By Sekete Patrick Maphopha, SE manager for Africa at NetApp
South Africa is not limited by legacy technology or a fixed business mind-set – instead, there is huge potential to make the most of new technologies to drive profitability, efficiency and security in the country. However, the crucial part of this will be understanding when and where this new technology will be best deployed, and this relies on data. In our modern era of big data, we are presented with what the World Economic Forum has called “a genuinely transformational opportunity”. To take advantage of it, however, we need well-managed, well utilised data, which will allow technology companies to create the most significant effect in South Africa, at the right time and the right speed to create a lasting impact in the region.
With an upsurge of crime in South Africa and the current drought crisis that is affecting the Agribusiness, comes the increased need to document and save all records across the data grid so that all the provinces can have access to the same information in real time. Today’s infrastructure fails to achieve many of the data management, data security and reliability, as well as cost-saving efficiencies that South Africa could realise through a smarter IT system underpinned by cloud technology.
Evidently, South Africa needs a centralised data collection point, management and analytics tools that speak to their needs. A cloud solution, driven by flash-technology provides that and more. Beyond the simple internal activities, this will allow different departmental experts in South Africa to easily interact and exchange large as well as highly confidential files.
There has to be a partnership between government departments and technology companies to implement pivotal technological strategies such as the adoption of flash storage technology into place to contribute to the development of South Africa. By reducing duplicative and fragmented systems, increasing data centre efficiency and utilisation rates, flash storage technology has the potential to save millions of Rands for the government while advancing sustainability goals.
By leveraging a shared infrastructure and economies of scale, technologies such as NetApp’s All-Flash storage delivers such benefits as the speed and data services required for the next-generation data centre. These include improved asset utilisation; aggregated demand; accelerated data centre consolidation; easier management of resources; increased flexibility; faster deployment of IT services; and decreased time spent on IT operations and maintenance.
In 2014, nearly 60% of the population worldwide owned a mobile phone, and this is expected to rise to 90% by 2020. Meanwhile, about 45% of the global population accessed the Internet in 2016. At the same time, 9% of people still don’t have access to safe drinking water. We are experiencing a strange leapfrogging phenomenon in South Africa, not just missing out a generation of technology, but where people are becoming connected to each other faster than they are becoming connected to safe drinking water, emergency medical care or core government services.
The good news is that with each new connection, we are gaining more insight into the needs of different communities. Each new mobile phone or Internet connection in South Africa creates a new point of data that can be used to create targeted, localised initiatives. These will prove invaluable to long-term improvement and growth, as data has already been shown to improve health infrastructure, public safety, agriculture, and government services in developing economies.
Equally as important though, is ensuring that whatever South Africa’s data management strategy is, it is future proofed. It is important to be able to move data from one platform to another, with it being easily accessible. It is for this reason that NetApp has concentrated on ensuring flexibility in data management, particularly with our Data ONTAP storage operating system, which is available in array OS, software-only, or cloud-native form. It is also an indication of NetApp’s firm belief that providing absolute freedom with regards to data is the way forward.
The prevalence of mobile phones presents an incredible opportunity. Research from the UN WFP has indicated that there is likely to be a correlation between mobile phone data usage and food consumption which could be used in future to predict food emergencies as and before they occur. Meanwhile, SMS for Life is a great example of how mobile phones are being used to track stock levels at public health facilities to reduce the number of deaths from Malaria.
One of the most exciting trends emerging of the mobile-first society is the use of crowdsourcing apps, which collect data over mobile phones from users that can be used for everything from emergency response to water management. WaterWatchers was launched in South Africa with support from IBM, allowing users to report issues with water supply such as leaking pipes or clogged waterways using their mobile phone. This information was then aggregated to form a cohesive overview of the water leakage problem, which could help improve the country’s water infrastructure. With the establishment of the NetApp Data Fabric Strategy, which basically encapsulates all data and management requirements across disk, tape, flash and cloud, provides added value to these initiatives. With a more unified view of data, governance strategies may be aligned to the predictable management of internal and external data centres.
Data in isolation is of limited value to South Africa. It is only by amassing this data that significant change can be implemented out of local initiatives. The hybrid cloud environment provides the ideal platform for this, where sensitive personal data from the region can be stored privately or co-located “next to the cloud”, while public cloud resources can be leveraged to identify wider-reaching trends. Ultimately, different integrated cloud services generate data insights and allow for sharing between companies, NGOs and international bodies to collaborate on scalable innovation. At the same time, it’s important to remember that this data has a lifespan – and it has to be managed across the entirety of that time. During a data’s lifespan it can move from being urgent and sensitive to becoming less important and stored for compliance.
In order to manage this data dynamically and efficiently, a full view across all storage environments (like NetApp’s Data Fabric) is crucial. Investment in data centres and cloud infrastructure in developing countries is an essential first step to facilitate the kind of data gathering needed to support targeted investment in key services. Then, investment in data mining technology will become key in transforming the information into useful insights.
Then, once the data infrastructure is in place, and basic core needs are met, technology companies will be in a position to understand where their investment in training programmes, innovation hubs or other initiatives will have the most impact. By encouraging skill development in key areas, based on solid, data-driven foundations, technology companies will be at the forefront of driving successful local job creation, which can have a positive effect on local, and then regional economies.