The Managing Director of Upper Link Limited, Mr. Segun Akano, says Nigerians consume much more than they produce on the Internet. He also explains why Nigeria will remain the largest Internet market in Africa, in this interview with OZIOMA UBABUKOH
How would you assess the level of Internet usage in Nigeria?
With a population of 170 million, 130 million active lines, 66 million of which are used to access the Internet, Nigeria is the biggest Internet market in Africa. Between 2000 and 2013, Internet penetration grew from a paltry 0.06 per cent to 38 per cent. Nigeria’s Internet tele-density (the level of usage) is now 93.7 per cent as of May 2014, according to statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission. And there are indications that this trend will continue well into 2020.Internet penetration is still low (about 38.8 per cent), but it is equally growing yearly at around 17 per cent.
The country will remain the largest Internet market on the continent in the near future because it has a large youth population (one-third of the population is between the 10-24 years age bracket) and a growing middle class (estimated at 23 per cent-approximately 39 million of the population by Renaissance Capital in 2011). Nigeria has a large number of the two classes of individuals that traditionally drive Internet usage: the middle class and young people.
How can e-commerce in Nigeria be enhanced?
The focus should be on local content development. Nigeria today consumes much more than we produce on the Internet; just like other physical goods. We need to reverse this trend. This is also in line with the transformation agenda of Mr. President. That is why we are going to invest in young entrepreneurs to expand the scope of worthy contents online, not just Nollywood, but numerous SMEs that (on their own) cannot handle web presence demands. There cannot be good trading when you have nothing to sell. Meanwhile, we have much to sell online. As of today, how many farmers are online? The best poultry farm or furniture factory may be close to you without knowing until you get to the Internet and find them, then the impression is ‘Wow!’, ‘You are here and I never knew’. That is how e-commerce will begin to expand rapidly. Upperlink’s payment engine – Pay-choice – is a payment engine for both collection and payments affordable for small and medium businesses alike.
Being the first ICANN Registrar in Nigeria, would you say your quality of service is better?
ICANN accreditation is very thorough and we passed it. It wasn’t accidental. Our vision is to become a dominant player in software development, domain business and payment solutions in Nigeria with gradual expansion into the African region and the world at large. And in achieving that, we realise that we must build competencies from grassroots, work hard to erase the mindset in many Nigerians that local software developers cannot perform creditably well. Today, our customer service level rating is very high especially among banks that we work for as vendors and schools and colleges that we service for portals, etc. And so when ICANN accreditation came, we did not have to do anything special for the one year period as they found we had already inculcated the culture of excellence they were looking for. We have commenced the process of ISO certification as well as CMMI level 3 certification and we believe that by the end of 2015, both of them would have been accomplished.
What should Internet users in Nigeria know about cybercrime?
Nigerians should continue to create awareness of the threat of cybercrime which is very real. We should continue to educate our people, and apply the same measure of care we do with our financial details to our online Internet transactions as well. With the renewed trust in e-commerce, there is the tendency to be careless but each person still needs to do its due diligence on the Internet. For instance, if you are not sure about a supposed client’s mail to you, a simple client’s name+scam search on Google will give you the answer.
There are few awareness tips; Internet users should always log out after checking their mails, especially those who use shared systems like cybercafé or offices.
Then they must be careful about downloads. If the link is not trusted, known or solicited for, then it may be risky.
For those who make purchases online with their debit cards, make sure the URL has a security key (https) before putting your card details.
Business owners should submit their trademark names for online protection to the Trademark Clearing House.
How can we control the rate of cybercrime in Nigeria?
We need to engage the youths in more productive ventures online. We need to publicise punishment meted on those that are caught in order to serve as deterrent to others. Parents need to do more at home in terms of teaching children on the good and evil of the Internet right, just as we teach sex education.
What can the government or non-governmental organisations do to transform cyber criminals to positive people?
It still comes to the issue of developing worthy local contents. Government and NGOs can set up processes in their different capacities to channel them to SMEs and we may just find out they can be fully engaged, thereby reducing the urge to engage in cybercrimes.
There are many young IT entrepreneurs in Nigeria. What is the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria doing to assist them?
ISPON currently has many programmes for them. You might have read of software competitions they have been organising in Calabar and some other cities in Nigeria .These are aimed at discovering talents. We are convinced that with higher levels of support from corporate organisations and government agencies, they can achieve a lot more in transforming the young entrepreneurs. Our State Lead Domains Sales Partners Initiative is a typical vehicle and we are going to seek ISPON’s collaboration on this. Once we discover them, the next thing is to help build their capacities in the right direction.