Patrick Valduriez is a senior researcher at Inria and LIRMM, University of Montpellier, France. He has also been a professor of Computer Science at University Paris 6 and a researcher at Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. in Austin, Texas. Dr. Valduriez will be a keynote speaker at AFRICOMM 2015, the Seventh EAI International Conference on e-Infrastructure and e-Services for Developing Countries (December 15-16, Cotonou, Benin). In this interview, he talks about the opportunities and risks that cloud computing and big data bring to developing countries.
Could you introduce the subject and scope of your keynote speech and the reasons why you chose it?
Over the last five years, cloud and big data have been on the hype as they are now converging to promise cost-effective delivery of e-data services of all kinds. In our globalized, interconnected world, the ability to produce high-value information and knowledge from big data makes it critical for many applications such as decision support, forecasting, business intelligence, research, and (data-intensive) science. Cloud computing, on the other hand, encompasses on demand, reliable services provided over the Internet with easy access to virtually infinite computing, storage and networking resources.
Although cloud and big data are not the magic bullet for age-old development challenges (hunger, poverty, disease, political instability, war, corruption, climate change, etc.), I believe they can bring powerful tools to help fighting these challenges in new ways. In particular, they could well unleash the creativity of African entrepreneurs in developing new e-data services for Africa.
What does your research bring to the table in the highly dynamic area of e‐Infrastructure and e‐Services for Developing Countries?
Although cloud and big data have different goals (big data aims at added value and operational performance while cloud targets flexibility and reduced cost), they can well help each other by encouraging organizations to outsource more and more strategic internal data in the cloud and get value out of it (for instance, by integrating with external data) through big data analytics. For developing countries for instance, this provides new opportunities to better localize production and trade that are distributed in very wide areas.
However, the combination of cloud and big data is not without major risks. First, the current cloud data management solutions have traded data consistency for scalability and performance, thus requiring tremendous programming effort and expertise to develop data-intensive cloud applications. Second, it is often the case that useful data span multiple, proprietary clouds that do not interoperate. Third, data safety and data privacy get much harder to guarantee. In particular, web giants such as Apple and Google can now know more precisely what is going on in most countries than the countries’ governments themselves. In my talk, I will review current cloud and big data technologies and discuss these issues.
What are your thoughts on the status quo in e‐Infrastructure and e‐Services for Developing Countries industry? What are your hopes and dreams for the future of this segment?
A major issue for Africa is the lack of cloud infrastructure. According to datacentermap.com, there are only six cloud centers (Iaas) in Africa: one in Mauritius and five in South Africa. This creates a major dependency to remote cloud providers, with low QoA and loss of control over private and public data. Another issue is the lack of clear vision and investment from governments and private sector. I hope that this conference will trigger discussions and thinking on these hard issues.