TED Conversations

Sri Prakash

E-Com Canada Inc.

This conversation is closed.

A cloud strategy in Africa makes absolute sense.

Africa – a large continent with a number of countries with disparate levels of access to education and commerce. This makes it exceedingly hard for the standard distributed computing model to proliferate. ‘Cities that can’ and ‘Centers of Excellence’ are too few and spread too far apart to seed the development of distributed networks more common in other parts of the world. A faster and more practical model for growth would be to establish a cloud infrastructure clustered in the few cities that can actually host it.

  • Oct 29 2013: I am curious about your idea... what devices would you use as your end-points for the everyday user? How would those that are in poverty acquire these items. I can imagine that bringing manufacturing to the country to provide jobs making these items is a possibility but again we come back to how will the manufacturer make money. The problem with poverty in the mass is that poverty breeds poverty, unfortunately. It takes money to educate and provide jobs but no way to make money to do that education and provide jobs. Then you have exporting that would allow for money to be brought in but we have seen in other countries that this often breeds mass slavery and human trafficking. I realize I am just bring problems and not solutions to the table.. this is why I am curious how you would overcome these challenges. Please do not say the government could help...
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      Oct 30 2013: Without attempting to put the mechanics of the whole strategy in a paragraph, at this point perhaps I can simply illustrate how it works in a place like rural India and specifically those who are in the BPL (Below Poverty Line) and very poor category. The reason I keep drawing a parallel with India is that Its important we try and find an as relevant a possible example such as this where the concept has worked. Some of the common variables between India and Africa are: Large population in the very poor/BPL category, low education, low access to basic social facilities, health, nutrition, and safety being key areas where the population can avail of mobile /smart phone based information access. What has really increased the uptake of the cell phone based use by this segment of the population is low-cost mass produced cell phone units, and one of the lowest cost/minute rate in the world. In fact the government has nothing to do with it. The kind of information made available to these communities via these phones is related to local vaccination schedules, health / epidemic related issues, crop cultivation, weather forecast, micro loans, sanitation advisories, and of course communication/calling. The phones support regional language capability (given that India has more than 600 languages and dialects). The phones also support a built in radio helps the farmer. The cost of these phones is as low as $20 (Nokia is the most popular brand). The subscription model is a pay-as-you-go model that allows the user to control his use/cost based on affordability. As to whether this model is helping - there is ample statistics in the public domain to prove it is. The infrastructure is completely set up by the private sector - the government's only contribution has been the auctioning of the airwaves/spectrum for cellular phone companies to buy and operate.
  • Nov 1 2013: This is very interesting... I think you may have some good ideas here.
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      Oct 25 2013: Cloud infrastructure is a relatively much cheaper way of making information/computing resources available to a population. The overheads are much fewer and cheaper. The benefits of relevant information accessibility by the population can be had by simply owning a cheap cellphone. Cellphone /smartphone penetration in Africa is currently at between 17 to 19 percent.

      Regarding who and how they will benefit; Given that the majority of the population is still extremely poor and is striving to meet basic needs, the kind of information that will be most helpful and be readily consumed by is that which pertains to healthcare, hygiene, literacy/education, safety, micro farming, small business, micro business, and basic social development including village and small town development; in this scenario, the majority of the population are going to be “consumers” of information rather than “producers”. In such a model, a cloud approach makes most sense since these population centers cannot really afford to maintain their own data centers from a financial, logistical, and know-how perspective.

      Regarding whether the above is achievable - well lets simply go by an example - India's poor and agriculture sector as a whole has benefited tremendously from cheap affordable cell phone and internet access.
  • Oct 25 2013: by shifting certain ressponsibilities to others things are easier for the user.
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      Oct 30 2013: Can you please care to explain? Not sure what you are talking about.
      • Oct 30 2013: Maybe I am the one who di confused. I thought cloud strategy involved shifting much of the storage etc. to the cloud as opposed to having it in one's own machine.
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          Oct 30 2013: Data is just one component of the cloud. My conversation is about making applications and information available via a cloud infrastructure using the cell / smart phone as the delivery tool to end users in rural communities across Africa. Please see my response to Matt Taylor's question in this conversation to know more about the specifics.
      • Oct 31 2013: Okay this really makes more sense now. I am old enough to remember dumb terminals and see their advantages. Yoou have made a good point.