The Chief Executive Officer, IPI Solutions Nig. Ltd, Mr. Adamu Garba II, speaks with Emma Okonji on the adoption rate of cloud computing in Nigeria and the need for more businesses to adopt it for efficiency and improved output
IPI Solutions has been at the forefront of providing cloud services. What is cloud computing all about?
Cloud computing is a computing system whereby individuals and organisations get to access computing products and services either productivity or infrastructure by paying for only what they consume.
What informed your choice of business and what exactly do you want to achieve with cloud service offering?
As the world of productivity shifts towards digitisation, the cloud is a powerful enabler of this journey to digital transformation, considering the fact the future is becoming increasingly digital, information access, utilisation and dissemination are becoming highly democratised. Digital transformation is the only way for organisations to adapt in order to meet up with the current trend and this will not be possible without cloud as a powerful enabler.
At IPI our focus is to ensure that we become digital transformers, picking organisation processes, practices and structures, by transforming it into digital information for easier accountability, transparency and compliance. Cloud is the ultimate way and in fact, it is the harbinger of 4th industrial revolution.
What segment of the market are you targeting and what is the market value of cloud solution to business growth and sustainability?
Cloud targets every individual and organisation in the market and as such at IPI our target is to deploy technology that empowers every individual or group in the world to produce more, get more done and achieve more. However, our immediate vision is to concentrate on African businesses and empower their employees using the right technological tools. One important thing is that it is a service that you can only pay for what you consume as opposed to how businesses operate, whereby many businesses operate IT as a capital asset. However, with Cloud, you only need to integrate it into your OPEX. Cloud gives you the opportunity to integrate technology as an operational expenditure whereby you have predictable, measurable and more granular cost on the way you utilise technology to run your businesses.
Therefore there is no need to build data centres, buy servers, switches, routers. In other words, businesses will not require making huge investments on IT infrastructures to be able to access productivity or technology tools to run their operations, but leverage platforms like Microsoft cloud to pay for only the IT tools they need to consume in running their businesses. For example, an insurance company does not require to build massive IT platform simply because they want to run a business of insurance, they will only need to subscribe to a platform on the cloud for the technology tools they need to run their operations and this saves them a lot of costs, remove the burden of administration overhead to run the data centre, remove burden of the huge energy cost in maintaining and management of the data centre. One of the most important features of the cloud is business agility, scalability and high availability, meaning you will be up and running all the time and anywhere in the world you decide to find yourself and your business will never have a downtime.
Cloud adoption rate is still low across Africa, including Nigeria. What could be responsible for this and how can it be addressed?
I beg to disagree with this because, based on the statistics available to us as Microsoft 1-Tier Partner, Nigeria, in particular, has recorded significant success rate in cloud adoption over the period of 12 months. Some actors within Microsoft actually call Nigeria “African cloud capital of the world” because of the rapid adoption of cloud technology. Microsoft Azure, for instance, recorded 125 per cent growth from 1st July 2015 to 30th June 2016; this is a clear indication that the real industry captains have taken their parts in this cloud trajectory and momentum. Actually, you risk getting out of the mainstream if you do not align your IT policy and for which an overwhelming part should be on cloud.
Penetration of technology infrastructure that will drive cloud computing across the country is still at its lowest ebb. Do you see this as hindrance to cloud adoption in Nigeria?
I see companies that are facing this kind of challenge as potential cloud customers because there is a lack of understanding in the fastest way to run your business. With cloud technology, you do not need massive infrastructure to operate your business; with as simple as your hotspot from your mobile device with a five dollar per user, per month subscription plan you can have enterprise grade email and productivity capabilities available to enterprise organisations in the world.
For customers requiring cloud infrastructure, Microsoft Azure accommodates your budget from the minimum of 0.1 dollars onwards, depending on your consumptions, therefore there is absolutely no reason why people should not shift to the cloud and become more productive with available tools at our fingertips.
To put this in perspective, we have about 93 million online users according to NCC statistics, it means we have 93 million cloud subscribers in Nigeria, the same way you access your Facebook, WhatsApp, etc using the reasonably affordable data plan, is simply the same way you access your productivity tools and cloud infrastructure online. Now tell me, how is this a hindrance to cloud computing?
Most businesses and organisations are still sceptical about adopting cloud solutions because of fear of insecurity of their data in the cloud. What level of security has been built around the cloud?
The level of security built around the cloud is unmatched, especially Microsoft cloud, compared to any measures put to any data centres anywhere in the world. Microsoft cloud data centres are available in 26 regions of the world, places where green checkmark has been indicated using global risk map. Microsoft cloud meets all the security and privacy cloud required of any data centre, in addition to ISO/IEC standards, CSA (cloud security alliance), ITAR (international traffic in arms regulations), CjIS (US department of justice), HIPAA, IRS1075, Microsoft is the only cloud solution provider that meets the requirement for ISO27018 in cloud security and privacy standards.
More to this, we have EU Model Clauses standard, China TRUCS, China GB, CDSA, Canadian privacy laws, Argentina PDPA, EU-US Privacy shields, FedRAMP, FERPA, FIPS 140-2, ISO 22301, ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, UK G-Cloud, SOC1/2/3 etc. Now tell me, which organisations that successfully wants to run a business will meet this standard in order to run a more accountable and transparent business? Let me tell you for a fact if one strong hacker attempted to bring down a network of any business in Nigeria or any other isolated institution in the world; how will they have the might, the resources, and the capabilities to protect themselves from such intrusion? If institutions like United States Defence could be hacked, then tell me how much more of your business?
The best way out is to give the original solutions providers the right, the trust and the tools necessary to service you, protect you and prevent your organisation from any other information theft or disclosure. Provided the information, you saved is not harmful to the society. To me quite frankly cloud is the most secure platform for you to save your data and run your business than any other isolated data centre you can ever think about.
What are the benefits of storing data in cloud as against the physical storage of data in racks at data centres?
As individual or group, most people working move from one place to the other. And one of the advantages of putting your data on the cloud is the portability of the data as you move from point A to point B. so with any device of your choosing, at any given location you find yourself with an internet connection you can access your data. This is one of the benefits never before was possible.
In terms of economy of scale, what will organisations be losing if they refuse to move their data to the cloud?
They risk running their business to extinction. The world order has changed, the global system of information accessibility and dissemination has changed. We are transitioning from the default 3rd industrial revolution to a new 4th industrial revolution powered by the cloud for global good. Even the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have a lot of clauses accepting and encouraging organisations towards cloud adoption. Digital transformation is the only way out for the businesses of the 21st century from government to corporate organisations, to non-governmental organisations, educational institutions, security agencies and policy makers are expected to conform to the new global standard of innovation in all aspects of economic activity. For which technology is key wholeheartedly supported by the cloud. So this means any organisation policy that is shifted away from cloud adoption is actually creating room for the new players to emerge and take over, especially players that adopt the cloud as engine room that drives innovation.
Apart from organisations, whose core business is about ICT, which other sectors need cloud solution to scale up their business?
Unfortunately, there is no sector called ICT in the cloud space, every organisation now requires IT to optimally function and cloud is the ultimate destination for higher productivity from government to health, oil and gas, banking and finance, educational institutions, insurance, manufacturing, retails and a host of other sectors.
Most times cloud solutions are developed for big organisations that can afford the cost, thereby neglecting the small organisations like SMEs. Do you have cloud solution for SMEs?
Cloud is for all, from an organisation with two users to that of a million users, cloud accommodates all their technology needs. For instance, with Microsoft Dynamics 365, organisations with a few number of seats between 1-250 users would be needing only business editions of Dynamics 365, whereas organisations above 250 users would be needing the enterprise edition. Therefore, the cloud is designed to accommodate the need of organisations of all sizes specific to their technology requirements, be it usage-based services like Azure or seat-based subscriptions like Office 365.
Government agencies use a lot of data but they are reluctant to store such data in the cloud. How will you convince government to key into cloud computing?
Although, there are data sovereignty laws governing the security of data within a certain geographical location of a nation state like Nigeria. But in technology space, your sovereignty is simply the amount of space a country is able to occupy within the cloud. Countries like United States have a wider leverage on a lot of international borders because they were able to understand the power of technology in giving them the opportunity to extend to those borders and mark you, that is the technology map of united states within the 21st century. In Nigeria, if we want to emerge as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the biggest leverage we have is technology.
With technology, you can enable Nigerian businesses to be able to penetrate all other markets in the world for you to export your products and services as a commodity. You can be able to have access and information about those markets, you can be able to generate intelligence about those markets as well as market Nigeria’s goodwill in the international space. If Nigeria emerges as African innovative technology centre today and that gives us coverage for all 54 African countries, it means Nigeria’s border is defined by all the 54 countries within the African map. Therefore the faster it is for our government to adopt the use of cloud technology for national and international reach the quicker for us to dominate the African market and this enhances sustainability and growth.
Our foreign policy, defence policy and the local regulatory framework should enable Nigeria to quickly adapt technology in redefining its own map within Africa and reclaiming its position as the true giant of Africa. The only thing that can give us this leverage is the cloud. With cloud technology Nigeria as an entity can be able to enable a local farmer in Kontagora to market his farm produce to someone in Zanzibar in Tanzania. A new intelligent first class Nigerian graduate can be able to develop an application that would empower many Africans to carry specific functions in an African way. This can only be possible when government adopt cloud technology, accept its reality and encourage the citizenry toward innovation using the cloud. For example we listed many countries with relevant security and privacy standards around the cloud above, unfortunately, Nigeria was missing because our system as currently constituted does not encourage innovation and new technology adoption.
It is important for our policy makers to understand that we might not be part of the 1st , 2nd and 3rd industrial revolutions because we are still passengers within the bus ride. But for the 4th industrial revolution, as it is geared towards taking its bearing, we stand a chance not to just join the bus ride this time around but to pilot the process shoulder to shoulder with all the advanced countries in the world. I see this as an opportunity and I hope we do not miss it this time around.
The contribution of telecommunications to GDP is put at N1.58 billion as at the second quarter of 2016. Do you see cloud computing enhancing further contribution to GDP?
Yes, Absolutely and very rapidly too.
Tier III data centre is springing up in the country, but the introduction of cloud computing may reduce patronage of data centre. What is your take this?
According to global risk map, Nigeria’s indices in security, transparency, confidentiality, level of democratisation and the relevant laws are not really that great for now to have an efficient and effective functional data centre. On global risk map, Nigeria is red. In clear terms, you only own a data centre for the product you develop, build and deliver as a service. When you have data centre somewhere in Nigeria and you sell Microsoft products in your data centre, while, competing with Microsoft on their products from their data centre, there seems to be some disconnect in this strategy, until we mature enough to build our application and to graduate to inclusive, economic and political system with the highest level of democratisation across institutions. Currently Nigeria data centre operators can only sustain through political patronage as opposed to competency, standards and efficiency of delivery.
Funding has been a major challenge for technology start-ups. How could this be properly addressed?
Funding is never an issue for technology start-ups, the idea is. The biggest investment you can do in technology start-up is in yourself. Whoever believes in a technology, you are able to invent or produce, that addresses specific needs within the economic chain, have a ready market waiting for you.
There is global shift from voice to data communications. How would cloud computing further boost big data communication in Nigeria?
There will never be a shift that will ever eliminate voice communication, but yes GSM technology is going extinct. Telecoms provider will have to invest heavily in the provision of data services and other value added services because GSM technology they currently sell will soon become unsustainable. People have reached the power of Skype, WhatsApp, etc to make their voice calls as opposed to using traditional SIM lines.
Our current SIM cards would just be a data link because Skype, for instance, enables you to communicate in a more natural human language, with more flexibility and deep integration with your normal office worker productivity tools than the current GSM technology. It also gives you opportunity for High Definition (HD) video capability using simple data network on your mobile phone, especially with our movement to 4G networks. Tools like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, etc will be the primary mode of interaction and communication for all mobile phone users within the shortest possible time, maybe within 2 or 3 years.