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Nigeria in 2018: Emerging Tech, Cybersecurity Growths; Increased Investments in Startups & ICT– Mike Oljide

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Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Machine Learning (AML), Cloud Computing (CC), Cybersecurity, Block-chain & Bitcoin and Enterprise Mobility are technologies that will receive major focus in Nigeria in 2018, Mr. Michael Olajide, executive director, Finance and Administration at Sidmach Technologies Nigeria Limited, said during an interview with peter oluka, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek Correspondent.

The man Mike Olajide:

Mr. Mike Olajide is also the Executive Chairman, WaveTek Nigeria Limited. He is a 1981 graduate of Computer Science from the University of Lagos. He is a distinguished Data System Analyst with over 35 years in the IT industry.

He was a Programmer/Analyst in the Statistics and Planning Division of the Niger State Ministry of Education (NYSC), before he joined the services of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) immediately after his service year in 1982 and was the deputy leader of the team that developed a new Pre and Post Examinations Processing System that was used to process the University Matriculation Examinations (UME) locally for the first time in 1986. This led to his rapid promotion by the Board. In 1989, he resigned from JAMB as Assistant Chief Analyst to venture into the private sector where he joined ABICS Nigeria Limited, a foremost software development company at that time.

He was briefly with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) as a Senior Consultant from ABICS, before he joined Data Sciences Nigeria Limited in 1990 as a Manager, Software Development. While in Data Sciences, he led the team that developed the National Payroll System and Vote Accounting System for the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), among other projects. He left Data Sciences in 1994 to join SIDMACH as a co-founder and Pioneer Staff. In the year 2012, Mike also co-founded WaveTek Nigeria Limited and presently serves as the Executive Chairman of the company.

He has served in SIDMACH as Executive Director, Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors at various times. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of some organizations and companies.

Mike is a visionary and an information technology expert described by his colleagues as inspirationally cerebral. He is passionate about education and capacity development. This love and passion for education made him to develop a number of IT Solutions to enhance teaching, learning and educational assessment. His core is to employ the use of Information Technology to improve lives and enhance business outcomes.

He has in the past 35 years attended many IT trainings and conferences locally and abroad to improve his professional and leadership skills. He is well-grounded in Software Development, Leadership, Management and Selling Skills.

He is a Fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society (FNCS), a Member of the Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (MCPN), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Local Government and Public Administration of Nigeria (FCILGPAN).

He has served as the Chairman, Publicity, Events and Trade Services Committee in the National Executive of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS). He is presently the NCS South-West Representative on the Board of the CPN and also doubles as a member of the National Executive of the NCS.

Sidmach’s Technology Trends 2018 (Predictions) in Nigeria

Internet of Things (IoT): Internet of Things (IoT) is simply the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity, which enable these objects to connect and exchange data. On a preliminary level, we currently have applications on our smartphones we can use to switch off our electronics at home or in the office e.g. Televisions, Audio Systems, Air Conditioners, etc. The level of interconnectivity with electronic devices is gradually increasing and this is an indication that we are gradually gravitating towards the full adoption of IoT.

Internet of Things (IoT) will grow to create smarter solutions that will be programmatically adjusted to be in sync with human behaviour. AI and machines will enable these things to operate autonomously or semi-autonomously, and the driving forces will be efficiency and convenience. As businesses are adapting to the emerging era of the digital world, companies will strive to find innovative ways of delivering their products and services. Thus, there will be more adoption of IoT by corporate organizations and individuals in 2018.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Machine Learning: Simply put, Artificial Intelligence is intelligence exhibited or shown by machines. AI is continuously pushing the limits of science and technology and helping us achieve the unimaginable. 2018 will see a lot of startups utilising AI technologies to create revolutionary solutions that are going to solve real-life and complex business challenges. Be rest assured that AI is something to look forward to this year as a simple voice search is gaining its prominence already in Nigeria. Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana are examples of simple AI technologies that will be leveraged on in 2018.

Microsoft for example is already using AI to build more intelligent tools so we can put technology to work on increasingly complex tasks. They have partnered with Adaptive Technologies to bring together an AI platform and their biotech research to decode the human immune system, diagnose and treat diseases.

AI and Advanced Machine Learning will lead to the emergence of more intelligent apps virtually in all sectors. For us at Sidmach, we are going to leverage on AI and Advanced Machine Learning technologies to solve real-life problems in both the Health and Education sectors in Nigeria.

Cloud Computing: Many businesses are adopting cloud computing already. 2018 will witness more cloud adoption from businesses and individuals. It is obvious most businesses are now gravitating towards cloud computing. “Mobile first Cloud First” world is a Microsoft slogan that is a reality in the world today. In Nigeria today, the cloud has become the standard for the Enterprise and SMBs. Cloud computing and storage is extremely efficient and cost-effective. From Fintech to transportation and manufacturing, most of the industries in Nigeria are migrating to the cloud. This trend will continue in 2018 in Nigeria. The issue of hosting data locally will also be in focus as the Nigerian government will try to enforce the policy. Companies that have invested in providing data center services locally will take advantage of this government policy to grow their business in 2018.

Blockchain& Bitcoin: The blockchain is a shared, distributed, de-centralized and tokenized ledger that removes business friction by being independent of individual applications or participants. Fintech startups in Nigeria will start leveraging the foundation of blockchain to create disruptive and innovative business solutions. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a form of digital currency. It’s a type of cryptocurrency used for transactions on a digital payment system.

Blockchain and Bitcoin are gradually gaining more popularity in Nigeria. Attentions are gradually shifting to the inherent benefits of these seemingly new technologies in Nigeria. The current hype of Blockchainis around financial services industry particularly with bitcoin, but there are many other possible applications including music distribution, identity verification, title registry and supply chain. We will start seeing real usage and deployment in Nigeria in 2018.

Enterprise Mobility: Enterprise mobility describes the trend of a great number of employees working outside the office and using mobile devices and cloud services to perform business tasks. The waves of technology in Nigeria is gradually moving to where Enterprise Mobility and business applications will no longer be mere tools that are good to possess, but they will evolve into indispensable instruments that will provide better productivity and increased security. 2018 will drive a wider scale adoption of serious business applications that will cater beyond communication and collaboration, and this will be an opportunity for many startups to create innovative enterprise.

Enterprise Mobility will bring about increased speed or tempo of operations to gain a competitive advantage; efficient data collection so better and faster decisions can be made; quicker reporting of events and KPIs to a wider audience to provide full situational awareness and promote good decision making and issue resolution and so on.

Cybersecurity: The new technology trends come with new security challenges for professionals. Security solutions will therefore continue to receive great attention in 2018.

Sidmach Cloud, Others: The Developments So Far

In March 2017, we launched our Microsoft Cloud platform, this makes us a Microsoft Tier-1 Cloud Solution Provider (CSP), one of the selected few in the country. This affords us the opportunity to serve our clients and prospective customers better with cloud solutions. We also now have the privilege of selling Microsoft products at wholesale prices directly to our customers. Thereby, lowering their current cost. It avails us the opportunity to meet the different needs of our clients from a single point. This provides scalability, affordability, accessibility, efficiency, speed and security. We take full responsibility for the cloud services and solutions that we deploy.

In the almost one year of the CSP launch, we have been able to open new vistas and new grounds. We have also expanded our clients’ base while we helped businesses achieve their goals. We believe firmly that year 2018 will bring in more opportunities to serve businesses and organisations more.

At the same period of March 2017, we also launched our ‘SmartSchool’ solution. It is a solution designed for School Management and Administration. This was developed from our more than 2 decades’ experience in the Nigerian Educational System. SmartSchool is designed to address all aspects of School Management System from registration, attendance, lecture notes, curriculum, fees payment through to result checking; and it has recorded considerable adoption in schools. We are happy for the progress recorded in the current session.

In the first quarter of 2018, we will launch the All Purpose Medical Information System (APMIS) for public use. This is a strategically developed solution to address the challenges in the delivery of health services to patients. APMIS is developed to serve as a link between the patient and the medical practitioners on one side and the hospital management on the other side. APMIS is easy to use and flexible. The free trial is ongoing in many hospitals in the country. At present, Hospitals can use it at no cost for a period of three months after which payment will commence. The adoption rate is currently high.

Market Penetration Strategies

We are collaborating with the various stakeholders in both the health and education sectors to drive adoption.

Sidmach Appears not Involved in Computer Based Test (CBT) Facilities? Any plans for that?

Who says we are not providing CBT solution? Indeed, we have a robust CBT solution that is in the market.

Investment in the Nigerian ICT Sector Seems Stagnant

I don’t agree that investment in the ICT sector is stagnant, it is not stagnant. If you look at the Telecoms sub-sector, yes you can say things have slowed down but in the IT sector a lot is going on right now especially with the Start-ups. I believe that 2018 will bring more investments in the IT sector. The focus has shifted to Nigeria by the big international players such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, etc. The fairly big players in Nigeria are also focusing on investing in the Start-ups. I tell you this trend will continue in 2018.

The Nigerian Software Industry, What Has Gone Wrong?

Just like in every other sectors, we failed as a nation to do what we need to do to develop the software industry. It was a deliberate policy of the Indian government and people to develop the software industry for both local and international consumption. We have not developed and implement such a policy even now. What you are seeing today in the software industry is a product of private initiatives. Young people decided to move the industry on their own. Even the local content policy is not enforced for the MDAs not to talk of Private Enterprises. Government only reacts to what people are doing in the industry.

I can tell you that the Nigerian Software industry is innovative, virile and versatile but the management and support from the government is still very low. Indians have grown their homemade software and are exporting them to the world while Nigeria still depends on imported. We pride ourselves in imported products than homegrown products. The time has come to have a change of attitude.

Software development costs time and money. No developer can survive without requisite expertise, experience, financial clout/support and patronage. For more than two decades now, Sidmach have been engaged in software development, which are deployed to our clients’ sites and they have performed optimally without fail. We pride ourselves in software development and we have engaged many young people through this.

Lack of patronage of local software companies is one of the greatest problems confronting the industry in Nigeria, a situation that is not applicable in India. Due to non-patronage or low-patronage of local software in Nigeria, the country loses much in foreign exchange. The payment made in dollars and euros for subscriptions and annual software maintenance fee could be reduced and retained in the country through the purchase of local software.

For example, let us imagine what we would have gained if, at least, just one Nigerian bank decides to use an indigenous software rather than the prevailing situation where they all use foreign software or if the software used by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) or the one installed at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation [OAGF], Federal Inland Revenue Service [FIRS], NIBSS and the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] are powered by indigenous software companies. This is possible today but it is requires government policy. WAEC, JAMB and NYSC are not using foreign software and they have continued to do very well in carrying out their functions.

Is the Country Making Progress with Local Content in ICT?

Honestly, I cannot say we are making any headway. It appears to me that NITDA does not have the enabling authority to enforce the local content policy or it does not have the capacity. Let us say clearly here that software professionals are not asking for reserved seats. No, we are saying give local software houses the opportunity. Our guys can and are bringing out solutions with global standards. I can also tell you that some of our solutions are superior to the foreign solutions. For example, I can vouch for Sidmach’s Insurance solutions namelyIndemnityPro and IndemnityProLife, as meeting global standards.

Don’t you think lack of professionals at the helms of affairs, is affecting the growth of the ICT industry? 

As a practitioner, I will like to see one of my colleagues as the Minister but I cannot say for sure that such a person may perform better than any other person in managing the industry. It is a perception that we may see better policies.

NCS ICT Personality of the Year Award at NITMA 2017, How Do You Feel?

I feel great and I thank God for His mercies. The award is a call to service. It is a call to more work, more innovation, more quality work and more service to the people. At Sidmach, we innovate and develop solutions to make people work smarter and make life better, this is our core and we shall continue.

The award is dedicated to the entire staff of Sidmach Technologies Nigeria Limited, who were committed to innovation and quality, without whom it would not have been possible to win this. I also thank all those who believed in us and voted for us.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University.

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NCC Moves to Review International Termination Rate for Voice Services

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has embarked on a cost-based study to set the new pricing regime for mobile international termination rate (ITR) for inbound international voice calls in the country.

The ITR is the rate paid to local operators by international operators to terminate calls in Nigeria.

As part of the process for the rate determination, the Commission has organised a virtual stakeholder engagement forum with relevant industry stakeholders to intimate them with the ongoing cost-based study and the need to cooperate with Messrs Payday Advance and Support Services Limited, the consultants engaged to carry out the study

Addressing the stakeholders in Abuja recently, Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, said the study has become imperative following the various implementation constraints arising from contending industry and market dynamics that met previous efforts at finding an optimum price for the termination of international voice services in Nigeria.

Danbatta, who was represented at the forum by Adeleke Adewolu, executive commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, said through the new ITR pricing, the Commission will be able to balance the competing objectives of economic efficiency and allowing operators the latitude to generate reasonable revenue.

The EVC, however, explained that in 2013, the Commission issued a determination stating that mobile termination rate (MTR) rates were the same irrespective of where the call originated, a clause he said was largely misconstrued by operators at that time to mean that ITR should be the same rate as the MTR.

He said this led to operators ignoring the international cost portion, where ITRs were agreed at MTR level without a positive residual to cover the costs of the international leg for local operators.

“As a result of this, the ITRs continued to decline, in line with the MTR glide path and as the ITR was set in Naira, it suffered a further downward slide in dollar terms following the currency devaluation.

“Ironically, the Nigerian operators paid the international operators in dollars to deliver international calls which created an imbalance of payments as the ITR in Nigeria declined,” he said.

As a result, Danbatta said Nigerian operators’ profitability and commercial results were negatively affected putting Nigeria’s ITR below that of most countries with which it makes and receives the most calls, thereby making Nigerian operators perpetual net payers.

“This has, therefore, led to undue pressure on the nation’s foreign reserves, which continue to get depleted by associated net transfers to foreign operators on account of this lop-sidedness, hence the need for Nigeria, with volatile currencies, to regulate the ITR to prevent or mitigate the imbalance of payments with international operators,” the EVC said.

According to Danbatta, where ITR is not properly regulated, it tends to have a negative effect on a market like Nigeria with major supply-side challenges and associated socio-economic implications.

“So, setting a rate substantially above the MTR has resulted in a number of repercussions. One of such is the consumer shift to online channels as calls are increasingly made through Internet Protocol (IP)-based technologies such as Skype and WhatsApp because of high international call prices.

“To this end, an economically-efficient ITR that is cost-based will maximise economic benefits to all stakeholders,” Danbatta told the stakeholders.

Earlier in her remarks, Director, Policy, Competition & Economic Analysis, Yetunde Akinloye, said the forum is aimed at formally engaging with and sharing the perspectives and insights of industry stakeholders and ultimately enlisting their collective support in relation to the inputs and requirements towards the determination of a mutually- realistic ITR in Nigeria.

She noted that the project commenced on March 10, 2020 with a kick-off meeting but was stalled by the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating the need to explore emerging channels of engagement to move forward and ensure the completion of the project.

Akinloye reiterated the Commission’s commitment to continuously provide a conducive environment and level-playing field for the effective interplay of factors that would sustain market development and growth, while ensuring the provision of qualitative and efficient telecommunications regulatory services for the benefit of consumers and licensees.

 


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Ericsson Accelerates 5G for Enterprise with Acquisition of Cradlepoint

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Ericsson has agreed to acquire Cradlepoint, the US-based market leader in Wireless Edge WAN 4G and 5G Enterprise solutions. The investment is key to Ericsson’s ongoing strategy of capturing market share in the rapidly expanding 5G Enterprise space.

Cradlepoint complements Ericsson’s existing 5G Enterprise portfolio which includes Dedicated Networks and a global IoT platform.

The combined offering will create valuable new revenue streams for customers by supporting full 5G-enabled services for enterprise, and boost returns on investments in the network.

Cradlepoint will become a fully owned subsidiary of Ericsson while continuing to operate under its existing brand. Cradlepoint employees will remain within the company, headquartered in Boise, Idaho. It will be part of Ericsson’s Business Area Technologies & New Businesses.

The acquisition price amounts to an enterprise value of USD 1.1 b. with the transaction expected to close before the end of Q4 2020, subject to closing conditions. The purchase price, which is funded from Ericsson’s cash-in-hand, is paid in full on closing.

Cradlepoint’s sales for 2019 were SEK 1.2 b. with a gross margin of 61%. Ericsson’s operating margins are expected to be negatively impacted by approximately 1% in 2021 and 2022 – where half is related to amortization of intangible assets which arise from the acquisition. Cradlepoint is expected to contribute to operating cash-flow starting in 2022. Ericsson’s 2022 group financial targets remain unchanged.

Wireless wide area network (wireless WAN) Edge solutions connect through 4G and 5G to deliver fast, secure, and flexible connectivity wherever and whenever it is needed for businesses, mobility and critical frontline emergency services. Cradlepoint is strongly positioned in a market with underlying growth of 25-30%.

Börje Ekholm, President and CEO Ericsson, says: “Portfolio-near acquisitions are an integral part of our earlier communicated strategy. The acquisition of Cradlepoint complements our existing offerings and is key to our strategy of helping customers grow the value of their 5G network investments. Ericsson is uniquely positioned to build on Cradlepoint’s leadership position in Wireless Edge and the wireless WAN market.

Combining the scale of our market access and established relationships with the world’s biggest mobile operators we are making a strong investment to support our customers to grow in this exciting market. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all Cradlepoint employees.”

George Mulhern, CEO and Chairman, Cradlepoint says: “We have led the way in bringing the power of cellular networks and technologies to enterprise and public sector customers – helping them connect beyond the limits of traditional wired WANs. Ericsson with its global 5G leadership is a great match for us and I am very excited to continue to scale and expand our business together.”

Founded in 2006, Cradlepoint has more than 650 employees, providing wireless WAN solutions that deliver enterprise-grade connectivity. In addition to the company headquarters in Boise, Idaho, USA, the company operates a research and development center in Silicon Valley, California, and new market offices in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Cradlepoint’s subscription model combines cloud-delivered software with hardware endpoints, support and training.

Ericsson’s long-standing collaboration with Cradlepoint dates back to the launch of 4G in the U.S. market more than a decade ago.


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Startups & Investors Set to Meet Virtually at the ISN Hubs Annual Gathering & Demo Day

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Innovation Support Network, Nigeria’s largest Hub network, is giving ten startups from across the country the opportunity to pitch before local and foreign investors at its inaugural Demo Day on September 24.

 

The ISN Demo Day is part of the two-day ISN Annual Gathering 2020 which would be holding virtually from 23 – 24 September, 2020.

 

The ISN Annual Gathering is the biggest convention of Hub founders, administrators, key partners and stakeholders and is targeted at growing visibility, building sustainable models and driving collaborations for the growth of Hubs as Entrepreneur Support Organisations in the country.

 

This year’s Annual Gathering “Stronger together – developing frameworks for collaboration” is very relevant at this time when Hubs and other members of the tech and innovation ecosystem need to become more collaborative.

 

In addition to the Annual Gathering, ISN Hubs would be hosting the ISN Hubs Demo Day on 24 September 2020.

 

Selected startups from within the ISN Hubs network would pitch virtually to an audience of investors, Corporates as well as members of the Development & Impact Community.

 

According to the Chairman of ISN Hubs, Tomi Davies, the ISN Demo Day is an opportunity for Angel investors to get a front-row view of some of the startups including a few outside of Lagos and Abuja, which they previously may not have had access to.

 

“This is a great opportunity for Hubs to showcase the startups that they are supporting, for startups to show what they are working on and the solutions that they are creating and for investors to get a better understanding of what is happening in the Nigerian tech and innovation ecosystem. It’s a win-win-win for everyone”. He concluded.

 

The first ISN Annual Gathering was held on 23 and 24 October 2019 at the Civic Center, Lagos. This year, due to the prevalence of post-COVID limitations on public events, the Annual Gathering would be held virtually on 23 and 24 September 2020.

 

Fayo Williams, partnership director, ISN, stated that “moving the event online has actually created an opportunity for us to reach a larger audience – not just across Nigeria but indeed, across the World.”

 

The event would hold for two days via Zoom and would feature two-panel sessions on Understanding the Innovation Support Ecosystem as well as Stimulating demand for homegrown solutions on September 23.

 

As a follow on to the second session on Day 1, the ISN Demo Day would hold on September 24. Register here to attend.

 

Innovation Support Network (ISN Hubs) is a not-for-profit Business Member Organisation made up of over 100 entrepreneurship, impact, innovation and technology Hubs across Nigeria.

 

ISN Hubs champion policy, drive collaborations and promote structures that help grow Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem. A Hub is an environment which provides Entrepreneur Support Services to startups by providing access to four critical resources: skills, infrastructure, funding and network. Hubs include business incubators, startup (or seed) accelerators, co-working spaces, makerspaces, hackerspaces and other structured innovation environments.


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