The government of Kenya through The ICT Authority (ICTA) and Microsoft East Africa Limited (Microsoft) signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The MoU is to have the US company provide cloud services to government agencies. Kenya is on a digitalisation spree and the new partnership is said to support a “cloud-first approach” by the government in its efforts.
“We are looking forward to see how we shall bring the full power of Microsoft services and products to the government for mutual benefit,” said Phyllis Migwi, Country Manager of Microsoft in Kenya. “We believe that this partnership will enhance the digital transformation agenda,” she added.
This means that critical government services will be powered by Microsoft Azure. GoK is expected to become an official Azure customer in February next year. Microsoft has moved fast to secure the contract weeks after Amazon set up an office for its cloud services in Nairobi. The company has also outmuscled Huawei who have built a bulk of telecommunication infrastructure in Kenya. Huawei has also built a data centre in Konza.
Azure Government Cloud platform
It is common for governments to become cloud service customers for one of the big providers. Indeed, Microsoft developed the Azure Government Cloud platform exclusively for the US government. Microsoft also counts the Australian and UK governments as part of its client portfolio. Currently, the tech giant is pushing the classified Azure Government Cloud as the option for information collaboration between the three countries.
“What is urgently needed to accelerate AUKUS progress is the ability to collaborate across borders on a common secure cloud platform” writes Sam Giles, program manager in defense and intelligence for Microsoft.
Unfortunately for Kenya, the country can only sign up for the commercial option called global Azure. Microsoft Azure Government is for the US government and is extended to partner states in specific use cases. Microsoft claims the two cloud platforms use the same underlying technologies. This includes the core components of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Additionally, they both have the same comprehensive security controls in place and the same Microsoft commitment to the safeguarding of customer data.
Customer Data Export
The main difference is Azure Government has an extra layer of protection regarding the storage of customer data in the host country. It also limits potential access to systems processing customer data.
For the US, Microsoft says the export of data hosted on its government cloud platform is subject to US export control regulations. This part will be of interest to Kenyans. The MoU with Microsoft has been signed at a time when the World Bank is pushing the government to make it legally easier to export Kenyan data.
Microsoft recently developed a new architecture that enables government agencies to securely access AI agents in the commercial environment from Azure Government. The capabilities of this new service will boost efficiency, elevate productivity, and help in data analysis. Again, this is exclusively for US government agencies.