Setback in Opera’s South African data centre plans

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Norwegian-based Web company Opera is delaying the launch of its data centre in South Africa because of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, ITWeb exclusively reported that the company was looking to open a local data centre this year.

However, Jørgen Arnesen, executive vice-president of mobile browsers at Opera, this week told ITWeb that the bid to open the facility will not go ahead as planned.

“We are still looking at this [data centre launch], but we have delayed our initial plans due to the unexpected turns that the world has seen this year. We hope to get it back on track in the near future,” Arnesen says.

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%).

According to the company, primary use of the planned data centre will be to improve the user experience with even faster browsing using Opera products.

Growing user base

Besides the setback in data centre plans, Opera is, nonetheless, witnessing strong growth of its user base, Arnesen says.

“We recently announced we have more than 380 million Opera users globally, where 140 million of these users are Africa-based,” he says.

“We believe this growth is fuelled by the quality of our browsers and mobile apps as they integrate unique features that no other browser can offer today in any digital app store. We are constantly adding more reasons for users to use our products.”

Opera believes Africa is a region with massive potential for the adoption and development of technology.

According to Arnesen, recent reports indicate that more than 300 million mobile Internet users will be active in 2020 in Sub-Saharan Africa, from which 40% of them choose Opera products for their mobile devices, such as the Opera browser for Android, Opera Mini, Opera Touch and the standalone apps Opera News and Opera News Lite.

“This indicates to us that there’s a lot of people out there who want something more – something different than the simple default browsers like Safari and Google Chrome currently offer,” he says.

Arnesen points out that this year, the Norwegian-based company has been partnering with leading telcos on the African continent, where it is bridging the digital divide and helping people come online.

“So far this year, we’ve launched dedicated data plans with MTN and Airtel in Nigeria, Safaricom in Kenya, MTN Zambia, MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTigo in Ghana – and last week we launched with MTN in South Africa.

“We know that the cost of mobile data is perhaps the biggest barrier for people to get online; therefore, we feel really proud and humbled to offer free or discounted access to the Internet for millions of people in these markets.”

Jørgen Arnesen, executive vice-president of mobile browsers at Opera.
Jørgen Arnesen, executive vice-president of mobile browsers at Opera.

User engagement

Arnesen reveals that Opera’s strategy is to keep focus on developing its desktop and mobile browsers by adding unique features that can keep users engaged.

“We also see strong growth opportunities with the current digital ecosystem opening more. For instance, with the launch of iOS 14, users will now be able to change their default browser from Safari. We believe this opens growth opportunities for browsers like Opera to be adopted by more people worldwide. We want to capitalise on such opportunities and continue the growth of our products.”

On the opportunities in the South African market, Arnesen comments: “We see a large and growing demand for browsers that go beyond the ‘system defaults’ and we are all about identifying and responding to those opportunities, as we have done for more than two decades.

“We like to say we provide people with a browser they choose to use for their personal stuff. To do this, we focus a lot on providing additional value to them.

“In our desktop browsers, we did this by making it easier to use social messengers on the sidebar of the browser, having a native ad-blocker, a free VPN [virtual private network] and much more. I believe a lot of those features will never be available in our competitor browsers.

“Opera’s latest version of Opera for Android makes it easy to share stuff users find on the Internet between their mobile and PC browser,” Arnesen adds.

“In order to do this, we redesigned our sync service to be set up with a simple QR code as an alternative to username and passwords. We also introduced the Flow feature, which allows you to create your own personal chat with yourself, to share links you find, notes and files across your devices.

“While we are extremely proud to reach over 40% of mobile Internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa today, there’s still many more that could use one or more of our products in the future,” Arnesen concludes.

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