Cloud computing has the ability to transform the developing world, and bring it into the high tech age at lightning speed via what the NY Times calls ‘Gandhi engineering‘. The challenges previously faced by developing countries over reliable power sources, lack of connectivity and expensive equipment costs that were prohibitive for developing areas to modernize are all being addressed by cloud computing. Cloud computing has the potential to create a paradigm shift in the way IT resources are used and distributed, says P. Sinha, Chief Coordinator for R&D at Pune University, India in the Center for Development of Advanced Computing. In India alone cloud computing is projected to grow from a $50 million a year industry to $15 billion in the next few years.
The ability to improve rural connectivity is critical; a concept recently discussed at the Digital Africa Summit where it was revealed that with every 10% increase in Internet access there is an increase of 1.8% in GDP. Cloud computing then holds the key to rapid development for rural and developing areas. There are however still three major challenges to be faced, electricity demands, connectivity issues, and equipment needs:
The challenge for many developing countries with rural areas looking to make technological advancements is that computers use massive amounts of energy, which is generally unreliable in such areas. Due to the power requirements for processing, memory, storage and video applications running traditional computers has been difficult. Cloud computing however solves this dilemma as the machinery requires only a fraction of the power and can hold battery charges longer when electricity is not available.
While the challenge still exists to create wired and wireless networks in rural areas where they don’t currently exist, cloud computing can bring significant gains in the area of connectivity as governments and citizens can spend more money on connectivity that would normally be spent on the computers and software itself. With the cost savings on equipment developing nations will be able to spend more cash on going straight to 3G and 4G networks.
The cost of a cloud-based computer is minimal as it requires only limited resources and processing power. A cloud-based operating system and programs can run on a thin-client-like piece of hardware which is easier to use, cheaper to implement and requires less maintenance — all the while allowing populations to be mobile, scalable and elastic.
Examples in Play
Samuel Greengard of the Association for Computing Machinery cites some great examples of how the cloud is already shaping the developing world; like in southern Sahara Africa where farmers are using cloud-based systems to improve agricultural outputs through online planting schedules, crop status reports, harvesting times, and market prices. Or CrowdFlower, who have connected organizations seeking digital manpower with Kenyan refugees looking for work — refugees who now earn up to $28 a week, 8 times the national average.
The new type of collaboration provided for by cloud computing allows collaboration across borders where Indians can support software created in the U.S to be used by farmers in Kenya.