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Q&A: Internet Solution’s Managing Director

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Broadband connectivity is becoming cheaper in many countries and it has also easier for many businesses and individuals to access the Internet. One of the biggest players in the Internet connectivity industry is Internet Solutions (IS). 

IT News Africa recently took advantage of the opportunity to sit down with Managing Director Saki Missaikos to find out about IS’ strategy going forward, his vision for the future and the company’s further expansion into Africa.

Internet Solutions' Managing Director Saki Missaikos (image: IS)

* You only recently took up the position of MD of IS. Where would you like to see the company grow towards?

There are a number of areas where I would like to see IS grow.  As is the case with all companies, we need to grow revenue, deliver profits and ensure the sustainability of the company.  But to do this we need to ensure we have a culture that attracts the very best talent, and I would like to see IS grow to be the ‘go to’ company for all graduates – with the company seen as the ultimate employment opportunity for the brightest and the best from across Africa; scientists, engineers and physicists should not be going abroad – they have a home at IS. If we can do this our future will be secure – by constantly bringing in new talent we will not only continue to innovate, we will continue to be an important contributor to the socio–economic development of the continent.

* Any future plans to expand IS further into Africa?

African expansion is definitely on the cards.  We already have a presence in East, West and Southern Africa and expect our footprint to grow in the coming years as a result of increased demand from both international clients entering new markets on the continent or expanding their current activities, as well as local companies that are growing and expanding locally and internationally.

* What do you think is the biggest stumbling block for Internet in Africa?

The first thing is that access to bandwidth is not cost effective. Secondly, socio-economic conditions for a large majority of the population restricts their ability to purchase Internet enabled devices (PC, smartphone, tablet) and, together with limited ability to access the Internet, are major stumbling blocks.  Additionally, the deferred reaction of government to implementing aggressive policies to promote widespread infrastructure spend which would enable universal access has stunted the spread and growth of the Internet in SA and also other African countries.

* Why are broadband prices so expensive in SA compared to the rest of the world?

A number of factors contribute to this:

– Fixed Line Operators control and protection of last mile connectivity

– Mobile Operators not scaling their pricing and networks for the explosive growth in data.

– The number of subscribers for broadband as a percentage of the population is relatively small thus we have not achieved the economies of scale required as a country

– The cost of end-user equipment is substantially higher due to import taxes and exchange rates

– Support costs due to skills shortage is disproportionate

* What do you think is IS’ biggest achievement?

We hope our biggest achievement is yet to come because there are still so many unconnected citizens across the African continent. However for all IS Crew what is most satisfying is that every day we get to assist our clients to use the Internet to make the world work better.

 *As a leader in the field, how does IS innovate on their product strategy?

Our clients provide us with the impetus for innovation.   By listening to our clients, in terms of their business strategy and needs, we are able to develop products and solutions that assist them in attaining their goals and meeting their needs.  It may be doing things faster, smarter, more efficiently, more cost effectively or a combination of all of these. Our products are born out of a need that is identified and our technologists build products and solutions that are practical, deliver results and drive business growth for the client.

*Do you think government’s assessment of what broadband is in SA is correct?

I think what is important is that the government has a broadband strategy that is effective, executed upon and economically viable.  We have the international bandwidth available with WACS, Seacom, EASSY, Sat3 etc, but local infrastructure and cost has not keep pace.  In addition the broadband strategy has to address issues such as last mile connectivity, fibre to the home, licensing and spectrum allocation.  There has been enough talk and now action is required if the country is to keep pace with other African countries and global developments – and be able to participate activity in the global economy.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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