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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.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Sanitise Economy, Curb Debtors Via Technology, Ekeh, Zinox Boss

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Leo Stan Ekeh, serial digital entrepreneur and chairman, Zinox Group

Leo Stan Ekeh, Africa’s leading technology entrepreneur, has charged the Federal Government to leverage technology in reducing to the barest minimum the growing incidences of corporate debts and usher in an era of unprecedented boom and sanity in the Nigerian economy.

 

He made this assertion while delivering the Guest Lecture at the maiden edition of the 2018 Nigerian Online Merit Awards (NiOMA) held in Lagos recently.

 

Ekeh, chairman of the Zinox Group, who disclosed that technology will resolve much of the contemporary problems facing the Nigerian state if holistically applied, noted that the country will benefit immensely if the government turns to technology in its search for lasting solutions to the challenges confronting the economy.

 

According to Ekeh, the recent revelation by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) that, about 350 Nigerians account for 80 per cent of its N5.4 trillion debt portfolio and the refusal of majority of these debtors to liquidate their indebtedness is an issue that can be easily resolved through the application of technology if there exists accurate data of how these debts arose.

 

In his opinion, it could also be that the government at different levels are partially responsible for some these debts, especially if they were unable to meet their obligations to some of these corporates.

 

Ekeh acknowledged that the present debt profile should be a case study for upcoming entrepreneurs or part of the issues to be dissected by data analysts on why some of these businesses failed, noting that this may also reveal a lot of insider compromises on the part of the lenders so that sincere lessons could be learnt and better structure and systems put in place to avert a recurrence.

 

“Working in concert with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Attorney General of the Federation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for enforcement purposes, AMCON can leverage a simple technology application that makes it easy to access the bank balances of debtors across all the various banks in Nigeria. This will be a mandatory requirement for the extension of loans and credit facilities and will foster more responsible borrowing as the lenders can easily debit the accounts of borrowers upon due date to recover sums extended.

 

“This will not only reduce the growing profile and negative trend of corporate debts, with its attendant detrimental effect on the economy but will also expose many Nigerians who are publicly hailed as billionaires but who are only living large off depositors’ money, while frustrating further lending to start ups,” he stated.

 

Disclosing the many ways he has relied on technology to ramp up efficiency in his various businesses and simplify complex processes, Ekeh revealed that by next week, he would be trying out a new Enterprise application that will simplify transaction with bankers, irrespective of the numbers.

 

“This application will give us control over all of our bank accounts instead of relying on bank staff to implement our instruction at their convenience.”

 

He also disclosed that the new warehouses widely reported as recently acquired by e-commerce giant Konga were equipped with digital cameras with data analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities which can easily detect fraud and random inconsistencies such as a change in the appearance of an individual or item captured on entry into the facilities. Most importantly, these cameras are cloud based.

 

Urging the government to commit more resources to technology in resolving the unemployment challenges and drive the nation towards rapid development, Ekeh cited the influence of technology in the political space which has reduced post-election litigations from 87% to about 33%, noting that this will further reduce to 11% or thereabouts with the adoption of electronic voting, if funded by the government.

 

“Technology does not lie; it is either you are right or wrong. With technology, you can do unimaginable things. You don’t even need to go through the four walls of a University to acquire quality education,” Ekeh enthused.

 

The Zinox Chairman who spoke on the theme – Leveraging the Internet Revolution to leapfrog Nigeria’s development – affirmed that Information Technology will disrupt the Nigerian economy positively by the year 2023, creating immense opportunities and new wealth for many Nigerians.

 

Noting that this will happen irrespective of the status of leadership at the helm of affairs in the country, Ekeh urged attendees at the event to prepare for the coming disruption.

 

While appreciating the organizers and Publisher of News Express, Mr. Isaac Umunna, Ekeh who received the ICT Icon of the Year award at the event also seized the opportunity to recognize the media for the long years of support in spreading the ICT gospel, even as he declared his intention to stand down from participation at many of such future events in order to allow the younger generation and his son, Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, founder of Yudala to take the stage as he believes they have better global education and exposure to lead the nation to the digital promised land.

 

Among dignitaries in attendance at the event was former Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe who chaired the event; Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode represented by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan; Publisher of the Guardian Newspapers, Mrs. Maiden Ibru; former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University and Chairman, Editorial Board of the Guardian, Prof. Wale Omole and Editor, Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Eze Anaba, among others.

 

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Mobile Operators Commit to Common Approach to IOT Security

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The GSMA has announced that global mobile operators have committed to adopt and implement the GSMA IoT Security Guidelines.

The guidelines outline best practice and recommendations for the Internet of Things (IoT) security for the entire IoT ecosystem and set out a comprehensive security assessment scheme to help ensure IoT services are protected against IoT security risks. There will reach 3.1 billion IoT connections by 2025, according to GSM A Intelligence.

“For the IoT to flourish, the industry needs an aligned and consistent approach to IoT security. Our guidelines encourage the industry to adopt a robust set of best practices that will help create a more secure IoT market with trusted, reliable services that can scale as the market grows.

“The mobile industry has a long history of providing secure services in licensed spectrum and by implementing these guidelines, we can help ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the market,” commented Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA.

The GSMA IoT Security Guidelines are targeted at IoT service providers, device manufacturers, developers and mobile operators and provide best practice for the secure end-to-end design, development, and deployment of IoT solutions across industries and services.

They address typical cybersecurity and data privacy issues associated with IoT services and outline a step-by-step process to securely launch solutions to market.

They are supported by an IoT Security Assessment scheme that provides a checklist to support the secure launch of IoT solutions into the market and keep them secure throughout their lifecycles thereby creating a sustainable IoT ecosystem that is designed for end-to-end security.

Both the GSMA IoT Security Guidelines and IoT Security Assessment also cover the fast-growing Low Power Wide Area or Mobile IoT technologies, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

 

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BoICT Explains Why Glo Won Most Innovative Award

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Organisers of the Beacon of ICT Awards, Communications Week Media, have said that Globacom won the Most Innovative Player Award at the 2018 edition of the awards because it pioneering most of the innovations in the nation’s telecoms industry.

Giving the explanation while presenting the awards to Globacom,  Ken Nwogbo, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Communications Week Media, reiterated  Globacom’s consistent role as the pioneer in Nigeria’s telecom space in the area of innovation and service quality.

According to him, “Glo has remained consistent in pioneering most of the innovations we have in the telecoms industry today, both in voice and in data services.

Glo Café, Borrow me Data, Campus Booster, E-top Up and Easy Share are among the recent products which have offered unparalleled experience for telecom subscribers on the Glo network. Many of the respondents who took part in the poll said this was why they voted for Glo as the Most Innovative Mobile Player”.

Nwogbo further explained that winners in the various categories were decided by readers of Communications Week in an online survey conducted by the magazine from November last year to March 15, 2018.

The Beacon of ICT Awards was instituted to reward the vision and efforts of individuals and companies that have contributed to the growth of the ICT industry in a particular year.

The main objectives of the awards are to evaluate and recognize standards of excellence in the country’s quest for growth and development in the use of ICT and to ensure that ICT professionals are provided a basis for recognizing and validating outstanding contributions.

 

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