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The Cloud for Africa

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ICTI
Posted on February 21, 2012

Luke Kyohere is Senior Technology Manager, at Grameen Foundation Uganda

Over the past year and a half, Sean Krepp, Grameen Foundation’s Uganda Country Director, and I have been thinking a lot about what we’ve termed “The cloud for Africa”. This has been a central tenet during all our architectural planning over this period: how do we create services that are cloud based and easy to scale horizontally, but also work in Africa where connectivity & coverage are intermittent and energy & money are scarce.

We’ve taken strategic steps to move our services to the cloud and thin out our middle layer, with the aim of getting rid of it entirely over time. We’ve built services in Salesforce that are rather advanced now and are already being offered to clients via our “a la carte” SaaS portal (our self-serve offering has been in use for the past 10 months or so).

We’re also going “cloud” with development processes. Our support system is in Salesforce, we’ve moved our repositories to Google code and are moving our bug tracking and code review systems to managed solutions.

For the Africa part, going beyond the smart-phone, we’ve tried to build what we call the smart-app: applications that cache frequently accessed data, work offline, auto-save user input, use resources intelligently in order to save battery life and save money by relying on mobile data rather than SMS and compressing all data sent to the backend systems.

The next step for us on the client side is to move to platform independent technologies like HTML5 for the client applications, as mobile browsers play catch-up and HTML5 becomes more ubiquitous. We’re working on an HTML5 proof-of-concept for our search application, and we’ve kept in the loop with Indonesia to get us all thinking about HTML5 as they build the next generation of survey clients. We’re also working on SMS, USSD and Voice “clients” to the same aim.

On the backend side, our aim is to “modularize” more. We’re collaborating to integrate our farmer poverty tracking with the PPI+ folks from GF’s Social Performance Management Center, we’re looking at voice and message SaaS integration (perhaps in conjunction with our work in Ghana), encouraging GF’s AppLab Indonesia to build their new survey platform over our code-base (if possible) and the xforms-standard, with the aim of merging code-paths horizontally, and thinking about the next stage of reporting and business intelligence.

Lastly, the data collection, information dissemination, field force management & reporting tools we’ve built are strategically sector agnostic and they can be used, for example, in the health, education or financial sectors.

 

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  • Dorothy Ogolla March 7, 2012

    Having our information intermediaries operating in the cloud, deep in rural areas has improved the access to information by farmers in over 20 districts in Uganda. Touching the lives of 734, 818 farmers, we are certainly going horizontal.

  • Dorothy Ogolla March 7, 2012

    Having our information intermediaries operating in the cloud, deep in rural areas has improved the access of information by farmers in over 20 districts in Uganda. Touching the lives of 734, 818 farmers, we are certainly going horizontal.