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June 25, 2013

Is South Africa Falling Behind?

Is SA slipping behind?

In late May 2013, the World Bank – an international financial institution tasked with providing loans and fiscal assistance to developing countries, slashed its economic growth forecasts for South Africa citing concerns over growing unrest within the domestic labour market.

Consequently, our economy is expected to grow by just 2.5 percent in 2013. In comparison Ghana, once regarded as a relatively unimportant state amongst fellow African economic giants, lifted its Gross Domestic Product rates by 14.4 percent in 2011 and was recently described by British Prime Minister David Cameron as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

At the same time, many technology vendors are beginning to favour East and West Africa as potential hubs for investment. In fact, when Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited Africa in January he did not visit South Africa, choosing instead to focus on East African upstart – Kenya.

We all know that business growth is the primary engine behind any health economy. With this in mind, how can South Africa better use technology to encourage economic development while reasserting itself as a leader in tertiary development?

The answer lies in smarter infrastructure. Today there are several technologies available to businesses that focus on reducing cost – freeing up valuable capital for future investment.

Primarily, these developments aim to reduce power consumption within the data centre. Furthermore, many modern solutions now offer improved cooling facilities that further reduce the cost of running a data centre.

Unfortunately, the majority of technology orientated organisations focus on immediate cost savings. Opting for the most affordable deployment possible, IT managers are often shocked to find that the chosen platform incurs significant operating costs down the line.

By working closely with a trusted IT solutions provider and analysts such as Alinean, local organisations can develop comprehensive strategies that reduce the on-going cost of technical services. Purchasing the most affordable equipment possible is not always the most effective approach.

It certainly helps that servers and storage are becoming increasingly compact and efficient. HP’s software defined niche Moonshot Servers now allow certain customers to fit forty five servers into a single 4.3 U Enclosure, reducing the cost of ownership by 77 percent and delivering 89 percent savings on energy.

These offerings often include management protocols that are seldom used. Despite this, many vendors have made it easier to control server environments remotely – eliminating the need for travel and a large compliment of service orientated employees.

This is significant for any organisation seeking to reduce operational cost to invest in future growth. In this way, technology can certainly support local economic development by giving businesses the opportunity to grow and provide valuable job opportunities.

Indeed, the advent of cloud has also sparked a revolution within the emerging economy. Very few small businesses can afford elaborate on premise IT infrastructure and support. Certified and reputable cloud vendors have now eradicated this need by affording entrepreneurs the ability to regard IT as an operational cost.

It is, however, important to note that a robust cloud strategy is vital to success in this area. Contracting poorly provisioned or unrecognised hosted services can often do more harm than good.

Technology has always been regarded as an enabler of efficiency. By focussing on newly available offerings, the South African business market can certainly reaffirm its presence on the African continent.

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