What AWS local zone means to Kenyan enterprises

Robin Njiru

Robin Njiru, Regional Lead, East, West and Central Africa at Amazon Web Services when he addressed the press at Leisure Resort, Kwale County during the Connected Kenya Summit on April 12, 2022.

Photo credit: Pool

Data. Metadata. Zillions of gigabytes of new data get created every minute in the world but how do you securely manage it for business aggregation?

Just how can Kenya’s startups – which have long been locked out of the country’s Big Data ecosystem – make data driven decisions regarding upscaling their businesses?

Such are the questions that were raised by industry experts during the fifth edition of the Connected Kenya Summit in Diani, Kwale County as it became evident that upstarts still remain disadvantaged as they lack the capacity to collect clean data, the software to analyse it and the cloud to store it securely.

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic keeps fueling the creation of new data centres in the country, and over 90 per cent of global data being created during the pandemic period, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) find it economically unviable to subscribe to the storage service.

But that could change in coming months as the Silicon Valley-based cloud computing arm of global e-commerce heavyweight Amazon, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced during the conference that it is setting up a local cloud zone in Kenya.

Internet infrastructure projects

‘Silicon Savannah’ will be joining 26 other countries in the world where Amazon has chosen to set up such centres.

Local zones are internet infrastructure projects that place the AWS services of computing, data storage and database management close to a large population of users and industry centres.

“This will be the second one in Africa after South Africa,” said AWS Regional lead, East, West and Central Africa Mr Robin Njiru who exhibited confidence in investing in the country thanks to its high penetration of internet, smartphones and digital literacy.

Such a centre will provide low latency – the delay in sending and receiving data – to corporates and SMEs as the race to grab a slice of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) market hots up in Kenya.

“Customers can take advantage of the cost savings, scalability, and high availability that AWS provides,” added Mr Njiru.

AWS said the local zones deliver what it called a single-digit millisecond latency performance at the edge of the cloud to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The company has 16 such zones in the United States and now targets to launch 32 more.

5G connectivity

With 5G connectivity expected by the end of the year, AWS is clearing the way for companies and startups that want to go big on heavy livestreaming and hospitals that have all been dreaming of offering remote surgeries via video conferencing.

In a metaverse era dictated by how creative you get in deploying virtual services, the AWS local zone in Kenya will also support 4IR technologies such as Virtual/Augmented and Extended Reality, 4D printing, heavy live gaming, virtual work stations and even the very innovative idea of holograms.

But AWS will start by simplifying hybrid cloud migrations while maintaining high speed and low latency server maintenance.

“We do this while observing data residency requirements under the Data Protection Act,” Mr Njiru added.

Asked whether the AWS Managed Blockchain service would be coming to Kenya Mr Njiru said that it will be informed by the adoption of the frontier technology in the country.

“Blockchain can erase the pain points we see in financial services, agriculture and health but that will be determined by demand,” he said.

SMEs and individual users, who have long wanted to pay for cloud storage via mobile money could soon see their wish granted, as the high cost of the dollar exchange rate when paying for cloud services via Paypal or credit cards gets eliminated.

While no server maintenance firm can ever promise 100 per cent of uptime, AWS committed to giving Kenyan enterprises a stable cloud service while keeping cyber attackers at bay.

“Security is our top priority in the cloud,” added Mr Njiru.

Digital revolution

 Addressing the press during the announcement, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru noted that while many tech research reports had predicted that Kenya’s digital revolution would gain momentum in 10 years’ time, that has happened within two years, creating a tech business boom in the country.

“It was not as anticipated. We’re now living in the future and we are open for business,” said Mr Mucheru.

He disclosed that after the Democratic Republic of Congo joined the East African economic bloc, a single digital business market is in the works, which will open regional and global tech companies’ products to a market of 300 million consumers – just as big as the United States’.

Safaricom chief executive Peter Ndegwa remained optimistic that the local zone will enable it to enhance cloud offerings to enterprise and SMEs, and even pass the affordable costs to individual users.

“We will now achieve increased speed, stability, reliability, and storage to support innovation and development of future-fit solutions,” said Mr Ndegwa.

AWS has for the longest time been the top choice for internet computing services for many listed companies in Kenya and even the Mombasa Tea Auction - one of the world’s leading tea auctions.

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