Open innovation: Mobility paving the way for cloud in Africa

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The cloud revolution is transforming nearly every facet of information technology.

IT providers have moved from the testing and development stage that characterized a large share of cloud activity towards a much broader adoption and deployment of cloud solutions for clients in almost every industry from healthcare to banking or retail.

What has become very promising is cloud services — built on open technologies —  enabling clients to embrace cloud at a more affordable price point with  greater flexibility within a highly secure infrastructure.

This shift in cloud from development to commercialization is changing not just IT delivery models but overall business models as well, unleashing innovations with the force to reorder not only IT but nearly every industry.   Using OpenStack to build cloud is making it even easier for businesses to collaborate while ensuring that information is transferred securely.

Specifically, the emergence of cloud computing as a paradigm of development is unfolding new opportunities for emerging economies such as Africa to engage effectively in global markets.

The mobile centric nature of Africa makes this emerging economy well positioned to embrace technologies such as cloud computing.

According to a recent study by the World Bank, 97% of Africa’s population can be covered by mobile without the need for a government subsidy. The impact — out of 1 billion people in Africa, only an estimated 140 million use the internet, but more than 600 million use mobile phones.

As a result mobile adoption of application services such as mobile payment system which allows consumers to transfer money to each other via mobile phones, replacing cash transactions has become a norm. It’s this trend of innovative and open mobile services that are paving the way for cloud adoption, despite the lack of a solid IT infrastructure or broadband.

What is critical to drive increased innovation and cloud adoption in markets such as Africa is the need to offer services that are relevant to local consumers that address the needs of the economy.

Today, we are seeing the inroads cloud is making to reduce costs typically allocated to traditional IT infrastructure. Specifically, the SMB demand for lower costs, simplicity and more security for IT will continue to drive cloud momentum.  In fact, the global SMB cloud services market will hit $68B by 2014 according to an SMB Cloud Insights report.   Local technology providers should prepare to offer integration expertise to accommodate the demand.

In fact, at the PartnerWorld Leadership Conference this week, IBM is highlighting its collaboration with Business Partner Sproxil leveraging mobile and cloud technologies to help manufacturers view and analyze real time consumer data to detect and prevent drug counterfeiting. Consumers in emerging markets such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria can verify the authenticity of prescriptions in seconds with their own mobile phones anytime, anywhere securely through the cloud. Consumer feedback on product genuineness as well as other comments they may have about the product, allows companies to make prescription drugs safer for millions of people who live in areas where counterfeiting is rampant.

Managed services that build on an open platform  will be the key to success as IT and cloud integration complexity proliferates over multiple devices on multiple platforms that need integration covering multiple applications in multiple locations. None of this secure cross platform integration is possible without an open architecture.

For example, more sales teams will use mobile devices, running on different platform to input and access sales information on-the-go, and collaboration tools such as conference calling and web conferencing via mobile will enable faster and more strategic responses to real-time business needs. Beyond email and web browsing, mobile business apps allow off-site workers to maximize productivity on the go and better manage and even handle the dual demands of business and personal life.

And with this evolving business environment, security becomes more important than ever. As a result, businesses need to set clear policies that provide security for accessing cloud applications on mobile devices, and can do so without inhibiting the innovation enabled by cloud.

Cloud has proven itself an important tool to build out a business. With cloud, clients can put more emphasis on investing in revenue-generating applications that focus on understanding the individual customer and generate insight how they purchase goods and services in order to grow that relationship.

These leapfrog technologies such as cloud computing will make it possible for African businesses to operate more efficiently and nimbly; for governments to better serve their citizens; and for entrepreneurs to quickly build businesses and enter new markets.

And as these businesses grow, flexibility and scalability will be critical as the need for additional resources arise. Once the need for additional resources arises, IT managers will turn to cloud resources.

Those built on an open platform will define a secure collaborative success of cloud technology and ultimately will define the success of businesses and economies as a whole.

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