MUHAMMED RUDMAN is the chief executive officer and managing director of Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria, the country’s first neutral IXP. In this interview with MARTIN EKPEKE in Lagos, Mohammed believes that there is a need for Nigeria to start hosting content locally because of the benefits involved.
How will you rate the use of internet in Nigeria in 2015?
The use of internet in Nigeria is about 80 percent mobile. This is excellent, but we need to go beyond mobile. We need to start talking about high speed internet access that can make us to be more productive because the Internet access via mobile is mostly used for social media activities. Nigerians need Internet that can allow them access educational materials. It’s good Nigeria is ranked very high online, but it’s also sad that all that is not on the broadband Internet where they can be more productive. In terms of online usage ranking, Nigeria is ranked 9th in the world and 1st in Africa. This is because of our huge population, where 80 percent out of a population of over 170 people use the Internet. But the sad thing is that this huge population is not browsing on a content that is local; over 90 percent of the content is hosted abroad. We need to have a paradigm shift so that we can start hosting content locally because of the benefits involved. As it is now, we are just basically content consumers.
We need more of the Data Centre because Nigeria is the highest user of Internet in Africa. The more Data Centre we have, the faster the speed of Internet we will see in Nigeria and the lower the cost of the Internet because the content is being hosted locally for the end users
What should be the solution so we can start hosting content locally?
The solution is for the government to address the challenge of power. Content is hosted in a Data Centre, which uses huge power. Two to three years ago, there was no single Tier 3 Data Centre in Nigeria, but today, we have three Tier3 Data Centers. All the three are using generators to power them. What government needs to do is to provide priority electricity line to the Data Centers. Identify them as critical Internet resource and make power available to them. If they have power, the cost of hosting will drop because when the operational cost of a Data Centre is high, they will charge the end user higher. The second challenge is the cost of interconnectivity, which is still very high in the country. Links between cities in Nigeria are still very expensive; this also hinders the hosting of content locally. I am sure the licensing of InFracos will be able to address that. The third challenge is the awareness from the end users. They should be made to believe that they can host their content locally. They should utilize the dot.ng domain as well as host their content locally. All stakeholders must come together and create awareness for the content providers that their content can be hosted locally. This will greatly solve the problem of people taking their content out of Nigeria.
Do we need more of the Data Centre, what does it mean to Nigeria’s economy?
Data Centre in Nigeria is critical as our lives migrate online. Nowadays, almost everything is done online. The Data Centre hosts all the things we do online, it is the economic engine of the Internet, and it assists in hosting the content locally so that the traffic does not leave the country. So it’s an excellent initiative. We need more of the Data Centre because Nigeria is the highest user of Internet in Africa. The more Data Centre we have, the faster the speed of Internet we will see in Nigeria and the lower the cost of the Internet because the content is being hosted locally for the end users.
Don’t you think people in other areas of the country need the service of the IXPN?
Of course, they need our services. That’s why we are making efforts to expand our services to other regions in Nigeria. Apart from Lagos, we are also in Port-Harcourt, Abuja, Kano and trying to be in Enugu. This will ensure that traffic within those regions remains local as well as promote that region to start hosting content locally. The Data Centre we just mentioned are all in Lagos, but I can assure you that very soon some of them will begin to spring up in other regions of the country because they need to localize traffic within those regions. What is hindering us is the challenges of electricity and the cost of transmission lines between states, but we are trying to address those things.
How can people measure the M-Lab IXPN in partnership with Google and Glo1 launch this year?
The measurement is done by a consortium of companies, championed by one of the Universities in the US. The idea is to measure the speed of the Internet, we notice that most of the speed test we are using, the servers are hosted outside Nigeria, so we partnered with Google and the consortium to see how we can localize those servers. The difference between Mlab and other Internet speed test is that the server does not only test the Internet speed pipe, it also tests the quality and the latency of the service. The networks and end users can use it as a diagnostic tool to test their Internet connection. It has advance feature, not just the speed test. The idea is that if you can measure it, then it can be improved because what you cannot measure, you cannot improve.
Can you say the end users are using the service now?
Honestly, they are not really utilizing it because we need to do more campaigns for the end user to know how to use it. The service is available, but in terms of utilization, it is a bit low.
What are the requirements to be connected to IXPN?
The requirement is that you must be a service provider, content provider, higher education institution or you are a University or any other organization that is IP-centric. For example, we don’t allow end-user networks to be connected to IXPN.
It’s good Nigeria is ranked very high online, but it’s also sad that all that is not on the broadband Internet where they can be more productive. 80 percent of Nigerians use the Internet, but the sad thing is that they are not browsing on a content that is local
Is IXPN part of the African Union Africa Internet Exchange System. What is the essence of that organization?
The African Union got some funding from other countries to support the establishment of Exchanges in Africa, especially in countries that do not have Exchanges and also to empower each of the IXPs in each of the region. Africa has five regions; the aim is to promote one of the IXP in each of the regions to become a regional IXP. Now we are trying to localize traffic within Nigeria; the idea of the project is to localize traffic within Africa. They are now focusing on regions; for example, all the exchange of traffic will happen within the West Africa region. I will also want to tell you that IXPN has won the Africa Union bid to be the regional IXP for West Africa. With that we will get the necessary support from the Africa Union Commission to grow us to be the regional IXP for the West Africa region.
As a stakeholder in the industry, what are your agenda for the new minister of Communications?
I will like the new minister to have continuity from where the former minister left, especially in the implementation of the national broadband plan. I think he should continue with that plan because that plan was done holistically. It captures key components of what is required to move Nigeria forward in terms of broadband Internet penetration that would be accessible to all. The new minister should implement that as a package.