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Sunnet Systems’ ICT Hub to Develop IT Skilled Manpower – Paul

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Olagunju Paul, managing director of Sunnet System

Olagunju Paul is the managing director of Sunnet Systems – a Pan African ICT firm is known for deploying technology solutions and services that enable growth and development.
The company also supports growth strategies through her top-notch solutions and services. Recently, the company won Customer Focused Technology Delivery Company Award and Paul spoke to chike onwuegbuchi on issues around Sunnet Systems’ efforts to revolutionize IT industry.

Issues Around Assessing Foreign Exchange
Yes, it is a challenge, at the same time, it presents some opportunities. As an organization, we believe that every problem has at least one solution. To us, what this challenge has thrown up is that as an IT company we should be thinking inwards.
That has also helped us to filter the possibilities and otherwise. We look at the whole spectrum of ICT landscape: where are we as a country? What can we do?
What should we be doing? What services do we need from outside? So, what we have done is to ensure, internally we align our resources to some of these challenges, providing in-country solutions.
We believe that, for so long, certain skills in the industry are largely dependent on expatriates. We felt one of the good things this crisis has brought is: there is no forex to continue on that path. So, do we have capable Nigerians, who require, maybe additional trainings, to deliver such services? The answer is Yes.
Therefore, we went ahead to set up an ICT Hub in Ilorin to serve as a base to develop Nigerian IT professionals to be utilized both locally and exportable skills.
There are so many smart Nigerians out there, but a lot of concentrations are in Lagos. But, step out of Lagos you see armies of young people who are waiting to be tapped, domesticated and empowered to begin to take advantage of the technology space. So, it has opened our eyes.

Why Ilorin?
It is a layback town; very quiet and cost of living is relatively cheap. There are about five universities, colleges of education, ensuring a whole army of young people. We want to harvest and empower them.
So, some of them we engage in providing these services that we were paying dollars to achieve. We are able to export these skills, bringing in dollars into the country. So, certain things that would ordinarily require dollars, we are using the naira; helping us to have a better margin.
Thus, certain jobs out there that we would have lack the boldness to go for, won’t happen anymore. By that, Nigeria will be able to play and tap into some of those services; take up contracts from UK, US, Europe, done here and delivered out there.
So, the dollar crisis is a blessing in disguise, if we are able to convert them to opportunities. It has actually helped us to think. People say you should think out of the box, but there are no boxes any more. Now, you have to think vertically, horizontally in other to take advantages of these opportunities.

Identification as A Customer Focused Company
As an organization, and from the beginning, we believe that Sunnet Systems exist because our customers exist. We treat our customers as people who put food on our table; they are the reason why we will exist.
Thus, we cannot afford to disappoint them. Our customers will only be happy, if they will run their businesses with their eyes closed. That implies, we can take the pressure off their shoulders to focus on their core competencies.
If you look at our mission statement we have “Passion for Excellence”. We derive our satisfaction from the customer’s satisfaction. We are deeply committed to customer satisfaction; the customer in this case could be the client, shareholders, or even internally, whether our customers as staff, we render services in excellent manner.
It is something that we have been able to practice over time. I am not really surprised that our customers feel that we deserve this award. 
I want to thank Nigeria CommunicationsWeek’s publishers for putting up such a beautiful programme in place. The essence of an award is not just about the reward, but it serves as an incentive for you to strive harder in service delivery. It also gives up-comers to have something to look up to; and as well encouraging compliance to standards, ensuring that organizations step up their games to be globally compliant in terms of quality of service, innovative initiatives that can change the landscape of our country.
To us as an organization, even though we are extremely a quiet organization in terms of visibilities, we have a very large footprint in the industry particularly with the major industries- public, financial, oil and gas, telecoms, and energy. It is an encouragement to us to know that some people somewhere appreciate the good work Sunnet Systems is putting into the industry, particularly our professional dedication and commitment, as well as quality of service.
We will take this as our first step and make sure we embark on aggressive improvement in all our services. Come next year, more of our good works will be out there for exhibition for people to appreciate and others to learn from. So, we really want to appreciate Communication Week Media for the recognition given to us. We will not rest on our oars as this serves as an impetus for us to strive harder; that is our commitment.

Sunnet Systems’ Distinguishing Factors
One of the key things to us is the understanding of our customers’ pain-points and align them with the best technology provider that can best deliver the experience required. For instance, if a customer requires an enterprise solution that can run their application 24/7 and effortlessly, we align them with the appropriate provider.
Also, for every solution we project into the market, Sunnet Systems have the highest level of trained personnel. So, we don’t just push or sell boxes, we generally work directly with the OEMs to ensure we are able to deploy, support and extend the services of these OEMs to the clients. We are strategic partners to these OEMs to deliver solutions relevant to the clients; that is why some of them have Sunnet Systems key leaders as part of their advisory team. Most times, before new products are introduced into the market, we are briefed, keeping us ahead of some of the challenges the customers are facing.

Sunnet Systems Going Forward
In the next five years, Sunnet Systems will not just be recognized for service excellence, but for innovative excellence. We are looking at various challenges faced by Nigerians and working towards technological solutions to them.
For example, we are working assiduously in the areas of health, financial inclusion, crisis management (like the case of herdsmen); we believe that technology that can help us solve some of these challenges.
We are positioning ourselves as innovative solution providers and for the entire West Africa. Every investment we are making now is geared towards that. Even the resource centre in Ilorin, we are working with some universities, tapping into their resources while addressing some of the local challenges.    

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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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