Hosting Data Abroad: Whoever Host Your Data, Owns and Controls You
TOP 20 CEOs exclusive interview with Malam Yusuf Kazaure, MD, GALAXY Backbone Limited. Interview conducted by Tayo Adewusi.

Galaxy Backbone is charged with the responsibility of building government services and offshore data services with the internet and promoting data sovereignty across the country and securing government information system. How has Galaxy Backbone fare in this industry?

I think we need to look into why and when Galaxy Backbone was created. I think when Galaxy Backbone was being created several committee of government was set up to be working and it appears that government was spending a lot of money on ICT and was not getting the commensurable value in terms of the fact that instead of creating or visiting the ecosystem they appear to be doing nothing, some had nothing. The MDAs were doing different things. The system was not complementing each other.

The committee under that harmonization wrote and made some recommendations that maybe there’s need for a new body that will be in charge of responsibility of providing a common platform for all federal government’s MDAs and will be in charge of all federal MDAs across the country. It was also decided that because the model should be like what some African countries have done, instead of doing it like a typical agencies, there would be subject to bureaucratic system. They should create it like a limited liability company because ICT can only strive that way and manner, so it was made like a private sector organisation.

At the beginning, the thinking was that it would be a Plc because probably they wanted to have as many shareholders so they just started as a Plc. However, in the cause of time, that structure could not be realised and at that point we realised that the plc would no longer be visible so we should make it a limited liability company and make the necessary changes at the Corporate Affairs Commission. So officially we are Galaxy Backbone Limited now.

Now going back to some of the infrastructure that we currently have, but I can give you some background. So, when we started business, the first thing we did was to take hold of existing key government infrastructure and then merge them into one common platform which we called the ‘’Onegov.ng’’. The Onegov.ng has been very successful. For example, it harmonizes government platform. Currently we have the largest fibre network in Abuja. We cover close to 80 per cent of federal government’s MDAs with their headquarters in Abuja and we have connected more than 90 per cent with fibre and all are linked to each other.

Across the country, we have more than 5,000 locations that connected various federal government MDAs using various technology. Government is collaborating with ICT through individual IP system that at the moment connects over different 7000 staff across different MDAs, across different locations. We also have data centre that provides data for the government across the MDAs.

It’s a place where different MDAs can host their data. We also provide services to the private sector but because of the quality of the infrastructure that we are laying there’s a huge opportunity to serve the private sector market. Big ICT companies now seek partnership with us to complement each other. It’s all about collaboration.

Galaxy Backbone plays a key role in the development and deployment of technology initiative and services of government with technology, changing service delivery of life. How do you achieve this?

Herculean task. Trying to change the public service is a tough task. This is something that has been there over centuries even Nigeria. Civil service has been in existence during the colonial time. It’s over 100 years, which if you are looking for documentation today, it’s difficult. Things that have been done in a way and manner that has been inconsistent is all about check and balances. It is something that we have to be very careful about. It’s about change management. We have been working in some certain MDAs, identifying certain portion of their processes that can be adapted for immediate digitization.

This has been our strategy. We want to identify with all the MDAs. It’s all about making them take advantage of digitalization. If we look at it, we will realise that most of this processes are what require collaborate with other agencies in order to receive information in real time with other MDAs and even to improve their service delivery timeline. Typically this is how this change is going to be.

Over time, this change is going to move faster. It is not going to be the same at the initial stage. Several developments will ensue. Federal government about two months ago approved the government master plan. There’s a presidential committee that is going to drive that will now help government and Nigeria to adopt an e-Government framework that will ensure effective collaboration with different MDAs which will be faster and with a new services that are fully digital.

The expectation of every Nigerian is to be served by government the same way they get served by private organisations; just like how the banks have been fully digitalised. Customers can now bank online. People can now buy clothes online through e-commerce right from the comfort of their homes. They also expect the same from government. That’s the process we are trying to develop.

Government can now use your platform?

At Galaxy Backbone we have a huge mandate. Since digitalizing has become popular to the government and the MDAs, their aspirations to use technology have become large. It’s a serious task. We are taking it seriously because it has a huge part on the citizen ultimately. There are no typical companies that are like Galaxy Backbone because we have our own peculiarities. We are involve in change management, digitisation. We support developers who want to develop application for government MDAs. We have some foreign organisations that are similar.

So what we did was that we benchmarked Galaxy Backbone to what is done internationally and that is why we got ourselves the international certification in some of our key operations, most of the key areas of our operations. For instance we have international certification which focuses on information security management system.

We have another one that focuses on service management delivery. What these certifications means is that we can operate at a certain level with everybody internationally. That is if they host their data with us it will be at the same way it’s been hosted anywhere in the world.

 

Despite the directive that forbid MDAs from hosting data abroad, some MDAs are still doing contrary, is it that they don’t believe in Galaxy Backbone?

The issue of data supply is probably one of the most serious threats that the country is facing and the whole issue is taken that whoever host your data, owns and controls you. Gathering of data is gradual. It’s built overtime. There’s a lack of enlightenment. MDAs that host this data, I don’t think they are property enlightened about what the consequences are. Typically, what they will tell you is that it’s cheaper to host abroad, of course, it’s cheaper to host abroad. In fact, it’s free but you have to ask yourself, why is it free? You are paying one way or another.

So I believe with more enlightenment, as it’s been done by us, we are letting the MDAs understand this instead of falling into the hand of other organisation that promises to host them at a very cheap rate which is very risky. So with this it’s very important for the entire citizen to understand that data aside, it is also very valuable commodity that when properly harness is a good economy on it own. Data is what drives advertising. It’s what drives a lot of things. So, if you don’t have it at your fingerprint then you have to buy from somebody else who has it.

The 328 million dollars MOU that was signed by the Minister of Finance are projects that will benefit from bilateral agreement between China and Nigeria is a continuation of existing project. We have backbone fibre that connects Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt and each location will go first to target the federal and the state secretariat en route any MDAs so we are trying to create a platform that will link the federal MDAs with the fibre.

The second phase is to have a backup data centre that will complement the one that we already have and also to provide some wireless networks in federal secretariats. It’s all part of government digitalization, government programme, that ensures that the infrastructure of government e-business is in place. When the platform is there, how you use it becomes easier. There’s an agreement but we are not going to see cash, no cash is being carried out into Galaxy Backbone.

 

As an expert, how do you think Nigeria can fight cybercrime and guaranty cybersecurity?

Cybercrime is really damaging and it is a menace, but the first thing that needs to be done on this is to enlighten the people. Education is key. The more they are enlightened the less the damages. For instance, if one gets a fake news or information on social media, with proper education the chances of pressing the forward button would be less.

Such individual would be able to interpret it and know it’s not true. Awareness is very important when it comes to this kind of thing.  It’s unfortunate that people are left to learn on their own in this part of the world. A little child when given a phone will be left to operate it without proper awareness, guardians and education. The best way to ensure we fight this crime is through education and awareness.

You are one of the top CEO in the ICT industry and Galaxy Backbone has made a remarkable impact in the industry, what does this seems to you?

It appears that the good work that we appear to want to do is attracting the attention of the people. I think it’s down to the highly esteemed staff of Galaxy Backbone who is diligent and hardworking.  At Galaxy Backbone, we are very committed to do a very good work. Maybe that is what the people have started noticing. This is what distinguished us more than anything.

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