Posted by Hennie Loubser  
Regional General Manager for West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands

I recently attended CIO Africa Summit in Nairobi, where African ICT professionals gathered to discuss Africa’s IT opportunities and challenges. One of this year’s clear focus areas was the developing potential of the cloud.

Microsoft has invested heavily in cloud computing for over a decade — 70 percent of our 40,000 R&D engineers work on cloud based solutions, and this will rise. We already run some of Africa’s largest cloud services, like Hotmail and Windows LIVE.

The cloud needs bandwidth, and Africa is ready to deliver. Undersea telecommunications cable projects such as WACS, ACE and SEACOM are helping to drive better and more affordable bandwidth access. In addition, because Africa is free from the legacy of established and aging telecommunications infrastructures, it enjoys world-class GSM networks, and operators are making further investment to improve services.

Seizing the opportunities of the cloud brings African governments and businesses three core benefits:

Cost: With immediate access to the world’s latest ICT technologies, implementation costs can be reduced and IT budgets used more efficiently, as customers now pay for what they use.

Manageability:  The continent is a huge territory with some areas that are difficult to access. The cloud will increase the speed to market through simpler implementation, irrespective of geographic location, while maintaining high security standards.

Productivity: With access to the cloud available from any location, users will experience a number of productivity benefits, including use of the latest software, increased internet collaboration and instant self-provisioning.

In Ethiopia, for example, the government saved 80 percent in operating expenses by using a cloud-based solution from a Microsoft partner to support the roll-out of over 250,000 laptops to schools. 

Before businesses in Africa can embrace the cloud – the following needs to be considered: 

Companies should use an IT maturity model and fully assess their IT capabilities. 

Thereafter, the first step should be the outsourcing of base capabilities, such as messaging, for which Microsoft offers an off the shelf solution.

In creating an effective ICT environment and working with companies such as Microsoft, Africa is perfectly placed to exploit the economic and social opportunities of the cloud.  Microsoft wants to make the cloud a reality in Africa.  We will continue to help the citizens of west, east and central Africa to implement technology that achieves results. To this end, we are partnering with businesses, governments and developers on the cloud journey into Africa.