In this interview Abdlrazaq Shittu, CEO of Intertel, x-rays technological development in Nigeria, and speaks on his 30 years of entrepreneurial journey. Daniel Obi presents excerpts.
Given your years of experience in ICT and security services, how will you describe technology adoption and growth in Nigeria?
Before I will look at technology adoption in Nigeria, let me narrate my telecommunication journey. I started my telecommunication professional journey as a carrier room technician in training at the Nigeria External Telecommunications (NET) in 1979 before leaving to further my education in 1981.
After my NYSC in 1988, I had a choice to work for notable oil & gas multinational corporations, but my father objected because that would not offer me enough technical skills. He encouraged me to work for T-CAS Nigeria Limited, an American Data Communication and Telecommunication company. The pay was a huge concern for me, as my colleagues in other corporate organisations earned ten times my pay.
My stint as an engineering trainee at T-CAS Nigeria Limited gave me the needed exposure. I gained immensely being a breeding ground for cutting-edge telecommunication professionals. So, I can say, I am an IT & telecommunications professional with 34 years’ experience.
About the level of technology adoption and growth in Nigeria. I would like to use Intertel as a major active player in the transformational journey of technology adoption in Nigeria.
Intertel has made remarkable grounds in areas such as satellite engineering, rural telephony, communication tests and measurements, IP connectivity, RF solutions, Fibre deployments, Network optimisation, etc. This has made Intertel a primary system integrator and one-stop centre for high-tech niche telecommunication and IT.
In the last two decades, novel technologies such as information technology (IT) are globally regarded as critical implements that enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the economy of any country. It is common knowledge that novel technologies across defense, IT, and manufacturing now have significant impacts on the productivity of organizations and countries.
In the case of IT, telecommunication, wireless manufacturing robotics, wireless health care systems, and autonomous vehicle control and warehousing, I can say that Nigeria has moved upscale and it is above average when compared with the developed nations in terms of citizens and corporates.
Conversely, Nigeria lags in a number of other significant areas such as technology, space, biotechnology, defence, nuclear engineering technology, missiles, etc.
Regrettably, much of the technological feats in Nigeria and in Africa are products of individual efforts, whereas, in the developed world, they are propelled by the state to promote economic and military superiorities.
The developed world spends fortunes on the promotion of STEM education system rather than the traditional system. STEM educational system is focused on stimulating the brains of students from a tender age to give their brains free reigns to create rather than replicate the common knowledge.
Technological growth in Nigeria is woeful because we have remained a cargo-driven economy.
Nigeria has greatly invested in actionable intelligence solutions but still needs to do more in terms of completing the most critical project – the National Identity Card Scheme
What do you think the government should do to enhance science and technology development in Nigeria?
To enhance science and technology in Nigeria, there must be a strong government policy. This policy will foster trust in government competence, invest in people, and materials into the STEM education system. This will help to connect our traditional methods with contemporary technology. To achieve this, the government must ensure political and economic stability; invest in education, research, etc.
How will Intertel’s business impact technological development in Nigeria, to achieve the country’s digital transformation goals?
As a system integrator of 30 years and stop-centre for hi-tech telecommunication and IT solutions in synergies with high-net-worth technological individuals from Israel, India, the USA, Canada, and Europe, we have made it a tradition that our partners transfer technologies to our resource personnel.
Our partners involve our resource persons in the in-depth technological process and ensure continuous educational developments in the field of IT and telecommunication. To achieve the digital transformation goals of Nigeria, the involvement of those who are well entrenched in the anatomy of digital transformation initiatives is very important. Digital transformation as social emancipation is leveraged by business as evolution and the government as a creation of governance model. Digital transformation is seen as a fundamental transition to a civil society driven by internet technologies. It requires talent and assembling of the right team in four key domains, technology, data, process people, and organisational change capacity. Nigeria will need this same breadth and depth of knowledge in the data domain of digital transformation.
Intertel has the reach to the right professionals and organisations that can assist Nigeria to achieve the desired goals of actualising digital transformation initiatives if approached for synergy.
As a company providing ICT and security services, what are your core business areas of service provision, and what are the challenges you face?
Our core areas of business include Satellite Engineering – cellular backhauling, IP connectivity, satellite on the moves. Fiber Deployment and Integrity testing – FTTX/FTTH. Rural Telephony – Network topology design, Satellite-Hub Selection Criteria, Solar, RAN, VSATs for backhauling, Hub-baseband equipment, and Hub RF chain designs. Communication Test and Measurements – drive-test (Quality Assurance), OTDR, Ethernet testers, Power meters, Optical network management system (Remote Fiber Test System), Visual fault locator, optical fiber identifier, and light source. Data Centre Design and Implementation – expert consulting, designing, supervision, commissioning, and managing cutting-edge datacentres, etc.
Could you share your success stories and impact on customers’ businesses?
We have several success stories to share, but, the most laudable was the risk taken to reduce the price of MHZ&MBPS in 2008 when we delivered an inclined orbit solution to telecom providers and some ISPs with the same SLA.
The second was our partnership with Skyvision in 2008 to deliver IP connectivity to 90percent of the telecom operators to power the blackberry services before undersea cables arrived on our shores at unprecedented pricing per MBPS.
Thirdly, the premier design and implementation of rural telephony to provide 2G services in the remotest parts of Nigeria in 2000/2001 for a GSM operator. The rural telephony was implemented with Gilat’sSkyEdge Hub and for 11 years, Intertel has been giving the maintenance backup till date.
Insecurity has been a challenge to Nigeria. As a security solution company, what aspects of security solutions will you advise the government to invest more in, to address the security challenges?
Nigeria has greatly invested in actionable intelligence solutions but still needs to do more in terms of completing the most critical project – the National Identity Card Scheme – and simultaneously creating a world-class database in-country and in-cloud.
Besides, the government should do all it can to enable a consistent power supply in Nigeria, change the economy back to a manufacturing economy, strengthen the educational institutions like in the 1960s, and 70s, etc.
Technology is evolving by the day, with the emergence of new technology solutions like AI, IoT, Robotics, Big Data, and Data Analytics.
How has Intertel tapped into some of these emerging technologies to enhance customer experience?
In telecommunication and IT, you must continue to get educated in the trends, or else you will crash out. Intertel as a company is committed to being well-informed. To continue to be entrenched in the stream of evolution in IT and telecommunications, I went back to school in 2014 for my doctorates in Information Technology with a great focus on the irreversible future of IT. Two or three of our staff have been sponsored to acquire more understanding about new technological solutions.
To tap into the evolutions, we ensure continued education through Webex, seminars, in-house training, certifications, and so on. Furthermore, we continue to partner with relevant international partners with strength in the evolving capabilities in AI, IoT, Robotics, Big data, Edge computing, NFV/SDN, Autonomous vehicles, and biotechnology.
Intertel combines a wide range of knowledge to deliver precision solutions, how have all these helped in sustaining Intertel’s business over the years?
Our continued education and understanding of the evolutions have helped us to understand the directions of the industry, ability to create blue ocean strategies, while constantly broadening the front-line of our funnels. The sustenance of our integrity and partnership relationship has been a great catalyst to seeing us through 30 years in telecommunication and IT. Out of every 10 relevant high-tech companies coming from an advance technology-driven country, I am confident that 7 will aspire to work with Intertel.
Your company offers industry-leading products and services to its clients, cutting across mobile operators, ISPs, banks, government, and broadcasting organizations. How will you describe the competition in service offering?
I have in the earlier years identified frivolity in business, and I try with every bit of energy to identify and avoid them completely. We also tried to always identify blue oceans and red oceans in products offerings and customer terrains. Before multitudes come, Intertel would have moved, so I can say competition leads to red oceans and it has helped us fashion out strategies to manage it.
Does Intertel have global business relationships with technical partners and to what extent is the global partnership enhancing its businesses in Nigeria?
Yes, since 2008 we have partnered with strong corporates in the areas of our services and they have helped create blue oceans in products and assisted in producing several world-class engineers and technicians. Today, these experts are not only working with some of our partners in the developed nations, but they are also exposing Intertel to the evolution of the industry.