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Cloud computing is now powering all kinds of new businesses around the globe, faster and with less capital. Amazon AWS, Microsoft and Google or data storage service such as Dropbox give anyone on the planet access to an enormous amount of computing power by renting data storage and computer server time for a fraction of the cost of owning and running their own computers.
Take Instagram. This simple app. company was a 12-person photo-sharing operation that was sold to Facebook for an estimated $1 billion just 2 years ago after it opened without owning infrastructure. But it’s not just start-ups. Climate Corporation provide insurance to farmers but use Amazon AWS to perform over 10,000 simulations for the coming two years’ weather in more than one million locations around the United States and combines this with data on root structure and soil porosity while renting data storage.
But it’s in the developing world that the scope of Cloud computing is really being seen. Over 185 United States government agencies already run some part of their services on A.W.S, not to name multinationals, charitable organization and most importantly, local entrepreneurs who are reshaping and levelling the playing field.
David Risher, a former Amazon senior executive now heads a charity called Worldreader, which uses A.W.S. to download books to thousands of computers in Africa. “A.W.S. is an opportunity, as a business. But it is also a philosophy of enabling other people to build big systems. That is how Amazon will make a dent in the universe.”
Local businesses don’t need much more than a computer worth a few hundred dollars and Internet. Essentially, places without clean water, decent sanitation or steady electricity are using supercomputers data servers on a daily basis.
Millions of people in Africa shop for cars online, using cheap smartphones or Internet cafés connected to A.W.S. servers located in California and Ireland. For example Cheki, a used car classifieds business that serves up about a billion page views a month in Kenya and Nigeria.
“Most of the one million people using the site are looking at it with Android-based smartphones that cost about $70”, [i]according to Thomas Shaw, Amazon’s information technology manager. “Imagine things in a few years, when Huawei, which makes most of the devices, gets those phone prices even lower”.
Jobberman, Nigeria’s largest careers website also runs on Amazon Web Services, as does M-Pesa, the mobile payments division of Safaricom, a mobile phone provider based in Kenya.
“Mobile money has become so big that the Africa Development Bank says the new money may be causing inflation” [ii], writes Quentin Hardy in the New York Times.
Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Nigerians and Kenyans are also online competing (at cut-prices) with Westerners for everything from software designers to web content writers. Something again, that can lower the prices for start-ups in the West and level the playing field between the developed and undeveloped world.
Amazon holds seminars for start-ups in India, Indonesia and many other countries, hoping to foster more consumption of advanced technology among the developing economies.