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One of the biggest selling points of cloud computing is that it levels the
playing field for small companies to compete with bigger ones in terms of IT
infrastructure. Well, I will go one step further and argue that cloud computing
helps players in developing countries to compete on a par with those in more
advanced nations. It helps both the individuals and businesses in the developing
world and I want to highlight this compelling story here in this blog. For the
sake of brevity, I will split this post into two parts. In the first part, I
will talk about how cloud computing can empower individual developers, and in
the second part, I will discuss how it helps businesses in these countries
compete in a global economy.
A few months back, I was reading a New York Times story about the impact of the iPhone in places like
Nairobi in Africa. No, Apple didn’t release the iPhone in Nairobi. The story is
about a 22 year old developer in Kenya who developed an iPhone app using the
online iPhone simulator. During the interview with the reporter, he said
something that struck me about the kind of transitions we are making in our
world due to rapid technological advances, in general, and cloud computing,
in particular. Let me quote the developer here.
Even if I don’t have an iPhone,” Mr. Mworia says defiantly, “I can still have
a world market for my work.
This is a very powerful statement about the changes technology has brought
into this world. The non-availability of the iPhone didn’t matter to this person in
Kenya. The Internet cloud provided him an opportunity to use an online simulator
hosted in a far away country and develop the app using his knowledge (which can
also be honed with the help of world class universities by virtually attending
the classes through the internet).
This is not unique to Mr. Mworia alone. With the proliferation of cloud
computing technologies, millions of developers from the developing countries are
in a position to compete directly with developers working from a garage in
Silicon Valley or Colorado or New York. In my first post, here at Cloud Ave, I talked about Platform as a
Service (PaaS) and how it helps developers scale their app easily. These
Platform as a Service offerings can
help developers in the developing world in ways unimaginable till a couple of
In the traditional world, the developers in these countries had to subscribe
to a shared hosting plan to showcase their apps. For many developers, the cost
of shared hosting alone was prohibitive enough to bury their dreams and
creations even before they could conceptualize them. Even for those who managed
to get a shared hosting plan, either by doing extra hours of hard work or by
borrowing money from friends and relatives, it was next to impossible to scale
their app as they couldn’t afford to rent dedicated servers or clusters needed
for scaling. The economic disparity in the world had put the developers in the
developing countries at a disadvantaged position, ending their dreams even before
With the advent of Platform as a Service, especially with services like Google App Engine and others, the situation has changed drastically.
Now a developer sitting in Kenya or a rural village in India can compete with a
developer working from Starbucks in Seattle. They can showcase their app for
free and, as their app gets traction, they can scale for a very small fee (which
can even be paid by the developer using the money he/she earns from Google ad
services or similar ad services from other companies). The developer sitting in
Kenya can now build an app that can be scaled to a level of a high end startup
in the Valley without any need to raise money. This is the kind of playing field
Adam Smith would have visualized while coming up with his market ideas.
This could only happen due to the emergence and proliferation of cloud
computing. Companies like Google can offer free computing resources which are
used by the developers in the developing world because these companies have
technology that helps them scale at a very low cost. The low cost of hardware
and the network, combined with the availability of easily scalable software
architecture, allows them to offer an opportunity to the developers and help them
bring their dreams to reality.
Do you think we are now seeing a leveling of playing field due to the
advances in technology? Especially, I would like to hear from developers in the
developing nations about how (or whether) they benefited from these
technologies. If you have a success story to share, please contact us
and we will try our best to highlight your story in this space.