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Cloud computing: The developing world perspective

The word cloud computing sounds like a very new word but in reality cloud services have been in place for a very longtime. There has been many cloud services in place for quite a long time although the terminology seems new. People who have been using free web-mail services like those offered by yahoo, google, hotmail, to mention but a few are some of the people who have been using cloud services for that long.

What then is cloud computing?

As long as you use a service or application whose information or your information is saved away from you and you can access this information irrespective of the computer you are using provided you have connectivity, then you are using cloud computing. Now, this means, there are use applications that can be used with out installation on the local computer. Companies with multi locations/offices are having on line applications, for example accounting applications, logistic management, Human Resource Management that are not locally installed. Users access these applications through an Internet connection. Some companies rent hardware services for example server space, with different specifications, back up space which they still access through a mere Internet connection.

With this advent of things, it is evident that more and more companies are saving their data and information over the Internet (cloud). Before work is sent to the cloud and the connection its self we are advised to encrypt them to ensure security and privacy of the information. However this information ultimately sleeps on a particular physical server or servers scattered in the cloud. This means the person (company) who owns the physical server can decide to use the data he/she is storing for personal gains. Different governments have authorized data and communication interception and can now gladly intercept that data as it leave the ISP's network or at the IXP point, if there is one.

With these and many more examples of possible occurrences of insecurity, one wonders whether it is trendy that people are moving to cloud services or the benefits far way out weigh the risks.

On 27th November 2012, we discussed the challenges of cloud computing on the Diplo Webinar. The discussion was basically about the security and privacy challenges and what can be done. All in all, from the discussion, I realised that good legislation and implementation of security measures can undermine most of the security challenges we think about in cloud computing.

After all the possible challenges are addressed, and all seems great, what happens in developing nations? The major hindrance in developing nations is still at infrastructural capacity. The most common cloud services are web-mail services and social media in developing nations. Companies are still using local (in-house) application because the bandwidth requirements to smoothly run cloud computing services is still far from reality down here. In countries like Uganda where the average bandwidth is below 3Mbps for an office with more than 100 computers, its still unrealistic to run user application as cloud applications. Besides the bandwidth the average availability of most Internet connections in Uganda is still low, some thing below 90%. Ninety seems big but lets put it into perspective. A month of 30 days has 30X24 hours. 90% of this is 648 hours. This leaves out 72hrs with out Internet connectivity. In a month of 30 days, to have 3 days without Internet is quite a long period, some times a time not acceptable to be with out an accounting application.

In Conclusion, therefore, connectivity and bandwidth are still critical aspects we have to give special attention in developing nations as security and privacy rank high in nations that have made it in cloud computing.

ISP – Internet Service Provider

IXP – Internet Exchange Point



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Comment by Mayengo Tom Kizito on December 7, 2012 at 10:03am

Thank you JB,

You have raised a tone of good points, and am sure a reader can practically visualize the situation in the developing world as pertains cloud computing.

The challenge & the question I am yet to find an answer to, is, how do we bridge this gap. As developing countries are trying to import the latest technology from developed countries, the developed countries are busy 'outdating' that same technology by inventions of new more sophisticated technology.

I know every one's answer is going to be; Developing nations have to be innovative, but the challenge remains the competition from developed nations, who are able to develop technology at cheaper costs yet of high quality.

If we can close this gap, I can see us talking about cloud computing on the same page as the world.

Thank you!

Comment by John Bosco Kintu KAVUMA on December 7, 2012 at 9:34am

Dear Tom,

Thanks for sharing your views about the developing countries perspective of cloud computing and clouds.  It gives a good expose of the infrastructure, security and governance issues regarding clouds.  I just wanted to pay to your and our readers attention the technical, social and economic aspects of clouds.  Technically, cloud have been enabled by two major technological advances - one,  discovery of new devises that are smaller and with greater computational capacities such as tablets, iPads etc, whose mass production is being driven by application of nanotechnology in computing, and two, wireless computing.  In the first place, these portable devises such as tablets and iPads are not affordable to the majority of people in developing countries - and therefore not readily available for use. Second,  Indeed  as hinted in your expose, internet connectivity is still a nightmare in many developing countries but more so wireless computing is just gaining grips implying that we can hardly put to use the magnitudes of wireless devises such as Google Nexus 7 tablets that rely on WiFi only.  These are cheaper compared to the 3G ones- WiFI+ mobile, where one has to apply a prepaid SIMCARD.  On the economic side, the major issue is that cloud supportive portable devises are not  accessible to the majority - still cost a dime to get them, information is not free in most developing countries, as most of the private and public clouds are controlled by developed world and also due to other policy barriers in relation to access to public information.  The issue of lack of local content cannot be overemphasized as it limits use of  modern devises. The social issues includewidening digital gaps, which is nologer reflected in lack of access to IT equipment parse but also in quality of access as well.  Whilst developed world  accesses highly digitalized and multipurpose IT sytems, developing countries are just grappling to access basic service such as a basic voice telephone, which deprive users of  a number of applications  such as internet surfing.  With low levels of literacy, nmany users in developing countries are yet to integrate the IT systems in their life sytle and experiences,  they consume a service as a by-the-way and for specific purposes only (calling, SMS, etc) unless in the West where ICT have become an important component of people's living and lifestyle.  Last but not the least, clouds and ubiquitous computing are borne out of the desire for people to access the computing needs anywhere and anytime, and that desire has also been translated into policies such as flexible work schedules, which allow employees to work from anywhere including in their homes - the concern is about getting work done and  not from where work is being done.  In developing countries like Uganda we are still locked in traditional work environment that require an employee to at work station for 8 hours (8.00am -5.00pm) hence little motivation for virtual connectivity.   

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