Ensuring Africa is not left behind in the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

By: Antony Cook, Associate General Counsel, Corporate, External and Legal Affairs lead, Microsoft Middle East and Africa

Technology is changing Africa. More than any other time in history, innovation is rapidly transforming almost every aspect of how people live, communicate, work and learn across the continent.

The rate of change is so quick that some are calling this the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. This transformation offers the potential to address some of Africa's most pressing issues in areas including health, education and the environment.

At the heart of this transformation is cloud computing.


The digital divide – no longer divisive
Cloud computing is technology that benefits both markets and people in Africa. It offers access to computing power and technological innovation that was once only available to a limited, affluent few.

Cloud computing provides unparalleled flexibility for individuals and companies to use the computing power they need, when they need it—and to consume it instantly and easily on a variety of affordable mobile devices.

For emerging economies across the continent, this combination of affordable cost, flexibility and scale enables individuals and enterprises, small and large, to thrive and grow.

This means that the digital divide is no longer a chasm.

Can cloud can benefit everyone?
Now is a good time to consider not only how cloud-based innovation can help Africans drive a rising Africa, but also to address the valid concerns raised as rapid change takes place.

As the continent comes online and a huge youth population adopts technology, how will we ensure that everyone has affordable access? How will we provide a safe and secure online environment that protects people from fraud and exploitation? Are we taking the right steps to empower people, young and old, with the skills they need to take advantage of the cloud now and in the future?

Microsoft’s Cloud for Global Good
Microsoft recently published a book called A Cloud for Global Good. In it we offer a three-part framework that focuses on creating a trusted, responsible and inclusive cloud that will ensure technology benefits everyone, not just a fortunate few.

The book contributes to the discussion of how we can best take advantage of the opportunities offered by cloud while also addressing the concerns raised about the the adoption of this technology.

A Cloud for Global Good offers 78 policy recommendations in 15 areas, including privacy and security, online fraud and exploitation, environmental sustainability, affordable access and more.

The policy recommendations provide suggestions on how governments, the technology industry and civil society can work together to build a cloud that serves the broader good. We recognise that we don't have all the answers, but we are committed to working with policymakers, citizens, business owners and other experts to build a cloud that benefits all.

As I engage with governments across Africa, the opportunity to create a policy environment to enable cloud computing to truly flourish is clear.

As we move into the cloud computing era, existing laws in many countries will prove to be out of date or insufficient to ensure that the cloud delivers the benefits it promises.

However, there are tremendous opportunities to learn from other countries. We can learn to avoid adopting legislation that will be difficult to change, and instead, forge new policy frameworks based on laws, regulations and standards that will serve the interest of all African citizens. Governments who chose to take initiative now, can facilitate the adoption of cloud computing while addressing the disruptive impact this technology is having on society.

In the coming weeks and months, I'll be expanding on many of the ideas in A Cloud for Global Good and how it is impacting Africa, starting next with a look at how cloud computing is addressing some of the biggest challenges on the continent.

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more or downloading a copy of A Cloud for Global Good, you can find it here.

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