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EFIna Has Impacted Financial Inclusion Stakeholders- Ladipo

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Ms. Modupe Ladipo, chief executive officer, Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA),

Modupe Ladipo is the CEO, Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA), an independent, professional, non-profit organization conceived and funded by DFID and Ford Foundation.

EFInA’s mission is to make the Nigerian financial system work better, especially for the poor. Modupe previous work experience has primarily been within Investment Banking in the UK and she has has over 20 years financial services experience covering corporate strategy & development, product & markets development, mergers & acquisitions, retail and institutional brokerage.

She has worked for Tata Consultancy Services, Merrill Lynch, ABN AMRO, the London Stock Exchange and Credit Suisse Financial Products.  

Modupe talks about EFInA and sundry issues in this interview with peter ugwu

EFIna’s Achievements in Last Seven Years
At EFIna, we focus on four main pillars that include; research, advocacy, capacity building and innovation fund.
Through-out our lifetime as EFIna, we want to promote financial inclusion in Nigeria. So, if we look back on what we have achieved in those four pillars and in moving the wheel for financial inclusion in Nigeria, we have actually achieved a lot with support from the industry.
The supports are coming from both the regulator and the service providers. From the regulator’s point of view, we were recently commissioned to conduct a research; measure the impact of relevant financial inclusion approaches as part of measures to deepening financial inclusion in the country.

EFIna’s Four Main Pillars
We have reviewed nine policies and eight came to play after EFIna was structured. In fact, EFIna had a very direct impact and involvement in the development and finalization in reviewing those policies and regulations.
Sometimes, we supported the regulator in sharing and disseminating composite information about some policies. That is part of the Advocacy piece of our work; which anchors on providing an enabling environment in such that players can come up with relevant products and services.
Then, for us Capacity Building is really imperative, because it’s a new area. Thus, both the regulators and the providers must improve; so that, one is not misleading the other.
Because, you can have regulations that providers might not agree with and such scenario creates logjam to development. Sometimes, if the providers are ready and there are no regulations, they cannot launch a particular product.
So, we work in tandem with both sides through conferences, workshops, and a lot of direct capacity building for individual companies to actually bring them up on a whole range of topics: mobile payment, agents banking; and other strategic measures to ensure the industry is well vest with its responsibilities.

Other Financial Inclusion Support Approaches
We do this by using data, conducting research and inviting keynote speakers who have experience working in this field. Also, we bring another provider or regulator to talk to us about and how they have actually done it.
As part of the advocacy, we have two working groups EFIna set up in EFIna secretariat, namely, Non-interest Finance Working Group, which constitutes: when we want to bring alternative or additional financial service or product.
The Group has been working since 2010. In the working group, we intend to have both regulators and operators as members. That way we can get in tandem; and it provides opportunity for the regulators to say, ‘this is what they are thinking about’, and for direct input from the market players to either support or seek ways for amendments.
Some regulators and few market operators are interested in that space. We also have Mobile Money Working Group which started in 2012. That again, it is about bringing together regulators and market players to really discuss on opportunities, and challenges.
For instance, when we started the non-interest group, none of the regulators had regulations in their respective segments; CBN, PENCOM, NIDC or NICOM none of them had regulations. So, we started with ‘blank sheet of paper’, and we sat down to look at the ways to go. We are happy that presently PENCOM has multi-fund guidelines; NIDC has set up their non-interest deposit insurance; CBN has guidelines; NICOM has its own way of doing it. We were involved in developing each of those guidelines or regulations and their capacity. On the operators’ side, we have seen very significant improvements, because they are better informed.
They have launched a lot of services; the Securities and Exchange Commission also sits on our non-interest finance model; now, they have come up with regulations. So, it has taken a lot and after about five (5) years and in our last meeting in December, the Group is now looking at how to sustain its operations via membership who will pay a contributory fee.

EFIna and Sustainability of Financial Inclusion in Nigeria
If we look at 2008 when we did the first survey, only about 21.7% adult population was banked. We addressed some of their concerns: the barriers, supply and demand sides. From the consumer side you see issues like irregular income, high minimum balance, charges, and a whole of issues we were battling with.
The supply side was basically ‘the cost of service to customers is too high’, ‘we cannot recoup what we spend on them, therefore, we are constantly losing money’. And financial inclusion is all about sustainability. If yours is a loss-making venture, you cannot sustain it….

…But You Can Break Even At A Point?
Of course, you may break even for some time, but incurring losses could impoverish you. In other words, we were out to understand both sides and see how we can support them.
So, through our Innovation Fund, we gave grants to organizations as incentive to them. So, if you are planning to develop products and services aimed at the low income segment and relevant to their needs, we can support in two different ways.
We can do that at a Technical Assistant grand level, which is ‘I have an idea. I want to test, pilot it, refine it and I need support’.
We can give a grant on that level at $250,000 Or you have tested, piloted and ready to launch; again, a financial product targeted at low income earners, we can help in the implementation, nurture, launch or roll out.
We can give up to $2 million. So, those are not for individuals, not for lending rather for developing relevant products and services. In that, we see sustainability. So far, we have seen progress.

Results So Far
Based on data we have launched since 2008 to 2014, in terms of number and population, we added 25 million (customers) to the banked segment. And that is a lot, we are looking at the sizes of some African nations.
And it takes a lot to achieve such feats. For the banks, you talk about Know Your Customers (KYC), mobile agents, regulations. In fact, every regulation has paid its role in trying to get us to where we ought to be.
The providers have also considered ways to cut their operational costs. So, you wouldn’t want to go and build a branch in the middle of a rural area, where you get 10 customers. So, how else can you support the rural dwellers, who also are in dire need of the financial services that are not so costly?
That is when the Agent Banking Regulations came up in 2013. What the concept means is that, those ‘mums’ and papas’’ shops can be used as agents by banks; in such that when you go there you can conduct certain banking transactions.
The challenges rural dwellers are facing are obvious. For instance, if it will cost N200.00 to visit the nearest branch of a bank, probably to go and deposit N500.00, it doesn’t make (savings) sense. We hope Agent Banking will address that issue with time.
People talk about M-pessa. It took the operators three years to break even; get volumes. It was only towards the end of 2012 that mobile money licences were given in Nigeria; we are coming to our three years. To us, it is like a reflection point. So, till last year, the things that needed to be done are such as customer awareness.

Evolving Trends in Financial Inclusion (Services)
In our last year’s survey, some of the respondents are still asking questions like, ‘what do we need mobile money for?’ And the kind of things they talked about, you cannot currently use the products to execute them.
So, that might be why it’s still not getting the expected attractions. For example, people are asking if they can use the platform to pay school fees, hotel bills, ‘pay for my boss fares’, among others.
So, if we do not have such platform available now, they are not likely to use it. None of them talks about money transfer, because we have many ways of transferring money in Nigeria.
Even if it is not the automated process, you see people go to motor parks, send the money through the drivers or through friends, family members; some send airtime and you go and cash it at a discount.
So, because we have so many other ways of dealing with cash transfer, which they didn’t have in Kenya and some other African countries, it is either post office or a bank account; then if you don’t have access to either of the two, you will be subject to sending it through a family member, so, each country is different.
We should focus on our differences and not try to replicate what is obtainable elsewhere verbatim. By the time it can be used to pay bills or transport fares, and then the more people will use it.
In Nigeria, most people tend to wait for others to testify about the operational competencies of a particular phenomenon before they ‘rush’ to embrace it. That is the kind of stage we need to get to increase the uptake and adoption rate of mobile money. 

Comparing Nigeria to Other African Countries’
Probably, our growth rate is slower, but we are catching up with the trend and we have more numbers. It is about really finding what it takes to get to the peak. I am confident that with the data we have just gathered; because we have not asked such questions before, we will soon get there.
The data are telling us about something. We only need to sit down with our mobile money group and make the data available to them to work on. Topical will be how to address the raised points, because it is about the customers; their satisfaction is paramount. We will identify channels to help us scale up the process.

Roles Of Post Offices & Agent Banking
Actually, a lot of people would say they don’t really know where the Agents are; neither can you open up a database that shows us where the stations nor shops are. That first, is a bit difficult. As part of our survey this time we asked questions like, ‘Is there a petrol station near to you? Is there any post office around your area? Or do you have a ‘provisions’ shop near to you? Can you identify a restaurant near to you? The questionnaire was meant to give people ideas about where they can go and establish agents presence, so they can be as close to the customers as possible. So, they are beginning to roll out. The problem those establishing the agents are battling with is as per how many transactions you can be able to push to the agent for sustainability. Although, the agents have their core businesses but you have to train them.
Some of them (agents) expressed concern that should they fix a bank’s signage on the roof of their shops that people might have the notion they are keeping large amount of money. So, there was a lot of discussion around security and how we can have insurance cover for them.
The truth is that for the rural areas we just have to come up with strategies about how to penetrate those areas. With the agents, we can achieve that; but we need to be claver about how we do it. Post Offices offer us an option. But there are only about 5,000 of them.

CBN & Partners’ Efforts
The CBN and the Bill and Merindagate Foundation are mapping out the potential and current access points. And they intend to map out motor parks, and some other points. The result is expected in April this year.
They did similar exercise few years ago. They added markets this time. Although they did mapping in motor parks before, but they shave more questions to address. That will help; give ideas as the potential outlets are situated.
Secondly, they will map commercial and microfinance bank branches, mobile money outlasts, etcetera. They are doing it all over Nigeria and the map can show you where there are, ‘nothing’ at the moment or maybe just one and other areas have everything. So, you will begin to see where supply is an issue. From our end, we can look at demand, because we have asked questions about those who don’t have accounts and would like to open.
We have actually seen high level of ‘yes, I would like to have this or that’. The numbers are in the region of ten to fifteen million. Some of them are concerned about how it benefits them or how to access it or use it.
So, financial education or literacy is very important. A lot of people do not, yet, understand the benefits of certain products.
Also, having a robust customer-challenge-redress mechanism is very important; ‘if I have a problem, who do I go to? Those are the things we see that before people will start dabbling into the process, they need to fully understand.

Incentives for Operators
Government can digitize payment systems. Government can say for example, you can pay your taxes through your mobile money. We have seen that happen in Cameroun. If there is a property tax, it can be used as a pilot scheme.
Afterwards, we will learn from the mistakes, readdress them and move other payments to the digital or mobile platform. If you want to pay cash you can as well go to the bank and pay through the mobile. So, if government can give that as a sort of mirage, it will help.
There are other conditional transfers-where they give money or benefits to certain loyal-privileged homes, they can increase the trend. They are actually doing it with a kind of program between mobile money operators and certain departments of the Government like the Ministry of Health. Then, they will publish the result on what worked, how it worked, and what the issue is.

Connectivity
The challenge people talk about is network failure. The issue of drop calls; you send an SMS and it’s not delivered. For instance, if somebody had paid money into your account and you are expecting to get an alert, yet it didn’t come.
Someone might send a partner to purchase goods in a particular shop with a promise to transfer the money to your account. If that didn’t deliver, I might be thinking you are trying to be claver and vice versa, because I might think you got it and lied.
How mobile money operators address that issue is very important too. If they, the telcos are to take the responsibility, let them address the challenge. For instance, we still need to extend network coverage to certain rural areas; use multiple channels or mobile shops like the PoS, it will become more ubiquitous.

EFIna, E-Tranzact Mobile Money Activation Project
E-Tranzact is one of our guarantees. Like I explained earlier, we give grants for innovations. So, we gave them a grant to do some work in Kano and Ogun States. They will try to demonstrate how market women, for instance, can pay each other for goods and services through using the mobile phones. They have made progress on the project.
The fund was based on combined efforts of EFIna and E-Tranzact. They had a little challenge in Kano State, because of the security related issues. In Ogun State, they have made fair progress in terms of recruiting agents, customers.
So, there was a lot of customer awareness they had to do. They also give incentives to customers, motivating them to participate and continue to use the channels afterwards. The pilot phase is coming to an end. We will see if they will continue when the incentives are withdrawn. We have other guarantees operating in many jurisdictions in the country.

EFIna’s Expectations In 2015
We hope that financial inclusion will continue to be at the forefront for the banks and providers to add value to their customers.
While the banks will continue to see they have to diversify, the customers will see the need to embrace the platforms. With the drop in oil price and the devaluation of the Naira, they (the banks) have to think of other ways to generate revenue, increase their customer number with different products and services. So, we see it as a major opportunity to really focus on what need to happen to deepen financial inclusion. 
      

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Nigeria Can Become Africa’s Internet Hub If… – MainOne

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Vremudia Oghene-Ruemu, MDXi’s product manager, Data Center in this interview assesses the data centre market in Nigeria, challenges confronting the line of business, the partnership with IXPN, MainOne’s Open Connect Service, among others. Excerpts

Data Centre Operations in Nigeria

The Data Center landscape in Nigeria is still new, gradually developing. We have a few data centers for our economic size and population, which means there is opportunity for more operators to come in.

We are gradually building a digital economy, which requires cloud-based services and applications and data centers.

A rising confluence of demand and supply factors is making Nigeria’s data center business one of the most dynamic ICT market segments in Africa.

As broadband adoption has boomed, demand for cloud services has emerged and is expected to surpass supply soon.

To cater to this demand, MainOne’s Data Center Company, MDXi is also building more Data Centers not only in Nigeria, but other parts of West Africa. We have started our second Tier III Data Center in Nigeria in Sagamu, Ogun State; we have a Data Center in Accra and should launch another in Cote D’Ivoire soon.

We believe that other players will follow suit and build to match the growing demand. Right now, South Africa has the largest data center presence on the continent, with North Africa following closely but Nigeria and other West Africans countries are expected to deepen Data Center penetration over the next few years.

Main Challenges Confronting Your Line of Business

The major challenge for Nigerian businesses right now is the high cost of operation. Data Centers have huge power requirements and usually recourse to direct connection to the national grid, which is a significant investment in addition to backups, which include huge generators with attendant costs of diesel ad maintenance.

Operators need to import equipment into the country, but do not have access to FOREX, as the Central Bank has refused to give telcos priority. It has been ingenuity and financial knowhow that has kept players like us going in this tough terrain.

Nigeria is yet to fully implement data domiciliation and a lot of government and enterprise businesses still hosts Nigeria’s data abroad, rather than patronize indigenous data centers.

The Federal Government needs to enable policy to drive our diversification from oil-dependent to services-focused; such as pioneer status for indigenous operators, tax exemptions, data residency and priority access to Forex will go a long way to help Nigeria’s data center operators and enable us be at par with South Africa and other climes.

In China for example, foreign operators are mandated to keep Chinese data within the country. Europe, Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia have also implemented Data Domiciliation regulation.

Nigeria must also proactively protect its citizen’s data and mitigate huge security risks by repatriating all Nigerian data in-country. This will limit the country’s exposure to cyber-attacks, save us huge international internet transit costs and enable Nigeria’s data center capacity to grow quicker.

We need to understand that apart from glaring issues such as national security and capital flight; local data hosting has the ability to drive job growth and improve the lives of our teeming youth population.

Local data domiciliation has worked and is still working in countries with strong digital economies around the world. All you have to do is look around the globe to see what having data hosted in-country has done for local innovation, technology development and economies in general.

Partnership with The Nigerian Internet Exchange (IXPN)

This move is significant in many ways. As a data center provider, there are two goals. The first goal is to ensure that businesses that have high availability requirements can run their technology operations without breaking the bank.

The second goal, is to ensure that the infrastructure running these highly available services can be reached irrespective of the networks that users connect from.

To ensure that end users communicate effectively in this rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, network providers need to enable the exchange of user data in the quickest and most efficient manner using a process called peering. Peering is made possible by an Internet exchange point which in the simplest of terms is a physical meeting point where networks, content and service providers connect and directly exchange data.

This results in the significant reduction of costs and increase in speeds at which data is exchanged thereby leading to consumer friendly network subscription rates and superb end user experiences.

This is where our partnership with the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) is relevant. By hosting and partnering with the IXPN, our data center customers now have quicker, less costly access to local, regional and global connectivity via simple physical cable connections called cross connects.With these cross connects and close proximity to the Internet Exchange, our customers immediately have instant access to an ecosystem of network providers, cloud platforms, content providers and business partners while saving costs on expensive wide area network links and ensuring high network performance.

By combining our vast local, regional and global network resources with the IXPN’s capabilities, we can now directly connect and provide interconnection services to local operators, regional operators, global carriers, content providers, ISPs among others. Our data center’s value proposition is thus to ensure that people that host in our data center are able to reach their users seamlessly with great user experience and at lower costs.

Role of The IXPN

The Internet Exchange is the backbone of digital economies around the world and a key ingredient to growing the online economy in Nigeria.

The role of the IXPN is to ensure the local exchange of data between users by enabling peering between the networks that serve these users; hence the popular saying “keeping local traffic local”.

An example is a situation where an email from User A in Lagos to User B in Lagos needs to travel across User A’s provider network to an International location where User A and User B’s networks connect just because they cannot connect locally.

You can also view this practically from the standpoint of regional airport hubs which serve as an exchange point for passengers between different airlines served by that airport.

Airline passengers will definitely not fancyif they travel long hours to switch flights outside their country to reach a destination in their country just because a common airport that serves multiple airlines in the country does not exist. Routing internet traffic is similar to you flying to Ghana to get a connecting flight to Abuja, because there is no local interconnection point.

Mainone’s Open Connect Service
With Open Connect we are creating a powerful Internet ecosystem in the same physical location as the Nigerian Internet Exchange, and providing a platform for participants to exchange data in real-time at lightning fast speeds.

The idea behind Open Connect is that we are enabling owners of products, services and content with high response requirements become more service-oriented by bringing the networks closer to them. Being closer to the networks significantly enhances their ability to improve their end user experiences. For instance, today’s customer will seriously consider changing banks if they have an internet banking application that takes thirty seconds to open a login page, and takes several other painstaking minutes to conduct a transaction.

Main Benefits of Open Connect
Open Connect provides better network performance for the networks and their end users. It also ensures low latency connections which in turn enhance the end user experience while enabling local data exchange, local content and local hosting.

Before Open Connect, How Did Operators Connect?

In the past, operators connected Internet traffic via networks outside the country at interconnection locations where global content providers reside. This put more costs on internet providers, slowed down internet connections and put the end user at a disadvantage from a cost and user experience.

For voice services, interconnections were achieved through clearing houses some of which are present locally today. These methods of interconnection are no longer sustainable with the volumes of broadband traffic we are experiencing in Nigeria today via current explosion in content and smartphones.

The Nigerian Internet Exchange is currently enabling a limited amount of interconnection between operators today but we believe that a synergy between MDXi and the Exchange using Open Connect as a platform will take interconnections to the next level in Nigeria and West Africa.

With The Launch Of Open Connect Would You Now Consider Yourself A Carrier Neutral Data Centre?

We have always been a carrier neutral data center. For the benefit of your readers, a carrier neutral data center is a facility that allows its customers connect their hosted infrastructure to any network of their choice.

MDXi is structured as a totally separate legal entity from MainOne even though we are a subsidiary company. Customers in MDXi are free to choose any network provider that suits their business requirements and have done so since Day 1. As a result, customers in MDXi are connected to their various locations by over 20 different network operators and ISPs today.

Launching Open Connect expands our commitment to providing that open access, carrier neutral environment and bringing it closer to the Internet Exchange for all our customers to thrive.

Of What Benefit Is This To Over-The-Top (OTT) And Content Providers Across The Continent?

Until around 4 years ago, OTT operators like Facebook and Google hosted outside the continent because the infrastructure to host locally wasnot available and the traffic they generated in Nigeria was quite limited with low internet penetration.

This narrative is however changing as the facilities to host such infrastructure is now available on the continent. Africa’s huge population and rapid mobile broadband adoption is also a major business driver for these large players as they recruit these large number of users to their platforms.

Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent and we are beginning to see more content providers, producers and distributors develop significant interest in our local market. Five years ago we didnot have applications like Facebook Live, Instagram live and WhatsApp video. We also did not have Internet banking and the level of E-Commerce applications that require real-time online connections as we do today.

One of the key value propositions for content is a robust user experience. Accessing content hosted outside the country provides a significantly diminished user experience compared to content hosted within the country. By leveraging local hosting and Open Connect, content providers will improve their user experiences significantly, scale their products and increase user subscriptions which will lead to more revenue.

Plans to Build an Internet Hub in West Africa

By hosting the Nigerian Internet Exchange and leveraging our already active connections to the Ghanaian, Amsterdam and London Internet exchanges we have significantly expanded the reach of our network to other networks in the region and globally.

What is next is to ensure that our partnership with various internet exchanges and content providers across the continent continues to grow using products such as Open Connect to explore new frontiers for interconnections.
We will leverage our strengths as West Africa’s most connected data center to continually localize traffic, reduce transmission costs and improve user experiences which will catalyze the development of other industries such as gaming, content and media which are highly dependent on superior internet connections.

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Cheki Accounts for 60% Online Car Listening in Nigeria- Dara

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Gbenro Dara, chief executive officer of Cheki.com.ng has said the platform which accounts for about 60% online car listings in Nigeria is out to assist the dealers improve on their sales.

Speaking to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek recently, he said in the last five years the platform would remain on the forefront of innovation in the market.

Cheki.com.ng, he said, is experimenting on a virtual room, where potential buyers are exposed to a-360 picture view of the car.

“First, we are the biggest and oldest online car sells platform in Nigeria. Therefore, we have a database of five years, containing data of anybody who had thought about buying a car through online platform. We have 60% of them on Cheki.

“We can literally say we have idea of people who intended to buy a car in the last five years and others who went ahead to purchase. We also know the sellers and their locations: their monthly sells and number of cars they have online. Such data are valuable even to the Government for taxation.

“Tax has remained a big source of revenue for the Government. There is a saying that what you can’t measure you can’t manage. It is also important to the insurance sector to have better understanding of the market and how to price their products.

Association of Car Dealers Award Received in 2016
“This was as a result of an analysis done by an international (independent) organisation. They came to Nigeria assessing online classified companies and wanted to understand who drives which verticals most. They looked at the auto verticals and the horizontal classified and we stood out on the side of quality and range. We boost as the best in the array of inventories, covering the 36 States in the country. In terms of quality, we boost of the best in-house risk management platform.

Plans for Cheki.com.ng Moving Forward
“Two things are on my mind. First, to deliver on our proposition to our buyers by giving them quality cars at the right price. We want them to know they have people to trust or interact with on the platform. On the sellers’ side, we want to consolidate on them improving sells. We don’t want to just remain as leas generators, rather a sales’ partner that will help them tie up the loose ends.
 

Leveraging Technology To Assist dealer- Cheki’s Virtual Showroom
“Every company needs to be flexible. By this time last year, and for the trajectory we were bullish and busy with restructuring the auto space, thinking that brand new cars were going to be the key drivers. So, the change in Government, the direction on auto policy is not clear yet.

“Even investors in the new cars have rolled back their investments. In other words, not much activities are taking place. So, Cheki needs to be flexible and focus more on used cars and no longer our growth plan for new cars. It is not really too bad for the new cars segment, but not as much as the business in the used cars segment. Therefore, used cars are our biggest opportunity. We are consolidating all our activities around that”, he said.

 

 

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ESET Targets 90% Cost Drop On IT Security Solution for Undergraduates

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ESET Nigeria has given more details on the recent partnership with the National Information Development Agency (NITDA) which intends to take information technology (IT) security awareness to the grassroot.

Mr. Olufemi Ake told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek how the initiative will assist individuals, especially students (in tertiary institutions), cut their IT security solution budget by 90%, while enabling ministries, departments and agencies of Government and organization combat cyber threats.

Mr. Ake explains-
ESET MoU with NITDA, What It’s all About

NITDA is a key Agency regulating government agencies and Nigeria’s cyber space as a whole. Basically, one of their key objectives is ensuring cyber security; which is mainly to ensure that our cyber space is ultimately secured. How do we achieve this? Of course, they can’t do it alone. NITDA does not produce or solve IT security problems by way of offering products; they are focused on regulations. So, as a Company, ESET solves cyber security issues. Most of our solutions are geared towards endpoint security, access management control, data management and preventions. We also have encryption solutions to ensure that people do not gain unauthorized access to your files. All these solutions will not be provided to government institutions, corporate entities and individuals; we will be working with NITDA to make these solutions available.

The partnership with NITDA is critical in developing frameworks, standards/guidelines for government institutions to work with to ensure they keep the best level security at information/data exchange. We want the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to see these data as critical resources at their disposals and the need to protect them.

So, the MoU has a two-part strategy. They are, first, to provide guidelines to Government Agencies on how to remain secured in the cyber space. The second part is the ESET Secure School Initiative. We jointly introduced the project to the public last Friday. The initiative is supposed to provide millions of free copies of ESET internet security solutions to the majority of students in Nigeria. We are aware that not all students have connected devices- tablets, laptop or smartphones, but as many as that have, we want them to stay (secured online). Once they show interest as a school or individual, we will get the solution across to them.

ESET views grassroot awareness as one of the ways to improve cyber security in Nigeria. On that basis, we are focusing on the academic environment. This will importantly raise the awareness and consciousness among the academia as they are heavily involved in researches, assignments and therefore generate huge data. If such data are compromised it will adversely impact the economy in general. So, the best way of defense is needed to ensure they do not experience malicious attacks on whatever they are presenting to the world.

We also want to have their channel of data exchange across sectors secured. For example, e-library and e-learning centres must be protected against malicious attacks.       

 

What Motivated ESET Towards the Partnership?  How Would You Rate Nigerian Companies’ Awareness and Competencies In Managing Cyber Security Issues?

In fact, banks and telecos have taken the lead in ensuring we are secured; especially the third party users. The information been exchanged in these two sectors are secured to a very large extent. However, what drove us into this partnership is the fact that Big Data, Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and the new trends in the IT world are really pushing cyber security to the extreme. IoT will unleash data in an unimaginable scale. Currently, there are big data downloaded to phones, tablets, and what have you; the length at which these data travel is very fast, especially when they hit the social media. Imagine if your device is very porous and the data is actually having a malware, and it’s downloaded, not minding how important it is, as it travels it generally affect the others who share it. So, out aim is to ensure that each data transmitted through the cyber space is secured.

NITDA is Focused On IT Regulations in Nigeria. Data Breaches have Been On The Front Burner In Nigeria; many Companies Have Lost Data, Fortunes To The Malicious Attackers, Now, What Is The Arrangement To Tackle Issues Even At Corporate Levels.

Apparently, we know that NITDA is an agency set for policy formulation and enforcements, therefore, we have existing policies in place such as the Cyber Security Law of 2015. However, we still have a majority of the institutions not keeping to these policies. How do we work with NITDA in this case? We will obviously point out some areas or holes we discovered while working with some of these institutions. Some of the market intelligent reports we have shall be provided to NITDA. The data will reinforce their drives and give them more key trends in the market to give critical assessment. For instance, they should know the ratio of organisations that are not conforming to thee rules. So, when they are about to enforce a framework in place they would have proven cases to support every claim against/for a particular organisation. That way, NITDA shall have the required data to exact authority in its clime. At the global level, we work with research organisations like the IDC Insights, BMI reports and we conduct surveys in the market as well. Through that we ascertain the pain-points of these organisations and provide consulting advisories to them. From the report we shall provide NITDA can provide the organisations with list of vendors to choose from, not necessarily ESET. That is what makes the partnership interest. But we will be proud to provide solutions to these organisations.

How Will The Solutions Assist Organsiations Overcome the malicious Attacks. Are They Preventive or Post-Attacks Cure?

It depends on situations. We have a solution called ESET Threat Intelligence (ETI); it scans through the cyber space for malware threats coming to you environment. So, it depends on what the company wants. The solution first collects asset from the company like the IP addresses, logos and whatever asset the company has to protect online. We will then be on alert and warn you on a potential threat coming your way. If we are going to provide that to NITDA, then we are looking at gathering all the IP addresses of the nation, which is not possible. But NITDA as an Agency will advise institutions on the authenticity of the solution should they require the network monitored and provide early warning signal. Basically, we are using the partnership with NITDA as a channel to reach out to institutions, corporate organizations and individuals.

We also have thee endpoint solutions- computers, tablets or mobile phones. Once an attack is launched to your specific computer, ESET will automatically flag and block it. As NITDA is providing the advisory to the agencies, those that will patronize us will get special offerings unlike coming directly to us.

The Focus On Awareness At The Grassroot: Why The Schools?

We are focusing on schools, because of the importance of that sector to the economy. We don’t expect the students to have enough resources to cater for their textbooks talk more of cyber security solutions. But they need them, especially with the growing malicious attacks. So, through ESET Secure schools we are not just giving our anti-virus solutions, but will deliver messages to them on why they need to be secured. First, the solution works for everybody, but when it comes to affordability, students are the least to buy. It is our CSR package for the students. Even when you come back to buy you get a discount of 20%. This based on our research and surveys on what students can afford. Aside that, we will offer them quarterly IT Security remote training.

 

With NITDA’s Partnership in Place, Are You Going To Sign Agreement With Individual Schools too?

The MoU agreement with NITDA covers the two scopes of the initiatives. And the DG wholeheartedly, welcomes the ideas. With that students can come to us with their school Identity cards and get about 90% discount for the first buy.

 

 

 

 

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