Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user. (source: wikipedia.org). A true ‘adoption’ of these services in Africa would in itself speak to the availability of existing computer and digital resources.
However, the reality is that just over a quarter of the populace has access to the internet, limiting widespread citizen engagement and effective parallel use of technology on the global stage. These lean numbers unfortunately also affect civil society on the continent. With lean wallets or programs and operations, community foundations are already hard-pressed to spend extra funds (which are usually unavailable) on information technology, digital services, and recurring technical support.
Companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Google, and a variety of cloud hosting companies globally offer services helpful for adaptable means of work, and targeted at boosting organizational productivity.
Barriers to Adopting Cloud Computing Services
- The inability to access digital solutions at the very core lies in the current digital economy framework in Arica. The systemic nuances at play range from politics, gender parity and inclusion, power and energy availability, manpower, and skilled human capacity.
- Lack of awareness and actual understanding of the services. This lack of awareness of digital services and solutions stems from lean teaching systems around computer education in many African countries. Lean educational systems that are yet to fully integrate digitized processes into syllabuses, affect and limit digital literacy and capacity.
- There is also the reality of slow-paced adoption of newer technologies. In Africa, “the rate of adoption of this type of connectivity was estimated at around 15% in 2020,” By way of comparison, in Europe, broadband penetration rates are at around 75-80%, 4G and fibre combined. (source: theafricareport). With a landscape that is still mainly rural, it is difficult to co-opt organisations operating in rural areas on the continent.
- Data connectivity cost. A majority of Africans who have access to these mobile connections and digital services, notably do not use them due to the increasing cost of connection. Rising costs of living across the continent and inflation augment reasons citizens give. This cost-perception is also visible where there is limited funding available to non-profits. Operating on a tight budget equates placing immediate needs over incongruent ones.
Fortunately, civil society organizations in Africa, though faced with these barriers, are rapidly embracing digitalization.
A truly systemic first step into easing the adoption of cloud computing services would involve upskilling the human and digital capacity of social impact teams across the continent. Making digital skills and solutions training available to civil society organizations over different delivery formats.
A further step would be providing dedicated technical assistance to nonprofits and organizations new to cloud and digital services, replete with onboarding processes. Partnerships plans (or creating more localized assets) with solutions providers on accessible discounts especially if the goal is for African nonprofits to adopt these systems faster.
The benefits of a digitalized development sector for Africa extend not only to scaling operations but also the potential for rapid aid movement, growth, and management. Access to digital services can effectively push back long standing issues across thematic social-sector areas, and create differentiated impact.
An increase in digitalization translates into an increase in innovation within the development sector, with regards to social innovation and job creation opportunities. There would be a clear increase in organizational productivity and operations. Management teams will no longer be limited by physical dampeners such as power, or overhead costs of running analog management systems.
Digitalisation presents an opportunity to leverage technology for social change. Africa’s youth especially have the chance to be empowered with the digital skills needed to foster social change as individuals and within their communities. This creates enablers and drivers at local and community levels, allowing for civic engagement and action.
African organizations must adopt digital solutions to remain relevant. With the rapid increase in internet penetration, about three-quarters of the continent is on course to have access by 2030 (source: brookings.edu). Cloud computing services are one of the ways to harness the digital economy as a driver of growth and achieving sustainable development goals.
Civil society organizations in Africa can take advantage of resources such as TechSoup Africa (with regional hubs all over the continent) to get the most out of digital solution offerings at free and discounted prices.
Original content authored by Philanthropy Circuit.