[Africa Cloud Review] Simon Ngunjiri: Cloud can help power smart cities in Africa

The term Smart City is not a new one and, while some examples already exist on the African continent, it is not as widespread as it should be. From Accra to Cape Town to Nairobi, turning Africa’s megacities into tech and data hubs of the future.

Like Smart City initiatives across the world, cities in Africa are initiating tech and data-driven solutions to overpopulation issues caused by drastically increasing urbanization. What role is cloud playing in this?

According to Clive Charlton, Head of Solution Architecture for Sub-Saharan Africa at Amazon Web Services (AWS), connectivity, public policy and cloud skills are among the key challenges facing African cities as they move to become smart cities. The deployment of Smart Cities heavily relies on the advances achieved in cloud technologies. To speed up their sustainable development, these cities need to be on the cloud.

Cloud provides the digital infrastructure for smart cities: in other words, a city’s cloud will function as a storage and analysis system for the data used in everything. PCs and server files, web page meta-data, images and video and data created by machine-to-machine communication will all be housed in the cloud.

As it stands, African cities already have the opportunity to go smart, thanks to high cloud adoption.

Countries like South Africa already have a wide range of domestic fibre network providers, with new fibre network providers like Vuma providing an open access fibre network resold to a number of retail service providers, with download speeds of up to 1 Gbps (the highest in Africa).

There are also five key international subsea cable systems connecting South Africa. The country has seen a rapid introduction of new CSPs, with Microsoft Azure Cloud and AWS entering the market as a gateway for the rest of Africa. Amongst new CPS is Alibaba Cloud which said it intended to enter the South African market but as yet has not entered.

South Africa has 12 DC providers with over 40 Data Centre Facilities. There has been new Data Centre build announcements with one of them being Global Data Centers, a subsidiary of NTT Ltd, announcing at the of September 2020 the build of a new Data Centre facility at the Central Point Innovation District in Johannesburg called Johannesburg-1.

Cloud adoption—including hybrid and multi-cloud adoption—is expanding fast among both private and public sector organizations of all sizes. And as we mentioned in a previous column, the continent is suited to jump to the cloud more than its peers. This will in turn accelerate the growth of smart cities in the region.

If we explore the applications of cloud computing, there are multiple benefits as to why smart cities should opt for it.

Simon Ngunjiri Muraya is Google Cloud Architect at  Incentro Africa.

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