NIGCOMSAT, UNESCO flag-off e-learning in 36 states

No Comments » August 15th, 2008 posted by // Categories: ICT Industry Development Project



 

GUARDIAN

August 13, 2008

NIGCOMSAT, UNESCO flag-off e-learning in 36 states
By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

CONSCIOUS of the reality that Internet penetration in Nigeria is still abysmally low, the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited has said that it wanted to bridge the digital divide by all means.

Plans to establish 10 telecentres per state are underway and this will be provided by satellite to enable rural focus in particular and people in those states have access to the Internet. It will do this in collaboration with the United Nation Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

This and many others formed the basis of a presentation by NIGCOMSAT Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr. T. Ahmed-Rufai recently.

Ahmed-Rufai said that government’s intention was to reduce poverty through knowledge of the people and that NIGCOMSAT was set up to bridge the digital divide, create skills and empower the people through knowledge.

“The 10 telecentres per state will encourage electronics learning (e-learning) and since the people will have access to information via the Internet, they will automatically acquire knowledge and this leads to skills that could make them competitive elsewhere in the world,” the NIGCOMSAT boss said.

According to him, the primary purpose of the satellite communications is to domesticate local content.

Ahmed-Rufai said, NIGCOMSAT had made conscious efforts to connect several government agencies to the satellite grid but “their responses have been very low, so in the interest of the country, which we call our own, we decided to enlist the support of a multilateral organisation to lend support to the e-learning programme. That is where UNESCO comes in.”

Although he admitted that the company had been bedevilled by series of challenges because some people misunderstand the objective of NIGCOMSAT, “we are moving on in this national project, to actualise government’s very laudable intentions.

“NIGCOMSAT will create digital opportunities and bridge the divide, alleviate poverty by creating job opportunities because knowledge creates skills to do these jobs.

“This is the idea in Japan, Singapore, Korea, Finland, USA, and many others. They are great nations today because of their knowledge incubation,” he explained.

The NIGCOMSAT boss lamented that less than one per cent of the 6, 500 primary schools in Nigeria had access to the Internet. The same goes for secondary schools.

“Indeed, the situation in tertiary institutions is so appalling that unless we do something urgent to create a true-knowledge base, Internet access, we may be the worse for it in a few years from now.”

He added that telephone penetration had helped to some extent because voice communications was basically for social interaction.

“No serious business can be done on phone. In fact in many developed countries, you can hardly make use of your mobile phones while at work. The world is going data and that is our strength.”

What NIGCOMSAT needs to do right now is to grow broadband to the level of “availability, affordability, accessibility and awareness, so that like it is elsewhere in the world, we should have hotspots everywhere in Nigeria.”

He said: “It is sad that NIGCOMSAT intention to have an end to end service delivery is grossly misunderstood.

“There is no where in the world where satellite operators do not have end to end service, because it is not enough to sell space segment and bandwidth.

“They also need to provide end to end service without necessarily being in competition with their customers,” Ahmed-Rufai explained.

NIGCOMSAT covers 38 African countries and hopes to deploy services to all of them.

Ahmed-Rufai reeled out statistics of bandwidth usage globally saying total market value was $62 billion last year out of which Africa accounted for $1.2 billion.

Nigeria accounted for about 10 per cent of this. “But NIGCOMSAT will bridge this, so that Nigerian users will buy bandwidth at very low prices to encourage volume usage by many more people and corporate users.”

The NIGCOMSAT boss listed government’s rationale for ICT intervention to include

 

  • enhancement national economic and social development,

     

  • to domesticate telecommunication and related technologies to meet national challenges,

     

  • Integrated Nigeria internally and into the global telecoms environment in order to make telecoms services efficient, affordable, reliable and available to all,

     

  • to achieve the modernisation and rapid expansion of the telecommunications network and services, and

     

  • to increased access to ICT for citizens in pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

    On November 10, 2003 the Federal Government of Nigeria at its Executive Council meeting concluded that the NigComSat-1 project was a national priority project and a critical ICT infrastructure for

     

  • alleviating poverty,

     

  • bridging the digital divide,

     

  • cost effective solution to the ICT requirements of the nation and affordable access to information and communications for Nigerians and the African continent, and

     

  • diversifying the revenue base of the country from oil to knowledge and services with a potential income of $3.2 billion per annum from downstream services.

    Government’s strategy includes

     

  • approval of NigComSat-1 project as a national priority project for the nation’s aviation, maritime, defence, security and telecommunications need,

     

  • establishment of NIGCOMSAT Limited as a deliberate intervention programme to jump-start the effective application and utilisation of space technology in Nigeria,

     

  • the reward of the success of Phase 1 Implementation Plan was witnessed worldwide on the May 13, 2007 when NigComSat-1 was successfully launched and placed in orbit,

     

  • NIGCOMSAT LTD was incorporated on April 4, 2006, as a wholly government-owned limited liability company, and

     

  • first African satellite communications company to manage and operate the first geostationary communications satellite (NigComSat-1) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    The objects of the company as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association empower the company: “To carry on business for profit and pursuant thereto, to set up, establish, work, operate, manage and maintain in-orbit communications satellites whether in respect of satellite to satellite services, telephony (urban and rural), television, HDTV, DTH; teleprocessing, telepresence, tele-education, telemedicine, e-government, e-commerce, satellite radio, mobile and paging, broadcasting, broadband Internet services, and real time monitoring services in shipping, petroleum pipeline.

    Others are navigation, global positioning systems, other services or facilities, earth stations, terminals, antenna, frequency bands (whether C, Ku, Ka or L bands), provide on commercial basis, comprehensive transmission services via digital or analogue systems and to operate sae by either fixed or mobile satellite, direct broadcast satellite services, end to end solutions, and to engage in transponder leasing and such business for profit….”

    Ahmed-Rufai said that Africa remained one of the most unwired continent in the world.

    The demand projections and inadequate ICT infrastructure in Africa suggest the need for a robust passive infrastructure built in and around unmet demand for information and communication services.

    NIGCOMSAT Ltd and NigComSat-1 are poised to address this digital divide.

    Truly Africa rooted and positioned for world class satellite related services and applications for the benefit of Africa in general and Nigerians in particular.

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