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Why FG Must Enforce Data Domiciliation Regulations–Adegbiji



Gbenga Adegbiji is the general manager of MDXI Data Centres. In this Interview, he speaks with ONYEANUNA ONYEDIKACHI on the company’s new Tier III Constructed Facility Certification (TCCF) from the Uptime Institute and related issues.

What impact do you think the recent general data protection regulation compliance will have on Nigeria?

The rise of data domiciliation policies globally is due to the increasing spate of cybercrime, cyber warfare, hackers and the like. Data domiciliation is purely a preventative strategy to mitigate cyber attacks. Nigeria and Africa as a whole can be hugely affected because today, most of our critical data is hosted abroad. In Nigeria, for instance, a lot of our sensitive data such as our financial records, citizens’ information and telecoms data are currently not hosted here.

In the wrong hands, access to this data is dangerous and makes us extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Those countries where we host our data will not allow their own data to be hosted outside their shores because they understand the security and economic implications of it. Now that Nigeria has world-class data centre facilities in the country, government should as a matter of urgency, enforce the data domiciliation regulations to ensure we are all protected.

I think the push by the lawmakers to enable localisation of data and operations by telecoms firms in the country is in the interest of national security. That is a good start. More than ever, this will foster competitive practices with service quality and eventually price becoming the differentiator. With this policy, more companies will build data centres to serve the demand and this will eventually democratize colocation services.

With new technologies such as Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and the Internet of Things becoming the norm in Nigeria, specialised and edge data centres will evolve, new digital services will also emerge and further deepen the market. These will ultimately broaden the ecosystem and ultimately create more jobs and business opportunities in the country.

Talking about the next digital economy, what are the things you think the Nigerian government should focus on?

We should continue to support data residency policies, with government taking the lead with the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and private sector. Government should also support indigenous players. Sadly, it is only in Nigeria that you have to be advocating for this. Most of the other countries of the world (even some West Africa countries) have these protections entrenched in their laws and will not compromise it for anything.

We should begin to emulate more developed countries including China; most countries in Europe etc that have data domiciliation laws. We must identify and host critical national data in-country. For example, before the Chinese government allows global players to operate in their country, they are mandated to either construct a manufacturing plant or employ 1000 local staff. They also encourage knowledge transfer and promote local companies who compete with global players.

These are conscious efforts by the government to promote their industries and develop their economy. This was the case with Alibaba, Wechat etc, some of which now have annual revenues that are more than the  gross domestic product (GDP) of some countries. Nigerian government should pay serious attention to these developments globally and ensure that best practices are adopted here.

MDXI recently announced that it has received its Tier III Constructed Facility certification (TCCF) from the Uptime Institute. Can you tell us about this?

Yes, we have received our Tier III Constructed Facility certification (TCCF) from the Uptime Institute, the global professional certification body for data centres. We received the certification following a performance-based evaluation of our data centre’s infrastructure, to test and ensure that every component of the infrastructure is concurrently maintainable and has been installed in accordance with the original certified design documents.

For us, because we have built the data centre in accordance with the certified Tier III designs ab-initio, the over 90 different tests and demonstrations validate what we have been doing in the last three years and achievement of the certification was very seamless.  Two major criteria for Tier III data centre specification are redundancy and concurrent maintainability for all capacity and line equipment including power, cooling and  distribution systems.

We built the facility in line with the certified designed documents and in some cases, have provided more than what is required because of the understanding of the Nigerian operating environment. So because of this, we were initially not keen on re-certifying to the TCCF until our customers started requesting. For instance, we already invested significantly in power, with a direct private connection to the national grid through the Eko Electricity Distribution Company, ahead of TCCF.

This was a capital investment of hundreds of millions of Naira in substation equipment and dedicated power lines which bypass most of the ‘last-mile’ challenges encountered in electricity distribution in Nigeria. We did this because we knew power alone is a differentiator in data centre operations and possibly the biggest albatross for DC operators. With our direct connection to the national grid, we have an average of 22 hours of public power availability per day, which translates to operational stability and cost savings for our customers and us.

What does the TCCF mean to you and to your customers and what does it mean to Nigeria as a country?

Let me say it this way; it is an attestation to the fact we are able to continually provide uninterrupted data centre and cloud services to our customers in the face of planned and unplanned maintenance. It is an endorsement of what we have already known and what we have been delivering since 2015 when we launched. Our facility was designed to these specifications, our design documents were certified to the standards and our construction was purpose built in line with the approved documents and international best practices.

Prior to the construction, we also went through numerous design audits to ensure alignment of all applicable international standards and best practices in all areas of the infrastructure. The TCCF is now a reassurance to our existing and prospecting customers that we will be able to deliver the services we promised them, come what may.

Also, when you add the TCCF to the other data centre certifications which we already have; for instance, the SAP Infrastructure Services licence, which certifies that we can run SAP applications and infrastructure; the ISO 27001 which certifies us for information security compliance; the ISO 9001 that certifies us for Quality Management; and the PCI-DSS certification which places our data centre as the only colocation data centre in Nigeria that can securely process payment card information, you can see that we have done due diligence and ensured compliance with international benchmarks.

Being compliant with PCI DSS means that we are doing our very best to keep customers valuable information safe and secure and out of the hands of people who could use that data in a fraudulent way. It is a global security standard for protecting card data and was created by the world’s biggest card companies; Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB. Not sure any certification is as stringent and detailed as that for card chip data and we already have that.

With these certifications and endorsements, MDXI has placed Nigeria on the world map of countries that are prepared for the digital economy and we are happy to be at the forefront of this. Ahead of TCCF, MDXI’s performance and service delivery earned the company an Impact Award during the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Impact Awards for moving Nigeria about 20 points up the ladder of “Ease of Doing Business” index through its colocation of critical server infrastructure for the Ease of Doing Business initiative.

Now that you have TCCF, what next?

Unparalleled service delivery to our customers, continuous process improvement and getting better and better in what we do. We will also extend our services across West Africa, providing the same world-class services to enterprises, governments and individuals across the region. As you may know, we are currently building our Sagamu data centre, to boost ICT development in Ogun State and to serve as a disaster recovery option for our existing customers. We will also announce the commencement of our Cote d’Ivoire data centre soon and Ghana should follow almost immediately. Like I said earlier, our objective is to enable the digital ecosystem in the region and we are strongly committed to this.