yes." Not only "yes," but I believe cloud computing is already advancing technology in Africa more than ever before.

To be clear, cloud computing is a reality in Africa today. At Microsoft, we are seeing consumers, businesses and governments in Africa using the cloud today in a number of ways: accessing services in the cloud; by moving their offerings to the cloud, or implementing their own cloud services. For years customers have been using free cloud services like Hotmail and Windows Update. And we're now working in collaboration with local partners - of which Mauritius Telecom is the most recent example - to deliver the benefits of cloud-based services to our mutual customers in the public and private sectors across Africa.

It may sound like a bold claim - especially to one familiar with the very real ICT challenges that exist in the continent - but I believe we can expect to see African countries leading the way for cloud adoption globally. We're already seeing examples of this today. For instance, just last month, the United Nations in Nairobi opened the doors to a first-of-its-kind, energy-neutral and sustainably built office. Microsoft partnered with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to help create a green IT solution and ensure the building was able to achieve energy neutrality. The solution leverages the latest cloud computing technologies from Microsoft to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. 

But perhaps what's most exciting about cloud computing isn't what people are using it for right now; it's what will happen when creative people in companies, classrooms and governments around the world, get their hands on a new generation of technologies.

So what are the benefits of cloud for Africa and what can we expect to see? Seizing the opportunities of the cloud will bring African consumers and organizations of all shapes and sizes a number of benefits, including:

  1. Reducing costs:  By paying only for what you use, the computing costs are directly proportional to your requirements.  Because cloud services are highly automated, you need far fewer staff to manage IT systems, helping release internal resources for other high-priority work
  2. Taking advantage of new innovation - fast:  Because the cloud allows software to be managed remotely, new versions of software become available to users as soon as requested
  3. Scalability: Because you can effectively increase your IT capability during peak periods, you can quickly provision new IT services and applications
  4. More mobile, more collaborative: With access to important information from any device, anywhere, you can more easily connect with family, friends, colleagues, partners or customers.

I think we can expect that for a growing number of businesses and governments in Africa, the journey to cloud computing will start with dedicated, private IT services, not in the public realm of Internet-based applications that most associate with the cloud. The private cloud in particular helps reduce the demands of managing IT, with less patching, faster deployment, increased reliability and takes advantage of the more robust, multilayered security.

And I think we can expect to see the public cloud continue to grow in Africa, with better and more affordable bandwidth access made possible through undersea telecommunications cable projects such as West Africa Cable System (WACS), Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) and SEACOM.  If you are interested in finding out more about what is cloud computing and how it can benefit your business I would encourage you to visit our local Cloud Power website. There you will also find videos and resources that will help you to understand this new evolution of computing as well as help you to identify a partner in your area that can help you make a perfect transition to cloud services.

In creating an effective ICT environment and working with companies such as Microsoft, Africa is perfectly poised to exploit the economic and social opportunities of the cloud. To this end, we are partnering with businesses, governments and developers on the cloud journey into Africa.

By Hennie Loubser, Regional General Manager for Microsoft West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands



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