Is a country like Bangladesh to benefit from cloud computing, and if so, how? This week I wrapped up training new instructors for Cloud Essentials and Virtualization Essentials in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (see earlier post for my previous visit). At first glance there is little doubt that this country can benefit. After all, cloud computing and virtualization promises lower cost and faster deployment than traditional IT. And developing countries have little money to spend and no time to lose.

Two studies published this week provide context to this question. The 2012-2013 competitiveness report  shows that Bangladesh is slipping on the list of competitive economies, partly because of poor infrastructure. Another study shows that increased digitization correlates with higher economic growth.

So the imperative is there. But where to start? This was the topic of some of the discussions that I had with my students and with staff of the Bangladesh Computer Council, industry representatives and very senior government officials.

The initial cloud thoughts of most organizations around the world start at their current application portfolio. Typically they discover that it is a lot of work to move an existing application to the cloud, while at the same time that very often does not improve the risk profile of the application. So, plan A fails, time for plan B.

Cloud computing is part of a bigger shift, which is that the “center of gravity” of digital data is moving outside of corporations and into a wider ecosystem of companies, service providers, communities and individuals. Think of Wikipedia and all the actors and machinery that are involved in making it work. Success in cloud computing is more likely to occur in this new space.

Back to developing countries, who need to raise the level of education, their infrastructure and their IT industry. What initiative would enable that? Bangladesh already has a network of computer classrooms at the regional level. A new government network is scheduled to bring Internet connectivity to more than 14.000 offices. Half the people have mobile phones already and smartphones are on the rise. I have been told that there is a successful process of local teachers producing local content for their students.

This indicates that there is a critical mass for a next wave of innovation. I foresee a model where private companies, with some government support, develop innovative local learning solutions to tap into teacher generated content to improve learning efficiency for local students.

Such an initiative would be superior to imported software or existing cloud solutions because it will be in a local language and will be optimized to the existing internet speeds and (mobile) devices. Low speed internet is better than no internet. After all, the dot com boom was built on millions of people having internet at dial-up speeds.

If this takes off, it will improve learning for a very large student population, it will strengthen the business case for investing in higher internet speeds, it will result in more practical cloud application development experience across the country and a strengthened local software industry.

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