Cape Town-based start-up Afrozaar thinks there’s a big future in merging cloud computing (computing on the Internet) and mobile telephony to offer hosted mobile applications to the corporate market. And it thinks it will soon be big business across the African continent.
Software developers Dirk le Roux, Richard Cheary, Marco Theart and Tim Bielawski started the company nine months ago to profit from what they believe will be one of the next growth areas for cloud computing.
Before starting Afrozaar, which is self-funded, the four men worked on IT development projects at Woolworths, Pick n Pay and Old Mutual, among others. Already, Afrozaar has several high-profile clients, including Cell C, Old Mutual and Media24, a unit of Naspers.
The company develops cloud-based mobile applications for Android devices, for the Apple iPhone, and for tablet computers, including the iPad.
To deliver these applications as cloud-based services, the company has aligned itself with Google, allowing its customers to host business apps developed by Afrozaar on the Web giant’s open, cloud-based enterprise computing platform.
“Google’s cloud platform allows us to be proactive and respond quickly to market needs and trends,” says Cheary.
The apps the company builds range from full-fledged corporate offerings, to packages that incorporate the Google Docs online productivity suite.
One of the company’s flagship products is an application called MySubs Mobile, built in collaboration with media logistics company On the Dot, which allows people to subscribe to magazines, newspapers and digital titles.
Afrozaar wants to take mobile applications to the rest of the continent. One of SA’s largest financial institutions — Cheary says he can’t name the company — has hired Afrozaar to develop a mobile financial solution for use across Africa.
“Mobile cloud solutions are perfect in the African context,” says Cheary. He says it could help offset the lack of development and technical skills in many markets. And one of the biggest challenges is Africa’s lack of technology infrastructure. “Using cloud-based mobile applications means that we can overcome that.”
The company has some challenges, though, one of which is convincing companies that cloud computing is a viable alternative to more traditional — and expensive — server options.
Another challenge is the cost of bandwidth. With some applications being media rich, Afrozaar has had to spend time perfecting the download manager that serves its applications to users.
“It’s going to be a competitive environment, but I think we have managed to carve out a niche for ourselves using Google’s enterprise architecture,” says Cheary. — Candice Jones, TechCentral
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