[South Africa] BCX fully acquires software firm DotCom Software Projects to push cloud adoption

BCX, one of Africa’s largest systems integrators and digital transformation partners, has acquired 100% of the shares in DotCom Software Projects  (“DotCom”).

The acquisition will see BCX enrich its cloud services and provide greater value to its clients across key verticals.

“With greater access to on-demand computing power, highly scalable platforms and more flexible ap-proaches to IT spending, cloud computing has gone from an emerging technology to an indispensable business resource, ”said Jan Bouwer, Chief of Digital Platform Solutions at BCX. 

BCX has, over the past year, increased its focus on Cloud Computing with its cloud-agnostic strategy, having recently announced an exclusive rights deal with Alibaba Cloud, one of the largest cloud players globally. The acquisition of DotCom brings this strategy to life by providing greater choice, diversity, and value to its clients. DotCom was founded in 2012 and has become a significant player in digital transformation, specialising in cloud solutions and as a trusted Microsoft Azure Gold partner.

“As a Cloud Solutions Provider, DotCom adds to our own cloud capabilities, specifically with regards to Microsoft Azure, which further drives our cloud agnostic strategy”, said Bouwer.

“BCX is also aggressively growing its capabilities to create a more balanced product portfolio for growth. The acquisition of DotCom combined with existing capabilities at BCX will create a power-house in the cloud space. I am confident that welcoming DotCom into the BCX family will not only bolster our capabilities but will create further opportunities to grow our product portfolio in the future”, adds Jonas Bogoshi, CEO at BCX. DotCom delivers cloud computing-based services and solutions including Cloud software solutions, Cloud Managed Services and Cloud Advisory and Consulting services to companies migrating to cloud computing. Within eleven years, the company has built up a significant client base drawn from a range of industries, including the financial and insurance sectors.

“BCX and DotCom are a natural fit. I think we complement one another and share the same commitment of helping our clients make the transition to secure cloud in a way that strengthens their business and accelerates their growth,” JC van den Heever, CEO of DotCom said. “The cloud computing market continues to grow rapidly as companies move from on-premises solutions to cloud-based systems. Trends emerging suggest that companies will continue to adopt new deployment models, such as edge and cloud-native applications, to shifts in operating models, to remote and virtual desktops. I believe that together we can transition our clients seamlessly through these developments,” adds van den Heever.

The future of cloud computing is increased adoption and discovering new ways to use systems and in-formation in the cloud to drive insights and operational efficiencies. More and more businesses are investing in a hybrid approach that mixes on-premises and cloud-based systems, and the market as a whole is moving towards greater reliance on subscription-based software, infrastructure, and man-aged cloud services. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for both companies, who are ambitious about bringing the business benefits of this investment and greater innovation in cloud computing to their clients.

www.bcx.co.za

[Column] Marilyn Moodley: Cloud Security – Whose fault is it?

At least 95% of cloud security failures in the next three years will be the customer’s fault, according to Gartner. Unsurprisingly, the biggest threat to security is people. Misconfiguration mistakes escalated from 15% of exploitable errors in 2018 to more than 40% in 2021 and human error is now the third most common cause of security breaches, ahead of malware and right up there with social engineering and hacking. Complacency about cloud security is a major contributing factor, but this needs to change. Most cloud services operate under a shared responsibility model in which providers secure the infrastructure, while customers are required to lock down the software stack and applications. In other words, responsibility for patching vulnerabilities and controlling access to cloud accounts still lies with the user.

What does this mean? Organisations need to remain vigilant, ensuring that they take the necessary steps and precautions to secure their data and identities if they’re to avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic with no one to blame but themselves.

Identify, verify, control

No matter the deployment model, sufficient controls are required to govern access and usage. With such a variety of effective Identity and Access Control service providers available today, there is little excuse for businesses not to have these measures in place. Authentication and access control requires users to verify their identity, and secures their access to resources across cloud, SaaS, on-prem and APIs, while increasing speed, agility, and efficiency.

Such IAM solutions make it straightforward to provide the means for customers, employees and partners to all have secure access to the necessary resources. By using identity verification and access control services located in the cloud, the limitations and costs associated with on-premises IAM can be replaced by a more flexible, scalable solution. Cloud IAM is key to ensuring security outside of network perimeters and capabilities include authentication, access management, identity verification, consent collection, risk management and API security.

Access control to the cloud should be regulated through the creation of centralised rules and policies to streamline processes. The use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is critical to ensure the correct identification of individuals trying to access networked resources, while Privileged Access Management (PAM) tools enforce control over sensitive components and applications in the environment.  These tools form part of a larger cloud security picture that includes details such as a zero trust framework, bolstered with cybersecurity mesh, and reinforced with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

Zero trust: never trust, always verify

Zero trust is a framework for securing organisations in cloud and mobile spaces by insisting that no user or application be trusted by default. It enables least-privileged access, establishes trust based on context which is informed by user identity and location, endpoint security posture as well as the app or service being requested, while performing necessary policy checks at each step. A well-tuned zero trust architecture leads to simpler network infrastructure, a better user experience, and improved cyber threat defense.

SASE: borderless security

Secure access service edge (SASE) is a framework for network architecture that brings cloud native security technologies together with wide area network (WAN) capabilities to securely connect users, systems, and endpoints to applications and services anywhere. This ensures that data and traffic is secured, no matter where it travels.

Cybersecurity MESH: closing the gaps

Gartner describes cybersecurity mesh as “a flexible, composable architecture that integrates widely distributed and disparate security services”. Concerned with strengthening digital security while bringing tools closer to the assets they’re designed to defend, a cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) encourages organisations to deploy solutions that fit their specific needs by working within their integrated ecosystems. This enables businesses to share cybersecurity intelligence, automate and coordinate responses to threats, and simplify their security operations. CSMA offers a distributed identity fabric that helps establish trusted access across all applications, customers, partners, and workforces.

Achieving visibility and developing security skill sets

Visibility in cloud security means eliminating blind spots that can result in overspending, performance inefficiencies and security complications. This is done through service-centric or role-centric tools, rather than host-centric tools to manage networks. If it is not possible to hire the necessary competencies, organisations will have to develop them. Many vendors offer online resources to help technologists learn the skills they need to become cloud security engineers. In addition to an increase in the need to cultivate the necessary skills, there will be an increase in demand for technologists that have the DevOps skills necessary to align business workloads with the cloud.  Upskilling will also be critical to bridging the skills gap which includes training business teams on how to use cloud tools.

Owning security responsibility

Accordingly, it’s important for businesses to remember that even when they’re purchasing infrastructure, software or functionality as a service, they’re not outsourcing total responsibility for security. This will continue to be a shared responsibility, because it is unlikely that service providers would willingly take on the possibility of being liable for human action or error beyond their control. As such, organisations will need to prioritise the acquisition of or the development of necessary security-minded skills in order to protect their digital assets from cyber harm.

Marilyn Moodley is the South African Country Leader for SoftwareONE.

How the biggest international cloud trends impact Africa

The latter half of 2022 was characterised by significant instabilities in the tech industry. E-retailer and cloud giant Amazon announced that it would cut tens of thousands of jobs, social media behemoths Twitter and Meta laid off significant percentages of their workforce, and even Microsoft saw its slowest revenue growth in five years.

“There’s chaos in the industry internationally,” says Andrew Cruise, Managing Director of Routed, a local cloud platform provider and VMware specialist. “The war in Ukraine has kicked off a period of great uncertainty that’s affected global inflation, exchange rates, and general risk appetite. This follows the boom during the early months of the pandemic, when the tech industry saw such growth that many companies made significant investments in new assets, infrastructure, and expertise. Now that growth has slowed, they’re faced with two options: sit tight and wait it out, or shrink. 

When it comes to cloud, specifically, the euphoria around hyperscale cloud (from providers like Amazon, Azure, and more) has also waned, adds Benjamin Coetzer, Director at Routed. “Firstly, enterprises are realising that hyperscale cloud is better suited to development and not everyday business. Secondly, they’re starting to scrutinise their mounting bills, which have grown significantly as their cloud needs have become more complicated and sprawled.” 

Interestingly, things look a bit different in Africa. Hyperscalers like Azure and AWS only started arriving in South Africa in recent years, while Google, Alibaba and BCX just announced their arrival. “It surprised me to see how many hyperscalers decided to set up shop in South Africa almost overnight, as well as how many datacentre companies and IT players have started investing in Africa as a whole,” adds Coetzer.

However, the current economic climate and insufficient infrastructure across the continent warrant some caution: “There is big demand in South Africa, there is big money in South Africa, and there is good infrastructure in South Africa. But when it comes to cloud, I always say the one non-negotiable precondition to move into enterprise cloud (or for enterprise applications to move into the cloud) is fast, reliable, cheap internet. Only fibre sufficiently provides that, and only in South Africa. In Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria fibre penetration is low and it is still extremely expensive at low speeds. No-one else in sub-Saharan Africa has got the precondition for enterprise cloud to be successful. And yet, we’re still seeing demand from people. And I think the demand is misplaced for the moment,” says Cruise.

Worryingly, some hyperscale resellers aren’t giving potential clients the full story – or perhaps they aren’t aware of the conditions on the ground. “They’re delivering the same message in Africa as in the rest of the world, not understanding that Africa can’t deliver on that until local infrastructure improves. South Africa is five years behind the West, and some other countries in Africa are five, if not ten, years behind South Africa. Sure, you can eventually back up your data with an internet connection speed of five megabits per second – but what happens when you need to recover it?”

And then there are the costs to consider. “I think people are going to be surprised by the price increases from AWS, Azure, Google and the like over the next year. Experts in the West are predicting major increases – and that doesn’t even factor in the weak rand.”

Coetzer adds: “Those who don’t need the bells and whistles that developers use and opt for an enterprise cloud will now start seeing significantly more value for their money as that gap increases. Routed’s pricing, for example, has come down in the six years since the company started, while hyperscalers’ prices have kept climbing.

Cruise concludes “I’m hoping that allows people to make better decisions going forward. Many think that IT and cloud is exciting and cutting edge, but what most people really want from the cloud, really need, is for it to be boring. It has to work, all the time, no surprises. And that’s what enterprise cloud does really well. This coming year will bring more of the same, and there isn’t a problem with that.”

www.routed.co.za

[Column] Hardeep Sound: Cloud, innovation key to East Africa’s economic growth

When the early days of the pandemic pushed industries across East Africa into survival mode, it sparked a wave of cloud adoption that has swept through the region. 

Focused at first on ensuring business continuity, investment into cloud technologies and digitalisation has since helped organisations in the region build greater resilience and unlock new business models and revenue streams. 

Even the most reluctant businesses and their customers have now come online. One of the reasons is that the benefits of greater digitalisation became clear almost immediately. 

Businesses that took the opportunity at the outset to build new capabilities, establish new revenue streams or transform their business models rapidly gained an advantage over those that were slower to transform. 

Consider how the retail sector embraced technology to adapt to lockdown restrictions and reach customers, sell products and improve visibility over volatile supply chains. Many of the businesses that digitised with speed now enjoy the benefit of more resilient business models that are better suited to the demands of the modern economy.

Cloud at heart of region’s future success

For businesses across East Africa, the cloud presents a unique opportunity to innovate, develop new products and services, and scale into new markets or geographies. 

Cloud technologies offer access to services and capabilities that are prohibitively costly for most companies to build themselves. By adopting cloud solutions for key business processes, organisations can drive greater efficiency and optimise their business processes without the upfront capital outlay of on-premise solutions.

Taking advantage of the wealth of cloud-based ‘as-a-service’ solutions can also augment internal capabilities and unlock access to supplier networks, tech skills and other capabilities that were previously out of reach. 

Many businesses have experienced the benefits of such services when the first lockdowns created the need to enable remote work capabilities. By leveraging cloud technologies, businesses could maintain communication with teams and customers and ensure continuity. Today, cloud technologies play a central role in transforming how organisations measure, manage and motivate their hybrid workforce.

As the ripple effects of the pandemic travelled through the global economy, businesses turned to cloud technologies to improve visibility over their supply chains and assist with planning and risk mitigation. When a different, post-pandemic customer emerged, one that demanded greater personalisation, convenience and choice, organisations could once again leverage the power of cloud technologies to enable new ways of engagement with customers.  

Once-in-a-generation opportunity

Now, the region faces a golden opportunity to drive innovation and achieve new gains across their internal and customer-facing operations by leveraging the cloud. 

A recent study revealed that some East African industries have taken the lead with cloud adoption, including the banking, marketing, agriculture and education sectors.

Considering the importance of manufacturing and tourism to the regional economy, organisations operating in these industries should leap at the opportunity to digitise.

Business-to-business spending in Africa’s manufacturing sector is set to reach $1-trillion by 2050, and the sector is well-placed to grow and become more competitive through digitisation. By building Industry 4.0 capabilities underpinned by the cloud, manufacturers could unlock the benefits of AI and robotic process automation with predictive analytics to gain unprecedented control, predictability and operational efficiency.

The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions as international travel came to a total standstill at the peak of the pandemic. Considering the sector contributed 8.1% to the region’s GDP in 2019, the impact of the restrictions on local businesses could not be overstated.  

By leveraging the cloud to build new ways of engaging with travellers and removing friction from the travel process, the tourism sector could tap into a global tourism sector hungry for new experiences. 

Three focus areas for cloud success

Businesses will benefit from choosing priority areas for cloud deployment that can deliver the greatest benefit with the shortest time-to-value, and use the learnings to drive adoption in other areas of the business. 

Based on our work helping organisations in East Africa leverage the cloud for business success, the following key focus areas could offer the most valuable starting points for cloud adoption:

1 Innovate, innovate, innovate

East Africa can benefit from greater investment into innovation and research and development to improve the region’s global competitiveness and lure foreign direct investment. 

The pharmaceutical sector, for example, holds enormous potential for research and development initiatives that can drive economic growth and create new industries while also reducing our need to import product and service innovations.

Regional innovators could consider to leverage the experience and market insight of cloud service providers with experience supporting pharmaceutical innovation. This can help avoid costly mistakes, close the gap on best practice, and ensure there is an optimal technology mix to support innovation. As an example, 18 of the world’s 20 largest vaccine manufacturers run their production facilities using SAP technology, so any new facility can tap into SAP’s domain knowledge to fast-track success.

2 Remove uncertainty from decision-making

The continued volatility in the global economy has created an environment of uncertainty that is hampering growth and innovation. To remove some of this uncertainty, organisations should invest in enterprise resource planning solutions to achieve greater clarity and control over key business functions and core processes. 

Cloud adoption can also unlock access to data and analytics capabilities that can empower decision-makers with accurate insights over their businesses, enabling them to guide the business through challenges more effectively.

3 Aim for speed

One of the greatest advantages cloud offers is speed. Instead of spending long periods of time building on-premise capabilities, businesses can readily tap into a wealth of cloud-based solutions to immediately enjoy efficiency and innovation gains. 

For mid-market organisations, this could unlock opportunities to quickly test new digital channels and trial new business processes. Successful trials can be rapidly scaled to the rest of the business or to new geographies, powering their growth.

Hardeep Sound is the Regional Sales Director East Africa at SAP.

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[South Africa] Teraco breaks ground on JB5 – A 30MW data centre expansion to the Isando Campus

Africa’s interconnection hub and vendor-neutral data centre provider Teraco has commenced construction on a new hyperscale data centre facility with 30 megawatts (MW) of critical power load at its Isando Campus in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa.

The facility, known as JB5, is scheduled for completion in 2024 and will incorporate the latest environmentally sustainable cooling and water management designs.

CEO of Teraco, Jan Hnizdo, said that the company continues with solid growth as enterprise and hyperscale requirements continue apace due to sustained demand for hybrid cloud deployments and the adoption of cloud services in Africa. “South Africa is a springboard for cloud provision into Africa and, as a result, has become the technology and data centre hub for sub-Saharan Africa. Massive global investments into undersea cables, like Equiano and 2Africa, further strengthen this position. This will enable global cloud providers to service not only the South African market but also the rest of the sub-Saharan African region.”

“Teraco is committed to growing its capacity footprint across its core hubs. We ensure our clients have the flexibility to scale and take advantage of the digital transformation across sub-Saharan Africa. We continue to invest significantly in the region’s ICT infrastructure and have built Africa’s largest data centre platform. We take pride in enabling open access interconnection and providing world-class data centre infrastructure for all our clients,” concludes Hnizdo.

The JB5 facility is Teraco’s eighth data centre development located in the heart of Ekurhuleni’s Aerotropolis. It is here that Teraco’s data centres already provide access to a wide choice of network service providers, peering at NAPAfrica, regional IXPs, content delivery networks and cloud provider on-ramps. Hnizdo says that this expansion aims to further support sub-Saharan enterprises by advancing their digital transformation strategies and enabling global cloud providers to expand their footprints —spurring innovation.

JB5 has been designed to put sustainability first and minimise its environmental footprint. JB5 will incorporate the latest state-of-the-art cooling designs, a closed-loop chilled water system that incorporates 100% free air cooling. This design will bring about industry-leading PUEs, thereby reducing the energy consumed and limiting water used in the ongoing cooling process to zero. 

JB5 is the latest expansion to Teraco’s growing data centre platform and takes critical power load capacity at Teraco facilities to 156MW, which includes the Isando Campus facilities; JB1/JB3/JB5 (70MW), Bredell Campus JB2/JB4 (64MW), Cape Town Campus CT1/CT2 (21MW) and Durban (1MW).

Organisations working to accelerate their digital transformation utilise Teraco to dynamically scale their IT infrastructure, adopt hybrid multi-cloud architectures and interconnect with strategic business partners within the Platform Teraco ecosystem of global and local clients.

www.teraco.co.za

[Column] Benjamin Coetzer: The cloud conversation has changed, it’s faster, smarter and better for business

At the start of the pandemic, anything that could facilitate remote work for scattered business teams, flourished overnight. Microsoft saw two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. Video calling company Zoom’s sales went up 370%. And communication platform Discord’s value more than doubled. 

And cloud is no different. In 2020, 87% of global IT decision-makers concurred that the pandemic would accelerate the shift to cloud.

And it has, says Benjamin Coetzer, Director of Routed, a local VMware Cloud Verified and VMware Principal Partner. “This digital transformation was and still is a global phenomenon, South Africa included. We’re still seeing more spending on all kinds of IT avenues that revolve around facilitating remote work. People are moving into the cloud, getting rid of their on-premises data centres, getting remote VPN software and end-user device protection software – generally mobilising the workforce to work from anywhere.” 

Different clouds, different companies

During the pandemic, many companies started doing more research on cloud migration and deepened their understanding of the cloud environment. “Before, the market had a superficial understanding of cloud – they’d only ever heard of cloud hyperscalers like Google and Azure and thought the cloud was only meant for developers. Now, businesses are learning about the different types of cloud, each with its own ideal use case. They’re doing more research because they were pressed to do so during the shift to remote work. They’re making smarter decisions when planning their shift to cloud,” says Coetzer.

Hyperscalers are more suited to development, while VMware cloud providers are ideal for business use cases. And moving to the right type of cloud not only means a better cloud environment, but also an easier migration, he explains. “Moving to a hyperscaler is a slow and error-prone process for a company running VMware or Hyper V on premises. But moving to VMware cloud is extremely easy. It truly becomes a lift and shift operation, taking their workloads that are running on-premises and migrating it to a cloud provider like Routed. There’s no re-platforming needed, there’s no retooling needed, there’s no retraining of IT staff or a change in IT or business processes. It’s basically like outsourcing the entire hosting function from a physical data centre to cloud.”

Previously, many people made the mistake of moving to hyperscalers when they didn’t need to. “Again, hyperscalers like AWS, Azure, Google or Alibaba Cloud are focused on development, so they use a different underlying platform. “There’s a lot of pain involved in migrating virtual workloads from a traditional hosting platform to a hyperscale provider.  It’s like trying to modify a petrol engine to run on diesel.” 

Cloud migration timeframes

When choosing the right type of cloud, migration timeframes can be drastically shortened, says Coetzer. Now that people understand the different cloud environments better, they’re making better decisions and fewer mistakes, leading to shorter migration timeframes. “One of our clients decided to let go of their physical offices and data centre in its entirety when all their employees started working from home. And they moved over to the cloud platform in a weekend. They were running Hyper V on-premises and simply shifted everything to us. It drastically reduced their spending in terms of rent, power, facilities, and more.” 

For some companies, this was the main driver to move to cloud during the pandemic, he says. “Yes, cloud, is more agile, efficient, and secure, but for many it became a straight-forward budget decision. The alternative would have been to rent space for their servers at a colocation facility, but that becomes extremely costly as well. So, they skipped this step that many others are taking in their digital transformation journey – going from on-premises to colocation to cloud – and went straight to cloud, sparing time, effort, and money in the process.”

But that’s the exception to the rule, he says. For most companies moving to VMware cloud, this journey, from the first meeting to being moved in on router hosting, takes up to six months.

“Moving traditional workloads to a hyperscaler is a much lengthier process – and prone to lead to workload repatriation. A 2019 report done by 451 Research, which interviewed 12,500 companies, found that on average, 30% of workloads migrated had been repatriated within a year of moving. The main reasons for repatriating workloads included performance, cost, and data sovereignty.”

But one thing is sure – whatever cloud environment they choose, the pandemic has caused a ripple effect that’s seeing most people at least seriously considering a move to cloud. And lighter, more agile, and more efficient resource usage will be the long-term result.

Benjamin Coetzer is the Director of Routed.

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.

www.vmware.com

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,” 

liquidcloud.africa

www.microsoft.com

[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.

AWS provides $14M in cloud services to help advance equal access to health care globally

In its first year, the AWS Health Equity Initiative distributed $14 million in cloud credits and technical expertise to support health equity innovations globally.

The global need for health equity is receiving increased attention as new evidence reinforces the stark contrast in health outcomes from countries with varying levels of resources. 

Findings from the World Health Organization’s research on Social Determinants of Health noted a 19-year difference in life expectancy between developed countries and resource-constrained ones. The reasons for life expectancy differences are complex, transcending genetics, socioeconomic status, education, environmental conditions, and many other factors—and that’s why health equity is not something that any one government or organization can tackle alone. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) says is committed to helping, and we see potential for cloud computing technologies to make a substantial impact in this area. In 2021, the company launched the AWS Health Equity Initiative, a three-year, $40 million commitment to support organizations globally that are inventing and scaling new ways to promote equal access to health care and address social determinants of health. In the initiative’s first year, AWS awarded $14 million in cloud credits—credits for AWS’s cloud services—and technical expertise to help nearly 90 organizations around the world—ranging from startups to nonprofits and large enterprises—to address this challenge.

“Closing the health equity gap will require new, better approaches to providing care—and our customers are doing just that. We’re seeing organizations build innovative solutions tapping into the power of the cloud to deliver better health outcomes across the world,” says Max Peterson, vice president of worldwide public sector at AWS. 

“Innovations range from a mobile technology-based taxi service for women in labor needing emergency care in Tanzania and Lesotho to genomic sequencing technology that is making it easier to address COVID-19 and other diseases in Africa. The creativity of our customers, paired with AWS technology, has unlimited potential to substantially increase health equity, and we’re excited to see how much we can accomplish together.” Max says 

Promoting equity through better diagnostics

AWS is now expanding the Health Equity Initiative to include a new focus area—diagnostics. Despite their critical role in treatment, diagnostics are consistently overlooked and underfunded, particularly in addressing primary health care concerns, including diabetes and hypertension. Noncommunicable medical conditions account for 70% of deaths globally, with a disproportionate amount of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Over the past two years, spurred by the pandemic, AWS has supported organizations using the cloud to power new diagnostic technologies to tackle COVID-19. Looking beyond the pandemic, sustained diagnostic innovation is needed across a wide range of diseases, and the new diagnostics focus area is designed to address that. 

Hyrax Biosciences is an excellent example of a company using the cloud to bring diagnostic treatments to low- and middle-income countries. The South Africa-based bioinformatics software company is enabling the analysis of the COVID-19 genome to better understand and track progress of the virus in Africa. This allows national and international health authorities to monitor infections, quickly identify and understand new variants, and take rapid action. Now with support from the Health Equity Initiative, Hyrax is scaling their genomic sequencing technology to address other diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria—diseases that disproportionately affect individuals in developing countries.

“Next-generation sequencing data is both large scale and computation heavy. AWS allows us to process large amounts of raw genomic data in hours, not days or weeks. The faster we can identify the COVID-19 variants spreading in Africa, the more quickly we can understand the diversity of the disease across the continent and provide the right care to as many people as possible,” said Dr. Simon Travers, CEO of Hyrax Biosciences.

The new diagnostics pillar will be the Health Equity Initiative’s fourth area of focus. The other three focus areas are increasing access to health services, addressing social determinants of health, and using data to promote equitable and inclusive systems of care.

Democratizing access to care

Beyond diagnostics, we’ve also seen big steps forward in tackling inequalities in treatment and care. For example, Seattle-based startup Hurone AI is democratizing access to high-quality cancer prevention and care. The company is building artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications derived from data sources and algorithms from people of African descent to bridge the gaps of cancer care outcomes.

In Africa, oncologists are scarce. Estimates suggest that 10–20 oncologists in Rwanda serve a population of nearly 13 million. Hurone AI’s Gukiza app enables oncologists to provide remote patient monitoring and teleoncology throughout the country. Powered by AWS, the Gukiza app allows oncologists to communicate with patients using digital devices and text messages, increasing the ability to provide care to more patients in more places.

“AWS is helping us safely and securely expand access to cancer care in Rwanda. Using the cloud, we are able to scale the Gukiza app, address the African cancer data gap, and better support patients throughout their cancer treatment journey. By increasing treatment compliance and completion through Gukiza, we reduce costs from side effects-related hospitalizations and increase survival rates,” said Dr. Kingsley Ndoh, founder and chief strategist at Hurone AI.

Difficulties with accessing health services extend to primary medical care, as well. Emergency response personnel are frequently asked to provide support for nonurgent cases when a patient lacks transport or easy access to primary care. Arizona-based eVisit is helping emergency personnel offer telehealth services, giving underserved populations access to the care they need without requiring an emergency visit to the hospital. 

Access to the eVisit Virtual Care platform is available with a few taps on tablets carried by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to facilitate live, on-site, telehealth visits between patients who call 911 and emergency medicine physicians. 

“The cost and the ability to get to a point-of-care facility can be real challenges for vulnerable and underserved groups, and telehealth can play a critical role in bridging that gap. Our Virtual Care platform is designed to make it easy for emergency personnel to get patients the help they need and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital,” explains Juli Stover, chief strategy officer at eVisit. “Running our solution on AWS and the support from the Health Equity Initiative program have allowed us to scale, helping us to get more people the help they need, when they need it.”

It’s still day one

Great work is underway, but more work must be done to close the health equity gap. AWS says it will continue to support customers using the power of the cloud to tackle this important global challenge.

aws.amazon.com