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Total communications solutions provider, Vodacom Business Nigeria recently received recognitions at the 10th Beacon of ICT awards. In this interview, Managing Director, Wale Odeyemi speaks on the brand’s contributions to the development of the country’s ICT industry and other issues. Excerpts
Could you take us through the contributions and offerings of Vodacom Business Nigeria in the country’s ICT space?
Vodacom Business is an ICT company in Nigeria. We offer total communications solutions (TCS) to enterprises – large, medium and small. The driving idea is to help build businesses that shape the growth of the Nigerian society. Vodacom Business drives societal transformation and it is very clear in our vision statement- we want to be a digital company that empowers a connected society. A connected society is a society where no individual is excluded from opportunities. We believe that everyone has value within the society. Wherever you live, whatever formal/economic strata that you belong to, you should be empowered to contribute to the society. As an example, we have a solution where we help to turn a subsistence farmer into a commercial farmer. If you have a plot of land in your village for instance, we can map that plot of land using geospatial technology. We can identify the kind of crops that will do well on the land and give you access to finance by providing an identity for the business. We can give you access to information and teach you precision farming techniques on the best range of farming approaches that you should use. We can give you access to market using the same solutions to sell your farm produce all over the world using our IoT solutions.
The brains behind Beacon of ICT awards have found Vodacom Business Nigeria worthy of some special awards. How would you describe the import of these awards to your brand?
To start with, Vodacom is on upward drive to be a beacon and champion for societal transformation. These set of awards actually crystallizes the efforts we have been making over the last couple of years. Beyond that, we believe that Nigeria is a country with enormous growth potentials. We believe that technology plays a significant role in fertilizing economic growth both from an inclusion perspective as well as expansion in becoming a country that is globally competitive.
Can we have the names of the awards?
First, the lead of the pack is the award for the hall of fame for being the enterprise solutions provider of the year for the 9th consecutive time which really is an award that recognizes our efforts over the last couple of years. This honour is very, very big because it gives us presence in the circle of elites in the industry. Also, we got the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider of the year which we have also won four times in a row. This commendation is very key to us. IoT is one of the ways that we have adopted to drive digital transformation as well as impact society from top to bottom. That’s quite significant to us. The third is the enterprise broadband service provider of the year. Broadband is key to fertilizing economic growth. When you look at figures from the ITU for instance, you will find that 10% growth in broadband penetration can directly lead to as much as a 1.35% growth in GDP in developing countries like Nigeria.
How do you address security while providing services to businesses?
That is a very interesting question. Security is deep and critical to how we do business. We ensure that security is inherently built in each of the mediums that we deploy to serve our customers. We offer security in two forms; first we secure the customer as part of offering unified threat management solutions. As an example, we can help them with security consulting services, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessments. These services are some of the multiple professional services that we also render over and above just giving you connectivity. But within our network, the core of our network is actually connected to Vodacom’s Cyber Intelligence Centre which is the most mature in Africa at the moment. The security landscape changes on a daily basis. It might interest you to know that our Cyber Intelligence Centre actually mitigates well over 400,000 attacks on a daily basis. That shows you the kind of focus that security has and we are well aware of that. This offering differentiates us from some of our competitors.
Tech experts within and outside the country have raised concerns in terms of readiness and supporting tech start-ups who will actually drive the embrace of IoT. Are you considering training start-ups to drive this?
Supporting SMEs is dear to us. From a training point of view, we have been able to adopt digital transformation in the context of Internet of Things. We adopt a 360’ approach; both vertical and lateral. From the vertical point of view, we start from the bottom up. We believe that we need to catch them young. When you take a look at secondary schools as an example, we offer some CSR initiatives where we facilitate robotics competition programmes, We assemble some of the schools in the society including elite and public schools because we believe to spread these required skills to transform the society, you need to start picking them from the foundation. We teach them tech skills and robotics design that they become comfortable with these things. You know when you talk about tech start-ups, you are no longer talking about mature people starting their own companies. Contrastingly, we have young people who are in their teens who are actually doing a lot with technology and winning awards globally at the moment. We believe that the bottom-up approach is effective. From a top-down approach, we also work with the regulators.
Vodacom Business is doing well with sustainability as a strategy for business growth. What’s the brand doing to keep the momentum?
When you talk about sustainability, you can examine this from a triple bottom-line approach – the people, the profit and the planet. Vodacom Business ensures that the technology we bring to bear addresses these critical areas. For instance there would be issues if you are operating in a society and you are degrading the society in the process. That’s not a sustainable environment for you and your business. We strongly believe in creating shared value in the society through social engagement and social innovation. We equally re-appropriate existing core capabilities, existing strengths and we use them to address society’s biggest problems. We believe businesses that are sustainable financially but aren’t addressing society’s biggest problems will find themselves in an atmosphere of chaos eventually.
How is Vodacom addressing customer expectations?
We exist because of our customers. There is a saying in sports that you’re only as good as your last victory. We understand that customers’ preferences are changing on a daily basis. There are a lot of disruptions in the life of customers. Responding to these changes and disruptions is firmly positioned in our DNA to improve the fortunes of clients’ businesses and winning in their industries. From an expectation point of view, we have a net promoter score index where we measure the pulse of our customers. We examine their feedbacks carefully across all the touchpoints where they consume our services and deliver value to the society.
Broadband penetration in Nigeria recently moved from 29% to 33%. What are you doing to scale up broadband penetration?
The rate at which broadband penetration is increasing demands cooperation from regulators and players. In fact, the last time we spoke with industry players and regulators, the ambition over the next five years is to take broadband penetration to 70 % which is the target of the new national broadband plan. However, we believe that we can exceed this target with the right technologies. At Vodacom, we are investing in the right technology. We actually envision Nigeria becoming a gigabyte society. This is a society where the speed of connection exceeds one gigabyte. What we call broadband today is actually around 2 megabyte speed; it might interest you to know that we have customers who are already consuming well over a gigabit of data. The question one would ask is what kind of traffic is generating so much bandwidth hunger. One of the things that our total communications solutions offering does is it gives Nigerians more reasons to consume data. The idea of growing data in Nigeria actually starts with having the right reasons to consume data. We believe that over time there would be a need to democratize data in Nigeria. In fact, we also accept that somewhere along the line there would also be a need to demonetize data and rather focus on the reasons why data is being consumed.
Some government policies are unfavorable for business growth. What do you think government should do to help businesses grow in Nigeria?
One of the measures that government should adopt is to collaborate at the state and federal levels. There are issues around multiple taxations that are limiting businesses. There are certain policies that are more of barriers than enablers. As a major player in the ICT industry we are constantly in dialogue with regulators giving advises, offering collaborations and helping to provide knowledge around what should be done differently. As I have stated earlier, we are moving towards a gigabit society. We believe that it is important to have a listening regulator. It is also important to create an environment for constant collaboration and dialogue to enable business growth in the country.