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RIA/AFRINIC Research on Cloud Computing in the Public Sector

As part of the memorandum of understanding that exists between AFRINIC and Research ICT Africa (RIA), AFRINIC Research and Innovation department will participate in a research project under the Regional Academic Network on IT Policy (RANITP), which is being led by UCT Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (UCT GSDPP) and Research ICT Africa (RIA).  The project aims at promoting high level multidisciplinary research on ICT policy across the African continent, and the current phase is focussed on providing the necessary evidence to inform policy processes on the implementation of cloud computing services in the public sector. For this purpose, I attended a full day workshop in Nairobi Kenya, on 31 May 2017 to participate in the research design process.  The other institutions also involved in the project include Lagos Business School, University of Nairobi, University of Zambia, and University of Ghana Business School.

The conceptual approach undertaken views cloud computing as an ecosystem that requires broadband networks, the services that the networks carry, the applications delivered and, critically, that is applied to meet the needs of users in order to enhance efficiencies within the public sector and enhance public sector service delivery. The key objectives of the project therefore include:

  1. filling the existing research gaps on cloud computing in the public sector in emerging economy contexts; identifying policy bottlenecks in terms of  implementation of cloud computing in the public sector;  
  2. stimulating regional policy debate on the implementation of cloud computing in the public sector in Sub-Saharan Africa;
  3. providing policy recommendations on how to develop policy frameworks that enable the deployment of cloud computing in the modernization of the public sector and enhancement of service delivery.  

While the rest of the research partners will focus more on the policy and social factors, the AFRINIC Research Team has been specifically invited to take the lead with respect to technical research that is primarily focused on understanding technology factors that could affect implementation and success of cloud computing in the public sector in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On one hand, the general activities that will be carried out by all the project partners will include research surveys, within their respective countries, in order answer research questions that are most pressing their specific country-contexts and to inform decision-makers within the public sector of the benefits of cloud computing for cost effective and value added service delivery. Some of the issues to study include:

  1. the political economy of countries;
  2. cloud market focusing on drivers and barriers;
  3. status of cloud use by the public sector;
  4. cloud computing policies for the public sector;
  5. identification of barriers for the adoption of cloud computing for the public sector.

On the other hand, AFRINIC Research will aim at augmenting the social research with technological and empirical studies. More specifically, based on the discussions at the workshop, AFRINIC was asked to focus, in terms of this project, on quantifying the technical barriers to successful implementation of cloud services. Some of the technical barriers identified in preliminary study include:

  1. limited or lack of bandwidth in the core public network infrastructure and access networks;
  2. limited Internet coverage (3G/4G/WiFi) and bandwidth for public access;
  3. performance challenges, including high latencies and generally poor quality of experience when accessing cloud services.

In the save vein, other technical barriers to be investigated include technical challenges pertaining to users’ privacy and data security, challenges with equipment and services’ standards and interoperability, as well as problems with vendor selection and vendor lock-in. AFRINIC should also lead a technical survey of national policies, especially with respect to broadband development, public sector IPv6 adoption plans, as well as digital privacy and security policies.

The coordination of research actions among the partners will make use of primarily the project’s mailing list for sharing of information and resources as well as discussing deliverables. It is also expected that regular online meetings will be held among the project partners to discuss milestones, deliverables and research findings, and also to provide feedback on research methods and on report writing.

The final output of the research project will take the form of policy papers outlining national policy recommendations for the countries under study.  The final reports will be preceded by presentations at regional and global conferences and meetings, to present finding to policy makers. The project will run for 12 months from 1 June 2017.

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