With the Earth’s population hovering at the Seven Billion mark, there is pressing need for bigger, better, faster, and preferably cheaper, sources and versions of almost everything (e.g. food, energy and even computing power). This is just as acute in the emerging economies of Africa, South Asia and Latin America, which must rely on more creative and innovative ways to achieve their objectives. Enter the cloud.
Although, in many so called emerging economies, certain key infrastructure essentials such as constant power supply, high bandwidth connectivity and landline coverage may be lacking, the rapid expansion and penetration of mobile technology (and infrastructure) as well as novel approaches to power management has helped to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and operators to provide Internet based services to the populace. Furthermore, the lack of pre-existing infrastructure that would otherwise require interfacing and integration is advantageous and has contributed to what is often described as the leapfrog effect.
The upshot of this is that mobile technology and the Internet both combine to create an opportunity for accelerated growth and development in emerging economies. Other factors include: a younger demographic; dysfunctional institutions; a global economy in shambles; an expanding middle class plus a Diaspora of educated and skilled professionals that are increasingly tempted to return and contribute to further development of these markets. A recent Sunday Times Magazine article (note: subscription required) pointed out that six of the ten fastest growing economies in the last decade were African.
In light of the above, it is easy to see how cloud and emerging economies can align to mutual benefit, not least because they are relatively more flexible and unencumbered by legacy considerations for pre-existing infrastructure and / or an aging population of baby boomers. However, the reality is that much care needs to be taken in order to reach the full potential of such alignment. Recently, a friend and colleague with much experience working across Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Caribbean, described a trajectory and framework for cloud technology adoption which encompassed: 1 – localised exploitation (via mobile / enterprise systems); 2 – Business Process Re-engineering (requiring business analysis / change management expertise); 3 – B2B interconnectivity between businesses (at local and global levels). In addition, global tech companies are already getting in on the action, and you can’t turn a corner without bumping into various initiatives from the likes of: Google, IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, and SAP, to name but a few. Also there is a lot of technology investment activity from Private Equity and Hedge Funds.
In any case, the immediate question and decisions faced by emerging economies with respect to cloud include: information governance (where is the data located); data centres (location and hosting options); security (emerging threats and vulnerabilities); new and smart applications (designed to work within the limitation and specific circumstances of particular markets). Once again, it will require more innovative and creative approaches to attain the promise of mobile / cloud enabled leapfrog effect. It really is an exciting time for emerging markets.