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Cloud computing is said to present numerous advantages including reduced capital costs associated with IT resources and equipment as well as flexibility - the ability to scale up or down IT applications, platform or infrastructure on demand.
Cloud computing services such as Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS) support the “dematerialization” - the replacement of atoms with bits - potentially reduce carbon emissions hence promoting sustainable consumption and development by using telecommunication services such as tele- and video-conferencing. In addition services such as e-Government, e-Commerce, e-Learning hosted on public, private, community or hybrid clouds, optimize processes and products as regards their material and energy efficiency.
On the flip side cloud computing is causing concern in developed countries over the potential negative impacts on the environment. Green Peace, an environment protection and conservation advocacy group has argued that the growing demand for data centers and telecommunication networks, the two key components of the ‘cloud’, energy consumption associated to powering equipment and cooling buildings, will triple by 2020 to about 1,963 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.
Apart from energy, other cloud computing resource demands are floor space of the data centers and broadband access to support ‘bandwidth-hungry’ applications, result in negative impact to the environment. For example, the global ICT sector industry contributes to around 2 - 2.5% of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Other negative environmental impacts include destruction of natural habitats due to creation of new ICT structures such as submarine and underground fibre optic cables, e-waste and destruction of scenic landscapes.
Despite these potential negative environmental impacts, the increased demand for cloud computing services presents development opportunities for developing countries which though limited by finances and technical skills to run cloud computing services, could offer ‘residences/hotels’ for cloud computing providers.
The ‘cloud residency’ proposition for developing countries is supported by the exponential growth in terrestrial and international broadband connectivity, availability of large reserves of ‘green’ energy to support the need for constant supply of electricity and relatively affordable land for data centers. Kooba, a carrier neutral data centre is a first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa strategically located in Mombasa with access to submarine cables including TEAMS, Seacom, Lion2 and EASSY.
The availability of these key ‘cloud’ components has the potential to generate tremendous economic value for developing countries particularly Kenya, where broadband, ‘green’ energy and land use for economic development are supported by favourable Government policies. Cloud computing ‘residency’ could support governments’ diversification of economic growth areas and contribute to national development.
To take advantage of this potential growth area, challenges do exist, in particular, balancing public and private demand for energy and land resources. Another challenge is presented by the cross-jurisdictional nature of the internet, as content that may be illegal in one country could resident in data centers hosted in Kenya. Fortunately, in light of increasing cyber threats, governments’ could take advantage of global recognition of the need for international legislation to resolve this challenge. In the interim however enactment of the Privacy and Data protection legislation is paramount.