The greatest commodity in the world today is information, as information leads to knowledge. Similarly, the ability to access and distribute information has become a crucial factor for the upliftment and development of any county.
Moving toward a knowledge-based economy by harnessing the power of ICTs will greatly boost the competitiveness and financial health of our emerging nations. However, for ICTs to deliver on their promise of economic and social development, it is crucial that African nations adopt policies that support an appropriate framework for the adoption of Internet-based and other ICT-related services.
Similarly, to ensure the affordable and ubiquitous access to ICTs for citizens, the right infrastructure needs to be in place. Infrastructure is at the heart of any integrated ICT ecosystem. Without this underlying infrastructure, no other component can exist. In this way, policy to govern how a nation’s infrastructure is developed and managed is crucial to the supply of the very services that enable growth.
For most African countries, it is this very lack of adequate infrastructure remains a major obstacle to the uptake of ICTs. Insufficient investment in infrastructure and networks, combined with the inefficient provision of services, also undermines the development of emerging economies. Only by improving the flow of information and providing a platform for other services do ICTs have the potential to correct market failures and remove constraints to development.
And the benefits of a connected and online Africa are many. Research by McKinsey estimates that the Internet can deliver productivity gains on the continent across a wide range of industries, including the education, healthcare, financial services, agriculture, retail and government sectors. These productivity gains across six key sectors are projected to be valued between US$148-billion and $318-billion by 2025, which could lead to a 10-20% increase in production in the agriculture sector by 2025, or a projected cost saving of 60-75% on administrative tasks for African governments.
It is a huge opportunity. The Internet contributes up to 3.7% of GDP on average, while in African countries it’s a mere 1.1%. In Africa, as with the rest of the world, nothing has a greater potential to transform societies than ICTs. They promise growth and prosperity as ICTs promote greater inclusion and social cohesion as well as environmental sustainability. It goes beyond merely technological infrastructure, to become social infrastructure, connecting communities, systems and people.
And at the heart of all this potential lies the data centre. The digital economy is all about data, and the continent must develop a network of data centres to ensure data sovereignty and better bandwidth and latency, and to bring the content back into the continent.
Data centres are the foundation for ICT-led economic growth and the key to developing rich and self-sufficient ICT ecosystems. Data centres are the heart of every business and the cornerstone of the Internet. Thousands of networks and connections meet at the data centre, which is also tasked with delivering IT services and providing storage and networking to a growing number of networked devices, users and business processes.
And the greatest untapped market for data centre providers is Africa, a continent with more than 50 countries and a population exceeding one billion, a large number of whom are at the age where they are keen to learn, to go online and consume digital services.
The good news is that Africa has caught the attention of large tech giants, which are starting to build data centres. This shows confidence in the region and highlights the growing economic development of the continent. Last year saw several cloud infrastructure and data centres being built in several growing African markets, but this is just the beginning. The need for data centres for Africans is growing exponentially and, encouragingly, many global companies are eyeing Africa as a possible region for data centre development and support.
- Stephane Duproz is CEO of Africa Data Centres
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