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Policy Recommendations for the development of Cloud infrastructure in Africa

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datacenter.jpegBy Dr. Bienvenu Agbokponto Soglo, Intel's Government and Policy Director for Africa; and Theo Kamogelo Maseloanyane, Intel's Government and Policy Intern for Africa 

Governments in Africa are looking for ways to deliver more efficient public services with reduced public resources, and cloud seems to be the technology that may assist them to do just that. Cloud has been introduced as a technology that is able to reduce the initial cost of deploying and maintaining ICT infrastructure. It is a technology that will enable government to deliver enhanced e-services as well as other beneficial cloud-enabled technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things. Consequently, countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa have been prioritising the implementation of cloud by creating cloud policies and encouraging public-private partnerships that will assist in the timely implementation of cloud solutions and services. In addition, a study titled ‘The Cloud in Africa 2020,’ released in September 2020 by World Wide Worx and conducted in partnership with F5, Dell Technologies, Digicloud Africa and Intel, found that 38% of decision-makers increased their cloud services expenditures in 2019.

Real Readiness

Although Africa has a somewhat dynamic cloud industry, there are still policy initiatives needed and challenges to overcome before countries can be said to have the necessary environments that encourage extensive cloud investment. Some of these include:

 Policy needs

  • Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa need to formulate comprehensive cloud policies that include the multi-vendor principle, data classification and guidelines for vendor certification and compliance

  • Countries such as Egypt and Nigeria need to be active in implementing their cloud policies

  • Countries with pre-existing comprehensive data protection acts need to enforce these laws

  • Cybersecurity policies need to be amended and enacted

Challenges to overcome

  • Upskilling civil servants and other government workers with cloud skills

  • Training and enrolling more university students in big data and cloud related degrees

  • Increasing the rollout of broadband infrastructure especially in under-served areas: World Bank estimates that in order to achieve universal access to broadband connectivity by 2030, an investment of $100 Billion USD is required for the next ten years (2020 – 2030)

  • Ensuring secure and reliable infrastructure such as electricity

Policy Recommendations

Responsible Cloud Deployment and Liberation of Data

  • Public Sector Cloud Adoption: Prioritise the formulation of policies that favour cloud-based solutions and cover technical, legal and organisational issues. Governments that already have cloud policies need to be proactive in implementing all adopted actions.

  • Data Management: Create and prioritise supplementary policies and frameworks for issues such as the general governance of big data and, the usage and optimisation of data centre facilities by government.

  • Revision of Forced Localization Requirements and Data Flow Restrictions: Promote the use of legal and evaluative tools that asses the track record and maturity of data controllers and processors using both global and local facilities to improve secure international data storage and transfers.

  • Augment Connections between Citizens & Government:Enable access to new ecosystem innovations to augment the relationships between governments and the citizens of Africa.

The Social Implications of Computing will Continue to Expand as more Africans Enjoy Benefits of Access to Cloud Implementations

  • Protecting Africa’s Connected, Digital World: Enact legislation that offers effective and reliable yet flexible protections for individuals to encourage trust of digital services for electronic health records, online banking, and online government services.

  • Security in the cloud: Develop comprehensive data protection, privacy and cybersecurity legislation that both upholds industry-led security best practices and standards as well as safeguards human privacy. Conflicting security requirements in multiple jurisdictions raises costs for vendors and creates confusion for end users.

Using the Cloud Opportunity to Care for Africa’s People and Environment

  • Nurture a Cloud Driven Continent: Balance conservational efforts in cloud adoption while deploying cloud solutions to confront the continent’s most perplexing ecological and environmental challenges.

  • Government Standards and Regulations: Review and update cloud service regulations and processes ensuring they are voluntary, market-driven, and industry-led. Priorities include promoting open standards for interoperability and using multiple cloud service providers. Additionally, African governments should participate in relevant regional and international standards institutions and technical committees to contribute to the development of international cloud standards.

  • Broadband Adoption: Implement policies that accelerate the roll out of high-speed and high-quality broadband networks and reliable infrastructure for the integration and success of cloud.

  • Energy Efficiency: Support policies that expand the cloud computing market as a way to improve energy efficiency and sustainability in a cost-effective manner. Cloud-based computing offers substantial energy efficiency gains over traditional computing models.

African countries have been creating the necessary legislative environment to facilitate the widespread adoption of cloud, but more needs to be done regarding capacity building, developing digital infrastructure, implementing security frameworks, and deploying cloud quickly. We encourage relevant bodies in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa to continue creating responsible, accountable, ethical, and trustworthy cloud computing regulatory regimes.