In class this week, we discussed important emerging ICT’s, one of which is Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS describes software and associated data that are hosted on the cloud and accessible to users through a network, usually a web browser – examples include Google Docs and Kickstarter.
In his blog post on ZD Net, titled “More that software, as a service,” Phil Wainewright explains why he doesn’t like the term “Software as a Service”: he believes that it inadequately describes the real purpose of cloud services. He says, “No one (except for a few code-crazed developers) actually wants software, either as a product or as a service. It’s a means to an end. What people actually want are answers, results and outcomes. Therefore, what they want delivered from the cloud is rarely software on its own, but software in combination with other non-software components that add up to a useful outcome.” What the cloud does best, Wainewright later claims, is granting users “access to a pooled, specialist resource that would be hugely more costly to implement separately for each individual business.” Wainewright’s point is that positive business outcomes are the ultimate benefits of these technologies, not the technology in itself. When SaaS providers simply offer software and leave users to manipulate it themselves in order to experience positive outcomes, they are failing to utilize the real competitive advantage of the cloud.
A parallel can be drawn between Wainewright’s argument about the goals of SaaS technologies and some of the issues we’ve discussed about ICT4D projects. Wainewright says, “Instead of thinking about software when designing a service, cloud providers would do better to think first about the business outcomes they aim to deliver… True innovators see software as just one part of the means to an end.” As with ICT projects in the developing world, Wainewright believes that it’s essential to use technology, SaaS in this case, to achieve a specific end; what’s important is not the introduction of the technology, but the improvement that can be achieved through using that technology. Technology is one piece of the puzzle; it should be used in conjunction with other efforts to achieve a certain goal, whether for positive business outcomes in Europe or increased development in developing countries.