Olumide Samuel, Chief Executive Officer of Priority communications Ltd, an indigenous IT company spread across four African countries including Nigeria, insists that political will and policies are critical to the development of the ICT sector in the country, in this interview with TONY NWAKAEGHO, he canvasses for the continuation of development in the ICT ecosystem by the private and public sectors despite an imminent change of government at the centre.
Do you think the country has the right regulation within your space?
Regulation is very important because it helps those of us that are providers because when you?re able to provide quality service you?re going to be getting the best of customers. Like the International Oil Companies, (IOCs), they prefer to approach the international companies rather than the local companies with local content; but maybe the laws now are forcing them to talk to some of us but the issue is that the only reason they talk to these foreign companies is because of the quality they get there. So if there?s something that will force you to toe the line of quality then you need to have it; it is good. And of course the quality strategy has to be supportive, not primitive to help some companies grow.
A lot of government parastatal like the NCC, NITDA etc. are set up for that and if they?re supporting organisations like ours, then I?m sure that we?ll get to that level and then we can now even go beyond Nigeria and provide the kind of service for countries outside of Nigeria who know that Nigerians are good at what they do.
What is your assessment of the Broadband for all campaign by 2018?
It is possible, you know we talk a lot about political will and I?ve come to believe that it is a very important parameter in everything that we do. If there?s the political will and we really support it then it is possible. Those of us in the private sector have an advantage because we do not have the political backlog, you can wake up, make a decision, get people to support it and you move on. But in a political environment there?s a lot of discussions, dialoguing and impact assessment. If there?s a strong political will there?s almost nothing we cannot achieve. There?s nothing impossible once our government is keen and there?s adequate follow up and support.
What informed your venture into data communication as a line of business?
We felt that there is a lot of gap in terms of quality support that people want for their operations and the kind of service we offer is of international standard and we also found out that a lot of people find it difficult to engage the services of these foreign companies. We set our target to offer the services with a lot of local content and very good international standard. We however assure our customers of international standard service delivery. We have a lot of highly rated companies we work for; most of the banks in Nigeria are on our network as well as manufacturing companies.
What is the nature of your collaborations the telecommunication companies?
Most of the major telcos are like partners to us. What we discovered is that you can never have all the necessary infrastructure you need to provide the kind of quality service we have right now, so what we do is partner with a couple of them that have the necessary infrastructure already in place because at the end of the day customers don?t want to wait for you to build infrastructure; they want service and what is really key about service is the support and if you can offer reliable support people will love you for it and that is what we focus on.
What are your strategies in laying cables for connectivity?
Nigeria as you know has a lot of construction going on virtually every day and as such when you?re laying fibres you?re bound to face the issue of fibre cut due to such construction works going on. We also have the issue of touts, community problems, double taxation etc. For us these are the normal business challenges that one has to face.
Like you know in business, the higher the stage the higher the profit but at the end of the day we just have to provide service to our customers whichever way we have to do it. Customers are not interested in your problems or challenges; you look for how to solve them and provide service which is key.
But what we?ve done on our part is to provide another technology that we call air fibre. This is a fibre service that works on wireless network; it is almost like a radio that has fibre characteristics; quality, performance, level of response time etc. this is what we use in areas where we?re having problems with fibre deployment and we run the service at par with the laying of fibre.