Nigeria has never hidden its resolve to leverage emerging digital technologies to transform the economy.The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) launched in April 2017 demonstrated this resolve by recognising the need for a digital-led strategy to make the economy more competitive in the 21st century. It planned to achieve this by increasing the contribution from Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and ICT-enabled activities to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Even before the unveiling of the ERGP, which is a medium-term development initiative focused on restoring growth, investing in people and building a globally competitive economy, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) had also proposed Nigeria’s transition to a digital economy through investments in digital infrastructure, more specifically broadband, which is a key driver of digital economy growth.
However, a fresh vista of opportunity may have opened in the new tech market for Nigeria to drive her transition to a digital economy. Known as cloud computing, the provision of reliable, efficient and robust cloud services to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), as well as the private sector, has taken centre stage. It has become an essential part of business continuity in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is key to unlocking growth in the digital economies, Nigeria inclusive.
Indeed, across the world, including Nigeria, the impact of the pandemic and its emerging variants forced the demand for online services to skyrocket. Today, virtual engagement has become the new normal, with cloud computing playing a crucial role in migrating business processes online, quickly, easily and conveniently. People work remotely and also use technology to contain the virus, protect jobs and identify the silver lining in the crisis.
In its simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of a computer’s hard drive. The cloud can, therefore, be considered as a metaphor for the Internet. And cloud computing is expected to reduce the initial cost of ICT infrastructure and the cost associated with obtaining ICT infrastructure.
Cloud computing is also expected to reduce the downtime in public service delivery, enable open access to government information and data anytime and anywhere for citizens and businesses; and increase engagement and participation as well as foster trust. It allows for new features to be continuously deployed while the costs are amortised across a global service customer base.
Now, to help strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to deliver cloud services that will be beneficial to the unique needs of public and private sector organisations, as well as accelerate her transition to a digital economy and create opportunities for businesses, Galaxy Back Bone (GBB) Nigeria and Zadara, a United States-based global cloud computing infrastructure provider in any location, recently entered into a cloud services partnership.
Under the partnership, both parties will provide reliable, efficient and cost-effective cloud services to MDAs and the private sector. “We are excited that this partnership will disrupt capital flights and provide data sovereignty, as well as data domestication for our customers in a secure and efficient manner,” Head Enterprise Business Group, GBB, Baffajo Beita, said.
Beita, who spoke last week at a GBB and Zadara webinar with the theme: Cloud services and the journey towards a digital economy: opportunities for business growth, also said the Zadara cloud infrastructure is not sitting outside of the country, but in Abuja, at the GBB Data Centre. He added that the infrastructure will be replicated in Enugu and also in the data centre the company is building in Kano.
Galaxy Back Bone is an agency under the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy. It is also a limited liability company with clear objectives to deliver state-of-the art and world class digital network communication services to both public and private sector organisations efficiently and effectively. Beita said GBB was excited about its partnership with Zadara and the possibility of giving its cloud solutions that can be paid for in Naira.
He added that as a requirement for his company’s cloud platforms, it desires to provide its customers all the essential characteristics in cloud computing platforms, which are basically the broad network access, rapid elasticity, measured service, multi-tenancy- all without making significant capital expenditures.
Beita also said the Zadara cloud infrastructure is not sitting outside of the country, but in Abuja, at the GBB Data Centre. He added that the infrastructure will be replicated in Enugu and also in the data centre the company is building in Kano.
He also said GBB has created cloud service campaign ads that it will start rolling out to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and also introducing the cost. “These are all new things and we will start introducing the pricing and it is at times flexible, depending on the size of the business.
“So, generally speaking, we have solutions that should cater to any kind of business scenario whether it is SMEs, an individual, or a large enterprise. If you want to back up 500 terabyte to 100s of petabytes, GBB can do it,” Beita added.
The Regional Sales Director, Zadara, Tal Rotem, on his part, explained that the Zadara cloud computing infrastructure is to support the operations of GBB. “So, Zadara is complementing the areas that the GBB do not have the capability,” he explained, in his presentation on Zadara Enterprise Cloud-based service.
For the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), GBB Nigeria, Prof. Muhammad Bello Abubakar, the partnership was meant to strengthen the agency’s presence in delivering cloud services that will be beneficial to the unique needs of public and private sector organisations across Nigeria. He also noted that the partnership was mainly on cloud computing with infrastructure as a service and, storage as a service.
“Truly, the time has changed and a lot of us understand the value digital technologies bring to our organisations and our lives in general. We have discovered in the last couple of months that a lot of people are spending more time online today because that is where our world has shifted to. The Internet is no longer a mere gateway, but a formidable platform where billions of transactions in billions of dollars can begin and end without people having to meet physically,” he said.
The Director/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, did not mince words when he described cloud computing as the key to unlocking growth in the digital economy. He, therefore, pledged that NITDA will align the implementation of the Nigerian Cloud Computing Policy, and the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT to support this partnership.
Recall that NITDA had in August 2019, built on the EGRP objectives by issuing the Nigeria Cloud Computing Policy (NCCP). The Policy’s goal was to ensure 30 per cent increase in adoption of cloud computing by 2024 among Federal Public Institutions (FPI) and SMEs that provide digital enabled services to the government; and 35 per cent growth in cloud computing investment.
It was, perhaps, in the light of these policy goals that Abdullahi, during the webinar, reiterated the imperativeness of understanding that enterprises and organisations should effectively use cloud technology to enhance existing businesses and also devise new business value propositions in and post-COVID eras.
“In addition, the adoption of cloud services provides numerous benefits to the growth of businesses which includes reduced Information Technology (IT) cost, scalability, flexibility, and better security, among others,” the NITDA boss stated.
According to Gartner, global public cloud spending is forecast to reach $332.3 billion in 2021, increasing by 23.1 per cent from $270 billion in 2020. The global research and advisory company attributed the growth in cloud spending to increased adoption in technologies such as virtualisation, edge computing and containerisation.
However, at present, these new tech markets are being led by the big three cloud computing giants Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft’s Azure and Google’s Cloud. But Google continues to be a distant third to Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud business, according to the Gartner report, which was seen by The Nation.