Drivers and barriers for cloud computing adoption in the public sector in Kenya


Under the RANITP (Research Academic Network on IT Policy), Research ICT Africa and University of Nairobi collaborated on a research study to establish the state of cloud service usage in Kenya.

Specifically, the study sought to find out what were the drivers, barriers, and challenges surrounding cloud service adoption and usage in the public sector. This is expected to identify points of policy intervention that are expected to stimulate and promote cloud service adoption.

According to the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Cloud services are a product of cloud computing, which defined as:

(Cloud computing is) a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Noting that cloud services have both the cloud providers and the cloud consumers as key actors, the study prepared questionnaires aimed and understanding cloud adoption from the provider as well as the consumer perspectives.

Nine (9) local Cloud Providers and Fifteen (15) Cloud consumers/users completed the questionnaires and gave interesting insights; some of which are highlighted below.

The Cloud providers reported that only 30% of their clients were from the public sector, while 60% come from the private sector and 10% from non-government organisations.

Most of the clients were subscribed to Mail and Web Services under the Software as a Service (SaaS) Model, with Storage & Disaster recovery under the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model coming in second in terms of usage.

Very few clients were subscribed to the Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings. This was well supported and collaborated by the responses from the clients’ side.

On the skills front, the Cloud providers cited Development operations (DevOps), Software development, System Administration & Networking skills as being critical to provisioning cloud services.

Similar skills were identified by the Cloud users. They, however, added that Information Security, Contract & Project Management skills were critical in migrating, maintaining and supporting cloud services.

One skill cited by the cloud providers as being useful for cloud consumers was digital transformation skills.  The providers felt that cloud consumers lacked in-house competencies that view cloud services as being transformational, rather than simply being technical.

In other words, migrating services to the cloud should be undertaken simultaneously with process re-engineering activities that re-position the enterprise to better leverage on cloud offerings.

Cloud adoption must be accompanied by significant paradigm shifts within the organisation.

Organisations must therefore have Cloud Strategies and Roadmaps that may disrupt the traditional ways of doing things in order to transform them and align them to the prevailing cloud service and process models.

In terms of barriers to cloud adoption, the cloud providers cited lack of knowledge, poor connectivity, lack of policies and regulatory frameworks, data ownership and security concerns as being inhibiting factors to customers migrating to the cloud.

The cloud consumers cited similar factors were. However, they added procurement challenges, resistance to change, fears of vendor lock-ins, Lopsided Service Level Agreements (SLAs) as being deterrent factors to cloud adoption.

With respected to the key drivers for cloud adoption, both providers and clients cited traditional benefits of cloud services. These included Cost reduction, High-availability, Scalability, Improved Reliability, and Agility for the organization’s services.

Another driver, particularly for smaller enterprises was their lack of internal ICT capacity to support and maintain systems. Outsourcing to the cloud then becomes the easy and automatic option to access world-class ICT services without the overheads of maintaining local ICT staff.

Improved connectivity and penetration was also cited as a driver – even though some of the users mentioned that the high cost of connectivity may negate the overall gains of moving to the cloud.

In terms of government support for the cloud industry, the providers felt that very little was being done. The government could stimulate the industry by providing supporting policies and subscribing to cloud services.

Whereas the ICT Authority, the government entity in charge of ICT services had published a Cloud Service Standard, it was observed that it was not being enforced across government agencies and departments.

Furthermore, the procurement laws in the country have not been updated to reflect the unique nature of cloud services, which is in contrast to the traditional way government procures ICT hardware and services.

The pay-per-use model, the complexities of data ownership and residency make it difficult for wide uptake of cloud services in the public sector and must be addressed through a mix of interventions.

This would range from aggressive awareness programs, to policy, legal & regulatory reforms. Specifically, both categories of respondents identified lack of the Data Protection and the Cyber-security Acts as being detrimental to cloud adoption in the public sector.

Blogpost by Walubengo John

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