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Making sense of the increased data usage since COVID-19

Working from home came with an increased need for data from people who barely needed much.

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Across various sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic changed consumer behaviours, altering trends and making nonsense of forecasts for the year.

The Q2 GDP report recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that while most sectors experienced a contraction, sectors like crop production, trade and telecommunications experienced positive growth.

Among other sectors that experienced positive growth, Telecommunications grew 18.1% contributing 14.3% to the total GDP. It is understandable that telecommunications would experience a surge in activities during a lockdown. People need constant relations to keep in touch, especially when they have been restricted to the four walls of their homes.

For MTN Nigeria, the Q1 and Q2 reports filed with the Nigerian Stock exchange showed that revenue from Data usage rose by more than N5 billion in Q2 when compared with the previous quarter. The company recorded N79.97 billion in Q2 against N74 billion in Q1.

In the same period, revenue for voice calls dropped by more than N20 billion, from N194 billion in Q1 to N174 billion in Q2.

Commenting on the report, the company had remarked that demand for data and digital services grew, even as other services were impacted by the economic constraints caused by lockdowns and movement restrictions. This is in spite of the 90-day free SMS initiative which was launched in April, where more than 4.3 billion free text messages were sent before the end of June.

Note also that the revenue from data does not factor in the visits to healthcare websites which MTN had zero-rated as part of moves to support Nigerians in accessing credible and reliable data. According to the Q2 report, customers used more than 3,000 Terabytes (equivalent of 3 million GB) of data in visiting these sites.

Towards the end of H1, this initiative was expanded to include a range of education platforms endorsed by Nigerian federal and state governments, but no data was given on this.

A look at Airtel Nigeria’s financials will also reveal same trend. Revenue from data grew by almost a billion naira, from N45.6 billion in the first quarter of 2020 (January to March 2020) to N46.4 billion in the second quarter (April to June). Revenue from voice calls dropped by N14 billion, from N88.9 billion in January to March 2020, to N74.8 billion in the subsequent quarter.

Airtel Nigeria usually reports its figures in dollars, so the figures given above were arrived at using an exchange rate of N380 to $1.

Chief Executive Officer, Raghunath Mandava, explained in the report that this is the result of people seeking new ways of socialising while trying to contain the spread of infection. To keep up with the trend, the company had to increase the penetration of digital recharges and expand its home broadband solutions.

More data, less calls! Why?

As soon as the realities of the lockdown set in, many companies set about activating the remote working framework. To do this, several applications came into use and employees had to set about adapting to them.

Working from home definitely played a role in increasing people’s data needs. A previous report from Themoneymetrics had some workers admitting that their data consumption tripled because of the demands of working online all day. Irrespective of who bore the cost of the increased data demand, employees had to stay online to work, attend to customers and clients, attend meetings, e-conferences and seminars.

The lockdown also saw teachers being compelled to go online. Whereas the usual teaching system in Nigeria would have required students seated in the classroom with the teacher physically present. Private schools took their lessons online during the lockdown. Some ran the entire term curriculum and classes, and even took their examinations online at the end of the term.

These activities came with increased demand for data, from a group of people who barely had need for them before. If the teachers were giving out lessons online, parents also had to ensure that their children were available to take these lessons, and this meant even more data.

In addition, some consumers converted most of their voice calls into data calls, using apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, skype, Google etc.

Many brands also had to rethink their advertising and promotion strategies. There was hardly need for adopting electronic billboards and roadshows since people had been confined to their homes. Some of these companies took the options of online conferences, webinars, live sessions on Instagram and Facebook, and other opportunities to interact and engage with their customers online. These, of course, came with data implications for the audience.

A lot of information that could have been shared via voice calls are now being done through internet connectivity. Live sessions online have become the surest way to create activities with a customer base that you do not have personal interactions with.

Current data trends, as revealed in the American Business Council Economic e-conference recently held, indicated that hygiene concerns about cash could be responsible for the increase in e-commerce transactions and growing dependence on internet connectivity for both work and lifestyle needs.

Note that the data consumption figures stated in the article do not factor in the 3,000 Terabytes (or 3 million GB) of data consumed in visiting zero-rated sites during the period. One Gigabyte of internet data costs an average of N300, and multiplied by the free 3 million GB, we could be looking at almost N1 billion (N900 million) worth of data consumption.

Add this figure to the actual N154 billion of data revenue MTN recorded in the two quarters, and the N92 billion of data revenue for Airtel Nigeria in the two quarters, and we can see that Nigerians used at least N247 billion worth of data in H1 2020. This figure is not conclusive, of course as it does not factor in data revenue from the other two telcos – Globacom and 9Mobile.

According to Bola Asiru, Principal/Divisional Lead at MasterCard Advisors (Sub-Saharan Africa), consumer habits have been completely changed by the pandemic, and it is now more difficult to predict buying behaviours. However, what is certain is that there is going to be a lot of contactless business operations, and the data need will surge even higher among Nigerians.

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Nigeria ranks 82nd in the world in Digital Quality of Life Index 2021

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A new study conducted by Surfshark, a cybersecurity company has ranked Nigeria 82nd among 110 countries in the world’s Digital Quality of Life Index (DQL) 2021.

the DQL study evaluates 90 percent of the global population based on a set of five fundamental digital wellbeing pillars – internet affordability and quality, e-infrastructure, e-security, and e-government.

According to the DQL Index 2021, Nigeria dropped by 1 in the DQL ranking but is still the best in Western Africa.

How Nigeria Performed on DQL

The study shows that “Nigeria lags with internet affordability (ranks 107th), e-government (95th), and e-infrastructure (90th), but shows similar to the global average results in internet quality (56th) and e-security (46th).

“Despite the slight fall in the leaderboard, the country comes first in Western Africa and shows slightly better results in some pillars than the global average. Its e-security is among the TOP 50 worldwide, surpassing Africa’s DQL leader South Africa.”

The study ranked Nigeria at 56th position in the internet quality index due to low internet speeds. Nigeria has one of the slowest broadband connection speeds globally (13.45 Mbps), ranking 105th, and slightly faster mobile internet (17.91 Mbps), ranking 96th. However, the country’s broadband speed growth is one of the fastest on the planet, ranking 16th.

The study shows that Nigeria’s internet affordability is 90% worse than the global average. People in Nigeria have to work the most time in the world – more than 35 hours – to afford the cheapest broadband internet. The country’s e-government also does not make it to the TOP 90th, falling behind Senegal, Morocco, and Tanzania.

What they are saying

Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark said, “Digital opportunities have proved to be more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis, stressing the importance for every country to ensure fully remote operational capacities for their economies. That is why, for the third year in a row, we continue the Digital Quality of Life research, which provides a robust global outlook into how countries excel digitally. The index sets the basis for meaningful discussions about how digital advancement impacts a country’s prosperity and where improvements can be made.”

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Nigerian developers to compete for N2.5 million in hackathon organized by FSI, NACOS

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Financial Service Innovators and the Nigeria Association of Computing Students are set to host a hackathon to address the dominance of cash transactions within the informal channels in the suburban parts of Nigeria, including university communities.

According to the statement released by Plexus Media Interlinks, the public relations agency to FSI, “The aim of the event is to address the dominance of cash transactions, manual processes, and access to financial services among retailers, small enterprises, and individuals in the suburban parts of Nigeria, including university communities and environs.

“It will focus on the digitization of key sectors such as education, health, financial services, and transportation in a manner that makes them all-inclusive, improving access, removing barriers, and lowering costs, thereby achieving social, digital, and economic inclusion.

Why these matters

The event was inspired by the desire to provide the best, simplest, and easiest-to-use solution for the unbanked and under-banked populations, according to the organizers.

The FSI and NACOS challenge will be used to develop solutions for activities like purchasing and selling products and services, saving, investing, remitting money, and commuting without the need for currency.

“Cash remains the preferred and dominant option for micro and small businesses, retailers, entrepreneurs, and others in the suburban areas, and thus value chain integration will not be maximized. Low adoption of financial services will have a negative impact on the financial inclusion drive.

“Opportunities for businesses to scale are minimal as access to credit is limited, given the challenges associated with manual processes for cash transactions. This also has a negative socio-economic impact on the nation,” they stated

The participants are to focus at least on one sector by providing a solution that can solve the problem of cash dominance, access to services in that sector, and manual processes, among others.

“The solution should focus on addressing the dominance of cash collections and the integration of a digital system in the transportation sector; an on-the-go learning solution that campus students and lecturers’ community will gladly embrace in the education sector; digitizing the healthcare services and making it more efficient and affordable,” it explained.

Team members whose entries were deemed to be in the top three would get prize money, while those in the fourth through tenth places would receive consolation awards, according to FSI and NACOS.

The partners include EFInA, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, Flourish Ventures, Flutterwave, Wema Bank, Sterling Bank, Zenith Bank, Capricorn Digital Ltd, and AXA Mansard.

According to the statement, registration is open to participants till October 1 via bit.ly/TECHONDEMAND.

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TechAdvance rebrands as Bloc to harmonise offerings with new brand

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TechAdvance, a Nigerian payment infrastructure business, has changed its name to Bloc as part of an effort to align the brand with its products.

The company officially released a proprietary suite of APIs known as Bloc a few weeks back, and now intends to bear the same name with it. Bloc helps startups and other organisations build and scale financial services with Fintech/Banking as a Service infrastructure in less time.

According to the company, the decision to become one with its product is in line with its existing mission of building a global infrastructure for the African Fintech ecosystem.

What they are saying

The company said in a Medium post, “Starting today, we transition from TechAdvance to Bloc. It is the first in a series of thrilling news we’ll be announcing over the coming months.”

Brand & Comms Lead Praise Philemon said, “We have grown immensely since the inception of TechAdvance in 2009, from only offering solutions in the utility payments space to becoming the only FinTech/Banking as a Service provider in the country backed by a blend of licenses and certification.

“Our brand has evolved — now committed to powering other FinTech solutions to success with proprietary and aggregated API infrastructure, and we want it to reflect this growth and the relationships we have with our clients.”

The transition process

Edmund Olotu founded the company in 2009, and it has made a significant contribution to the digital industry by offering tools for African Fintech to develop and expand beyond the continent. The company’s branded financial services are well-known. G-Pay Africa, Ace Remittance, Data Analytics, and Transfer2Africa are among them.

All social media handles will be changed to @buildwithbloc as a result of this rebranding. More updates and releases about the FinTech and Banking as a Service suite will be made as the team at Bloc continues to work to unify the brand and its products.

The Banking-as-a-Service API offerings, on the other hand, will stay in beta until Q4 2021, when they will be fully released.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Lamar Holdings invested $1 million in TechAdvance

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