Bridging the digital divide: Harnessing data through cloud computing


In this brave, new digital age, we’re witnessing an unprecedented surge in data generation—data that can accelerate economic development across all countries and sectors. However, only a tiny fraction of the data produced today is being used effectively. Imagine a library where millions of books are added every second without a system to organize or retrieve them. To make use of this treasure trove, you need a way to harness it. Cloud infrastructure offers a solution.

Cloud infrastructure consists of a network of servers on the internet that store and manage data, run applications, and provide computing power. This allows digital resources to be accessed without the need for powerful hardware on a device. Everything is hosted on remote servers managed by cloud service providers. Cloud infrastructure acts as a backbone that supports the storage, processing, and analysis of data, enabling us to tap into its full potential efficiently and effectively.

In short, robust cloud infrastructure allows us to organize data better and make it readily accessible in an efficient and cost-effective way, which is especially beneficial for developing countries. So, how do we harness this game-changing technology to help unlock its transformative economic potential in countries where we work?

Addressing the “cloud divide”

Despite the transformative potential, most cloud infrastructure is concentrated in developed countries, which has led to an acute “cloud divide.” This gap in access to cloud computing services and infrastructure between high-income and developing regions stems from infrastructure challenges, economic constraints, and unfavorable business environments. This imbalance makes it more difficult for low- and middle-income countries to fully engage in the global digital economy. For example, only 50% of Africa’s population has access to 4G mobile service—far lower than the global coverage rate of 88%—hindering the region’s productivity and economic growth.

The first step to overcoming the cloud divide is to create a national digital transformation strategy that promotes the development of the cloud technology sector in a way that promotes social and economic progress. Key considerations include:

  • Establishing an enabling policy and regulatory environment: Developing countries should establish policies and regulations that support data protection, cybersecurity, and private investment in cloud services.
  • Investing in critical infrastructure: Improving both digital and physical infrastructure is essential. This involves ensuring reliable energy and broadband connectivity and building a skilled workforce through education and vocational training.
  • Promoting technological innovation and sustainability: The cloud industry should integrate emerging technologies and sustainable practices. This includes tapping into renewable energy sources and improving the energy efficiency of data centers.
  • Enhancing market access and flexibility: Policies that improve data portability and increase competition will foster innovation and resilience in the cloud services sector.

Cloud infrastructure and development

These regulatory changes, investments, innovations, and access improvements can help developing countries use cloud computing to spur innovation and economic growth across sectors. They can help create jobs and boost skills, increase government efficiency and transparency, enhance resilience, and reduce the environmental impact of IT operations.

Robust cloud computing systems offer benefits, particularly for developing countries. They enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to access advanced technologies without significant upfront investments in IT infrastructure. In addition, cloud-based services such as e-learning platforms and telemedicine can significantly improve access to education and healthcare.

Access to cloud computing also enhances access to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Cloud providers increasingly integrate AI into their solutions, empowering customers to make data-driven decisions, optimize processes for efficiency, and improve user experience. Additionally, cloud providers actively foster partnerships with AI startups, providing platforms for digital innovations that solve complex problems across various domains such as healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and more. Already, 70% of generative AI startups depend on Google’s cloud infrastructure and AI capabilities.

Furthermore, the cloud computing sector can create jobs, fostering a new industry requiring a skilled workforce. Cloud technologies also enable governments to improve their services by facilitating the collection, analysis, and deployment of data in real time. This can lead to more targeted and effective public programs, better resource allocation, and enhanced transparency and accountability.

Finally, this technology can improve disaster management by enhancing a country’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. During disasters, cloud computing can be used for real-time data analysis, communication, coordination of resources, and decision-making. Post-disaster, data stored in the cloud can be accessed to coordinate recovery efforts efficiently. We are entering a new era where data is the new currency of progress. Cloud infrastructure is emerging as a critical factor in global development, promising a better future for us all. By embracing cloud technology’s potential and addressing the challenges of the digital divide, every country can unlock a future where universal access to information is the foundation for sustainable growth.

Learn more about cloud computing

Overcoming the cloud divide will allow the benefits of cloud computing to be used to promote inclusive growth and spur sustainable development worldwide. This is integral to our work and underpins our latest report, Advancing Cloud and Data Infrastructure Markets, which provides a comprehensive analysis of cloud computing fundamentals, explores the factors driving the growth of cloud services, describes the development of cloud and data infrastructure markets, and examines the role of governments and regulatory frameworks.

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