5 Apr 2012

Cloud in East Africa: ionacloud Founder gives an interview to East Africa Com organisers

Cloud interview with… Kageni Wilson - Founder & CEO, ionacloud

Cloud is not just a buzz-word anymore, it's a need-to-know business model, and it potentially holds the key to Africa's ICT future - so the Com World Series (organisers of East Africa Com and Cloud Africa) caught up with Cloud Service creator Kageni Wilson, to get his thoughts on the matter...

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

KW: Existing cloud services in Africa are in their infancy (most if not all have sprouted sometime in the past 2 years) but their popularity is rapidly increasing. For enterprise cloud, the services are progressing at a healthy rate driven by the awareness and business needs of companies with data handling operations. As for public cloud, with the exception of services like ionacloud where we are doing research and development specific to public cloud, not much else is being done as far as I know.

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

KW: The level of Cloud awareness in my country (Kenya) and region (East Africa’s) ICT market is quite high. Kenya being an ICT hub on the entire continent has turned attention in the region more and more towards new developments and the latest trends in the tech industry. In this regard, the entrance of telcom companies into the cloud computing business and the resultant marketing of cloud services has definitely helped raise awareness about cloud technology and its benefits.

CWS: Which 'type' of cloud would be your choice - public or private?

KW: Neither. I believe the best suited solution lies in a hybrid cloud that incorporates both public and private cloud. At ionacloud for instance, we are building public cloud infrastructure that is open to anyone at a personal level but allowing for the creation and plug-in of multiple private clouds within the public cloud service. Companies will never embrace public cloud’s standardized services because needs differ with companies meaning that for cloud to work properly at an enterprise level it has to be tailored and customized to suit each clients needs. I believe the future will see private cloud being the choice for most companies and public cloud being the choice for individuals. However as the focus on cloud begins to shift from safe data storage to optimized data accessibility, the lines between the two will be forced to blur (after all even a company precipitates its data to individuals) resulting in a balance. The hybrid cloud.

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

KW: I think it will take quite some time. The effect of cloud technology adoption on the bottom line of enterprises in Africa is clear in theory but is yet to show empirical validity with actual figures from actual companies that have undergone the process of cloud integration mostly because its simply too soon to tell. Secondly, cloud integration costs money and this is part of capital. At the moment the market favors large corporations over smaller operational business. As time progresses and cloud adoption goes into hyperdrive, economics of scale will kick in for service providers and this combined with competition will serve to bring both the implementation cost (affecting capital) and recurrent cost (affecting operational expenditure) of cloud services much lower for enterprises. Only then can we study the big picture and hope to give an accurate, average period for effect of cloud on capital and operational costs. Till we have enough data, any period given would simply be an estimate that may vary from case to case.

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

KW: More investment in ICT infrastructure especially internet connectivity technology such as fiber-optics as well as set up of in-house data centers on the continent (exporting our data to centers in other continents for storage is needlessly cumbersome and expensive). The latter will give rise to more cloud hosting services driving competition (always good for the consumer – in this case cloud users) and the former will increase available bandwidth at a reasonable cost meaning precipitation of data from the cloud will be smooth and effective.

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

KW: Yes. I have witnessed increased spending on IT at all levels of business. Everything from hardware purchase and IT staff hiring for computerization of paper records in old organizations to the migration of already tech-savvy companies into the cloud serves to indicate this. Service providers in the region have invested tens of millions of dollars in cloud technology in the past year alone.

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

KW: 1. Under-information and/or misinformation about cloud, 2. Cloud’s currently steep implementation costs and 3. Change phobia (fear of pioneering change also known as the ‘wait and see’ phenomenon)

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

KW: 1. Safer, better data storage and management (assuming a good cloud choice) 2. Savings caused by the operational efficiency of cloud compared to traditional IT practices 3. They have more resources to direct towards other IT developments

CWS: What key message would you give to cloud enthusiasts in Africa?

KW: Live, breathe, eat and sleep cloudlife.

In other words, don’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, marketing it, discussing problems and solutions at every possible chance and most importantly, never ever stop developing it. It is the future and its potential is an iceberg 90% of which we haven’t even seen yet. We are slowly succeeding in turning cloud tech from a luxury into a necessity but our goal should be to make it the new IT standard of choice. What we have on our hands here is something as potentially revolutionary as the invention of the computer itself and it has the ability to change human life just as much if we turn it into a way of life as early on as possible. Working on this puts you at the cutting edge of IT research. We are the pioneers and it is our responsibility to head the revolution. To stop at nothing until the mark of African cloud has been made around the world.

Kageni Wilson is an innovator, writer and tech entrepreneur. He is the Founder & CEO of personal cloud computing service provider, ionacloud.

About East Africa Com:

Taking place in Nairobi on the 17-18 April, and endorsed by those at the top of regional telecoms, East Africa Com delivers the most heavy-weight speaker-line up that features established giants, new, smaller entrants and everything in between.

You’ll gain a comprehensive overview of all the latest “need to know” topics in the multi-streamed conference while meeting potential new suppliers and partners in the 25 stand networking exhibition which is packed with some of the world’s foremost technology and solution providers.

If you do telecoms business in East Africa, this is an event you cannot afford to miss! Click here to download the brochure