Tuesday, 11 November 2014

‘We Need To Look Beyond Wiretapping and CCTV To Curb Terrorism’ – Mr. Femi Williams

Our Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Femi Williams recently spoke to Thisday newspaper on vital challenges facing the Nigerian technology sector and the impact on the economy.

See excerpts from the interview below. 

How is Chams maximizing opportunities in the local market with affiliations to global leaders like Datacard, Dermalog, Bitel and Iguard?
One of our core values at Chams is innovation, and it has been at the core of our business practice. We do not merely transplant solutions from the developed market rather we work collaboratively with global market leaders to develop innovative solutions for the Nigerian Market.
For instance, we are presently working with Datacard, the world’s leading provider of secure identity and card personalization solutions, to deliver instant issuance of payments cards in the Nigerian market to banks. Same for our on-going project with Dermalog on the Biometric Matching Solution for the banking industry as initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Banker’s Committee, with the support of NIBSS. In the PoS and Access Control markets in which Bitel and Iguard are market leaders, we are also working in a similar manner.
What are the growth potential for homegrown technology firms given the noticeable disappearance of international boundaries and barriers to trade ushering in an era of global competitiveness?

You will recall that as a homegrown company, we won the bid for the first national identity card programme, which was fiercely competitive and dominated by global corporations. The project was awarded to a global corporation, but after a review of their output, it was re-awarded to Chams. We succeeded where a global brand failed, and it can be said that a local firm implemented the first successful national identity card project in Nigeria.
Using the success being recorded by Chams in the identity management, secure identity and payments cards personalization as learning, local technology firms must think global – anticipate trends, be innovative and have clear understanding and the capability to serve the industry they are entering.
There is also a new wave of mega-technology startups, especially in the e-commerce space, being driven by Nigerians from Diaspora with venture capital funding that are competing head-to-head with the offshoot of multinational technology firms in the local market. The growth potential for homegrown technology firms with the right product, process and human capital are limitless given the present growth rate of the sector. This will further accelerate with improved power supply. 

According to a recent assessment report by James O Neill, Nigeria has been listed among the next investment destinations in what was described using an acronym, MINT, how can the country strategically position itself to achieve this goal?

Nigeria has seen inflow of investments from multinational corporations seeking new growth markets because of the size of our market. This is in spite of the challenges associated with doing business in Nigeria such as poor infrastructure, high cost of funds, policy inconsistencies.

It is cheering that there have been political stability in the last 15 years of democratic rule in the country. This should be consolidated in 2015, and it is equally hoped that the power reforms would soon have positive impact on the economy.
By ensuring political stability, good governance, investments in education and infrastructure, as well as reduced cost of funds will bring Nigeria closer to its true potential as the giant economy of Africa.

Technology is being used world over to tackle the menace of terrorism. Nigeria is certainly is not adequately equipped in that regard. Where do we start from as a country in terms using technology to stem the rise of terrorism and crime in Nigeria?
You will recall the Boston Marathon bombings last year; anti-terrorism professionals globally remain impressed that the suspects were captured so quickly. In its wake, law enforcement agencies in countries facing the dangers of attack on soft targets by terrorists are saying they hope to track down terrorists that fast, and prevent future attacks with the help of superior technology as deployed by the United States.
This entails looking beyond the traditional use of wiretapping and CCTVs because of their limited use in terms of quality and coverage. Good enough, recent policy enunciation and their implementation by government are geared towards providing infrastructures that empower law enforcement agencies to proactively combat terrorism.
The destructive capacity of terrorists operating in the Northern parts of the country grew remarkably in the last three years. They are proving adept at using modern technology for their own end. Largely, because they engage simultaneously in suicide bombings and guerilla attacks, the required response to their onslaught has been deployment of intelligence, surveillance and soldiers to combat terrorists.

For instance, anonymity and the ability to launch attacks at a time and place of their choosing are tactical advantages utilised by terrorists. With the ongoing deployment of a robust national identity management solution, it provides the long term benefit of eliminating the advantage of anonymity enjoyed by terrorists.
In the long term, law enforcement and anti-terrorist agencies can build on these infrastructures by deploying software, computer models and analytical tools being used by developed countries to identify the terrorist no matter how hard they try to hide, and to take the necessary actions to remove mitigate their untoward threat.

Still on financial services, Chams PLC is collaborating with Dermalog on the banking industry biometric matching solution project. Of what benefit is the project to the financial services sector and the economy?

The benefits of the banking industry biometric matching solution initiated by the Central Bank and Banker’s Committee are immeasurable to the populace, banks and the national economy. For the populace, and by this, I mean existing and potential bank customers, because it simplifies bank account opening process by breaking down the existing KYC barrier, deepening access to credit, and also mitigating fraud. Available data from the Central Bank of Nigeria indicate that meeting the present banking industry KYC procedure remains a major challenge for a large number of potential bank customers from the informal sector.
For the banks, a simplified KYC procedure will improve efficiencies by reducing paperwork, and the huge cost of validating credentials by third party vendors on a regular basis.
It will boost the number of retail customers of banks in millions, heralding a stronger retail segment for the banking industry leading to improved liquidity, lending and profitability. By this, I mean improved inflow of cash from the Nigeria’s large informal economy to the banks, and a more robust credit administration regime by the banks, with its attendant positive impact on revenues.   
Breaking down of the KYC barrier by the CBN and Banker’s Committee will benefit the economy in the long term by bridging the gap between Nigeria’s formal and very large informal economies. This will provide the managers of the economy with accurate picture of the country’s GDP, and economy - using near accurate data for national planning. All these can only lead to accelerated socio-economic growth and development of the country.

How equipped is Chams PLC in terms of the human capital needed to deliver on the banking industry biometric matching solution project? Are you wholly dependent on Dermalog, expatriates or local talents to deliver this project?

Chams has been involved in identity management for a long time. We have worked on the National Identity Management project, and are driving residency project in three states of the federation. We have delivered value in terms of cost savings to state governments by deploying identity management solutions to rid their payroll of ghost workers.
Our people are experienced, certified locally and internationally in identity management, and are able to deploy identity management solutions within 24 hours – that is how adept we have become at doing it. We have done this successfully in various states because we have a locally developed applica

What is the future outlook of Chams PLC, considering the fast changing dynamics of the global Information and Communications Technology terrain?
Chams has been around since 1985. From a hardware firm, we have evolved over the years into one of the leading information and communications technology companies of Nigerian origin with strong footprints in the identity management and e-payments industry. We have invested in infrastructure, and have good knowledge of the needs of our stakeholders across sectors.
The Chams Group will remain dynamic, compliant and innovative in its response to market realities and customer needs. We intend to be the most influential technology firm of Nigerian origin meeting private and public sector technology needs, and delivering exceptional value to its stakeholders.

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