[Interview] Dennis De Weerd, CEO, Incentro Africa

Dennis De Weerd is the CEO at Incentro Africa, an IT service provider delivering custom build cloud-based software solutions for the European and African market.

Kindly introduce Incentro

Incentro is an IT services provider with offices in the Netherlands, Spain and Kenya. Incentro Africa delivers high-quality custom build cloud-based software solutions for the European and African market. With Dutch development standards and close collaboration with the Fair Trade Software Foundation, we deliver software solutions that both impact our customers and staff. We are founded on the ambitions to make CSR more core of what we do and therefore we always look to apply our unique skills to build software solutions that contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

As the only Google Premier Partner in the region we support organizations across the African continent to work effectively from wherever they are. Especially relevant these days. We do this by deploying Cloud-based solutions like Google Workspace, Chromebooks and Cloud infrastructure. From migration from local data centers to Cloud to the development of cloud-native applications, Google Cloud is our tool of choice and we are incredibly proud to call ourselves the only Work transformation enterprise specialist on the continent.

The demand for cloud services is growing rapidly in Africa. How would you describe this growth?

With increasing connectivity and availability of reliable and cheap internet across the continent, it has changed the way people work. Cloud is a leapfrog technology, comparable to the introduction of the mobile phone and we are just at the beginning of it. Especially now the pandemic we’ve seen a major uptake in the use of cloud-based solutions, by even the most traditional companies.

Let me give you some examples to demonstrate what I’m talking about:  For instance, we migrated the Central Bank of West African States to Google Cloud based productivity suite Workspace in less than a week when a lockdown was looming. From working with traditional infrastructure from a central office to a highly secure cloud-based productivity suite that allowed their staff to work from home and boost their productivity with easy to use tools. So there are a few drivers here that boosted the uptake, but it was already unavoidable that this new way of working is the standard. Let me give you another one. Consider your startup, you want to offer a new service in a traditional industry. Let’s say you are a fintech, offering quick and reliable credit scores for smallholder farmers.

Are you going to invest and buy a server, even when you don’t have customers yet and you are stressed for funding? Are you going to create extensive scoring algorithms or prefer to train an AI model? Right, you’d choose to go for a cloud-based solution that offers you a pay per use model, is available right away, limitlessly scalable and offers all the great technology with the click of a button. But it’s not only for start-ups. Let say you are a large enterprise running SAP on your on premise infrastructure. You need to procure the hardware and software, maintain the services and facility and know-how to support your staff and keep the environments secure. Let’s say you are a large retailer, selling through stores and online. You’d need to provision your hardware for the projected performance you need for multiple years and take peak loads into account. For instance for black Friday or back to school campaigns. But most of the time the hardware is just sitting there ideally, no one is buying during the night time hours. Now put this in the cloud, you just pay for what you use, optimize to make sure you don’t use any resources at night and scale to manage that peak load on black Friday. 

These are just a few examples of the power of the cloud. So the trend we’ve seen in the US and Europe can be seen in Africa as well. It’s a leapfrog technology that allows organisations to deliver high performance as little costs and overhead. It keeps organisations lean and those companies that understand this, and of course it is mostly digital natives, are able to disrupt traditional markets and industries by delighting customers with new services. Completely changing the game and leaving big, slow enterprises behind.

African cloud computing market is generating a lot of interest and deals. Players like Incentro are positioning themselves for the boom in data services on the continent. What does this mean for companies like yours?

For us it means we are substantially investing in technical knowledge and growing our team of certified Cloud consultants rapidly so we are ready when it does. It’s good to understand that when we started in Kenya there were no certified Google Cloud Architects in the whole country, so in order to offer this service, we need to train and certify talented technical consultants to do this work. 

But it is not only about being able to do the work, it’s also important to educate the market. To date, most companies have no cloud strategy and there’s a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation of local regulations and a general lack of knowledge of cloud. So we invest heavily in the growth of not only our technical team but also a commercial team that is able to educate the market in the value proposition of cloud services.

Though we started early we see things are moving now. When we started our cloud proposition over 2 years ago, there was little demand, but the pandemic has accelerated this in many cases, though we expect the big uptake to take place from late 2021 and 2022. It is only when these digital strategies start to include cloud strategy and procurement teams understand how to procure for cloud that this will happen. We have seen this explosive, accelerating uptake in cloud services in the European market where the cloud market is projected to triple from >$25B in 2018 to <$75B in 2026.

Why is there a need for African businesses to migrate to the cloud?

It depends on the organisation. As mentioned in my previous examples there are different motivations for the different companies, but overall we see most of our customers make the move because it is more secure, scalable and more affordable. Large enterprises unburden their IT department from maintaining infrastructure and enable them to contribute to business goals. For startups, it’s a cheap and convenient way to get started and use amazing technology that is only available on the Cloud.

What are some of your success stories as Incentro?

Last year, we received a call from the Central Bank of West African States, responsible for the economy of 8 countries in West Africa. Their traditional infrastructure didn’t allow them to work from home and with a pending lockdown, they needed a solution, quick. We’ve been able to migrate and onboard them in less than a week’s time. This story even made it to Forbes Africa magazine and we are incredibly proud to have been the ones that made this happen. 

Another story we are very proud of is the one of Text Book Centre. They had been conflicted between choosing from renewing their on-premise hardware or choosing to go to cloud to run their company critically software. When the pandemic hit, the choice became obvious. Getting hardware in, sending people to maintain your data center, deliver high performance for a distributed workforce, being scalable (up and down) in uncertain times. All no brainers to choose for cloud over on-premise. Of course it is scary to take that leap and transition your core systems to Cloud.

“This was the most seamless digital transition I have experienced.”- Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre told us.

What makes your services stand out?

In the market, we sadly see a lot of resellers. Just pushing licences, without understanding the product or service they are offering. Incentro has 25+ years of experience as IT consultants and it’s in our nature. We focus on high-quality services, delivered by trained and certified professionals. From sales, through technical consultants to our 24/7 support team. We understand that Workspace and Cloud services are just tools that help your business to succeed. But only when applied well. Therefore we invest a lot in understanding our clients and coming up with tailor-made workshops, training and change management programs, etc. Adoption is key for us. We use our extensive experience to deliver this unique service to our customers, which are currently in 26 countries in Africa. By being the only Google Premier Partner in East Africa and the only Work transformation enterprise specialists on the continent we are awarded by Google for the impact we make on our clients. 

When you receive such amazing feedback after migration, you can only be very proud of your team that made this possible.

Who are some of your cloud partners and which customers you work with?

We work exclusively with Google Cloud. Their global infrastructure, completely designed and owned by Google has no equal. Did you know that ⅓ of all internet traffic flows through the Google network? Where other cloud providers are a patchwork of different data centres and ISP’s, each Google data centre is designed and built by Google to deliver great performance. Together with very competitive prices, unique services and product offerings, we decided that Google Cloud is our tool of choice and invest heavily in understanding every detail and ability of it. Google is one of the major 3 global Cloud providers. Though it might be the best-kept secret in the African market, for now. 

Any latest news from your company?

In December our technical team in Kenya worked amazingly hard to build a platform for Dutch people to celebrate New Year’s Eve from home. With 250+ artists joining in by offering live streams we have been able to reach +650k people that joined in on new year’s eve to celebrate New Year together. Built in about 3.5 weeks by a small team, of course using Google Cloud. Intense, but fun and very rewarding to work on.

www.incentro.com/en-ke/

Incentro has these vacancies:

[Vacancy] Incentro is looking for a Workspace Support Agent in Nairobi

[Vacancy] Incentro is looking for a Mid-level Google Cloud specialist in Nairobi

[Poste vacant] Incentro recherche un agent de support pour l’espace de travail à Nairobi

[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

[Kenya] Safaricom to accelerate cloud adoption in with Amazon Web Services

Safaricom has announced a strategic agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will see the Telco become a reseller of AWS services.

Safaricom has announced a strategic agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will see the Telco become a reseller of AWS services.

The agreement is designed to accelerate Safaricom’s internal IT transformation, lower costs and provide it with a blueprint and skilled resources to assist customers with their journey to the cloud.

“We chose to partner with AWS because it offers customers the broadest and deepest cloud platform, overall commitment to security excellence, and a strong culture of customer obsession. This agreement will allow us to accelerate our efforts to enable digital transformation in Kenya,” said Michael Joseph, Chief Executive Officer, Safaricom.

In addition, Safaricom will be able to offer AWS services to East-African customers, allowing businesses of all sizes to quickly get started on AWS cloud and accelerate innovation.

Safaricom also announced the attainment of Advanced Consulting Partner status in the AWS Partner Network (APN), becoming one of the first APN members in East Africa. The APN is the global partner program for technology and consulting businesses who leverage AWS to build solutions and services for customers.

The APN helps companies build, market, and sell their AWS offerings by providing valuable business, technical, and marketing support. This achievement recognizes the skills, knowledge and experience in AWS cloud services that the Safaricom PLC team has gained.

Safaricom’s announcement to work with AWS has been met with interest by customers, with enterprises, startups, and government agencies expressing a desire to use the partnership to build their cloud strategy.

www.safaricom.co.ke

[Kenya] CloudHop inks deal with Nasdaq Governance Solutions to provide clients with solution that enhances corporate governance

Cloud solutions provider in Kenya, CloudHop, has partnered with Nasdaq Governance Solutions, a business of Nasdaq Inc. to provide its clients in Eastern Africa with access to Nasdaq Boardvantage®, a board portal and collaboration software solution.

Nasdaq Boardvantage allows boards and leadership teams to work together more efficiently, productively, and strategically.

For the corporate secretary, general counsel and meeting administrators, the platform offers an exceptionally flexible, secure and user-friendly interface to help increase productivity during and in between meetings.

For board directors and senior executives, the solution helps manage critical tasks inside and outside the boardroom with biometric ID sign-on, intuitive notification, and collaboration tools.

Nasdaq built the platform with industry-standard encryption and multi-factor authentication to protect a user’s most sensitive information.

“We pride ourselves in helping our customers put smart to work with the best of breed applications. We are therefore delighted to be partnering with Nasdaq on this groundbreaking solution that will without doubt transform how corporates manage their corporate governance function,” said Mr Keval Shah, Co-CEO, Cloudhop.

“We are encouraged by the demand across East Africa for our board portal and collaboration technology and are pleased to partner with CloudHop to engage with governance professionals in the region who are seeking new ways to enhance their corporate governance practices,” said Mr Mike Bartels, President, Nasdaq Governance Solutions.

Nasdaq Boardvantage is recognized as a 2019 American Business Awards Bronze Stevie Winner for Sales & Customer Service; 2018 American Business Awards Gold Stevie Award Winner for Best New Product of the Year, Bronze Stevie Award Winner for Software Customer Service Department of the Year, and Bronze Stevie Award Winner for Front-Line Customer Service Team of the Year; 2018 RiskTech 100 Category Winner for Operational Risk & GRC; and 2018 6th Annual Best in Biz Awards International Winner.

www.cloudhop.it

www.nasdaq.com

[Kenya] KETRACTO digitizes procurement processes with SAP Ariba Cloud

In a bid to improve its operations and in compliance with presidential directive and government requirements, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited, KETRACO, has digitized its procurement processes via an e-procurement platform powered by SAP Ariba Cloud. 

This second phase of an end-to-end automation of tendering, supplier management and contracts process will see tenders and quotations submitted and processed online for efficiency, accountability and transparency. This process is 100% Paperless.

Open and secret tenders, Request for Proposals (RFP) and Request for Quotations (RFQ) will be advertised through the government portals, KETRACO websites and in newspapers. All interested Bidders/ Suppliers will be required to submit their documentation online. The tenders will then be received, evaluated and awarded online.

In the first phase of the implementation that went live in April this year, the company automated ‘procure to pay’ operations by on boarding suppliers to the SAP Ariba network to start transacting electronically. Purchase Requests, Local Purchase Orders, invoices and payment of goods/ services were processed online in the ‘procure to pay’ operation.

Speaking during the go live event, KETRACO’s Managing Director FCPA Fernandes Barasa noted that over 260 suppliers have registered on the Ariba network and continue to transact with KETRACO in a paperless environment for Purchase order and invoice submission and processing and are ready to move the entire tendering process.

‘’Supplier registration and qualification has now been made available online. The youth and the special groups will be submitting their registration applications online and will be on boarded immediately. ‘’ He noted.

This automation has been made possible by SAP Ariba, a leading global provider of collaborative business commerce solutions which allows suppliers to easily extend their back-end systems and processes to benefit from electronic transactions.

Pedro Guerreiro, Managing Director for SAP Central Africa adds, “Two years ago Kenya’s leading electricity transmission company implemented SAP’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System and shortly after, won Gold at the SAP Quality Awards. Today, we are thrilled to yet again be a part of Ketraco’s continued digital transformation journey with the adoption of our Ariba e-procurement software solutions.  By streamlining business operations and connecting to Ariba’s +4.2 million companies, Ketraco has established a solid foundation for tomorrow’s Intelligent Enterprise, pointing to a bright and innovative future for the organisation, its staff and customers.”

www.ketraco.co.ke

www.sap.com

[Column] David Bunei: Next-generation cloud eliminates pain points for Kenyan business

In addition to experiencing our new brand look in person, business leaders who attended the recent Oracle Modern Cloud Day in Nairobi had the opportunity to experience the full potential unlocked by cloud-embedded technology.

On a greater societal level, cloud technologies are at the heart of concepts like smart or green cities where available resources are optimized and systems integrated for the benefit of all citizens. Businesses too can achieve unprecedented all-round efficiency enabled by cloud services. The recent Cloud Day event in Kenya was an opportunity for us to showcase Oracle’s latest innovation across cloud applications and cloud infrastructure.

With a 30-year presence in, and commitment to, Africa, Oracle is bringing these, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) enriched innovations to Kenya as part of their global rollout. Companies that have already invested in previous generations of the technology will automatically receive the upgrades through patches. For all Kenyan organisations, though – whether already Oracle customers or not – Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud infrastructure and the new features that use it as their foundation, will help prepare an agile, secure and cost effective infrastructure that will allow the business to consistently innovate and grow in the digital economy.

Cloud can help reduce costs

One of the key challenges facing Kenyan businesses is the cost of doing business. Although cloud adoption is considered an IT strategy to reduce expenses, it has overarching repercussions for any business, especially in the digital age. A shift to cloud liberates companies from tech refresh cycles and CAPEX investment to support their on-premise systems. Whether transitioning critical or non-essential applications to the cloud, Oracle customers pay only for resources that are consumed.

More importantly, cloud-based systems are especially beneficial for companies operating in, or expanding beyond, Kenyan borders. In the case of Oracle, customers enjoy consistent pricing in all regions, so cross-border expansion does not lead to any cost increases. This way, customers can access world-class cloud services and their own fully integrated enterprise management systems no matter where their market aspirations take them. The expansion of the Oracle Universal Cloud Credits system announced at OpenWorld 2019, also enables businesses to further optimise their operational expenditure.

Organisations are often hesitant to shift to cloud given their use of business systems and technologies from various providers. Apart from the complication of wholesale data transfer, there is the cost associated with such an undertaking. Strategic partnerships are becoming more common as cloud enters its next stage, helping to streamline the process. Having already announced a cloud interoperability partnership with Microsoft in June, three months later, Oracle OpenWorld revealed a partnership with VMware, where customers can now more easily move and run VMware environments on Oracle Cloud.

Creating data-driven customer centricity

As elsewhere, data security remains a key concern for Kenyan businesses, along with the use of data to enhance the customer experience. Embedded in next-generation cloud services, automation, AI and ML can be leveraged to mine insights that will improve time to market and provide greater predictability in delivering the right customer services at the right time. Already, Oracle has partnered with the Kenya Revenue Authority to provide a more responsive and relevant service to their customers, translating into better brand reputation.

One final point to make is that cloud migration is an ongoing journey, for our customers and Oracle itself. One of the major announcements at OpenWorld was Oracle’s plans to build a cloud region in South Africa. New Oracle Cloud regions are continually being launched – one every 23 days over the next 15 months or so – and our relationship with Microsoft opens the door to interconnecting with Azure data centres in more areas too.

Change takes time. While Oracle and other global players increase their investment in Africa, business decision-makers – who have expressed their enthusiasm about cloud’s potential – should seize every refresh opportunity at their organisation to explore what cloud solutions can do to introduce immediate business value.

David Bunei is the Managing Director for Oracle Kenya.

[Kenya] Oracle showcases its Cloud and Artificial Intelligence technology solutions

Oracle recently showcased its latest Cloud led digital solutions to top business and government leaders at the International Modern Business event in Nairobi. This according to the company is in line with its sustained commitment to help Kenya achieve its strategic socio-economic objectives as identified by the country’s Vision 2030 framework,

“Digital transformation is a key priority for Kenya’s public and private sector entities as organisations look to deliver transparent citizen services; drive business growth with high ROI; introduce new products and deliver an exceptional customer experience in a highly mobile and digital economy of the future”, said David Bunei, Managing Director of Oracle Kenya.

“At Oracle, we have delivered an incredible amount of innovation to our customers in Kenya including the Oracle Autonomous Database, AI embedded Business Applications and the Generation 2 cloud infrastructure.”

“The International Modern Business event is an opportunity for us to highlight the true impact of these technologies and showcase how Kenyan organisations can unlock unprecedented growth with cloud led digital transformation”, added David.

Oracle has recently announced plans to launch 20 new Oracle Cloud regions by the end of 2020, for a total of 36 Oracle Cloud Infrastructure regions. South Africa will host one of these cloud regions to support seamless cloud transition for customers across the African continent. Oracle has also recently unveiled the world’s first Autonomous Operating System; AI Voice for the enterprise and the world’s fastest database machine.

www.oracle.com

[Column] Toney Wabela: Technological disruption looming for Africa’s data network market

Sometimes a disruptive technology can loiter for a while, before it changes everything. Yet change it will bring, because nothing and no one can defy gravity. So it is, I believe, with the new generation of open compute infrastructure.

For, as the world creates data, there’s an equal demand for resources to store, process and make sense from this data to drive business value. 

All the thousands of ledgers that used to be created manually now generate legions of data threads, expanded by ever more automation and cross-relationships, driving further data and data processes. Our data revolution has created new data flows, again, from our communication, seeing global hyperscale companies create hundreds of thousands of square metres of data centres to hold and process their millions of users’ data.

These data centres need power to run the servers, cooling systems and security systems, maintain an optimal ambient temperature, and keep the air dust-free. And this power has been creating a galloping electricity bill in recent years, to such an extent that hyperscalers started investing in R&D to design more energy efficient computing infrastructure. 

Two years of design engineering gave birth to the Open Compute Project (OCP), a radical and bold move by leading hyperscalers to create non-proprietary data centre hardware that achieved a significant milestone in energy efficiency and reduced total cost of ownership. This move has been well received by other players in the technology innovation space, with leading chip and switch makers joining OCP. More than 1,000 globally leading hardware engineers have since contributed to and continue to make improvements to these free, state-of-the-art blueprints for data centre infrastructure. 

And thus, in one step, hardware has been added to the open source revolution that brought the world software from Joomla to Sugar and Linux to Steam as ever-expanding communities of technical contributors.

The chase could not be more timely, with OCP evolving just as cloud computing has been moving into a new gear. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market has been rising for the last 20 years, beginning with customer relationship management services, and steadily claiming ever more software space, from mailing lists to payroll, book-keeping to word processing.

With each new SaaS offering, the cloud grows bigger, and the need for data centres greater. 

Yet as a next wave of disruptive technology, OCP has barely appeared on the radar.

Using OCP equipment, versus the kit available from the world’s top brand names, has thus far demonstrated a significant reduction in the total cost of ownership and maintenance of data centre infrastructure. We have been able to register savings of over 40 per cent in implementation as well as licensing costs. 

Now that’s a big enough difference to change equations everywhere, but for companies like ours, working to effect a technology revolution in Africa, that’s akin to a beacon in the dark. The costs of equipping data centres have almost been halved, putting these centres within the reach of many small and medium sized businesses, as well as offering our nations’ largest companies and government, an opportunity to significantly reduce their operating expenditures attributed to data centre maintenance.

At my own company, we have seized this opportunity, becoming the first Cloud services provider in Africa to introduce OCP hardware at the East Africa Data Centre, one of the largest data centres in the continent which has been set up in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. 

This OCP infrastructure is currently the backbone of our innovative SaaS solutions which includes iLearn, a learning management system for state primary schools that has been designed, developed and tested in collaboration with professional Kenyan teachers, with the digital learning content vetted and approved by the government. This interactive learner centred platform can be accessed by teachers and pupils from any part of the country through a smartphone, tablet or laptop, thereby proliferating digital literacy in the country. 

We are also using this OCP infrastructure to power our private, public and hybrid cloud services. 

Thus, by using data centre infrastructure that is cost efficient all the time as our foundation, we have created an entire pyramid of more accessible and locally relevant services and software for our African clients.

In short, from the Open Compute Project we have initiated a programme to open computing services to businesses throughout Africa, encompassing organisations that could never have stepped so quickly or so lightly into the cloud were it’s still on offer only at more than double the price.

We believe that the capacity for OCP to play its part in bridging the digital divide has been remarkably overlooked until now.

But we also see this technology as a disruptor that the hardware industry and the global cloud services providers have barely understood, as yet. For, with hundreds of our finest hardware engineers engaged in constantly upgrading OCP designs, and the resulting infrastructure out-competing proprietary infrastructure at a fraction of the price, it can only be so long before data centres make OCP the global standard, forcing proprietary brands to reassess their unique selling points.

For Africa, the move to OCP and the opening of the cloud to hundreds of thousands of companies and millions of citizens, cannot come soon enough. That’s why we have made it begin. OCP is no doubt the future in data centre infrastructure, just as SaaS became the present in software.

Toney Webala is the Co-Founder and CTO at Atlancis Technologies 

[Column] Flora Kangethe: Customer service to backend – How cloud-based AI enables modernisation of business

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is proving to be a key technology in delivering improved customer experience and exceeding customer expectations. It is also a highly effective way for countries to achieve their economic growth and sustainability objectives.

In Kenya, emerging digital technologies are considered a significant part of national development plans, and have enjoyed significant support from the country’s leaders. This has led to the introduction of a host of development initiatives that leverage the potential of the latest cloud technologies that are powered by machine learning.

Possibly the most notable early adopter of AI in Kenya is the Kenyan government itself, which is also one of the top performers in Africa as per the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019. According to the report, it’s estimated that AI will add US$15 trillion to the global economy by 2030. However, the report findings also reveal that governments in the Global North are still better positioned to reap the benefits of AI than their southern counterparts. This poses a risk to countries in the Global South as they may not be fully prepared to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As noted in the Readiness Index 2019 report, “AI has the power to transform the way governments around the world deliver public services. In turn, this could greatly improve citizens’ experiences of government. Governments are already implementing AI in their operations and service delivery, to improve efficiency, save time and money, and deliver better quality public services.”

As one example of their efforts to improve the local socio-economic direction of the country, the Kenyan government has committed to using AI to help assess citizens’ eligibility for affordable housing. The AI technology will assist in allocating 500,000 new affordable homes by checking applicants’ credit histories and smartphone wallet transaction history sourced through the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB).

The government is also making use of AI technology to verify and authenticate voters during election campaigns. Biometric technology was used by the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) to ensure that votes were cast only after fingerprint and photo authentication.

Oracle is the first organisation to take AI even further by embedding this technology in its cloud applications. By leveraging AI organisations can unlock significant value not only for their customers but for themselves in the form of greater operational efficiencies and cost savings.

AI in customer service

A best practise AI use case is in customer service. When used in this area of the business, chatbots can reduce the cost to serve customers, while improving the response time, consistency and quality of customer interactions. Similar benefits arise when the chatbot is customer-facing or when used by agents themselves to augment their knowledge.

Oracle recently announced the extended and evolved availability of its AI-trained Oracle Digital Assistant. Now users can use voice commands to communicate with their Oracle enterprise applications to drive desired actions and outcomes. The technology enriches the user experience with conversational AI, simplifying interactions and improving productivity.

This feature has already been of exceptional importance to the international organisation, Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), who employ blind people for a wide range of jobs – from assembly to various customer service and office roles. Switching to Oracle Cloud Applications, the organisation aims to improve product quality and accuracy around factors such as shipment status and inventory.

Since implementing the new Oracle Cloud Applications with Oracle Digital Assistant, IBVI has been able to create new independent roles (no sighted assistance required, where one sighted person for every four blind employees was required previously) in customer service, human resources, and financial management.

It’s not just about chatbots: Automation across both sales and marketing processes can improve quote-to-cash turnaround times and reduce administrative workloads while allowing for a level of personalised messaging to customers that were previously unachievable. As these examples attest, AI-embedded cloud systems have the power to deliver value whether as the mechanism for customer interaction (as in the case of chatbots) or in support of those responsible for it.

AI in HR

For Kenya – the highest-ranked African nation on the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019 – to stay ahead of the AI curb, the focus needs to be shifted to the adoption of cloud-based business systems that embed the technology in the application itself, unlocking automation capabilities by default.

HR is one such example, where the use of AI to understand and automate processes, can lead to significant efficiency gains. It can be used to identify staff who may be thinking about leaving or to recommend learning paths, thereby reducing employee attrition.

In the world of procurement, the use of AI within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can identify deviations from compliance requirements in contracting, enforce approval processes, and automate requisition through invoice matching and payment. The automation of these processes allows organisations to reliably produce outcomes while enabling their employees to focus on tasks that deliver more strategic value to the organisation.

Much has been made of the abilities of AI to bring significant value to the customer – and rightly so. AI can produce repeatable, scalable, and reliable outcomes for customers, improving their overall experience. However, AI can also deliver enormous efficiency through various lines of business and across roles, creating a more streamlined organisation that is more able to focus on creating client value.

Flora Kangetheis the Applications Sales Director, Oracle Kenya

Kenyan cloud services company Atlancis Technologies becomes the first to adopt OCP in Africa

 Atlancis Technologies, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, is the first ICT services provider in Africa to embrace OCP.

The company, which specializes in delivering ecosystem-transforming ICT solutions, has adopted open technology for its industry Cloud platforms, branded Servannah.

The founders of AtlancisToney Webala and Daniel Njuguna had been closely following the deployment of OCP and its benefits to global hyper-scale companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft to deliver value, optimised performance, total and rapid scalability and ultimately competitive advantage. In developing scalable delivery of industry solutions they were excited about the opportunity to leverage these proven, efficient technologies in Kenya and across Africa.

In partnership with Vesper Technologies, an OCP Community member based in the UK, Atlancis were able to deploy their first fully self-service cloud instance. Vesper delivered a full-stack solution configured with Software Defined Storage (from Ceph) and Software Defined Networking (from Cumulus Networks), providing an environment built for automation and scalability. The initial roll-out included 27 nodes, 1080 Core’s, 5TB RAM, 2.4 Petabytes storage and high performance 100GB Top-of-Rack switching with redundant 25G links to each node.

Philip Kaye from Vesper Technologies commented, “Vesper are delighted to work with Atlancis, who are an extremely technical and forward-thinking company. We look forward to continuing to work with the team as their cloud platform expands across Kenya and Africa.”

“The Open Compute Project is the basis of our go-to-market strategies for transforming target industry ecosystems globally” said Dan Njuguna, Co-Founder and CEO of Atlancis; he continued, “our hardware design, inspired by OCP, gives incredible flexibility and scalability to allow us to respond to demand in the enormous markets we operate in, and to move quickly into new markets, be they industries or geographical.”

Atlancis sees several additional benefits to deploying OCP, among them, building and maintaining open technology in-country, using crowd-sourced local resources. To this end, Atlancis has been working with local Universities across Kenya to help develop talent that can compete in supporting the ecosystem needs of tomorrow with a special Outlining further OCP deployments in Africa, Njuguna said, “Our OCP-based Servannah Cloud solutions have been deployed in the Public Sector (“Huduma”) and Education (“iLearn”), as we develop further industries including Healthcare, Agriculture and Transport.”

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