Law News
Lawyers set agenda for new CJN

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed

After the unbundling process, a lot of them are now doing due diligence to see how much investment they need to optimise the network with our technologies. Once they invest properly, all the problems encountered 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 among these three areas. There is no central coordination and therefore 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 meters and people will only get services that they pay for.

What are the problems Cisco is having in terms of Smart City deployment?

Let us look at why we have traffic jams in a city like Lagos! If we can create many 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 in setting 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 quality education, good health care outside of Lagos, and the list goes on. But job creation, education and health care are three key areas where we will like to partner with the government. These are the easiest ways to solve the traffic problems.

It is virtually only Lagos State that has interacted with the minister for communications Technology as regards deploying smart cities. How do you encourage the other 35 states?

There is a particular state where the government did not draw up the budget. The government came in and the budget cycle had been done but they realised that they could not go far without ICT and were running very quickly with this Smart City initiative. For them, they have examined their budget to see how they can actually reallocate money to invest in ICT.

Different states were at different levels of preparedness, which also comes down to who are driving the home affairs of the state and what their uttermost priority is.

What is the nature of the partnership between Cisco and other organisations towards driving Internet penetration in rural communities?

One is our Network Academy programme, a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative where we partner with the government to develop skill sets with ICT basic networking skills and this 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 per cent of the student being females. Our academies are located across the six geo-political zones of the country. We have in Abuja and Adamawa. We have more people in the southern parts of Nigeria, so of course we have more academies in that part. In the last five years, we have had about 100,000 students passing through the programme. The programme equips them with basic networking skills to make them more attractive to employers. We also have a Career Fair where we invite some of our partners and students to a location so as to create a platform for them to market themselves to our partners and in the process some do get employed through that exercise. These are done free.

We have worked and still working with a couple of government agencies where we take our technology to remote parts of the country to be able to provide access without connectivity and in some cases provide a virtual environment for education.

Being part of this scheme is very simple. All prospective students need to do is to find out which of the 130 academies is closest to them, register and begin lectures. We have one academy in Abeokuta prison teaching the inmates basic ICT skills so that when they are freed they are equipped enough to be useful to the society.

What are you doing about governments that do not appreciate the importance of ICT?

We are creating the necessary awareness on a state-by-state basis and we are beginning to see that some states actually have some sorts of ICT officers, either an ICT adviser or a special assistant on ICT to the governor. We are looking into organising a workshop session where we bring the necessary stakeholders together to highlight what is possible with ICT. We did one recently with a number of key personnel in attendance and we are beginning to record traction from that engagement. It is a continuous process and we will keep on creating as much awareness as possible.

If Nigerians do not have confidence in cloud security, it may be difficult to deploy which means they cannot connect to the new world. How will the situation 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. The Central Bank of Nigeria is encouraging banks to have data centres but instead of building 24 data centres, they just build one and share one.

Given the peculiar infrastructure challenges faced by Nigeria, do you see the country achieving its goals in the nearest future?

Yes, we can. If you compare Nigeria with Europe right now, our Gross Domestic Product 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 embarking on. Something as simple as unbundling the PHCN itself is also a step in the right direction.

We have a number of people accessing the Internet through various mobile platforms, yet Quality of Service remains poor. How do you think this can be addressed?

We have a lot of submarine cables that have landed in Lagos, and there are lots of policies coming out of the government and the Nigerian Communications Commission 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 Internet of Everything 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 have actually seen two companies that have operations in Nigeria and are actually trying to embrace this in the manufacturing sector. We are not left behind; we are on the right track.

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