Interview: Ayotunde Coker
How is the demand for products such as data services evolving in Nigeria?
AYOTUNDE COKER: Demand is evolving and rising rapidly. We are creating awareness of local quality and capability through advertisements, editorials in the business and technology press, and business conferences. This is being done with bodies such as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Nigeria Economic Summit Group. It is also key to ensure that global cloud players are aware of the high-quality hosting facilities available in Africa. For example, in Nigeria, we have Rack Centre, the first and only carrier-neutral data centre to achieve the Uptime Institute Tier III Constructed Facility Certification. Companies can now patronise local colocation rather than building their own data centres or going abroad.
What can data centres and cloud computing providers do to better target smaller businesses?
COKER: They must provide a comprehensive range of services reliably and efficiently to global standards and create awareness of what we have locally. Providers must have automated straight through processing technologies in place to enable online ordering of services and automated direct billing and payments. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can purchase services on a pay-as-you-go, pay-as-you-grow basis. It is essential that global providers host locally to directly target the large population and potential we have in Nigeria. We have about 20m SMEs in the country including hospitals, engineering firms, accountants, architects and so on, which are key local targets for cloud services.
How would you rate network latency and redundancy in Nigeria against other African markets?
COKER: The coast of West Africa is now well served with five high-capacity undersea cables to Europe. At Rack Centre, all undersea cables are directly connected, bringing low-latency reach to at least 500m people in Africa. Inland broadband penetration in Nigeria has reached about 20%, with a target to reach 30% in the next 18 months. With the increasing availability of technologies such as 4G LTE, and the advent of 5G, broadband reach in the country should accelerate considerably. Universal broadband penetration is essential for long-term economic growth in Nigeria. It is paramount that we hit 80% high-capacity coverage in areas with a concentration of commerce and population.
What are the principle cost factors behind cloud and data centre services in the country?
COKER: The cost of power is a key factor, not just in Africa, but in general for data centres. Data-centre investments are capital intensive and access to efficient and patient capital is essential, but difficult to come by locally. Diversified power sources are crucial for economics and operational risk management. We build and integrate our power infrastructure, so we essentially operate as a power company. We are building scale for cost efficiency and lower unit costs.
As patronage grows, then the economics of scale kick in, and prices become competitive, thereby attracting global players to Nigeria. To contribute to this, the government should mandate that all public data be held within the country. This should be done as soon as possible, as the capacity and capability for data hosting and local cloud storage will be enhanced.
What are the cybersecurity risks in Nigeria?
COKER: Cybersecurity is a global issue, and an increasingly prevalent concern locally. Everyone must ensure they have the fundamental protective solutions in place. It is also essential to educate people to be aware of online dangers and ensure they are not compromised.
Identity theft has been around for a while and is getting progressively sophisticated. In Europe and the US high-tech, identity-theft protections are already in place and those now need to be adopted in Africa.
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