- Hosting Data Offshore Needless Capital Flight
The Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry is evolving at the speed of electricity. Data centres are springing up while cloud technology has taken the centre stage in cost reduction strategies of businesses. The Managing Director, Rack Centre, a leading data centre in Africa, Mr Tunde Coker, says the firm has the capacity to host private and public data in-country. He speaks with LUCAS AJANAKU on various aspects of emerging technologies.
What is your assessment of the data centre business climate?
One of the things we have done is building to meet local needs while complying with the global standards. We have such environment that at times not too conducive for a data centre. The humidity around March period could be 90-95 per cent, sometimes 97 per cent. The temperature can be at 37 degree centigrade; that is very high. We are seemingly a power company because we generate our power. Of recent, we entered into discussions with Ikeja Electric for a dedicated line. We are working with them as engineers, not a hook and switch-on sort of, because we need industrial power. We are creating Power Utilisation Effectiveness (PUE) in West Africa. We have built something that is conducive to the Nigerian environment.
How has the recession affected business in this sector?
We saw a slow down last year, just like every other company. No doubt, we will continue to grow, but it wasn’t at the level we expected. It only required circumspective actions in spending; in the contest of the shift in the economy. However, we are tuning into the easy of doing business through our facility. The government is doing a lot too which in the areas of on e-Government and e-Governance. There are efforts to lead us up the lid by end, latest end of the year, which speaks volumes to the international community. So, strategically, for us and what we have seen in government, things will shift in the right direction. However, companies have realised they have to invest in growing at the right point in time. Instead of deploying resources to build a data centre, you could co-locate in a standard facility. Then, you can focus on the growth of your business.There are things we say about small and medium enterprises (SMEs); there are 20 million of them. They are going to power the economy. Twenty million SMEs exceed the population of Belgium- adult, children, young people put together. What we are bringing to Nigeria through Cloud-On-Ground is a high quality environment that accords these small businesses the opportunity to lower the threshold on the entry point to technology as means to break even in their businesses; even with small financial capacity. You pay as you grow/pay as you go. What we have built is key to the automation of SMEs and will impact the economy.
What is this TCCF talked about in in data centre?
TCCF stands for Tier Certification for Constructed Facility (TCCF), especially to Tier III data centre we have here. The analogy to explain TCCF is: if you have a design of an aircraft validated to be able to fly front ‘A’ to ‘B’, of course, it gives you comfort to know that aircraft is actually built according to such design. It’s after the design that the constructed certificate is issues to you. An assessment is required to obtain the certification. TCCF serves as validation that your fundamental is built as designed to be able deliver 99.99 per cent of uptime.However, since launch, Rack Centre has operated 100 per cent uptime, because we operated as a Tier III facility, constructed as designed. What does it mean? Now, if you are to board an aircraft, it is a constructed facility to a certain standard. If you are entering a house, it will be very reassuring that its construction is based on designed certification; the stamped architectural design. Therefore, the air conditioner won’t suddenly catch fire, the roof won’t leak. To further explain the analogy: if you now have your house been inspected; to be certified-constructed to a minimum standard of such facility- electricity availability, cooling system, water availability, water heaters work to certain degree/temperature, so, the process would require they will unplug the socket to verify the connectivity, the back-up system, ensure no current leak between one and the other. They may even require you pull out one of the walls to confirm the electricity diagram aligns with the design. That is the level of the details of assessment we went through. The other thing is, in translating design to constructed; though we have moved on as far as specifications are concerned, they make sure you are in tune with the current specification. If you fail to respond on that, it is an issue. We managed to respond to all the observations, because the fact you constructed to Tier III implies you can respond to questions around it.
What does this mean to Rack Centre?
First, authenticity is important to us at Rack Centre. We want to always do what we say and say what we do; do things right through the right means. So, having TCCF for Tier III has confirmed how eligible this facility is to perform the functions we allude to. There is no smoke screens, such as ‘oh, we are Tier III’ data centre, but all ends at design; some even cut corners and some sorts. These guys will actually find you out when you go ahead to construct your data centre-cutting corners. They are so detailed- a forensic analysis of the facility. Secondly, it fully demonstrated to our customers, indisputably, we are at that level of quality. Thirdly, I shared this thought in South Africa recently, ‘Africanism’. This is a data centre in Africa that says it is Tier III. Now, it has global profile, but is it the profile that we just go by? We can beat our chest and say this Tier III certificated facility in Nigeria meets the standard in any part of the world as certified by highly distinguished body- Uptime Institute. So, our customers know they are coming to high quality facility. Secondly, the world is changing: we keep talking about Big Data. If you look at the number of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Amazon users, (in Nigeria) and so on, it is significantly growing. It gives international players- banks and other companies that serve African market, such comfort that the footprint/facility they are going to in Africa, is certified. To Nigeria, there are a lot of data hosted abroad including government data. Historically, when there was no Rack Centre, what would you do? You host abroad. I believe that if a Nigerian facility is not built from scratch to meet standards and we go ahead to legislate that everybody should use it, we are just entrenching mediocrity. So, we have to make sure the infrastructure is on ground and as good as what is obtainable anywhere in the world. Competitive on pricing: international players come here and they couldn’t argue with us on pricing. Therefore, with Rack Centre here, there is no real reason people should go abroad. If you are still hosting abroad you have to transverse through the connectivity to someone else’s space and you will have issues around latency. But, if you are here, the services are totally seamless. We now host cloud services in Nigeria via cloud-on-ground sub-brand. It’s a heterogeneous marketplace, a cloud exchange with different cloud providers available. So, with TCCF these providers are at rest with the quality of the facility to deliver their services within Africa to Africans. Why are we excited about this? Rack Centre is the most connected Tier III data centre in Africa; constructed facility. We have all the telecos and most of the carriers of note and ISPs. This allows our customers have universal connectivity. We also have other wholesale carriers even that deliver services across Africa. If you a hosting company, Bank, then, host your services here for low latency while connecting to your offices in other African countries, at the highest quality. So, these are some of the edges the certification has accorded us. We have won several global awards, but I oftentimes tell my team this is not just about Rack Centre rather it points to the world to recognise we got the capabilities here. it is also the fact Nigerians can deliver and operate this kind of facility.
Why the time lag between design and facility construction?
Actually, you are not mandated to have facility on ground to have your design certified to Tier III. So, it is good to know what Tier III is before design. It’s like an architectural design. You have a choice once you have done the design to certify it immediately. In our case, we had a design and built it to that design. But then, we doubled the capacity from 119 to 255 racks. In that we decided to start the process of the whole series of test before construction. Then, you invite them over to conduct the certification. We doubled our capacity which went live during the middle of last year. With that, we were the first to also successfully revalidate our design which was done last July. There was never a second of downtime when we carried out the extension. It came to budget, quality, time, and no hiccup with any customer. We won an award in capacity Africa for this very project, compared to other data centre projects in Africa, including South Africa, Northern Africa. Right now, in the Data Centre Global awards, we are the only African country (finalist) in Technology Expansion. We focused on that piece of work to get it right. So, after we were done, we put Uptime Institute on notice. I was talking to an international analyst who said: “If you get the certification, the experience globally is that you earned it.” Also, there is a notification that goes with design certification, informing you that after two years, the certificate will be withdrawn if you fail to construct. Now, for constructed facility, they will come around yearly for inspection and if you fail to keep the standard they will keep you on notice of subsequent withdrawal. We, certainly, do not intend to be in that place. That is also great for our customers as global companies are looking at us, even while we deliver services to local businesses.
Why have other African data centres not get Uptime Institute Certification?
Tier III data centre is like detailed aircraft certification. You to have investment, not cutting corners in your processes, as that will push you to a tight corner. Procrastination is also not helpful when it comes to this kind of business. There a whole lot of reasons why companies are not ready to go for the certification. Anybody can say, ‘I am built to Tier III standard,’ but the certification is very important. It’s like boarding a car driven by someone with driver’s license and the other without. He might be a perfect driver, but without the license, even the law will be against you. The licence gives you more confidence in the person, as it is very rare to have someone with a license and unable to drive- he has gone through learning process and tests.
Does this align with local content?
First, in terms of investment, the facility is sited in Nigeria. We have sophisticated facilities because we want to attract international investors to the country. All our technical staff are Nigerians. There are parts of the technology we had to source experts from the United States, South Africa, but we always make sure there is technical-knowledge transfer as means to build our capabilities. We are determined to recruit the highest indigenous talents and build them through. During the project expansion, our team was at the UK; the institute they visited sent me an email hailing these guys diligence, insights, creativity and innovations that the counterparts in developed economies couldn’t demonstrate. Now, as we have built to internationally acclaimed standards, it implies we can attract more companies to host their services in Africa. By doing so, we are exporting Nigeria’s services to other players. It is a point of export that will not only discourage our people heading abroad to host, but will boost our forex. If that happens, our facilities get full, we are sure to extend it. Research has shown that for every million dollar you put in, you could get between $10million and $100million impact on the gross dmoestic product (GDP) and all through the process, local capabilities are being developed. With cloud-on-ground, we can deliver services at the right price and at higher performance.
Service Robots to Hit $30B in Sales by 2022, a 30% Increase in Two Years
Unlike the industrial robotics sector, service robots have received a boost from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to data presented by BuyShares, the entire market is expected to continue growing strongly and hit over $30bn in sales by 2022, a 30% increase in two years.
Americas Lead in the Use of Service Robots, Entire Market to Hit $12B Value in 2022
Recent years have witnessed a surge in the use of service robots, as they offer increased productivity and convenience in both professional and private settings. The entire market is divided into two main segments. Commercial robots are used to perform tasks in a business environment, like medical robots and automated guided vehicles used in warehouses.
Personal service robots include convenience robots, which perform tasks like cleaning and vacuuming, and entertainment robots, such as toys and photography drones.
In 2018, the entire market generated $13.7bn in sales volume, revealed the Statista survey. This figure surged by almost 70% in the next two years, reaching $23.1bn in 2020. The growing demand for service robots is expected to continue this year, with the sales value rising by another 17% YoY to $27bn. By the end of 2022, this figure is forecast to jump by another $3bn.
Statistics show the service robotics market is led by the Americas, with an estimated sales value of $10.8bn in 2021, up from $7.4bn before the pandemic. This figure is forecast to jump to over $12bn in 2022.
As the second-largest region, the Asia Pacific is expected to hit almost $7.4bn in sales volume in 2021, a 20% jump in a year. The European market follows with a $7.3bn value.
Medical Robots to Generate One-Third of Total Sales Value
Statistics show that most service robots are used in the medical industry, expected to generate almost $9bn or 33% of total sales value this year. In the next twelve months, this figure is set to jump to $10bn. Technical innovations and demographic developments drive the market growth of these robots.
Robotic technologies can be more precise and flexible than human surgeons, making robot-assisted surgery a popular option. Since they are immune to infectious diseases, medical robots have also been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also widely used in diagnostic, rehabilitation, and nursing care.
Statistics show the Americas dominate the medical robot’s market. However, due to aging populations, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to witness the most significant growth in the future.
Convenience robots for domestic tasks ranked as the second-largest segment, with $6.7bn in sales value in 2021. This figure is set to reach almost $7.5bn next year. These robots are increasingly finding their way into households worldwide. Packed with different capabilities, they can make everyday life more comfortable. Statistics show the Asia-Pacific region is the leading market for convenience robots. However, the largest producer, iRobot, is headquartered in the United States.
As the fastest-growing segment of the commercial service robotics market, logistics is forecast to hit over $3.9bn in sales volume this year, up from $3.1bn in 2020. The pandemic fuelled eCommerce surge continues driving demand for logistics robots, as they help automate and optimize operations, enabling higher precision, lower costs, and faster delivery times.
The Asia-Pacific region is forecast to witness the biggest increase in sales volume. However, Europe is expected to maintain its position as the region with the most sales of logistics service robots.
Statistics show the entire logistics robots industry is set to continue growing and reach $4.5bn in sales by 2022.
Global Investments into Fintech Companies Plunged by Almost 40% amid Pandemic
The year 2020 was a challenging year for many fintechs. The global slowdown in funding caused by the COVID-19 led to a significant drop in the number of venture capital deals and brought uncertainty for many companies operating in this market.
According to data presented by AksjeBloggen.com, global investments into fintech companies hit $105.3bn in 2020, almost a 40% plunge amid pandemic.
US Fintechs Raised 75% of Total Investments
Fintech companies apply modern tech solutions in the financial services industry to offer digitally enhanced products and allow widespread access to financial products at a lower cost than traditional players. Over the years, these innovative startups transformed how people and businesses spend, invest, save, or borrow money.
Even before the pandemic, many fintechs found it difficult to access funding, as investors focused on established companies instead of early-stage businesses. Nevertheless, the total value of investments into fintech companies increased dramatically in the last decade.
In 2010, fintechs raised $9bn in funding, revealed the KPMG’s 2020 Pulse of Fintech report. By 2015, this figure grew more than seven times to $67.1bn. In 2018, the total investment value jumped to $145.9bn and continued rising to $168bn in 2019, as the record year for fintech investments.
After the COVID-19 pandemic brought many deals to a halt in the first half of 2020, H2’20 reversed the trend as investors and fintechs learned to do business in a new normal. Nevertheless, statistics show that last year witnessed 2,861 deals worth $105.3bn, almost $63bn less than before the pandemic.
The Americas were the region attracting the most investments in the sector, accounting for 75% of the total, or $79.2bn. Fintechs from the EMEA region raised $14.4bn last year. Asian fintechs followed with $11.2bn worth of investments.
The Number of Fintech Startups Doubled Since 2019
Although the COVID-19 affected the investment activity in the fintech sector, it also triggered a surge in the use of fintech solutions, creating a huge space for new companies.
The BCG data revealed the number of fintech startups worldwide more than doubled since the pandemic struck, rising from over 12,200 in 2019 to almost 26,500 this month.
As of April 2021, there were 10,738 fintech startups in North America as the leading region, up from 5,800 in 2019.
However, statistics show Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have witnessed even more impressive growth in the number of fintechs. In 2019, almost 3,600 companies were operating in this sector. Since then, the number of fintech startups in the EMEA region surged by 160% to more than 9,300.
Asia and the Pacific ranked third with nearly 6,200 fintech startups as of April, up from 2,850 in 2019.
WeChat Brand Worth $68B, More than Three Major Chinese Banks
As the leading social networking app in China and the fifth most widely used globally, WeChat saw impressive growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic, both in revenue and the number of users. The brand value of Tencent Holding’s mobile messaging app also surged in the last year, launching WeChat among the strongest brands globally.
According to data presented by StockApps.com, WeChat brand value hit almost $68bn in 2021, more than three major Chinese banks.
The World’s Strongest Brand
WeChat or also called China’s “app for everything,” offers services from messaging and banking to taxi services and online shopping. During the pandemic, the app also helped keep track of those traveling or in quarantine, providing access to real-time data on COVID-19, online consultations, and self-diagnosis services powered by artificial intelligence to more than 300 million users.
This diversity of services offered to its users, especially amid the pandemic, helped the WeChat brand value surge by 25% YoY, revealed the 2021 Brand Finance’s Global 500 survey. With a valuation of $67.8bn, WeChat jumped nine spots on the ranking to enter the top 10 for the first time, behind giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, Walmart, or Facebook.
Also, the popular app ranked higher than the three major banks in China. In comparison, China Construction Bank hit a $59.6bn brand value this year, $8.3bn less than WeChat. Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of China also ranked below the popular messaging app, with $53.1bn and $48.6bn value, respectively.
The Brand Finance survey also revealed WeChat overtook Ferrari to become the world’s strongest brand with a top score of 95.4 out of 100 and an AAA+ brand strength rating. The relative strength of brands is measured through a balanced scorecard of metrics evaluating marketing investment, stakeholder equity and business performance.
Statistics show the Chinese mobile app is one of merely 11 brands in the ranking to have been awarded the elite AAA+ brand strength rating.
More than Hit 1.2 Billion Active Monthly Users
WeChat has lots of popular messaging app features, including Moments. A majority of WeChat users access WeChat Moments every time they open the app. Voice and text messaging, group messaging, payment and games are other examples of WeChat services.
Tencent’s 2020 financial results revealed the number of WeChat active accounts has been multiplying over the past years.
Between 2011 and 2015, the number of monthly active accounts surged from 2.8 million to nearly 700 million. In the first quarter of 2018, WeChat`s user base hit the one-billion benchmark, and the number just kept rising.
Statistics show the popular social networking app had over 1.2 billion monthly active users in the last quarter of 2020, ranking as the fifth most widely used social networking app globally.
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