" ITREALMS: Challenges before Bickersteth @ NIRA

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Challenges before Bickersteth @ NIRA

The Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) recently appointed its pioneer chief operating officer, Mr. Sola Bickersteth. REMMY NWEKE in this report examines the challenges before the new officer in moving forward.

Recently, the Executive Board of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) proclaimed the appointment of Mr. Sola Bickersteth as the first Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the registry.

NIRA is the custodian of the nation’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) .ng on behalf of the Nigerian internet community since its formation in 2005.

According to the President of NIRA, Mrs. Mary Uduma, after handing over the letter of employment to Mr. Bickersteth at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, signed by her in company of the chairman, Establishment Committee of NIRA, Mr. Sekiri Shehu Mohammed, and given to Mr. Bickersteth on behalf of the organisation.

Expressing delight on the development, she said, it’s a landmark step by NIRA with the support of the Internet community in the country. Noting that this was in actualization of part of the cardinal promises of the current board after it’s inauguration in August last year; to transform NIRA as a world class organisation in the management of .ng.

Mrs. Uduma said that the new COO, who had since Monday, January 10, 2011, resumed duty has the blessing of the board to steer the management of the organisation and commended the Establishment Committee for the mission accomplished.

“I wish to thank the Chairman Establishment Committee and his members for job well done. I also wish to thank all for the constructive contributions in perfecting the exercise.

Congratulations to the Board and to Sola,” she declared, noting that the emergence of Bickersteth as the COO was heavily contested by two other contenders.

Adding his voice to the development of hiring a pioneer Chief Operating officer by NiRA, the vice president of the association and Managing Director, General Data Engineering Services Plc, Mr. Sunday Folayan, congratulated the board and Sola for the journey so far.

He described the achievement as a milestone worth rolling out the drums and raising the roof!
“I wish Mr. Bickersteth success in this assignment, and I know he will make the best of it, knowing the stuff he is made of. All the best,” Folayan said.

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

NIRA’s establishment was literally the end of a long period of inactivity and dispute on the appropriate management of this important national resource. The peaceful resolution coordinated by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) saw stakeholders’ participation within Nigeria’s Internet community in its formation.

In his remark, Mr. Bickersteth said he was excited to be found worthy to occupy the position of COO of NiRA and the first at that.

“I am extremely humbled by your endorsement and do not take it for granted ....” he asserted.
Bickersteth also promised to put in his best effort towards helping NIRA to achieve its goal of a world class organization that the Executive Board will be proud of.

While soliciting for the continuous support of the board, he noted that without their increased support, “there is very little that I can achieve.”

In addition, he solicited for advice, reprimand, suggestions and prayers to make the effort worthwhile for all members of the Nigerian Internet community.

“Your time, service and contributions to NIRA shall not be in vain and it shall also be to the benefit our nation and indeed generations to come,” he prayed.

For Mr. Bickersteth, he is determined to contribute to the growth of Nigeria using Information and Communication Technology as a platform for societal development.

Reputed player in the Nigerian Information Technology (IT) and services industry, Sola Bickersteth, has worked until recently as the General Manager, Group Strategy and Business Development at Chams Plc and the Executive Director, Naira.com Limited.

Sola who spent about three years at Chams plc, between February 2008 – August 2010, had some four-year plus stint at Naira.com Limited as its Executive Director, lasting between January 2004 – January 2008.

As Executive Director of Cosmos Technologies between 1996 and 2004, he led a team that pioneered the introduction of low cost satellite Internet deploying Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) in Nigeria and the setting up of the then Public Service Network, now known as ‘Galaxy Backbone,’ for the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

A graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Bickersteth bagged Bsc in Electronics and Electrical Engineering between 1986 – 1991 and was in 2009 at the Harvard Business School where he attended Executives’ Programme for Leadership Development (PLD) at Harvard Business School.

Sola has since resigned his position as member of the Executive Board of NIRA, having been elected in August 2010. He belongs to several professional organisations both locally and internationally.

As the General Manager, Development and Implementmentation at ChamsCity business unit; he designed and deployed required technical infrastructure; led group strategy and business development initiatives, overseeing day-to-day business and project management.

Prior to joining Panamsat, Bickersteth was the Director of eCommerce Solutions at Smartpay Nigeria Plc between 1998 and 2000, where he coordinated systems integration with banks, deploying eCommerce and web payment solutions in addition to supervising daily technical operations of the company.

Between 1994 and 1998, Bickersteth was the operations manager at Cosmos Technologies Limited and in charge of systems coordination and integration with clientele banks, organizing eCommerce and facilitating web payment solutions.

This came after he left MultiChoice Limited at its Port Harcourt office as the satellite installation engineer, where he saw to the installation of multi-point satellite television receivers, training and certification of technicians, sales and satellite TV business development.

Bickersteth’s professional achievements cut across the development of the world’s largest digital facility with Chams Plc, deployment of satellite communications hub with ViaSat Incorporated, growing electronic commerce solution within Smartpay Plc platform and exploitation of satellite internet solution using PanamSat Incorporated.

Mr. Bickersteth, a founding member of some key industry interest groups both in the country and continent-wise including the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC).

He also belongs to some industry groups namely, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Electronic Payment Association of Nigeria (ePAN) and Global Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) Forum (GVF) to name a few.

Interestingly, Mr. Bickersteth was in year 2001 honoured with the ‘Innovation in Technology award’; the international golden award in satellite technology in 2004, while year 2005 saw his recognition as a recipient of Emerging Leaders in Technology in Nigeria award, Top contributors to Nigeria’s economy in 2007 and Guinness Book of World records in 2009 for his input in building ChamCity as the biggest one-city cyber cafĂ© with over 1024 personal computers (PC).

Bickersteth’s immediate mandate promises to achieve self-sustaining income for the day-to-day operations of NIRA; improving the existing staffing and developing them to be competent and discipline manpower for the organisation.

He also intends to set up professional business office or offices for NIRA with a target registration of 250,000 on .ng domains at the earliest. This, he said, would be structured in a way that there would be regular interface to increase the number of active registrars and actively promote the auction of second tier domains through the involvement of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecom companies in the promotion of .ng domain acquisition.

While collaborating closely with the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) to become more functional, Bickersteth plans to encourage authorities to license hosting of .ng domains via the conduct of regular industry training and certification programmes, thereby actively participating in international industry registry activities.

According to him, the ultimate aim is to substantially increase income from its present situation to world class self-sustaining organisation.

With the aforementioned expose of Sola Bickersteth as the pioneer COO of NiRA, a lot of expectation is on board, but given his experience previously, there is hope and enthusiasm that he is a worthy candidate for the position, especially after scaling the NIRA’s Establishment Committee recruitment session.

All eyes is now on Bickersteth.

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