Sekou Amadou BAH, CEO of Orange Sierra Leone, gave an exclusive interview with Telecom Review Africa, with a focus on exploring the significance of digital data centers within the telecom sector and how Orange Sierra Leone seamlessly integrates them into its operations. During the discussion, Sekou detailed the hurdles encountered by Orange Sierra Leone during the establishment and upkeep of its digital data centers, along with the strategies it employs to surmount these obstacles. He gave his perspective on the coming years, identifying the most influential emerging technologies or trends he feels will shape the landscape of digital data centers moving forward.

Can you tell us more about the role of digital data centers in the telecommunications industry and how Orange Sierra Leone incorporates them into their operations?

Just like in any industry, our data center is a physical facility that hosts all our organization's IT operations and equipment for the purposes of storing, processing and disseminating data and applications.

Currently, we have one data center located in Freetown and another that is under construction in Bo, in the Southern District of Sierra Leone. Our data center does not only provide voice and internet services to our customers but also hosts all equipment and infrastructure necessary to support the delivery of several VAS and data services such as video streaming, gaming, cloud services, etc.

What challenges has Orange Sierra Leone faced in implementing and maintaining digital data centers, and how has it overcome these challenges?

When it comes to establishing and maintaining our digital data centers, we've encountered several noteworthy challenges.

Firstly, the accessibility of equipment posed a hurdle; a substantial portion of the necessary equipment had to be imported from abroad during the data center's construction, which not only proved time-intensive but also incurred significant costs.

Secondly, a crucial concern revolves around limited technical expertise. Sierra Leone lacks readily available skillsets for the installation and upkeep of our data center's services, often necessitating the involvement of expatriate professionals and local staff training to ensure the effective delivery of these services.

Thirdly, the issue of operating costs arises. The global economic landscape has had a significant impact on operating expenses due to the majority of services and equipment being procured in foreign currencies.

Fourth, energy supply is a critical challenge. Our data center operations hinge on dependable energy sources, a demand that faces obstacles in regions with inconsistent grid availability. To counter this, our strategy involves implementing renewable energy solutions, exemplified by the planned installation of solar facilities at our data centers.

Lastly, the imperative for high-speed fiber connectivity between our dual data centers introduces another obstacle. To manage the substantial traffic volume and ensure redundancy, a dependable and secure fiber connection becomes essential, prompting the need for reliable solutions to cater to this demand.

How does the company ensure the security and integrity of the data stored in its digital data centers, and what measures are in place to protect against cyberattacks and data breaches?

Ensuring robust data security and unwavering integrity in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats and the potential for data breaches stands as a paramount and intricate undertaking in today's digital landscape. This multifaceted endeavor necessitates the implementation of a comprehensive array of security measures and protocols that span various layers, incorporating the most cutting-edge and up-to-date procedures available.

To safeguard the integrity and functionality of IT-critical applications and devices, a vigilant watch is maintained by specialized information security teams hailing from the esteemed institutions of Orange Middle East and Africa, alongside the vigilant oversight of the Sonatel Security Operation Center (SOC), headquartered in the nation of Senegal. These expert teams operate as vigilant custodians, diligently monitoring the digital realm to promptly detect and counteract any potential threats or breaches that may compromise the confidentiality, availability, and overall security of the entrusted systems and data.

From your perspective, what emerging technologies or trends do you think will have the biggest impact on digital data centers in the coming years?

Envisioning the forthcoming wave of influential emerging technologies, three key contenders emerge. First, the evolution of 5G Networks promises not only heightened speeds but also reduced latency compared to previous cellular generations, thus facilitating real-time remote control, industrial automation, and novel applications. Second, the integration of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms emerges as a transformative force, optimizing operations, enhancing efficiency, and driving cost reductions. Third, the surging emphasis on Renewable Energy takes center stage, addressing the energy-intensive demands of data centers. Solar and wind sources are poised to play pivotal roles, ushering in a cleaner energy paradigm and diminishing carbon footprints.

What advice do you have for other companies looking to implement or improve their digital data centers, and what key considerations should they keep in mind?

I would advise firstly to have a mitigation plan to address implementation challenges and to put in place robust data security measures. It is also important to keep abreast of technological evolutions in the sector and be ready to invest in emerging technologies.

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