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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aptness of .ng MoU heralds new beginning


Features of the week:

Recently National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) entered an agreement with the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) to herald a new beginning for the Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), name .ng, reports REMMY NWEKE.

Penultimate Wednesday at the conference room of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) located at Port Harcourt Crescent, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, history was made in the nation’s core IT sub-sector as the agency and the stakeholders’ led organisation, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the management of the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), .ng.

The endorsement of the MoU, have attracted commendations from stakeholders and the Internet community precisely, with most of them describing it as a positive chapter in the annals of Internet development in the country and heralds the formal handover of the management of the ccTLD after a long years of controversy that surrounded the evolution of dot ng.

Obasanjo’s legacy:

Noteworthy is that following the controversies that enveloped the hitherto management of the nation’s ccTLD among stakeholders, which saw the immediate past President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo showing interest in the development of Internet and particularly the ccTLD, hence he directed the federal government agency, NITDA to take over the administrative contact portfolio and come up with a structure that would involve all members of the Internet community in the country.

This was the outcome of the petition by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) led then by Dr. Chris Nwannenna, consequent upon the ‘forced’ redelegation from the pioneer Point of Contact (PoC), Mrs. Ibukun Odusote to the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), a non-governmental organisation by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, in addition to the interventions by the Nigerian IT Professionals in the Americas (NITPA) led by Prof. Manny Aniebonam.

However, this gave birth to stakeholders’ formation of NiRA, which was inaugurated last year under the leadership of Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, the chief executive of Amsco Telecom, while the board of trustees is led by Dr. Adeola Odeyemi.

Commenting on this development, NiRA President, Mr. Kalu described it as a good development and in furtherance of the steps to boost the stakeholders’ trust in NiRA as well as in accordance with the global Internet regulator, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) guidelines.

He also said that plans have been advanced to ensure the success of the signing ceremony in Abuja, becomes a regular progressive phase in the Internet community.

Champion Infotel recalls that for over 10 years, Nigeria recorded less than 600 registrations on the .ng after it was created in 1995 due to controversies.

First 1 million domains:

This came as NiRA recently said its targeting 1 million registrants in the nation’s ccTLD by 2009, even as NiRA currently has achieved over 3000 domain names registration since coming on board in the first quarter of last year, stressing that registration exercise, which is on-going is expected to attract 1 million before the next 24 months.

“Our hope is to move this figure to 1 million within the next 24 months,” he asserted, adding that before the birth of the current NiRA management team in May last year, the number of registered domain names in the country was less than a 1000.

He also said that NiRA was aware that several Nigerian domains exist but were hitherto registered mostly with the international domain names, stressing that NiRA, is a child of circumstance given birth to by the former administration of Chief Obasanjo.

NiRA, he pointed out also faces some challenges mostly in curtailing advances by some disgruntled Nigerians who tried to register phoney company domain names.

“But NiRA has put some measures in place to safeguard against such attempts. We have to verify every application before registering any name,” Mr. Kalu said.

Collaborating with EFCC:

He further said that the main function of NiRA is to administer the nation’s Top Level Domain (TLD) .ng, as seen in other countries, emphasizing that a domain is like an address that facilitates a location of a given name on the Internet.

Hence, it is an address to locate an organisation or individual online, just as he equally disclosed that NiRA is collaborating with the directorate of Cyber crime and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to teem down the rise of Internet fraud emanating from the Nigerian-based Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

He added that NiRA is in communication with the newly created directorate of Cybercrime, and EFCC to ensure reduction and involvement of Nigerians on Internet fraud.

“The collaboration, he said, has resulted in the introduction of due diligence initiative among the service providers,” Mr. Kalu said, emphasising that NiRA supports 100 per cent trial of any fraudulent process, maintaining that technically, there are room to trace fraudulent electronic mail scams and his association is not relenting.

NiRA in history:

NIRA was founded on March 23, 2005 as stakeholders-led organization, charged with the management of the nation’s Country Top Level Domain Name (ccTLD), dot ng, and brought to an end the long years of .ng controversy.

Hitherto the .ng was being managed by NITDA on behalf of the federal government, even as NIRA’s constitution was adopted by stakeholders, at a meeting held on March 28, 2006 at the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Centre, Onikan-Lagos.

Also, NiRA’s Board of Trustees (BoT) were selected among the stakeholders including, Dr. Odeyemi as chairman has the immediate past President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) Dr. Chris Nwannenna, President, Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Dr. (Mrs) Adenike Osofisan, Dr. Y. Z. Yau, Director, Information Technology (IT) unit, Ministry of Information, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, Mr. Olaleye Alao, Editor, Technology Times, Mr. Shina Badaru, Mr. Akinbo A.A., Prof. I.S. Diso and chairman, Linkserve Limited, Chief Chima Apugo Onyekwere, even as the domain registration is currently open to individuals and organizations for free.

Positive Reactions:

Reacting to the signing of MoU, the pioneer IT Youth Ambassador and Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Mr. Gbenga Sesan said that the endorsement signifies the importance of Internet business to stakeholders in the country, especially by the government, emphasizing that all the while the nation’s Internet community seems to be playing so to speak.

“But now we really mean business of .ng and the ultimate decision now is for Nigerians to embrace .ng and reclaim our position on the Internet,” he declared.

Mr. Sesan added that dot ng is as good as any other ccTLDs in the world and is expected to propel local contents on the Internet.

Also speaking, President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, told Champion Infotel that it’s most appropriate for NITDA to redelegate .ng to private organisation, which was the purpose of forming NiRA in the first place.

According to him, the process of redelegation is within the ambit of the law for the agency to redelegate that authority as stipulated in the NITDA Act, describing it as a step in the right direction.

Uptill now, he noted, a lot of Nigerians have been thrown into confusion due to the long time it took for the redelegation through the MoU to come to fruition.

“For a long time, people were not very sure who is incharge and since NIRA has been founded with some officials elected, its just appropriate for it to take over the management,” he pointed out.

As said by him, its only when NiRA takes full charge that the right information could be passed, maintaining that generally speaking, “its something that has to be done and by signing the MoU, they are doing what the law asked of them to do.”

Issues in motion:

Subsequent to the signing of the MoU, NiRA, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) set up to manage the ccTLD since June 23, 2005, has the mandate to replace the late Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Gabriel Olalere Ajayi.

Champion Infotel recalls that till date, late Prof. Ajayi is still the administrative referred to as POC for the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name, .ng, over three years after his demise.

Investigations by Champion Infotel revealed that late Prof. Ajayi’s name is conspicuous in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) database on .ng, which was created on March 15, 1995 and last updated on September 22, 2005, that is, about seven months after the decease of Prof. Ajayi on December 16, 2004 at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

The PoC is the individual or organisation supposedly in-charge of the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name, which in this case is .ng administration.

Affront:

Although NITDA remained the sponsoring organisation on behalf of the federal government and the technical contact person is still Mr. Randy Bush, a United States-based Internet expert, late Prof. Ajayi’s appearance on IANA database as the POC is an affront on the nation and specifically NITDA for the inability to appropriately communicate with the IANA, the administrative arm of the global Internet coordinating agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The initial excuse given was that a decision taken by some ‘stakeholders’ elites after the conclusion of the meeting on the formation of NiRA allowed for the change to be made once and for all, meaning pending the eventual endorsement and handover by NITDA.

This ‘stakeholders’ meeting was online and based on the instance of the IANA on June 2005; that is, instead of using the current NITDA Director-General, Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye to replace late Prof. Ajayi as PoC, the status-quo should remain, pending the registration of NiRA to take over.

Unfortunately, it took some good months for this to be achieved due to bureaucratic bottlenecks. Although NiRA has since first quarter of last year, 2007, be in possession of an issued certificate of incorporation of its trustees and dated February 9, 2007 by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Speaking after the signing of MoU, NiRA President, Mr. Kalu, assured that before the end of this quarter, the group would take full control of .ng management including the replacement of late Prof. Ajayi as POC and Mr. Randy Bush as the technical contact person.

For. Prof. Angaye, all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government have no excuse now to still be using inadequate TLD, adding that a memo to that effect would soon reach all the MDAs for actions and violators would be sanctioned accordingly.

Waiting for NITDA letter:

He also explained that as the outcome of the MoU endorsed with the Federal Government’s IT agency, NITDA is expected before this week runs out to detail a letter to the changes in the management of .ng to ICANN on behalf of government with a copy made available to NiRA, even as they too is expected to write ICANN based on government’s letter of authorisation, stating their readiness to take over the management of .ng as specified in the guidelines with global best practices.

ICANN, he said, would in turn forward these letters to its administrative wing, IANA, to set up a committee for the verification and when this is certified, “An agreement would be signed between NITDA cum NiRA and IANA.”

This process, Mr. Kalu noted, would take up to three months to accomplish and to give time for due process to be followed.

Personalised POC bane of .ng crisis:

He decried the use of individual names in registration of a national project like .ng, describing personalisation of the ccTLD as its major and basic challenge since inception.

He pointed out that with the MoU endorsed, lots of things would change, such as POC would be changed and technical contact to either the President of NiRA or administration department of NiRA, while the technical department of the association would take over the position of the technical contact respectively.

“Either the President or admin department of NiRA and technical department will be used this time and not a name,” he said.

Mr. Kalu further explained that President’s of NiRA would always come and go and there must be somebody in that position or even the administrative department would at all times be there despite who is occupying the position.

This, he said, is what is obtainable in other countries of the world and not personalisation of issues and administration of the .ng as reflected in the current database, stressing that the present steps will boost the penetration of .ng among Nigerians both at home and abroad even as he urged the Internet community to embrace the .ng.

Also, sources close to IANA informed that changing the details on PoC for .ng, for instance, is not a difficult task once the Internet community in Nigeria agreed to a specific name.

According to IANA’s procedures concerning ccTLD database information in order to effect a change on ccTLD managers, a request must be made to IANA which is responsible for receiving and acting on requests by the designated ccTLD managers to change contact information about the ccTLD’s designated sponsoring organization, administrative contact, and technical contact.

This request, IANA said, should be made by filling-out the root-zone modification template and sending it to root-mgmt@iana.org.

Conclusion:

The responsibility now rests on the members of the Internet community in the country to tap into this development by ensuring that from banks to government institutions and other private sector entities, down to individuals should ensure that they relocate or rename their domain names to include .ng.

The ball, no doubt, is now in the public domain, after all, domain name registration in the country is still free-of-charge. So, be on the queue now.

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NATCOMS backs GSMA on free AMOPHT

National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has insisted on free Anti-Mobile Phone Theft (AMOPHT) services in the country, appealing to the industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and telecommunications operators not to ignore its plea.

This is coming as the global umbrella body of the mobile telecommunications and Third Generation (3G) operators, the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA), reiterated its position on the services being free, even as it equally disagreed with NCC over the management of the International Mobile Equipment Identify DataBase (IMEI-DB) in the country.

NATCOMS also threatened to drag NCC and operators to the law court, if eventually all entreaties fail on deaf hears, just as the group plans to take its case to the Presidency and National Assembly.

Sounding this New Year warning, NATCOMS national president, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said that the onus is on both NCC and telecoms operators to provide free anti-mobile phone theft service to the nation’s teeming subscribers as it is free in any other part of the world where such initiative exists.

“NATCOMS plead with NCC and telecomms operators to provide free anti-mobile phone theft service to subscribers as it is free everywhere in the world and in line with international best practices,” he asserted.

According to NATCOMS all the telecoms operating companies including MTN, Celtel, Glo, MTel, Starcomms, MultiLinks to name a few should join forces in providing free anti-mobile phone theft services to subscribers.

Chief Ogunbanjo recalled that NATCOMS had commenced an Anti-Mobile Phone Theft Initiative tagged Anti-MOPHTI project since December 2005 at the monthly edition of NCC-organised Telecomms Consumer Parliament.

“Everyone present then agreed that something should be done to stop the criminal menace,” he asserted, adding that as a follow up, NATCOMS wrote an Anti-MOPHTI proposal through the Presidency to NCC as at March 20, 2006, which was acknowledged by April 19 of the same year.

NCC, he pointed out went on to invite NATCOMS for a meeting on the details of Anti-MOPHTI alongside the representatives of Newstream Technologies Limited.

As said by him, during the month of August 2006, at NCC organised consultation on a national scheme to curtail theft of mobile handset, the group reiterated its position with a detailed presentation and submitted an updated proposal on Anti-MOPHTI, emphasizing that the service must be free.

Fee-paying service, he said, is not acceptable to subscribers as it is against the norm and with international best practices, hence, NATCOMS insisted that NCC and the telcos in the country must understand that Nigeria is a leading player in the telecommunications world.

“We should always do things according to and in line international best practices, which in this case must be free of any charges to Nigerian subscribers as supported by the GSM Association – International,” he said.

He enjoined NCC to stop forthwith any motive for telcos to charge subscribers for this service, even as he said that telcos should show some pity, concern and care for subscribers on their networks by ensuring that they make the Anti-MOPHT free of any charges.

NATCOMS further warned that any attempt by telcos based in the country to charge fees, would amount to a total rip-off on subscribers and unpardonable before the populace.

“Telcos should for God’s sake make the anti-mobile theft service free to every Nigerian subscriber and work in concert with NCC to stop this assault that is about to happen on the subscribers,” he decried.

Stressing that NATCOMS plans to drag NCC and telcos before the presidency and the National Assembly, if they ignore this appeal.

“If Mr. President and the National Assembly also ignore Nigerian Subscribers, which we doubt, NATCOMS will go to court,” he warned.

However, responding to enquiry recently, Director, Fraud and Security at GSMA, Mr. James Moran, told Champion Infotel that GSMA discourages operators from developing their own national databases for a number of reasons, which is what is happening in the case of Nigeria.

He noted that though GSMA welcomes any initiatives that are designed to combat handset theft and is willing to work with the operators in any country to ensure the most effective and cost efficient solution is put in place, it does not believe it makes sense for operators to set up their own applications as one already exists that is free-of-charge.

“We do not believe it makes sense for operators to set up their own application as one already exists that is free to use and is capable of hosting any national or regional database requirements they may have. GSMA’s overriding objective is to help support operators to establish solutions that operate at maximum efficiency and minimum cost,” he said.

Mr. Moran noted that the IMEI Database (IMEIDB) provides the best facility to allow the Nigerian operators to exchange stolen handset data, emphasising that IMEIDB provides operators with the functionality they required because it was designed specifically by operators for operators.

This, he pointed out would avoid duplication of efforts at local or national levels in terms of building up database that would meet up with the standards of GSMA

“Avoids duplication of effort that the development of a local database involves by preserving the concept of a global database of stolen phones and avoids fragmentation as well as saves the Nigerian industry the significant costs associated with developing and maintaining a duplicate database,” he told our correspondent.

Mr. Moran explained that by deploying GSMA-based IMEIDB, operators in the country would ensure that handsets stolen in Nigeria are also excluded on the networks of other operators connected to IMEIDB.

“This ensures more effective barring than would be the case if the data were simply shared on a Nigerian database only,” he said.

Many operators around the world, he said, have already implemented initiatives to combat handsets theft that revolve around the IMEI database and having worked with those operators GSMA would also like to offer the same assistance and support to the Nigerian operators should they require it.

He agreed that local initiative against the global standard in combating mobile phone theft, invariably would not be helpful to telecom subscribers in the country.

Reassuring, “We’re of the firm view that it makes no sense for the Nigerian operator community to set up a national database as our IMEIDB is available to them free of charge and it is capable of hosting any national or regional database requirements they may have.

GSMA, he submitted, strongly encourages use of the IMEI DB and welcomes all of its members to connect to the system.

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NiRA relaxes guidelines on Diaspora registrants

President, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, has said that the group would relax the aspect of the policy guidelines that stipulated that domain registrants must be resident in the country.

Disclosing this in an exclusive chat with Champion Infotel in Lagos, Mr. Kalu said this decision was taken by the group to avail Nigerians in Diaspora the opportunity to adequately tap into the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

According to him, Nigerians in Diaspora have domains running into millions and by insisting that they must reside in the country to be able to incorporate .ng in their domain names is practically asking them to stay away.

He pointed out that NiRA has concluded strategies to contain Nigerians in Diaspora as far as ownership of domain names are concerned.

Mr. Kalu underscored the fact that domain names are not owned by individuals but are licensed for use.

In a related development, NiRA has released the first batch of policies to guide its operations, thereby inviting comments on the proposed 13-policy documents to usher in its mandate.

Champion Infotel recalls that NiRA and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), an agency for the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), fortnight ago signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the official handover of the management of the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

Mr. Kalu explained that the group is seeking comments on the 13-policy documents to facilitate the formal commencement of activities after the MoU signing was completed.

He added that the first sets of policies are domain related which are 11 in number, including, policy development process, domain name policy, special domain name policy, fees policy, privacy policy and dispute resolution policy.

Others, he said, are policies on general registration rules, Registrant Agreement, registrar agreement, registrar accreditation process and glossary as contained in the policy documents.

Additionally, he said that there exist two policy documents explicitly structured to ensure good corporate governance in management of NiRA.

Meanwhile, Google, a global free-to-serve Internet Service Provider (ISP), has disagreed with the European Union (EU) view over the status of ownership concerning Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

Whereas EU official was reported as raising the prospect that IP addresses could be counted as personal data, the Internet firm, Google is thinking the opposite, maintaining that it’s not a personal data.

Speaking at a hearing examining Google’s planned acquisition of DoubleClick, Peter Schaar, the German data protection commissioner and chairman of the Europe-wide privacy group, the Article 29 Committee, said that if a person could be identified by an IP address, then that address is private, reports Paul Meller of International Data Group (IDG) news service.

Also the report has it that the rule has been in existence in most countries in the EU for more than 10 years.

However, it is hard to set a clear-cut rule because some ISPs gave out fresh IP addresses to subscribers each time they go online and people also buy time online at Internet cafes.

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Stakeholders meet on ICT4D draft

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) stakeholders recently gathered in Lagos to brainstorm on the nation’s ICT for Development (ICT4D) draft plan at a workshop organised by the National IT Development Agency (NITDA) with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

NITDA sources said that with the end of the workshop, the agency is now ready to see to its implementation to align the sector with the nation’s 2020 economic target of being among the 20 world leading economies.

In his message to the occasion, Director-General, NITDA, Prof. Cleopas Angaye represented by Director, Technical Services, Dr. Moses Ubaru, said that the workshop has become imperative to ensure that Nigeria achieved the set goals.

“It is important to note that the direct relevance and usefulness of the Nigeria ICT4D plan in achieving the present administration Seven-Point agenda and positioning Nigeria amongst the 20 leading economies by year 2020,” he said.

He pointed out that the final document, which forms the outcome of the workshop would soon be presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval.

He noted that in sub-Sahara Africa, only South Africa has made substantial progress in leapfrogging its economy through ICT with heavy investment made in the last 10 years to build robust ICT infrastructure and developed sufficient human capacity to manage same.

Equally, he said that in the last decade, based on World Bank sources, Philippines, Malaysia, Brazil, Vietnam and Eastern European nations including Hungary and Poland have made remarkable progress to join India and China in becoming part of the new economic order.

“We’re all aware that ICTs have been identified as major tools in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other development agenda. The idea behind the Nigeria ICT4D plan is to set out a time-sensitive action plan with realistic targets and benchmarks for the sectoral applications of ICT for national development, which includes actions and programmes that cover various sectors of our National economy for short, medium and long term implementation by relevant stakeholders,” Prof. Angaye said.

For the President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, it’s exciting to note that ICT enthusiasts trooped out to be part of this making of a revolution.

“We must realise that full integration of ICT in achieving our development goals is crucial to getting anywhere near India or any of the newly emerging economies. I am glad that a meeting of this nature is holding to get everyone involved in drawing our common destiny,” he said.

Mr. Ajayi, who also is the chief executive, PiNet Informatics Limited, added that as the case in India and other countries with well defined ICT direction, the nation’s ICT4D is expected to enable government pay more focused attention on effective policy direction for the country’s IT industry, development of appropriate IT infrastructure, development of appropriate guidelines and standards as well as ICT curricula for the educational sector.

In addition, he said that capacity building for a globally competitive workforce would receive a boost when the ICT4D finally takes off as well as enhanced healthcare delivery, and effective law enforcement and judicial system.

Others are development of agricultural sector to enhance food security, and creation of the necessary enabling environment for the full integration of IT in the country’s national environment.

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HP renews Integrity Systems

Hewlett Packard (HP) has renewed its Integrity server line-up of products with the latest processor technology and software to enhance customers’ efficiency.

Enterprise Server and Storage Manager for HP West Africa, Mr. Chuks Okpaka, informed this at a customer forum in Lagos.

He also said that the renewed product would help customers reduce costs through enhanced automation and improved energy efficiency.

“Enterprise customers with the most demanding computing environments can now reap advantages from new system software innovations in power and remote management across HP Integrity and Integrity NonStop server systems running HP-UX 11i, Microsoft Windows Server, Linux OpenVMS and NonStop Kernel,” he said.

Mr. Okpaka equally said that the Integrity systems family of servers and server blades are now powered by the latest Intel Itanium processor 9100 series, code named ‘Montvale.’

He explained that with these enhancements, NonStop systems could function as the heart of a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) in the data centre, adding that SOA is an approach for managing computing environments that uses loosely coupled, reusable and standards-based services to address changing business needs.

“Customers can use an SOA implementation with Integrity NonStop alongside mainframes and banks of Linux machines so IT can act as a service to the business,” he said.

According to him, HP Integrity NonStop servers with Montvale processors also offer up to a 20 per cent price and increase performance over previous generations of the systems.

so commenting on the latest product, the vice president of marketing, Business Critical Systems, HP, Michelle Weiss, said the company is committed to providing enterprise customers with the most advanced, reliable and energy-efficient systems.

“By leveraging the latest in processor technology and ongoing enhancements and innovation in our software, HP provides customers with the balanced performance they need to achieve better business outcomes in real-world environments while still reducing costs,” he said.

HP Integrity revenue grew 71 per cent year over year in HP’s third fiscal quarter of 2007.

Currently, more than 13,000 software applications from independent software developers run on the HP Integrity platform.

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Agusto rides high on APC-MGE UPS

Leading business information and credit rating agency, Agusto & Co, has attributed the increase in its service delivery to the implementation of an APC-MGE Smart 5KVA uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

The Smart-UPS unit was installed as a central UPS to safeguard the organisation’s IT networks.

Head, Information Technology, Mr. Joel Bamidele informed that downtime is now unthinkable in the country, although like any other IT department serving a busy enterprise, the data centre is not problem-free.

This he alluded to the fact that the regular power challenges in this part of the world.

“Our power supply was out for longer than necessary and the Smart-UPS’ batteries were completely drained but fortunately none of our equipment was damaged,” he disclosed.

Mr. Bamidele added that ordinarily, if the UPS had not been up and running, this incident would probably had caused immeasurable damage to the company.

Commenting on the development, regional director for Africa at APC-MGE, Mr. Carl Kleynhans, said that a power protection strategy is of particular importance in a country like Nigeria where power problems are common and companies require specific power protection features to help ensure uninterrupted network availability.

“APC-MGE’s solutions provide unmatched uptime and peace of mind in a region where the quality of electricity is never guaranteed,” he said.

Mr. Kleynhans explained that the Smart-UPS unit protects critical data by supplying reliable, network-grade power in either traditional tower or rack-optimised form factors.

“It is the ideal UPS for protecting business-critical servers, voice and data networks, point of sale, retail bank back-office and Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s).

As said by him, this level of UPS unit has been designed for fileservers based on Intel- or UNIX mini-computers, Central Processing Union (CPU), Internet hubs, network switches, telecommunications systems and other mission -critical applications,” he said.

The unit, he added, offers hardware protection with multi-stage surge suppression, sine wave output on battery and line interactive design.

He enlightened that with the included PowerChute plus software, the UPS will store data safely and shut down network operating systems before battery is discharged.

“The APC-MGE Smart-UPS remains the industry standard for all network UPSes,” Kleynhans noted.

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NITEL transformation on course

Owners of Nigeria Telecommunications Plc (NITEL) and its mobile arm, Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTel), Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (TRANSCORP), has affirmed that the transformation programme is on course.

Champion Infotel recalled that Transcorp began transformation of the telco six months ago.

Speaking on development in Lagos, Group Managing Director, Transcorp, Mr. Tom Iseghohi, said that contrary to insinuations, Transcorp is making progress in working with other stakeholders to restore NITEL and MTel to enviable positions.

“We’re following a rigorous but disciplined process in working with the management of NITEL and MTel as well as other stakeholders to ensure that these organisations return to efficiency and profitability. In doing this, we must avoid the mistakes of the past,” he said.

Mr. Iseghohi also said that whatever decisions taken will be in the overall interest of the resuscitation of NITEL and Mtel.

On the revocation of the sale of NITEL, he said that such calls are mischievous.

“Such calls are not only mischievous but illogical. Those making such calls are the beneficiaries of the misfortune of NITEL, the perpetrators or their agents,” he alleged.

He equally said, that the alleged plan to retrench workers is not in the agenda of the organisation for now.

He emphasised that if staff will be laid off, “such exercise will follow a process that will include consultations with stakeholders, the unions and employees.”

Stressing the gains of the on-going transformation, Mr. Iseghohi noted that the relaunch of MTel in Abuja has tremendously improved the quality of the network as one of the tangible achievements, adding that resuscitation of NITEL backbone has been 75 per cent successful.

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Glo win & rule lifts Francis out of poverty

The multimillion Naira promo being organised by the Second National Operator (SNO) Globacom, known as win and rule, has given a school dropout, Mr. Matthew Francis, a boost in life as he smiled home with 2007 brand new BMW 318i.

Mr. Francis who emerged as one of the first 10 winners of the promo which began last December, with the promise of dishing out five hundred luxury cars to winners over a six month period, said the prize was unbelievably factual.

“It is too good to be true” Francis declared, noting that he had dropped out of school in 1994, and described his fortune as the “handiwork of God.”

According to him, he dropped out of university in 1994, at 200 levels, when he could no longer afford his school fees.

The applied chemistry student had left to pick a job hoping to save enough to return to his studies. But he had not been able to realise his dream since then before he got a surprise call from a Globacom official intimating him that his number had emerged in the first batch of the draw held in Lagos.

After confirming the news on television, that evening, Francis explained that he has moved from indigence to join the league of the wealthy, saying that his prize is the sign of great day ahead.

Champion Infotel recalled that at the draw held at the Mike Adenuga Towers (MAT) in Victoria Island, one subscriber also won a Mercedes Benz S-350 saloon car as the star prize, another was picked for a BMW 318i, one winner was drawn for a Nissan Sunny saloon car, while three winners are to receive Peugeot 307. Four other subscribers equally emerged winners of Kia Rio saloon cars.

The winners who responded to calls from the venue of the draw were from Gombe, Port Harcourt, Osogbo, Lagos, and Onitsha.

Mrs. Sidikat Oladapo Ola from Mushin, Lagos and Mrs Akintunde from Oshogbo won two of the Kia Rio cars, whereas Mrs. Adeola Ademola, a business woman, who earlier would not disclose her identity when called by officials, until she watched the event on television, was the winner of the Mercedes Benz S350.

Mr. Bamidele from Oshogbo and Mr. Fatai from Kano emerged winners of Peugeot 307 cars.

The draws were conducted by eminent Nigerians including the Ex deputy Governor of Ogun, Alhaji Gbenga Kaka; President of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, Chief Silva Emeokpere and Executive Director, Afribank, Mr. Isa Zailani.

The process was endorsed by a renowned Chattered Accounting firm, Akintola Williams Deloitte.

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Unavailable emergency numbers worry NCC

Worried by the unavailability of emergency numbering system in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) at the weekend, assembled telecommunications operators in the country to a one-day session to deliberate on this matter and chart a way forward.

The meeting was also attended by stakeholders in emergency-related entities, like the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and a consultant as well as all the key three Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators in the country.

Speaking at the session, Executive Commissioner, NCC, Mr. Stephen Bello, said that the commission is very concerned hence its championing the meeting and added that various meetings have been scheduled with different categories of stakeholders to enable adequate inputs from the generality of the nation’s interest parties.

He equally used the platform to reveal that plans have been up to ensure the introduction of the national emergency numbers in the country before the end of June this year.

“We want to see how we could start commissioning by June,” he declared.

Also, Mr. Bello said that NCC is contemplating of introducing some emergency numbers, namely 999, 111, 123 and 555.

He added that operators would be required to connect the eventual chosen numbers together in a way that if emergency number in Lagos is engaged and the relevant base station is down, the one at the neighbouring state like Ogun, could automatically be used to contact security and emergency agencies to the spot.

He further said that every base station to be used for the emergency numbering, would be configured in a way to recognise emergency calls and make room for such calls in any base station no matter how busy at all times.

Besides, he said, that plans are underway for the establishment of emergency centres at the six-geographical zones of the country as well as in the states.

He also revealed that the on-going consultation by NCC is in collaboration with NEMA and is expected to come in phases, across four levels including interaction with telecom equipment vendors, operators, response agencies and governors.

This, he said, is in addition to a generic stakeholders’ meeting on emergency numbering before the commissioning could take place.

NCC, he said, has created a special unit at its Abuja office to give the required attention to the issues at stake.

“There would be a public forum on it and this is just the beginning,” he said.

The consultation, he further disclosed is anticipating that operators would work toward having emergency numbers that could be accessed through the possibilities of Short Messaging Service (SMS) and voice calls.

Explaining further, Mr. Bello said that a project is on to compile the list of all the security and emergency agencies in the country, including their geographic locations and numbers.

He stressed that ambulance organisations, both at the public and private sectors would not be left out in the compilation to make it handy for Nigerians to know who to contact at a given location that is nearest to emergency incidents nationwide.

Also speaking at the occasion, Deputy Director, Communications at NEMA, Mr. Daniel Balarabe Gambo, Deputy Director, Communications, said that NEMA has identified primary responders to emergencies to include the Federal Road Safety Corps, Fire Service, Police, pointing out that NEMA is a coordinating body as far as emergency situation is concerned in the country, noting that at every emergency, its usually the ordinary citizens that are the first to know, hence they are focusing on schools to enable the inculcation of this important aspect of the society in school children, especially for them to know what to do at such times.

He emphasised that NEMA is working on a legislation to discourage false emergency calls, even as there would be penalty for culprits to serve as deterrent.

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Operators express dismay over incessant summons

Telecommunications operators in the country and precisely those of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), may be groaning under the pains of constant invitation to attend a meeting by the National Assembly.

Champion Infotel recalls that between the last quarter and date, there is no fortnight operators were not summoned to Abuja with members of the National Assembly in the name of trying to find a solution to the lingering poor quality of service in the land.

Sources close to the operators, indicated that they maybe planning for formal protest to President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, over the effect of the somewhat weekly summons, which they said have become irritating.

According to our sources, the operators expressed dismay over the insistence by the national assembly that their chief executives must lead the team each time such a meeting is called.

“What we asked is an enabling environment to do our business. Our business is not conducted at the National Assembly, and we need to deploy our executive time to our businesses,” one of the operators fumed after the public hearing on Monday, at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Our sources further said that they would force its umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), to forward a protest to the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly over the situation.

It was gathered that the operators were not excited over the frequency of the meetings, which they said have resulted to duplication of the industry supervision by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and wondered why the operators would continue to respond to NCC summons and the National Assembly summons at the same time.

“We have the telecommunications laws and regulations that guide our operations in this country, and we have not defaulted in any one of them, and if we did, we expect the NCC to give sanctions as provided by law and not the National Assembly,” our source declared.

In yet another dramatic session, the operators lamented the inability of telcos to make their presentation on mere grouse that their chief executive was not in attendance.

It was equally gathered that following the failure of Celtel to make its presentation owing to its chief executive, Mr. Bayo Ligal’s absent, a threat was issued by the chairman of the joint committee, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu, for future absentees.

One of the GSM operators informed that the private operators are not government agencies or parastatals that should be summoned to the National Assembly at all times because as private telecoms providers, they have no business going to the National Assembly on weekly basis.

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Best practices take Zain operatives to Bahrian

Twenty-two senior management representatives made up of regulatory departments across 15 African and 7 Middle East countries, from Zain Group, the parent company of Celtel International, at the weekend, concluded a four-day workshop in Bahrain ‘s Elite Resort and Spa to share industry best practices.

Sources at Celtel Nigeria, a member of Zain, informed that the workshop, was a platform for the group’s regulatory teams to share experiences and learning from the very disparate regulatory environments in Africa and the Middle East.

Zain is the owner of Celtel International, which has operations in Nigeria, Niger , Kenya , Burkina Faso , Chad , Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Malawi, Zambia , Uganda , Tanzania , Madagascar , Sierra Leone and Gabon.

The Group Chief Regulatory Officer for Zain, Mr. Mohammed Shabib said that participants examined regulation at different regulatory environments within which the company operates very seriously.

According to him, nearly all of the telco’s 22 operations in Africa and the Middle East have to operate in regulatory environments that are at varying levels of maturity and development, including Bahrain where the regulator is well established and fully functional.

He pointed out that in other countries, regulation is sometimes still in the development or early implementation stage through sharing of experiences and skills across it operations, “We will raise the standards of our own teams that will be of direct benefit and make a positive contribution to the regulatory environments in each country.”

He further added that the workshop and associated discussions were timed to help set Zain’s regulatory goals for 2008 in line with the group’s strategic initiatives and plans to be a top 10 global mobile company by 2011.

He added that the four-day event covered a wide range of regulatory subjects such as interconnection regimes, the arrangements for one operator to allow calls from one network to another, regulatory governance developments and technological innovations that have a direct impact on regulatory affairs and practices.

In Africa, Zain currently operates under the Celtel brand in 14 sub-Saharan countries (soon 15 with the recent acquisition of Westel in Ghana). Celtel is the most successful pan-African mobile network, offering telecommunications services to more people in Africa than any other network.



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NiRA seeks comments on 13-policy documents

In line with its board of trustees’ stand on industry engagement, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA) has finally released the first set of policies to guide its operations, thus inviting comments on the proposed 13-policy documents that would ensure a successful take off of the group’s mandate.

Champion Infotel recalls that NiRA and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), an agency for the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), fortnight ago signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the official handover of the management of the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

Disclosing this at the weekend, NiRA President, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu said that the group is calling for comments on the 13-policy documents to facilitate the formal commencement of activities after the MoU signing was accomplished.

“These policies are finally out for comments, debates and inputs,” he declared, adding that the first sets of policies are domain related which are 11 in number, including, Policy Development Process, Domain Name Policy, Special Domain Name Policy, Fees policy, Privacy Policy and Dispute Resolution Policy.

Others, he said, are policies on general registration rules, Registrant Agreement, Registrar Agreement, Registrar Accreditation Process and Glossary as contained in the policy documents.

Apart from the aforementioned 11-policy documents, Mr. Kalu said that there would be two policy documents specifically mapped out to ensure good corporate governance in management of affairs of NiRA.

This, he said, is to ensure that NiRA procedures are aligned with international best practices.

According to him, the invitation for comments would be open for three weeks so as to enable citizens time to evaluate these policy documents and make necessary inputs that will move the nation forward in terms of intensifying the domain name registration and its relevance to national development at this era by Nigerians both at home and abroad.

He further explained that due to peculiar needs some policies would have immediate effect so as to avoid a vacuum.

“This exercise is part of efforts of the MoU that was recently signed to domesticate the domain name implementation system,” he explained.

Mr. Kalu also stressed that the call for comments avails NiRA the opportunity to carry every member of the nation’s Internet community along, noting that the 13-policy documents have received the approval of the board in this regard.

NiRA, he added, has planned to harmonise the comments within one week after the deadline for comments, which is expected to close before February 29.

Stakeholders, he said, would have the chance of debating and making inputs on their choice of interest either in one or all of the policy documents under review.

Mr. Kalu further said that NiRA has finalised plans to accommodate Nigerians in Diaspora as far as ownership of domain names are concerned, emphasising that domains are not owned by individuals but are licensed for use.

Comments, he said, could be made through www.nira.org.ng and the yahoo IT professional discussion group on ngccTLD.

Also contributions could be sent by hard copy to NiRA office or via email policy@nira.org.ng

NIRA was founded on March 23, 2005 as stakeholders-led organization, charged with the management of the nation’s Country Top Level Domain Name (ccTLD), dot ng.

NIRA’s formation brought to an end the long years of .ng controversy in the country, following the intervention of the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Hitherto the .ng was being managed by NITDA on behalf of the federal government, even as NIRA’s constitution was adopted by stakeholders, at a meeting held on March 28, 2006 at the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Centre, Onikan-Lagos.

NiRA’s Board of Trustees (BoT) was elected among the stakeholders with Dr. A. Odeyemi as chairman shortly after the adoption of the constitution.

And by May 1, 2007, the first executive board of NIRA was elected with Mr. Ndukwe Kalu leading a 10-man board.

This move signals, according to industry analysts, is a true beginning for the local administration of the .ng domain in the country.

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Chams takes subsidiaries to capital market

Leading indigenous Information Technology (IT) firm specialising in plastic card technologies and electronic payment solutions, Chams Nigeria Limited, has advanced plans to list its subsidiaries in the stock market in 2009.

Managing Director, Chams, Mr. Demola Aladekomo, who disclosed this at the weekend, said that it’s in line with the aspiration of the company to make the firm an enlarged player in the nation’s economy in the coming years.

Chams group has as its subsidiaries four firms, namely Chams Nigeria Limited, Card Centre Nigeria Limited, Paymaster Limited and Supercard Nigeria Limited.

He explained that Card Centre is provider of plastic cards and currently has the largest card production facility on the continent, while Paymaster positions itself as the foremost provider of Point-of-Sales (POS) systems using multi-brand platforms to deliver unique solutions and providing management support. Supercard, on the other hand, manages identification systems for all categories of clients and sectors in the economy.

Mr. Aladekomo equally pointed out that Chams is pursuing a capitalisation programme, which is still at the private placement phase, and has concluded plans to be listed in the Nigerian Stock Exchange by the third quarter of this year.

Apart from the proposed listing on the exchange, Mr. Aladekomo said the firm would establish two new subsidiaries before the end of 2008 as a further step towards positioning Chams to offer other services in the electronic payment industry.

He explained that the growing status of Chams as IT solution provider made it possible for the firm to be recently recognised with the International Standards Organisation 9001:2000 certification by the Standards Organisation of Nigerian.

Champion Infotel recalls that Chams received the certification this January, a development that got stakeholders endorsement.

Mr. Aladekomo further said the decision to pursue the certification was done as step towards positioning Chams to become a firm that is “extremely influential and highly visible in global technology and whose trusted cutting edge technology will enhance the quality of life in a manner that glorifies God.”

He added, “Our quality policy states that Chams is resolutely committed to delivering excellent information technology solutions that are consistently safe in line with our quality management system, ISO 9001:2000; thus enhancing the quality of life. Management ensures compliance to industry, regulatory and statutory requirements and communicates same to all stakeholders.”

He added that the company’s policy had become very imperative to all it stakeholders in view of the big goals that it had set to achieve, noting that the certification was achieved based on that

He expressed confidence that this certification would open lots of doors for his firm toward becoming an emerging institution that all stakeholders will be proud of.

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Google disagrees with EU over IP

Google, a global free-to-serve Internet Service Provider (ISP), has disagreed with the European Union view over the status of ownership concerning Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

While EU official has raised the prospect that IP addresses could be counted as personal data, the Internet firm, Google is thinking differently, insisting that it’s not a personal data.

Speaking at a hearing examining Google’s planned acquisition of DoubleClick, Peter Schaar, the German data protection commissioner and chairman of the Europe-wide privacy group, the Article 29 Committee, said that if a person could be identified by an IP address, then that address is private, reports Paul Meller of International Data Group (IDG) news service.

Also the report has it that the rule has been in existence in most countries in the EU for more than 10 years.

However, it is hard to set a clear-cut rule because some ISPs gave out fresh IP addresses to subscribers each time they go online and people also buy time online at Internet cafes.

The Article 29 Committee has been examining the question of IP addresses as part of its analysis of how search engines respect European data protection rules and its expected to reach some conclusions by mid-June, according to an official working for the committee who asked not to be named.

The committee cannot fine transgressors of EU data protection rules, nor can it propose legislation, but it can prompt the European Commission to do so.

Internet search companies, including Google, argue that an IP address merely locates a computer rather than identifying who is sitting at that computer. Treating IP addresses as personal information would have implications for how search engines record and use people’s data.

If the committee persuaded lawmakers to toughen IP address protection in Europe “that would definitely change things [for search engines],” said John Steinback, a spokesman on policy matters for Google.

From Google’s perspective, whether an IP address is personal depends on the context, Steinback said.

An ISP can link an IP address to a subscriber, but a website visited by the person using a specific IP address cannot link the address to a person, he explained.

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APC offers protection for desktops

Global leader in integrated critical power and cooling services, APC-MGE is offering high-performance protection for multiple business-based desktop computers.

Vice President, Home and Distributed Systems at APC-MGE, Mr. Joe Loberti, disclosed that this special package has been streamlined for APC Back-UPS RS 650VA and1100VA.

These new units, he also said, offer four power outlets in proven product design, with 390 or 660 watt of power, extensive runtime and Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) technology.

APC-MGE, he said, has continued to make great strides in the advancement of it’s back Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) family to meet the developing needs of power customers.

“Today’s business desktops are highly configured with several peripherals and higher power and runtime requirements. Users are looking for cost-effective, reliable solutions for protecting their hardware and more importantly their data on their desktops,” he said.

Mr. Jeo explained that back-UPS RS 650 and 1100 offer high performance protection for home and business computer systems, adding that these new units provide abundant battery backup power, which allow users to work through medium and extended power outages with runtimes of up to 46 minutes (BR650CI) and 84minutes (BR1100CI), depending on the units’ load.

He emphasised that the units’ AVR feature enables users to work through just about any power condition by supplying safe, consistent power to the computer in case of over-voltage or brownout conditions, without running on battery.

“With four outlets, three with battery backup and surge and one with surge protection only, the Back-UPS RS also safeguards equipment from damaging surges and spikes that travel along utility and phone lines,” he informed.

Pointing out that APC’s new Back-UPS RS 650 and 1100 units are currently available through all distribution channels including retail, catalogues, resellers and online.

Champion Infotel recalls that on February 2007, APC and MGE UPS Systems combined to form a $3 billion critical power and cooling services business unit of Schneider Electric.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

NiRA replaces late Ajayi, 3yrs after

Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last weekend at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NiRA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) set up to manage the ccTLD since June 23, 2005, has been mandated to replace the late professor as the nation’s Point-of-Contact (POC).

Champion Infotel recalls that till date, the late Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Gabriel Olalere Ajayi, is still the administrative referred to as POC for the nation’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name, .ng, over three years after his death.

Investigations by Champion Infotel revealed that late Prof. Ajayi’s name is conspicuous in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) database on .ng, which was created on March 15, 1995 and last updated on September 22, 2005, that is, about seven months after the demise of the late DG on December 16, 2004 at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

The PoC is the individual or organisation supposedly in charge of the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) name .ng administration.

Although NITDA remained the sponsoring organisation on behalf of the federal government and the technical contact person is still Mr. Randy Bush, a United States-based Internet expert, late Prof. Ajayi’s appearance on the IANA database as the POC is an affront on the nation and specifically NITDA for the inability to appropriately communicate with the IANA, the administrative arm of the global Internet coordinating agency, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The initial excuse given as gathered by our correspondent was that a decision taken by some ‘stakeholders’ after the conclusion of the meeting on the formation of NiRA allowed for the change to be made once and for all.

Particularly, this ‘stakeholders’ meeting was online and based on the instance of the IANA on June 2005; meaning that instead of using the current NITDA Director-General, Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye to replace late Prof. Ajayi as PoC, the status-quo should remain, pending the registration of NiRA to take over.

Unfortunately, it took some good months for this to be achieved due to bureaucratic bottlenecks as observed by some stakeholders.

Noteworthy is that NiRA has since first quarter of last year, 2007, be in possession of an issued certificate of incorporation of its trustees and dated February 9, 2007 by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Speaking to Champion Infotel exclusively on the MoU, NiRA President, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, assured that before the end of this quarter, NiRA would take full control of .ng management including the replacement of late Prof. Ajayi as POC and Mr. Randy Bush as the technical contact person.

He explained that as outcome of the MoU endorsed with the Federal Government’s IT agency, NITDA is expected before this week runs out to detail a letter to the changes in the management of .ng to ICANN on behalf of government with a copy made available to NiRA.

According to him, NiRA is expected too to write ICANN based on government’s letter of authorisation, stating its readiness for the take over and management of .ng as specified in the guidelines with global best practices.

ICANN, he said, would in turn forward these letters to its administrative wing, IANA, to set up a committee for the verification and when this is certified, “An agreement would be signed between NITDA cum NiRA and IANA.”

This process, Mr. Kalu noted, would take up to three months to accomplish and to give time for due process to be followed.

He decried the use of individual names in registration of a national project like .ng, describing personalisation of the ccTLD as its major and basic challenge since inception.

He pointed out that with the MoU endorsed, lots of things would change, such as POC would be changed and technical contact to either the President of NiRA or administration department of NiRA, while the technical department of the association would take over the position of the technical contact respectively.

“Either the President or admin department of NiRA and technical department will be used this time and not a name,” he said.

Mr. Kalu further explained that President’s of NiRA could always come and go and there must be somebody in that position or even the administration department would at all times be there despite who is occupying the position.

This, he said, is what is obtainable in other countries of the world and not personalisation of issues and administration of the .ng as reflected in the current database, stressing that the present steps will boost the penetration of .ng among Nigerians both at home and abroad even as he urged the Internet community to embrace the .ng.

Champion Infotel recalls that for over 10 years, Nigeria recorded less than 600 registrations on the .ng after it was created in 1995 due to controversies, but as at December 2007, NiRA has achieved up to 3000 and is targeting 1m before the end of 2009.

Also, sources close to IANA informed that changing the details on PoC for .ng, for instance, is not a difficult task once the Internet community in Nigeria agreed to a specific name.

According to IANA’s procedures concerning ccTLD database information in order to effect a change on ccTLD managers, a request must be made to IANA which is responsible for receiving and acting on requests by the designated ccTLD managers to change contact information about the ccTLD’s designated sponsoring organization, administrative contact, and technical contact.

This request, IANA said, should be made by filling-out the root-zone modification template and sending it to root-mgmt@iana.org.

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Nigeria made progress in 2007 – Experts

Analysis:

Mobile operators in Nigeria did not bargain for what they got when, midyear, quality of telephone service degenerated to an unbearable level and condemnation of mobile services became widespread. Federal legislators stepped in and the music changed as they dragged the regulator in to share in the bashing for the mess. The latter also didn’t bargain for what it got, or so it seemed. But for the fact that Nigerians and their politicians are not exactly good bedfellows, both the regulator and mobile operators would have been thoroughly bruised.

Dysfunctional public power supply (the same condition under which telecom operators and everyone else in the economy operate); arbitrary taxes (‘multiple taxation’ in operators’ parlance but hardly a unique problem of the telecom sector); theft of infrastructure (‘armed’ and ‘unarmed robbery’ in consumers’ parlance, a mantra of the Nigerian system); dysfunctional NITEL (the very reason why the operators were let loose on the consumers in the first place); and much more. These are the reasons mobile operators gave for why consumers have to pay more than in other climes where the markets are smaller and the business, even less lucrative.

It was when the same reasons were being advanced for why quality had to dip so low and text messaging -- a cheaper and more convenient communication solution -- started to play annoying games that Nigerians woke up to the reality that they were in fact in deep ‘mess’.

The challenges:

In the days of NITEL, the problem was about getting a phone. When the better days came, the problem changed to using a phone. Among other myriad of problems of its monopoly days, a notable malady of NITEL was its emphasis on engineering to the detriment of product marketing and customer care. The new comers changed the music, and rightfully so. Technology is a tool for solving peoples’ problems, albeit as good business. It is not marvelous just for its own sake and that point is now succinctly made. The new comers, however, have now over-emphasized the marketing aspect to the detriment of the engineering. Something must give – and when it actually did, chaos reigned. Lessons must have been learnt by all concerned: the regulator, operators and the hype-loving consumers.

Looking back at the expired year, it is important to recognize the good (network expansion, improving internet access, commencement of market induced consolidation, etc); the bad (poor services, lack of human capital); and the ugly (political interference in industry regulation and the attempt by state governments to take a huge bite in the cake which the industry is baking, among others).

Only three of the five operators forecast for buy-over in the expired year actually made it into buyers’ hands while another two, which were not known to be ailing, got bigger players to buy heavily or totally into them. One was particularly a good buy. Reading from the performance table, and going by feelers within the industry, this year may witness the acquisition of five ailing operators by existing and incoming big players while those who are migrating to higher technology platforms may also expand into underserved locations, thus boosting the spread campaign.

Active lines:

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has published a figure of 37.9 million which it calls ‘active’ mobile lines as at October 2007, with another 1,4 million being the figure for fixed and wireless lines. Discounting attrition, multiple-ownership and allowing a little inflation of figures on the part of every provider, there may well be some 30 million active mobile users. That may account for a 21 per cent penetration, which means the market remains good in terms of unmet but suppressed demand.

Emerging technologies abound, begging, to provide smart solutions and major providers are expected to eye the Nigerian market, a queer one that is both difficult and lucrative. A few weeks ago, France Telecom got Kenya’s nod to take control of its national carrier while India’s Reliance Communications Ltd picked up a license in Uganda, just as our own Globacom also won a license in Republic of Benin – where it has already made initial test calls on its ready-for-service network.

Globalstar Inc. announced recently that it is backing a Nigerian company, Globaltouch West Africa Ltd, to commence Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite (GMPCS) services in Nigeria by the second half of 2008.

Reluctant licensee, Mudabala-Etisalat’s emergence is important but really and largely to the extent of the big bucks it placed on the table. It will be a pleasant surprise to see a radical influence similar to how Globacom forced every player to go ‘per second’ and to make SIM card price roll down the hill with high velocity when it emerged in 2003.

Two players to watch:

Starcomms has shown indication of optimum marketing of a technology standard just as it carefully watches over its engineering flank while Visafone, a new entrant which immediately bought over an ailing operator, has the challenge of spread as mandate. The promoter of Visafone comes necessarily into analysis since he has a record of aggressive approach to marketing banking products with a strong base in Information Technology. Considering the complimentary strength of his earlier and new efforts, he may spring some surprises and make good strategic influence in the fixed wireless services arena. Will he take Visafone to the capital market the way he did Zenith? Only he and time can answer.

Inadequate human capital may haunt the industry more than any other thing, even though it may not be a topic of common discourse. It has really never been. Lack of improvement in available indigenous capacity, especially in technical areas, may stall rapid bailout from the poor quality of service syndrome that taunted the industry in the expired year and ever since. Deliberate effort may just be required to put the industry in shape in that regard. The NCC, did well by establishing the Digital Bridge Institute a few years ago and it must have been evaluating what influence the Institute made on the overall available capacity. It has been mentioned that the NCC was granted the right to acquire NITEL’s former Training Centres in Lagos and Kano. Hopefully, it will consider licensing smart trainers to meet the challenge of putting the facilities to good application rather than doing it by itself.

Rising FDI:

The telecommunications industry has grossed $10 billion, and still counting, into the Nigerian economy since deregulation. Figures for the direct inward financing for 2007 are yet to be put together but things are certainly looking up.

It is a pity that a few state governments have been unable to appreciate the direct benefits of the nationwide spread of telecommunications to their citizens, hence their desire to take a direct bite in the cake which the industry is baking in their backyard. Some resorted to drama in the pursuit of the objective. One has acted ultra vires while at the same time over-dramatizing the benefits which co-location of infrastructure could yield to the industry. Their pronouncements, desperate and combative, sound like co-location is war (which it is not) rather than an industry management tool (which it is). When the chips are down, there is really nothing sacrosanct in co-location of infrastructure going by the interplay of emerging technologies.

The National Assembly added an ironic twist to a brewing confusion by commencing a regime of issuing directives to operators as if there were no laws governing the industry. Good a thing they have been largely ignored. If committees of the National Assembly begin to issue industry intervention directives whenever they get annoyed with one industry player or the other, we may expect a rise in the number of litigations -- a potential drawback to rapid growth in the telecommunication industry. Nigeria has enjoyed an unusual speed in its telecom growth partly because the industry has been managed in such a way that due process guides regulatory intervention and the negative effects of rash litigations have been curbed so far. At a time when legislators would do well to study the industry and fine-tune existing laws to make sanctions issued to erring operators more prompt and effective, they went about chasing the shadows of an accomplished Commission.

A few legislators, in a show of annoyance, told us that the Nigerian Communications Commission was incompetent. Of course that is untrue and the whole wide world, knows it. Things may be slower than we all want in some aspects of regulatory intervention but who does not know that due process is slow but that it remains the best option when the chips are down. There are lessons to learn in all of these as part of our growth, including lessons on the relationship between legislative oversight functions and industry regulation.

Rebirth of NITEL:

Are research establishments also industry/business managers? Or should they be?

The question begged for an answer when managers of Nigerian Communications Satellite Company Ltd, NIGCOMSAT (a subsidiary of National Space Research Development Agency, NARSDA), claimed they got President Obasanjo’s nod for their participation in telecommunications service delivery, apparently in mindless disregard of the need for a license to do so. The issues eventually brought to fore a few other monstrous creations of the past government, all in the name of providing rural communications -- a path once traveled with resounding failure and wasted resources. The Rural Telephony Project, a loan initiative of a consortium of Chinese investors, had gulped N5 billion before it could no longer fly while those who run NIGCOMSAT asked the National Assembly to appropriate $150 million for their operations. The rest is history-yet-to-unfold and maybe 2008 will complete the story for the records. Would NITEL reincarnate in ‘NIGCOMSAT’ in 2008? The world must be watching.

NITEL finally took a bow in 2007 when privatization managers gave it out, the year earlier, to a government ‘conglomerate’ known as Transnational Corporation (Transcorp). That was the final step needed to make it sleep for a long time if not forever.

Unification of ICT as one industry took a step forward, two backwards as federal authorities took decisions that showed either that there must have been competing power blocs within the bureaucracies which concern the subject matter or that the whims of the ultimate decider was yet unclear.

Foreign scene:

On the international scene, Apple it was that used AT&T as official carrier to drive its iPhone into the US market, and much later Europe, thereby making itself a company to watch in 2008 and beyond. Did someone say that the Google’s Android Challenge is a sure sneak-in on the Apple/AT&T plan? Well, whichever way the various competitions go, such innovations and the recent electronic numbering (ENUM) protocol -- which is the result of the Internet Engineering Task Force’s work, and supported by the ITU -- will bring the customization of our phone lines along our personal identities closer home. We cannot wait to see it happen.

And for Google? When some folks put billions of dollars on the table for frequency under auction, it makes it a reality that they are on the 2008 watch list.

No doubt, 2007 drove home the point around the role of ICTs in effecting socio-economic change but that change has to be embraced and led by all stakeholders -- regulators, industry players and consumers. It was a turbulent but certainly remarkable year with good lessons to learn.

The regulator would by now have commenced a regime of taking measurements in all its ramifications and at all times while operators should have learnt how not to make product campaign a replacement for the product itself; just as the consumers, sooner or later, will live to love hype less.

•The duo of Gbenga Sesan and Titi Omo-Ettu contributed this piece from Lagos.

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Cisco dangles N4.6m on SMEs

Cisco Systems Incorporated Nigeria, is dangling $40,000, about N4,697,000 in a promo for Small and Medium Business (SMB) tagged Extreme Business Makeover.

Disclosing this, Managing Director, Cisco Nigeria, Mr. Maduka Emelife, said that the promo, which commenced, a week ago, is targeted at small and medium companies who are end-users of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products.

To qualify, Mr. Emelife said contesting companies must be a business entity and not a government department, agency or commission and must have between eight and 250 staff with at least 10 networked computers as well as existed for a minimum of two years.

He explained that interested companies could be nominated by a member of staff or a director who takes ultimate ICT decisions for the organisation, adding that to nominate, the individual is expected to log on to, www.nigeria.ciscomakeover.com, which must be done just once.

According to him, the registration covers the company history, structure, facilities and business operations.

“If the person is successful in the first round, he can proceed to the second and on to the third before the final round,” he declared.

He pointed out that a week after the closure of the registration billed to end on March 5, 2008, about 15 successful companies would be short-listed and their names published in national dailies.

Successful companies, Mr. Emelife added would now face the judges in the bid to select the grand prize winner of $40,000 ICT makeover made up of latest ICT facility and or upgrade to a state-of-the art suite.

This, he said, would be followed by presentation to the public of the grand prize-winner and re-examination of the company’s ICT suite to determine the best intervention to offer.

“Cisco would then supply and install a completely new ICT suite, if need be, to the tune of $40,000,” he said.

For other selected participants in the promo, he said, they would be awarded consolation prizes which Cisco is keeping close to heart, emphasising that though the registration for the promo would close on March 5, the Extreme Business Makeover will continue till March 18 when the prize would be announced.

The promo, he clarified is not aimed at pushing out stock on customers, but is to improve ICT capacity and capability at the SMEs level.

“Its in this regard that this particular promotion distinguishes itself from the crows and positions Cisco not just as a giant in ICT technology, but also as a giant in social corporate responsibility in the Nigerian project,” he submitted.

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BMI activates Equinox

Mozambique-based mercantile and investment bank, Banco Mercantile De Investimentos SARL (BMI) is now live on Equinox Banking System.

The bank went live on the solution within a record implementation time of 16 weeks.

Champion Infotel recalled that mid last year, BMI struck a deal with Neptune Software Plc for the translation, conversion and development of a Portuguese version of Equinox Banking System.

Owing to the weight of the project, which required full translation and conversion the solution originally available in English and French languages, were estimated to last about nine months.

It was gathered that Neptune devised a sophisticated project management strategy and committed huge resources that transformed the whole scheme including translation, data conversion, platform migration, customization and implementation completion within a period of 16 weeks.

Commenting on the deployment, Chairman, Banco, Mr. Matabele, recalled that the decision to select Neptune’s Equinox for the bank was a balance between Neptune’s long standing reputation in software translation and migration as was witnessed in the work done in SIAB Bank Togo and its commitment to serve the African market, using resources that have deep experience in implementing Equinox.

Head, Business Development, Neptune Kenya, Mr. George Agu, described the development as a rare one.

“Rarely can a project fail if various stakeholders work with the right mindset and cooperate well in areas where there inputs are required,” he said, adding that the company is very impressed with the response of BMI team, which he said reduced the envisaged language barrier to a non-issue during the project.

“We’re well aware of the potentials in the Portuguese market and we will be riding on this momentum in carving our niche for ourselves in the Portuguese market within Africa and beyond,” he enthused.

Disclosing that the implementation and conversion strategy adopted by Neptune Software towards this project meant that several task-works had to run in parallel.

At first, he said, Neptune arranged for preliminary super-user training for senior managers of the bank in their training facility in Nairobi, Kenya, which enabled the transfer of high level product knowledge to the bank and appreciated the capability of the BMI team in regards to computer literacy, business knowledge, product branding and configurations.

“The feedback provided by the BMI team after the training exercise was very useful in understanding their expectation and key pressing issues and focus areas of the bank,” company sources said.

In addition, a phased approach was adopted in deploying the various deliverables to the bank, citing for instance, the translation that took place in Neptune’s United Kingdom (UK) office, while a parallel implementation of the product was being executed in English by the bank’s product owners and the technical consultants.

Likewise, end user training, he said, was being organised in a training facility in Maputo with the help of an interpreter, just as the final converted products were test-run as at early October, followed by a pre-go-live data audit to ensure that the account balances and transactions are correct, even as the user acceptance test was completed by mid-November, which enabled it to go-live on December 1, 2007.

IT manager of BMI, Mr. Antonio Alafo, commended Neptune’s effort on the whole project, saying “Surely, we have seen for ourselves the reasons why Neptune has been extremely successful in its projects.”

We all knew that we had a lot of work to do in this project but Neptune’s approach made it look very simple. We were able to relate well with their consultants and they worked seamlessly with the bank. We are now geared up for our aggressive marketing campaign and launch programs on multiple value add services for our loyal customers, as we have extensively tested the Equinox UBS and are confident of its ability to stand the test of time.”

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Ayedu expresses confidence in Progenics

Manager of the Ilorin automated trading floor in Kwara State, Mr. Fola Ayedu, has expressed confidence on the technical capability of the branch based on Progenics Corp integration and ability to deliver.

Speaking on the newly commissioned trading floor, Mr. Ayedu said that the exercise would bring immense change to the capital city, Ilorin and its environs, as investors would have the opportunity of trading simultaneously with the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Lagos trading floor, online real-time.

Ayedu, who is the erstwhile manager of the NSE Ibadan branch, reiterated his confidence on the technical know-how of the integrators, Progenics Corps, hence, he did not anticipate any technical-related hitches.

“We don’t anticipate any form of technical setbacks mainly because the company, Progenics, that handled the technological aspect of the automation of the floor has been wonderful and their skill is not in doubt” he asserted, stressing that Progenics has become an ally of NSE over the years, mostly in delivering perfect automation.

Progenics, he pointed out, has handled projects for the exchange and has never had problems and even when it does, they are always there to attend to it.

He also commended the efforts of Progenics Corp Ltd, for handling all the exchanges’ technological solution so far, including the complete automation of the main exchange floor in Lagos.

Also speaking, the managing director, Progenics, Mr. Tony Udoh said that though challenges crop up occasionally, his company has the manpower and skill that it takes to overcome them.

“Progenics has now sited its presence conveniently that it would be able to service the NSE anywhere in the country,” he said, stressing that the software, communications and network systems are the backbone of the automation project.

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