During IGF 2010 Workshop 136, a proposal was made to convene a multistakeholder workshop for African countries interested in cloud computing to address the unique challenges of developing the understanding and confidence to embrace this technology. While there is no question that the ‘cloud’ represents a major step up in computing (as it enables governments, businesses and individuals to access super-computing power, analysis of massive amounts of data, and applications much more cost effectively), African ICT markets are facing a set of unique challenges which can slow the roll-out of these services. Some of the key barriers in most African countries are a lack of server infrastructure and data centers, bandwidth, localization and support. In addition to infrastructure reliability issues, many African economies have suffered from political instability and the challenge to attract international companies and to have them utilize local services. However, several submarine cables over the last two years have restored some confidence in the regions telecommunications infrastructure.
Interestingly, some of these challenges may actually speed up the adoption of cloud services throughout Africa. While people and businesses in many African countries is are facing tight budgets and are constrained in their ability to acquire technology due to high costs, the low cost advantage of cloud computing can help them overcome this handicap. In particular, the synergy between cloud computing and mobile broadband is very promising. The large scale proliferation of mobile devices among the people in Africa and the ubiquitous availability of data and apps through cloud computing offers significant opportunities to overcome the economic divide. Benefits also include faster time to market, which is drastically reduced.
The GIIC and WITSA will bring together a broad array of stakeholders to discuss these issues and opportunities. With a focus on practical and pragmatic issues, the workshop will feature users and providers of cloud services in order to highlight efforts already underway in Africa to use cloud services as a tool to overcome developmental and economic barriers, and to discuss what further steps need to be done to ensure that Africa not only catches up to developed countries, but use these technologies leapfrog past long-standing barriers to growth and prosperity.