[Column] Mark Bannerman: Cloud and the Need for Agile, Accelerated Implementation

As we’ve seen in the recent stock-market crash, cloud business has a massive impact on the global economy. It is clear from the loss of stock value of a leading software solution provider, as a direct result of the crashing of its cloud business, that cloud plays a large role in the value assigned to the businesses operating in it.

Essentially, cloud solutions provide the opportunity to transform how companies operate, offering increasingly more direct business benefits. These cloud deployment advantages far outweigh applications delivered by traditional on-premises solutions. 

If 2020 has taught the world anything, it’s that the need to digitise will only increase as the globe’s complexities intensify. While many were forced to embrace work from home practices and digitally driven solutions to survive, it is what they do post-Covid that will determine their long-term sustainability. Digital transformation is a large consideration for future success. Through effective automation, business leaders are freed up to focus on wider business opportunities. Today, it is only the fastest, most agile companies that survive and grow. It is evolution at full throttle, and it is relentless and unforgiving.

According to research conducted by Tripathy and Jyotishi in 2020, shared in a Paper titled Macro Factors Affecting Cloud Computing Readiness: A Cross-Country Analysis, cloud readiness falls into two groups: “prerequisite” and “growth-enabler”. A ResearchGate abstract of the Paper confirms that findings suggest “factors like Per capita GDP, Governance, Business Environment, and R&D have significant and positive influences on the prerequisites for cloud computing. Similarly, factors like Governance, Business Environment, and R&D have a significant and positive influence on the growth enablers which affect the cloud computing readiness of the ecosystem.” 

A study released by Research ICT Africa, titled The Cloud Over Africa, looks into the state of cloud computing across Africa. According to this study, most of Africa’s cloud adoption is supply-drive. However, South Africa stands out as an exception. “The growth of cloud-computing services is demand-side driven through the corporate sector; however, there is a preference for private cloud services due to concerns around data protection and security. Nonetheless, it is believed that more companies will be forced to migrate to public cloud services and take advantage of the economies of scale offered, as a cost-cutting measure. The enactment of legislation on data and security in line with global standards will go a long way towards driving the adoption of these services.” 

Taking all of this into consideration – while factoring in the macro-economic factors of a disastrous 2020 – the key to successful cloud implementation is agility, speed, and simplicity. While many traditional organisations are cautious to move to the cloud during a year of uncertainties, making this move will have a positive impact on sustainable business growth. 

One of the greatest barriers to cloud adoption is the time to implement. With modern innovations, the need for agile, streamlined deployments has become the dominant concern.  Business leaders realise that a constantly evolving world demands technology platforms that prioritise agility – the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, embrace simplicity, and innovate faster and better with each iteration. Technology projects must now be focused on accelerating process improvements and Return on Investment. Rapid deployment strategies built on agility are the keys to delivering disruptive innovation. 

Infor’s foresight in terms of Digital Transformation started with by bringing standardised CloudSuites to the market. These industry-specific solutions were built on a refined understanding of what functionality should be included ‘out-of-the-box’. To further speed the process, the company developed industry-focused, pre-configured and flexible Implementation Accelerators (IAs). Delivering application configurations, implementation playbook, tools, and templates, the IAs offer a framework for implementing industry specific business processes, migrating data, establishing workflows, and educating users on the features and functionality of the solution.

With these CloudSuites firmly established, delivering the capability and agility for businesses to develop their own innovation became paramount. Enter “60:30:10TM”. The first 60% is easy wins; core industry leading processes that businesses can adopt with little effort (but do not provide differentiation). This allows businesses to adopt technology that delivers industry best practice, as quickly as possible. 

Processes that are differentiators, but still fall within the realm of configuration or small tweaks, make up the next 30%. This ensures the business isn’t starting from zero, but instead is choosing from options that can be tailored and configured quickly to best fit their needs. 

Now that capacity has been freed up, businesses can focus on the last 10%. These processes are highly differentiating and transforming them drives dramatically better decision-making, enhanced customer experiences, and improved performance within a specific supply chain. With this approach, businesses avoid getting lost in theoretical ways of engineering what usually turns out to be only a marginally better solution to a common problem. 

“60:30:10TM” strategy need not be a ‘big bang’ approach, so the technology must support continual innovation. Truly embracing disruption means continually embracing it on a long-term voyage. When it comes to the technology that enables this innovation, the business could plan for multiple go-lives that are often a lot faster than each previous project. Expensive and risky waterfall approaches instead become a strategic, rapid series of incremental improvements that shrink time to market and capital, infrastructure related investment requirements.

The reality is that uncertainty is not a good reason to stay on-prem. This 60:30:10TM approach drives greater certainty with innovative and agile cloud solutions, allowing for accelerated implementation to ensure no gaps in operations. The time is now. 

Mark Bannerman is the Business Unit Executive at EOH Infor Services (formerly Softworx), Infor’s Master Partner in Africa.

[Column] Francis Wainaina: Africa, Kenya and the Cloud – The Numbers You Need to Know

As a unified online platform for communication and collaboration, the cloud is now widely considered to be one of the most valuable resources we have at our disposal.

It’s reported that by the end of 2020, 82% of workloads globally will reside on the cloud and more than 40 zettabytes of data will be flowing through cloud servers and networks.

If African businesses are to take advantage of the opportunities that the cloud will present in the next decade, there are some key numbers we should all be paying attention to.

402.5 GB

That’s how much data European and American broadband subscribers used on average every month during the first quarter of 2020. This reflects an increase of 47% in broadband data usage from the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. Of course, some of this can be attributed to global lockdowns increasing data usage for entertainment, work or online learning arrangements. 

This increase has been mirrored on our continent – with SEACOM recently doubling the capacity of its fibre optic network to meet the growing demand for bandwidth in Africa. It’s almost certain that these numbers will continue to increase, enabling cloud-based tech like the Internet of Things and AI-driven automation.

23 335%

In Kenya, we’ve seen our Internet use grow by 23 335% over the last two decades, with our Internet penetration at approximately 87%. The subsequent shifts in consumer needs and expectations caused by increasing demand for Internet access has led to aggressive network roll out and infrastructure upgrades using technologies that support high capacity services. As our Internet capacity continues to grow, so do the opportunities for businesses to use cloud technologies to realise efficiencies and reach new markets.

$331 billion

It’s reported that the average person uses 36 cloud-based services every single day with global cloud revenue estimated to grow to $331 billion by 2022.   

But what does this mean for Africa? If this continent is to generate and keep part of that cloud-revenue pie, governments and businesses need to do what they can to invest in, support and increase access to cloud technology. The cloud has the potential to have a profound impact on organisations’ abilities to innovate and compete on both a regional and global level, making infrastructure a priority.

7 123.36 GB per second

Trends show that Kenya is on its way to being able to embrace the cloud. This year, total undersea bandwidth capacity increased by 14% from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. The latest report shows that it is at 7 123.36 GB per second; this increased demand for bandwidth capacity is what will enable Africans to access all of the potential benefits of the cloud, and we are likely to see greater demand for additional IT infrastructure to accommodate the uptake. 

38%

According to the “Cloud in Africa 2020” report, 38% of decision makers across Africa increased their spend on cloud services in 2019. This is good news for Africa! It shows that African business leaders realise how important the cloud is going to be for the future of their companies and they are investing in the technology now so that they will be ready to meet demand for and provide innovative cloud-enabled services. Because the cloud also enables resource and process efficiencies, more businesses investing in the cloud also means that we can look forward to more competitive African organisations in the future.

6 in 10

That’s how many South African companies experienced a public cloud security incident in the past 12 months, based on survey data from cyber security company Sophos. On home soil, the National KE-CIRT/CC detected 34.6 million cyber threat events during the first quarter of 2020. This reinforces the need for well-secured cloud services in Africa. With so much at stake, business owners cannot afford mission-critical company information to fall into the wrong hands. What’s needed is better education around online security and cloud partners with the skills to guide businesses on best practice. 

Increased Internet infrastructure, increased demand for bandwidth, and increased Internet penetration in Kenya are signs that the future could be bright for the cloud in Africa. Not much is certain in the current economic climate, but trends show that these numbers will continue to increase in Africa and across the globe. If the right investments are made to bolster infrastructure and bandwidth over the next 5 years, Africa will be in a prime position to extract efficiencies and realise the innovation that the cloud enables.

Francis Wainaina is a Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa.

[Kenya] Businesses to increase spending on cloud services by over 50% in 2021

Enterprises in Kenya are set to increase their expenditure on cloud computing services by 68 per cent in 2021 up from 38 per cent in 2020. This is according to the “Africa in the Cloud 2020” study by World Wide Worx conducted among eight African countries.

The study notes that there has been an increased spend on cloud services. The big shift in spending is accredited to an increase in hyper-scale data centres within the continent. Kenya for instance increased its cloud spend by 38 per cent with South Africa leading with an 82 per cent increase in cloud uptake.

“Businesses that had digitally transformed their operations recorded a 71 per cent increase in productivity, compared to their counterparts who had not done so and only achieved 21 per cent increase in productivity,” stated Arthur Goldstruck, a media analyst and commentator on ICT, mobile communications and technologies.

The Banking and Manufacturing sectors, recorded the highest spend on cloud services adoption with 53 per cent and 46 per cent respectively. Mr. Goldstruck added that going by the data from the study, it is evident that digital transformation in Africa is on the rise and organizations’ priority on cloud spend, is proof of it. 63% of the companies interviewed in the study indicated their top reasons for cloud adoption as driving business efficiency followed by operational flexibility and customer service which averaged at 53 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. Additionally, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things and Big Data were noted as other business trends of priority to organizations in various sectors in the next three years. Their significance, ranked 80 per cent and above in the majority of the countries in the study. The key industry sectors keen on adopting the tech trends highlighted were Manufacturing, Insurance and Financial Services, Information Technology, Non-Governmental and Non-Profit Organizations and Banking.

“Digital awakening is no longer a choice but a necessity for the new future,” added Mr. Goldstruck.

Speaking during the session, Ms. Deirdre Fryer, Head of Solutions Engineering- SYSPRO Africa indicated that creating competitive advantage, creating new business models and improving customer experience are the 3 focus areas businesses should take into consideration when determining what they want to achieve from their digital transformation journey.  “We have seen a substantial digital awakening in Africa and if businesses adopt digital transformation in the mentioned focus areas, they are bound to greatly benefit and remain competitive in their respective sectors, stated Ms. Fryer.

Organizations such as Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS) and Synresins, whose CEOs Jane Masiga and Mira Shah were present at the meeting, use SYSPRO’s ERP solution and other cloud business solutions to automate the majority of their operations, ranging from supply chain management to customer care. They both indicated that despite the perceived high cost of digitization, the cost benefits outweigh the initial cost of adoption.

www.syspro.com

Claris expands FileMaker Cloud to EMEA markets

Claris International Inc., an Apple subsidiary and pioneering company in low-code, has announced the official launch of FileMaker Cloud to EMEA markets.

FileMaker Cloud gives EMEA businesses all of the power of the cloud – sharing, rapid deployment, scalability – without compromising on performance or losing connection to the real world of devices, sensors, even offline apps.

The result is a future-proof solution that empowers businesses to rapidly create and share intelligent apps with their teams, and integrate them with other popular apps and web services.

“For so many businesses, the global pandemic changed every aspect of their business overnight, which led to a massive boom in both low-code adoption and remote work technologies,” said Brad Freitag, CEO of Claris. “In many ways, Claris was built for this moment. Our commitment to low-code without limits – quickly deploying intelligent apps that both solve and evolve – means the solutions our customers build to deal with today’s changes can serve as their IT backbone going forward. We’re thrilled to finally bring FileMaker Cloud to EMEA as we continue to power the workplace of tomorrow through limitless and scalable low-code solutions.”

Designed to augment its widely adopted Claris Platform, FileMaker Cloud offers localised infrastructure to assist businesses with implementing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and German Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG) compliance, while also providing a scalable, agile, and adaptable solution to drive IT impact in EMEA.

The FileMaker Cloud solution also brings emerging technologies within reach, ready to leverage artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), digital assistants, Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality, and whatever comes next.

FileMaker Cloud offers the following capabilities:

Agility and speed: Ability to rapidly deploy within an organisation without software or hardware. Start creating and sharing custom apps 4x faster.

Streamlined management: Easily manage users and groups in one secure place, including full tracking, and visibility.

Privacy, security and support: Provides end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication, and dedicated 24/7 support and monitoring by expert teams to ensure premium security and performance.

Hassle-free infrastructure: Access to fully configured hardware and installed software, as well as automated server maintenance.

Future-proof scalability: Ability to rapidly scale across departments and entire businesses for fast-paced growth.

Affordable, set prices: Yearly subscription fee of €41 EUR per month, available for purchase in local currency.

Certificates: Built-in SSL certificate included with the service.

Local language support: Access to multiple languages, including French, Italian, German, and Spanish.

www.claris.com

[Column] Marius Burger: What does a cloud-connected Africa look like?

With a region as large and as vast as Africa, it is difficult to imagine a fully connected continent where every individual across all demographics, and every business across all sectors can harness the power of cloud computing.

Yet as technology continues to drastically change how we conduct our lives and connect with the world around us, this notion of a cloud-connected Africa becomes far more plausible and realistic.

In fact, many of us are already utilising cloud-enabled technologies on a daily basis. From cloud-based productivity apps to collaboration services like Microsoft Teams, the cloud is seamlessly integrating into our everyday lives. A future where a healthy cloud ecosystem is supported by integrated and innovative technologies is much closer than we think.

Enabling business continuity and growth

Given the current remote working environment, the value of cloud computing for local organisations can’t be emphasised enough. Apart from its geo-agnostic nature, the cloud is the best fit for today’s business landscape because of its scalability, flexibility and consumption-based charging model.

While being able to work from anywhere is key, this can be achieved through other, non-cloud-based technologies. However, the ability to rapidly implement and adapt in the cloud is what makes cloud-based solutions so valuable in our current business state. By driving efficiency and ensuring that employees are productive while working from home, cloud automation focuses workloads into the correct resource pools.

In turn, cloud services promote more streamlined operating systems and provide access to more markets and a wider range of service providers, helping companies reduce unnecessary costs and enable cost-effectiveness in the long run. 

Connecting data centres to customers 

As the demand for digital services continues to increase, the need for more processing power also grows, with more data centres setting up shop in our backyard. And, as more hyper-scalers position themselves in South Africa and throughout the continent, our technology industry is forced to find new solutions that will satisfy this hunger for the cloud. More sophisticated network architecture is required so that ISPs can find smarter ways to manage and orchestrate traffic between data centres and end-users.

Yet without reliable connectivity, no one can reach any cloud solutions, so there is also a responsibility on all ISPs to drive this penetration through Africa safely. Innovative products that are centred around cloud traffic are needed.

Thinking ahead

A fully connected Africa will, therefore, have intelligent networks, built on a foundation of stable and reliable facilities. In other words, the networking equivalent of a park-and-ride system with satellite navigation, ensuring traffic flow in peak hours and drivers finding the best routes to their destinations.

Reaching this desired connected state means a few critical things for our continent. Firstly, our connectivity will be on par with that of more developed countries. Secondly, it’ll enable any business to utilise the cloud and tap into the benefits cloud computing unlocks, essentially allowing companies of all sizes in all sectors to do business easier. Thirdly, cloud capabilities will be able to be deployed closer to end-users, resulting in an increased uptake of cloud-based services for consumers.  

Most importantly, however, a cloud-connected Africa could mean more job opportunities for parts of our population that previously couldn’t access work. And for a continent with high levels of poverty and unemployment, this is a massive win.

If governments, businesses and entrepreneurs embrace the opportunities that the cloud provides, Africa could distinguish itself by using the cloud to drive growth and add value. As we look to the future and strive to build a more connected continent, partnering with a forward-thinking cloud provider that can assist your business in planning for tomorrow, while taking full advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology, is crucial.

Marius Burger is the Chief Information Officer at SEACOM

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[Column] Patrick Ndegwa: The future of cloud computing: moving at the speed of business

is in the cloud.

And with services like cloud-based email, many companies are already using this innovative technology – whether they realise it or not. The conversation has changed from asking ‘what is cloud technology?’ to looking at how it can be harnessed to achieve business success.

Organisations need to be able to adapt at the same speed as this new technology and take advantage of the opportunities it presents. This will ensure business continuity and resilience in the long term. So what’s next for the cloud?

The future of cloud computing: opportunities for Africa

The Internet of Things  is set to become even more prominent, with companies able to automate and optimise more processes as connected ‘smart’ machines are used. Interconnected systems mean that business processes and actual equipment will be linked to ensure ease of access and optimisation. This has the power to significantly improve efficiency for businesses that can get it right.

This could include inventory systems that automatically order more stock when levels are low; smart machines that notify you before a part needs to be replaced; or logistics tracking that optimises routes and delivery based on orders and current traffic congestion. As we progress into this digital world of work, systems will become more interlinked and intertwined, providing opportunities for companies that are ready to take advantage.

Furthermore, the cloud enables remote working and service provision, regardless of where employees or organisations are located. This opens up business opportunities as distance from customers and clients is no longer a stumbling block.

African companies can offer their services to a wider market – and in turn use additional services – as a result of a digitally connected world. The same applies to workers; employees can search for jobs nationally and internationally, as opposed to simply searching for opportunities in their immediate area.

Business flexibility and scalability will be key to enabling growth while reducing unnecessary costs as a result of more streamlined operating systems and access to more markets and a wider range of service providers.

Ensuring the safety and security of the business

The importance of security in this new cloud-connected world cannot be stressed enough. As more data is moved to a cloud environment, businesses that don’t take security seriously become more susceptible to data breaches.

User rights need to be properly managed and the relevant software put into place to prevent cyberattacks and data leaks. In addition to this, each individual accessing a system affects the safety of the wider network, so employee training is vital. Accessing and managing data remotely will need to become a priority. The constant influx of data that is being collected and stored needs to be organised and used strategically. Regular backups are crucial in ensuring that information is safe and easily accessible should the original data be deemed at risk. This will ensure business continuity and reduce downtime.

Companies that stand to win will be those that partner with cloud providers that can help them put the right security measures in place.

Adapting to a cloud-driven world of business

Research indicates that by 2025, all of the world’s data is expected to increase by five times. This data is estimated to be worth around 123.2 billion USD. In addition to this, the mobile cloud services market will be worth an estimated $95 billion by 2024. This trend also applies to Africa.

As Internet usage in Africa grows, so does the amount of data created – as well as the value of that data. Accessing these huge amounts of data won’t be the biggest challenge – making sense of it will be. Companies that can collect, collate and analyse the sheer volume of data generated every day by their customers, employees and other stakeholders stand to gain a lot. If you aren’t organising your data and using it strategically, you will be left behind.

As we look to the future, the importance of partnering with a provider that can assist your business in meeting its operational needs to remain a top priority. A forward-thinking cloud partner can help your business plan for the future, while making the most of the latest innovative technology.

Patrick Ndegwa is Business Sales Lead for SEACOM East Africa

Africa debate whether to remain on-premise or move to the cloud

Security, risk, data loss, and legislation. These are the primary concerns listed by organizations and government institutions when asked why they are reluctant to move to the cloud.

 It is the perennial debate – will cloud put the data at risk? Isn’t on-premise more secure? How can the organization ensure it is compliant in light of growing regulatory control over how data is accessed, protected and used?

For many, the answer lies in the tried and trusted foundations of on-premise solutions that have weathered the storms so far. The problem is that this isn’t necessarily the right answer…

Some organizations remain convinced that on-premise is more reliable than the cloud. In Kenya, government guidelines recently approved by President Uhuru Kenyatta – safeguards that are considered to be on a par with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – have put immense pressure on organizations when it comes to data handling and sharing.

When a company faces either a prison sentence or a hefty fine for violating the act, it makes sense for them to panic about security and be more prudent about with which provider to share their personal information with.

This trend is reflected in Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda where legislation is influencing decision making when it comes to the cloud. In Nigeria, government industries have been advised to stay with their on-premise platforms. Rwanda has clamped down on its personal data protection with regulations around consent from individuals.

South Africa is still toying with its Protection of Personal Information Act, but this is very likely to be signed into law fairly soon. These regulations are all essential in a time when data privacy and security are under scrutiny and the cyber-threat has never been more present. And it makes sense that companies are forming a protective circle around their information and question where and how a provider stores their data before investing into the cloud.

Due to the far-reaching hands of governments, data sovereignty is a primary concern of institutions moving to the cloud. Data sovereignty refers to the fact that information which is stored in the cloud is subject to the laws of the country in which it is physically stored. For some organisations this concern may be warranted, such as highly regulated government organisations storing highly confidential information.

However, even highly regulated organisations are taking advantage of what the cloud has to offer by taking a hybrid approach.

For more sensitive confidential information, the data is stored on-premise, and other processes that are less sensitive, are outsourced to third party cloud providers. This is a reasonable approach. However, most companies don’t have the skilled manpower or budget to build a secure hybrid approach, or even an on-premise solution, which is why not moving to the cloud becomes a business risk.

At the same time the truth is that while many organisations cling to on-premise as the solution, it can be the most dangerous of the two.

Using or not using a cloud provider has no bearing on complying with privacy regulations, as long as adequate safeguards around personal information can be guaranteed. Privacy regulations stipulate organisations take into account the state of the art and industry prior to implementing new solutions. When looking into the information technology landscape today, we can see the moving to the cloud is the most secure, scalable, and reliable way to protect data.

“Professional cloud infrastructures are usually safer and more reliable than many on-premise platforms,” explains Anna Collard at KnowBe4. “One of the most common reasons for this is the lack of security resources organisation can employ. Security skills are hard to come by even globally, and in Africa we only have about 10 000 security professionals across the entire continent. Large companies such as Oracle have employed a security team that is bigger than all the African security professionals together.”

Cloud service providers are in the business of looking after their infrastructure and their client’s data, providing a level of assurance via ISO 27000, PCI DSS, Cloud Security Alliance and other security certifications.  Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS) list of security certs is mind bogglingly long –a feat that is difficult to accomplish unless security or IT infrastructure management is your core business.

Another issue is that people often ask if the security on offer by the cloud service provider is the absolute best on the market. The real question should be whether the security is appropriate for the level of data and services being provided and where the data centre is located to ensure adequate data protection alignment.

“Cloud service providers consider all the angles from auditing to phishing to updates to patches and intrusion detection,” concludes Collard. “Their solutions are designed to not just meet industry standards, but to exceed them. This is not only to ensure the safety and security of the customer, but because their own reputation is on the line if they don’t deliver.”

According to ESG research in January 2020 67% of enterprises use public cloud infrastructure services to support their IT operations. That number is most likely going to increase even more so over the next few months with the Covid-19 pandemic forcing many organisations to set up work from home.

 There is no guaranteed road to risk-free business. Cybercrime is on the rise and it is exceptional sophisticated, leveraging human error and system vulnerability to gain access to systems and damage reputations. Ultimately the cloud is just a third-party provider, the responsibility over the data remains with the data owner, which is the business or organisation processing the data.

Performing a third-party risk assessment and reviewing the cloud provider’s security certifications should be standard practice to ensure adequate security will be applied, regardless of where the data is stored and should help greatly in the decision-making process.

While it’s perfectly understandable for the business to hold onto what it knows – the on-prem solution – cloud has become a powerful and reliable ally that can not only surpass most on-prem solutions, but can do so at a lower cost and with better security.

www.knowbe4.com

Cloud-computing solutions can reduce banking costs in Africa, report

More than 700 million Africans lack access to a bank or mobile money account and only 41 per cent of Africans are financially included.

This is due to the high cost of providing financial services in Africa which forces many financial services providers to remain focused on serving wealthier customers.

These are some of the many insights from the report Cloud Banking in Africa: The Regulatory Opportunityby Genesis Analytics and Orange Business Services on how the application of cloud computing in financial services can help financial services providers reach and serve the poor. 

Part of the cost problem is that financial institutions in Africa are so much smaller than elsewhere – the biggest bank in Africa (SBSA with assets of $148 billion) ranks 296th globally; most banks in Africa have assets of less than $5 billion. But African consumers are increasingly expecting these banks to provide the same range of digital services as banks in other countries. This is why consumers have been turning to mobile banking in such numbers. The telecommunications companies have been much more successful at delivering affordable financial services than banks are, but also need to find new ways to reduce costs if they are to reach out to even poorer customers. 

Cloud computing creates an opportunity for providers of financial services to rethink their technology spend and significantly reduce costs. Cloud computing involves using internet technologies to provide virtual infrastructure that is scalable and delivered as a service. Fixed costs can be converted into a subscription-based approach and upfront capital investments are converted into operational costs. Cloud computing allows banks to pay less for ICT infrastructure and services and achieve higher utilisation on ICT spend. Particularly for small banks in small markets where specialised ICT skills are in short supply, cloud computing can ease a critical operational constraint.

The most compelling reason to move to the cloud is undoubtedly cost savings, but there are other business reasons too. The flexibility of cloud-based operational models allows financial institutions to experience shorter development cycles for new products, which supports a faster and more efficient response to the needs of customers. Cloud computing provides the computer power necessary to deliver analytical insights in real time, which enables financial institutions to move towards a customer-centric model where the financial needs of customers are fully understood. Financial institutions can also gain a higher level of data security, resilience, fault tolerance and disaster recovery from cloud computing.

A few international and African banks have already realised the value of cloud banking. WeBank is China’s first digital bank that is based in a private cloud and uses innovative technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and blockchain, to effect an extraordinarily high volume of transactions at a very low cost. WeBank has been able to run at 95% lower cost than that of traditional banks’ IT operations and has passed this cost saving onto their customers in the form of low account fees. TymeBank is a new digital entrant to the South African banking sector and has made a 56% cost saving compared to other startups by using cloud services from AWS.

Before financial service providers can adopt cloud banking, regulators need to support and approve the use of cloud technology within the financial sector. Some international regulators are already allowing the use of cloud banking in the financial sector. The European Union has been at the forefront of defining an enabling regulatory environment for cloud banking services, which has involved both the regulation on the use of data and privacy and protection of data. Under the regulations, financial institutions have to ensure that consumer personal data is gathered legally and under strict conditions and that consumer data is fully protected. Other developing markets like Turkey and Argentina have adopted similar legal and regulatory environments, which has enabled the use of cloud banking in their financial sectors. 

Africa’s financial sector regulators’ approaches are very much work in progress. The report urges African regulators to develop clear policy positions and regulations on data privacy, risk and security; data sovereignty; cybercrime; protection of intellectual property; vendor risk; and migration complexity and operational risk to enable financial institutions to reap the benefit of cloud banking.

Genesis Analytics is a global African firm that has worked in more than 74 countries across the world, 41 of which are on the continent, and Orange Business Services is a network-native digital services company and the global enterprise division of the Orange Group, connecting, protecting and innovating for enterprises around the world.

The full report can be accessed here

www.genesis-analytics.com

www.orange-business.com

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[Column] Rentia Booysen: It is time to adopt multi-cloud

Companies have been preparing for a multi-cloud world for some time, even if they were not aware of doing so.

The arrival of international data centres in South Africa means decision-makers have access to additional cloud options, thereby providing the impetus for multi-cloud to become a more intentional strategy in the months to come.

But what does this equate to?

A multi-cloud environment refers to policy-based and coordinated service provisioning, use, and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services. Such has been its growth that research shows 81% of public cloud users surveyed are working with two or more providers.

Not only does it provide the means to avoid vendor lock-in, but going this route empowers organisations to select the best environments for specific tasks. Cloud Provider A could be ideal for business continuity and disaster recovery. At the same time, Cloud Provider B provides access to innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) more cost-effectively.

More than hardware

However, a true multi-cloud environment is not about how many service providers a business uses. Instead, it revolves around how to operationally transform the company by integrating all aspects of its cloud offerings, whether these are private, public, or hybrid. The technology, therefore, plays just a part in this approach. More importantly, the extent to which organisations are willing to embrace this new way of thinking becomes a key factor.

In the past, this might have entailed moving just one application to the cloud. Now, the level of sophistication has evolved along with the strategic priorities of the organisation. Therefore, a mix of public and private clouds along with on-premise infrastructure can be considered a standard operating model.

But irrespective of the level of cloud adoption utilised, a company requires unified, automated, and AI-driven management at a software level. This enables the business to create an architecture capable of evolving as companies seek ways to modernise their enterprise networks. Companies can use such a solution to simplify growth throughout their migration from secure routers to software-defined networks (SD-WAN) and, ultimately, to a multi-cloud network automated by AI.

User-focused

An AI environment introduces automation that improves user experiences and simplifies operations, providing reliability and agility while extending visibility across the enterprise, both on-premise and off.

The right software provides the business with a foundation to easily add multi-cloud endpoints, security, monitoring, and third-party network services to its SD-WAN. IT departments can now easily manage this every step of the way using a multi-cloud orchestration solution. It even enables the business to run software and virtual endpoints on its own infrastructure or on that of public cloud service providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

Think of this multi-focused environment as part of the process of how the cloud-native technology stack is evolving and becoming more sophisticated.

With data driving all decision-making at a company, irrespective its size and industry, the resources provided by the high-performance computing capabilities of the cloud cannot be ignored. But instead of going the ‘all or nothing’ route, a business can select how to use the cloud services (and providers) that make the most sense at any given point in time. The ability to turn on and off resources as required is a more efficient value proposition that provides complete control over cloud costs.

Furthermore, this dynamic enables the business to still maintain control of sensitive data that can remain on-site while getting the flexibility of AI and ML for data analysis as required. All told, the multi-cloud does present an exciting value proposition to South African organisations as they start competing against others on the continent and beyond.

Rentia Booysen is Collaboration Business Unit Manager at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

[Column] Kabelo Makwane: Agriculture and its future on Mars

Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services, from applications to storage and processing power, which is typically on a pay as you go basis over the internet.

One benefit of using cloud computing services is avoiding the upfront cost and complexity of owning and maintaining your own IT infrastructure, and instead simply paying for what you use as and when you use it. 

When thinking about the agricultural industry, there are practical applications for the use of cloud computing that create a whole ecosystem, from sensors and monitoring tools that collect soil data to agricultural field images and observations from human actors on the ground accurately feeding data repositories along with their GPS coordinates.

Agribusiness needs more effective tools to engage with the smallholder farmer. At the same time, the smallholder farmer needs to be empowered with information, access to markets and financial services. To achieve this, mobile phone technology from Vodacom Business can play a game-changing role.

The Vodacom Business technology the Connected Farmer service gives a readily available message functionality allowing for real-time communication with other farmers on the database, transactional capabilities which support electronic vouchers and a companion application called AgriSuite Plus that provides content of practical agricultural value to field workers.

This content includes topics such as crop and livestock production management, crop descriptions, production programs, soil preparation and pest and disease identification (farmers using smartphones are able to download the AgriSuite Plus app.

Vodacom Connected Farmer is a cloud-based web and mobile software solution that links enterprises to smallholder farmers through the transfer of industry-related information, which equips the farmer to make better decisions about crop rotation and improve efficiencies in order to deliver better produce and consistently improve yields 

Farmers can also take advantage of knowledge-based repositories that contain information related to farming practices, agriculture innovations, pesticides, seeds, fertilizers, nutrients and equipment.

However, with the onset of technology, there is the valid fear and resistance that comes with it, especially considering the fact that the agriculture industry is driven by smallholder farmers, who more often than not do not have access to technology. 

Kabelo asserts that Vodacom Business is aware of the fact that rural areas of South Africa are under-serviced with regard to connectivity. This has presented real challenges to not only the farming community, but to their customers, service suppliers and rural communities in general.

Smallholder farmers need to be empowered with information, access to markets and financial services. To achieve this, mobile phone technology from Vodacom Business can play a game-changing role. Vodacom Connected Farmer is a phone enabled enterprise solution. 

Once smallholder farmers are registered mobile enterprise users, such as agronomists, and field officers then profile these farmers and their farms and verify their identity during field visits, using Vodacom Connected Farmer on their mobile devices. The enterprise is now able to communicate with its smallholder farmer base via their mobile phones, whether individually, as a group or across the entire smallholder farming community.

Vodacom is also alive to the risks that come with the internet like breach of privacy. That is why in the Vodacom Business Connected Farmer program, there are a number of security measures which ensure that personal or financial information is protected. There is a secure, role-based authentication and authorisation that allows users to only access to those system functionalities that are relevant to them. Connected farmers also use secure cashless value and transactions through electronic vouchers. 

Potential challenges

While these resources can be used in developed countries with ubiquitous Internet access, this is not as easy to accomplish in developing economies where there may be challenges with internet access, bandwidth and power. However, even in these circumstances, we are seeing technology made available on mobile phones, providing a wealth of services to farmers powered at times by renewable sources of energy and enabled by mobile devices

Three main challenges in Africa include performance, costs and availability. 

Performance: Whether locally- or internationally-hosted, it can be a challenge to deliver reliable Cloud services to certain regions – particularly in smaller towns and rural or remote areas.

Costs: Uncontended, enterprise-grade networks can be extremely expensive, often making it challenging for the cloud business case to be compelling to both small and large enterprise

Availability: For many businesses in outlying areas, the availability of internet connection, in general, is a huge problem. South Africa still has vast patches that are underserved or entirely unserved. Certain agricultural sites for example, experience problems with basic telephonic and crude internet connections – which makes high-powered Cloud services seem like an impossibility. 

Effective adoption and implementation of this technology will encourage other sectors also, which will lead to optimal  benefit of shifting towards cloud. This will definitely have a positive impact in the overall economic development of a nation. Above all, cloud computing is a newly introduced concept and most of the developing nations are not readily willing to accept and implement it. Therefore, it needs a mass awareness and promotion among the prime stakeholders to acquire the full potential of it and have a well established information base for the nation. This will in return lead to a well-connected world.

Kabelo Makwane is the Managing Executive for Cloud, Hosting & Security at Vodacom Business