21 Feb 2012

The awareness of cloud in Kenya is rapidly growing : Tom Juma, Head of IT Service Delivery at Old Mutual Kenya

Tom Juma is Head of IT Service Delivery at Old Mutual Kenya. His responsibilities include the charge of operations and ICT (strategic and operational management) for a group of companies that includes investment services, life assurance, asset management and stock brokerage. Cloud Africa organisers, the Com World Series chatted with Tom about his vision of cloud in Africa – ahead of his participation at the event (Cloud Africa, Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg) on the 23-24 May.

CWS: How would you describe existing ‘’cloud services’’ in Africa?

TJ: For Africa, I see cloud computing as the convergence of three worlds: consumers, business and technology. The rise of mobility, social networking and mobile devices has created a new norm for interaction with customers and employees. At the same time, businesses are experiencing speed-to-market and cost containment pressures as never before. Technologies for virtualization, open-source software, automation, bandwidth availability and more continue to evolve. However apart from South Africa, cloud computing is relatively new in other parts of Africa. Safaricom’s recent launch of a cloud computing service that it says will be the largest on the continent, reflects the cloud's emerging importance to economic growth in Kenya and other parts of Africa.

CWS: What would you say is the level of awareness about cloud in your country’s ICT market?

TJ: For Kenya, the awareness of cloud, while still very low, is rapidly growing as more and more companies are now beginning to utilize cloud services and recently one of the largest telecommunications company in Kenya launched its cloud computing services for both local and international companies. The overall demand is really huge. This is so because Kenya is geared towards establishing itself as the ICT hub of Africa.

CWS: Which ‘type’ of cloud would be your choice – public or private?

TJ: IT doesn’t matter, both will work depending on the service that is sought after. Also the cost, convenient and reliability will be some of the determinants in deciding the type of cloud.

CWS: How rapidly do you think the adoption of cloud will reducing capital and operational expenditure for enterprises in Africa?

TJ: Many businesses are experiencing speed-to-market and cost containment pressures as never before. Technologies for virtualization, open-source software, automation, bandwidth availability and more continue to evolve. Lowered costs, enhanced flexibility and the ability to create new revenue streams are making cloud a technology of choice for high performance. But, cloud can do more. Cloud can:

- Connect customers and citizens anytime, anywhere.

- Enhance insight through advanced analytics.

- Eliminate organizational boundaries.

- Spur new products and services.

- Broaden global footprint at lowered cost.

Benefits in many industries include

- Software as a service resulting in low capital expenditure on software including maintenance and support costs.

- On Demand services, meaning you only take what you require at the moment and grow as your needs arises.

- Worldwide information availability i.e. Diseases records can be available to any Doctor in the world hence rapid development and access to healthcare. But this must be securely stored.

- Applications such as product barcode scanners have brought instantaneous, online comparison shopping to the retail industry.

- Global peer-to-peer lending services allow consumers to sidestep banks with hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions.

- Applications such as Pandora and Genius for iTunes aggregate and analyze user feedback in real time.

CWS: Have you seen an increase in IT spend (in your business/country/region), and if yes, has it included investment in cloud?

TJ: Yes, from a country, many organizations have started rolling out Cloud based. From Old Mutual’s perspective, we are recently rolling put a cloud based services in all our emerging market operations including Africa.

CWS: What do you think is preventing enterprises in Africa from implementing cloud?

TJ: 1) Fear of the unknown i.e. misnomer about security issues in the cloud, 2) Inadequate IT skills and knowledge in reference to Cloud computing, 3) Most companies have already heavily of traditional IT solutions yet are not willing to change. 4) Lack of cloud-based computing companies aggregately marketing their solutions and services to companies. 5) Cost of bandwidth and lack of reliable and secure internet connections is some parts of Africa. 6) Low IT usage in some part of Africa.

CWS: What do you think is needed to drive improved and cheaper bandwidth in Africa for cloud?

TJ: 1) Use of appropriate technologies like Fibre optic like Eassy, Teams, SAT-3/WASC/SAFE to connect to the global network, 2) PPP between investors, and governments and 3) the availability of Cloud based solutions in Africa which will spar more usage hence reduction to unit costs.

CWS: What do you think are the 3 key advantages gained by companies using cloud as part of their IT services?

TJ: There are lots of advantages to using cloud computing for international companies as follows:

1) One of the major ones is the flexibility that it offers. Cloud computing means that staff can access the files and data that they need even when they're working remotely and/or outside office hours. As long as they can get on the Internet, staff can access information from home, on the road, from clients' offices or even from a smartphone such as a BlackBerry or iPhone. Staff can also work collaboratively on files and documents, even when they're not physically together. Documents can simultaneously be viewed and edited from multiple locations.

2) Cloud computing can be very quick and easy to get up and running. Consider, for example, how quickly you can set up a Gmail or Hotmail account and start emailing - it takes minutes and all you need is a computer and the Internet. Downloading and installing software, on the other hand, takes much longer.

3) Cloud computing is often cheaper and less labor-intensive for companies too. There is no need to buy and install expensive software because it's already installed online remotely and you run it from there, not to mention the fact that many cloud computing applications are offered free of charge. The need to pay for extensive disk space is also removed. With cloud computing, you subscribe to the software, rather than buying it outright. This means that you only need to pay for it when you need it, and it also offers flexibility, in that it can be quickly and easily scaled up and down according to demand. This can be particularly advantageous when there are temporary peaks in demand, such as at Christmas or in summer, for example.

4) A major advantage of using cloud computing for many companies is that because it's online, it offers virtually unlimited storage compared to server and hard drive limits. Needing more storage space does not cause issues with server upgrades and equipment - usually all you need to do is increase your monthly fee slightly for more data storage.