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Foreign Investors, Key Partners to Actualizing FG’s Local Content in ICT- Faulkner

peter oluka
Ernest Oladipo Faulkner,  Country General Manager, IBM Nigeria
Ernest Oladipo Faulkner, Country General Manager, IBM Nigeria

Oladipo Faulkner, country general manager for IBM Nigeria, has called for improved collaboration between the government, the local ICT industry and the foreign partners, as a critical step to actualizing robust local content development.

Faulkner made the remark in an interview with Nigeria CommunicationsWeek on the sidelines of the recent eNigeria held by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja, stating that globalization entails that nations depend on each other to harness its ICT potentials.

Faulkner was recently appointed to lead IBM's overall business in Nigeria with a focus on deploying the company’s advanced technology capabilities in cognitive, cloud computing, big data and analytics, mobile and security to solve current and future needs of institutions in key economic sectors across the country.

Faulkner will also provide leadership for IBM’s relationships and corporate social initiatives in the civil Society, ICT, and academic communities.

Faulkner is currently IBM’s Global Business Services Lead for Central and West Africa. Prior to joining IBM in 2013, Faulkner spent 13 years working with Accenture Nigeria, a consulting firm, rising to become a Director. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Lagos and an Advanced Management Program certificate from Institute de Empressa (IE) in Madrid, Spain.

IBM operates in over 170 countries. Some of the myriad of IBM's inventions include the automated teller machine (ATM), the floppy disk, and the hard disk drive. He spoke to peter oluka.

IBM’s Contributions Towards Achieving Growth Via ICT Development in Nigeria
Our point of view in IBM is that technology is a tool for business management and economic development. From that perspective, we fully understand that whatever solution or technology we put out in the market is used to enable businesses and unlock the economy.
What are we doing specifically in IBM? Well, two key fronts: First, we have a world class innovation centre in Nigeria operating as a platform for incubating ideas, developing new concepts/ideas. Secondly, the enablement we do, which is not just about businesses but cuts across board.
 Every quarter we conduct training for people and other stakeholders such as our partners, clients, the academia, inundating them on specific technology advancements and domains so they become better skilled to using these technologies.
We also conduct trainings for the Universities in Nigeria, impacting the local communities as well. Recently, we carried out a corporate social responsibility project in Ogun State, specifically how technology can assist the government become more efficient in their projects. We are connected to this market as a Company. Watson, our intelligent system was introduced, aside America, first in Africa. When our Global CEO was in Africa in 2014, she announced that Watson will be deployed in two key areas: cervical cancer treatment and education.
We believe that if the people are empowered with the necessary skills they can become their own entrepreneurs, or use the skills to help the businesses they find themselves.
In today’s world, and Africa is not left behind, we believe that with cloud platforms and other software running on them, we can introduce other solutions that can become globally available for segmented market, especially for those that could not afford the tools in the first place.

Government Needs to Embrace Foreign Investors
I think we should not continue looking certain issues in one direction. Take IBM for instance, we have over 150 employees (locally). IBM is here (Nigeria) as s solution provider.
Though, every foreign Company is here for profit-making however they contribute towards the growth of the local environment. Let’s take for instance, the local content guidelines.
As a company we are in full support of the policy. Where the issue may arise is in speeding up the execution or those laws. For us, we are abiding by the laws set before us and in full support of the Government

Developing Plan for Industrial Growth
The New DG of NITDA has said without mincing words that he intends to transform the Agency from an administrative to a policy organization.
NITDA as an Agency is our regulator and critical for the healthy competition. Once the transformation is achieved there will be a lot changes in approach, ability to executive and improved results.
Yes, we are talking about technology and have seen a lot supports from the executive arm of the Government, but we need to ask the right questions such as what do we need to do, and how. We need a plan that will direct every action of each player in the industry.

Developing an IT Driven Public Service
I think in the last couple of years government has been showing more commitment towards the sector through executive support.
We have seen some different compare to the past. Same time, we have our roles to play by constrictively advising them. There should be improved discussions to drive this sector better.

Leveraging Technology For Ease Of Doing Business
I know the Vice President’s office is working on ease of doing business and from his pronouncements they are serious about that. Recently we had discussions with the Minister on same subject. We are open to make contributions and engage with the authorities on how to actualize that, if we are allowed.

How IBM Helps Businesses Leverage Big Data
When you talk about big data we focus on both structured and unstructured data. I think sometimes we overdo the analyses. I today’s world, using dynamic predictive/analytic tools they pull data from different sources, to give you a view or an outlook. We have the best solutions that can help companies tap into their current structured and unstructured data to come up with informed business decisions.
We are willing to engage as many are willing to do that. At our last business connect event we discussed extensively with stakeholders on the potency of big data in running today’s business.

Cloud Computing: Adoption Rate, And IBM’s Expectations in The Market
First, our global CEO defines IBM as a cognate solutions and cloud platform business. That is differential in the true sense of it; based on our focus and drive. We strongly believe that cloud is the way to go. Cloud is a platform that provides new capabilities and cost saving measures for businesses. As a country, we are slow adopters but not as slow as a lot of people think.
Nigerian companies are already in the cloud; many with cloud infrastructures. A lot of companies have local clouds. So, conversation is: when are going to migrate to the hybrid cloud. As individuals we are in cloud as we go about using iPads, smartphones and other smart devices.
Where you find issues is around financial records, sensitive information and national records. I am glad that the conversations are still on-going and that the government hasn’t come up with a blanket policy on it. As the engagements continue we need to even define data; what element of data is critical. What are the motivating factors that make us use data the way we do? I think when the conversations are finalized before we can have a national policy on where data can reside. That will impact data strategy. We are working on our strategy, though without a local centre yet. But we have centres where we can connect our clients. It is our hope that we have a local hosting centre to also address issues around data governance.

Achievements with Watson In Africa
Watson is key in our engagements with clients. We are at different stages to using Watson help them solves some business problems. That is bank in West Africa we are talking to; another one in Nigeria we are discussing with too. Very soon they will engage Watson. Already, Watson is available for health and education as well as the rest of businesses.

Stepping Up Start-ups Engagements
The drive towards stepping up engagements with start-up was borne out of need to contribute to the development of the economy we found ourselves in; help to improve the quality of lives. We can only do better when the quality of lives gets better.

Recession: How ICT Can Save the Day
When economies slide into recession, it can be a blessing or curse. It is blessing because, for us as a nation, finally our eyes are clear over reliance on just a natural resources which is crude oil. I think we need to review our strategy around what will drive our economy.
It is also a good time for government to play an active role. Government needs to create enabling platforms for stakeholders to rally around and agree on where to head to. There are lots of stakeholder engagement that is going on especially around ease of doing business.