Unlocking Africa’s Tech Innovation via Cloud Computing


Nigeria, among other African countries, is making giant stride in the area of technology innovation through cloud computing which is expected to unlock Africa’s potential, writes Emma Okonji

Digitalisation is permeating every industry with cloud computing rapidly becoming an essential component of business transformation in Nigeria and Africa. Powered by the energy so infused on the continent, there is a focus on consolidation and persistence as organisations drive digital transformation forward and improve the quality of information and communications technology (ICT) services. The speed of development in each region of sub-Saharan Africa is astounding, with Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda making the waves in Africa. In the area of investment in Africa’s ICT development, Oracle has been present in Africa for the last 30 years and has been investing heavily in the continent from the very beginning. It is investing in the human capital across African countries where it does business in order to address the growing ICT skills gap in those regions.


Investment in African ICT

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), overall spending on ICT in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) is set to grow 2.5 per cent year on year in 2019 to reach $213 billion. Group Vice President and Regional Managing Director for the META region, Jyoti Lalchandani, added that progressively more organisations experiment with emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive innovation and improve their customer experience. He said the most important task facing the region’s decision makers is the development of an effective digital transformation platform that can sustain and scale business operations.

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) on the continent have the cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies, knowing very well that without automation they will either be out of business, or be steering an organisation with flawed reporting. The ability to harvest, store and sort big data is therefore a critical element of business competitiveness.

Vice President for sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle, Andrew Sordam, in a statement, said Oracle and other technology organisations operating in Africa are contributing meaningfully towards the roadmaps of innovation and transformation. “Organisations across the continent are embarking on innovative digital transformation initiatives which is incredibly exciting, being able to participate in projects that are driving the continent forward in ways we can only imagine.

ICT is a large contributor to African society, with mobile connectivity enabling many enterprises to reach their customers like never before. Mobile and digital capabilities have given companies across the board new tactical strategies, such as fintechs using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to get a leg-up on traditional banks,” Sordam said.
According to him, companies in Africa can emerge from a situation where they have had more rudimentary applications and business processes to where they have unleashed the power of cloud technologies which makes it easier and far more efficient to automate services.


Cloud technology as enabler

Business leaders in Africa are seeing first-hand how the cloud is an enabler for innovation. Although organisations are progressively seeing an increase in movement to the cloud, a smart bet would be on many organisations going the route of cloud at customer. Oracle Cloud at Customer is designed to enable organisations to remove one of the biggest obstacles to cloud adoption—data privacy concerns related to where the data is stored.

According to Sordam, “In our experience, while organisations are eager to move their enterprise workloads to the public cloud, many have been constrained by business, legislative and regulatory requirements that have prevented them from being able to adopt the technology. Oracle Cloud at Customer provides organisations with choice regarding where their data and applications reside and a natural path to eventually, and easily, move business critical applications to the public cloud.

“On the continent there is no illusion about the importance of putting in place foundational infrastructure, and various industries are consolidating in order to tap into the power of automation, AI, machine learning and more. A traditional brick-and-mortar operation can transform into a customer-focussed, smart, reactive, relevant enterprise.”

He said Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) partnered Oracle in order to solve problems that had hampered the country’s revenue collection.

“A cumbersome and painful tax filing system meant the compliance rate was terribly low. The KRA’s vision is commitment to the concept of customer centricity. The implementation and rollout of iTax powered by Oracle Service Cloud, Policy Automation, Social Cloud and Marketing Cloud has brought the authority that much closer to achieving this. The end result is collecting more revenue to drive the development of the country, while also empowering its staff to serve customers in a digital era,” Sordam added.


Addressing skills shortage

Sordam is of the view that digital transformation meant there was need for a coordinated approach to addressing the skills shortage as well as the risks that technological disruption is causing, such as cybersecurity.

“We have put in place numerous initiatives to help address this challenge, with programmes across sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and more. In 2017, Oracle Academy and The Global Peace Foundation of Kenya signed an agreement that will allow Oracle academy to support 24 public high schools in Kenya. As part of this, Oracle will train 180 teachers over three years to start teaching the Oracle Academy Java and Database courses. Driving the focus towards closing the skills gap is vital for big technology companies such as Oracle,” he said.

Similarly in Nigeria, Oracle Academy has announced a partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education, where the ministry will introduce the Oracle Academy computer science curriculum across 10,000 academic institutions, reaching 1.5 million students. To complement this, the Academy will facilitate the upskilling of 4,000 educators.
“In South Africa, our Oracle Graduate Leadership Programme, launched in 2014, helps youth develop specialised Information Technology (IT) skills required to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution. The programme has delivered eighty-four graduates to date and creates a future skills pipeline for Oracle and its partner community in the region,” he said.


Cloud on ground

Optimistic about how cloud on ground technology can unlock Africa’s potential and technology innovation, the Managing Director, Rack Centre, Mr. Tunde Coker, at a recent technology event in Lagos, explained that investment in cloud on ground, which is an acronym for easy access to ubiquitous cloud, would enhance the chances of unlocking Africa’s technology innovation, especially among technology start-ups.

“We have sufficient collocation facilities and capacities and we will be delighted to collocate the telecoms operators on our cloud on ground facilities. What we need do is to expand the capacity to accommodate colocation of telcos. We are carrier neutral and any telco could come to our centre to collocate. Our facility do not encourage competition among the telcos who will want to collocate on our facilities. Rather than the telcos building data expansion facilities, they can actually collocate on our facilities, bearing in mind that they will not need to worry about the challenges of connectivity and colocation, and this will help them focus on their core business. We have the facilities that will make telcos to expand and operate more efficiently,” Coker said.

Speaking on the importance of cloud on ground, Coker said the technology is a dedicated facility that offers cloud services to customers.

“With cloud on ground, we are fully ready to host data of various organisations in our facilities, delivering services at the right pricing with better quality performance, because our services offer very little latency period.

“We have millions of SMEs and technology start-ups in the country and what we are bringing with cloud on ground is to develop SMEs and start-ups and grow their services in Nigeria. Our cloud on ground allows small businesses to pay as they grow, without the need to buy the entire bundle from the beginning of the business. Cloud on ground gives international and local player the confidence to host their data within Nigeria, without any cause for concern. It gives access to international business and local service delivery. So the key factor for cloud on ground is that the data must be hosted in Nigeria at the Rack Centre facilities,” Coker said.


Cloud for improved security

Discussing cloud as a technology for improved security, efficiency and regulatory compliance, the Managing Director Oracle Nigeria, Mr. Adebayo Sanni, said organisations are struggling to cope with the increasing sophistication of today’s threat landscape. Zero-day exploits are on the rise and insider attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent, requiring more refined analysis and real-time remediation.

He, however, said the new cloud technology can ingest massive amounts of operational and security telemetry, analyse it in real time using purpose-built machine learning and react to findings using automation.

Sanni said Oracle and KPMG recently published the Cloud Threat Report; a report that explores from the depth of the trenches what security challenges are being faced across the globe; how they are responding to these security challenges and what technology solutions are enabling them to resolve these threats.

In addressing cybersecurity challenges, Sanni said data breaches that result in confidential data being compromised, whether it is just released to the general public or used for more malicious purposes, have become almost a daily occurrence, making cybersecurity a non-negotiable for organisations. This includes both educational awareness and the necessary hardware or software tools.

According to him, the increasing complexity of emerging technologies and advances in hacking practices mean that enterprises and their legacy networks, often built with kit bought from multiple vendors at the cheapest price at auction, by a procurement team over the years, are no longer safe.

“Companies are responding through several ways, including hiring CEOs who come from the cybersecurity space, as they know how to manage risk, and speeding up their migration to the cloud – with mature users understanding that cloud computing provides better security than on-premise environments.

He said in addition to the right to access, right to erasure and data portability, one of the key legislative requirements of various data privacy laws, is to be able to provide any individual with every piece of data an organisation holds on them, including all data records and any activity logs that may be stored.
This, he said, places the focus firmly on good data management, with the benefits being increased security and operational efficiency, to improved customer service.

“By turning to cloud computing at the infrastructure, platform and software level, businesses gain the ability to extract, collate and analyse data at incredible volumes and speed, even from across previously disparate systems, to ensure compliance.

“In a growing number of countries, data privacy regulation now stipulates where data must be stored, presenting organisations that want to use public cloud services with a challenge. However, the availability of innovative managed on-premise solutions now allows customers to move their workloads to the cloud while keeping critical information and applications within their own data centres,” Sanni said.

In the areas of education and automation, Sanni explained that with security at the core of a modern organisation, good governance for managing systems and people effectively is critical; strong authentication and encryption becomes a necessity. Backup, archiving and storage helps to further protect against ransomware, and mobile device management becomes an instrumental means of controlling information at the edge. According to him, if all these are effectively adhered to, Nigeria and the rest of Africa, would be better positioned to unlock technology innovation, using cloud computing, while insisting that by 2025, 80 per cent of cloud operations risk will give way entirely, and a higher degree of intelligent automation will permeate the cloud platform.