By Steve Hamm
Cloud computing seems like a natural fit for the developing world. In places where capital for major information technology purchases can be difficult to round up, this approach to computing makes it possible for small business owners, start-up entrepreneurs, social service non-profits and universities to share resources and buy computing services more affordably, by the drink. So far, though, while cloud computing is taking off in mature economies, adoption is lagging in less developed ones.
An initiative by a team of IBMers in India shows how the cloud could penetrate into some of the most remote parts of developing countries–and, potentially, help boost economic growth. The team, led by Vikas Prasad, country manager for IBM’s business continuity and resiliency services in India, is recruiting small cooperative banks in the country’s hinterlands to shift their core banking activities to a cloud data center.
Vikas’ work gives truth to the phrase, “Walk the extra mile for a customer.”
He recalls a trip to Nainital, a hill station in northern India, to meet for the first time with the executives of a local bank. He and his colleagues discovered that the bank office was in a hilly part of a town and was not accessible by vehicle, so they had to climb for 30 minutes to get to their meeting. Once there, they waited until noon for the officers to arrive. When the meeting began, the bank officers expressed their gratitude that the IBM sales team had been willing to travel so far. “This was our first experience with this type of organization. It helped us learn how to relate to a different kind of customer,” Vikas says.
Today, nine cooperative banks are being hosted in an IBM cloud data center in India. That’s just scratching the surface of what’s possible, but Vikas believes that over time, many more of these banks will shift to cloud computing. The local banks, many owned by families, are beginning to feel pressure from the major banks, which are expanding their branch networks into smaller cities. At the same time, the cooperative banks are under pressure from the government to digitize their core banking operations.
For many of these local banks, the best way to deal with the challenges might be to leapfrog with technology and move their banking operations to the cloud. Once they have cloud systems, they can more easily provide mobile banking and payments–key ingredients in bringing a host of modern banking services to India’s hundreds of millions of rural citizens.
If that happens, India’s small banks could have an outsized impact on development of the rural economy.