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Professionals Not Fully Recognised for IT Projects, Implementation

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Aside describing information technology practitioner of non-CPN certification, or NCS membership an impostor, the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) believes that professionals have not been given fair share of IT projects for implementation by successive governments in the country.

Professor Sola Aderounmu, NCS President said it has become imperative for anyone or corporate body bidding for ICT/IT projects must be a member of the professional body, as a measure to curb such projects failures in the country.

The president represented by Iyiola Ayoola, executive secretary of NCS during a chat with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek spoke on critically issues in the IT industry in the country. Excerpts.

Theme for 2017 NCS Int’l Conference
“Over the years, Nigeria has depended on crude oil and this time there must be massive diversification to the information technology which is the mainstream of any economy in today’s world. This informed why NCS choose its theme for this year’s international conference to reflect on ICT and innovation for achieving the SGDs; ICT encompasses every sphere of the economy.

Why Diversifying to ICT Has Delayed in Nigeria
“ICT, as the case may be, it’s not really in the hands of the technocrats or professionals. The implementers are not given the opportunity because everybody is ascribing the responsibility to themselves. That is the bane of ICT development in the country viz-a-viz using ICT for national development. Once it becomes all comers affair, the professionals will be reduced to the background. Only about last three years that other professionals have seen reasons to side the NCS advocacy for us to have ICT/IT in the hands of professionals. If a quack doctor is caught today, everybody will frown at it, but when a quack IT professional is caught, the society tends to easily condone such illegality. It cuts across policy formulators to implementers. The NCS has been on vanguard (advocating) for things be done properly.

“Let us ensure square pegs are fitted into the red holes; unfortunately, the sector has been turn into Tom, Dick and Harry game. Anybody can acquire system from anywhere. A situation where someone who studied Yoruba is implementing ICT projects and when you probe into that, the answer you get is: oh, he is certified in IT. They travel to Dubai, China and other countries, procure hardware and package as their handiwork. That should be discouraged, if we are interested in developing our ICT sector. When government is giving out contract, everybody wants to get a cut from the cake. We are now ‘shouting’ for local content development and recognition.

“It has not been benchmarked; everybody runs to the Presidency to get contract. Come on, who are you! Before now, government would announce for everybody to bid for contracts. And once the contracts are won, most of them are delivered in sub-standard manner.

What is the Standard?
“Anybody bidding for ICT/IT projects must be a member of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS). Why do we insist? NCS tries to distinguish who is qualified or not. It is important to know the pedigree of people (in the industry) before they are allowed to deliver certain projects. That’s why most IT projects are delivered half-way or abandoned. The industry must be sanitized in such manner that whoever is implementing project does not import e-wastes, outdated products; who will buy nineteenth century products now! This is the true way for this country to move forward. Continuing without standardization is clinching to under-development.

How Do We Start In Setting Standards For National IT Implementation?
“We partake in Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and other certifications and they have really helped us as a nation. Nevertheless, it will not be out of place if we implement national IT certifications or standardization. Ideally, that is the policy thrust of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and we at NCS are happy that the current DG is seriously looking at that direction. To groom professionals, it behooves on the Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria)-CPN to regulate the industry.

“They ought to be the ‘eye’ of the industry in fishing out professionals who can be presented to the government as credible enough to execute IT projects. ICT/IT professional is the one who is fully registered by the CPN. By implication, you are a certified professional. Without that, you are not considered a professional. CPN has a template to get you certified. And for you to be certified, you must first be a member of NCS. What are our criteria for registration? First, membership. Who are the members? There are three categories of membership- Affiliate, studentship and Corporate. We also have the Fellows as highest echelon of the membership.

NCS Plans to Woo Non-Professionalised IT Practitioners
“It is the CPN that is not doing the job. It is in the CPN Act of 1993 that one cannot practice without been certified by the CPN. If you have not obtained any degree, CPN organizes professional/certification exams. Therefore, CPN needs to sit up; NCS has been the one doing the ‘shouting’ for professionalization of this industry. NCS is the brain behind the formation of NCS. We wanted to be chartered which led to CPN’s creation.

Assessment of ICT Industry in Last Two Years
“We are not yet where we ought to; just setting the process in motion. But, in the last decade we weren’t here. It also depends on the yardstick we are using to measure. We will definitely get there, though the level of progression may not be geometrical. For example, the level of awareness on local content has not been dominant as it is today. Secondly, about eight years ago when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wanted to procure computers for its electoral exercises, we insisted on allowing local OEMs to deliver the machines. Zinox and others bided, but as the process progressed they wanted to sideline Zinox. At a point they said 80/20 foreign to indigenous companies, we still refused.

“Eventually, they listened and Zinox was given the opportunity. It was a monumental achievement for the industry. Since then, things have improved. Sometime, last year, the Federal Government indicated interest in acquiring 500,000 computers under its employment scheme, and NCS has not rested on its oars to ensuring that indigenous OEMs are given opportunity to supply the sets.

“That is how we can help naira regain its feet. We have technicians, the way-withal to develop solutions to our needs. Nigerians are resilient; rare will you see any international body or intelligent agencies of nations without a Nigerian coding. But within the country so many things are militating against us; chiefly, selfish interest! Otherwise, we have the human capacity to match any nation. That is why we are shouting: allow our professionals handle these projects.

Are We Meeting Up with International Standards?
“Quote me anywhere, as software engineer; our solutions can compete anywhere in the world. I don’t see anywhere in the world we are rated as number two. Go to American defense you will see Nigerians writing codes. In terms of code, we don’t develop substandard solutions. But when you are talking about OEMs, we have not perfected that aspect of development, and the reasons are obvious. The business environment is still hostile. For example, where is our Silicon Valley situated? It is when we have and transform the raw materials that we can beat our cheats and say we are there.

Nigeria En-Route to E-Voting
“Personally, I have been meditating on the technological solutions to multifaceted challenges Nigeria face today. We are a peculiar people living in this country. To be honest with you, IT cannot survive without human beings. The humans factor in Nigeria is making IT not to work. Thank God IT is taking a new dimension where we are talking about artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), Smart cities, machine learning, Big data, etc., these will drastically reduce human interference and ‘corrupting’ of IT efficiency.

“We are all political in our approach to issues. When you introduce politics you would want it to dance to the political inclinations, therefore, manipulations bring marginalization. If that structure is ‘pulled down’ with the help of artificial intelligence, then the human inclinations can be tuned down. But, the ‘cruel’ ways we do things, it will be difficult to implement e-voting in all honesty, at the moment. The step starts with putting structures in place to minimize the interference of humans in our elections.

Where Do We Start to Implementing e-Voting?
“I ask myself such questions daily. It is crucial that we first identify ourselves whether for elections or for security purposes. The data to be generated through national identity numbering must be used in planning. Without that, there is no way you can have a good election or e-voting; it is not going to be possible! The database must be up to 90% ready before INEC can think of e-voting.

“Today, we hear INEC saying anybody above 18 years can vote, then, people are fortifying their ages either for over/under declaration. And such practice can never eliminate dual voting. If you have 2000 voters in INEC database making up a ward, somebody can just declare any age, whereas if the person had been registered under NIMC project, the system will automatically knock him out. That is when the credibility of INEC can be established as far as conducing elections in Nigeria is concerned. Any data/information that cannot be verified is dunk data. That is the basis for our inability to go with e-voting.

Smart City Concepts in Redefining Governance
“To a lay man, smart city is when everything is ‘joined’ together. But smart city entails ‘smart nation’- a society where everything is computerized, networked or talk to each other. Smart city will come as the advent of Internet of Things. NCS is in the forefront of enlightening the community about the concept. In October 2016, the Lagos State Chapter of NCS had a-day workshop where components of smart city where discussed and what the State Government is doing in that regard.

“At the Federal Government level, we are also leading discussion on how to develop a smart nation, starting with e-Governance. The whistleblower is part of the gains of smart city concept likewise the TSA. Do not forget, when the incumbent government came in to office we sent proposals to the SGF’s office and recently we sent others to the Ministry of Communications and they are opening up to discussions.

Need for National Stakeholders Dialogue On Curriculum Redesign
“There is need for declaration of state of emergency in our education system. It does not incline to only ICT; every sphere of our educational curriculum needs overhaul. We have demeaned education in this country; not that what the schools are teaching are not good enough, but how impactful to decision making and relevance to today’s society. Simply put, I support a call for stakeholders meeting where we can define the curriculum we need. The Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Universities, CPN, NITDA are also trying, but we need to do more.

“This is one what we ought to have done in the past twenty years. We have neglected our functions and responsibilities and only now it has decayed we have started thinking. During my days as a lecturer at the university; because I came from the industry I was able to tell the students what are the required in the industry.

“Some of them ran away, while few came closer. The truth is that the act of programming is the nucleus of computer science studies; whether networking or hardware, you must be able to program to synthesize with your solution. Most of the students have not realized this truth; they usually run away because it is mathematical. They want an easy pass to the industry to quickly make money. Things are not done that way.

Expectations of NCS as Construction of Headquarters Commences
“When the incumbent president was inaugurated he listed three key agenda. He has actually vigorously pursued the agenda: advocacy, which has been massive; improved membership registration and the NCS physical (presence) which is refereed to having a structure on ground that can be identified with Society. It is called the centre for innovation and incubation. NCS family is happy that the project which its groundbreaking was conducted last year, work has commenced in earnest.

“Plans for the project commenced in 2005. For now, we cannot say how much it will gulp because of the economy has not been stable. Prices of building material keep changing. Only determination will see us through, even as we rely on our corporate members and government agencies like the NCC and NITDA.  The project is massive on the six floor building.

NCS’ Innovation & Incubation Centre
“We called it innovation and incubation centre in the sense that we realized that university ‘products’ are not abreast with the industry requirements. Therefore, we want to be incubating them from here with the help of industry (corporate) members. It is a centre where industry needs shall be met; once you tell the fresh graduates/undergraduates what you need they put hands on it”. 

 

 

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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Mentorship: You Can’t Develop Skills Without Giving Experience- Johnson

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By peter oluka

Start-ups in Nigeria require proper adequate mentoring to triumph in today’s business environment hence the establishment of Lighthouse Hub about nineteen months ago.

The Hub aims to mentor, train, encourage, guide and propel the upcoming entrepreneurs towards the right path in order to reach their potentials, Yetunde Johnson, founder of the Hub said in an interview with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.

Lighthouse Means

“LightHouse guides you to where you are going, safely. So, we are​ here to guide anybody that comes to us ​inspired to move to the next stage of achievement. We took a risk and we are still taking risks to make it happen. When we moved into the building, the core team took on the job of setting things right, from the electricity to decors and other works. We did this by ourselves and the funding had come from Slingshot’s consulting fees and money we have raised internally,” she said.

Why?

“We ​believe that if you give young people responsibility with the right training and mentoring, they will get to their destination. Imagine if you take an army of young people in technology or business and expose them to adequate training, the gains will be much.

“​My​ only worry is that young people​ tend to separate themselves from the older people. It is such a fundamental mistake. There should be a ‘marrying’ of the two; it takes the raw energy of the young people and the experience or exposure of the older people to move us to a different place, the right place’, Johnson said.

Lighthouse System of Grooming Young People

“It has been difficult in the country for organisations to take-on young people due to the cost required to groom them to a level where they are productive. Therefore, we are trying to give them (young people) hands-on experience in IT. They are here for real life tasks to develop their skills. We have six pioneer interns.

“One of the key things is that our interns follow us to meeting businesses. On one of such occasions, I spoke to a client and the company was willing to take four interns, train and pay them stipends. At the end of six month one will be selected, as a permanent staff. More employers need to do that.

“You can’t develop a skill if you don’t give experience. You can’t keep people unemployed because they don’t have the right skills or certification, yet you don’t provide the right environment for that. You can make it tax deductible whereby every business is involved in training​m the young people​. Businesses can​not just be sitting by the corner; not want to assist in job creation. They should train our youths to be employable”.

Lighthouse Hub, Johnson added, “We will show IT startups the avenues through which to limit business risks while giving those seeking career redirection the route to success.

“For this case we are partnering with organsiations like the Debbie Mishael Consulting and others. The fact is that IT needs a strategy. If you have a dream and lack where to seed it, there is not drive. We have given free courses before.

“Our costs are seemingly the lowest in Lagos and you can still get zero entrance. When we train somebody, we do it thoroughly. But people aren’t turning up. We did training on WordPress which anybody can take up and begin to make money. We had little or no turn out.

“However, we had some girls who showed serious enthusiasm that I rarely see in the young people and without any motivation from us they came for HTML and CSS training and have been coming for the last 10-12 weeks. They are inspiring. They see the opportunity learning coding skills can give them and they have jumped at it. We wish for more like them.

“Now, I know we don’t want brain drain, but if you have spent time here and there are opportunities calling for your skill​s elsewhere, then of course you would ​ go and grab it. Though, I strongly believe that when a Nigerian goes outside the country, they would want to return, because he would realize why home is so special.

“But you need an avenue or programme that should be showing our young people the pathway to success; rewards them commensurately. We worked with the Women In Tech on a project in the University of Lagos (Unilag). Out of thousands of young ladies in Unilag, less than 70 attended the training. We offered to train people free, but they aren’t showing up.

“There is something wrong with the present generation that must be addressed. Some of the best IT trainers are in Nigeria, but the young people are not paying attention. We did a programme for teachers in collaboration with Teachers Nigeria; they tend to train teachers on how to use Google related research tools. They were so disappointed.

“The turn out in Lagos was just low. How many teachers do we have. It was a free course. But the attitude of our people will now force them to start charging fees. We were invited to Ogun State, the turnout was incredible and we had a dynamic session.

Nigerian Youths Need to Believe In Themselves

“We need to give credit to ourselves and accept the little things we make here. I know a young man who makes shoes of extremely high quality. For him to make s​ale​s, he had to use ​an ​Italian label. Now, the shoes were made in Nigeria but Italy takes the credit. Now, Debbie Mishael Consulting is bringing ICITP training programme​s​ that will enable our young IT graduates have han​ds-on​ experience. Only the passionate will understand and grab the opportunities as they come.

“This is one reason we are partnering with lot of organizations do a lot of things that compliment the skills our startups would need. We are planning a six weeks intensive ‘You-Learn’ programme.

“If you are a programmer I don’t think you can succeed by mere ​reading books​, you need to practise what you have read​. Our young people need that practical approach to doing things. Also, it is difficult for interns to learn without ​​​financial support, even though they are not expecting to us to pay them we provide a stipend. They will struggle to have concentration if they are hungry or short of cash. Though, it is not easy to sustain such system. If we can’t continue to function as a business, we can’t sustain the Hub.

Why Obalende?

Johnson doubles as the managing director of Slingshot Technologies Limited. Lighthouse Hub is one of the consulting firm’s projects, located at 35 Moloney Street, Obalende-Lagos Island. She speaks on the location, thus:

“I really love Obalende; this is the place I want to be. People think I am crazy, but they are wrong. If you are going to tap into human capacity of Nigeria, you must know where they are. They too need to tap into us. We are willing to be here to share these skills we are bringing back. Among us, we share skills too because no body has​ a​ monopoly o​n​ knowledge. We need to borrow skills from others. I have always loved this building. To me, it is the most strategic place you can be.

“If you are headed to the Mainland- to the left; to the Island- to the right. If you are aiming at Ikoyi, go through under the bridge. ‘Besides that, it is one point where every w​ork ​of life crisscrosses. So, there was a day I was passing on the bridge, I felt this is a place we can tap in to the ​raw material of Nigeria which is the human resource. I fe​el, the Nigerian human resource is the most incredible resource if trained, mentored well and tapped into. Why do I say that? If you look around the world Nigerians are the ones leading. We are not hailing ourselves, unfortunately. If you look at the key developments in the US & UK, the key drivers are Nigerians.

“I am a staunch Nigerian and I love being here. As a child I grew up to know Nigerians are strong and dynamic. They don’t give excuses rather go for the results. So, I just wanted to come back to the country and tap into the ecosystem and contribute my quota to the development of the young people. If you are trained in Nigeria life is not that stressful when you travel out of the country, because you have already faced great challenges here.

What Happens At The First Floors?

The first floor is where the Hub is located. “In summary, the Hub has room to accommodate everybody no matter how large or small your business could be. We have inside the Hub the Co Working Area for those who can’t afford to rent offices. We made it flexible for networking beyond your own ‘kind’ of people- that is, those outside your immediate business field, but who you need to climb the ladder. That is the environment that allows the young and old meet. We also have the serviced office space that give clients opportunity to focus on their business while we handle all others issues for them.

“You have free access to the meeting and conference rooms for an allocated period of time which is also located on the first floor. Being a member of the hub guarantees you that platform. It is our way of making life comfortable for small businesses. You can actually conduct your training, seminars, meeting, conferences too. It is a small community with a great vision for businesses in the IT ecosystem”, she concluded.

 

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Investment on Innovation Centres Will Speed Up Nigeria’s Digitalisation- Nicholas

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Travers Nicholas is the general manager, Dell EMC West Africa. Working with his team, Travers spends time with customers helping to guide them through their digital transformation encompassing workforce, security, and IT. During Travers’s time with Dell EMC he has worked with customers from SME to Enterprise from all market segments, helping them to reduce cost and improve efficiency through the adoption of Dell EMC technologies.

Coming from a Technical Background, some of Travers’s previous roles include Systems Engineering Manager, Technology Consultant, and Infrastructure Manager for global organizations in the banking, telecommunications, and services industries. During a recent chat with peter oluka, he expatiates on how Dell’s activities positively impact Nigeria’s IT/ICT ecosystem. 

How Prepared Is Dell to Impact World Technology in the Next Industrial Revolution?

In September last year, Dell merged with EMC to create the largest privately-controlled technology company in the world – Dell Technologies.

Under Dell Technologies, we have seven brands (Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, VMWare, VirtuStream, RSA and SecureWorks) with which we are better positioned to deliver quality end-to-end solutions to our clients.

On our preparation to impact world technology in the next industrial revolution, Dell Technologies is innovating like a start-up with the scale and reach of a global powerhouse, investing $4.5B in research and development annually. In the same vein, we are also investing another $100M annually in innovative startups in future tech areas like AI/ML, Automotive, Genomics. These are indications that we are a forward looking organization and are future-ready in our approach to solutions and our client can attest to this.

The second question on monitoring: signatures is reactive, that’s the main talking point, i.e. not to be reactive; that’s where having Global threat intelligence (SecureWorks) and identity threat management solutions (RSA) comes in to plaly.

Security is very important in technology. How does monitoring network to detect suspicious acts solve the Issue of Internal Instigated IT Security Breaches?

First thing to note is that traditional approach to security is no longer enough. Identifying signature and using anti-virus are reactive approaches, and given current technology realities, being reactive is not efficient in forestalling and preventing security breaches, be it internal or external. For instance, what happens when virus changes itself and signature appears differently?

As such, solving security issues needs to do with the incorporation of global threat intelligence and threat management solutions using high performance security analytics. The need to shift from traditional approach to security is why Dell Technologies is investing heavily in its two security brands – RSA and SecureWorks.

RSA and SecureWorks provide intelligence-driven security solutions for organizations effectively prevent, detect and respond to advanced attacks, manage user identities and access, reduce business risk, fraud and cybercrime.

…Which Means You Are Using Big Data To Solve Security Challenges.

Absolutely, big data! Security is a big data problem. There is so much data and there is no way a human being could monitor and respond to all.

Let’s Narrow This Down To West Africa And Nigeria In Particular; Do You Think Nigeria Is Prepared For The Next Industrial Revolution Driven By Internet Of Things (IoT), Smart City, Big Data And Others? What Are Your Perceptions About This Market?

Personally, I think Nigeria is ready for the next industrial revolution. Interestingly, I believe a lot of innovations will come from countries like Nigeria, Kenya and India where there are necessities to innovate.

I have been opportune to interact with a lot of young people with keen interest in software development and do not think anyone would disagree with me on the high skills level of the members of Nigerian IT community. However, there is a need for continuous development and less dependence on the government.

No doubts, Nigeria has its fair share of infrastructural deficit in the area of power and networking, but the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians gives me hope that Nigeria is ready for the next industrial revolution. The mindset is there; maybe it just needs to be proliferated and supported a bit more.

How Did Dell Fare During the Economic Recession?

Truth is, all Nigerians were affected in one way or the other by the recession.

How we fare is very simple. Dell Technologies is the world’s essential infrastructure company. We provide essential end-to-end solutions that businesses need to run effectively and efficiently and when there is a need, there is business.

Of course, spending slowed and due to foreign exchange (Forex) issues, IT and ICT market declined during the economic recession, but at the same time we are happy that we’ve come through in a positive way for our customers and we continue to support them and deliver on outstanding quality of service.

Recently Dell Made A Commitment To The 2020 Legacy Project, How Are You Using Such Opportunity To Give Back To Nigerians?

Dell is committed to driving human progress by outing our technology and expertise to work where they can do the most good for people and the planet.

One of such commitments is the Ocean Plastics project, where we’re taking discarded plastics from beaches, shorelines, and other coastal areas and turning that into packaging for our XPS 13 2-in-1. 

As a country near the ocean, this is very important to Nigeria and it is a project that excites me personally. I’ve seen too many videos and heard many stories on how whale and other aquatic animals get killed by the plastics in the ocean

Dell Technologies is also involved in an alliance with the Nigerian government and a couple of organizations on how we manage Electronic Wastes (e-Wastes) around the world because we believe there is a need for e-wastes to be discarded in a responsible way.

What Is Dell Technologies Doing About Empowering Women In Technology?

First of all, we have a large female population of Accounts Executives in our team and we are very supportive of our female employees. Also, we have a female Mentoring and Development Program that allows our female employees grow and advance their careers. In fact, it was an employee driven initiative where some of those employees mentored internally become mentors to females in Universities, developing and guiding young women on how to join and succeed in the technology industry.

This type of thing only happens when you create a culture that supports women and treat them as fair and equal partners. There is no gender discrimination in our organization and we are going to provide a frame work for that to be successful around the world.

Research and Development (R&D) Is The Centre Of Technology Evolution, But Most OEMs Seemingly Develop Product Based on ‘Perceived’ Needs Of Emerging Markets. What percentage of Dell’s resources is channeled towards R&D?

We are very passionate about R&D such that we invest about $4.5B in it annually. We have in excess of 15000 engineers around the world who are working on building and developing products- software, hardware and solutions. We believe we create great products, great solutions and great technologies.

Also, we ensure we maintain a direct relationship with our customers and when we get feedback we take it very seriously, report back to our team of engineers on how to improve and be better positioned for the future

What Do You Are The Areas That Needs Fine Tuning; Requiring Government’s Intervention To Give Nigeria’s Technology Market A Push?

I’ve observed in Nigeria that many people look, first, to the government ‘to do things for us’, but I believe that innovation is more likely to come from individuals, because they are the ones who know and have the needs to solve problems. However, the government can invest in innovation centers that would allow use of technologies for youths who don’t have access. Though, it’s not possible to provide overnight access of technology to all Nigerians, we need to start with what’s reasonable; maybe some small centers.

Secondly, once they have access to the technology, a bit of monitoring should be done to make sure they are using it productively.

If the youths have access to technologies you would be surprised at what they can do, but if you create some sort of policies to force it on people, it won’t come out of passion. That’s why I have the belief that innovations need to come from the people, give them the tools, the access and support they need.

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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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