Privacy Laws Needed In Africa To Boost Cloud Adoption, SAP Chief Says

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Continent-wide legislation is needed in Africa that will allow data from Zimbabwe or Botswana to be stored in Nigeria and elsewhere. Without it, expect growth of cloud adoption to slow down, an SAP head said in an ITWebAfrica interview.

Mike Ettling is global head of cloud and on-premise human resources (HR) for business software company SAP. Africa has been slow to adopt data privacy laws and the continent’s most developed economy, South Africa, is only just beginning to implement its Protection of  Personal Information Act (POPI) bill this year, the report said.

“It would be fantastic if the African Union could come up with a European Union-style data privacy legislation regime, where it doesn’t matter where the data center is in Africa, as long as it’s in the union, data is secure,” Ettling told ITWeb Africa.

ITWeb Africa reported in February that SAP is certifying partners to have its first-ever data center presence in Africa.

Software companies like SAP probably want to have one or two data centers serving customers in Africa, Ettling said. But they’re not going to build 51 centers, and therein lies the challenge, he said.

“But if legislation then doesn’t allow data from Zimbabwe or Botswana to be stored in Nigeria, it’s going to really slow down the growth,” he said. “I think that will stifle innovation … slow down development (and)… slow down growth in the market.”

Cloud is key to helping small-to-medium African businesses kickstart their
operations, Ettling said. Markets such as South Africa have a legacy of adopting on-premise solutions for back-office functions such as HR.

But in fast-growing markets such as Nigeria and Ghana, Ettling said this legacy does not exist, leaving businesses in these countries with one main option: migrating to the cloud.

Africa’s rapid adoption of mobile network technology ensured that Internet usage became more widespread, which he said boosts the prospect of greater cloud usage.

“You’ve seen this phenomenon where Africa kind of skipped copper wire and went straight to mobile. I think African businesses are going to skip on-premise, as Africa develops, and go straight to cloud,” Ettling told ITWeb Africa. “And I think the success of mobile has paved the infrastructure pathway for that to happen.”

The African Union’s efforts to implement a continent-wide cybercrime convention stalled this year over protests by organisations that the regulation would erode personal freedoms, according to ITWebAfrica.