EXCLUSIVE: Opera to open SA data centre this year
Norwegian-based Web company Opera is set to open a data centre in South Africa this year.
This was revealed by Jørgen Arnesen, head of marketing and distribution at Opera, in an e-mail interview with ITWeb.
Opera is a freeware Web browser for Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS and Linux operating systems, developed by Opera Software.
With 6.93% market share in Africa, Opera is the third most popular browser on the continent after Chrome (70.14%) and Safari (8.93%).
The company says it has a growing user base of more than 350 million monthly active users worldwide, with 120 million of those users based in Africa.
Arnesen says two years ago, Opera announced its ‘Africa first’ strategy that followed the company’s investment of more than $100 million to speed up Internet adoption in Africa and strengthen the Internet ecosystem with local partners.
“This year, Opera is looking at investing in a data centre in South Africa and we are working with mobile network operators to create more affordable access to the Internet from mobile devices,” he says.
“We expect to launch the data centre soon and its primary use will be to improve the user experience with even faster browsing using Opera products.”
Global IT infrastructure
The company recently launched data centres in Kenya and Nigeria, which are now part of Opera’s global IT infrastructure.
“South Africa is an important market for Opera, and we will continue to look for opportunities to provide the best possible user experience,” says Arnesen.
“It’s also a very strategic geographical location as the benefits that Opera can provide with the installation of the data centre would also benefit neighbouring countries like Mozambique. In this way, we can bring a better online experience for many more people using Opera products in the region.”
Global tech companies like Amazon Web Services and Oracle are also set to launch their data centres in SA this year.
“We are constantly improving our browsers by adding new unique features that enhance the online experience of our users,” says Arnesen.
“For example, last year, we introduced an offline file-sharing feature to our Opera Mini browser, which became the first major mobile browser to introduce a built-in file-sharing functionality.”
Moreover, he adds, Opera is soon to launch Opera News Lite, a downsized and simplified version of the Opera News app that is used by more than 39 million users worldwide.
He explains that Opera News Lite is extremely responsive, especially in areas with limited bandwidth and phone storage.
“Opera News is currently the most downloaded news app in 2020 in countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, according to App Annie, and during Q2-2019, it became the world’s most downloaded news app,” Arnesen notes.
“We are constantly expanding our product portfolio beyond the development of mobile browsers. Last year, we introduced our new online marketing platform, Opera Ads – an intelligent advertising solution for digital agencies, publishers and brands to connect and engage with the Opera audience on a global scale and with geo-targeting capabilities.”
It also announced online editorial platform Opera News Hub, which has over 5 000 African content creators producing local articles and stories which are published across the Opera products, such as Opera Ads and Opera Mini.
According to Arnesen, Opera has already partnered with MTN and Airtel in Nigeria. “Since the beginning of the year, we have been working together offering people free browsing through our products and together we have created affordable data packages for consumers.
“Plans are under way in South Africa to start working with mobile network providers to replicate these efforts and bring down the connectivity barriers in the country.”
Data price hurdle
Opera says despite the continent’s accelerated drive towards a digital future, high mobile data prices remain an obstacle for millions of Africans, limiting smartphone users’ ability to access opportunities, including access to quality jobs via online job portals, digital educational material and the ability to connect with loved ones over social media.
Through its data compression technology, Opera is capable of pre-processing and reducing the amount of data from a Web site before it reaches users’ phones, which prolongs the lifespan of the users’ data.
“The browser has proved to be a popular choice across the African continent due to its unique technology, which can save users up to 90% in mobile data,” Arnesen says.
“Our most recent analysis on data compression showed that during 2019, people using Opera products in South Africa could save more than six million gigabytes of data while browsing, thanks to the data compression capabilities of Opera’s products.”
He explains that through reduced data prices, the relationship between smartphone owners and the Internet can be transformed, overcoming the challenging high cost to connect which has hindered the progress of many of the continent’s citizens and industries.
In countries like Nigeria, Opera has already taken a step forward on making data costs more affordable to people, says Arnesen.
“We have achieved this by working closely with telecommunications companies like Airtel and MTN, offering unique data packages together, and by giving away free browsing every day. We are in the process of rolling out this successful strategy in Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa.”