Technology is quickly transforming business operations and public services in Nigeria. We are witnessing an unprecedented growth in e-commerce and digital government adoption. The choice of the theme for the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) 2013 international conference – e-Government and National Security attests to this fact. Businesses, government agencies, health sector, educational institutions, etc are increasingly making their services assessable online via database driven web portals. Unfortunately, some if not most of these online services are probably hosted offshore in foreign data centers located mostly in the U.S; making them subject to the U.S Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This raises genuine national security concerns especially as sensitive data are involved. The recent revelations by the former U.S NSA contractor Edward Snowden once again calls for a rethink in this practice.
A recent survey conducted by Cloud Security Alliance (U.S based nonprofit organization that establishes security for cloud computing) showed that foreign companies are now reluctant to use US-based cloud services after Snowden’s NSA leaks. John Naughton (Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the British Open University) in his article Edward Snowden’s not the story. The fate of the internet is puts it this way:
“The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you’re thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.
And if you think that sounds like the paranoid fantasizing of a newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. “If businesses or governments think they might be spied on,” she said, “they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity.”
Spot on. So when your chief information officer proposes to use the Amazon or Google cloud as a data-store for your company’s confidential documents, tell him where to file the proposal. In the shredder.”
Consequently, the need for private clouds and high-end data centers (tier 1, 2, 3 & 4) in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. The advancements in virtualization technology pioneered by VMware and the many international fiber cables (pioneered by Globacom, MainOne Cable and WACS) terminating at the shores of Lagos have a least reduced some perceived technological and infrastructural concerns. Thankfully, some private organizations are beginning to realize the business potential of a localized datacenter and are channeling funds in that direction. There are already reports of ongoing construction of tier 3 and 4 datacenters in Nigeria by companies such as MainOne Cable, Venema Advies, BCX Nigeria and Globacom.
It now behooves on the Nigeria government to create the enabling business environment for these projects to succeed and remain sustainable. Stable power supply, security, policies, and proper legislation & regulation remain the key success criteria.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome.