✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽 Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director at Rack Centre — Black History Month Keynote Speaker
Ayotunde (Tunde) Coker, Managing Director at Rack Centre - Discussing the Internet in Africa and security in data centers.
I'm happy to be here on Cloudflare TV today. My name is Joe Sullivan and I'm the Chief Security Officer at Cloudflare.
I have with me today a very special guest, Ayotunde Coker.
Welcome to Cloudflare TV and thank you for joining me. I know it's quite a time in Nigeria right now and looking forward to kind of continuing the conversation we started a couple of weeks ago.
But before we jump into all that, why don't you take a minute to introduce yourself to the audience.
Hello everyone. My name is Ayotunde Coker.
I'm the Managing Director of RAC Center, which is one of the co-location data centers in Africa and is one of the leading current neutral co-location data centers in Africa.
And I'm currently speaking from Lagos in Nigeria.
Great. And I think a lot of the world is paying attention to what's going on in Nigeria right now.
And, you know, our thoughts and prayers are with you and everyone in the community and I hope you and everyone you care about is doing okay right now.
Yes, thank you very much. We're doing okay. Right now there's a curfew on what's a peaceful protest for improved governance and conditions for the police.
And we're watching carefully with what's going on. And hopefully what we have right now will be a great turning point for the future.
And certainly with thoughts with all of those that have been impacted in various ways.
But I'm glad that we're fine.
My staff at RAC Center and a critical facility, we've made sure that we have all our business continuity processes in place, which layers on top of what we've had to do with COVID as a critical facility.
And, you know, we're seeing how things develop and how these things hopefully play out in a positive way going forward.
Yeah, there's so many directions we could explore on this. It's fascinating to me because when we spoke a few weeks ago in preparation for this session, I had asked you a question about how, you know, the protests that were happening in the United States might influence other places around the world and how you were perceiving them.
But I think we could really turn it around right now.
It seems that some similar types of things are being protested and communities around the world are feeling more comfortable with peaceful protests, like you said.
And there's also the angle of the Internet and, you know, the role that businesses like yours and mine keeping the Internet working in our communities has to play in this.
So let's just jump right into that and then we'll come back to some of the other questions that we want to talk about.
But can you tell, you know, the rest of us around the world, we don't get the local view that you have of what's going on.
So just kind of love a sense of how do things build up until, I guess, protests really started a couple weeks ago.
Well, there's a police special armed robbery squad that's called SARS and there has been agitation for some time, especially with the youth, with the same kind of issues that were seen, I guess, in the US.
And so it demonstrates these things can manifest in different ways globally.
It comes down to how it's related to.
And this had been agitating and it came up into a peaceful protest requesting that the SARS squad get disbanded.
And this then got orchestrated with peaceful protests over the last 10 days or so.
And as with these things that happen with peaceful protests, you get unexpected agitations in it.
And nevertheless, that's really resonated, that change has to happen with respect to making sure that, but actually, you know, it's improved circumstances for the police, pay conditions, better training.
And better expectations of conduct with, you know, of generally police in the community.
And it's interesting that you indicate some of the similarities with what's happened in the US.
And in a way, actually, reflecting on some of the stuff that was going on in Paris as well, if you remember the yellow jackets as well.
So it's a similar sort of challenge that's manifesting here.
And hopefully that we see a more better and sustainable outcome going forward.
It's certainly drawn the attention into what needs to be done and stuff that has to be done.
And that is for the good. And therefore, it just comes to making sure that we see the way through curfews on right now, just to calm down and get some better control on what's going on.
And, you know, coming out of that, then I guess that there will be therefore the discussions on how to better make sure that these things happen without the unfortunate violence that we're seeing, and unintended consequences that do occur at times.
In our business, helping keep websites online when they're under attack, we sometimes see attacks in parallel with protests and movements.
And because of the use of the Internet to bring people together or to share information about the location of a peaceful protest, is the Internet being used actively in your community right now?
Oh, well, social media is a, it's sort of a standard way of life, you know, and it is being used actively in the community.
If you look at some of the statistics in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission published the statistics of Internet users.
And end of last year, we had about 128 million Internet users in itself, a strong growth from the start of the year.
But what's happened over the last few months has really been quite remarkable.
It grew to about 100 and just over 130 million coming out of Q1.
And the latest figures show it at around about 140, 144, 145 million.
That's a huge population of Internet users. And of course, around that, you have a lot of mobile phone access to social media, that it's used, that is used in, you know, mostly positive ways.
But you know, in some of these circumstances, you also have to make sure that authentic, there's authenticity in what is consumed, and how that's managed.
By and large, the Internet is a huge opportunity for Nigeria, and Lagos state itself, like California is in the world, you know, in a state in the US, number five, I think the largest economy in Lagos state is the fifth largest economy in Africa, is about 22 million people.
And of course, in that, it's on proportion of number of Internet users as well.
So you do have an environment of growth in Internet users. And I think that'll be that's positive for the economy here.
And generally in the region, you know, what's positive coming out of the scale of Nigeria is also positive spillover into the neighboring countries as well.
So that there's demand for the kind of services, there will be great demand for the kind of services that Cloudflare offer with respect to the place in the Internet architect, the overall Internet architecture.
You see, you tend to find you have to take a long view as well, the longer commitment, I guess, understand the market, get into anchor, so into the market, and then ensure you plug into when the scale happens.
Yeah, I definitely turned to social media when I was, I knew that there had been a curfew last night in Lagos, where you are.
And I was wondering if there was going to be a curfew tonight.
I know it's already after 5.30pm your time. And so I was, you know, the place I went to check and see what was happening real time with social media.
And I was able to I was able to see kind of what was actually going on a little bit more in real time.
Yes. Yeah, it is. And the curfew has been extended. You know, it really was tragic, very tragic, despairing events, really, yesterday.
And so we're expecting a curfew over the next two to three days, and hopefully, more normality coming out of it, you're getting flashes here and there.
And of course, just like you are, and that's the boundary breaker around the world, it transcends boundaries, you know, information gets across very, very quickly.
And you and I are probably looking at the same source of information.
I have the access to some more local news.
But by and large, we look at the same sort of sources of information over the Internet, or enabled through Internet architectures.
Right. Yes, I, I was checking the local, you know, the global news, and I was kind of getting the same high level summaries from all the different media outlets.
So I went to social media to find out is the curfew happening right now.
You know, trying to figure out, you know, outside of Nigeria, we don't know, you know, really, how much is it?
Are there peaceful protests? Was it the government that was responsible for the shootings?
And what's happening? And like, everybody wants to know in real time, what's going on without the Internet?
Yes. And everybody wants to know in real time, what's going on.
And I also, I want to make sure I don't speculate. And until it's absolutely really, really clear, as you know, these things can be one may speculate as to what might have happened, either intended or outcomes of unintended, tragic circumstances, but we'll see, as it merges over the next few days, no doubt, their opinions, their assertions and stuff like that out there.
But I, I'll take my care on letting the facts emerge.
Right. So what's it like being on the front line of kind of keeping the Internet going in a place like Lagos right now?
Well, we've had instances where we have to make sure that we always have, you know, the risk management and forward looking and perceiving risk management is very, very important, as you know, in the business we're in.
So we have to scan the horizon, I guess, and likely risks around us.
A few years ago, we had to deal with Ebola, we put in some continuity actions at the time.
When COVID came in, we reacted very, very quickly.
By the start of March, even actually coincidentally, when we triggered our own heightened awareness and processes, COVID was when we had the index case arrive in Lagos.
And of course, we moved quickly with everything we needed, making sure that we had the, procured all of the sanitizers and PPEs, you know, and new business processes.
Working from home, we were able to put in our working from home VPN infrastructure, you know, triggered very, very quickly.
Within a week, we got, we could get into the market to procure long term spares that were required, you know, and so on.
And that was very useful, because then we were prepared to support our businesses and our stakeholders.
When we started to move into partial lockdowns, you know, so we weren't hindered by certainly finding spares we needed weren't in the marketplace.
So what, what therefore happened, and we of course, we kept customers abreast of everything that was going on, getting them reassuring them that they can rest and be very assured that their assets are in place.
We got classified also as a critical facility, along with telcos and critical businesses.
And we moved to making sure that we had staff very close to the facility and so on.
So in that kind of circumstance is what we have to be ready for.
And as you know, there's a global network of data center providers, you know, the Uptime Institute and companies like that.
We're tracking best practice, we inputted our experiences on best practice over here at the same time taking on board what we were observing elsewhere.
And so you sort of then therefore had this global response of Internet infrastructure to keep the lights on.
And we were pleased that we were able to support some of the biggest banks and telcos and we're carrier neutral.
So we have very dense carrier community located at RAC Center, we have all 40 carriers along with main ISPs, the connections to them, the C cable.
So essentially, we were also able to do our part into keeping that ecosystem going.
And we've had very, very regular updates to customers to let them know what was going on.
We actually then had to step up our levels of controls when we realized that we started to have community transmissions, when the virus wasn't really very well understood.
So it's a challenge, actually. And it's one that where one has to be very, very responsive, and very agile in acting into new events.
So once we sensed this was happening, we were tracking the peaceful protests over the last 10 days.
Soon as we noticed that there were likely flashes here and there, we actually implemented heightened awareness, business continuity processes again.
And so we've got that in place. And so we were prepared when these curfews came in.
So we're running, we've got staff managing the facility. And so ensuring that we keep customers informed on what's going on.
I think people who don't work in our industry probably don't understand how much time and effort we put into things like business continuity, and what an important term that is.
Because everybody expects the Internet to work all the time.
Yes. Yes. And the power has to be on.
And the facility has to be up. And, you know, you have to have the right people.
It is. In itself, it's a very interesting challenge. And one thing that's been really quite remarkable with everything globally on COVID, and also really quite tragically, we're getting this second wave that's coming through now, although off the basis of more understanding of the virus.
It's been quite remarkable how the global Internet ecosystem has held up on this, that mix of the data centers, the edge data centers, the undersea cables, connecting the world, the content distribution networks, the Internet security fabric, frameworks that have to keep things running, and not have the breakdown you expect with DDoS everywhere, and so on, you know, pulling the Internet down.
The Internet ecosystem has demonstrated a remarkable and amazing level of elasticity.
So much so that I think it's changed the world in terms of showing how digital infrastructure, despite it being a huge power consuming infrastructure in the data centers and so on, the net effect is actually green, because that means that, as you see, lots of clean air cities that used to be smoggy, because you don't have so many people flying around so much.
We've got digital infrastructure enabled meetings and video conferences like this.
You now have people not necessarily traveling to work as they needed to do.
So it's changed the profile of sustainability generally. So that's the digital infrastructure, the Internet infrastructure has been very elastic, indeed, to make that happen.
Yeah, yet the one thing that we see when situations like the last couple of weeks, the last 10 days of protests, it's while most of the protests are peaceful, and most of the government response is peaceful, and we'll wait to learn all the facts, and some of the other things that have happened most recently, but when I look on social media, I see groups trying to rally denial of service attacks against the other side.
And so it seems like even when things are playing out peacefully on the ground, there are groups that try and suppress the other voices online.
Like we talked about, and we did a blog post here, during the more serious periods of unrest here in the United States a couple of months ago, some of the groups that were speaking up in support of protests, we saw and stood in front of and blocked denial of service attacks against them.
And currently we're doing the same thing with regard to some services in Nigeria.
And so I imagine your team has to be ready for those types of attacks as well.
Yes, we have to be.
I mean, and on our part, as most businesses have to be, we have to make sure that our defences are secure.
As you know, with these things, it's an ever -changing scene.
Yeah, you always constantly have to innovate. But also the customers that we have hosted in the facility, they also have to make sure that they've got the right protection.
I think when we did the pivot to full digital remote, one of the key things that we had to absolutely ensure was endpoint security, as well as security in the call.
And it's one of the things that our customers, we provide physical security, but then the infrastructure that our customers have to plug into, they have to make sure that they do the same thing.
So I want to step back from the events of the last couple of weeks and think about the bigger picture and what you've seen in terms of the development of the Internet in Africa, more generally in Nigeria specifically.
You've worked around the world, you have a very multinational perspective in terms of the Internet.
And one of the things we talked about when we talked before was how around the world, the Internet has developed at a different pace in different environments.
And some communities get to leapfrog others, almost because they didn't get bogged down in the last generation of technology.
Love to hear your thoughts on how Africa is really getting to leapfrog some other parts of the world because of the opportunity to do new things first.
Yes. Okay. Yes. I use some reference points from over the years while I've been, I came back to Nigeria about 12 years ago now.
It was about 28, after 28 years in the UK with a global career, a very international career in different ways.
And it's Africa's, I came back to Africa with really Nigeria as the base because I came as a CIO of one of the leading banks who then started to expand in Africa.
And I had the opportunity therefore, as we established the banking infrastructure in different countries in Africa.
And there's certain catalysts for the change and the remarkable growth experience in Africa over the last 12 years.
With the new banking technology coming on board without the legacy of mainframe systems that were not flexible and so on, with new core banking platforms and new technology to manage treasury systems and so on.
What you find, what you found that the innovative banks over here where they leapfrogged the other banks internationally in technology.
It was very helpful for me to having brought some of the experience I had in the UK of providing consulting services to some of the banks over there as a technologist.
And also having been a director at Egg Bank, which is one of the, which was, I think the first Internet bank, a pure play Internet bank in Europe.
And we could bring some of that sort of thinking and agility into what we're doing here.
Sometimes actually when I would speak to colleagues and meetings and I say, well, you know, we really are ahead of say a Lloyds Bank in the UK in this area.
They say, oh, it's not possible. I'll say, yeah, I know, I know the kind of architecture they have and we are ahead.
And so you had examples like that where we're having leapfrogging in banking technology.
So having an SMS being sent out as soon as you transacted, for instance, has been around here for at least 10 years.
Any card transaction would send an alert and that was very helpful with fraud, for instance.
The other thing that was key was mobile telephony.
And the penetration of mobile telephony has been really quite remarkable beyond many expectations over the years.
I mean, this has been a 20 year journey and phenomenon going from 2.5G to 3G and now 4G LTE being in place.
And the penetration of mobile having over a hundred percent tele-density in some countries, for instance, and it's close to that in Nigeria now as well, has been quite remarkable.
And then you get the process of connecting Africa to the world.
At the time that came, there was just one undersea cable, sat three connecting at the African coast, which was really quite unreliable.
And it's amazing where that one cable breaks, it was like the entire region just ground to a halt because you had to use satellite communications with a high latency, a low bandwidth that you had those days.
And then came a whole range of undersea cables, starting with the main one cable, then we had the glow on cable, then the wax cable and the ace cable.
And now suddenly, and on the East coast, you had the East coast safe cable and so on coming in place.
And suddenly Africa gets connected to the world.
But what we had was the coastal regions being connected to the world and the last mile and the Internet penetration into the rest of Africa has been evolving over the last few years.
And what's now happened is the penetration of broadband, the 4G LTE that's now available through the mobile telephony infrastructure is now an underpinning infrastructure that's enabling the Internet uptake in Africa.
And I really do believe that digital is going to be a fantastic future of Africa.
And actually with mobile telephony, that was another technology that allowed Africa to leapfrog because immediately you didn't have the legacy of fixed copper infrastructures.
Some countries had, but it was dilapidated.
And so the innovative telcos came in, did what they had to do, putting innovative pricing tariff structures in place to enable mobile adoption across our communities.
And that then just brought about a lot of this transformation.
One of the things I observe now is that if you look at the GDP of Africa, it's 4% of the world, but Africa is 17% of the world population.
It's one thing, I call it the prosperity gap.
We've got the opportunity to fill that prosperity gap.
Then if you look at the number of data centers in terms of power installed, Zala Analytics, one of the research companies here, estimates that we have only 1% of world data center infrastructure in Africa.
So 1% of world data center infrastructure for 4% of global GDP for 17% of the world population.
And you see the space with Internet adoption going up for transformation.
So digital will be the transforming architecture for African economies.
If you couple with that the quite young, median age, depending on where you are in the country, generally around about 18 to 22 years median age.
Higher in some places in North Africa, for instance.
But by and large, the median age in Africa is quite young.
And the age of population that have the propensity to use digital, then the adoption of digital in Africa is going to grow significantly.
And that's what I've seen the change has been over the last 12 years.
Finally, the really critical change is the growth of democracy in Africa, the move towards meritocracy and openness.
The Internet has enabled a level of openness, and it's almost will be tied any leader that tries to shut down the Internet.
So it's been a moderating factor in allowing the growth of democracy.
I've seen meritocracy happen a lot.
You can actually look at, okay, issues here and there and so on. But by and large, states in Nigeria have shown that they expect their governors to perform, and the governors don't perform, they get voted out.
And then other states see the performing governors transform the states and the lives and the prosperity of their populations, and they want to mimic that.
So you've had this spread of democratic meritocracy go on.
And what we're facing right now is a, say, I guess, over the last 10 days, is a reflection of that.
There's an expectation and a holding to account that is increasing, not just here in Nigeria, but by and large, in Africa.
So the combination of technologies and democracies that you're starting to really see infiltrate across Africa is going to be very transformative.
And that's why I really do believe that the next frontier, not just for the sound bite of it, but the facts and the evidence I've been presenting here is likely to be Africa.
I also think COVID has accelerated that process. Why? Suddenly, the global corporations start to realize that they have to de-risk their value chains.
They have to de-risk their physical supply chains, and they have to de-risk their digital value chains.
And so you'll see the move to the edge as far as digital is concerned, and a scaling up of the edge, especially with the leading technology companies.
But with the leading companies that want to reduce, especially as you have more stable economies, democracy, and so on, and the fantastic geophysical location of Africa in line with Europe in between Asia and the US, over the next, you know, it's been fast-tracked, I guess, with realizations with COVID.
So who knows how long it'll take, but I would expect a trajectory towards much better increasing activity through these changing value chains.
It's amazing. The world feels so much smaller and so much more connected.
You know, the fact that we can have this conversation live, me sitting in California, United States, and you in Nigeria, and we can look at each other and connect and talk about current events in a way that we couldn't even just a few years ago.
So you've talked about the opportunity that is Africa right now, and it does seem like the world's waking up to that.
And you have a bunch of technology companies and governments from other parts of the world all wanting to get in on the economic opportunity.
And so we see, you know, the news every day of different large organizations trying to make investments in technology in Africa.
You're in a slightly different spot because you're an independent.
You try not to differentiate traffic between, you know, and, you know, you don't sell the whole pipe to one tech company, so to speak.
How is all of that kind of like gold rush mentality of everybody coming to Africa right now?
How is that perceived inside Nigeria, for example? It's very positive.
I think there really is a push to getting foreign direct investments into the country.
There's a very, very strong and genuine desire to improve the ease of doing business.
It's been demonstrated over the last few years with the improvements we've been getting that that desire is a reality.
You know, the country's gone from over 160 in the ranking to, I think it's around about 115 or so now within a trajectory to get to a top 170.
So that's a demonstration of intent that foreign direct investment is a good thing.
With that comes in, you know, the technologies investment in infrastructure.
And, you know, and also with that comes the jobs.
And there's a desire also for African economies to diversify from their monoproduct habits.
Nigeria's oil, Zambia's copper, you know, Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa.
You can just go around African economies looking for that one crop or one product as the international source of income.
So that diversification is very, very key.
You know, it's much better for the direct investment with the capacity building capability and inflow of know-how to create many, many tens of thousands of jobs than the one single individual with a wrong sort of framework come in and destroy 40,000 jobs, just for an anecdote to describe what's going on.
But however, investors that come in have to come in with an expectation for investing in the long term.
There will be upsides, there'll be downsides, there'll be lessons that need to be learned.
There'll be bumps along the road.
And that's the way it is. I mean, Asia just didn't wake up and become a smooth place to operate.
And it's the players that have taken a long view that have been most successful in that.
And for individuals as well that choose to do that, I came back with an intention and long view.
There are lessons to learn. I mean, I was born here, but having lived pretty much most of my, all my professional life, actually, before coming back, I had to really learn the cultural adjustments.
Thankfully, I'd had an international career, knowing that when you work in different places, working in the US is different to working in Europe.
In fact, working in the UK is different to working in France.
You have to tune yourself into the disincreases and what you need to know about the cultural nuances.
And I think companies that do that will succeed with the individuals that bring in here and also with the intent to invest and invest in the long term and invest in participating proactively in growing the ecosystem over here.
It's what we do with Rack Center as well. You know, we're working hard to grow the digital ecosystem because that's where the growth is.
It's not there. It's not ready-made.
But it's part of the work. It's part of my job to make sure that we grow the digital ecosystem that then grows the addressable market.
So when you were in the UK, you had a number of fascinating different roles, you know, doing consulting and advising, working in the private sector, like you mentioned, one of the first Internet banks.
But you also worked and did government service and with, I think, the Ministry of Justice and the like.
And so you have that unique perspective of thinking about technology and the Internet, both wearing, you know, the private sector hat and a government sector hat.
And how is that dynamic playing out in Nigeria right now in terms of the role the government's playing in the development of technology and the Internet?
Yes. You have government tech, because you have to get e-government and government invests in its own technology to become more efficient.
And that's one aspect of it. And then you have the enabling environment that has to be put in place by government.
And then government says, hey, you guys, what's the enabling environment that you want?
So we have to articulate it very, very clearly, to work in tandem with government to be clear about the kind of enabling environment that is required.
One key one is improvement in the ease of doing business and business environment and the speed of doing business.
That's a key one. That's a fundamental thing. The other part of it is enabling the digital economy means that, you know, we all know if you increase broadband penetration, it has a significant impact on GDP, and it enables the consumption of digital technology.
So there's a concerted effort to increase broadband penetration.
The first target was met a couple of years ago at 30%. I think it's around about 40%.
And there's a push to get it up to about 70% on average, as across a large country.
So that has an impact in itself, that you will have pockets of very, very high Internet interconnectivity.
And the rest is really unleashing the creativity, the competitiveness of adoption of technology in lots of different ways, software development, and so on, and turning a very, very vocal intent into action.
And that's what's been happening over here. In my observation now, as a leader in technology, I make it a point to be sure that I play a role in making that happen proactively, with the chambers of commerce here, with making sure that we enable and also mentor the digital ecosystem.
And it's really quite remarkable that in the last year, Microsoft established its development center in Lagos and one in Nairobi.
And just from what I hear, those development centers are doing really, really well in comparison to global standards.
So one success leads to another, I think.
And we're seeing that another company, Tech Experts, is providing operational support to technology companies based over here.
They've grown significantly, quite amazingly, just over the last two to three years.
So that's been really quite remarkable. So there's a whole set of things that can be done.
The nature of technology now makes it easier to build technology more quickly.
And I'll just give a couple of examples from my time from many years ago in the UK.
When I was at Egg Bank, we've been doing fintech for the last 20 years.
That's 20 years ago about that. That's about 18 years ago. But we had to build things from scratch.
We had to do the heavy lifting, and we had to build the data center and the efficiencies of interconnect and networks and stuff like that.
So we had to put quite a lot of those things in place. When I was the chief technology officer for criminal justice, one of the innovations I was part of pioneering was what we call virtual courts.
Virtual courts was having to have a court process without going to a court.
So the judge would be in the chambers. There was a set-aside room in the police station with a TV, cameras.
The networks of the criminal justice system had to be interconnected because the Internet backbones weren't as sophisticated and as assumed and given as they are right now.
And we had to have two-factor authentication and systems that were not in the cloud, but that we had to really build private clouds in the center that allowed document management, document sharing, redaction, and so on and so forth, and the video and the recording of video.
And that was some pretty heavy lifting infrastructure that you had to have in place now.
I mean, these days, you can get terabytes to a penny, right?
Those days, they cost quite a bit, and they take a lot of space.
And those took a lot of effort, but these days, the infrastructure that's in place means you're not building too much from scratch, and that's a great opportunity for us to now diversify and leverage digital infrastructure very much more in Africa.
Now, it seems like when you talked about the role of government in Africa so far, it has been very much of an enabler, facilitator, even welcoming the outside companies from around the world.
What lessons do you think the continent is taking from Europe in terms of, right now, there's a little bit of a backlash going against technology companies and a trend towards this concept of, I guess, digital sovereignty and almost, some call it the balkanization of the Internet or this kind of clamping down on the international nature of it.
I mean, from what you've described, the international nature of the Internet has been mostly a very good thing so far in your community.
Yes, it has. I think those international companies are welcome.
They bring technology. At the same time, in tandem, we have to make sure that we build local talent and local capabilities.
So you have local cloud companies that are hosted at Iraq Center, just in the same way that you have international cloud companies coming in, and you find a natural balance.
I was at one of the data center companies in the US in North Carolina a couple of years ago, and it's the same thing.
You have their own cloud platforms and they provided services for, I think it's either Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services, one of those providers.
And they found the right balance between their own offering and the more larger, hyperscaler type of solutions.
The same thing is happening over here.
The positive is that it brings technology and growth of technology and drives the ecosystem.
And I think we take the opportunity then to build on the experiences that we've seen elsewhere.
Certainly, we make sure that we put in infrastructure, in data center infrastructure, that is as good as anywhere else in the world.
The kind of global awards that we've had is unprecedented for any African data center company globally, in tandem with a lot of the global established companies.
So as we build high quality core infrastructure, we welcome all the global players because the edge is growing in Africa.
And with the geophysical location in Africa, when I have conversations with a lot of the large companies, is that from rack center, it's not just about the Nigerian market actually, we connect Africa because it's sort of a central location in Africa.
But with fiber connectivity, we connect into all of the fiber players with lots of multiple network providers.
You can actually hook out into South America with pretty low latency.
So it places, it's as part of a global network infrastructure for optimizing the flow of compute across the globe.
If you, the way you describe what's happened in the last decade, really the last 12 years since you returned.
Pardon me, can I just switch on my lights?
Yeah, sure. It's getting darker there.
There we go. Much better lighting. It's getting darker outside.
I suddenly realized that I, pardon me for that. Sure. So it's very exciting what you've described in terms of since you came back to Nigeria 12 years ago and how much the Internet has changed things for the better.
Looking in your crystal ball, what do you see in terms of the next five years ahead?
What is going to be the impact of 5G and the comfort and everybody embracing technology and the Internet?
How is it going to change Africa even more? Now, that's going to be quite, it's going to be quite a change, I think.
We really need to get away from, although we have really pretty good in many places, broadband as you have elsewhere.
If you're in the city, broadband penetration is pretty good.
You go into the back of somewhere in Maine, for instance, and the connectivity is not that good.
It's the same issue we have over here.
But we need to make sure that there's more pervasive connectivity.
So the two and a half Gs that we have, for instance, and three Gs, we need to bring down to the baseline of 4G and good quality, stable 4G LTE.
And we'll find the balance of how 5G will grow.
And increasingly, you're now starting to see 5G pilots coming or very direct action of understanding how we put in place 5G tests.
But what's happened quite often is that the speed of adoption then just takes off.
And so it's good to see how that develops over the next two to five years, because it's more important that we get the fundamental base of connectivity up to a minimum level, generally, and make sure that where it's most valuable, we implement solutions like 5G.
And you'll probably find a network of locations that provide 5G on a demand basis.
But some of the things, sometimes when you look at Africa, the optics from outside in is a lot different from the reality.
And some of the news you hear makes you feel like, oh, wow, it's a certain circumstance.
But when you're there, the reality is different from the optics you might get from the news.
And I have quite a funny example I use. I was at a global seminar in a couple of weeks ago.
And most of the African speakers didn't have problems with their broadband connectivity.
The people who dropped out most were people from Europe and increasingly US.
And it really made me think about the core of the connectivity you have now.
Those changes we're seeing are those fundamentals that will really change, looking at the crystal ball into five years, a much more connected Africa.
And the countries on the last mile of connectivity will increase significantly.
I talked about the 70% broadband penetration. More widely across Africa, through the center of Africa, you have companies like Liquid Telecom, for instance, and Airtel, and so on, that are building backbones from south to north, South Africa up to Egypt, from East Africa coming straight into West Africa, and other innovations in satellite technologies connecting Africa.
As that happens, I think you'll find a much more digitized economy here.
And it's not just going to be about technology and technology business.
I think what it is, is going to be about technology enabled businesses in agriculture.
I do think that AI is going to be a huge impact here.
I mean, the success of Google Maps in the middle of nowhere is amazing.
And that really takes on the mobile technology, the amazing AI that you have, and some sort of very, very clever local technologies that they use, that enable functionality like that.
I think blockchain is also going to be a significant reality, because some of it's actually accelerated again by COVID, because suddenly you need digital business to work, and to be a way of transacting business.
And I think that's going to be as transformational as the Internet, actually, because suddenly you have the blockchain, the core functionality of the blockchain of the ledger, allowing businesses to be undertaken.
Some of the leakages that you find in business processes will be totally taken out, and to have more digitally efficient economies, once we put those fundamentals of connectivity in place.
So I think you'll find some real amazing transformations here in Africa, enabled by technology.
And the technology business itself is going to be one thing.
If I just use Nigeria as an example, youth population, very, very dynamic, very, very smart, very, very innovative.
So you'll find that a lot of the business process outsourcing support, the Nigerian English tends to be quite clear and quite well understood.
The West African English, I mean, generally you find that well understood.
So you have code development being done remotely, being checked in globally, which is already happening.
So I think you're going to have a mixed tech economy, the core tech itself enabled by the digital infrastructure, and then the tech enabled businesses, underpinned by AI, underpinned by blockchain, agritech, for instance, and fintech, and how fintech will emerge in the future, depends on how other things like digital currency evolves for more universal use across the continent.
Some of the issues we have with the lack of single currency, for instance, may be solved by some other technologies like that.
It's so exciting. I've already seen it just in the cultural context. It feels like Nigerian music is influencing music from around the world, because we now have more access to it and more ability.
Here, Netflix carries Nigerian -made television shows.
And so we get more exposure to what real life on the ground is in the culture, and it builds connection.
And obviously, hopefully, if the music and the television is being created locally there, then the revenue is coming back.
And so it's not just a one -way street. Yeah, I think what they call Nollywood is now the biggest in the world.
It used to be second to Bollywood in India.
And now the Nollywood has now surpassed it. Amazing. Amazing. And without technology, that wouldn't have happened, right?
And the streaming technology for watching television.
That's one of my favorite things to do when I go on Netflix, is to search and watch shows from different cultures, because what's made in Hollywood here in the United States really reflects the United States.
And being able to watch a little bit of something different, it just gives you something to connect to.
Yeah, can I just mention something I observed since coming back here?
And very quickly, it's been a journey of 20 years, but DSTV is the local satellite, digital satellite company.
It's streamed from South Africa and so on, but pan-African.
And the Internet. Those two technologies over the last 20 years have opened up access to to knowledge into the world and so on.
And the use that we have now, the millennials have built on that.
And that's been the engine of a lot of what's transforming over here.
And I think that's what you're starting to see with what's happened with the music industry, the film industry, and the adoption and the speed of adoption of technologies.
Absolutely. I know we're just about out of time, so I want to wrap up by saying thank you so much for joining me for this hour -long conversation.
Like I said at the beginning, I'm really happy to hear that you, your family, those you care about and work with are all staying safe during this slightly more volatile time in Nigeria.
And the rest of us around the world are watching and cheering for positive things to come out of it all.
And so thank you so much for your time.
Thank you very much. Appreciate that. And also the thoughts to those who have been harmed in any which way to them and their families.
And we hope that plays through in time.
Absolutely. All right. Thank you so much. Thanks, Joe.
It's been a pleasure talking with you. Nonprofits are made for crisis to step in and help in whatever sector you're in.
And so this is that moment for them to lean into it and provide that relief.
Did you ever think you'd be doing an interview this way?
No. My name is Chris Mechsner, and I'm one of the founding members of Raise Donors.
We work closely with nonprofits to give them a flexible yet very simple fundraising platform.
That way, they have the funding to go out and achieve their mission.
What types of threats and security risks do your customers face?
These bad actors, these hackers, just purchased 10,000 stolen credit cards.
Well, they're probably not going to go to a major online retailer and go through a checkout process and input these cards to see if they work.
They want to find a very low barrier type of a system, i.e., a donation page that is intentionally designed to be simple to use.
And so how do we lessen those attacks? Because all of those declines also cost the nonprofit money.
Cloudflare has been amazing in helping us identify these threats.
So as threats are happening in real time, we can then be aware of what country they're originating from, what kind of threat that that is, and then share that information with our customers.
And the beauty in that is it's not taking up bandwidth or resources on our side.
How does Raised Donors help make things easier for your customers?
Just last week, we had a customer send out a massive newsletter, but they put in the wrong URL.
So what are they going to do about that? Well, in that case, we use the Edge Workers so that when the request comes in, we can actually manipulate that URL and have it actually complete as it was intended to.
They were so thankful that Raised Donors was able to step in and help quickly and easily, and we were able to do that all because of Cloudflare, which was phenomenal.
What advice would you give to all the nonprofits that are out there coping and trying to stay afloat right now?
But if it is something you love to do and you're failing, well, you're learning, and it's only going to help you even more so.
So be bold, don't be shy, jump in headfirst, and go for it.
The real privilege of working at Mozilla is that we're a mission-driven organization.
And what that means is that before we do things, we ask, what's good for the users as opposed to what's going to make the most money?
Mozilla's values are similar to Cloudflare's.
They care about enabling the web for everybody in a way that is secure, in a way that is private, and in a way that is trustworthy.
We've been collaborating on improving the protocols that help secure connections between browsers and websites.
Mozilla and Cloudflare have collaborated on a wide range of technologies.
The first place we really collaborated was the new TLS 1.3 protocol, and then we followed that up with QUIC and DNS server HTTPS, and most recently, the new Firefox private network.
DNS is core to the way that everything on the Internet works.
It's a very old protocol, and it's also in plain text, meaning that it's not encrypted.
And this is something that a lot of people don't realize.
You can be using SSL and connecting securely to websites, but your DNS traffic may still be unencrypted.
When Mozilla was looking for a partner for providing encrypted DNS, Cloudflare was a natural fit.
The idea was that Cloudflare would run the server piece of it, and Mozilla would run the client piece of it, and the consequence would be that we'd protect DNS traffic for anybody who used Firefox.
Cloudflare was a great partner with this because they were really willing early on to implement the protocol, stand up a trusted recursive resolver, and create this experience for users.
They were strong supporters of it. One of the great things about working with Cloudflare is their engineers are crazy fast.
So the time between we decide to do something and we write down the barest protocol sketch, and they have it running in their infrastructure, is a matter of days to weeks, not a matter of months to years.
There's a difference between standing up a service that one person can use, or 10 people can use, and a service that everybody on the Internet can use.
When we talk about bringing new protocols to the web, we're talking about bringing it not to millions, not to tens of millions.
We're talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people.
Cloudflare has been an amazing partner in the privacy front.
They've been willing to be extremely transparent about the data that they are collecting and why they're using it, and they've also been willing to throw those logs away.
Really, users are getting two classes of benefits out of our partnership with Cloudflare.
The first is direct benefits.
That is, we're offering services to the user that make them more secure, and we're offering them via Cloudflare.
So that's like an immediate benefit these users are getting.
The indirect benefit these users are getting is that we're developing the next generation of security and privacy technology, and Cloudflare is helping us do it.
And that will ultimately benefit every user, both Firefox users and every user of the Internet.
We're really excited to work with an organization like Mozilla that is aligned with the user's interests, and in taking the Internet and moving it in a direction that is more private, more secure, and is aligned with what we think the Internet should be.