How AWS looks to enrich Kenya, Africa cloud scene

AWS edge services deliver data processing, analysis, and storage close to user endpoints, allowing them to deploy Application Programming Interfaces and tools to locations outside AWS data centers. PHOTO/ COURTESY

The entry of Amazon Web Services (AWS) into Kenya’s cloud computing ecosystem is expected to accelerate the country’s drive to be the hub of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), even as it underlines Nairobi as a hot spot for Big Tech.

AWS has set up a Local Zone in Nairobi, arguably one of Africa’s innovation capital, seeking to position it as “the ultimate cloud service solutions provider” for individuals, small businesses and corporates.

Perhaps the biggest benefit that AWS data centre brings is affordability. One of the challenges businesses face in uptake of cloud services is the prohibitive costs. But AWS told Afcacia that the affordability of cloud services is one of its key selling point as it steps up efforts to meet the cloud demand in a country seeking to cement its stature as the gateway for internet, smartphone and tech skills penetration in Africa.

“Kenyan users will benefit from cost savings, scalability and the high availability that AWS provides,” said AWS East, West and Central Africa Regional Lead Mr Robin Njiru.

Kenya, whose 75 percent of population is made up of Millennial and Generation Z citizens who love heavy live streaming, online gaming and constant online presence while saving every moment in the cloud will be the biggest beneficiaries of AWS low latency services.

With more startups venturing into e-learning, telemedicine, fintech, edtech, agritech and insurtech which require high speed internet, huge cloud storage and low latency to deliver their services to clients, the AWS local zone will come in handy.

But what about equipping Kenyans with cloud service platform expertise, network management, development and operations, machine learning and cloud security skills?

Last year, AWS started offering free certifications to Kenya’s tech talent through its AWS re/Start project as it seeks to build a diverse pipeline of entry-level trained IT professionals who can create business intelligence, analytics and database management tools.

The 12-week programme is currently training the country’s unemployed and underemployed youth and those with little technology experience for careers in cloud computing. The project connects over 90 percent of graduates with job opportunities.

And for 4IR technologies such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and 5G connectivity, AWS looks to be the anchor server maintenance provider and cloud management leader in the country.

AWS edge services deliver data processing, analysis, and storage close to user endpoints, allowing them to deploy Application Programming Interfaces and tools to locations outside AWS data centers.

Users can also build high-performance applications that can process and store data close to where it’s generated, enabling ultra-low latency, intelligent and real-time responsiveness.

On cyber security, AWS said it will help users maintain security and compliance from edge to cloud with AWS infrastructure by applying preventive mechanisms like encryption and access controls to securely store and process data that must remain on-premises or at the edge.

“Security for your data is our top priority. The cyber warfare front is dynamic but we will protect your data. We are also observing data residency requirements under the Data Protection Act,” said Mr Njiru.

Local enterprises and corporations that handle big data such as telcos and banks will therefore benefit from specific edge use cases like Internet of Things (IoT), hybrid cloud, 5G, and industrial machine learning.

“With more than 200 integrated device services to choose from, you can deploy edge applications quickly and easily scale to billions of devices,” AWS says.

Research by tech research firm IDC shows that businesses around the world spent Sh2.5 trillion on cloud infrastructure services in the fourth quarter of 2021, signaling a rebound in spending on cloud storage and computing power. 

Spending on cloud infrastructure was up 13.5 percent in the quarter year on year, while the previous quarter saw spending on cloud infrastructure reach Sh20 trillion after a remarkable year-on-year decline of 1.9 percent in Q2 2021, which was the first time in seven quarters that spending on cloud decreased.

Cloud spending rose as businesses and governments across the world embarked on major digital transformation projects over the last two years. And the big winners have been the big three cloud players – AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft.

“This marked the second consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth as supply chain constraints have depleted vendor inventories over the past several quarters. As backlogs continue to grow, pent-up demand bodes well for future growth as long as the economy stays healthy, and supply catches up to demand,” IDC said. 

Over the whole of 2021, spending on cloud was 8.8 percent higher than in 2020, reaching a total of Sh8 trillion for the year. 

Enterprise spending on traditional IT grew too, but not as fast as cloud spending. Enterprises invested in non-cloud infrastructure to the tune of Sh1.8 trillion, up 1.5 percent year on year in Q4 2021, according to IDC.

A recently published whitepaper by IDC predicts that over 75 percent of infrastructure in edge locations will be consumed and operated in an as-a-service model, as will more than half of datacenter infrastructure.

This supports the sentiment that enterprises want all the benefits of the cloud with the ability to deploy virtually anywhere.

“By 2023, 70 percent of enterprises will run varying levels of data processing on IoT devices, and there will be an 800 percent increase in the number of applications at the edge,” the paper says.

The potential benefits of such trends to Kenya’s cloud computing landscape are apparent when considering the actual use cases.

In the industrial sector, as an increasing amount of Kenyan industrial assets have some form of AI deployed either near or on the equipment, it will lead to a projected 10 percent improvement in asset utilization, according to the white paper.

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