Inside Namanve Industrial Park lies Raxio Data Centre. The data centre is designed with shiny racks housing servers, networking devices, and cables that throb as fans cool machines that steadily process and store unending data.
It operates 24 hours a day from the business park, and the data joins a digital torrent in an underground fibre ring network that is steadily sweeping around Kampala and connecting to undersea cables – the physical backbones of the digital world.
With the increasing need for faster Internet and storage for big data, the $15 million (Shs52 billion) data centre is expected to support industries that are facing increasingly complex and unique Information technology and regulatory challenges.
This means it will address Ugandan demand in the growth in data usage and storage and the broader digital transformation of businesses and the public sector in Uganda.
The state-of-the-art facility will allow networks to interconnect directly and exchange data traffic, with the consequence of securing cheaper, faster and more reliable internet.
Several businesses are shifting their information-technology operations online, to the cloud.
Raxio hosts an instance of the Uganda Internet exchange Point which allows networks to directly interconnect and freely exchange data traffic at a common point in-country, making the Internet cheaper, faster and more reliable.
Being the first of its kind in Uganda, James Byaruhanga, the general manager at Raxio, says from a regional point of view, the growth of data centres in Africa is forecasted to grow between 50 per cent and 80 per cent within the next four years – with a market size expected to cross $3 billion by 2025.
Uganda’s digital transformation programme has driven a 20 per cent annual growth of the ICT sector with over 380,000 companies are engaged in the sector.
The data centre fits well within the national digital transformation programme earmarked in the National Development Plan III.
The programme broadly covers connectivity, automation, cybersecurity and innovation.
Uganda has over 310 radio stations and 40 TV stations. These stations are supplemented with a number of independent content creators and production houses for film, commercial content, music and research.
The growth in media production houses is driving the explosion of content creation among highly creative and innovative Ugandans.
However, to deliver this content to local and international audiences, most Ugandan content creators use globally based content delivery networks to provide fast delivery of Internet content.
Ms Irene Kaggwa, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) executive director, says the new data centre will provide direct access to content without necessarily moving over international links.
This means by having a content delivery network server within the country, it will create faster distribution of content closer to the website but also reduce bandwidth consumption costs for website hosting.
“You don’t need the delays that content has to move over international links and then connect back to a local Internet provider,” she says.
Meanwhile, according to Kaggwa, the American markets have reached content saturation and companies such as Sony are looking for other countries to develop new content.
“Raxio provides the global partners to peer directly with local content creators because it reduces the round about time. There is no need to set up their own servers when we have our own data centre in place,” she explains.
Kenya has been described as the Silicon Savannah technology hub in East Africa for attracting several reputable international tech companies such as Google.
This is partly because the country invested earlier in data centres that have the ability to house servers for the international companies.
Most Ugandan companies face similar challenges managing data: power, space and connectivity.
The data centre hopes to solve this with 400 racks that will house servers, networking devices, cables while providing 1.5 MegaWatts of IT power to ensure optimal functionality within a safe and secure environment.
With content being generated every day, media and production houses are facing a big question of storage.
Currently, media houses have mini data centres, however, the cost of maintaining such data remains high. This means, the data centre comes in handy to provide space for media companies to store data.
Data sovereignty which is embodied in the Privacy Act for the companies and individuals will provide the most stringent data protection, sealing off any potential threats to data theft.
A win for businesses
Tumubweine Twinemanzi, the executive director of the Bank Supervision at Bank of Uganda, reveals that banks spend over $5 million annually to maintain the average core deployment for a banking system. This remains expensive for many banks.
With a data centre in vicinity, banks expect to cut out-of-pocket expenses by establishing a cloud based banking system. The system has the ability to handle a high volume of transactions in real time without interruption.
Twinemanzi says the new data centre will also create a possibility of companies having cloud based accounting software to set up at the data centre for better storage of clients’ records.
“Some financial institutions don’t have better storage for accounting books; with a data centre, it makes it quicker to create a storage cloud service for accountants in financial institutions. This is important for banks in terms of monitoring their clients,” he says.