Why Africa should look to the cloud


Where do African organizations and markets stand when it comes to the cloud? Even though cloud technologies are more reliable and efficient than traditional networks for example, many businesses are still too skittish because of privacy and security concerns. On top of that, it gives us access to quality services as well as new potential markets.

Via the cloud, elearning for example is becoming an increasingly attractive market in Africa. So why aren’t businesses making use of this potential?

Though power outages, lack of internet coverage and online security pointing to more attractive reasons for adopting cloud services, many are still reluctant to migrate and are sticking to traditional means. This is ironic because cloud services are usually more secure and reliable than any others found in emerging markets.

Although the number is rising, the rate at which businesses in emerging markets has adopted the usage of the cloud, has been comparatively slow in Africa. Cloud computing poses the potential of making your business more productive as well as effective. Its availability also opens up doors to access broader markets.

Security concerns?

Companies operating in emerging markets are often forced to rely on online services to compensate for lacking formal infrastructure. For example, the popularity of online money transfers like M-Pesa in Africa creates a massive opportunity for potential sensitive data that are vulnerable to malware that circulates globally. Though companies like these and many more use more reliable services like Amazon Web Services to host their data. So does Jobberman, Nigeria’s largest jobs and careers web site and South Africa’s ecommerce 36Boutiques.

With cyber security threats increasing rapidly, Ventureburn had a chat with Imperva CEO Shlomo Kramer to discuss the effects of cyber crime on small businesses in emerging markets. Imperva is a database and application security company based in the US that offer its services to organizations around the world. Kramer notes that value-driven attacks are most popularly driven by two means. First off, direct attacks for monetary gain that would either revolve around fraudulent activity or generating forced transactions. Indirect attacks, on the other hand, include stealing valuable data that can then be sold on the black market for example.

Other reasons for attacks are the most recent, politically motivated attacks. These are sometimes known as hacktivism and include groups such Anonymous. They are often the most powerful when it comes to the country’s military intelligence. For startups in emerging markets, unless you’re being funded by Al Qaeda, you needn’t worry about advanced military intelligence sabotaging or infecting your business’ software.

These general type of attacks could be evaded by migrating to the cloud.

The other silver lining

The biggest problem SMEs face today, Kramer says, is “overcoming the necessary know-how when it comes to cyber securities.” This problem could generally be overcome and simplified by having access to and using the cloud. Instead of implementing complicated appliances or hiring experienced and expensive IT specialists, it’s possible for a small business to use the same services that are available to big businesses.

There are many other advantages that go with cloud computing’s success. For one, cloud computing doesn’t need high-tech expertise, users can simply use it as the cheap convenient and more secure option. Thus it’s more popular for small businesses. According to a recent report by Gartner, the number of businesses putting their offices in the cloud is rising substantially. “While 8 percent of business people were using cloud office systems at the start of 2013, we estimate this number will grow to 695 million users by 2022, to represent 60%.”

Moreover, not only is the productivity of businesses positively influenced by this ready technology, by adopting a globally available service in regions where infrastructure is lacking could prove futile as both large and small companies and governments can benefit from the cloud. The same way a child in Ethiopia has access to quality education via his mobile that’s available to a child in California, a small business has access to the same services a big business in California would have.

Opening up broader markets

Also, apart from collaboration and cooperation, cloud computing has the potential of making services more transparent and reaching new audiences for potential startups. Organizations can create a network of offline clouds that people within can access for free, and without going online. The host can then simply refresh and update the content every now and then.

It opens up doors for areas such as elearning, ehealth and egovernance for instance. Investing in something like elearning could prove to be very fruitful. According to a report by Ambient Insight which represents research from a handful of African countries– elearning has seen one of the highest market growth rates in Africa since 2011. This present a massive opportunity for potential ventures. Using available technology like the cloud, a startup like South African based Edge Campus provides a service that is specifically designed to help simplify assessment processes for teachers across the African continent.

Which markets could also gain from using the cloud? Well, the sky’s the limit– and it’s better reached via the cloud.

If you are more interested in this topic, keep a lookout for the Cloud Computing and Information Security Conference (CCISC) that will be hosted in Harare, Zimbabwe 24-26 July. The conference will bring “together Southern African enterprises, telecommunications players, and innovative and agile service providers/vendors from the IT world.” Areas of topics to be discussed are business transformation through the cloud, Africa’s readiness in the uptake and adoption of cloud technology, current and projected trends in information security and implications for, business continuity planning and integrating information security with world-class physical security.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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