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Emerging Markets Ready for Cloud — Including Paid Services

If you live in a developing economy and use a computer, then, likely as not, you also use cloud computing services at least some of the time for email, word processing, document or photo storage, or other needs — although you might not understand those services to be “cloud computing.”

BSA Cloud Infographic

Globally, 45 percent of us now report using such cloud-based services, according to survey data that BSA is releasing today, and the figure is higher in developing economies than it is in mature ones — 50 percent to 33 percent, respectively. This appears to indicate a leapfrog effect, in which recent adopters of computers and information technology often are jumping straight to the cloud.

These data come from research that BSA conducts annually for our Global Software Piracy Study. We partnered with Ipsos Public Affairs to ask nearly 15,000 computer users in 33 countries about their understanding and use of cloud computing.

The vast majority of people who use cloud services (88 percent) say they use them for personal purposes, while 33 percent say they use cloud services for business. Free services overwhelmingly predominate for personal use. But 33 percent of those using cloud-based applications for business say they pay for half or more of them. And a particularly head-turning finding is that cloud users in emerging markets are just as likely as their counterparts in mature markets to subscribe to paid cloud services for business. Globally, one-third of cloud users (33 percent, on average) say they are using paid services for business at least half the time.

The global software and computing marketplace offers a widening array of online tools to choose from in addition to full-featured software packages you can install locally on your own PC. So, on the one hand, it might not seem surprising that users in developing markets are actively embracing online services that seamlessly integrate with the broader Internet economy. But a common assumption in industry has been that users in emerging markets might either distrust online services because of concerns about who has access to their data, or lack reliable access to cloud offerings because of poor Internet infrastructure. Our survey data paint a more nuanced picture.

Nearly all of the emerging markets we surveyed — including rapidly growing economies throughout Asia and Latin America — reported significantly higher-than-average use or access to cloud services, while nearly all the mature markets of North America and Europe reported lower-than-average use  or access. Two outliers from the pattern are China and India, where the reported rates of usage or access are in the same band as more established economic powers Germany and Japan.

The technical definition of cloud computing is difficult for non-technical users to understand, so we started by asking in lay terms: “Do you use online services that let you create, manage, and store documents, spreadsheets, photos or other digital content so that you can access them from any computer by logging on through the Internet?” Forty-five percent of all respondents said yes — including an average of 50 percent in developing economies such as Thailand, Malaysia, Argentina, and Peru, and an average of 33 percent in mature economies such as the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Germany.

Our survey found that three out of five respondents globally (59 percent) had at least heard the term “cloud computing,” but only about a quarter (24 percent) were “very familiar” or “quite familiar” with it. A plurality of 40 percent said they had never heard of it at all.

When we asked people who said they used cloud services about the specific types of services they use, we found that nearly eight out of 10 (78 percent) use online email services like Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. Close to half (45 percent) use online word processing services like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365. Four in 10 use photo storage and sharing services like Flickr or play online games (40 percent and 38 percent, respectively. And three in 10 (29 percent) use online file storage services like Dropbox.

While the rates at which cloud users report adopting each of these types of services are generally similar in developing economies and mature economies, there are notable exceptions. One is online word processing, where usage in developing economies outstrips usage in mature economies by 13 points — 48 percent to 35 percent. Another is online-only gaming, where usage in developing economies again outstrips usage in mature economies by 13 points — 41 percent to 28 percent.

But in addition to expanding opportunities for providers and offering greater choice for consumers, our survey also points to new challenges in the habits of cloud users. For example, among those who say they use paid cloud services for business purposes, a striking 42 percent say they share the login credentials for their accounts within their organizations. This may or may not be legal, depending on the terms of the service agreement, which adds a new dimension to piracy concerns. I will write more about this issue tomorrow.

Click here to download the topline results of BSA’s global survey of cloud usage.

Download high-resolution infographic: EPS or PDF.

Robert Holleyman


As President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 until April 2013, Robert Holleyman long served as the chief advocate for the global software industry. Before leaving BSA to start his own venture, Cloud4Growth, Holleyman led the most successful anti-piracy program in the history of any industry, driving down software piracy rates in markets around the world.

Named one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world, he was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law. A widely respected champion for open markets, Holleyman also was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the principal advisory committee for the US government on trade matters.

Holleyman was a leader in industry efforts to establish the legal framework necessary for cloud-computing technologies to flourish. He was an early proponent for policies that promote deployment of security technologies to build public trust and confidence in cyberspace. And he created a highly regarded series of forums for industry executives and policymakers to exchange points of view and forge agreements on the best ways to spur technology advances and promote economic growth.

Before heading BSA, Holleyman was a counselor and legislative adviser in the United States Senate, an attorney in private practice, and a judicial clerk in US District Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a J.D. from Louisiana State University, and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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