Cloud computing: Experts poke holes into President Ruto’s 1GW data centre

A data centre is a large group of networked computer servers typically used by organisations for remote storage, processing or distribution of large amounts of information.

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President William Ruto’s announcement that Kenya will begin constructing a one Gigawatt (1GW)-capacity data centre in Naivasha has stirred debate within expert circles around the viability of the project.

Without revealing the construction cost in his post on X last week, Dr Ruto indicated that the investment would be powered by green energy and that it would be put up in a government partnership with global tech firms Microsoft, Eco-Cloud and the G42 investment group.

But industry thought leaders are expressing reservations about the project’s success and terming the plan as over-ambitious.

The misgiving sprouts from the fact that Africa’s entire installed data centres’ capacity totals to 250 megawatts (250MW), raising fundamental questions on whether the Naivasha facility will achieve up to four-fold of the continental capacity.

A data centre is a large group of networked computer servers typically used by organisations for remote storage, processing or distribution of large amounts of information.

The primary measure of capacity in data centres is electricity consumption with the smallest unit being kilowatts (KW).

Based on a network of computing and storage resources that enable the delivery of shared applications and data, data centres can utilise considerable aggregates of power.

Experts opine that even if the building of the physical facility were to succeed, it would face operational headwinds with regard to power consumption needs as well as risk mitigation mechanisms.

“The feasibility and sustainability of such a massive project requires above-average planning, robust risk mitigation strategies as well as careful assessment of long-term economic and environmental impact,” states head developer at GIT Software Solutions Gathirwa Irungu.

His sentiments are echoed by tech policy expert Linda Bonyo who observes that even though more data centres are needed to fulfil the country’s data localisation needs, maintenance of such a mega facility would not be supported by the available amenities.

“Electricity access will be the foremost concern that will arise. Maintaining such a data centre requires better policies on electricity and water access,” she says.

John Walubengo, an ICT lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya (MMU) notes that if successful, the investing parties would likely get returns on investments within 10 to 15 years, as serious sustainability concerns would take centre stage in the facility’s operations.

“Once you build, sustainability becomes the issue in terms of, do you have enough customers willing to pay rent to the facility? How many cloud clients are you expecting and why would they choose you over the other competing cloud service providers?” he poses.

“It is a business decision with its cost-benefit analysis. My take is that it would be a long-term investment with return on investment being positive 10 to 15 years down the road,” he adds.

The pundits have also raised concerns over the involvement of the foreign partnering entities, citing the risk of security breach of the data that would be stored in such a centre.

“While collaboration with established entities like Microsoft, Eco-Cloud and G42 brings expertise and resources, it also raises concerns about dependency on foreign partners and potential risks associated with foreign ownership of critical infrastructure,” states Mr Irungu.

“So while the initiative holds promise for technological progress and economic development, it necessitates rigorous scrutiny and strategic management to ensure alignment with Kenya’s broader objectives.”

Ms Bonyo says some data is too sensitive to be outside the control of local handlers.

“The challenge is that these huge digital infrastructure projects are foreign-controlled and this leaves Kenya with very little digital sovereignty. Electoral data, for instance, should be stored in-country,” she says.

Among notable names in the Kenyan data centres market include the East African Data Centre – which is part of Africa Data Centres –, Pan African IX Data Centres Kenya Limited (PAIX), IX Africa and

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