[Column] Fanie Botha: Migrating data from the mainframe to the cloud simplified

Recent advances in automated tools for migrating legacy applications to the cloud have altered the mainframe market. Many companies that rely on mainframes are now migrating to modern cloud-based platforms in order to stay relevant and ultimately, to save costs. 

However, one of the biggest challenges when migrating from any mainframe is moving transactional and master data. These large-scale migrations normally take longer than 18 months and given the scale and complexity of these projects, businesses have been slow to adopt these automated migration tools.

Data migrations always seem simple on paper, but the reality is that 1:1 mappings end up becoming 1:n:1 mappings, with more exceptions than rules. The reasons behind this include the fact that modern enterprise systems, model data objects very differently to how mainframe systems were designed.

The fact is that many of these data migrations that are sold as being ‘automated’ end up being executed by teams of human data capturers and developers. They spend much more time on programming for the deviations in the data than the fields that can map 1:1.

Imagine if one could replace the team of human data capturers with a humanoid robot. It could be trained on exactly the same principles and exceptions that necessitated the use of humans over data migration programs in the first place.

Digital workers are the solution

Well, it’s now possible with FIRtech’s Robotics as a Service (RaaS) solution. It’s an automation tool that makes this task almost effortless, a proven mainframe data migration and modernisation tool that helps companies mitigate their mainframe risks in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of risk.

The data migration robot uses front-end GUI’s to retrieve data from the mainframe and automatically migrate and capture the data into a new system. This removes any risks, where business rules that are built into the system GUI or terminal, are overwritten by the use of back-end scripts.

More importantly, it also ensures that exceptions are caught, fixed and recaptured before any data inconsistency is created in the new system. A single robot can work up to 24 times faster than a human and doesn’t need any rest or sleep. Effortless, errorless data migration in a matter of hours, not days or months.

RaaS provides business leaders with better access to the data captured in these legacy systems. Mainframe data, which contains many years of business transactions, can now be used to feed analytics or machine learning initiatives that can deliver competitive advantage.

By taking advantage of the multiple protocols and interfaces available on cloud services, they can unlock core business processes and data in their mainframe. Companies can now access mainframe data instantly, RaaS will help them move away from rigid monoliths and remove outdated interfaces and protocols.

Cloud is the future, it offers access to advanced analytics, AI, machine learning and data lakes. It also offers horizontal scalability with virtual unlimited capacity to increase scalability and elasticity.

Fanie Botha is the COO at FIRtech Holdings South Africa.

New Region for Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure Opens in South Africa

Oracle has announced the opening of a new Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure location in Johannesburg, South Africa, providing direct connectivity between the Oracle Cloud Johannesburg region and the Microsoft Azure South Africa North region.

With the latest Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure, customers across Africa can now use the Oracle Database Service for Microsoft Azure. This Oracle service builds upon the core capabilities of Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure and enables customers to easily integrate workloads on Azure with Oracle Database services on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). Customers can also easily provision, access, and monitor enterprise-grade Oracle Database services in OCI. 

Since 2019, Oracle and Microsoft have partnered to deliver 12 Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure locations around the world, including San Jose, Phoenix, Ashburn, Toronto, Vinhedo, Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, and Johannesburg. These locations offer customers multicloud capabilities to run their business-critical applications. For example, customers using Oracle Autonomous Database on OCI can connect to Azure analytics tools and AI workloads without copying data. Customers can also run applications like Oracle E-Business Suite on Azure or OCI and integrate as part of a single solution. 

“Our longstanding collaboration with Microsoft Azure gives our joint customers the flexibility and choice to innovate using the best of both our clouds. With growing customer demand for multicloud capabilities across Africa, we look forward to helping Microsoft Azure customers migrate their workloads to the cloud without the need for complicated re-platforming, while giving them seamless access to Oracle Database services on OCI,” said Nick Redshaw, senior vice president, Technology Cloud, Middle East and Africa, Oracle.

“Microsoft and Oracle share a longstanding history of delivering excellence on behalf of our mutual customers and supporting their evolving needs,” said Colin Erasmus, COO, Microsoft South Africa. “Expanding the Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure to Johannesburg ensures our valued customers in this region can benefit from the choice to deploy multicloud solutions.”

Expanding Multicloud Opportunities in Africa

With Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure, customers in Africa can now migrate and run mission-critical enterprise workloads across their Azure and OCI environments with a private, dedicated low-latency connection and identity federation. Customers also receive a collaborative, comprehensive service support model. Pricing is port-based with no additional charges for bandwidth consumed.

Customers can use the Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure to connect components of one or more applications that require frequent communication, running some parts on OCI and others on Azure, thus benefitting from a “best-of-both-clouds” experience. They can also use either OCI Identity and Access Management or Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for single sign-on to the two clouds and the respective applications. Customers can build high availability architectures within the regions and disaster recovery capabilities with another pair of interconnected regions using architectures published in the Cloud Adoption Frameworks for OCI and Azure.

“Cloud has become the foundational technology for organizations to modernize their critical IT infrastructure and leverage the benefits of emerging technologies such as AI/ML, analytics, IoT, security, and automation. The continuous investment in cloud data center space in South Africa by the global cloud providers has accelerated the adoption of public cloud services across industries, including some highly regulated sectors such as government, healthcare, and banking,” said Mark Walker, associate vice president, Sub-Saharan Africa, IDC.

“The total spending on public cloud services in South Africa is forecast to grow at a five-year CAGR of 24.6% between 2021 to 2026. The Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure in South Africa will boost options available to local and global enterprises in the country. Given the availability of multiple in-country cloud providers, customers will be adopting a multicloud strategy based on price, functionalities, SLA, QoS, interoperability and innovation that, in turn, benefits the overall market,” added Walker.

“Because our platform was developed on the Microsoft .NET Framework and runs on Oracle Database, Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure provides us with the best of both clouds. As Soho Media operates internationally, the fact that Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure continues to rapidly expand into new regions allows us to accompany our customers wherever they are. The low latency connectivity of the interconnect helps ensure our platform runs seamlessly, better serving customers across the globe,” said Guillaume Delannoy, CEO, Soho Media Solutions.

“Oracle and Microsoft, together, enable us to realize our multicloud freedom and we’re glad to see these two leading cloud providers continue to make multicloud deployments seamless, safe, and cost-effective. With Oracle Interconnect for Microsoft Azure, we have been able to significantly expand our reporting and advanced data analytics capabilities, which allows us to better serve the needs of our customers and patients,” said Peter Gawroniak, senior director, IT Infrastructure and Operations (I&O), Integra LifeSciences.


[Kenya] Twiga Foods Taps Google Cloud to Improve Food Security and Reduce Waste Production

Twiga Foods has partnered with Google to leverage Google Cloud technologies in increasing accessibility and easier distribution of farm produce.

Through this partnership, Twiga Foods will leverage Google Cloud technologies in running an efficient food value chain that connects farmers directly with vendors to bring high-quality, locally harvested fresh produce to people every day—increasing accessibility to food items in Kenya. The collaboration will also allow for more accurate ordering of food items, which will lead to the reduction of waste of perishable goods during the distribution process.

Twiga Foods decided to establish its core IT infrastructure on Google Cloud when its customer base began growing exponentially in 2015, and the need to scale operations digitally became more critical. Twiga first began to store all of its business and operational data securely on Google Cloud using the Big Query data warehousing product. This, in turn, led to the transformation from a manually driven company to a technology-enabled business that relies on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools—applied on top of the data warehouse—to make smart business decisions in real time.

Today, approximately 1,000 farmers in Kenya benefit from Twiga’s dynamic pricing capability, ensuring they are paid fairly for their products. The capability is powered by Big Query and Data Studio, Google Cloud’s data analytics solutions, and factors in local dynamics that impact pricing. This functionality enables Twiga to make the correct decision on the price it gives to each of its customers.

The digital transformation of Twiga Foods on Google Cloud also empowers the 140,000 vendors who rely on the company to receive fresh produce for their shops every day. Today, vendors can purchase products on credit based on their credit score. Twiga relies on the analysis of vendor data on Big Query, which leverages insights such as vendor metrics and modes-of-ordering to create a credit score for each customer.

With the help of Google Cloud technologies, Twiga Foods also introduced waste minimization efforts in its value chain for perishable goods. Through analyzing historical data of product purchases and quantities on Big Query and Data Studio, Twiga Foods determines the types and quantities of produce that need to be purchased for each day of the week based on demand and creates a weekly plan accordingly. The ability to plan one week in advance ensures that products are not wasted due to ripening and during distribution.

Niral Patel, Director, of Google Cloud Africa said “The work we are doing with Twiga Foods is not just about an e-commerce platform choosing a cloud provider to run its systems and store data. It also is about showing how technology and the power of AI and machine learning can help a nation address sustainability challenges head on such as waste reduction and food security. Twiga Foods is a pioneering company that is looking at some of the most pressing issues we have in Africa and bringing in technology to come up with viable, long-term sustainable solutions that can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Caine Wanjau, Chief Technology Officer, Twiga Foods said Today, Twiga foods enables households in Kenya to have access to higher quality fresh produce that is farmed locally at affordable prices. Shop owners can now dedicate their time to growing their business and spending time with their families, rather than spend hours every day procuring and stocking up products. Farmers get a fair chance at earning decent incomes and being paid adequately for their products. This is all being enabled by bringing in technology to help us look at our business and customers in a profound manner, relying on data in real-time to make the best and smartest decisions for our people and the country.”

In addition to using data and AI/ML to price products and assign credit scores, Twiga Foods also established its warehouse management system on Google Cloud that enables the automation of all the logistical processes and optimization of space at its 20,000-square-meter warehouse that manages an average of 2,000 tons of produce daily. The end-to-end process—when an order is placed to when it is dispatched—is now automated with Google Cloud.

The team at Twiga Foods was also able to reduce 40% of the cost of deliveries with the help of Google Cloud’s route optimization tools. The company’s fleet routing algorithm for deliveries is built on Google Cloud and provides dynamic routing capabilities that schedule an average of 12,000 deliveries based on prioritization and proximity daily. This has also meant that all vendors across 12 cities in Kenya receive their orders before 1 p.m. every day.  



Data sovereignty in EMEA is a concern for the majority, multi-cloud research reveals

By 2024, 95% of organisations across EMEA will be looking to their data as a revenue driver, with 46% recognising it as a significant source of revenue, up from 29% today. This is according to new research announced by VMware Inc, a leading innovator in enterprise software.

The research, entitled The Multi-Cloud Maturity Index, was conducted amongst almost 3,000 business and IT decision makers across EMEA, and reveals that nearly half (47%) strongly agree that using multiple clouds will enable them to maximise their data to innovate while addressing critical issues such as national and sector data sovereignty. Data sovereignty is, in fact, highlighted as one of the key challenges facing organisations, with 95% admitting it’s a concern. 

However, the ambition to realise more value from data comes with additional challenges. Security (35%), skills (35%), difficulty stitching different cloud environments together (31%) and siloed access to data (27%) remain key obstacles. Organisations must also improve the control they have over their operational and cloud expenses, with 76% and 74%, respectively, agreeing that this is a concern if data is to drive genuine business value.  

“The reliance on data to fuel innovation and drive competitive advantage is now the backbone of the digital business. Being cloud smart -the ability to choose the right type of cloud for the right data, including highly sensitive information that needs to remain within national borders, is becoming the de facto business model for organisations looking to drive advantage from their data,” said Joe Baguley, VP and CTO VMware EMEA. “Organisations who are fully exploiting the competitive advantages of using multiple clouds to manage data are seeing benefits across the business. To achieve success, however, they must be able to control where their data resides without compromising security, compliance or sovereignty, and the choice of providers to manage it.”

There is agreement (86% of respondents) that the benefits of multi-cloud -the ability to use and manage different types of private, public, edge, and sovereign clouds outweigh the challenges. Almost half (46%) believe multi-cloud use has had a very positive impact on revenue growth, while 46% also believe it has had a very positive impact on profitability. In fact, only 4% believe multi-cloud is not critical to business success.

“Our Digital Retail Strategy 2026 is built on a ‘data-centric, digital-first approach. Data, and the cloud it runs on, are at the heart of all our operations and our value creation model. This digitisation will improve the customer experience with greater personalisation, increase operational efficiency at headquarters and stores, and positively affect the Group’s revenue,” explains Damien Cazenave, CTO and chief information security officer at Carrefour France, a leading global retailer.


[Nigeria] Treten Networks announced cloud partnership with Africa Data Centres

Treten Networks, an ICT solutions and Enterprise security services business, has partnered with Africa Data Centres to allow customers access to the cloud and infrastructure they need to realise their digital transformation goals.

Treten Networks offers specialist business advisory services that provide advanced network and security solutions, helping its customers in both the private and public sectors do business more securely and efficiently. In addition to its existing services, Treten will now leverage Africa Data Centres’ physical infrastructure and ecosystem of connectivity partners to support cloud deployments for its customers.

Both organisations aim to solve customer’s business challenges with this partnership by providing sustainable game-changing technologies and solutions. Operating the continent’s largest carrier-neutral data centres, the Africa Data Centre has access to tens of thousands of connections to cloud, content, and network providers from Africa and across the globe. As a result, Treten’s customers will reap the benefits of connecting directly with secure, low latency connections to key providers and business partners.

“The last two years have proven that access to cloud infrastructure is imperative to ensuring that African businesses grow their revenue and can compete with companies in the European and US markets. In addition to benefits like low latency and compliance with data storage laws, the proliferation of data centres on the continent is a vital ingredient to ensure the easy availability of cloud services locally,” said Tesh Durvasula, CEO of Africa Data Centres.

Treten’s customers in every industry have accelerated their journeys to the cloud, and as they have done so, they have accepted the reality that hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies are here to stay. Together, Africa Data Centres and Treten can provide organisations with secure private infrastructure and access to hyperscale cloud providers through numerous interconnections and exchanges.

“Africa Data Centres is unquestionably the largest network of interconnected, carrier and cloud-neutral data centre facilities on the continent, and furthermore provides expert quality and next-level service crucial to our datacenter needs,” said Karo Esemitodje, Head of Cloud Services from Treten Networks. “From the reliable uptime on facility, cooling, state-of-the-art monitoring, and expert level security in the LOS-1 DC facility, Africa Data Centres is the industry leader by leaps and bounds. “The amount of detail they deliver daily in all areas is why Treten Networks chose Africa Data Centres as our partner for our digital future. As a result, all our data centre needs have been addressed.”

Treten Networks is rapidly expanding its footprint with its bespoke cloud service offerings, including compute, storage, networking, backup and recovery, and so much more. “We already boast of an extremely low latency and the fastest cloud service in Nigeria, and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership with Africa Data Centres”.

Karo said that through the partnership with Africa Data Centres his organisation will meet and surpass the expectations of its clients. “As the leading cloud service provider in Nigeria, our vision is to be the premiere customer-centric cloud provider of choice, enabling enterprises to meet their business goals”.



Microsoft and Liquid Cloud launch initiative to support African businesses with hybrid cloud infrastructure

As the demand for cloud-based services grows across Africa due to the adoption of hybrid work, Microsoft has announced a partnership with Liquid Cloud through its Africa Transformation Office (ATO) to provide cloud services to businesses across the continent.

Liquid Cloud and the ATO will collaborate to deliver resilient cloud in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to meet regulatory and data residency requirements, address low latency workloads, strengthen resilience, and enable business continuity.

“We witnessed an accelerated adoption of cloud technologies in Africa, and businesses are now reaping the benefits of their investment. Our customers are increasingly moving to hybrid work culture, meaning the demand for cloud-based services will only grow. Our partnership will enable us to build comprehensive and edge-based cloud capabilities that meet customer regulatory requirements and ensure that they deliver value to their customers,” said David Behr, CEO of Liquid Cloud and Cyber Security. 

The hybrid cloud environment extends Azure capabilities enabling customers to create cloud-native applications faster with Azure platform and data services such as App Service, Functions, Logic Apps, Azure SQL Managed Instance, PostgreSQL database, and Azure machine learning. As a result, customers will be able to innovate anywhere and use the Azure platform to bring new solutions to life that solves today’s challenges, while creating the future.

On his part, Wael Elkabbany, General Manager Africa Regional Cluster, Microsoft said: “Critical infrastructure enablers are neededto provide access to the cloud to accelerate digital transformation and the adoption of digital technologies. Working with Liquid Cloud, access to the local cloud will be available to more organizations and highly regulated industries across the continent. In addition, hybrid cloud provides in-country resources that address data residency, latency, and storage requirements,” 



[Column] Eiji Ota: Cloud services can bring the benefits of automation to every print business

It’s frustrating for small business owners to hear about great solutions that boost productivity, streamline processes and remove unseen costs, only to find that the products in question are really targeted at larger operations, involving high upfront software costs, complex technology integrations and expensive ongoing maintenance.

Historically, production workflow automation has tended to fall into this category. It’s been embraced enthusiastically by larger commercial print houses, who are driven to scrutinise their workflows and squeeze out every operational inefficiency. Large scale online print businesses in particular have a relentless focus on automation, because it’s critical to their high-volume/low-price business model.

For smaller businesses, sites with perhaps one or two mid-range digital production devices, the truth is that automation can feel intimidating and out of reach. But it’s precisely these businesses who need to make every employee as productive as possible, to maximise the value that each individual can contribute. They don’t have the luxury of carrying extra ‘bandwidth’ for eventualities. Staffing is lean, everybody does a bit of everything and pleasing the customer is the primary driver.

The commercial reality is that even small print businesses need to look at what can be automated in their operations – not necessarily because they should be pursuing the low-cost production models of their big online rivals, but because it’s a way of improving productivity, minimising errors and waste and saving costs. 

There’s no getting away from the fact that most print businesses are now experiencing – or have already tried to absorb – a dramatic shift in order patterns. They’re having to manage many more small orders, compared with the larger runs of the analogue past. And most of these are coming in via email, creating a massive burden in pre-production, piling up the admin and prepress tasks required to bring in and check each job, get it on press and move it smoothly through to finishing and dispatch.

When margins are skinny, it’s vital not to spend valuable time on things that don’t add any value for the customer. Automating routine tasks frees up expert resources to focus on what is really going to drive the business forward – that is, doing a great job for customers and offering creative ideas and solutions to briefs.

Jo Lloyd, a Canon Ascent Programme mentor, works with PSPs across EMEA on business improvement programmes. She’s convinced there’s no business that can’t benefit from workflow automation, because even seemingly insignificant efficiency gains free up time and allow savings to be invested back into the business. 

The key, according to Jo, is to begin by seeking out ways to streamline small, time-consuming tasks and eliminate mistakes, for example with pre-flight checking software which frees your artworkers to do chargeable creative work. And if your order history tells you that reprints are cutting into your margins, then it’s not hard to see how a solution that reduces the scope for error could soon pay for itself.

So, what’s holding smaller PSPs back from reaping the benefits of automation? Talking to this type of print customer, as well as smaller in-house print departments, my impression is that resistance to automation falls into two camps – those who think they don’t need it and those who would like it but think it’s just too complicated.

Let’s start by tackling the idea that automation is difficult to implement. Without a doubt, the perception exists that automation is complex and expensive and that IT expertise is needed to integrate it successfully and make it work day-to-day. The good news is that there’s now a growing range of cloud-based workflow solutions that printers can access on a subscription model, with no fixed cost commitments and no worries about upgrades and updates, maintenance or management. For SMEs, the other advantage of cloud services is that they’re scalable, so they can grow with the business. And they don’t need any on-site technical expertise to set up configure and maintain. 

Canon customers, for example, have access to a new SaaS (software as a service) product called PRISMAprepare Go, which effectively gives them a virtual pre-production assistant, automatically onboarding jobs that the print buyer has submitted via an online portal, checking print files for errors or missing elements and processing them for print. 

Then there are the customers who feel that automation is something they don’t need. They’re comfortable with the status quo, perhaps feeling complacent that, as long as work is coming in and going out, there’s no need for it. The danger with this mindset is that they’re missing opportunities to make it easier for customers – existing and new – to do business with them. Over time, there’s a real risk that this attitude will prompt business to move elsewhere, and certainly that it will be a barrier to new business. 

More and more end customers want the convenience of ordering and submitting jobs online, for example, and suppliers who don’t offer a simple web-to-print facility will begin to look out of step. My strong advice to these businesses would be, rather than focusing only on the situation today, consider where you’re going and what buyers are likely to want from you in the future. 

With cloud services, automation is now accessible and affordable for every business, not just the online giants. Without adding headcount or other fixed overheads, PSPs can do more, cut costs, gain headspace, and free up time to deliver the best possible service to customers and develop profitable new relationships. 

Automation isn’t just about process efficiency – it’s a tool that builds bridges to customers and enables growth. With these potential gains, I’d say to any print business of any size: don’t wait to automate.

Eiji Ota is a Business Unit Director, at Canon Central and North Africa. 

Google Cloud to start accepting crypto payments in new partnership with Coinbase

Google cloud users will now be able to pay for their services using crypto. This is after Google partnered with Coinbase to allow a select group of customers to make payments with Bitcoin, Ether, and Dogecoin.

The collaboration will involve Coinbase selecting Google Cloud as a strategic cloud provider to build an advanced exchange and data services. Coinbase will use Google Cloud’s powerful compute platform to process blockchain data at scale, and enhance the global reach of its crypto services by leveraging Google’s premium fibre-optic network. Coinbase will also build its global data platform on Google Cloud’s secure infrastructure and leverage their leading data and analytics technologies to provide Coinbase customers with machine learning-driven crypto insights.

The two partners say this strategic partnership is to better serve the growing Web3 ecosystem and its developers.

Through this partnership, Web3 developers can also access Google’s BigQuery crypto public datasets, which will be powered by Coinbase Cloud Nodes, across leading blockchains. The integration will allow developers to instantly and reliably operate Web3-based systems without the need for expensive and complex infrastructure.

“We are excited Google Cloud has selected Coinbase to help bring Web3 to a new set of users and provide powerful solutions to developers,” said Brian Armstrong, Co-founder and CEO of Coinbase. “With more than 100 million verified users and 14,500 institutional clients, Coinbase has spent more than a decade building industry-leading products on top of blockchain technology. We could not ask for a better partner to help execute our vision of building a trusted bridge into the Web3 ecosystem.”

“We want to make building in Web3 faster and easier, and this partnership with Coinbase helps developers get one step closer to that goal,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud. “We’re proud Coinbase has chosen Google Cloud as its strategic cloud partner, and we’re ready to serve the thriving global Web3 customer and partner ecosystem. Our focus is making it frictionless for all customers to take advantage of our scalability, reliability, security, and data services, so they can focus on innovation in the Web3 space.”

In addition, Google will use Coinbase Prime, for institutional crypto services, like secure custody and reporting.



[South Africa] Teraco helps VMware cloud providers drive carbon neutrality

Teraco Data Environments has announced an initiative to enable VMware Cloud Verified partners using Teraco data centre facilities achieve VMware Zero Carbon Committed status and badging.

This will help enterprise clients and cloud providers in Sub-Saharan Africa transition to zero-carbon clouds and pursue sustainability and supply chain decarbonisation strategies.

As a provider of colocation data centres and interconnection platforms in Africa, Teraco made significant strides in building a sustainable future for its business and its clients, with activities spanning the environment, social governance, and community upliftment. Despite challenging regulations and legislation around the generation and supply of renewable energy in South Africa, Teraco is committed to accelerating the shift to renewable energy and offering its clients, including cloud providers, a route to reduce their carbon footprint.

Teraco has committed to powering its data centre colocation facilities with 50% renewable energy by 2027 and 100% by 2035. It will also maximise its combined rooftop solar footprint across its facilities to 6MW by 2023. VMware Cloud Verified Providers who host their cloud platforms at the Teraco data centre facilities have an opportunity to leverage Teraco’s sustainability commitment to attain Zero Carbon Committed status.

“At Teraco, we understand that our success lies in tandem with that of our clients. This is why sustainability is a business imperative; it goes beyond just renewable energy and our environmental impact, extending to our people’s well-being and development, how we support and uplift our communities and making sure we continue to grow our business in the right way,” said Bryce Allan, Head of Sustainability, Teraco Data Environments.

“Teraco’s sustainability goals extend to investing in our rooftop and utility-scale solar energy programme as well as partnering or working with 3rd party renewable energy providers and stakeholders across the private and public sector to deliver renewable energy to our facilities. Working with VMware Cloud Providers, this initiative is the perfect catalyst to assist VMware Cloud Verified partners and their clients who want to move to the cloud and pursue their sustainability goals,” added Allan.

This initiative has been met with resounding support from Teraco’s clients and the South African-based VMware Cloud Verified Partner community, many of which use Teraco’s data centre facilities. Five of these partners have just recently achieved VMware Zero Carbon Committed status.

“Teraco has set ambitious targets and is pioneering the shift to carbon neutrality within the African data centre industry. Its Environmental, Social and Governance goals and commitments are closely aligned to VMware’s 2030 Agenda. This collaboration provides VMware Cloud Verified Providers with an invaluable and timely opportunity to jump-start their transition to zero-carbon clouds and, in turn, enable their clients to decarbonise their digital footprints,” said Sumeeth Singh, Cloud Provider Business Head, VMware Sub-Saharan Africa.

Teraco is dedicated to protecting, connecting, and growing the enterprises and ecosystems shaping Africa’s digital future sustainably and responsibly. In line with this objective, Teraco recently underwent an independent ESG sustainability rating through EcoVadis and obtained a silver rating. The rating scores the ESG performance of a company across several themes, including Environment, Labour and Human Rights, Ethics and Sustainable Procurement. 

“We are delighted to be working in collaboration with VMware; their focus on carbon neutrality resonates with that of Teraco, as we have an open access platform philosophy offering connections to all the cloud onramps, both public and private,” said Michele McCann, Head Interconnection & Peering, Teraco Data Environments.



[Column] Andrew Cruise: How cloud technology can boost economic development in Africa

The African continent represents 60 percent of the world’s arable lands and 30 percent of the earth’s mineral reserves – making it a rich continent in many ways. Yet it contributes only 2 percent of the world’s research output and lags behind in several key technological sectors. For the continent to achieve its potential and escape the unsustainable colonial development model of resource extraction, investment in digital competencies is crucial. In certain areas, the continent is faring reasonably well in this regard. Mobile penetration, for example, is skyrocketing – 615 million users in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to subscribe to mobile services by 2025.

But the bigger picture remains disconcerting. According to the World Economic Forum, African Union member countries pledged to contribute 1 percent of their gross domestic product to research and development (R&D) in 2006, yet only four countries reach this figure in their annual budgets. The continent holds just 0.1 percent of the world’s patents, produces 2 percent of the world’s research output, and there are around 198 researchers per million people in Africa – compared to over 4000 in the United Kingdom and United States.

How cloud and other tech can help

Cloud computing has the potential to boost economic development. Not only does it improve mobile productivity and big data, but it allows small businesses to scale without a large capital investment – a possible boon for the SMEs that represent 98 percent of South Africa’s business force, for example.

Effective cloud applications allow smaller businesses to have the same technology at their fingertips that large corporations pay millions for – on a scale and budget that suits their needs. It significantly reduces upfront ICT infrastructure costs, diminishes the burden of IT maintenance, and allows for more efficient updates. It also provides cost-effective security and improves remote work capabilities. 

Cloud essentially allows businesses to ‘rent’ infrastructure, so that the technical hardware is always of the highest standard, there’s guaranteed uptime for system availability, and scaling becomes as simple as renting more processing power and storage. Cross-border expansion is also much simpler, as it eliminates the costs and complexities of setting up new infrastructure elsewhere. 

According to a paper by the International Monetary Fund, SMEs’ growth prospects can be significantly boosted by digital technologies such as cloud. “Going online enables SMEs to reach new clients and markets at low cost and to reduce communication costs. (Technology such as cloud computing) improves efficiencies, reduces capital expenditure and operational costs, and speeds up cross-border transactions – (helping) firms scale up faster, increasing employment and boosting output growth,” say the researchers. 

Of course, cloud would be one aspect of a broader technological economic upliftment picture. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and the internet of things (IoT) all require major investment on the continent. And before such advanced technologies can truly be successful, more pervasive technologies first need to thrive. One Harvard study looked at the most important technological enablers of economic growth in six African countries and identified digital money, promotion of job-creating digital businesses, better technological infrastructure and fewer disruptions of such infrastructure as key elements required for technological growth across the board. 

The hurdle

There is a glaring obstacle in the way of Africa’s cloud and other technological adoption and resultant potential for economic growth: expensive, unreliable, slow internet. World Data Lab’s Internet Poverty Index paints a dismal picture. It adjusts the actual cost of internet services in every country to estimate what a standard mobile internet package of 1 GB at 10 MB/second would cost in that country. It then extrapolates how many people in the country could afford such a package. If the cost of the package is above 10 percent of a person’s total spending, the person is considered internet poor. 

Nigeria tops the Internet Poverty list and, of the ‘top’ 20 countries, 11 are in Africa. South Africa, the highest-ranked African country in terms of infrastructure integration, is tenth on the list and has over 38 million internet-poor citizens in its 60-odd million population. To put this in context, the country with the closest population size on the list, Italy (58 million people), has just over 800,000 internet-poor residents. 

Though the World Bank hopes to help the continent achieve universal connectivity by 2030, its estimates suggest that Africa will require an investment of USD$100 billion to plug every citizen into the internet by 2030. Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank’s vice president for Eastern and Southern Africa, said on the bank’s website that “no single actor will be able to meet Africa’s 2030 target and carry the burden of a USD$100 billion investment funding requirement alone”.

And the most important condition for cloud to be successful in any country is cheap, reliable, and fast internet. This is normally provided by fibre – a norm in rich countries in Europe, for example. But in African countries where infrastructure is lacking, wireless and satellite technologies hold sway and provide expensive, slow, unreliable connectivity. Some North African countries are faring better because of their proximity to the UAE, but those in the sub-Saharan region mostly rely on cabling from Europe – an expensive endeavour. 

There are other hurdles preventing even internet-rich businesses from making the switch to cloud. It’s expensive to move to the cloud initially; some businesses do still require on-premises solutions, albeit fewer; and understanding of the technology is sometimes lacking, especially when organisations opt for a complex multi-cloud environment.

But it all starts with better internet. The internet itself is commonly held to be a driver of economic prosperity. It enables sharing of information, sharing of expertise, sharing of knowledge, and education. It opens doors for people to drive new ideas and improve their business offerings. It is as important as basic services like water and electricity and should be regarded as such. ICT elements of economic growth must revolve around the internet.

What needs to change?

Currently, much of the innovation, R&D and communication in the African tech sphere is being driven by large international corporates connecting global communities – the likes of Google, AWS, Microsoft, Apple, and Netflix have an increasing foothold on the continent. Should governments get more involved, this culture could grow at a community level. 

Of course, all of this requires major resources. The capital investment to purchase equipment, the time to upskill workers, and the effort to find ways to divert other resources to such endeavours. According to the World Economic Forum, three things need to happen at a state level for technology to push Africa’s economic growth.

First, language needs to be digitised to improve literacy, and in turn, digital literacy. Communication is at the core of development and interactions within and between communities impact the continent’s economic, social, and cultural welfare. With over 2000 languages spoken in Africa, governments must invest in indigenous languages to improve literacy rates, particularly on digital channels, to unlock critical understanding and improve communication abilities among diverse people.

Secondly, African governments should prioritise R&D investments at higher education institutions, focusing on producing and commercialising scientific knowledge. And, thirdly, Africa’s culture of innovation needs to be extended to the digital sphere. Though the continent shows creative innovation at a community level through projects such as farming cooperatives, digital innovation is not as much part of the continent’s culture – yet.

I would also add a fourth requirement: increasing labour rates. Where labour is cheap, technology doesn’t thrive. Low labour rates create a tendency to use manual labour instead of investing in the efficiencies that technology can bring. In countries where labour is more expensive, technological advances are more likely to happen. Cheap labour is not only holding the continent’s technological advances back but holding its people hostage.

When people value humans more, they’re more inclined to invest in technology. In turn, economies flourish, security grows, and communities thrive.

Andrew Cruiseis the managing director at Routed.