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African datacentre operators back free hosting

Datacentre operators in Africa have highlighted the rationale behind their decision last month to start offering free cloud hosting for applications in an effort to curb COVID-19.

In a statement, umbrella organisation the Africa Data Centre Association (ADCA) said the objective behind the initiative to provide free hosting (up to 10 Us Servers and 2 KW - for related applications for the rest of 2020) is to help Africa in its effort to recover from COVID-19, knowing that the solution for recovery relies on digital tools and ecosystems.

The organisation added that the crisis shows the importance of business continuity plans, citing the role of datacentre infrastructure in sustaining business operations while ensuring safety measures such as social distancing.

Ben Roberts, Chief of Technology and innovation for Liquid Telecom Group, incorporating Africa Data Centres, a member of ADCA, said platforms that have so far benefited from free hosting include the information portal for the Kenya private sector association (www.covid-19.ke); an information gathering platform to track the impact of the pandemic on businesses (Ushahidi.covid-19.ke); a site for local innovators in Kenya who are building ventilators, PPEs etc using 3D printing and other innovations (Innovation.covid-19.ke); and the First African ‘Zoom’ equivalent video conferencing solution hosted in Africa, Gumzo.

“We have a lot of interest from health system related applications to help deal with both COVID related needs, as well as generally supporting digitisation of healthcare,” said Roberts. “The offer initially included physical rack space for servers, but we requested to have it extended to virtual servers, since many people are experiencing slowness importing hardware to Africa, and virtual servers can ramp up much faster.”

Galaxy Backbone’s Timi Fadeyi said ADCA members see the move as their contribution to the fight against the global pandemic.

A representative from a cloud vendor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes the offer targets start-ups, research institutes and SMEs, and adds value because it encourages innovation in the fight against COVID-19 as computing infrastructure can be ticked off from the innovator’s constraint list and further makes the case for ‘work from anywhere’ technologies.

At the same time, the representative maintains that while the combined cost savings on power, space and computing infrastructure is good, some could argue that the offer might be incomplete as organisations aiming to fight COVID-19 would also require scalable and reliable connectivity.

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