Somali Federal Government’s Cloud Initiative: Challenges and Promise
Broadband availability in Africa has been a major issue for both business and personal access to the cloud. Fortunately, Internet bandwidth has improved dramatically over the past few years—In Africa, especially for businesses looking to connect to cloud resources elsewhere in the world.
Emerging information technology will be the key enabler for the rapid development of the private sector. Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, when computing tasks are assigned to a combination of remote connections, software and services on demand. End-users no longer need expertise in, or control of the technology infrastructure “in the cloud,” and this is why there’s renewed optimism in the cloud business over emerging market in Africa.
Looking back over the last decade, IT has played a key role in the private sector’s productivity improvements in industrialized countries by automating innumerable business processes, such as accounting, human resources, and customer relationship management (CRM). In turn, this automation has increased efficiency and triggered high growth in industries ranging from investment banking to farming, and revolutionized small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which make up 90% of enterprises globally and account for 50-60% of all employment.
East African firms in particularly Somali Business have not fully benefitted from the technology revolution because of the expensive upfront costs of buying hardware and software, and managing it on-premise. But more importantly, the lack of an IT skilled workforce prevented the development of supporting ecosystems of service providers, similar to those available in the industrialized world. Additionally, the Internet was generally not available, and when it was, the cost was high, speeds were slow, and access was unreliable and, therefore, not practical to the majority to manage their businesses effectively.
But along with increased focus on infrastructure and in the private sector as a driver of development over the last ten years, Somali Telecom Industry have made major investments in the ICT landscape & presents a large, growing market that is increasingly connected via mobile technology and broadband connectivity. Africa has the fastest growth rate in mobile phones among all continents, with penetration soaring from 2% at the turn of the century to an estimated 50% plus by the end of 2020. This is critical, as a lack of effective communications infrastructure has traditionally been one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth.
A new type of cloud is bringing hope for the next generation of African innovators and unleashing their creativity:
Cloud Computing – Somalia is poised for the next wave of technology innovation where IT services will be instantly available to end users on request.
Improving and maturing Internet connectivity presents a significant opportunity for many Africa based businesses and technology entrepreneurs. Applications which were previously not available due to a lack of locally available skills or the need for significant up-front investment would become readily available on a pay-as-you-go business model, delivered over the network.
In some parts of Africa, this business model, which is commonly referred to as “cloud computing model”, is already being adopted as a way of overcoming compute capacity, power or other deficits specially in South Africa as the leading industry for now. Cloud computing optimizes the use of scarce resources by consolidating what is available into a resource pool which is efficiently allocated to users based on their needs. This approach to IT service delivery is set for a major take off in Africa, provided certain enabling measures are put in place.
Although a large segment of the IT user community experience cloud services though public cloud service providers such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc., cloud adoption has been largely driven by internal enterprise adoption.
Many enterprises are exploring or preparing to introduce this new technology. More than 50% of ICT operators have begun to implement or are already using cloud computing. Studies by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have shown Banking and the Educational sectors as early adopters of cloud computing. Opportunities exist in retail, media and entertainment. For a local cloud computing business model to thrive, a basic investment in data center infrastructure is needed. Many countries in Africa are in the process of building data centers capable of delivering cloud services.
While cloud holds a lot of promise, challenges persist, the most obvious being the need for a regulatory framework governing the delivery of cloud services, particularly the protection of sensitive and personal identifiable information. Many African countries do not have local data protection legislation or cross-border agreements that facilitate the exchange of sensitive and personal identifiable information. African countries need to put in place data protection legislation in the very near future, codes of conduct and standards needed to accelerate adoption of cloud services across borders. Cloud services need to be implemented on solid foundation that inspires confidence in both domestic and foreign use.
There is a level of ignorance in the African market where the impact of cloud computing on jobs is concerned. Many believe cloud computing is synonymous with moving your IT services to an overseas public cloud infrastructure, resulting in reduced headcount. Nowhere has cloud adoption resulted in significant job losses. On the contrary, cloud enables new levels of business agility that creates opportunities for IT.
In a 2014 report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services titled “Business Agility in the Cloud” (http://cloud.verizon.com/agility-cloud-benefits), 70% of organizations were found to be using cloud services. In addition:
• 74% of respondents say the cloud has given them a competitive advantage.
• 61% say it has increased employee productivity.
• 71% say the cloud reduces complexity within their business.
• 41% named agility as their primary driver for adopting cloud.
• 65% say cloud doesn’t adversely affect security.
• 36% say it actually increases security.
A survey conducted by the International Telecommunications Union identified the need for better understanding of the cloud environments and technical considerations related to the delivery of cloud services. While the infrastructure gap led to the rapid adoption of wireless mobile services in Africa, the delivery of public cloud computing services will initially be largely mobile based. Over the next few years, as broadband penetration improves, cloud computing will take center stage as Africa’s technological revolution of the twenty-first century.
To ensure rapid adoption of cloud services, a regulatory environment that adheres to international standards of personal data protection and data security is a key, along with the availability of local efficient datacenters. Cloud computing presents an opportunity for professionals seeking to be relevant in the years to come. The development of cloud computing skills is critical, if Africa is to benefit from a business model that is ideally suited to enabling the delivery of affordable and accessible IT services.
Federal Government of Somalia (ICT leading countries in Africa to launch G-Cloud Based Solutions)
Cloud computing will change in the way information systems can be delivered. There is no ICT infrastructures exist within the Federal Government institutions today – Given this; the Somali Federal Government initiated the G-Cloud program solution to deliver computing based capability from fundamental resources such as storage and processing to full fledged applications using cloud computing technologies. Its lower costs, transparency and increased reliability made the cloud a viable technology option for cash-strapped governments like Somalia.
The cloud is no longer an emerging business model. It is essential.
Ismail D. Osman
The author is independent cloud expert, Telecom, Cyber Security and Cloud product strategists and solution provider. Cloud Security, Data Center Automation Design and Architect – Certified: C|EH, vCloud, vExpert, AWS