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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Anti-fraud; The Starcomms example

Features of the week:

Recent announcement that Starcomms shut 46 fraudsters, and unveiled anti-spam mechanism, is worthy of emulation among Internet Service Providers, reports REMMY NWEKE.

NOWADAYS, Internet access has become a major thirst and tool for the Internet savvy public. This tool in whatever way we may look at it has its positive and negative sides to the coin.

Two sides to the coin

On one side, Internet has liberated the much needed information chain by bringing people together in seconds as far as information dissemination and exchange are concerned, despite the distance whatsoever.

On the other hand, Internet has also become a thorn in the flesh, as many atrocities are now being perfected by fraudsters, who have since the massive acceptance of Internet in the 90s gone online, mostly in developing countries of the world.

Nigeria as case study

A case at hand is the Nigerian nation, whose heightened fraudsters’ related reports globally have forced the government to come up with some measures to checkmate this trend.

For instance, Section 419 (A) of the Nigerian Criminal Code drawn from the nation’s constitution of 1992, which stipulates among other things that ‘Any person who by any false pretence or by means of any other fraud obtains credit for himself or any other person; in incurring any debt or liability or by means of an entry in a debtor and creditor account between the person giving and the person receiving credit, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years’.

Proliferation of online fraud

Before then, fraudsters specialize in the use of telefax machines to make contacts with their potential victims, most of which are targeted at foreigners, of which locally they were referred to as ‘Number people’.

Until late 90s when the Internet penetration continued to surge with the anticipated false millennium bug, these sets of ‘Number people’, always flaunting their ill-gotten wealth began to diversify into deploying Internet for their so called ‘business’. Nigeria no doubt got some ugly mentions with the Internet revolution.

Democratic Dividend

Hence, on coming to power in 1999, one big obstacle before the Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime was to clean the mess created by these online fraudsters, while it was spreading like a wild fire.

So came the setting up of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and subsequently due to growing pressures from friendly international communities, the Presidency inaugurated a presidential committee on Anti-Online fraud with members spread across the law enforcement, Information and Communication Technology sector.

Subsequently, this committee proposed the birth of a National Working Group on Cyber Crime (NWGC), currently co-ordinated by a seasoned solicitor, Mr. Basil Udotia and co-chaired by the Ministers of Justice cum Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Bayo Ojo, and that of Science and Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun.

Boosting FDI

One cardinal point in the assignment of NWGC is to come up with a draft law to combat the menace associated with Internet fraud, to boost electronic commerce and instill confidence on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.

It was to also straighten the nation’s resolve to battle this monster, called online fraud.

Although investigations by our correspondent revealed that this crime seems to have taken increasingly new turn, as fraudsters perfect their act daily, by going to the extent of using the photograph, signature and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) number of the apex bank’s governor, Prof. Charles Soludo in their fraudulent endeavour.

Evidence abounds that the recent Katrina Hurricane, suffered the same fate as its online help website was adversely duplicated over a good number of times for the purposes of enticing donors to these fake websites.

Proxy websites

Also, there exist, what experts described as proxy websites which offer people the opportunity to convert their electronic mails and even website addresses known as Internet domain addresses into proxy and their identity remain unknown to the larger society.

The above has been heavily associated with open source metaphor, which means that the propelling software is not being charged for, if used. Opposite of which is simply ‘Microsoft’, which must be paid for before usage.

From one Internet Service Providers to the cafes, these fraudulent agents abound and with the banning recently by the Association of Telephone and Café Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), some of these fraudsters hitherto use café as their abode, mostly for night browsing. Now they are opening personal offices at their homes to thrive the trade and the offer of Internet Service as an added value service to the subscribers of Private Telephone Operators (PTOs) in the country.

The Starcomms' example

Hence, the recent shutting of its Internet access to 46 suspected fraudsters and unveiling of anti-spam mechanism in Lagos by Starcomms Limited, is a welcomed development.

Online spam is a terminology used to describe unsolicited electronic mails and that has been the methodology of ‘419ners’ in the system, mostly when they are shopping for potential victims.

But the coming of Starcomms’ mechanism to determine spam traffic would reduce fraudulent activities on its Internet service among subscribers.

With this, Starcomms assumed the first Private Telecommunication Operator (PTO) in the country to ever introduce such an online anti-fraud mechanism among the existing Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Marketing Director at Starcomms, Mr. Omar Lababidi, while introducing the mechanism, said, it would enhance the efforts aimed at reducing fraud on its internet service from this part of the world.

The mechanism, he said, was installed in co-operation with Huawei Technologies to monitor and tackle fraudulent use of the Internet.

This effort, which include creation of database of fraudulent accounts which will be reported to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and other relevant law enforcement agencies, would equally afford the operator the chance to device means of warning the entire subscriber chain that spammers and fraudsters will not be tolerated on the network.

Mr. Lababidi also alerted that anybody found engaging in Internet fraud would automatically forego all rights and privileges as a customer on the Starcomms.

He further said that his company has, so far, shut down 46 spam and fraud users on the Starcomms account, adding that the gesture is aimed at protecting the innocent and improving the nation’s image in the international community.

NIG reacts

Reacting to this, newly elected President of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, told ITREALMS it is a welcome development.

“I think it is good as ISP to make it public. It is a smart way of sustaining its business and shunning intending spammers, because if eventually it’s network becomes notorious or key suspect of most spam origin, it could be blocked by other networks” he said.

Other ISPs, Mr. Ajayi said, may have the same strategy but are not making it open, but the idea to proclaim it is very good to fore warn whoever intends involving himself on such activities on the network. He was sure other ISPs also have similar strategy to block spammers.

Bold step

This step by Starcomms also has been described as pioneer among its peers in the bid to safe guide its network and subscribers alike.

One good thing is that the operator was very clear when it said that anybody caught instantly losses the right of a customer on the network.

Another good thing is that if the company’s figure of the affected fraudsters would be forwarded to relevant government agencies, which is a plus.

So, it is very important for other ISPs in the country to follow the Starcomms example, mostly as the unified licensing regime has less than one month to take off, by investing into this kind of solution.

Therefore, by heeding this call, the nation’s image would not only get better, it would show some seriousness on the need to collectively battle this sickness, which is invertible in this century.

Omatek ready to export ‘Made-in-Nigeria’ products

LEADING assembler of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products in the country, Omatek Computers Limited, has announced its readiness to export some of its products beginning next year.

Chief executive, Omatek, Mrs. Florence Seriki, disclosed this at the end of year media chat in Lagos, saying the firm would begin with export of products to the West African countries before expanding gradually beyond the region.

She said, this is part of Omatek’s plan to aggressively market its products and brands in 2006.

Some of the Omatek’s products slated for export next year comprise Plasma Television, Citrix and Dura Laptops and Omatek desktop, Personal Computer (PC) speakers, among others.

Omatek, Mrs. Seriki noted has in recent months restructured for the export to take off and this has created some opening for Nigerians, such as the channel partner experts.

To this end, Mrs. Seriki, said, an experienced channel partner expert has been engaged and due to resume January 2006.

Maintaining that all Omatek brands were of international standard, she said, “All we have in Omatek is what you see in foreign brands”. Stressing that was why the firm recently won the Microsoft’s West and Central African (WACA) award.

She argued that Omatek delved into the Plasma television flat screen production, was not out of its preview to accelerate Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for development.

“The whole world is moving and we cannot continue to create gap between us and the rest of the world,” she declared.

Mrs. Seriki pointed out that her firm has repositioned Omatek Ventures to cater for the aggressive market plan.

This aggressiveness, she said, would be heightened for the local market presence and repackaging of its products for foreign market have advanced.

Reviewing 2005, Mrs. Seriki said, Omatek performed credibly to the extent it received about 25 awards within this year alone.

On the work force to support the export plans, she also said that currently Omatek has the capacity to produce completely within 10 days, a 40 feet container worth of PC peripheries.

“Technology is changing and we have to change,” the CEO who was accompanied by the General Manager, Mr. Yomi Soyinka and his deputy, Mr. Olumide Akinmutimi, said.

Internet increases security threats – Obi

INCREASE in the acceptance of Internet nowadays, has brought about increased security threats in the 21st century society, according to the immediate past president of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Dr. Gabriel Obi.

He also lamented lack of manpower to contend with this and warned on the security implication of patronizing Commercial-off the (COT) shelf software vendors.

He gave this caution at the third annual convention of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) in Lagos, on security.

Dr. Obi defined security as a very vague field that cuts across network security, data security and national security.

“We need to be very careful,” he declared, warning that if the youth are not guided aright, it could jeopardize the future security in the Information Society.

He equally warned that if the system is allowed to be on the hands of COTs, the system would be put at risk.

Dr. Obi also said that most products from these software vendors usually become obsolete in matter of two to three years after introduction of any of their products.

Security consciousness, he said, needs to be inculcated into the system, especially for the youths, because it’s the new paradigm.

He noted that most of the time, security issues are exacerbated, when it affects content infrastructure based on confidentiality, integrity and availability.

According to him, Internet as a major tool for communications has introduced an era of survivability on the systems.

The new paradigm in security, Dr. Obi said, centers on the systems being unbounded, not visible to the administrator and having no central administration control.

Fortress model, Dr. Obi, who was a former director at the First Bank Plc, pointed out, must not be made to be responsive.

Stressing that in security, survivability entails recognition and resistance, pointing out that increased acceptance of Internet has adjusted the number of security threats upwards, yet the personnel are not there to contend this increase, especially in developing country like Nigeria.

He, therefore, enjoined the youths to grab this opportunity to becoming technology security experts with two hands.

“We can’t be competitive if we’re not creative,” he asserted.

400 delegates expected @ ICT4Gov

Fourth edition of the In-formation and Communication Technology (ICT) for Government (ICT4Gov) seminar and exhibition slated to hold in Accra is expecting about 400 delegates.

Organisers said that the event scheduled for the International Conference Centre from January 31 – February 2, 2006, look forward to receiving delegates from Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.

Participants, organisers also said, would be gathered at the first post World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS II) interactive session in the sub-region to seek ways at bringing government closer to the people deploying ICTs.

This is coming as one of the leading West Africa’s business technology outfit, IT Edge would be partnering with the organisers for the event.

For three days, according to the organisers, experts from the public and private sectors would be discussing how ICTs could be used to open up rural communities and the involvement of governments in driving the socio-economic changes deploying ICT resources.

A press statement made available from the organisers, said, Ghana’s Ministry of Communications is hosting the conference and exhibition with the theme ‘Mainstreaming ICT: Harmonising eGovernment and Development’ to stress the importance of building awareness and Capacity within the various arms of government.

The there-day event is a two-tracked workshop, consisting of eGovernment and ICT for Development.

Executive Director, CTN/Techgov, organisers of the event, Mr. Columbus K. Bruce, said, “Riding on the success of past editions, this event brings together various experts to help harness the potentials of ICT in the sub-region and bring to the sensitivity of stakeholders including decision makers in the private and public sectors, the crucial things that must be done in 2006 to move the economies and the people within the ECOWAS region forward.

PIR records 4m .org domains

Not-for-profit corporation based in Reston, Virginia and created by the Internet Society (ISOC) to manage the .org top-level domain, the Public Interest Registry (PIR), has announced the registration of four million .org domains.

ITREALMS recalls that PIR assumed control of the registry since January 1, 2003 with the mission to manage the .org domain in a manner that supports the continuing evolution of the Internet as a research, education and communications infrastructure, while educating and empowering the non-commercial community to most effectively utilize the Internet.

On the other hand, .org domain, is associated with noncommercial activities, and known as the Internet’s third largest “generic” or non-country specific top-level domain.

Official of PIR, Mr. Michael Ward, while announcing this development informed that the figure is a worldwide registration for .org usage, which he said, contributes to continued growth in the .org community.

This, Mr. Ward said, was the successful growth of the .org domain which is a direct result of the increase in global internet use, the credibility associated with the .org brand, as well as the success of over 180 .org resellers worldwide.

He quoted the President and chief executive of PIR, Mr. Edward G. Viltz saying, “We have reached a significant milestone within the .org community, its no longer considered to be the ‘other’ domain. It has become the established Internet home of the worldwide noncommercial community. The attainment of four million registered .org domains is a direct reflection of the increased awareness and demand for the .org domain.”

Mr. Viltz said this reaffirms PIR commitment to the continued management of the .org registry in the public interest and expressed appreciation for the support of registrars, resellers, Afilias Global Registry Services and the .org community.

He enlightened that .org was originally created in 1984, and has grown to be the third largest generic top level domain and the fifth largest when including country code top level domains.

PIR, the CEO said, is promoting the use of .org within the global nonprofit community through outreach programs targeting developing regions of the world.

In addition, Mr. Viltz disclosed that PIR has offered to .org registrars’ discounts aimed at Latin America, Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia in an effort to expand the Internet and promote the .org domain.

Dual PCI chipset from VIA

CHIPSET manufacturer, VIA Technologies, has introduced into the market its latest in stock, Dual PCI Express chipset, which supports two displays function from a motherboard for various functions enabled in the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of computers.

Described as a number of integrated circuits designed to perform one or more related functions. For instance, one chipset may provide the basic functions of a modem while another provides the CPU functions for a computer.

Latest chipsets generally include functions provided by two or more older chipsets and in some cases, older chipsets that required two or more physical chips could be replaced with a chipset on one chip, whereas this term is often used to refer to the core functionality of a motherboard.

VIA Technologies, through Mr. Richard Brown informed that the firm’s Dual PCI chipset is an express buses, which enable system builders to offer high-performance desktops that support two displays.

He said that K8T;900, has been on sampling since late November, and would be made available for market volume by January 2006.

This, he said, supports two x8 PCI Express graphics connections.

Mr. Brown also noted that through the systems of dual graphics support more than one monitor and have been available for years now, VIA’s dual PCI express optimizes new technology for better performance for today’s robust video requirements.

He explained that older systems with dual displays must squeeze graphics instructions for two displays through one bus and limiting throughput.

“The new technology, however, opens up two graphics buses that could support either multiple video streams or more robust graphics for high-end games,” he said.

Mr. Brown further disclosed that VIA is currently working with S3 Graphics to ensure the graphics chip manufacturer’s new chrome graphics cards will work with its new chipset.

VIA Technologies, Inc. quoted in the Taiwanese Stock Exchange (TSE) is the foremost fabless supplier of market-leading core logic chipsets, low power x86 processors, advanced connectivity, multimedia, networking and storage silicon and complete platform solutions.

Ndukwe, Utomi laud Glo double slam

•As Glo gives out 24th car

Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe and Director of the Pan African University, Prof. Pat Utomi, have lauded the second national operator (SNO), Globacom on its double slam anniversary promotion, just as Glo dishes out the 24th car in the promo.

The duo who were guests at the presentation of four cars to Glo subscribers in Lagos weekend, said the SNO is a shinning example of what entrepreneurs should be like.

For Dr. Ndukwe, the SNO has been doing well despite being the last to launch its Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and implored the company to continue in the stride as he described the method of choosing the winners as transparent, not prearranged or discriminatory.

“There is no special arrangement so its very important to acknowledge Glo in this regard as they continue to expand its network,” Dr. Ndukwe asserted.

He also tasked operators to ensure that their services are based on quality as a means of keeping the subscribers on their networks.

Prof. Utomi in his comment, advised businesses to take seriously their branding as a way of attracting customers, but said that selling the brand to reach acceptance by the customers is an uphill task before any entrepreneur, while appealing to keep the light burning.

“I am here to witness the enterprise that’s committed to its customers and one challenge facing businesses is branding,” he said, emphasising that its great that the brand could go from nothing to something.

Globacom used the occasion to present cars to winners, namely Mrs. Taiwo Epe, Mrs. Jinadu Bolatilo, Mrs. Flora Azuka and Mr. Jimoh Ayuba.

While Dr. Ndukwe presented the key of Mercedes Benz E240 car to Mrs. Epe, Mrs. Bolatilo’s key of Kia Sorento Jeep was presented by Mrs. Ajoke Mohamed, wife of the former head of state, late Gen. Murtala Muhamed.

Presentation of Mrs. Azuka’s key for a brand new Kia Rio was performed by Barrister (Mrs) Grace Egbagbe of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and Prof. Utomi honoured Mr. Ayuba with the keys of a Honda City.

This brings to eight the number of cars given to winners in Lagos, four in Enugu, four in Port Harcourt, four in Kano and four in Abuja Zones of the Promo draws

Meanwhile, another set of winners emerged weekend with GSM numbers 08055808163 and 080551987060, winning prizes of a Volkswagen Polo and Honda City cars respectively.

Earlier, the chief operating officer (COO), Mr. Mohammed Jameel, recalled that many Nigerians, especially operators did not believe the promo when it started.

He expressed gratitude to the Nigerian subscribers, which he said, have reached four million.

JACITAD shines @ Senate hearing on NITDA

NON-governmental organization (NGO), Joint Action Committee for Information and Communications Technology Awareness and Development (JACITAD), shined at the just concluded public hearing on the National IT Development Agency (NITDA) bill held in Abuja.

JACITAD, founded in 2003 and led at the hearing by its President, Mr. Bay Fasoyin, was among the selected groups representing greater stake in the ICT community, to make presentations to the proposed NITDA bill, currently before the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Saidu Dansadau informed that the first day was devoted to listening to the Federal Ministries of Science and Technology, Information and National Orientation and Education in that order.

Also to listed for the first day was the State Ministries of Science and Technology, Information and Technology as well as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Day two, he explained, comprised the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigerian Cybercrime Working Group (NCWG), Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and the Nigerian Information Technology Professionals in the Americas (NITPA), Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Internet Service Providers of Nigeria (ISPAN), and Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN).

Plans in top gear for CSDMS’ Asia 2006

CENTER for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS) based in Uttar Pradesh, India, has advanced plans for the successful hosting of the Digital Learning Asia 2006.

CSDMS said that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and education conference slated to hold in Bangkok, Thailand, come April is to take stock of the progress of the Asian countries in digital learning sphere.

Information endorsed by Himanshu Kalra and made available to Champion Infotel, said that Digital Learning Asia 2006, would focus on utilizing ICTs to enhance the quality and reach of education in the region.

“With a focus on building a human capital that responds to the needs of a globalised world,” Kalra noted.

The conference, according to CSDMS, would provide a platform for policy-makers, practitioners, industry leaders and academicians, to share experience, knowledge and perspective on integrating technologies at all levels of education.

It would also provide a forum for showcasing and learning from best practices, explore solutions to meet challenges and discuss issues and strategies for the best way of utilizing the potential, of ICT in education.

Highlights of the event, would be the gracing by eminent experts from the education system and senior government officials, from different parts of Asia and outside, would debate the current policies and trends in ICT in education in their respective countries.

This, organizers said would center on three core areas including national ICT and education strategies, ICT in education trends in Asian countries and best practices in ICT in education in Asia.

In addition, the conference focus would also touch on the public private partnership in ICT in education, education by informatics and communication technologies, monitoring and evaluation of ICT in education, as well as technologies for education and training and future trends in e-learning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nigeria is better than Germany, but – Ojukwu

Interview:

Mr. Kenneth Ojukwu is a Nigerian businessman from Mbaise, Imo State, but based in Vogel Hutten deich, a suburb of Hamburg-Germany, where he deals on fairly used Personal Computers (PCs), operates an Internet café and call-shop. He told Correspondent REMMY NWEKE, recently that Nigeria has a booming call centre business culture than in Hamburg, Germany.

Excerpts:

How would you describe life here in Germany?

Germany as part of greater Europe is nice to live in, but it has a complicated system. In the first instance, it is unlike English speaking European countries such as England or Ireland. Germany is a place where you either come as a student or a visitor.

And as a visitor, once your visa expires and you’re still here it becomes illegal. Then you have to go to the authorities to obtain your papers by seeking for asylum or whatever reason, after which you may be able to meet a woman whom you could marry, and that is the only way to stay.

But if you’re seeking asylum you must have enough evidence to that effect.

What of the racist issues, is it still very high and if yes, how do you as a Nigerian coping?

Racism is everywhere, but unfortunately it is no longer as it were during the time of Hitler. Presently, one can say it’s exists but not much pronounced like before.

I understand Nigerians here have a community, and how has this helped you to survive?

Well, theoretically, we have a Nigerian community branch here in Hamburg, but practically it is not functioning very well. In fact, it does not play much role, rather people are being united by their mush-room communities. We have our individual community meetings but the Nigerian community as a whole does not practically exist.

That brings us to the Igbo community, how well could you say this community is motivated?

For the Igbo community, I can say it’s moving very fine, especially at this part of Hamburg. Though the Igbo community consists now of all those mush-room communities I told you earlier. We have all states in Igbo land represented, but the Igbo community as a body is not active like the Nigerian community too. For example, the Abiriba, Orlu, Mbaise, Anambra among other communities are doing well, so Igbo meetings here are more powerful than the so-called enlarged community meetings.

Tell us about the New Yam festival here, who are those behind it?

Like the Abiriba community held theirs October 1, 2005. The Orlu community scheduled theirs the following Saturday, October 8 and other communities too are planning to hold something similar, but differently. But the Igbo community as a whole has not held such thing. We’re still planning to see how to organize it, that is, if we could be able to organize a party to accommodate every body.

You own telephone center and Internet café business in Hamburg, how would you rate it here and back home in Nigeria?

As matter of fact, if you compare here to Nigeria in this kind of business, Nigeria is better … (cuts in).

Why and how?

Yes, because Internet and call business needs customers, due to more people that come in you make more money. So, if you look at the population we have in Nigeria and fewness of call centers, you would understand my argument. Every call shop in Nigeria is always full. For instance, I have one at Owerri in Imo State and they are doing very fine, much better than what I am doing here at the call center.

What of the infrastructure, such as the power supply not being available all the time, unlike here you have power 24 hours in a day?

Then, we have to make improvise with generating set to supplement the national electrical power supply (Power Holding). You see, it’s unlike here too, the power supply is stable but costly. It’s stable but very costly, unlike Nigeria, our power supply over there (in Nigeria) is irregular but cheap comparatively.

What of the price of Internet access here and at home, how would you compare the two?

It’s almost the same, because, for instance, for you to browse an hour in Nigeria you have to pay between N150 and N200.

It is about N80 and N100 in some popular places …

If it is about N80 and N100, it is still okay, but to browse here you pay about E1.50 cents (about N280) and half an hour is 75 cents. So, if you compare the actual value of E1.50 cents and check the foreign exchange it is almost the same.

By setting up Internet café here, it means you’re providing Nigerians and other Afro communities the current tool to reach the world. What inspired you?

As matter of fact, it has been my utmost wish at a time, like I have been here for almost 15 years and I have been self employed for about 10 years now. I have tried several things; selling of cars, second hand items – fridges and all other stuff and now selling fairly used computers.

It was to be able to compensate my customers that I opened this communication center. As you can see, I combine the call shop with Afro shop and then a place where we sit and drink in the evenings – restaurant.

So, I planned it whereby it would accommodate a lot of other things and bring me nearer to the Nigerian people. That is, it has been my wish to have a set up that could bring us a bit closer to each other.

Like now, most Igbo people use to meet here and most meetings about the Igboland, Nigeria and Africa as a whole are usually held here. And you saw the young man that came in shortly, he would be having a child dedication on Sunday and would like to host people here.

You’re deploying some software to organize your telephone booths for call center operation, can you tell us about the software and the pricing here?

Actually, pricing here in recent times has become highly competitive, because we have a lot of companies or providers that bring a lot of software into the market place. Like what I am using now is called Elemeg. ICT call shop and costs on the whole subscription about E800 (N148,960.14) for the package.

And then, for the servicing, each time they come it would be about three to four hundred Euro, about (N74,480.07).

This is unlike Nigeria where one has to budget between N500,000 and N1 million for a software. So, you cannot compare the two. There are also some that are cheaper than what I am using now.

But is the call shop software serving you as expected?

Of course, it is serving me very well without any disturbance.

Taking a look at home, are you comfortable with the level of political development?

Politics at home, you can just forget it. Now, the problem with our politics is that Nigeria has everything we need except good leadership. If today, Nigeria is politically alright, then, we don’t have need being here in all facets. Politics at home is very dirty but we hope that with time, it would be alright. If you read the history of some of these European countries, there was a time problems like this occurred and today, they’re okay. If we have good governance, we would continue to progress.

You’re here during the German 2005 election last month, September, what’s your view?

You know that politics here is very far from what is witnessed during elections at home. Its better, more advanced, more peaceful than Nigeria. Even though the recent election was unresolved for sometimes, yet they were calm and it was handled very maturely, now is almost a month after, things are still moving on peacefully, without a Chancellor victually.

What would be your message to other Nigerians in Germany, who’re trying to earn a living here?

My advice to every Nigerian is that we have to first of all remember where we are coming from. We came from Nigeria in Africa and all of us who’re here is basically with a mission; a mission of how to survive and better our lives.

I want to tell those that are here, that if they take their time and run away from crime, they would reach their target no matter how long it takes. But they must first of all regularize their stay, by that I mean, they must find a way of getting their residence here in Germany, find a job to do and with time get what they want.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Raising stake for subscribers

Increasingly, the environment is getting better for the telecommunications consumers, mostly with the plans to set up Consumer Negotiating Panel by the regulator, reports REMMY NWEKE.

20m subscribers target

AT the first anniversary of the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) held on Thursday, May 26, 2005 at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the nation’s Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had projected that by end of this year, 2005, the number of telephone lines in the country would have reached 20 million.

"We are expecting that by the end of this year (2005) the number of telephone lines would have risen to twenty million and the saying that ‘telephone lines is not for the poor’ will finally be laid to rest," he declared.

Also, ITREALMS recalls that in early 2004, Telecom Answers Associates, led by astute expert, Mr. Titi
Omo-Ettu, had proclaimed that the market growth recorded over 140 per cent between August 2001 when the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) went commercial and year ended December 2004.

Consumer Parliment

It was perhaps this increasing subscriber base that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) foresaw that gave birth to the monthly Telecoms Consumer Parliament under its Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) in September 2001 to inform, educate and protect all the consumers of telecommunications services in the country.

CAB has as its mission, to serve as the industry’s watchdog by protecting consumers in a professional and courteous manner.

At first, CAB started as a Lagos based forum with its Telecom Consumers Parliament, due to the number of subscribers and operators located in the state, but later, it was extended to the six geographic zones.

End of year edition

Although the last three months of this year saw this forum shifted since October till Wednesday, December 7, which left some industry watchers wondering what has become of the parliament.

The edition which is the last for the year 2005, no doubt, showed the influence this consumer-service providers’ forum has on Nigerians, mostly telecom subscribers, once the information is passed or announcement is made of a date, the old Senate Chamber, at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) Lagos, is always full with participants.

With some coming to complain, others came to know what is happening in the telecom consumerism aspect of the industry, yet another set of subscribers satisfied with one service or another came to give testimonies, at least, to show that efforts of Parliamentarians are not taken for granted.

Reaffirmed support

The fact is that over time, NCC has increasingly reaffirmed its support for the consumers and trying to eschew being seen as telecom operators’ motivated agency but an independent regulator.

Before now, NCC has asserted its authority severally including by insisting that operators take decision that would make consumers of telecom services feel belonged to the Nigerianness of the commission.

One of these assertions was the recent declaration by NCC to set up a Consumer Negotiating Panel (CNP) to face a leading GSM operator, Vmobile Nigeria, for unilaterally withdrawing accumulated subscribers’ validity, recently.

The indication for the panel follows a complaint tendered before the Telecom Consumers Parliament held penultimate Wednesday in Lagos by consumer rights organization.

The organization reported that Vmobile had on inception made its validity open entailing that subscribers could accumulate validity as long as they recharge their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM).

But recently, the operator reduced it to about 90 days without any recourse to the feeling of the subscribers, aside from sending notice through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

Contract is contract

Responding to the issues in his closing remark at the last monthly Parliament for the year 2005, the Executive Vice Chairman and chief executive, NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe decried the decision of the GSM operator, stressing that some of the subscribers must have bought their lines based on that premise.

He said that his office would set up a Consumer Negotiating Panel to discuss with the operator the compensation to be given to the subscribers.

This, he said, could be in the neighbourhood of N5,000 to N10,000 free airtime, depending on the level of validity accumulated by various customers in order for Vmobile to bail itself out of the disrupted contract.

He counselled Vmobile to warm up for the panel by putting its solicitors in place because NCC would soon assemble a group of solicitors from its side to represent consumers at the panel.

"A contract is a contract. If you want to make a change there exists plans including buying your way out and giving enough time for them (customers) to adjust," he said.

According to him, Vmobile would explain to the panel the worth of the cancelled validity to consumers for backing out of the contract without regards.

Prior to this withdrawal amongst others, some validity accumulation on the network was not specified, and in most cases it was a selling point for the network because some subscribers, would not like to be cut-off the network on the excuse of forgetting to recharge or even travelling out of the country for a long period of time.

This follows the reduction of most validity accumulated to just 90 days, approximately three months, became inappropriate while some subscribers have actually accumulated up to 2014 and above, especially for the prepaid consumers.

Standing panel

In the past, NCC has succeeded in making sure that telcos do not advertise what they are not capable of offering to the market, and using very tiny words to inscribe conditions on promotion was abolished; which may not even be readable to the consumers.

Above all, what NCC has achieved with its current steps and more is to reclaim and stamp its authority which in the earlier years of GSM advent purportedly resided with the operators, just as they smile to the banks and Nigerian subscribers groan unchecked.

This move to set up CNP, hopefully would not stop with ‘incursion’ into Vmobile action against the subscribers, but should be made a standing panel to address such similar cases as indiscriminate removal of credits and arbitrary tariff deduction even without making calls on some other networks, in order to continuously determine some of these issues that receive good representation from the subscribers to the operators especially at the negotiating table.

CTOs concern

Top of these anomalies seems to be that the operators change call tariffs indiscriminately without concern to the Commercial Telephone Operators (CTOs), who most of the time load huge sum of credits, only to be informed that the tariff has been altered upwards.

Apart from aiding their customers to literarily run away, recovery
of business fiscal flow becomes extremely difficult.

It also goes that in some of the networks, subscribers have raised the issue of topping credit, with say a N1000 in the night with the hope of making urgent morning calls the following day just to discover this amount has been wrongly deducted either in part or in whole, in the name of access charges on networks which upposedly should not have reduced any kobo.

Consistency on the part of NCC will not only place the agency aright but adorn it with the trust of both the consumers and service providers alike.

Internet has affected courier positively - RedStar boss

MANAGING Director, RedStar Express, a licensee of the Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) in the country, Mr. Isaac Orolugbagbe, has said that the growth of Internet globally, have affected courier business positively, just as the firm has plans to aggressively market its RedStar Ground.

Mr. Orolugbagbe in a chat with newsmen at an end of year engagement in Lagos, said that less people now send letter or parcel through the courier.

He also noted that people doing online purchases still use the
courier companies to ship such goods, which means more income for courier
companies, even as most of them are now adjusting to the reality call of
Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

He stated that, you could order everything on display on the web, but the Internet would not bring such goods at your door step, but courier firms’ especially FedEx/RedStar can.

RedStar Express, Mr. Orolugbagbe said, has equally concluded plans to aggressively market its latest addition, the RedStar Ground.

He further said that apart from the readiness to market the product aggressively, infrastructure is being put on the ground to ensure the success of the grand entry of RedStar Ground, such as more fleets of vehicles and more Nigerians would be engaged.

RedStar Ground, Mr. Orolugbagbe pointed out is top on the list of the company’s several initiatives introduced this year.

To this end, he said an Assistant General Manager (AGM) for RedStar
Ground has been appointed in the person of Mr. Desola Odediran.

Also, the firm’s Information Technology (IT) unit, he said, has changed for the better, but would be officially launched next year.

He maintained that cost of maintaining ground courier service such as in land transport have not been easy but very expensive due to poor nationwide road network.

InterSwitch, ISOs, 3 others partner on 50,000 POS

Premier transaction switching and processing company, InterSwitch, along with its Electronic Fund Transfer Point of Sale (E-POS), the Independence Service Organisations (ISOs), have sealed deal with Verifone, Lipman and Ingenico for the purchasing of 50,000 Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals.

The selection of Verifone, Lipman and Ingenico, according to the Group Head, Service Delivery at InterSwitch, Mr. Akeem Lawal, was based on their positions as leading suppliers of wireless point-of-sale terminals for the operation of cashless project after a review of various E-POS terminal manufacturers.

He emphasized that one critical factor in the vendor selection was the commitment of these vendors to have a long term view of the market as well as provide local support in the country to the ISO community.

"As part of this deal, the manufacturers via their authorized resellers, have offered discounted pricing for these terminals to the ISO community in their bid to support the introduction and launch of the first ever online real-time transactions using POS terminals in Nigeria," he explained.

Mr. Lawal said, the first batch of terminals for the pilot has been delivered and is currently being rolled out to selected merchant locations.

A press statement from InterSwitch made available to Champion Infotel, quoted Verifone representative as saying, "The evolving payment market in Nigeria represents a significant opportunity for Verifone to provide its solutions not only to the banking sector, but also to other value-driven projects in government, health, transportation and telecommunications."

Also, according to Lipman’s representative, "This order from the ISOs represents the success of our continuing strategic efforts to achieve growth in new market segments. We are pleased to have been selected as one of the preferred POS vendor for Nigeria and are confident that the Lipman POS solution will be an integral part of success of the planned Operation Cashless Initiative."

Mr. Lawal, further said, "InterSwitch is pleased to have Lipman, Ingenico and Verifone as its preferred POS solution providers.

In addition to the quality and reliability advantages of these terminals over solutions we tested, we were extremely impressed by Lipman and Verifone’s service and support capabilities".

APC’s UPS enables Nortel data, IP convergence

Increasing demand for Internet Protocol (IP)-based solutions with built-in power availability capabilities from the American Power Conversion (APC) solutions is facilitating additional feature for Nortel Business Communications Manager (BCM) 50, now on offer, according to the Country General Manager for Africa at APC, Mr. Carl Kleynhans.

The Intelligent APC UPS interface, he said, has the feature to provide battery health which allows for power quality monitoring and graceful shutdown of the BCM in the event of an extended power outage.

The BCM 50 provides advanced capabilities such as telephony, voice messaging and unified messaging, IP networking, Internet access, contact centres with skills-based routing and IP telephony.

The BCM 50 also has a highly-scalable solution that enables small enterprises to benefit from convergence capabilities that were previously only available to much larger organisations, offering hundreds of features and a full suite of integrated applications.

"The market for Voice over IP continues to increase as companies discover that this technology could help them grow and compete more effectively," said Mr. Kleynhans, stressing that by using Nortel Network’s Business Communications Manager, companies now could adopt IP-based solutions at their own pace and gain a strategic edge by reducing operating costs, improving customer service and expanding their market reach.

Product Manager at Nortel BCM, Mr. Jacek Jarmoc, said Nortel Network’s decision to add the Intelligent APC UPS interface feature to the BCM 50, is to ensure uninterruptible power for IP-based telephony and data resources is critical in avoiding dropped calls and lost information in the event of a power outage.

More importantly, he said, this capability ensures the communications infrastructure will be available when a steady power supply is unavailable.

"Of equal importance is the automatic shutdown capability, which
ensures BCM 50 users will not lose data and that communications will be
operational as soon as the power returns. Nortel is pleased to work with APC to
support the BCM 50 solution because of APC’s leadership in the power
availability industry and their reputation for quality, innovation and support,"
Mr. Jarmoc said.


Founded in 1981, APC is a leading provider of global, end-to-end solutions for real-time infrastructure.

APC’s comprehensive products and services for home and corporate environments improve the availability, manageability and performance of sensitive electronic, network, communication and industrial equipment of all sizes.

MTSFirst presents ‘Jaara’ to subscribers

MTS First Wireless, has announced a new promotion for the Christmas and New Year celebrations, with a variety of offers to old and intending subscribers who could now buy one desktop phone and get a mobile line free.

The promotion tagged ‘Jaara Mathematics’, as said by the Chief Marketing Officers at MTS, Ms. Uche Ofodile, said, customers could now buy a Dowtel desktop phone for N15,000 and get a ZTE X100 mobile phone for free.

MTSfirst is also offering a massive reduction on the ZTE X100 mobile phone which sells for N10,000 for one, now being bundled for N13,000, for two mobile lines, giving subscribers a saving of N7,000.

She explained that there is N500 worth of free credit for both the new phone bought and the free line respectively.

Subscribers, according to her, could top their credits with any denomination of recharge card from Mtsfirst during the promo and receive an automatic 10 per cent of additional credit.

This promotion, Ms. Ofodile said, would last till January 31, 2006.

She further said dealers of Mtsfirst are not left out as any dealer
who activates 100 Dowtel Desktop phones with the associated free mobile phones,
or 200 ZTE X100, will get additional 10 ZTE mobile phones free.

Chief Marketing Officer said, Jaara Mathematics simply means getting more.

"We are giving more savings, more value and more credits," she asserted.

She also said MTSfirst subscribers, both old and new deserved a very special treat for the holiday season, even as the operator wants to encourage others to join the new Mtsfirst family of affordable services.

Meanwhile, MTSfirst at the weekend renewed its bond of friendship with the dealership community when it hosted its dealers in an interactive session at the Mtsfirst Care Center in Ikeja.

Chief Operating Officer of Mtsfirst, Mr. Damoye Oyesiku, said the operators’ pledge to keep to all its promises to the dealers, is currently expanding the network vigorously.

This, he said, is evident with the expansion to Abeokuta and
enormous progress in the expansion of the Lagos network to ensure robust network
coverage.
Emphasizing that the importance of the dealers in the Mtsfirst business case pledged to support the dealers in any way that would make their business profitable.

Vmobile collaborates Atos, Airwide to launch service

LEADING Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM), Vmobile Nigeria, in collaboration with Atos Origin and Airwide Solutions would soon commence interactive services to increase its revenue generation.

Public Relations specialist at Vmobile, Mr. Emma Otokhine informed that the collaboration would afford Vmobile with a simple and reliable Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).

USSD, is a technology unique to GSM and is a capability built into the GSM standard for support of transmitting information over the signaling channels of the GSM network.

Atos Origin, a leading international information technology (IT) services company, and Airwide Solutions, a global leader in providing mobile infrastructure software to enhance and ensure mobile communications for wireless operators, were selected by Vee Networks Nigeria Limited (Vmobile Nigeria) to deploy a USSD to boost its Global Packet Radio Service (GPRS).

He said, that while Aircode makes it possible for Vmobile Nigeria to rapidly deploy interactive applications such as Vmobile’s Call-Me-Back service, Television (Tv) voting, or transactional services like m-banking that will significantly improve revenues.

Aircode works on the majority of legacy handsets and offers a
seamless end-user experience, to ensure mass-market penetration and rapid
increase in voice and data usage.

Further benefit of Aircode is the enhancement and simplification of customer care services such as account balance inquiry and account recharge which is currently performed using the Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

He also said Aircode would complement the existing IVR by offering an efficient and cost-effective self-care alternative to Vmobile subscribers, Atos Origin offered and integrated Airwide’s aircode solution to Vmobile Nigeria.

Managing Director of Atos Origin South Africa, Mr. Alain M. Michel, said "The high quality and reliable solutions from Airwide made it the obvious choice for Atos Origin to answer Vmobile’s new GPRS initiatives and we are delighted to be working with a flexible, dynamic and committed company like Airwide".

Acting Chief Engineering Officer for Vmobile Nigeria, Mr. Eric Valentine said the choice of Airwide and Atos Origin have supplied us with a solution that will enable Vmobile Nigeria to offer a whole range of new interactive services and more importantly, a significant increase in voice and data revenues.

"Aircode is a proven solution offered by a team of experienced and dedicated people. This combination convinced us to choose aircode," he said.

Starcomms cuts off 46 fraudsters, unveils anti-spam mechanism

Coming out of its anti-labour feud with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), leading Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) operator, Starcomms Limited, has announced the shutting of about 46 suspected spammers and fraudsters on its Internet network, just as it has introduced anti-spam mechanism to reduce tariffic of fraudulent activities on its Internet service among subscribers.

With this, Starcomms assumed the first Private Telecommunication Operator (PTO) in the country to ever introduce such an online anti-fraud among the existing Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

ITREALMS recollects that the presidency in the determination to
fight this monster called online fraud, otherwise known as 419 scam, had earlier
set up a Presidential Committee on the subject, which paved the way for the
National Working Group on Cybercrime (NWGC) being co-ordinated by Mr. Basil
Udotia.

Marketing Director at Starcomms, Mr. Omar Lababidi, while introducting the mechanism in Lagos, said it would enhance the efforts aimed at reducing fraud on its internet service from this part of the world.

The mechanism, he said, has the co-operation of Huawei Technologies to monitor and tackle fraudulent use of the internet.

The efforts, he also said, include creation of database of fraudulent accounts which will be reported to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and other relevant law enforcement agencies.

In addition, he said, it would afford the operator the chance to
device ways of warning the customers that spammers and fraudesters will not be
tolerated on the network.

He cautioned that anybody found engaging in internet fraud will automatically forego all rights and privileges as a customer on the Starcomms.

Mr. Lababidi further said that his company has, so far, shut down 46 spam and fraud users on the Starcomms account, adding that the gesture is aimed at protecting the innocent and improving the nation’s image in the international community.

Starcomms, has steadily maintained market dominance in its FWA sector.

Changing hunger figure with biotech

Features of the week:

Inspired to change the world around him in Northern Nigeria and beyond, young award-winning Samuel Odofin, thinks the psyche of youth over biotechnology must change for good, REMMY NWEKE reports.

The second phase of the World Summit on the Informa-tion Society (WSIS-05) ended in the city of Tunis, with 18-year Nigerian, Samuel Oloyede Odofin, emerging the second prize winner for the development category of the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA).

The awards organised by the Salzburg, Austria-based coordinating team at the International Centre for New Media (ICNM), has its organizational framework within the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society in partnership with the WSIS Youth Caucus.

The WSYA is held under the patronage of Vivienne Reding, European Commissioner for the Information Society and media, whereas it enjoys sponsorships of Internet Society (ISOC), Logitech and Siemens AG.

Participants of the awards are youths under the age of 30 who are leading adopters of new technologies, as well as playing critical role in a global information society.

Images of youth in most developing countries look apathetic, distrustful and angry, but there is another world of youth; those who have technological expertise, dynamic energy and innovation according to ICNM.

Biotechnology, as said by Pamela Peters, author of ‘Biotechnology: A Guide To Genetic Engineering,’ published by Wm. C. Brown Inc., 1993, said that the term ‘biotechnology’ has flourished since prehistoric times and when the first human beings realized that they could plant their own crops and breed their own animals, they learned to use biotechnology.

He also said that the discovery that fruit juices fermented into wine, or that milk could be converted into cheese or yoghurt, or that beer could be made by fermenting solutions of malt and hops began the study of biotechnology.

Emphasizing that the term brings to mind many different things; some think of developing new types of animals, others dream of almost unlimited sources of human therapeutic drugs. Yet another group envisions the possibility of growing crops that are more nutritious and naturally pest-resistant to feed a rapidly growing world population.

Mr. Peters went on to say that in the purest form, "biotechnology"
term refers to the use of living organisms or their products to modify human
health and the human environment.
Probably, this is where our Samuel Odofin fits in when he began his Biotechnology: The Food Solution - at www.odofin.com, a campaign which began three years ago.

This online informative and educational gateway, he said, was set up to see to the creation of awareness on biotechnology and its relevance for agricultural products as well as food security in this era.

The campaign for biotechnology, Odofin noted, is evident of the compassion he has for the people who stay around him, at his base in the northern country side of Kaduna.

"And it has contributed to creating the ‘hunger’ figure that is internationally imposed on Africa as a continent. Moreso, we are faced with a fiscally tested solution but it’s still going under heavy criticism, that’s why I took the campaign as seriously as it is now and obviously to the international level involving big organizations," he informed.

In Nigeria, he said, the nation needs to re-orientate the psyche of the youths, and until this is done the youths would start thinking of how to better the live of others in every little way they could, in other words, the situation might not be significantly different.

This, he also said, is because one thing worthy of learning from the
project has been that, in the process of trying to help others "you find out
that you are helping yourself even more".

He cited an instance, which is the privilege he has to travel to about six countries with his biotech campaign and twice to the United kingdom and which has really exposed him as a person and of course, elevated his personality and yet still fighting for the African future in his own way.

Odofin, a member of the International Association of Webmasters and a certified Microsoft’s Application Developer (ASP) since 2003, started his internet multimedia production at the age of 15, and at that time has produced a web portal on Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which was nominated and eventually won the golden web awards organised by the International Association of Webmasters.

Then in July 2003 Samuel Odofin began another project; the biotech project, in collaboration with a 16 year-old Egyptian friend named, Mohammed Abdel Raouf.

By September of that year, both produced the initial version of the website which was used to enter for the Microsoft motandao Afrika contest, of which Odofin was invited for project defense in Egypt in October 2003.

He used the chance to explain the idea of the project before professionals from various fields and international personalities, and at the end, the project was awarded the first place - platinum - award in the contest whereas he was given a crystal laurel.

Early 2004, he commenced the redesigning of the whole website alone to make it even more interactive and easy to use, based on the context that he was given a free server in the Netherlands by a friend which hosts the domain www.odofin.com.

Late in 2004, he entered another international contest for youth-led
action project; the Childnet Academy awards, which was co-hosted by the Cable
and Wireless Telecommunication Company and a London-based Childnet
International, while the award presentation was held in Montego Bay in
Jamaica.

He crowned it all this year by picking the WSIS WSYA award at the just concluded second phase in Tunis.

Odofin’s interactive website designed to raise awareness on the use of agricultural biotechnology in combating food shortages and insecurity in Africa was chosen as one of the best e-content projects, so odofin.com, on November 16, at a gala nite received the WSYA award amidst other notable young men and women.

Managed from the city of Kaduna, Odofin’s project scaled through amidst 299 others from over 70 countries of the world, and which leaves the young man excited.

Speaking to Champion Infotel on his Tunis experience, he said, it was an honour for him.

"I felt extremely honoured when I was informed that I was one of the best multimedia developers in the world and I looked at it first as a privilege and secondly as an opportunity to tell the world that good things still come out of the slum," he asserted.

Project manager of ICNM, Mr. Thomas Biebl, said that the award has availed them the opportunity to see online music communities, digital design training for slum youth, interactive gaming platforms, e-learning, flash applications and an HIV/AIDS information portal to name just a few.

The top three projects, he explained, in each WSYA category were
focused on development, creativity and culture as well as community
engagement.

He stressed, it is a global initiative to select and promote the world’s best in e-Content and creativity.

The Biotechnology: The Food Solution campaign shows is like what the organizers, ICNM rightly pointed out;
looking at the other side, there are some young men and women embarking on something positive that would not merely change their lives but that of others in the society.

Though Odofin may be unsung in the country, but his campaign speaks for itself and him as well, in addition to being worthy of encouragement.

Omatek targets merging banks with suite offer

LEADING Information and Communications Technology (ICT) company, Omatek Computers Limited is targeting merging banks in the country with special suite of solutions.

Chief executive, Omatek Computers, Mrs. Florence Seriki, disclosed this and said that her firm came up with the offer to enable merging banks cut cost at this time of transformation of the industry.

Key on the suite is the firm’s Citrix, Plasma large screen and Dura laptops among others.

Mrs. Seriki, said, for instance that Citrix is a robust solution that would allow merged banks with different Information Technology (IT) solutions to integrate such solutions seamlessly without resorting to acquire a new software platform.

She recalled that following the financial regulator, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) directive last year, all banks in the country would have re-capitalised to the tune of N25 billion before December 31, this year.

Majority of the banks in the industry, she noted have since re-capitalised through acquisition and consolidation bringing into their new organisation different software platforms that may be discarded to allow for smooth operations.

The Omatek boss pointed out that with Citrix, "banks need not do away with their huge investment in their various software solutions and they also need not create huge budget for training employees in a new software platform."

She explained that Citrix enables for integration of all existing solutions and offer a convergence window for banking processes to continue without hiccups.

According to her, banks procurement and maintenance of software solutions in the last few years was estimated at N4.8 billion, noting that consolidation could mean discarding these solutions without yet fully optimizing their value.

Citrix, she also said, permits banks to save the budget on new solutions and ease the expected problems in getting different merging banks to have their systems talk to each other.

"We believe banks could channel such savings into meeting their primary responsibility of funding enterprises in the manufacturing and other sectors to grow the economy," she declared, stressing that Omatek’s business is to facilitate banks to meet the challenges of allowing IT solutions to drive their operations effortlessly without having to invest all over again.

Mrs. Seriki, who recently was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) for Entrepreneurship and Promotion of ICT on the continent, said, by pushing its brain boxes and other hardware solutions to fully assist players in the emerging mega banking environment to meet their corporate targets.

Top on the suite is Omatek’s Dura book, a laptop acclaimed for its ruggedness and equated as ‘Hummer jeep’ in the computing business and is designed to be shock-resistant making it one of the world’s toughest notebooks, according to her.

Equipped with Intel Centrino processors, she said, Dura allows for fast multi-tasking to make job completion achievable at a very high speed.

Juniper Solutions repositions, moves

In continuation of its repositioning exercise, Juniper Solutions Limited (JSL), has moved into a new office block located at the popular Ikorodu Expressway, Ilupeju.

The firm said, this has become vital due to JSL’s increasing clientele which require spacious office to accommodate, as explained by the Managing Director, Mr. Gboyega Ojuri.

JSL which operates JuniSat Broadband Internet Service and proprietor of the Geniac Personal Computer (PC) brand, is a leading ICT firm with over fifteen years experience within the industry.

Mr. Ojuri said that with the company’s enhanced service delivery,
customers demands will be attained without problem at its new
location.

JSL, he also said, have repositioned to ensure seamless service to all, recalling that the firm was formerly situated along Gbagada Express road, by Charley Boy bus stop, but at present, its new corporate office is situated by Olabode House, Ikorodu road, Ilupeju.

"The company has really grown over the years and we need a spacious place to operate in most especially with our latest drive to boost personal computer penetration and connectivity in the country with the recent introduction of Geniac," he said.

Additionally, JSL recently engaged VIA Technologies Incorporated of Taiwan in a deal to boost Geniac brand of PCs in the nation’s market.

This plan stipulates the potential that Geniac PCs would have easier internet connectivity in an affordable way. The pact was what brought about the Geniac range of computers into the stables of JSL.

VIA Technologies Inc is the supplier of market-leading core logic chipsets, low power x86 processors, advanced connectivity, multimedia, networking and storage silicon, and complete platform solutions that are driving system innovation in the PC and embedded markets.

Kobian to appoint retail partners

KOBIAN, makers of Mercury brands of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products, would next year, appoint retail partners nationwide.
Distribution Manager for Kobian Nigeria, Mr. Shahnawaz Khan disclosed this at a Valued Partners award ceremony in Lagos.
He said in a presentation on the plans of the company for its Nigerian market, that the retail partners’ appointment would accelerate distribution of Mercury brands in the country.
Mr. Khan expressed optimism that by increasing the presence of the company’s brand in more locations nationwide, the goal of the company would be achieved and subsequently emerge as market leader it rightly desired.
However, 10 dealers won several prizes based on their sales performances ranging from N100,000 to N1.5 million, topping it all with a Honda car prize.
The winners include Mojoy Computers represented by Mrs. A.K. Shitu, who went home with a cheque of N100,000. Others are Jasper Tech Limited, MacroMedia, Jenis Investment Limited, Vineyard Computers, WestGate Tech and Chuks P Limited.
Speaking earlier, Corporate Business Development Manager for Kobian Singapore, Mr. Sajid Shaikh, lauded Coscharis Technologies for popularizing the Mercury brand in the country since 1993.
He also announced that Kobian now has two major distributors, namely, Coscharis Technologies and Compuleb Limited.
Also commenting, chief executive Coscharis Technologies Limited, Mr. Emecheta Ofondu, said, the redemption being fulfilled with the presentation of prizes has now made the promotion among dealers, a realty.
"We have seen growth in the business and we hope it would continue in the coming years," he said.
He praised Kobian for keeping to its promise, saying, "They had given their words on introducing the promotion and today, it’s real".
Mr. Ofondu also assured those who participated in the event that their efforts added colour to the income generation of the brand.

Ajayi, three others emerge new NIG exco

Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) has elected new officers to lead the organisation for the next two years, just as the immediate past vice president, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, emerged the president.
Mr. Ajayi was elected along with three others including Mrs. Ufuma Daro, as the vice president while Mr. Bosu Arebuwa emerged Treasurer, Mr. Qasim Olalere Akinreti was elected into the office of the Publicity Secretary.

Mr. Ajayi, who is also the Chief executive of PiNet Limited, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) had previously served as the Vice President, Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) as well as the immediate past vice chairman, African Internet Service Providers Association (AfrISPA) and currently serves in the board of AfrISPA.

In his acceptance, he promised to continue strengthening the group from where his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem stopped.

Dr. Ekuwem, who also is the Executive Vice chairman of Teledom Group of Companies made it clear that he would not recontest the position, even though he had only served one term in office.

Dr. Ekuwem had earlier served under the Mr. Jim Ovia presidency of NIG before taking over the mantle of leadership in late 2003.

Meanwhile, NIG has concluded its third annual convention cum annual general meeting which culminated into the election of new officers.

The convention held at Golden Gate Paradise, Ikoyi Lagos, with the theme: "Youth Restiveness: ICT to the rescue" was attended by NIG board chairman, and former Communications Minister, Chief Olawale Ige, President of Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), and chief executive, Condata Systems Limited, Dr. Chris Nwannenna, chief executive, Connect Technologies, Mr. Chris Uwaje as well as immediate past president, Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Dr. Gabriel Obi and chief executive of Linkserve, Mr. Chima Onyekwere among others.

Speaking at the occasion, President, National Association of Computer Science Students (NACOSS), Mr. Olutayo Olusegun, lamented the rate of decay in the nation’s tertiary institutions especially at the department of computer sciences.

He said that most higher institutions do not have computers in their laboratories and where available, it is limited in number and most of them are not working.

The two day, event have discussions centered on sub-themes such as ‘Youth Empowerment in the digital revolution, becoming employable using Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Job opportunities in ICT- Starting with N15,000 capital, tele-education, tele-training for point-of-need skills acquisition, a click to hope and wealth and ICT for food security and poverty alleviation.

Other sub-themes include "Enabling infrastructure, ePayment, human capacity development, legal and regulatory framework, security, Internet content development, .ng ccTLD and Internet Governance".

NIG is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation promoting internet access and awareness in the country and was very active in the battle to domestic the nation’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

NCS versus convergence

Recent objection by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) over proposed merger of the Nigerian Communications Commission, National Broadcasting Commission and National Information Technology Development Agency to boost convergence in the forthcoming unified licensing regime. REMMY NWEKE reports it’s indication that more education is required for industry players.

JUST few months to the February 2006 date proposed for the introduction of the unified licensing regime into the nation’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), disparity in terms of understanding the concept still pervades the industry.
Unified license would culminate in the convergence of the industry segments; be it pure telecom, information technology and core Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Content Service Providers (CSPs) consisting of broadcasting organizations and other ICT industry entities.
In other words, unified license for a layman’s understanding is the joining of the several currently existing licenses in the industry into one, while the convergence serves as the meeting point for the industry service providers. With this, the industry would definitely need ‘unified’ overseeing body as a regulator.

Regulatory organs in the industry
Current situation shows that NCC regulates the nation’s telecommunications sector, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is in-charge of the broadcasting industry in the country, whereas the National IT Development Agency, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) caters for the implementation of the National Information Technology (IT) Policy and to coordinate and regulate the development and regulation of the Information Technology sector.
But there is bickering on the faces of some experts based on the contentions that the proposed unified licensing would spell doom for the industry and if care is not taken, may destabilize the gains made in the last five years, following the liberalization of the telecommunications sector and advent of Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) revolution, which has placed Nigeria as the fastest growing nation in tele-density.

NCS aghast with convergence
One of the proponents of this idea is the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body of about five industry interest groups, namely the Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON)/Software Developers Group (SDG), Information Technology Industry Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Nigerian IT Professionals in the Americas (NITPA) and the National Association of Computer Science Students (NACOSS).
The stand of NCS was made known recently at the reception of three government officials - Director General of NITDA, Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye, Special Adviser to the President on ICT, Mr. Emmanuel Arinze and his counterpart at the FMST, Mr. Onyeka Uche Ofili, by the body in Lagos.
President of NCS, Dr. Chris Nwannenna, in his address on the occasion, noted that there has been merger talks being proposed by some people at the recently held Telecom Summit for the trio; NCC, NBC and NITDA, in the spirit of convergence, which dictates that this should be the way forward.
Proponents of convergence at the summit were also reported to believe that the merger will bring about unified licensing whereby, according to them, “under a unified licensing regime, multiple services such as mobile telephony, fixed telephony, internet, broadband, long distance services, etc, could be made available by a single service provider”.
NCS, however, raised a question; which of the above services comes under NITDA licensing regime? “None of these. It is therefore possible that the telecoms summit is not well informed about the objectives and functions of NITDA,” he retorted.
NITDA, he said, was set up to research on, and develop IT products and services, which main focus has been in the area of computer hardware and software systems and services.
Apart that NCS probably has a different version of reference or definition of what NITDA should do, NITDA’s interaction with data communications in the course of its research and development efforts, according to NCS within IT framework will have nothing to do with ‘licensing’, NCS postulated.
NITDA, Dr. Nwannenna, who also is the chief executive of Condata Systems Limited, pointed out should therefore be left alone to pursue its objectives and not be bothered in anyway with merger talks especially now that NITDA has come out with a more focused programme for the development of IT in the country.

Contrary position
This position is contrary to what the federal government’s definition or reference to the agency aforementioned should be.
Also for the chief executive of NCC, Dr. Ndukwe, there is hope that unified licensing will help to streamline the competition in the industry, whereas the ISPs, for instance, are currently being undermined by the fact that they are members of NCS and most telecom companies are deploying their main trade; providing Internet access, as Value Added Service (VAS) on telcos’ networks.
It becomes confusing about the level of structure in NCS membership, which obviously cut across the segment of the larger ICT industry.
In some quarters, it was observed that the more fact about ICT stipulates that visitors’ to other people’s website in terms of research and developing programme through learning from experience is communication.
This group of proponents argued that if one has information without passing it on by communicating to another, especially at this era of Information Society, it becomes invalid. Therefore, they said that information and technology deployed thereof to facilitate the goals of exchanging information is nothing if not communicated.
Although NCS may have disputed the above argument, its own position or what some industry watchers tagged as ‘palpable’ fear of extinction, the fact remains that those agitating for unified license cum convergence at this stage of ICT industry in Nigeria must be cautious.

NATCOMS’ stand
On the other hand, optimistic National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has urged Ministry of Communications through NCC to commence the issuance of the unified licensing to existing GSM and Fixed Wireless Operators and also to new applicants as it may deem necessary. This NATCOMS said, is because the current situation is “almost a monopoly”.
The subscribers’ rights group through its national president, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said that with the nation’s population nearing 150 million, “we will need more effective operators of unified licences which would allow each licensee, operate GSM, Fixed wireless and other telecoms services, all under one roof.”
This, NATCOMS further said, would usher in healthy competition, lower tariffs as well as create more jobs.

Caution must apply
According to technology research expert and chief executive, eShekels Limited, Mr. Fola Odufuwa, the idea for unified licensing is good, but care must be taken to avoid Nigeria serving as a guinea pig, in terms of experimentation of the policy.
He is also worried that if not well handled, it could spell doom for the bourgeoning telecommunications industry in the country.

Educating stakeholders
NCC as the chief prosecuting officer and the likely agency to subsume the others, had since this proposal sounded the industry out since, yet addressing the fears associated with new things would always be there, as much caution must be applied optimally to ensure the hope people have on the commission.As it were, more education is required to be done among the industry players to make the methodology sink very well in the minds of those anticipated to be active players in the proposed new regime, even as they themselves should also endeavour to close the mile-gap by not being self-exonerated. This would in no little way assist stakeholders to come into terms with what convergence is all about.

SAT-3 is underutilised – OSIWA boss

Executive Director, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Mrs. Nana Tanko, has expressed dismay over the underutilization of the SAT-3 sub-marine cable.

Established on May 27, 2002 by the Senegalise president, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, SAT 3 is portrayed as the world’s first undersea optic fibre cable system around Africa onto Europe and Asia.

The SAT3/WASC/SAFE cable system is certainly a technology and commercial breakthrough of unparalleled significance for the continent. It is proposed to offer a faster, more efficient trading channel between the continent and international markets.

The executive director in an address to recent workshop on “Achieving Affordable Bandwidth in West and Central Africa” organized by her office in Senegal, noted that it is a fact that over $600 million has exchanged hands in terms of repatriation done annually to telcos outside the continent whereas these funds could be used to revive some basic connectivity issues in the regions.

She had invited participants at the three-day event to deliberate on one of the key issues and challenges of today’s information society – access and connectivity to the people on the continent.

“It is true that the SAT-3/WASC infrastructure is nearing its mid-life but is yet underutilized,” she said.

Stressing that the tele-density, which is the ratio of telephone per 100 persons on the continent is still far lower than in most states in the United States (US).

She pointed out that given that access to the internet and to information for instance, would ameliorate the poverty situation that most Africans are faced with, “it has not yet become real to most of our country men in the rural areas. How then do we ensure that poverty is aligned to lack of information?”

Mrs. Tanko who spoke at the event held in Le Palm Beach at Sally,
Senegal, further enjoined the workshop on “how do we ensure that increase in
knowledge will lead to a reduction in poverty? Is the mathematical correlation
feasible in today’s poverty stricken continent? How do we take these issues to
the man at the grassroots? and how does increased knowledge lead to transparent
and good governance?”

She recalled that at the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the issues of Internet Governance (IG) were raised with Africa again taking the sidelines in deliberations or not being considered at all in the final outcomes of the summit.

“We see ourselves and our governments increasingly involving in global politics that should be seen to be transparent and inclusive but the outcomes generally favor certain organizations, countries, cartels or groups,” she observed.

Such is the situation the continent is currently faced with, she said, noting that the workshop on “Achieving affordable Bandwidth” was a tall order by itself.

Mrs. Tanko also “wondered what is affordable, how is affordability
judged in relation to the poverty situation in the West African region and to
the continent as a whole.”

The OSIWA boss underscored that these issues are disturbing and the fact that there may be existing solutions to the questions of connectivity, access to information and the rights of access of an average citizen to information.“

At least not within the context of human thoughts especially considering the complex nature of technology and the weave that this has with country specific and global economics as a whole” she said.