Kenya ushered a new internet era when it got her undersea cables in 2009. It opened a new frontier of faster and cheaper internet connections.
A privately-funded consortium, Seacom, commissioned the Sh59 billion project to transform Kenya, which used costly satellites, into a global information superhighway.
What followed was real time event streaming, high resolution and internet television and better voice, data and video services.
Not visible to most users, a rapid surge in data centres was experienced in the country. This effectively provided a platform for the development of cloud computing.
Cloud computing is primarily using data from centralised computing and storage.
Organisations across the country then started incorporating cloud into their operations by gathering insights from large amounts of data. The government moved its services to a cloud-based platform – e-citizen. Banks and insurance companies moved transactions to cloud-based systems. Supermarkets incorporated point of sales that were hosted in the cloud. And the list goes and on.
The cloud traffic is still growing with technology conglomerate Cisco predicting the figure next year will be four times that recorded in 2015.
But as Kenya still relishes in the gains of industrial transformation from cloud computing, the world has moved a step ahead.
Welcome to edge computing.
Touted as the future, it involves computing locally before data is then transferred to the cloud for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning purposes. Unlike cloud computing that involves centralised data centres, this brings the operations close to the end-user.
While cloud computing supports the digital transformation of businesses, its edge counterpart brings the insights sitting at the cloud closer to the device where the action is happening.
Effectively, edge computing is about the customer experience.
Its goal is to process the required data near your device and act on it to reduces latency.
Last month at a press event in Singapore, Schneider Electric said it was ready to pioneer the uptake of edge computing in Africa.
Schneider Electric executive vice president, Secure Power Division Dave Johnson highlighted that Africans countries like Kenya needed not to feel left behind.
He highlighted that according to data from global IT research firm Gartner, currently only 10 per cent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed at the edge. The figure is, however, expected to rise by 75 per cent by 2025.
"With the advent of IoT, there is a huge wave ahead of us. There are at least five to ten years of exciting opportunities for us," said Johnson said.
Speaking at the same event, the firm’s senior vice president of secure power division Jim Simonelli explained that the uptake of edge computing in Kenya, just like other innovations, will be driven by the resolve to improve both lives and security.
Simonelli said that their firm was up to the task and promised to deliver both server and service availability.
“Opportunity for edge computing always exists where digitisation exists. Technological innovation has always enabled something that had not been done before. We see that happening in emerging markets such as Africa, as well as established markets, but at different rates,” Simonelli explained.
He added that the key driving factors to edge computing include data storage and processing, internet, network speed and mobile adoption that Kenya scores highly in.
Simonelli’s sentiments were echoed by IDC associate research director Glen Duncan who said both economic and political factors influenced the uptake of such technologies.
In reference to Asian and African countries, Duncan advised that countries with low uptake of edge computing needed not to fret as various examples had shown nations without innovations had capitalised on latest technologies to leapfrog those restricted by legacy infrastructure.
“I know there are certain African countries that are leading, such as Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa, which have stronger economies and are digitally-focused, so eventually these innovative ideas will roll out in other parts of the continent, taking a bit longer in some parts than others,” Duncan pointed out.
Tanishq from Titan, a trusted jewelry brand in India, showcased how the shift to edge computing has improved its operations.
It highlighted how getting the solution from the French firm optimised its in-store energy use and IT system resiliency to provide an always-on digital experience for its customers.
Expanding their retail showroom and implementing cutting-edge visual merchandising experiences, Tanishq was deploying new IoT-enabled technologies, real-time security surveillance and video analytic platforms that required IT systems locally in its stores.
“Today more than 80-85 per cent of our main watch and jewelry factories at Hosur’s electricity is leveraged from renewable sources. As part of our company-wide commitment to energy sustainability, we sought a solution to increase our efficiency in our many store locations while also ensuring our IT solutions’ reliability,” said the company’s boss Palani Kumar.
With the promise that edge computing will improve IT resiliency as it addresses physical and cyber security concerns with its integrated systems, all that awaits is how its adoption will be welcomed in Kenya.
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