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The last frontier

The last frontier
Gilda Odera
  • On November 3, 2010

I often sit and ponder over the many events happening in the world, and how the world is changing so rapidly each day.

Other than the real threats of terrorism that we unfortunately live with today, there is the global climate change that has simply disorganised so many aspects of our lives. And yet, true and sad to state, these two scenarios are not just about to disappear. Going by what we read and hear each day, they seem to be only getting worse.

No, I am not a prophet of doom and neither do I intend to become one. I am simply interested in finding out what the world is doing (and not talking) about disaster preparedness.

As each day goes by, more and more people and organisations are becoming more reliant on ICT. It has become part and parcel of our lives and the small cellphone is becoming even more revolutionary – almost everything is now being done on this hand gadget.

Serious, visionary organisations have put into place their disaster recovery plans and are quite content that they would be able to access whatever data they need from remote locations should a disaster happen. More and more companies are digitising their records and backing them up in data centres. There is that realisation that anything could happen.

Well done – BUT: is this the only thing that is required?

If you ask me, businesses are inter-related and as long as one partner is not on the same page as the other, there is still a huge gap. Disaster recovery may not be totally helpful – well, maybe to some large extent, for internal purposes – but it is important that as many operations are doing likewise.

What about the skills of the people needed to do some of that work for continuity, in the event of that disaster? What if the disaster means having to relocate one’s operations even temporarily to a remote location? Is that remote location able to handle the work? Should there not be some serious knowledge-transfer going on in all continents so that one has several options, just in case this major disaster affects such a wide region?

The skills transfer in Africa is taking place at a slower pace than I would want to see. The fact of the matter is that although for most years Africa has been seen as the “Dark Continent” where many have found no reason for doing anything (and, believe me, they are really losing out on huge opportunities), it is time many woke up to the reality. Africa can no longer be ignored and there is an urgent need for companies in the developed world to get a much better understanding of the different nations in Africa, their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities and get into serious skills transfer and building of business relationships. Why? Because whether or not we like it we are living in difficult changing times.

Disasters are the order of the day and they are occurring from one place to another. The whole world needs to come together – and what better way than with the use of ICTs.

ICTs have reduced – eliminated, in some cases – the time-difference from one region to another. We communicate in real time and cheaply in Kenya today. The cost of calling a friend in USA/China/UK is now the same as me calling my next-door neighbour! And the line is very clear and audible, thanks to the infrastructure we have today.

I feel an urgent need to get the world together to start replicating facilities that are out there in Africa: data centres, call centres, you name it – not to take away jobs from out there, but to prepare for any eventualities so that at any given time, help can come from here too! I must say, though, that in Kenya, entrepreneurs and businessmen are not sitting on our laurels waiting for things to happen: we are already doing it in our small or big way – but partnerships with experience count and I cannot deny that.

I often wonder: if anything disastrous happens in Asia where the strength of replicated facilities are, what would happen? I know for a fact it would take a lot to have the work taken up in Europe or North America. Might I also say that if the same happened in Europe and North America, would the Asian countries cope? I doubt it.

That is why the last frontier needs to be awakened and equipped to become part of the global solution. There are challenges, it is true – but it is important to note that there are a few countries like my Kenya that are way ahead of others in Africa in many ways.

A lot more should be happening between African and European, North American and Asian companies. China as we all know is already at it and is really everywhere in Africa now. Last week 175 Indian companies were in Nairobi, exploring such opportunities so it is encouraging to see this happening. More needs to be seen from Europe and North America where ironically there are even more large companies that require proper disaster recovery plans and centres in more than one remote location.

Who knows- the last frontier may well save the world’s greatest economies if we ever get to such disasters one day. Let’s all get working at it!

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