in this interview, the Chief Executive Officer of Silex Secure Lab Limited, Nsikak Joseph Nelson talks about the information technology (IT) ecosystem in Abuja, how the company has been able to develop home made solutions that have enables organisations to scale up their businesses in Abuja and Northern Region. He also talks about the need for government to create an enabling environment through policies that would encourage indigenous software development firms. Anthony Nwosu captures this in an exclusive interview.
Tell us more about Silex Secure Lab Limited?
SILEX SECURE LAB LIMITED is a leading Nigerian IT company duly registered in 2014 with its office in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Silex Secure Lab offers services in Cyber Security, Software development, Programming, Data analytics, Cloud computing, Animation, Website development, Fintech, business processes and solutions. We blend Business and Internet Intelligence by developing innovative cyber investigative, encrypted communications and business solutions that are targeted at enabling our clients operate more efficiently.
Over the years, we have offered our services to Nigerian Government Agencies, Private companies and individuals. As a CSR company, we have trained over 200 web developers in Abuja, the Federal University of Technology (FUT) Minna, Jos and other cities.
As an IT firm based in Abuja, how has it been appreciating your services in the Northern region?
It has been pretty good and you know this is the Federal Capital City where a lot of people including governmental and corporate organizations think the best IT companies are in Lagos, but you won’t blame them. A lot of Information Technology (IT) firms in this area have their existing customers most of them have been focusing on governmental project, while others are servicing the informal sector however you look at it, we have got a lot of clients whom we have served and appreciate us for rendering exceptional services and giving them value for their money in a simple and effective way. We strongly believe that the IT ecosystem is robust and there is no need heading to Lagos for IT solutions.
Do you have these solutions and software developed in-house?
All our software solutions are developed in-house. From UI/UX to front end, backend and Mobile Apps are done in-house; as a matter of fact, we have a vibrant and energetic team comprising of developers, UI/UX designers, Cyber security experts, Mobile App working on various innovative solutions and products. As a software development & a cyber security company, we totally understand the importance of intellectual property especially with the uniqueness of the products we develop. So as an organisation, we ensure we develop and build capacity around these areas in line with the global best practices. We deliver these solutions to our clients and we are proud that we developed them in-house and they have been working efficiently.
How efficient is your Self Tracer software and do you think that government facilities can deploy them for security purposes?
As guardians and parents are busy today, we understand that they need to keep a tab on their wards and kids so we developed such a solution. Our self-Tracer apps is so special to us, we developed this app basically for parental control but as time evolved, we saw the need of extending the services to corporate organisations and government agencies. Talking of effectiveness, the app is so effective, the sole purpose is to monitor the movement of yourself and family especially in this current security situation, there is need for self-tracing and when there is an emergency with a click on the apps you can notify your family member or anyone you add on hotspot on your current location and if for any reason your phone is turned-off and SIM card is changed, Once the phone is turned back on the apps will notify the admin through the cloud-based system.
Again, this can be fully effective for law enforcement agency for tracking of asset and monitoring communication against insider threat. Other components of the app include Internet Filter, communication filter on social media etc, Website Blocker, GPS Tracking, Remote Control. But again, there is always a privacy to talk about which, in developing this app, we also took into consideration.
As Nigerians are more into mobility, what is the unique feature of your phone encryption technology and how can you work hand in hand with Telcos?
Wow! Our end-to-end encryption is one of the best things that has happened to Silex Secure and one of the local products in Africa cyber security arena. What we have done as a company is not all about call encryption but more of a state-of-the-art mobile security solution. Some of the amazing features are listed on; http://silexscrypt.com.ng/. Let us take a look at Secure File sharing, one of the key features of the app, which guides against data leak in organisations, you know as at now any information that comes to your phone can be easily shared to others, I mean important documents but we made it in such a way that the original owner of the data has the right to grant permission to a recipient of the file and if permission isn’t granted from the owner, that file can’t be shared, so in a way the originator of the file has full control on who gets access to the file.
Our primary goal of making an encrypted solution for mobile user is to provide Total Privacy and absolute security to mobile users which also applies to calls and also solves the problem of leaked conversations which is often so common in our society today, at least we have seen and read on the news on how High profile, politicians and celebrities and business executives’ private conversations are leaked to the public domain, including personal information, business transactions etc. Working with telecoms provider will be a welcome development we can provide this service as an exclusive product to subscriber.
You develop software in house; can we know what you have developed and where you have deployed?
Yes, we have developed innovative Mobile Apps projects. We currently features a number of projects, but let’s look at just a few: The Towing Apps; this is the easiest and most convenient way to request for a Tow Truck; Just Tap and Tow! Once you set your pickup location, select a Tow Truck of your choice to help you when you need a Tow Truck to rescue you or you just need help with a flat battery or flat tire. Another one is the “Barber Apps” this app is designed for salons. The Salon.ng is a mobile platform for barbers and clients, modernizing the barbershop experience. With Salon.ng you can turn on your apps location, send a request within your location, a close barber sees the request, accepts the request and moves to your location to cut your hair.
We aslo have the “eCounsel Apps”: the eCOUNSEL is an online platform set up to revolutionize the way legal service is accessed. The world of work is evolving and to thrive in this new reality, we are focused on using data and technology as a tool to make legal help more easily accessible by all Nigerians. Then we looked at the cooking gas supply chain ecosystem and built a solution around that space. We called it “Gas Apps”. This is an On-demand gas/fuel/diesel delivery service that delivers fuel to vehicles and diesel for generators and gas for cooking cylinders in any location. This service could come in handy in case of emergency where perhaps a person is stranded on the highway or at home or work. It works in a similar pattern like Uber & bolt Apps.
What about solutions built around intelligence and information gathering, now that we are trying to deepen our security apparatus in the country?
We have designed the OSINT SOLUTIONS that offer direct solutions to the questions around intelligence and information gathering for security agencies. This is a Social Media Intelligence and OSINT products that makes use of and transforms public data such as Social Media and Deep & Dark Web into valuable intelligence. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) platforms support collection and analysis of relevant and targeted information relating to criminal and political open sources. This tool has wide benefits for a number of industries, including; Government and Defence Intelligence agencies, Law Enforcement, Commercial Risk Management companies, and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). We also have developed an End-to-Encryption Solutions.
Through our flagship “Invest in Technology” Initiative, which gives people the opportunity to invest in innovative solutions targeted at various sectors, some of our commercial apps are open for outright sales or investment, i.e. for people who are willing to invest their funds in smart technological solutions like ours. Most of our application are being deployed to Private companies, Public sectors, individual and multinational companies.
Do you think that the government is doing enough to ensure that indigenous IT firms like yours scale?
Well, for us as a company, we look beyond government knowing that government can’t meet everyone’s demand. However, government has a major role to play in policy making, provision of infrastructure & patronage and open access to local companies. But this is where we are now, At Silexsecure we build most of our products for international Market not depending on Nigerian government to do business. That is the beauty of Technology. Policy wise not much is being done, intervention funds nothing much is done and in terms of palliative, not much is done either.
Take for example, during this lockdown most of our developers were working remotely, we had to make sure we provide alternative sources of power like Generator and Solar Power for our developer so as to meet projects schedules. Again, you should understand the impact of that to our business if most of our developers staying in various places have access to power and good internet, we won’t spend so much on running cost as a company.
Capacity building and training are the things you do. Can we know how this has been?
Capacity building can’t be over emphasised. As a company, we have done tremendously well in that aspect, we started by training Students in Nigerian universities narrowing down to Government agencies and Law enforcement agencies. Right now, we are doing tailored training based on the products we develop. So we feel training should be attached to a product. Take for an example, Our OSINT project enables us set up training in the area of intelligence and information gathering for security agencies. While we are still accommodating student in Cyber Security, which is a core area of specialization, overall remark has been very impressive, the testimonials are there for people to see.
What are we to expect from you this last quarter?
This is mind blowing, you should expect more innovative solutions from us. As a company we are diving deep to international markets. Right now I am sure sooner or later we will tell you of our ground-breaking technology in the international scene. But be rest assured that we are making Nigerians proud, we are focusing more on Artificial Intelligence which will majorly be used by Defence and military operations, community policing and the AVIATION Sector. So, there is more to expect from us.
Do you think that the Covid 19 will make Nigerian firms to deploy robust IT solution for greater productivity?
This is the time for everyone to think deep. I am sure you have read of innovative and robust solutions that have been developed by various companies in Nigeria within the lock down, though productivity has increased since a lot of companies like ours adopted personal and meaningful products. Imagine all technology companies in Nigeria having their products, I mean personal products not client product knowing fully the impact of this to the economy. But I must tell you productivity in the technology space is very high right now. We have seen clients who have spent so much on freelance platforms, outsourcing jobs to Indian guys, come to us, people really want to take control of most of the product they are developing so on that note I could say Covid-19 is a blessing in disguise. So, I think personally, this is when African countries should really overtake the west.
What are the challenges that you face as an IT firm?
They are the normal challenges that every growing businesses face in Nigeria such as poor Infrastructure, non-existent Government policies/ Enabling Environment, Competition. Though we can’t assume to be a monopoly in a capitalist setting but a bit of protectionist policies matter. Also, Market Access-Intra Africa Trade, Access to capital and Finding the Right developers or skilled I.T personnel to help us scale.
If you are to advice government on IT, what would be your take?
It is a straightforward thing, I would say, that they should encourage local technology and setup an innovative centre where they can easily access local software and purchase some of these great technological solutions for local consumption and deployment. They should also fund local companies to meet government demands. invest in idea, build a better frame work for funding local technology. And lastly, proper policy frame work to guide local content.