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Agility key to leveraging cloud in Africa

Agility key to leveraging cloud in Africa.

Data is the new electricity in Africa and the way to get ahead in emerging markets is to harness data and transform it into intelligent action.

Dele Akinsade, Cloud and Enterprise Lead for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa, explains that businesses in Africa are in an advantageous position when it comes to using data processing solutions to leverage analytics and use insight.

"Companies are newer and more agile. They can therefore adapt more easily and take advantage of new trends. Africa is a continent of small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups who until recently wouldn't have been able to take advantage of the big data trend. However, new tools and solutions are being released that allow everyone to take advantage of analysing and reaping the rewards of data," says Akinsade.

This technology has radically changed the business landscape. Traditionally the average small business in Africa has struggled with the process of capturing, storing, extracting and analysing large quantities of data. It has always required far too many IT resources and expertise – but not anymore, Akinsade explains.

"Even the small shop owner can benefit by digitising his records. This will enable him to provide more than just profit at the end of the day, but to look at profit and expenses over the last few months. He can tell which goods have sold the most, what times of days are most profitable. All this can be used to make changes to the business to ensure its survival and profitability," Akinsade continues.

He acknowledges the influence of the cloud on the continent, and says it allows any sized business to benefit from large-scale IT without the cost and complexity.

Agility, speed and flexibility are prerequisites to being able to take advantage of business insights and intelligence, which gives businesses in Africa a jump-start ahead of global counterparts.

But, adoption is not happening as quickly as it could, given the potential that exists for businesses to exploit the technology available.

Akinsade says the cost of broadband, as well as of skills such as cloud architects and engineers, – and availability of these skills – is holding adoption back.

Database evolution

Gartner analysts predicted that mobile data traffic would reach 52 million terabytes in 2015 and according to the Statistics Portal in 2019 global consumer IP traffic is expected to reach 138,410 petabytes per month.

Samsung states that global internet traffic is expected to surpass one zettabyte in 2016 – or as the company explained '1 billion terabytes worth of data, or 1 trillion gigabytes'.

The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) mentions that global mobile data traffic grew 74% in 2015.

Can Africa develop its database capacity to be able to handle the volume of data?

Akinsade says databases that are designed to cope with today's disruptions conduct fast analyses of live data in-memory as transactions are being recorded or queried, and support low latency advanced analytics and machine learning, such as forecasting and predictive models, on the same data, so that applications can easily embed data-driven intelligence.

"These are exciting harbingers of a new world of ambient intelligence," he says, "They support 24x7 high availability, efficient management and database administration across platforms. They enable mission critical intelligent applications to be built and managed both in the cloud and on-premises."

Technical capacity is one aspect, but for Africa another key consideration is that of data privacy and security.

"Information on government surveillance and the rise of cybercrime have eroded people's trust in the technologies they depend on to store and share information. To support a comprehensive, cross company approach to security, Microsoft invests more than a billion dollars in security research and development, every year. We also work with governments in Africa to update data privacy and cyber security laws, and encourage companies to be transparent," Akinsade continues.

He says countries with established legislation in place, affordable internet access and a progressive stance on ICT are leading in adoption of cloud infrastructure, data intelligence and analytics.

Examples include South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda.

However, governments will have to prioritise legislation to facilitate the growth of cloud computing, particularly in light of the advent of digital transformation and the scramble by businesses to gain competitive advantage.

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