Sep 11 , 2020

The government is set to build a national data centre, where all the necessary information and statistics of all federal institutions and citizens are securely kept and stored. The centre is to be built by the Ministry of Innovation & Technology and will also offer cloud services, making it the first nationally hosted cloud facility.

It will serve as the main data centre for the electronic government solution where all the data processing and storage is done following trending cloud service architectures. The data centre is expected to give cloud services, colocation, and hosting to better deal with business applications.

The prospective centre is expected to lie at the ICT Park, which is located close to Bole Lemi Industrial Park. Ethiopia's Silicon Valley is the home of many private operators such as ZTW, Techno Mobile and Security Innovation Network, among others.

The Ministry has completed the preliminary design of the centre and has prepared a bid document to hire a company for a design-build contract.

The bid document is expected to be announced this month, according to Ahmedin Mohammed (PhD), state minister for Innovation & Technology, who also said that the assessment to determine investment for the centre will be identified this coming week.

"Although the country has a lot of data centres that are mainly institutional-based, both on the private sector and the government side," he said, "this infrastructure is going to be no like other."

The launching process is expected to take a year. The construction is expected to have three parts: constructing the facility; deploying the data centre facility; and deploying cloud infrastructure. Ahead of building the data centre, the Ministry has drafted a Personal Data Protection Proclamation, which aims to address the gap in data protection. It has recently been tabled to the Council of Ministers for approval

The first phase of the civil construction includes entertainment space, cafeteria, dormitories, a disaster recovery site and green areas. The data centre facility includes electric power, efficient cooling, data centre environment monitoring, data centre safety, physical security, and network and security operating centres. Included in the cloud infrastructure is cloud management software, storage devices and networking devices.

The Ministry and the management of the ICT Park have signed an agreement to secure the space, however, the ministry has yet to receive the land. The Ministry is in negotiations with the Ethiopian Investment Commission and the Industrial Park Development Corporation to conclude the land agreement.

The new facility will be a tier III data centre, a system that operates without any notable service disruption. It will have a redundant and dual-powered server, network links and other IT components.

"It's going to be highly tolerant [to disruptions]," said Ahmedin.

Currently, there is a data centre at the Ministry that incorporates some of the data and provides hosting services for government networks. Most of the universities in the country, government institutions, Ethio telecom and banks operate their own data centres.

"All these data centres aren't steered toward having the right value to drive a digital economy," said Ahmedin, "and these are disintegrated resources all over the place."

Assessing all these data centres at different government offices is currently underway by a team of experts at the ICT Park. The assessment, which was started close to five months before, is currently on pause due to difficulties in data collection because of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The intention of the study is to see the resource of data centres in the country and to identify which can be utilised and work on the development of the data centres, according to Feven Dangchaew, CEO of ICT Park.

"The interest from private data centres is very lucrative for the sector," she said. "The private data centres are interested to use the space to serve customers who are offshore."

The park is now designing standards and policies for the data centre as the private companies gear up to join the market, according to Feven.

"Many of the private data centres are keen to join here and inquire about our data policy," said Ahmedin.

Mesfin Fikre (PhD), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University for more than 15 years, applauds the initiative to introduce the concept of a national data centre.

This is going to introduce a lot of business within the IT sector that deviates from traditional IT services, according to Mesfin.

"It'll attract IT business outsourcing [the use of external service providers to deliver IT-enabled business processes, applications and infrastructure solutions]," he said.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 11,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1063]

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