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Telecom operators must find smarter ways to serve data-hungry population


Data consumption continues to grow at an incredible pace globally. Over 90% of all the data in the world was created in the past two years, and the total amount of data being captured and stored by industry doubles almost year on year.

It is expected that by 2020, the amount of digital information in existence will have grown from 3.2 zettabytes today to 40 zettabytes.  Every minute we send 204 million emails, generate 1,8 million Facebook likes, send 278 thousand Tweets and up-load 200 thousand photos to Facebook.

Coupled to this, cellular phones are now even more accessible to the general population than they ever have been, with 17.9% of rural households in South Africa alone accessing the internet from mobile devices and 30.8% of South African households using mobile devices to access the internet, according to Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey report published in June 2014.

The sheer size of the African continent, coupled with the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is rising faster than the rest of the world (Population Reference Bureau predicts that Africa’s population will double to 2.4 billion by 2050) means that there are already several hundred million internet users who are demanding internet performance, and this number will rise at an inconceivable pace.

Peter Greaves, Aurecon’s Expertise leader for Data & ICT Facilities comments: “The impact of this is that telecom operators will have to find better, smarter ways to serve a data-hungry population throughout Africa. Corporations and governments are also becoming aware of the increased need for data centres and the fact that outsourcing these services allows them to focus on their core activities. Concerns about unreliable power and inadequate security can similarly be delegated to a dedicated third party that will guarantee the required uptime and data integrity.”

He adds: “While it’s true that data centres can be remote, countries (especially African countries) need to start looking at more local solutions in order to ensure data sovereignty and efficient network performance.  This demand will drive a significant data centre build-out in both East and West Africa over the next 20 years and now is the time to start reassessing the number of data centres in Africa, where they are located and how we can create scalable solutions to meet future data needs.”

“There are many complexities involved with building data centres that become long-term assets. Creating long-term, dynamic, scalable data centres in Africa will require us to draw on the key lessons learned from around the globe as well as the knowledge from local experts in the field,” believes Greaves.

Just some of the key considerations involved in creating long-term data centre assets are explored below.

Sustainably minded design

Data centres are significant users of energy and are estimated to consume some 2% of the world’s energy. Today’s data centre owners are placing a greater emphasis on the performance and even official rating of their centres. 

In Africa, passive design measures which draw on the local climate to cool data centres can be employed in order to reduce cooling needs. Using free cool air at night to pass through the conditioning systems; or exploiting ground-source cooling are both mechanisms that can make a significant difference to the electricity that is needed to cool a data centre.

“Better performance translates into reduced operational costs, ultimately improving the overall competitiveness of a data centre,” believes Greaves.

Site selection – withstanding natural disasters and communication infrastructure is key

Critically, power outages at these centres can have a significant effect on business operations – compromising crucial business information, with severe consequences. In line with this, data centre site selection in Africa needs to take into account the likelihood of natural disaster conditions such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, heavy rain, high temperatures, fires, epidemics and floods. Modern data centres can be built and retrofitted to withstand natural disasters, but the overall impact of a natural disaster still needs to be considered during the site selection process.

In addition, data centres need to have significant communications infrastructure from a variety of sources in order to minimise the risk of interruptions and failure, which could have a major impact on a service provider’s customers. Bandwidth availability and the distance of existing IT infrastructure from data centres, such as marine IT links,  needs to be planned to ensure new data centres are efficient and economically viable.

Skilled data centre operators

The people who manage and work in data centres need more than IT skills. A successful data centre requires a culmination of IT, facilities, data security and storage skills, to name but a few. There are also a number of compliance and regularity concerns that need to be adhered to and the right people, with the right skills, are needed for these critical positions.

Why Aurecon?

Aurecon has been involved in data centres for over 15 years, including forming part of the project teams on some of the largest data centres around the world. This international experience, coupled with our local engineering experience of conditions throughout Africa, means that we have the skills to avoid the pitfalls that many other countries have seen when planning and building new data centres.

Our team of over 500 building specialists as well as our local know-how ensures that we are able to adapt international best practice to produce local excellence locally.

“The increasing demand for datacentres in Africa will lead to an inspiring, large scale build of data centres and usher in a digital revolution in Africa,” believes Greaves.

“Done right, the evolution and expansion of data centres will enable the globalisation of the African continent. If these are situated close to reliable, expandable data links linking the population of Africa to all parts of the world in real time, they will accelerate learning, promote ease of business and allow African people as well as businesses to expand their knowledge and corporations. These are just some of the benefits that the continent can look forward to in the future if data centres are planned properly today.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Aurecon.
 

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.

The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.

He was speaking in  Parliament on Tuesday delivering  Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a  motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.

The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.

The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.

The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.

This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.

Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.

Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.

However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.

Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.

When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.

This  as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.

Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.

The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.

Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.

In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.

Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.

Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.

Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.

Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance   Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”

He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”

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