James Saaka, the Executive Director of National Information and Technology Authority (NITA-U) has described the planned Raxio Data Centre
ICT Industry

IT experts welcome Uganda’s first ever Private Data Centre

James Saaka, the Executive Director of National Information and Technology Authority (NITA-U) has described the planned Raxio Data Centre, to be built at Namanve Industrial Park as a “brilliant opportunity” for especially Uganda’s Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and innovators to “lower their cost of IT investments”, allowing them to be competitive in the market.

“For SMEs, this is a blessing because they will be able to lower their costs. For innovators and those people who need big data computing, this is an investment that is very welcome. These are the kind of investments that Uganda would like to get.

“SMEs, innovators and private companies, better use these data centres that are emerging because that brings down the cost of their IT investments and allows them to roll out their services in a much smarter way,” said Saaka.

NITA-U  is an autonomous statutory body established under the NITA-U Act 2009, to coordinate and regulate Information Technology services in Uganda.

Saaka was speaking on the sidelines of Roxio’s corporate launch at Kampala, Serena Hotel. The launch was attended by several leaders of business, IT experts and executives from Raxio as well as Roha Africa, the lead investor in the data centre.

The launch was also attended by James Wilman the Chief Executive Officer: Data Centre Consultancy, Data Centre Design, Construction & Facilities Management at Future-tech- Designer of Raxio DC as well as Bernard Geoghegan – KPL Consult, International Consultant for Raxio DC.

“This is a brilliant opportunity because we mostly see such data centre investments near the oceans where submarine cables land. The investors having put their confidence in Uganda and building their data centre here, it means that our investment environment is good,” he said.

About the Raxio Data Centre 

The Raxio Data Centre, to be built at Namanve Industrial and Business Park will be a state-of-the-art, Tier III, carrier-neutral data centre, – the first privately owned shared facility in Uganda.

According to James Byaruhanga, Raxio’s General Manager, groundbreaking will happen in the next few weeks and completion and the opening is slated for Q3 2019.

“At full capacity, the centre will be able to house up to 400 racks, delivering 1.5MW of IT power. It will operate optimally, 24/7, in a fully safe, secure and redundant environment,” he said.

Roxio’s largest investor is  Roha Group, a US greenfield investment company that builds and develops new businesses across Africa.

Raxio has selected Future-Tech, a UK specialist data-centre design company with over 30 years of experience to design the centre to global Tier III standards.

Symbion, a leading local architectural firm will carry out the civil and structural design of the building. Future-Tech and Symbion are working hand-in-hand to oversee the building and commissioning of the centre.

Byaruhanga, said, the world-over, businesses and governments are adopting the digital economy as a means to improved services delivery, but this digital transformation requires real-time data storage capabilities as well as robust business continuity and disaster recovery solutions.

“The digital disruption caused by the digital economy also demands that organisations and or governments must also deliver this digitalization more affordable and perhaps even more important; safely.  Fast, affordable & safe has become a very critical language in today’s digital economy and this is where the Raxio Data Centre comes in handy,” he said.

Why use the Raxio Data Centre?

Byaruhanga said that the data centre was carrier-neutral with up to nine (9) telcos and internet services providers; users will have a choice to access at least three providers of the nine.

“This will guarantee more competitively priced services, diversity and flexibility, but more importantly 99.999% uptime which means maximum reliability for mission-critical operations,” he said, adding that the data centre will have professionally managed facilities in-line with international operating procedures as well as a 7 level security access system that “ensures sensitive systems are kept safe.”

“Shared managed facilities translate into lower running costs compared to in-house data centres, allowing organisations to use their physical space more efficiently as well as enabling enterprises to focus on core their core businesses,” he added.

Robert Mullins, the Roha Group Lead Partner and Director, Raxio said that  the affordability, flexibility and scalability offered by the data centre, presented Ugandan organisations- government, the private sector and non-government alike, is “truly liberating.”

Mullins said that much as internet penetration as well as the adoption of ICTs in delivering services and solutions by both the private sector and government was experiencing a healthy growth, driven by largely the falling costs of internet and the cost of internet, many an organisation was yet to adopt shared/managed services.

“The Raxio Data Centre has been designed to deliver a disaster recovery and business continuity solution locally under local laws, with local customer-service but at global world-class security standards,” he said.

“Other than bringing critical services closer to the local market, this (data centre) will also make data/internet services cheaper and faster to the end users, but most importantly, bring down the overall cost of connectivity in the country, thus increasing the global competitiveness of Ugandan businesses.”

He also said that by “intermediating between the increasing need for high-grade data security and the preventive costs involved in setting up in-house foolproof  disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, the Raxio Data Centre is a timely investment and key pillar in Uganda’s digital economy.”

“With this world-class facility, we also believe, we shall attract some of the world’s major global content data networks, cloud services providers as well as regional data carriers to Uganda- thus creating an even bigger ripple effect,” he said.

Regulatory Environment

  • The data centre is just in time, as the Data Privacy and Protection Bill (2015) – is being finalised. The Bill puts increased focus on data security and places primary responsibility on entities collecting especially personal data to “adopt appropriate, reasonable, technical and organisational measures to prevent loss, damage, or unauthorised destruction and unlawful access to or unauthorised processing of the personal data.”
  • The centre will intermediate between the increasing need for data security and the preventive costs involved in setting up high-grade data and recovery disaster centres. Because of these cost barriers, most data hosting has been cloud sourced to foreign providers because of the costs involved. Most large multi-national corporates have been sharing data hosting and disaster recovery with their home-offices. Very few large corporates have in-country data centres.
  • The Uganda government is increasingly getting sensitive about foreign data storage and there is an increased push on having national data being kept in-country.
  • For example, in 2016, following the closure of Imperial Bank in Kenya, which had a subsidiary in Uganda, BoU faced issues in accessing data on Imperial Bank’s Uganda operations as all the data was stored in Kenya. Consequently, to ensure uninterrupted business continuity for subsidiaries but also ensure regulatory access at all times, the Bank of Uganda issued a directive to all commercial banks to install in-country Primary Data Centres and Disaster Recovery Sites. The sheer amounts involved make it more expensive for some of the banks, especially the loss-making ones. A shared data & recovery centre located in Uganda would be a welcome cost-saving move in an industry where 5-year banking industry cost-to-income ratios are over 75% thus putting pressure on industry margins.

THE OPPORTUNITY

  • Uganda has over the last 10-20 years, undergone rapid economic growth. Similarly, the use and adoption of ICTs in the private sector, government and non-government levels have grown significantly. According to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) figures, internet penetration stood at well over 49% by end of 2017.
  • The National Information Technology Survey 2017/18 Report by the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) indicates that the cost of internet has also reduced by 62.5% from $632 per 1Mpbs in 2011 to $237 in 2018. However, much as the digital transformation of the Ugandan economy continues to accelerate, presenting an abundance of opportunities, there is an equally greater need to insulate against the potential risks that come along with the digital economy.
  • For example, the same NITA report indicated that up to 71.4% of all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) reported experiencing some type of IT security incident in 2016/17. It also reported that 80.5% of MDAs and 66.7% of Local Governments relied on the local in-house capacity to host their applications and databases- only 48.1% of MDAs and 38.1% of Local Government reported keeping backups off-site.

The following major fears for not using off-site data storage and or cloud services were advanced;

  • Risk of a security breach (55.8%)
  • The high cost of buying cloud computing services (40.3%)
  • Uncertainty about the location of the data (36.4%)
  • Uncertainty about the applicable law, jurisdiction, dispute resolution mechanism (27.3%)
  • Difficulties in unsubscribing or changing service provider and data portability (22.1%)

BY PAUL TENTENA