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More African firms using cloud as ‘fast track’ to global markets

IBM has announced the opening of two new mainframe ‘cloud innovation centres’ in Kenya and South Africa to “help expand big data and cloud computing across the continent”.

IBM said Africa is expected to be part of an anticipated $3.47 billion being spent on high value infrastructure projects this year, and private companies, IT partners, public sector heads and academics are “anxious to better understand how technology can help transform their processes”.

The general manager of IBM’s ‘System z’ Pat Toole said: “Cloud computing offers African countries the unprecedented opportunity to fast track their increasing participation in global markets, in spite of the comparative lack of the traditional infrastructure used to facilitate trade around the world.”

The new mainframe facilities in Nairobi and Johannesburg, which are linked to IBM’s global network of more than 40 cloud innovation centres, are the latest in a series of investments IBM has made to develop more capacity in Africa in the last four months.

Last February, the company announced the setting up of two such centres in Nigeria and Morocco. The IBM research ‘Africa lab’, which the company said is the first of its kind on the continent, will also receive $100 million over the next 10 years through an initiative known as ‘Project Lucy’, which will see IBM work with governments, universities and development organisations on cloud and IT issues.

According to IBM, about one in every two medium to large businesses in South Africa and Kenya already use the cloud. The company said: “In Nigeria, cloud usage is expected to more than double to 80% of businesses by the end of next year. At the same time, organisations around Africa are looking for ways to improve their analytics skills and more accurately tap into the data being produced by mobile devices and tablets, and better anticipate the needs of their customers by delivering improved services.”

IBM said: “As the local demand for these types of advanced technologies and skills increases, Africa is quickly moving to the centre of global attention as the last big emerging market of the current economic era. Africa is set to be the world’s second fastest growing region with projected growth of over 5% this year. Africa-grown innovation is key to the continent’s future development, and dependent on close collaboration between local experts and global innovation leaders.”

A study on cloud computing in Kenya, released last month, urged the government to “develop mechanisms to address infrastructural challenges such as reliable power supply to data centres, availability of reliable and affordable bandwidth and a capacity to monitor the quality of services for developing confidence in cloud computing”.

The secretary of administration at Kenya’s information, communications and technology ministry (ICT), Brown Otuya, said “Adoption of cloud technology will definitely benefit the government, private sector and particularly small and medium enterprises through reduced cost of ownership of the ICT, increased security and improved reliability and availability of ICT services.”

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