One of the key aspect in today’s world is Digital innovation.Countries like United States of America are at the forefront in ensuring online business are running smoothly but here in Kenya it is really hard to carry out such business due to lack of affordable electricity. Nowadays the Kenya Power Inflation rates are so high; this makes it difficult for small business owners to run their businesses with ease because they cannot afford to pay the expensive electricity bills. In some areas in the country, it is hard to explore and use strategies in business like digital marketing and digital entrepreneurship because most people are not educated on such aspects. The year 2020 has spurred massive changes in how the world works, learns and does business changes made possible by the internet and digital infrastructure.
Without power, there is no internet. The entire digital space relies so heavily on reliable, affordable electricity, from home internet connections to the base stations that underpin cellular networks to the data centers that store the internet’s content. This means that countries with weak power infrastructures, which were already struggling to compete in the new digital economy, are facing bleak prospects in a post-lockdown world in which Zoom, Dropbox and Google Classroom are the new office or school.
In Africa, where the digital transition has long been touted as a way to leapfrog traditional infrastructure, is especially vulnerable to falling behind. Challenges in the power sector here such as low electrification rates, high prices and appalling reliability have significantly affected the region’s digital competitiveness.
The Pandemic is already widening this gap across the region. Lack of electricity, for instance, is undermining Kenya’s ability to deliver its remote learning initiative. While professionals stuck working from home are faced with frequent internet disruptions due to a weak power grid that has been impacted by heavy rains, vandalism and technical faults during the lockdown. Even South Africa, which has by far the most power capacity on the continent, will struggle to power basic mobile data for simple WhatsApp calls once its dramatic load-shedding program of scheduled countrywide blackouts is reinstituted after the lockdown ends.
The power-Africa will only get wider in an increasingly digital post-COVID world, if current energy system challenges remain unaddressed. This vicious cycle in the power-internet nexus is best exemplified by the data centers. It sit at the core of the internet’s infrastructure centralizing data storage, computing power and networking equipment. Data centers drive energy efficiency in the digital ecosystem. They concentrate equipment and processes, but as such they are large power consumers with strong sensitivity to changes in electricity cost and reliability. In fact, power generally represents two thirds of their operating costs.
Demand for more Africa-based data centers is growing dramatically. This is to serve the continent’s burgeoning internet use with low-latency and high-bandwidth connectivity. Africa’s data center industry is expected to grow to 600 megawatts in 2020. This growth alone represents a projected capital investment of more than $1 billion in the region. Notably, it is local African businesses, including Vodacom/Safaricom, MTN, Rack Center Nigeria, Africa Data Centers and Teraco that are at the forefront of this growing industry, owning more than 95 percent of data center capacity in the region. But without cheap and reliable power, data centers won’t get built in Africa wasting a tremendous economic opportunity.
And without robust data center development, activities with hefty data requirements like remote work, digital classrooms, video streaming and data analytics all especially needed in the COVID-19 era will start to crumble. And sub-Saharan Africa will start to see slower growth in its technological industries overall. No power, no digital transformation.
The same factors that make data centers such a challenge for business-as-usual approaches to energy in sub-Saharan Africa should also make them the catalyst for new approaches that could finally begin to close the continent’s energy gap.
Governments and actors in the information and communications technology (ICT) and power sectors need to seize the moment and come together to solve sub-Saharan Africa’s power-internet nexus challenge.
Governments must put solving power at the heart of spurring Africa’s digital transformation. ICT Ministries need to turn to their ministry of energy colleagues and emphasize, “No power, no digital transformation. “Governments need to support and hold accountable their local utilities to increase grid capacity, overall health of our power systems, invest in infrastructure across transmission and distribution, and increase reliability. In the current pandemic, governments must especially recognize the power and ICT sectors both as responses to the current crisis and as building blocks for long-term resilience.