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Nigeria rates high in new tech, has no legacy systems to upgrade

By Prince Osuagwu

Last week, total IT solution company, Cisco, gathered over 150,000 IT technocrats from around the world, in the cozy and serene environment of Sun City, South Africa.

Cisco-pic-1The programme was Cisco Connect yearly event; an avenue where the company brings together its customers and partners to update them on new trends.

The choice of Sun City, a luxury casino and resort, situated in the North West Province of South Africa, between the Elands River and the Pilanesberg, provided a tourist sort of feeling to participants who had to drive about two hours from Johannesburg to the venue.

But in all, it was a platform to talk technology and what future it holds for countries and their economies.

Having played in the Nigerian Technology space for over 10 years, it wasn’t surprising to discover that almost all papers presented by top Cisco officials at the event, had much dwellings on Nigeria and the potentials the market holds for world economies.

So, immediately after the presentations, Hi-Tech cornered the company’s Executive in charge of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Mr Dare Ogunlade for a chat. His answers to some of our questions, were particularly revealing. Enjoy them;

 

DURING the panel discussion, there were talks about some Cisco solutions that can achieve Smart City. Can you tell us the level of engagement Cisco has had with Nigerian stakeholders for building Smart Cities?

There is definitely awareness in Nigeria about it, and several states have indicated interest. These states cut across all the geo-political zones in Nigeria. Each state is at a different level of preparedness as some are a bit more advanced.

Also, it depends on what the state is actually hoping it will achieve from deploying the solution. Some states will like the solution to enhance security in particular cities that have critical mass. For some other states, it is revenue generation.

The theme of this year’s Cisco Connect event is ‘Tomorrow Starts Here’. Given the peculiar infrastructure challenges faced by Nigeria, do you see the country achieving its tomorrow today or in the nearest future?

Yes, we can. If you compare Nigeria with Europe right now, our GDP growth is very high and the economy is still projected to grow at a very good rate over the next few years. Compared to Europe, we do not have any legacy systems that we want to upgrade; so it is an opportunity to actually build infrastructure afresh.

Some people may want things to happen faster than it is now, but we always have to look at the initiatives the government is trying to do. Something as simple as unbundling Power Holding (the previous public power monopoly) itself is also a positive step in the right direction.

Connectivity is key to achieving Internet of Everything, IoE; and it appears Nigeria is still struggling to catch up?

We have a lot of submarine cables that have landed in Lagos, and there are lots of policies coming out of the government and NCC to encourage private sector players to actually come and build infrastructure that will take connectivity to remote areas.

If you look at what Nigeria is known for, you will see that it is oil and gas and most of them are highly technology-driven, have fast connectivity to the internet and they have a play in the IoE space.

Again, with the advent of democracy, we are seeing a lot of companies coming into Nigeria to start a manufacturing base and there is also a manufacturing play in the IoE space as well. We are not left behind; we are on the right track.

How strategic is Nigeria’s economy to Cisco; I ask because before any solution comes to Nigeria, it is first deployed in South Africa?.

Nigeria is actually very strategic and there are a number of solutions deployed in Nigeria by Cisco before South Africa. The notion that it comes from South Africa is not correct.

Different global players

Prior to this year, South Africa was the biggest economy which attracted a lot of opportunities for the country from different global players.

Now, with the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP, we are seeing lots of companies showing more interest in Nigeria than they did in the past. We have American companies building multimillion dollar plant in Calabar, which in the past they would never have done.

Innovation comes from within Cisco and we have a couple of technology deployed in Nigeria before South Africa and we have technologies working better in Nigeria than in South Africa.

During the presentation, some Cisco executives mentioned that Cisco has been collaborating with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications Technology. Can you shed more light on that?

A council was set up by the Common Wealth Communications Group which Nigeria is a sponsor. It is called Affordable Internet.

Cisco has also invested in it. Basically, it is to bring affordable internet to people. It is a platform that we are presently collaborating with the government of Nigeria.

How has Cisco assisted companies in Nigeria to eradicate power theft in the electricity industry?

After the unbundling process, a lot of them are now doing due diligence to see how much investment they need to properly optimise the network with our technologies. Once they invest properly, all the issues suffered in the past will be eradicated.

From very simple network architecture, if you look at Lagos, we have PHCN office in Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Marina and there is no connectivity between these three areas. There is no central coordination because there is no capacity for the official in one office to see what is going on in the other.

I think something as rudimentary as having a network in place and a centralised billing system will be the first thing. They need to build an intelligent network with smart metres and people will only get services that they pay for.

During the presentations, a speaker said that two percent of global GDP is wasted in traffic and we believe that Nigeria has a larger chunk of that two percent. Case studies by Cisco on Smart Cities in other countries including Rwanda, have been very successful. Why is Cisco not succeeding with Smart City deployment in Nigeria?

Let’s look at why we have traffic jams in a city like Lagos! If we can create a lot of opportunities outside Lagos, it will make Lagos less attractive so that business can thrive in other parts of Nigeria.

If this is done, Lagos will not become the first choice to set up a business. The myth now is that if you do not come to Lagos, you will probably not be successful.

Another factor is job creation. There have to be good opportunities outside Lagos or else people will keep migrating to Lagos in search of greener pastures.

There are so many factors that can help, such as good quality education, healthcare outside of Lagos, and the list goes on.

Can we know Cisco’s prtnership with some organisations in Nigeria to drive internet penetration in rural communities?

One is our Network Academy programme, a CSR initiative where we partner with government to develop skill sets with ICT basic networking skills which is the foundation level for every student that enrols.

We make our curriculum available, free of charge, train a number of them who eventually begin to teach the students and we also make available some of our products used in the lab at affordable prices.

Currently, we have almost 10,000 students enrolled across Nigeria, 160 instructors and 130 academies with 44 percent of the student as females. Our academies are located across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

One presentation here showed that Nigerian’s confidence in cloud security was lower than in Kenya and South Africa. With this, it may be difficult to deploy which means we cannot connect into the new world. Can you tells us why this is so and how the situation can be improved?

Cloud is something that a lot of organisations are aggressively looking at now because it saves them cost from both CAPEX and OPEX. We also have customers who are adopting the outsourcing model. CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) is encouraging banks to have data centres but instead of building 24 data centres, just build one and share one.

executives mentioned that Cisco has been collaborating with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Communications Technology. Can you shed more light on that?

A council was set up by the Common Wealth Communications Group which Nigeria is a sponsor. It is called Affordable Internet. Cisco has also invested in it. Basically, it is to bring affordable internet to people. It is a platform that we are presently collaborating with the government of Nigeria.

How has Cisco assisted companies in Nigeria to eradicate power theft in the electricity industry?

After the unbundling process, a lot of them are now doing due diligence to see how much investment they need to properly optimise the network with our technologies. Once they invest properly, all the issues suffered in the past will be eradicated. From very simple network architecture, if you look at Lagos, we have PHCN office in Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Marina and there is no connectivity between these three areas. There is no central coordination because there is no capacity for the official in one office to see what is going on in the other. I think something as rudimentary as having a network in place and a centralised billing system will be the first thing. They need to build an intelligent network with smart metres and people will only get services that they pay for.

During the presentations, a speaker said that two percent of global GDP is wasted in traffic and we believe that Nigeria has a larger chunk of that two percent. Case studies by Cisco on Smart Cities in other countries including Rwanda, have been very successful. Why is Cisco not succeeding with Smart City deployment in Nigeria?

Let’s look at why we have traffic jams in a city like Lagos! If we can create a lot of opportunities outside Lagos, it will make Lagos less attractive so that business can thrive in other parts of Nigeria. If this is done, Lagos will not become the first choice to set up a business. The myth now is that if you do not come to Lagos, you will probably not be successful.

Another factor is job creation. There have to be good opportunities outside Lagos or else people will keep migrating to Lagos in search of greener pastures. There are so many factors that can help, such as good quality education, healthcare outside of Lagos, and the list goes on.

Can we know Cisco’s prtnership with some organisations in Nigeria to drive internet penetration in rural communities?

One is our Network Academy programme, a CSR initiative where we partner with government to develop skill sets with ICT basic networking skills which is the foundation level for every student that enrols. We make our curriculum available, free of charge, train a number of them who eventually begin to teach the students and we also make available some of our products used in the lab at affordable prices.

Currently, we have almost 10,000 students enrolled across Nigeria, 160 instructors and 130 academies with 44 percent of the student as females. Our academies are located across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

 

 


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.