Tag Archives: Cloud Computing

IBM TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO VITAL HEALTH AND EDUCATION INFORMATION

On Tuesday, computer giant IBM announced a 10-year plan to improve cognitive computing throughout Africa. The program will work to develop data for different sectors of the African economy and will work to connect more Africans to the digital ‘cloud,’ where they will be able to assess information on health and education. According to Dr. Robber Morris, the Vice-President of the Global Labs department of IBM Research, the program will allow Africans to use their mobile phones to “ask relevant questions on health and other areas of interest to human endeavor and receive instant answers through their phone.”

This new IBM program represents an important and interesting investment by IBM into the African ICT community. As mobile phone usage continues to sky-rocket throughout the continent, the opportunity to utilize such technology for a variety of means continues. While the IBM program has not fully begun, and little information exists on the particulars of the program, it makes theoretical sense to try and take advantage of mobile phone usage and make it easier for individuals to access important information about health and education.

While the program is obviously in the early stages, I think it is very important that IBM both ensures local buy-in of their program and ensures that the information is available in a variety of languages. The program announcement does not mention working with local communities to spread information about the program, and the seemingly top-down approach that the program takes is troubling. Additionally, ensuring that the information is available in a variety of languages will ensure that it is as easy as possible for individuals to access the information.

Overall, the program is an ambitious attempt to try and improve the access of vital heath and education information to more individuals. It will be fascinating to see how the program is implemented over the coming decade.


The Cloud in Africa

Cloud computing technology is becoming increasingly important in ICT. This technology provides hardware and software services over a network. “The Cloud and Africa: Indicators for Growth of Cloud Computing” discusses predictors of cloud computing success in Africa.

The paper first discusses the potential benefits of the cloud in Africa– economic growth, greater data storage, increased communication and collaboration, and lower overhead costs. In addition, cloud computing can specifically be used in different ICT4D projects like e-education, e-health, and e-commerce.

The article describes the idea of “cloud readiness,” focusing on five indicators of cloud readiness: ICT, infrastructure, business, investment, and socioeconomic factors. These indicators help to determine which nations are most ready to employ cloud technology. In order to conduct this study, the author chose the 10 largest internet using nations in Africa: Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Zambia. Finally, Rwanda was added to the study because of its government’s focus on ICT4D.

The author then created a Cloud Readiness Index (which is described in much greater detail in the paper). The top five countries for cloud readiness were, in order: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Sudan, and Kenya. A visual representation of the Index can be seen below:

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In his conclusion, the author reemphasize the importance of the cloud as one tool in the ICT4D toolkit, but also reminds us that each country will need its own individualized path to cloud readiness and this should be a focus in coming years.


Cloud Computing: The Good and The Bad

Speaker Adam Papendieck discussed cloud computing as one of the latest developments in data and Internet technology. Cloud computing, or “the cloud” as Adam says, is simply the concept of storing and managing data that is accessible anywhere at anytime. While simultaneously changing business models and the way people interact here, it is highly beneficial to developing nations as well, breaking down barriers to entry and helping entrepreneurs, small and large scale businesses, researchers, and governments. These clouds are not white, puffy, and loose. They are powerful, offering IT infrastructure at a reasonable cost. In fact, in India, cloud computing is projected to grow into a 15 billion dollar industry by next year. In India, Africa, and South America cloud computing gives organizations a way to connect through online applications like Google Docs. Developing countries can tap into cloud resources and compete, which provides many possibilities.

The possibilities of the cloud stretch to many different devices.

The possibilities of the cloud stretch to many different devices.

What I found particularly interesting is that the cloud also has its challenges, and furthermore, these challenges are very similar to problems that we have seen with many other ICT initiatives. The lack of connectivity and bandwidth capabilities in many areas of the world is a huge issue. The large data that the cloud can account for requires more bandwidth, making it something that some areas will not be able to utilize. Electricity remains unpredictable in some regions, making information on the cloud vulnerable to loss. And, as we saw with cyber security, cloud users must be aware of backup, privacy, and security issues. Developing countries must keep these things in mind. While cloud computing is a powerful tool for all, challenges for developing countries remain.


Cloud Computing: Who Dominates the Field?

Cloud Computing: Who Dominates the Field?

Guest speaker Adam Papendiek spoke about cloud computing as one of the top five emerging trends in the ICT field. Cloud computing is essentially a way to deliver software and hardware without the traditional hassles of installing and maintaining the specified program(s). Cloud computing uses shared resources in a complex infrastructure to deliver IT services at significant fractions of historical costs. Computing power has entered a whole new era of large scale capabilities as witnessed through the various platforms that are capable of connecting billions of people. While cloud computing has made sharing and accessing information easier, it has also made maintaining security harder- an issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated, especially in developing worlds. Cloud computing is broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Check out this diagram to see which companies currently dominate the cloud computing field in their respective categories. Learn more about cloud computing here.


MXShare: Cloud Phones for the World’s Poorest

MXShare was mentioned in passing by Richard Heeks in “ICT4D Manifesto,” but this exciting technology deserves more attention from our class. Developed by Movirtu and patented by Nigel Waller, MXShare allows individuals who cannot afford a mobile phone to own a cloud phone, accessible from any mobile or land-line using a unique PIN.

The detractors I read considered MXShare a flashy re-brand of calling cards, but there are a few unique differences, the most important being that MXShare users can receive messages and calls tied to the cloud number. A better conceptualization would be to think of Mxshare as a SIM card that can be popped in to any phone to access the days messages and make and receive calls. This is a great program because it is simple, useful, and takes advantage of technology already widely in use. In addition, mobile owners receive a small credit every time they allow an MXShare user to use their phone, which fosters community involvement and creates a positive cycle for cloud and physical phone users.

Overall, it is the simplicity of this program which excites me; it addresses a need and improves access to the most impoverished without the need for government grants, extensive training, or infrastructure development.

Recently, Hewlett-Packard partnered with Movirtu to increase access to MXShare: http://tinyurl.com/97v3rwo.

An in-depth look at the technology can be found in their patent application here: http://tinyurl.com/8ckfmvp.

The company that developed and implemented the system can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/9pb9exy.

The implementation of the technology is being studied in Kenya: http://tinyurl.com/8o6v2ka (Page is in French).


Cyber Security for e-Banking

As ICT4D expands in several sectors not only in the U.S., but other parts of the world, there is a much greater need for cyber security.  Last month, there was a Cyber Security Africa seminar located in Kigali, Rwanda.  Professionals in various industries all met for one day to discuss innovative security practices and other leading research in the field.  Alex Kioni, a worker in Security Systems at IBM East Africa proposed that a possible solution would be to switch over to cloud-computing, a concept that we discussed in class this week. Kioni believes that this would streamline IT management for businesses that have an online presence.

In addition to banking, other business such as RwandAir and PayGate Kenya are collaborating to prevent fraud with their Online Booking Engine.  So far, their partnership has been mutually beneficial, as thousands of fraud attempts have been recorded, but none have successfully bypassed the PayGate systems.  Maybe cloud computing systems is the way to go in ICT4D?

Source: http://techrwanda.com/index.php/2012/03/rwanda-kigali-cyber-security-africa-seminar-discusses-cyber-threats-banking/


Cloud Computing for E-Government

The relationship between cloud computing and security is a very interesting one to me. With the growing needs for ICT for development and in general, cloud computing is an obvious solution. It keeps everything linked, easily accessible, and increases storage resources. For example, Tulane University switched to a cloud-based email system about a year ago, giving students 10 GB of email storage as well as a “SkyDrive” which is a cloud-based flash drive. This switch gave students more space than they would ever need–I have thousands of emails and I’m only at just over 1 GB.

But is the cloud a solution for everything and everyone in ICT? An article published recently in March talked about cloud computing in relation to e-government for Barbados, stating that “cloud computing has the potential to significantly lower Barbados government enterprise ICT cost while improving overall ICT operations and support services.” While cloud computing is certainly a new option to improve ICT cost and operations for governments, is is a good idea in a sector that deals with so much private citizen information? Security has always been a concern when dealing with ICTs, so it needs to be an even bigger concern when looking into e-government and e-governance. I believe that it is possible and a viable option, but only after a lengthy consideration of ALL possible security concerns, and a well-outlined security and architecture plan.