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Monday, September 29, 2008

ICT4D: Akwa-Ibom State reiterates commitment to citizen empowerment

The government of Akwa Ibom State, has reiterated its commitment to continuously position the state as the when it comes to using Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) in changing the lives of the citizenry.

Commissioner for Science and Technology, Mr. Samuel Efanga restated this position, during a working visit of some three sites where work on the state’s science park is on-going. He witnessed demonstration of some of the completed projects, including telephone booths.

Mr. Efanga expressed satisfaction at the level of work carried out by the contractor and its partners in the country, noting that the project, when completed, will not only put Akwa-Ibom State ahead of others in ICT4D, but also empower its citizens and create wealth for the populace.

Champion Infotel recalls that about four years ago, the Akwa-Ibom state government, commenced the plan to set up science parks in the state and connect all government offices with internet, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and video conferencing, with a plan to extend same to all local government areas in the state.

The contract was awarded to SBT Juul Africa and since then, however, a lot of efforts have been made to ensure speedy completion of the project, which earned the current Governor, Mr. Godswill Akpabio a prize of digital governor recently.
The completed first phase of the project, powers up the Ministry of Science and Technology, the State House of Assembly and the State Government Annex.

At the instance of the contractor, SBT Juul Africa, the supervising ministry, the Ministry of Science and Technology were invited for a test run of the first phase of the project.

Speaking to newsmen after the visit, the Commissioner who had earlier demonstrated the use of VoIP via telephone from the State House of Assembly to the State Ministry of Science and Technology, explained that the project is intended to provide internet access, VoIP and Video Conferencing to all state ministries with plans to extend it to the local government areas of the state.

The design, he said, is to facilitate e-government in the state.

“I am impressed with the state-of-the-art technological facilities that have been installed and running. The state government is investing heavily in the project and it is fully committed to the funding of the project,” Efanga said.

As said by him, the project would enable infrastructure development for the state and the idea is to link all state government offices and the local government areas with one network, such that the governor or permanent secretary to any of the ministries could decide to hold video conferencing with staff of the same ministry from the comfort of their various offices.

He cited an instance that the Governor could hold video conferencing with various Commissioners and Directors in various ministries from the comfort of his office, without necessarily inviting all of them to a physical conference room.

All these, he said, will lead to industrial revolution in the state and spur wealth creation and attract foreign and local investors to the state in the area of manufacturing, while government in turn will provide the infrastructure and the enabling environment for their businesses to thrive.

The Commissioner further noted that presently, Nigeria depends so much on oil revenue, and promised that with the digital project of developing Akwa Ibom State-owned Science Parks, the state will be looking at alternative sources of revenue generation.

He appreciated the state governor, Godswill Akpabio who is known for his belief in the digital project, as well as his commitment to it, assuring that within a short time, the project will be completed.

“This is just the completion and inspection of the first phase of the project and the idea is also to transform Uyo, the state capital into a mega city,” he said.

Also speaking at the session, the chief executive officer, Teledom Group, partner to SBT Juul Africa, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, commended the governor for believing in the project of his predecessor and for continuing with it.

No nation, Ekuwem said, could grow effectively if there is no continuity in governance, stressing that the Governor is not called ‘digital governor’ for the fun of it, explaining that he has been in the forefront of technology drive for the country, having assumed the position of Publicity Secretary of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) some years ago and has organized several Information Technology (IT) events for the country.

He also said the planned Science Park is to provide enabling environment for knowledge workers to design and develop their ideas.

“What knowledge workers need do is to walk into the science park and begin the process of development either as software developer, systems engineer, or hardware developer. It will save them the stress of looking for an office space and the difficulties in raising money over a period of years to kick start their knowledge development business,” he said.

Ekuwem, further said, that virtually everything needed to advance technology will be found in the science park, which he listed to include library, research department, incubation centre, cyber café, offices, recreation centre among others.

Director for African Projects at SBT Juul Africa, Mr. Albert Awolaja, equally commended the courage of the state government in embarking on such a developmental project which will definitely transform the state.

“We, at SBT Juul Africa are happy to be part of the project,” he said.

Also commenting, Chief Executive Officer, SBT Juul Africa, Mr. Trevor David Juul, said the science park project is special not just for Akwa Ibom State, but for all well meaning Nigerian, pointing out that without ICT infrastructure in any community, there will be no meaningful development in that community.

“Our desire is to ensure the successful completion of the project. We have developed similar technology in Malaysia, South Africa, Romania, among others,” he said.


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GSMA, IDB partner on mobile financial services

Global body for the mobile industry, the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA) is partnering with the world largest regional development institution, funds economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to accelerate the deployment in the region with focus on mobile financial services designed to meet the needs of the unbanked and the poor, reports CHARLES OKOH.

The joint initiative would provide financial and technical support to mobile phone operators and partner banks for the implementation of up to five mobile financial services systems in different countries throughout the region.

According to the Chief Marketing Officer, GSMA, Mr. Michael O’Hara, the partnership would enable those without bank accounts to access full range of financial services using their mobile phones.

“Working with the IDB will enhance our efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean to enable the many people in the region, who currently do not have bank accounts, to be able to use their mobile phones to access a full range of financial services, including fast, simple and cost-effective mobile money transfer services,” he said.

O’Hara also said that GSMA expects that increased access to low-cost and secure financial services in developing countries would improve the standard of living for many millions of people, by increasing economic opportunities and lowering the cost of many activities.

Also speaking IDB’s project team leader, Mr. Frank Nieder, said the partnership would boost access to financial services to the poor and unbanked.

“The initiative with the GSMA is part of a larger IDB effort to increase access to financial services to the poor and the unbanked, in which mobile financial services will play an important role. The GSMA will be an especially effective partner as it brings extensive expertise and experience on how to promote and implement mobile financial services as well as close relationships with mobile network operators in the region, who generally have not worked with the IDB before,” he said.

Champion Infotel notes that till date, there has been little development and implementation of mobile financial services for the unbanked and poor in Latin America and the Caribbean, where estimated 65 per cent of the adult population do not have bank accounts. Mobile financial services in other parts of the world have proven to be a transformational technology, providing lower cost, better quality and more secure financial services to large numbers of the poor and unbanked.

The joint initiative, to be coordinated under the GSMA’s Mobile Money Transfer Programme, will take advantage of the GSMA’s work with technology vendors and computer systems designers to establish a hosted mobile wallet platform that will enable the mobile operators to pilot financial services. Several operators and financial institutions have already expressed a strong interest in participating.

The IDB will be responsible for the overall execution of the initiative, to be financed in part by the Knowledge Partnership Korea Fund for Technology and Innovation.

Latin America, which receives $60 billion in international remittances each year, would benefit greatly from the availability of services that enable individuals to use their mobile phones to manage money.

Eight of the 34 mobile operators participating in the GSMA’s Mobile Money Transfer programme have operations in Latin America. Several other Latin American operators have also expressed an interest in joining the Mobile Money Transfer initiative.


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e-Inclusion is platform for bridging digital gap – Ilukwe

Managing Director of Galaxy Backbone Plc, Mr. Gerald Ilukwe, has called on the Commonwealth member states to embrace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a platform for bridging the poverty gap in their regions., reports OLUCHI KALU UKWA.

Galaxy Backbone Plc, is a public sector of the Federal Government established to provide a common platform for he provision of network connectivity and transversal services to the public sector.

Ilukwe while commending the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), Federal ministry of Information and Communications and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for organizing the upcoming CTO ICT summit taking place from October 6 to 10, 2008, in Abuja, noted that it is an avenue for the Federal Government to appreciate the role of ICT in the country as well as prove its commitment to the country’s uptake of the benefits of the digital revolution going on, the world over.

Furthermore, he highlighted the significance between the theme of this year’s event and that of the company’s as geared towards ensuring effective connectivity for a socially inclusive and commercially vibrant society.

This, he said, was sealed by the recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Galaxy Backbone and Nigerian Postal Services for the provision of broadband connectivity to all of the 1,500 post offices across the country.

He further stated that this event will afford the company to showcase its main objective of delivering e-education, e-health, e-agriculture and e-government solution through i-Gov.net platform and National Information Communication and Education Programme (NICEP) network.

It will also offer opportunities for the company to secure partnerships with leading ICT establishments, bandwidth wholesalers, equipment vendors, funding and development partners and solution providers.


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APC introduces protection for desktops

Leader in integrated critical power and cooling services, APC by Schneider Electric, has announced the introduction of its high performance protection for desktop computers, namely APC Back-UPS RS 650VA and 1100VA.

These new units, the company said, offer four power outlets in proven product design with 390 or 660 watts of power, extensive runtime and Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) technology.

Manager, English Speaking Area and Service Centre West and Central Africa and Indian Ocean at APC, Mr. Paul-Marie Dable, said that the firm would continue to make great strides in the advancement of APC’s Back-UPS family to meet the evolving needs of power customers.

Today’s business desktops, he said, are highly configured with several peripherals and higher power and runtime requirements, thus users are looking out for cost-effective, reliable solutions for protecting their hardware and more importantly their data on their desktops.

He said that the Back-UPS RS 650 and 1100 offer high performance protection for home and business computer systems.

“These new units provide abundant battery backup power, allowing users to work through medium and extended power outages with runtimes of up to 46 minutes (BR650CI) and 84 minutes (BR1100CI), depending on the units’ load. The units’ AVR feature enables users to work through just about any power condition by supplying safe, consistent power to the computer in case of over-voltage or brownout conditions, without running on battery,” he said.

Dable outlined four outlets, three with battery backup and surge and one with surge protection only, the Back-UPS RS also safeguards equipment from damaging surges and spikes that travel along utility and phone lines.

“APC’s new Back-UPS RS 650 and 1100 units are currently available through all distribution channels including retail, catalogues, resellers and online,” he said.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

President's rumoured resignation: Role of ICT


Features of the week:

President’s rumoured resignation: Role of ICT
Penultimate Tuesday, Nigeria and the world was awash with the hoax that President Yar’Adua would soon resign based on health ground. REMMY NWEKE examines the role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the saga.



FOR an average Nigerian the news of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s ill-health is fast becoming stale and invariably a story all Nigerians have to live with until his tenure is over in 2011. This is because in the midst of his political campaign that led to his emergence, Nigerians were treated to a drama when the issue was raised by concerned citizens that Yar’Adua was sick and had been flown abroad for treatment, even as speculation was that probably he had died.

This forced the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo to call Yar’Adua through the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) during a campaign rally which was televised live on major television stations nationwide; where he asked him ‘Umaru, they say you’re dead, are you dead?’ Of course he was amazed to hear that and laughed it over.

Contentious news flash:
Barely a year and three months after he assumed office, another chapter was opened with the purported ‘News Flash’ from the government-owned News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Mr. President would resign due to his health conditions. Just a fortnight after his Lesser Hajj saga turned sour with alleged surgical operation in Saudi Arabia among others.

NAN’s account on the contentious news flash was that the agency had nothing to do with the story, according the Managing Director, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo. She also alleged that mischief makers may have broken into the NAN’s content management system (CMS) to access its list of clientele and used this to send out false ‘news flash’ flawed with massive grammatical errors. She traced the mail to:
gencynig@yahoo.com, with obvious address in Abidjan, Cotd D’Ivoire.

The purported news flash read, “President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua may resign after carbonate reshuffle, on health ground” was sent out to both local and foreign media including the AFP and Lagos-based Channels Television, which eventually paid the price with license suspension for over 72 hours by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), thereby attracting outright condemnation from stakeholders.

Soon after NAN denied the authorship of the report, Special Adviser to the President on Communication, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, equally said there was no truth in the report.

Oyo, additionally, revealed the resting forthwith the two free electronic mail addresses used before now by NAN in its news distribution; nanabujahq@gmail.com and nancommunication@gmail.com and any other precisely from Google mail, Yahoo! mail or Hotmail.

“The only authentic address NAN will be using from now on is: newsroom@nannewsngr.com” a press statement from NAN by the Deputy Editor-in-chief, Abuja Metropolitan Desk, Alli Hakeem, read.

A member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was reported as saying that investigations had shown the report never emanated from NAN, although it was distributed to media organisations through the NAN feed.

Our source who asked for anonymity noted that the situation could be a security matter. Also, a source in NAN on grounds of anonymity claimed that the report could be the handiwork of hackers, because it did not conform to NAN’s method.

“The story was not edited, and it carried one by-line, which shows that a reporter just sent it. This does not happen in NAN for a reporter to just write a story and send. Even if you are the Editor-in-Chief, the story has to be seen by a second eye at least, and the name of the editor who saw the story must be included before it is sent,” our source explained.

The penultimate Tuesday’s incident was the second time a controversial report would be circulated through the NAN feed by alleged hackers. The first being when it was reported the NAN management had, while addressing workers, declared that the Court of Appeal would nullify the result of the presidential election.

Experts view:
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) security expert, Mr. Bruce Schneier stated in his book Secret and Lies that a hacker is someone who thinks outside the box, discarding the conventional wisdom, and does something else instead. “It’s someone who looks at the edge and wonders what’s beyond. It’s someone who sees a set of rules and wonders what happens if you don’t follow them. A hacker is someone who experiments with the limitations of systems for intellectual curiosity.”

Nowadays, there are various classes of hackers; from computer to mobile hackers to name a few. Whereas, encyclopedia, www.webopedia.com, described it as a jargon for a computer enthusiast, who enjoys learning programming languages and computer systems and could often be considered an expert on the subject matter. The term has since been reduced to more of derogatory than complimentary among professionals, even as the negative sense has been popularized to refer to individuals who gain unauthorized access to computer systems for the purpose of stealing and corrupting data. Hackers, on the other hand, argued that the proper term for such individuals is ‘cracker.’

NiRA condemns NAN over nannewsngr.com:
A body of Internet users and enthusiasts in the country charged with the management of the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), dot ng, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), while wishing President Yar’Adua a healthy tenure, condemned the obtaining of another foreign domain name by NAN, nannewsngr.com, saying its absurd and attributed the saga to be mainly a technology issue.

ccTLD is a country’s identity in the cyber space, just like .ng is for Nigeria, .uk is for the United Kingdom, .za is for South Africa among others.

NiRA via its president, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu condemned the option of a foreign domain, for any government agency let alone a critical one like NAN among others. He outlined four options that led to alleged cracking of NAN news management system, to include that someone broke into the system and authored as well as sent out the ‘news flash’; even as someone may have gotten the password of the NAN electronic mail (e-mail) address and news subscription list and capitalized on that to send out a mail.

Also, he said, that someone may have access to NAN news subscription mail list and send a mail to the list but changed the ‘from’ field to the NAN email address or finally, someone probably created an email address very close to the NAN email and used NAN news subscription list to send out mail.

“Now these are the only four means by which there could have been a breach and each had to do with technology with varying levels of sophistications,” he said, stressing though the outlined likelihood could be countered or blocked with the appropriate technology. He explained that for such CMS there are usually various roles and passwords, with the overall administrator having access to all areas.

“It is therefore pertinent that each role, username and password is very formidable especially in length and composition, with access for every role restricted. Also all this is assuming that infiltration of this type is external, it could be very much internal and an audit trail of activity would easily reveal this. So networks need to be protected,” he explained.

NiRA introduces ngCERT:
Kalu pointed out that ICT and particularly the deployment of dot ng, for instance, could immensely assist in managing such ‘information’ crisis in the future, especially with the ngCERT, which he described as crucial to national development as far as cyber space is concerned.

NiRA President further said that as matter of fact the group has taken relevant action to ensure that it does not reoccur, moreso if NAN has its domain name within the dot ng country code Top Level Domain, stressing that as regards .ng, NiRA plays a very key role in terms of identity and security.

“As for security we are putting together the ngCERT for Nigeria,” he said, elucidating that ngCERT is a place where network managers could share exploit details and work towards mitigating such attacks in the future.

Kalu who also is the chief executive of Amsco Telecoms Limited, affirmed that the contentious issue is a technology affair. “Yes, it is all about technology and the four means by which it is possible include through weak passwords, insider collusion, poor or nonexistent firewalls and access controls, could cause such a breach.”

He emphasized that on the issue of identity, that most people are fooled easily because the authentic web sites and electronic emails (e-mails) themselves are at best laughable, perceiving a situation where the fake e-mails and web addresses even look more authentic than the original.

Describing the new NAN domain as ridiculing Nigeria in the cyber space, Kalu gave another example with the UK-based British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), saying it has its domain hosted in UK as bbc.co.uk, and wondered why NAN would not apply to register nan.com.ng and stop all forms of speculation once and for all.

Two advantages of .ng:
Assuring on NiRA wherewithal to preserve security-wise any domain within its platform, he cited another instance with the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is www.cenbank.org.

NiRA president insisted that government officials and agencies in the country, should desist from using dot com or any other foreign domain. “Both the new addresses of NAN and the current address of Central Bank are to say the least unfit for the institutions. This is what has made forgery thrive,” he said, drawing attention to the fact that NiRA has two key advantages to offer legitimate firms who want dot ng.

“First is that it is virgin and most if not all companies would get their names as it should be. No unneeded abbreviation. … Secondly for .ng we maintain a zero tolerance for cyber squatting,” Kalu asserted.

Wanted! Cybercrime Act:
Former officer, Directorate of Cyber crime at the presidency, Mr. Basil Udotai said in his reaction that it’s amazing and an evidence that Nigeria needs to urgently implement relevant security measures as hitherto canvassed by experts, which included the fast-tracking of the ICT policy currently undergoing upgrade and passing of the Cybercrime law which has lingered in the National Assembly.

“This is amazing story, and proof that if the country doesn’t take basic steps on information security around the tenets that we have recommended during the past years, this sort of things would continue to happen,” he cautioned.

Wrap up:
As the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), global ICT regulator recently concluded an agreement with the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Terrorism (IMPACT) to operationalize Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) with state-of-the-art headquarters in Cyberjaya, Kuala Lumpur, with focus on strengthening core five areas, legal framework, technical measures, organizational structures, capacity building and international cooperation, the fact is that Nigeria has had enough lessons with the two incidents in NAN and it’s apt for the government and private sectors in the country to now pay attention to deployment of .ng domain names.

Moreso, recalling the cracking of Sarah Palin’s yahoomail; Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the United States 2008 election, at a time the contentious ‘news flash’ was being circulated.

Earlier the patronage of .ng began to receive adequate attentions, coupled with the passing of the updated ICT policy by the government and backed with the relevant regulations as in Cyber crime Act, then and only then, can Nigeria say, it has arrived in the cyber space, since that is the major platform of engagement at this era. Otherwise, Nigerians would remain strangers in this aspect of ICT planet, because once beaten, twice shy.


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MTN, Zain to deploy renewable energy base stations

Two key operators of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) in the country, MTN and Zain, have indicated interest to deploy base stations that use renewable energy under the Green Power for Mobile programme of the GSM Association (GSMA).

An estimated 1,500 base stations worldwide are currently powered by at least one form of renewable energy globally.

The indication emerged at the conclusion of the meeting of operators involved in the Green Power for Mobile programme’s session in Kenya , hosted by Safaricom, currently leading usage of renewable energy for networks with 30 base stations powered by solar and wind energy.

MTN and Zain are also part of the 25 global mobile operators expected to provide expertise for the deployment of base stations that use renewable energy under the initiative.

Spokesman of GSMA, Mr. David Pringle, confirmed this in a press statement, noting that till date, off-grid base stations have primarily been powered by generators running on diesel fuel, which is increasingly expensive, generates carbon dioxide emissions, and could be difficult to transport to remote locations.

He quoted the chief executive officer of GSMA, Mr. Roy Conway as saying that as they strive to bring the benefits of mobile coverage to as many people as possible, operators need to find reliable, sustainable and economic sources of power far beyond the reach of national electricity grids, especially through the Development Fund.

GSMA, he said, has built extensive expertise in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources that mobile operators could benefit from to link up with the unconnected in various parts of the world, reduce operating costs and minimize environmental degradation.

Pringle also noted that following extensive research with mobile operators, the GSMA Development Fund estimated that only 1,500 base stations worldwide are powered by at least one form of renewable energy.

He stressed that the challenges to date included commercial viability, equipment availability and lack of expertise, but the GSMA’s research suggested that rising diesel prices and falling renewable equipment costs mean that operators investing in green power sources for base stations could recoup the capital costs in as little as 24 months.

As said by him, the GSMA Development Fund is already working with several mobile operators to develop renewable power solutions for a variety of base stations located in diverse geographies, comprising Digicel and Idea.

The Development Fund, he said, has supported Digicel’s deployment of wind and solar energy to power 17 new base stations on the Pacific island of Vanuatu.

Commenting on the development, the chief executive of Digicel Vanuatu, Mr. John Delves, noted that as the oil becomes more scarce and expensive, renewable energy will be used more and more to power telecommunications networks anywhere that grid power is not available.

According to him, using alternative power solutions, such as harnessing wind and solar energy, will help lower operational expenditure and reduce environmental effect, giving people in the more remote areas of Vanuatu access to communications for the first time.

Equally, following a successful pilot in conjunction with the GSMA Development Fund and Ericsson, Idea Cellular presently uses waste cooking oil to help power more than 350 base stations in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India , where the conventional electricity supply could be erratic.

Chief Technology Officer of Idea, Mr. Anil K Tandan, said that their base stations run on a blend made up of 80 per cent diesel fuel and 20 per cent waste cooking oil.

“If we can secure enough vegetable oils from sustainable sources, we will move to a blend of 50 per cent diesel and 50 per cent biofuels, which will be better for the environment and for our operating costs,” he said, pointing out that they are also exploring other alternative sources of power to ensure that mobile network continues to be reliable, sustainable and cost-effective.

The major suppliers of base stations have anticipated the growing demand for green networks and have introduced a variety of low-energy products as well as renewable energy power solutions. Just as new entrants are emerging, providing tailored bolt-on power solutions for base stations.

The GSMA said, its developing metrics for “green” base stations, to support operators in their decision-making on providers and products.

MTN and Ericsson recently had an experiment of the renewable base stations in some parts of the Nigeria.


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Dokpesi urges FG to support local production of digital decoders

Chairman, Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has urged federal government to support the local production of digital satellite television (DSTv) decoders.

Speaking recently at the media unveiling of the DaarSAT pay Tv at the federal capital territory, Abuja, Dokpesi said that this call is more crucial now that broadcasting organisations have been mandated to change from analogue to digital transmission before 2012.

According to him, in South Africa, the government is working toward helping the aged to migrate from analogue to digital, while in the United States, a soft loan has been provided by the government for those who need to migrate.

He lamented that there is no known plan of the federal government to support the citizens and even broadcasting organisations to facilitate the migration to digital broadcasting as recently directed, noting that the discussion on digital migration has been on in the country for about 10 years.

Dokpesi disclosed that his DaarComms is planning to set up a plant locally to bring down the cost of digital decoders in the country.

Therefore, he reiterated the call on the government to subsidize the local production of digital decoders.

Champion Infotel recalls that the federal government had fixed 2012 as the deadline for all broadcasting stations in the country to go digitalas, as such all Tv sets in use has to comply to get better viewing.

Taking the media on a tour of the DaarSAT facility in Abuja, he said, the pay Tv has a master control room that is well backed up for about four times.

Investment currently is at about N20 billion for DaarSAT, even as plan is set for the commissioning of the Pay TV by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, on October 7.

“We can actually have the capacity for 100 channels but we’re starting with 40 channels, just as a building is being structured for news to facilitate AIT news 24 by 7 and a multipurpose hall that could accommodate 1000 persons is being built by Dangote,” he said.

Meanwhile, DaarSAT apart from dangling 40 channels on arrival is offering subscribers Visafone internet access as add-on, just as it commenced test running last week Wednesday, September 17, 2008.

Dokpesi reiterated the decision of the company to Nigerianize the pay TV industry with avalanche of local and foreign contents, noting that DaarSAT has seven satellite dishes linked on to the main dish with optic fibre to enable it deliver as planned and across the Ku and C bands respectively.

According to him, all the 40 channels made up of about eight factual 32 entertainment programming genres, which are premium and monthly subscription would not be more than N5,000, even as DaarSAT decoder would not cost above N36,000 against $1000 (about N117,000) that is obtained among other pay TV service providers who also offer less channels.

“We have four levels of decoders and every buyer would get Visafone with Internet access,” he said, assuring that all the good movies nowadays which come on High Definition (HD) because of digital migration of broadcasting organizations globally are compatible with DaarSAT equipment on ground, even as news stations around the global are covered too,” he said.

“We’re going to give you 40 channels. Prime as they are and expensive as they are, it would not pass N5,000 monthly subscription,” Dokpesi reaffirmed.

As at the date of media launch, he said, all the 40 stations, DaarSAT has relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and paid all related dues as expected including with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

He enumerated some of the 40 channels to include AIT-MoviStar, Daar-StarXpress, Sahara One, Sahara Filmy, B4U Movies, Fox Crime, Fox Entertainment, Luxe TV, Art Channel, Gamzaki Channel, Yoruba channel, NTA, AIT, Channels TV, MBI International, Nickelodeon, Fox Baby Tv, Kidsco, Fuel, Euronews, AIT News.

Others are BBCWorld, Al-Jazera, Fox News, AIT Parliamentary, African Business channel, CNBC Africa, AIT Sports, Fox Sports, Setanta Africa, EurosSportsNews, Quest TV, B4U Music, Fashion TV, SoundCity, Primetime Africa, National Geographic Music, MTV Base, MCM Top and Pop as well as SciTech TV.

Also, Dokpesi explained that the aforementioned channels were chosen out of the desire to offer high-end channels for less, pointing out that CNN was never approached and from African perspective “We have Al Jazera,” stressing that CNN could still be added if subscribers so demanded over time.


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NCC assures on infrastructure security

The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, has said that telecommunication infrastructure would be protected to avoid vandalism that would set the industry back.

Ndukwe said at a stakeholder’s forum on “Vandalism of Telecommunications Infrastructure” in Abuja that the operators also have a great role to play in protecting their infrastructure.

“This means that they must take the security of their data and network seriously, institute corporate security plans and look for ways to collaborate on critical infrastructure protection,’’ he said.

He told the audience that telecommunications infrastructure should be considered as public property of strategic importance and it is criminal to vandalise them.

According to him, NCC would seek support of the security agencies to train those who would help to safeguard the infrastructure.

“The commission would also partner with various security agencies to put a stop to the situation,’’ he said.

As said by him, the operators should reduce competition and look at the inadequacies of each other and collaborate to fight it.

“NCC cannot do everything; it would only regulate and ensure that the system is moving. When you come together to fight the same cause, it will help to solve substantial problems. We will re-visit the law of wilful damage and enforce the law of compensation so that when you are billed for wilful damage, it may not occur again,’’ he said.

Mr. Val Amadi of Etisalat suggested that the commission should direct operators on the construction of their cables as a way forward.

“Operators should submit their drawings to the commission to help identify the defaulter when one damages each other’s cable. NCC should collaborate with the ministry of works, states and local governments to help ensure that telecommunications infrastructure are not damaged while constructing roads,’’ he said.

Mr. Martins Oluwale of Globacom suggested a harmonised policy for cable installation and laws that would make operators live up to their responsibilities.

“There is need to demarcate routes where cables are installed to avoid duplication of installation by operators,’’ he said.

While Mr. Ishaya Bawa of MTEL called for proper care and treatment of telecommunications staff as vandalism could only be done by professionals who knew how it was installed.

“Sometimes, the cause of vandalism may be out of anger,’’ he warned.


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How e-payment compliant is First Bank?

First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Plc could be the acclaimed first in banking penetration in the country but how Information and Communications Technology (ICT) compliant expressed by the bank to lots of its customers is unbecoming of an institution of such magnitude.

An instance of how doubtful FBN compliance to ICT was evident recently when a customer, Mr. Inyang Edet (real names withheld), stormed the banking floor of the refurbished Isolo branch to renew his Interswitch-enabled debit card, better described as electronic payment card, after expiration period was reached only to be reliably informed that it would take up to a month to get that fixed.

In confident, he was advised to go to the Oba Akran branch of the bank where the system for renewal has been installed and could even collect that in matter of hours. He was however unlucky as there were unexpected queue for those seeking to get attention for their various cards.

Eventually, it gets to his turn after waiting for over 45 minutes only to be referred back to the bank of domicile of the account at Isolo, where his details was once again taken and the attendant promised to get back to him through a Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) phone.

Approximated six months after, Mr. Inyang is yet to get any Short Messaging Service (SMS) or voice call from the Isolo branch of the bank, even after intermittent checks at the branch to know if the renewed card is ready for collection, all to no avail.

The unfortunate aspect of this attitude is that its not encouraging in a society like Nigeria where the usage of cash is still very high and the likes of Interswitch and some other concerned banks are joining forces to create awareness on how to bring in even the literate few to accept the reality of e-payment solutions available to them and reduce cash handling by banks, which runs into millions of Naira monthly.

Some media reports have it that about 63 bank robbery attacks had been reported this year, 68 policemen who provided escort for bullion vans lost their lives and N3 billion lost by banks to the bandits.

Therefore, it would be dangerous to encourage FBN customers, for instance, to use the bank for electronic dividend (e-dividend) payments, because even in a situation where such dividend payments are made, the likelihood that subscribers of the bank would not be notified of the movement in their accounts is highly possible.

Thus, banks like FBN need to brace up to the need of encouraging the populace to use electronic payment system available to them, because it would not only reduce armed robbery in the society, but make it a better place to live in as vote for handling cash which runs into millions monthly could be divested into better use.


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Deadline approaches for Africa, Europe interest to host ICANN

Deadline is fast approaching for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN’s) call on countries and organisations in Africa and Europe who are desirous of hosting the 2009 version of ICANN public meetings to indicate interest before October 15, 2008.

ICANN, the global internet coordinator, in a press statement said the call for expression of interest is in accordance with its commitment to continuous improvement in the management of meetings, and in response to requests for advanced planning.

“ICANN posts a call for Expressions of Interest to host meetings to be held in Europe on 25-30 October 2009, and in Africa on 7-12 February 2010,” the press statement read.

The objective, ICANN said is to routinely provide advice on locations for meetings 12 months ahead of schedule.

In addition, ICANN said, its public meetings usually draw individuals from around the globe and attract a wide range of participants who follow Internet addressing and policy issues, just as the meetings receive international press coverage and provide an ideal opportunity for participants, sponsors, and hosts to interact on key Internet issues.

ICANN further advised organisations interested in the opportunity to host the Europe meeting in 2009 or the Africa meeting in 2010 should review the full Request for Proposals before submitting an expression of interest.

The specifications outlined in the request for proposals, ICANN said, gave detailed anticipated required elements of its public meeting and the minimum responsibilities of the hosting organisation.

Equally, the internet co-ordinator asked all interested parties to submit a completed expression of interest form via electronic mail (email) to meeting@icann.org for consideration. While inquiries regarding the call should be direct to ICANN meeting staff.

Champion Infotel recalls that ICANN meetings constitute an essential part of the organisation’s global consensus-building, policy development, and outreach efforts.
In a related development, the 2008 ICANN Nominating Committee (NomCom) has announced selections of its board of directors to serve beginning from ICANN Annual General Meeting (AGM) for 2008 until conclusion of the AGM of 2011.

Those selected comprised North American Steve Crocker representing the United States, Katim Touray from Gambia taking the place of Africa.

While members of the new At-Large Advisory Committee include Canadian Alan Greenberg representing North America, United Kingdom based Adam Peake stands in for Europe with the tenure starting this year at the ICANN’s AGM till 2010.

Formed in 1998 ICANN is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable.

ICANN dominantly promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers, but do not control content on the Internet or stops spam.


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PIN to honour 12 Internet safety youth ambassadors

A non-governmental organization focusing on youth empowerment through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) has concluded plans to honour 12 youth under its Internet Safety, Security and Privacy Initiative for Nigeria (ISSPIN) Ambassadorship, tomorrow in Lagos.

Executive Director, PIN, Mr. Olugbenga Sesan made this disclosure in Lagos and said the Ambassadors were selected from a call for application made on the project.

“The Ambassadors will be decorated on the red carpet of the ISSPIN event at Planet One on October 25 2008,” he said.

Sesan also said that PIN was concerned over the need to make the internet as safe as possible for Nigerian youths.

“It is often treated lightly by many individuals, corporations, governments and other establishments in developing economies like Nigeria; hence the need to raise awareness through a social campaign,” he said.

According to him, the campaign involves sensitization workshops in selected schools, a one-day event and deliberate follow-up project.

He explained that the project was put together with the support of Microsoft Nigeria and other partners, while it is intended to direct the spotlight to the issue of internet safety, even as it provides a platform for other stakeholders to align forces.

The expected outcomes, he said, would include ISSPIN sensitization workshops in three pre-selected schools across the country, namely Anambra, Ondo and Sokoto states respectively; a one-day event that will draw attention to the issue of internet safety; and a follow up project that will help young people find alternative positive and lucrative use of their internet-related knowledge.

The 12 Ambassadors, he said, would serve for 2008 and 2009 ISSPIN Ambassadorial year and were selected based on their strong visible interest in ICTs; history of commitment to social good, as demonstrated by previous involvements; and their association with the ISSPIN brand will add value to the nation-wide tour, event and project.

He charged the selected youths to support the initiative by spreading the word among their networks and volunteer at events held in and close to their community; be available at the ISSPIN events, especially at the red carpet; willing to participate actively in the post-event projects including leading certain aspects of the projects in their communities.

“To qualify, applicants sent their current resume and a 200-word essay demonstrating their interest in ICTs, showcasing their work with young people and highlighting their role as a model to other young Nigerians, … and sent to info[at]pin.org.ng with the subject: “Application: ISSPIN Ambassador,” he explained.


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MBA launches comprehensive programme

New York-based advocate group for bloggers, the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) weekend announced the launching of a comprehensive programme to provide bloggers access to the same sort legal and financial resources available to traditional media organizations including BlogInsure, a first of its kind liability insurance programme for bloggers which provides coverage for all forms of defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement or similar allegations arising out of blogging activities.

A blog is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” a term connoting web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information and those involve in this have become known as bloggers.

Co-founder and President of the Media Bloggers Association, Mr. Robert Cox, said in a press statement, the cornerstone of the new programme is an online course in media law developed by the MBA in partnership with the Poynter Institute’s News University.

The course, Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other Online Publishers, was co-authored by David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law Project, which is jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Citizen Media and Geanne Rosenberg of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and Baruch College. Whereas Scott Swift of Media/Professional Insurance created an assessment to evaluate the student’s understanding of the material.

“The past few years have seen unprecedented changes in the media landscape,” he said, stressing that from a handful of bloggers in 2000 to tens of millions today, bloggers have been granted full press credentials, broken major news stories, and dethroned high-profile politicians and media figures.

“With that success come greater scrutiny and the inevitable rise in legal threats facing bloggers. In this new environment, blogger access to education, training, legal advisory services and liability insurance is critical to the sustainability of a strong and vibrant citizen media,” Cox said.

He explained that because the MBA believes so strongly that all bloggers should take this course, it is made available at no charge and, although the course is an integral part of the new MBA membership application process, bloggers are not required to join the MBA to take the course.

“Payment of annual dues for MBA membership is not requested until after the course has been completed and bloggers may opt-out of the application process at any time,” he said.

Cox explained that after completing the exam, bloggers would be asked to take a course assessment; while the exam is a prerequisite for individuals interested in joining the MBA so those wishing to join must opt to report their test scores to the MBA.

“It is also the basis for the significant discount on liability insurance available to bloggers through the BlogInsure programme,” he said.

MBA president further explained that by joining the association, individuals have the exclusive opportunity to purchase liability insurance for bloggers through media/professional Insurance, a business unit of the select markets division of AXIS Insurance.

“Insurance will cover costs and damages for claims of defamation, copyright infringement and privacy violation. Media Professional Insurance (MPI), the largest underwriter of media liability insurance in the world, has offered media liability coverage for publishers and broadcasters since 1979, protecting against claims of defamation and infringement,” he said.

“As a leader with over 30 years experience protecting free-speech, it is a natural progression to offer coverage for emerging media such as blogs” according to the Chairman of Media/Professional Insurance, Leib Dodell, pointing out that affordable, readily available and easily accessible coverage was critical in development of the programme.

“Our web-based format allows those interested in BlogInsure to apply, pay for, and get coverage at the click of a button,” he said.


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Promos: Regulator lifts ban on GSM operators

Telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has lifted the ban on promotions among the operators of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM).

Head, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Dave Imoko, confirmed this in a press statement made available to Champion Infotel, last weekend.

NCC also cautioned the operators to shun promotions that could lead to poor quality of service to the consumer.

This, Imoko said, would attract more stringent ban in the near future for at least six months.

“As this would henceforth attract more stringent ban that will not be subject to review by the Commission for at least six months,” he warned.

Equally NCC advised operators to maintain acceptable level of compliance to the Key Performance Indicators published by the Commission especially with respect to Traffic Channel Congestion (TCC).

Champion Infotel recalls that the warning followed the lifting of the ban on promotions imposed on MTN and Zain with effect from September 15, 2008. Even as NCC had on June 14, 2007, banned promotion on both networks based on unacceptable level of compliance to the Key Performance Indicators on quality of service.

NCC further said the lifting of the ban was on the condition that the two operators continue to “exercise self control and not engage in any promotion that would lead to congestion of the network or deterioration of quality of service generally.”

In addition, the Commission said that before embarking on any major promotions; all the operators would now be required to submit an impact analysis of such promotion on its network with respect to compliance with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as set by the Commission.

“They will also be required to state the duration of such promotions,” Imoko said.
Pointing out that it is not its intention to micro-manage any operator’s business, stressing that its primary responsibility is to protect the consumer and ensure that services are provided at optimum level of quality.


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Abuja set for Commonwealth watchdogs

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja is set to play host to a body of telecom watchdogs as the nation warms up for this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) scheduled to hold next month, between October 6 and 10.

The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe who announced this during a chat with newsmen in Lagos recently, also disclosed that the Abuja Commonwealth Information and Communication Technology Summit ’08 incorporates the 6th Annual CTO forum, would be held between October 6 and 8.

With the theme: Ensuring Effective Rural Connectivity for a Socially Inclusive and a Commercially Vibrant Africa, the Forum, he said, would take place at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, will bring together international delegates from 51 CTO member nations comprising policy makers, regulators, operators, financiers, academics, technology and software developers, international aid agencies and civil society organizations.

Some of the topics to be deliberated upon are: Telecom policy and regulatory challenges, next generation network and Internet Protocol (IP) development, mobile and wireless broadband, digital broadcasting, satellite networks, telecom financing, e-governance and software development amongst others.

Additionally, the summit which is one of the largest assemblies of ICT stakeholders in the world would have the first three days for exhibition while the last two days would be for the annual general meeting.

Meanwhile, the summit has attracted an array of telecom operators, equipment vendors, telecom industry associations and banks.

The event being organized by the CTO in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications and the NCC, is expected to be declared open by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

CTO is an international development partnership between Commonwealth and Non-Commonwealth governments as well as civil society organizations, providing the international community with effective means to help bridge the digital divide and achieve social and economic development, by delivering unique knowledge sharing programme in the use of information and communications technologies in specific areas of telecommunications, IT, broadcasting and the Internet.

The ICT summit in the West African sub-region in 2008, CTO Abuja 2008 with the theme “Ensuring Effective Connectivity for a Socially Inclusive and a Commercially Vibrant Africa”, is expected to explore Africa as a fertile emerging market for ICT business.


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Parliamentary staff to learn communication skills

Representatives of parliaments from 13 countries across Africa are attending a workshop in Kampala, Uganda which began on Monday to develop the skills needed to inform Parliamentarians about the scientific aspects of the issues they face in making policy decisions.

The workshop which includes Nigerian participants is being organised by the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS), the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), and SciDev.Net (the Science and Development Network).

Financial support has been provided by the UK-based Gatsby Foundation and SciDev.Net.

The workshop, which takes place from September, Monday 22 to Friday 26, is a response to a need identified by African nations for better communication between scientists and policymakers as part of their efforts to build science and technology capacity.

A key group of policymakers that could benefit from improved communications are members of national parliaments. The purpose of the workshop is therefore to help increase the extent to which policymaking across Africa ­ in areas such as health, agriculture, environmental conservation and climate change — is based more firmly on scientific evidence.

“Parliamentarians are increasingly required to tackle policy issues with a basis in science and technology. They rely to a large extent on parliamentary staff to provide them with the information they need to scrutinise government effectively,” says Chandy Nath of POST.

“Parliamentary staff, therefore, often act as ‘middlemen’ in the communication between scientists and policymakers. However, as few staff come from a scientific background, they may lack the skills needed to relay scientific information effectively to parliamentarians.”

“The main role of the workshop is to provide an introduction to some of the skills required by parliamentary staff to improve the communication process. A secondary function will be to reinforce the importance of communicating with scientists.”

Participants in the workshop have been selected from the staff of African parliaments made up of clerks, researchers and librarians from Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The conference opened by Rt. Hon. Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuka, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. The Parliament has already been working with POST and other organisations, such as the Ugandan National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society, to identify ways of strengthening its capacity to handle science issues.

The workshop will combine hands-on training from course tutors — such as science communication experts, scientists, and policy advisers — with group discussion where participants share best practice and present their own ideas.

Those addressing the workshop will include Charles Wendo, a science journalist who is the editor of the Saturday edition of New Vision, one of Uganda’s leading newspapers.

The meeting will also hear presentations from Kevin Urama, Executive Director of ATPS, and David Dickson, Director of SciDev.Net, who will present the results of an international survey carried out by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London into the information needs of policymakers.

Teaching material produced for the workshop will subsequently be made widely available, with the aim of stimulating similar workshops in other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The workshop will be held at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.


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Intel reiterates commitment to TAPP

Intel Corporation has reiterated its commitment to its teachers Information and Communications Technology (ICT) empowerment scheme known as Teacher Assisted Personal Computer (PC) Purchase (TAPP) in the country.

African country manager at Intel Corporation, Mr. Devan Naidoo, reaffirmed this commitment while briefing newsmen in Lagos, during his recent official working visit to Nigeria.

“We look forward to getting over 100,000 (teachers) in TAPP by 2012,” he declared.
Naidoo said that based on what has been achieved already that it shows Nigeria is more receptive to the TAPP initiative.

He pointed out that due to this factor, any one who visits any of the benefiting schools in the next five years, “would see we have created a new market.”

According to him, Intel is trying to build on what technology could do for education and the economy, as such, Intel has expanded its horizon from South Africa to Nigeria, Kenya among other African countries and currently looking at Angola, where it has set up an innovative centre as a starting step.

“What we really want to achieve is to let the government know the essence of technology to the economy,” Naidoo said.

In Nigeria, he said, Intel was able to get government talking, but in South Africa, funding was set aside for teachers’ empowerment.

“We cannot talk about ICT in education without the teachers,” he asserted, noting that Internet for instance is no longer only a tool for entertainment but also for learning.

Responding to questions, Naidoo said that Intel’s Centrino 2 enhances Central Processing Unit (CPU) of any PC where it is installed and comes with new graphics quality and chipset that offers the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), also known as the IEEE 802.16 group of standards, which defines a packet-based wireless technology that provides high-throughput broadband connections via the new technology.

He listed some of the benefits of Centrino 2 to include offering of a processor technology that blazes fast video encoding, clear, stutter-free blu-ray among others.

The country manager for Intel, Mr. David Ibawoh, accompanied by the Corporate Affairs Manager for West Africa Region, Mr. Ekundare Olubunmi and Marketing Development manager, Mr. Babajide Olufemi all of Intel Nigeria, said that they are concerned with how the people especially could adopt to technology.

He said the challenging facing the TAPP initiative presently in the country is how to provide .5 million teachers with computers in the next three years.

The challenge of infrastructure, he said, is not helping matters, ‘because we have to look at the problems holistically.”

He expressed optimism that by end of 2008, about 500 government owned-schools must have benefited from the scheme.


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Poor ICT skills, bane of micro finance firms – Adisa

Business Development and Product Manager, ExpertEdge Software, a subsidiary of Computer Warehouse Group, Mr. Bola Adisa, has identified lack of adequate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) skills in the delivery of effective services in the Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in the country, reports CHARLES OKOH.

He also said that the absence of support institutions in the sector, incompetent management, poor corporate governance, insider abuse, weak internal controls, poor credit administration and asset quality, and low management capacity of clients are some of the reasons for failure of microfinance initiatives in the past.

Speaking at a recent seminar held at the Event Place in Lagos, Adisa equally identified Micro Finance Institutions as major components of the strategy for poverty alleviation.

According to him the overall goal of MFIs is to transform small-scale income- earning activities from subsistence living to micro-enterprises that provide jobs for others as well as enabling the poor to become not only income-earners but also employers, thus creating Micro – Entrepreneurs.

He further said that new microfinance policy provides for the setting up of private sector driven microfinance banks (MFBs) to offer services to the poor and low income groups.

Mr. Adisa pointed out that for the microfinance scheme to be successful, the use of appropriate technology has to be employed.

“Appropriate technology is not so much about what technology to use but more on the model employed to use the technology,” he asserted, observing that the use of technology would go a long way in helping MFIs to achieve their goals.

“The value addition of technology in enabling microfinance greatly depends on delivery model, operational efficiency and labour cum technology costs, hybrid, cost-aware approaches and accurate matching of device with target functionality are key success factors in use of technology,” Adisa said.

He listed some banking applications such as Orbit, MIFOS, Finacle and so on, Enterprise Servers & Personal Computers (PCs) - Omatek, Zinox, Dell, SUN and HP and databases (MS SQL, DB2, Oracle).

Adisa went on to say that on communications, the likes of the Internet access, Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), while on card technologies Automated Teller Machines (ATM) cards, deposit cards come to play, even as the Point of Sales (POS) terminal are some of the technologies available to MFIs.

Adisa whose presentation was titled; Appropriate Technology for Microfinance Institutions, also identified ERP Solutions for Back End Operations (HR, Procurement, etc.), SAP, Oracle, Open Source ERPs, Major Core Banking Solutions SAP, Finacle, Rubicon, Flexcube, T24, etc. Independent Software Vendors, Orbit, Open Source MIFOS: A Grameen Foundation Initiative as some of the software applications.


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Xtracool multi-million academy ready

Local producer of the MTN Xtracool Project Fame Academy in the country, Ultima Studios and partners, have announced the completion of the multimillion Naira stage for the event, to ensure its success.

Chief Executive Officer, Ultima Studio, Mr. Femi Ayeni said in Lagos, weekend, that his firm would in partnership with MTN Xtracool, be organizing and hosting the contestants all through their stay in the academy which has been fully structured to enable them face the task ahead as the academy takes off on Monday, September 29.

According to him, expectations are high as they cannot wait to get the show started. Efforts, he said, have been intensified to ensure that music fans around the world are in for a jaw-breaking experience whilst the event lasted so as to leave globally reckonable and memorable time behind.

He disclosed that the over N100 million worth academy has in place state of the art edifice, specifically designed to suit the purpose and demands of the show.

“It comprise of the main stage brilliantly crafted in a world class design, and the faculty containing some off -the -hook facilities, which will be used to get the contestants trained in every required aspect of musical performances,” he said.

Apart from the physical structure, Ayeni noted that other areas of logistics and planning have also been effectively executed to ensure that both the participants and the viewing audience are presented with the most breathtaking experience they could ever imagine.

“Preparation is quite hectic though, as we have to work extra hard to ensure that everything is in place and that the academy is prepared elaborately. Nigerians are definitely going to have a very exciting experience when the academy kicks off fully,” he declared.

The MTN Xtracool Project Fame West Africa is an effort to bring the popular reality musical TV show closer to the West African audience, particularly to Nigerians so that they could have a better participation as opposed to the initial Project Fame Africa held last in 2004, which had the popular Nigerian Dare Art- Alade and Lemar discovered.

Other stakeholders of the event are Endemor, Ultima Productions, NTA, and Nigezie as the official broadcast partners.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adopting ICT for the challenged


In this report REMMY NWEKE stresses the need for the introduction of more Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services that would benefit the challenged group in the society.


Preamble:
Checking out what was wrong with his Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) line or handset, Rotimi Ajaye, an advert production artiste based in Ondo State, recently visited a customer care centre of one of the operators along Oba Adeshida Road, Akure, about 300 kilometers from Lagos.

On getting there, the security men directed him upstairs and while climbing the stairs, he missed a step which resulted into undergoing a clinical operation to correct the damage sustained, penultimate Monday.

Ordinarily, Rotimi did not have problem endorsing the clinical operation to be carried out but insisted it has to be in a Lagos-based private hospital used by the family in Surulere, a Lagos suburb, where his family – a wife and child reside.

Two days later, the trauma Rotimi had to face after the surgery as the process of healing became his companion. At first, he was helped to his bed from the theatre by the staff nurses, but as the days went by the pains continued to increase, which lasted for about a week.

Afterwards, even standing up from the bed soon became an uphill task, let alone standing upright or sitting down at the toilet comfortably required an aid.

One afternoon his wife left him in the care of the nurses to fetch some items needed for his upkeep at the clinic and could not return on time due to traffic holdup along Ikorodu Road in Lagos, before her return, he was under pressure to pass urine.

Unfortunately based on instructions of the chief medical director, Rotimi must use a clinical container to enable them monitor the frequency and quantity of urine passed, hence he needed to call the nurses’ attention anytime he was pressed.

Mobile solutions to the rescue:
So, given the situation he found himself because he was in a private room; there was a non-functional bell and recollecting he has doctor’s GSM as well as the wireless Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) phone contacts at the hospital reception, about 20 metres away. Rotimi simply reached out to his mobile phone, a Nokia N82 carefully placed under the pillow, searched for the number and quickly placed a call to them.

Few seconds later, Staff Nurse Banke who had answered the call appeared at the door with a smile and apologies. Obviously smiling and offering an apology because she was aware of the non-functioning bell due to lack of public power supply to that part of the country at that moment, unknown to them the alternate batteries have ran out too.

Throughout the one week Rotimi stayed at the hospital until discharged, he was treated basically as a physically challenged person, although temporarily, yet he could not run away from the difficulties facing the challenged group (CG), mostly those who have to endure it throughout their life time.

Another instance worthy of note was while recuperating he received a call from a client who wanted to place an advert in three newspapers within the next 24 hours, Rotimi asked for the advert to be sent to his electronic mail (e-mail) address, from where he could access it electronically and eventually forwarded same to the production contacts of the relevant papers on demand via Universal Serial Bus (USB) internet connection on his laptop with a follow-up phone calls to confirm receipt.

For over one month that Rotimi was bedridden he faced all the difficulties of a challenged person.

Definition of disability:

Defined by an open source-based online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.com as the lack of ability in relation to a personal or group standard, disability nowadays referred to as ‘challenge’ which gave rise to the latest term, the Challenged Group, involves physical, sensory, cognitive or intellectual impairment, elderly and mental disorder also known as psychiatric disability among various kinds of ailments.

Thus, a disability may occur during a person’s lifetime or at birth, for that reason it is seen as resulting directly from individuals, in which case the focus is typically on aspects of those individuals and how they could function better, that now matters for them and the relatives that cater for them on daily basis.

NCC intervention:
So, it was not startling that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) through its Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) recently put up a one-day session to deliberate on the state of readiness of telecommunications operators across board on how they could deploy services to benefit members of the Challenge Group.

The session, entitled ‘Consultative Forum on Challenged Group (CG)’ saw NCC’s team after listening to the operators’ plans to accommodate the CG, tasked them as matter of urgency to establish disability desks at their customer care centres nationwide.

Giving this charge, Head, CAB at NCC, Mrs. Lolia Emakpore said it would improve the kind of services this kind of group receive at all times and would assist significantly in improving their life, especially the elderly among them. Thus encouraging members of the challenged group to be part of the e-inclusion in the society and mostly in Nigeria, noting that over 25 per cent of the nation’s population are within this group.

Mrs. Emakpore pointed out that by addressing the need of this group using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services provision like GSM and Internet is critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in Nigeria among the developing countries of the world in accordance to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) declaration.

Forgotten in promos & other ICT services:
As well, she advocated for a billing option, for instance on GSM that is favourable to this group, noting that the use of Short Messaging Service (SMS) is discriminatory for some members, especially the blind, even as she asked for special voice call charges, suggesting a slash from about N25 to N20, and pointed out the need to check balances through voice prompt for the blind persons. While industry promotions, mostly since the GSM evolution began seven years ago, have continued to elude the challenged group. She asserted, “Challenged group cannot participate fully in most of these promos.”

According to her, they complained of having difficulties in surfing the Internet and mostly websites of telecom operators as there are rarely voice prompts added to these sites. Particularly, she lamented the non-supportive access to platforms at consumer care centres of the operators and imperativeness to have a register of CG in the country to pave the way for special services to be channeled to them.

“There is need to incorporate teletype systems into service provision by operators,” she said, adding that most CG members do not want to be treated with pity, but like every other persons.

Educational sponsorship and employment opportunity for challenged group, she noted, remained another call for concern, warning “Communication services should not be discriminatory.”

Two state-of-the-art Consumer Centres:
In his remark to the meeting, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, reiterated the need for operators to help out in developing services that would give rise to the challenged group usage of communications devices precisely and ICT in general.

Represented at the occasion by Director, Legal Services at NCC, Mr. Steve Andsenge, Ndukwe said, the commission has advanced plans to launch two state-of-the-art Consumer Centres in Lagos and Abuja to help alleviate the challenges this group pass through mostly at customer care centres in effort to access ICT more so communications. He advised operators to re-organise their care centres to be accessible to the challenged group among other corporate organisations.

Nigerian websites shout-out the blind:
Speaking on website accessibility for the challenged persons, recently, a blind-law student at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Mr. Joseph Gbulegbe affirmed that most sites in the country were not built or developed to accommodate people like him because they cannot access it by themselves except aided.

Gbulegbe said he heard about the Internet, for instance, but is yet to use it, although aware of the features that could enable visually impaired people like him.

He pointed out that efforts to know what his friends do with Internet and Personal Computers (PC) are essential, but “one has to be taught because, I think what is advisable is that one has his own PC in order to really practice what is being taught.” Although UNILAG included computer studies in the curricular, but for him and his challenged colleagues, they attend to such classes without practical.

ITRealms Online investigations across tens of ICT firms in the country including telecom operators proved that they are yet to become compliant as far as NCC recommendations were concerned. From core Information Technology (IT) firms to those in the communications subsector, nothing seems to have changed, especially for the blind.

Also, ITRealms Online recalls that on December 13, 2006, the United Nations (UN) formally agreed on the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,’ to protect, enhance the rights and opportunities of the world’s estimated 265 million disable persons as at mid-2007. Countries that signed up for the convention and its optional protocol totaling 82 and 44 respectively includes Nigeria await ratification and were mandated to adopt national laws to facilitate the inclusion of this group, byway of equal rights to education, employment, and cultural life; the right to own and inherit property; not be discriminated against in marriage and children, to name a few.

Upholding the WSIS declaration:
Above all, there is a need for corporate entities to embrace the calls to structure their service platforms to accommodate the challenged members of the society like Joseph and the earlier that is done the better the hope for an all inclusive society at this time of social re-engineering based on the success achieved with the GSM in the country.

This, hopefully would further receive a boost as the match aimed at fulfilling the MDGs requirements and in accordance with the agenda 13 of the WSIS declaration of principles, which states:

“In building the Information Society, we shall pay particular attention to the special needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups of society, including … recognizing the special needs of older persons and persons with disabilities.”



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Omo-Ettu urges power engineers to emulate telecom counterparts

Chief Executive Officer, Telecom Answers Associate, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, has urged the nation’s engineers in the power and energy sector to emulate their counterparts in the telecommunications sector.

Addressing members of the Abuja branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) recently as a guest speaker, at the opening of the Engineering Week and Annual General Meeting (AGM), Omo-Ettu who dwelt on “Energy Crisis and Economic Development: the Nigerian Telecommunication Development as case study” asked them to emulate their counterparts in the telecom sector “where there is already a model on ground to spy.”

He admonished them to take up their rightful place in positioning the nation’s power sector by canvassing for genuine liberalization in that domain.

He recalled that in 1989, NSE within the Power and Telecom sectors set up a committee which resulted in “irreconcilable differences on matters of strategy” among its rank and file, but the telecom subgroup obviously did not relent, stressing that their persistence paid off with what is today referred to as revolution in the telecom sphere.

According to him, the power challenge in the country has graduated from being a mere problem to crisis and now has deteriorated to the level of emergency.

Omo-Ettu also told the audience which had a representative of NSE president, Mr. Kashim Alli in attendance that it was NSE resolve to lead a crusade to ‘liberalize’ the telecom sector and ‘privatize’ the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and it came to pass that progress was made based on this resolution.

He pointed out that liberalization is not just about the era of stopping the attitude of throwing money at problems but to “start collecting money from the problems,” and enjoined NSE to take a radical position as far as power and energy crises in the country are concerned.

“NSE has no radical position on the issue of power crises in Nigeria. I call on our engineers to redefine their roles,” he asserted, urging the professional group to make bold to approach the government of the day with a comprehensive blueprint on how to go about solving the problems with the power and energy.

“Nigerian engineers should admit responsibility for the power situation in the country and go to government with a comprehensive blueprint asking to be given whatever they require to solve the problem,” he advised, warning however that they should not claim “knowledge of the energy sector” in isolation.

Emphasizing that Nigeria heard so much of ‘security implications’ as the reason for not wanting to liberalize telecom industry from 1987 to 1993, when the former military President Ibrahim Babangida-led government did it.

“It was a result of the call by engineers that the telecom industry was liberalized. All founding members of NSE are living principal actors including Bayo Bodede of blessed memory,” he said.

Omo-Ettu further cautioned that changing name of the public power supply institution from the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to its current status of Power Holding Nigeria Plc or any other, would not count as one of the solutions.
The astute telecom expert who also presides over the Executive Cyberschuul advocated for the return to the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).

“NIPP may have been a bad project but we have no alternative to it at this moment. What should happen is to see it work,” he said, stressing that training in the energy sector should be stepped up.

The world, he said, has changed its way of doing things and Nigeria cannot play ignorant to that fact and remain in isolation.


Explaining further, he said that the power crisis has resulted in manufacturers now using public supply as standby rather than the main source, even as some do not use public supply at all.

He cited an instance where an operator spends about N600 million monthly to service generators coupled with theft of standby-generators, these push tariff upward.

“In 2001 preliminary calculations put per minute of call to about N20.00 and energy crisis plus NITEL crisis shot the price to N45.00 per minute,” he noted, lamenting however, that telecom operators took advantage of these problems to shoot tariff up as well as in explaining poor quality of service (QoS).

“We have liberalized telecommunications and that means the cost of telecommunications service has spread to the user away from being absorbed only by the government,” he said, adding that instead of throwing money at the problems in telecom, the government has started earning revenue from the problems.

“We have started auctioning frequency making it revenue earning for government and stopped asking government for funding,” Omo-Ettu said.

Underlining the fact that technology has changed the belief of power usage from being the ‘power-to-serve-the-system’ to the ‘user also needs power to charge his terminal.’

He explained that each Nigerian now needs electricity power to be carried in the pockets via devices.

“We have started paying the true cost of telephone service, although being ripped off. We are now ready to pay for power but it is not there to be paid for,” he challenged.

Omo-Ettu attributed the non-optimized growth of the telecom industry to the power crises, saying that several people would not have had more than a telephone line, even as there is less viable Internet Service Providers (ISP).


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NCC politics: Experts insist on due process

The on-going politicking at the nation’s telecommunications regulatory organ, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has continued to attract reactions among experts, as they insisted that due process be followed in selecting replacement for the current Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe.

The latest came from the President of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and a telecom engineer, Mr. Lanre Ajayi as well as the Coordinator of Telecommunications, School of Information Technology (IT) and Communications, American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State, Prof. Augustine Odinma.

ITRealms Online recalls that early this month the Nigerian media has been awash with plots to sack the current EVC while his appointment is yet to elapse until 2010. The key point of the proponents was that he turned 60 a fortnight ago.

Reacting in an exclusive chat with ITRealms Online, the aforementioned experts warned that as due process was followed in the appointment, there is absolute need for the replacement whenever necessary to take the same measure, rather than allowing mere political reasons to overwhelm the decision.

For Mr. Ajayi who is the chief executive of PiNet Informatics, he was sad and surprised to learn of the plot cautioning that those political jobbers should allow the current EVC, Dr. Ndukwe to concentrate by continuing on the good foundation he has laid till his tenure expires.

“I learnt about the plot with a surprise. I thought Nigerians should have appreciated the landmark contributions of the EVC and allow him to concentrate on his job in order to deliver a greater result,” he told ITRealms Online.

Mr. Ajayi also advised anybody interested in the position to exercise patient pending when he leaves office in two years time.

“Anybody that is interested in his job should at least wait till the expiration of his term,” he counseled.

For the coordinator of the telecom and wireless programmes at the American University, Yola, Prof. Odinma, it sounds very ridiculous for any right thinking person to imagine the removal of Ndukwe on the account of age.

“It is preposterous for any body to seek to remove Ndukwe on the account of age, unless they have any other reasons,” he said, adding that even if Ndukwe is 70 and in the judgment of his boss he is performing as expected, it would tantamount to stupidity to aspire to remove him based on age or tribal affiliation.

“We must learn from our past mistakes,” he cautioned.

Odinma, however, advised those aspiring to the position to tell the nation, the telephone consumers, how they intend to work with the operators to stop the cross-talk which is now the hall mark of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) networks.

“They should tell us how NCC can work with operators to eradicate the erroneous ‘No signal’ message when you are in a big city; ‘the customer is busy,’ when he is not; ‘Call Rejected,’ when it was actually not rejected.

In addition, he said they should tell the nation how they could interact with the operators to stop the ‘No Service’ syndrome which is now pervasive stressing that some days, there may not be service for two, three, or even seven hours or more.

“We need someone who can solve the problem and not somebody who knows the system or problem, but not how to solve the problem,” he highlighted.


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Ndukwe commends DaarComms

The chief executive officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, has commended the pioneering footprint of Daar Communications (DaarComms) Plc, saying it must be encouraged as the company has become the pride of the continent in the broadcast and communications industry.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to the Chairman, Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi at the Gbaduma Hills headquarters of the group, Ndukwe expressed excitement over the DaarSAT pay television initiative, describing it as a major milestone that would project the nation, and continent to the world in terms of opening up competition in the market and exportation of local content.

He said Daar Communications has continued to be steadfast in its pioneering footprint in the communications and broadcast sector, above all challenges, remained focused with a mobilized hardworking team.

“Your initiatives would also encourage technology transfer which is very critical to our development and I can only congratulate Daar Communications for its vision, doggedness, and efforts. We believe your efforts today have given hope for the future and we wish to encourage you to continue to do your best,” Dr. Ndukwe said.

Accompanied in the visit by the Executive Commissioner, Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Mr. Stephen Bello, and other top officials of the Commission, Ndukwe pledged the continued support of the commission to DaarComms in any way possible to ensure that its goals are realized.

He further said the NCC would seek areas of cooperation with Daar Communications, especially in areas of capacity building through the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) training institute outfit of the commission.

Chief Dokpesi, who took the NCC boss and his team round the complex for inspection of several installations, expressed gratitude to the Commission for facilitating some of its relationships with the international satellite companies for the delivery of signals across the world.

He said the visit of the NCC boss to Daar Communications is a source of encouragement to the organisation, and urged the Commission to continue with the direction that has transformed the telecom sector for the benefit of the country.

Daar Communications, he said, in an aggressive expansion project has installed in about 12 locations sets of satellite dishes in readiness to commence operations before the end of the year, while terrestrial services – radio and television- are also being expanded.

Chief Dokpesi, who was joined by elder statesman, Ambassador Segun Olusola to receive the NCC team said the new initiatives by the company would bring the era of one way traffic, which is downloading broadcast signals into the country to a close as it will now usher an era of uploading broadcast signals from Nigerian to other parts of the country.


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MTN, Profiliant partner on capacity building

MTN Nigeria Limited and Profiliant Development Resources (PDR) over the weekend held a one-day seminar on capacity building for sales executives at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

The seminar which had about 600 sales executives out of over 3,500 that applied in attendance was part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of both companies.

Speaking at the seminar, the Managing Consultant and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Profiliant, Mr. Oliver Nnona, said the exercise is a novel one aimed at transforming the lives of the individual sales executives in their personal capacities and not at corporate level.

“We are taking people on a life time-journey; it is completely 100 per cent CSR issue aimed at making a change on a personal level. This seminar is just one aspect of it, some of them are going to go through the academy where they will be coached and mentored by more senior persons. It is a life time journey and that is the idea behind the programme,” he said.

Nnona also said professional selling is a profession and not one people enter by accident after seeking for other jobs without success.

“What we’re saying to them is that professional selling is a profession, people use to enter it by accident, like if you have looked for job and could not find, you just go and sit down one place where they call you a sales person. The rationale behind it is to inform people that professional selling has the same process of going through certification like other professions, it is just that people are ignorant of this,” he said.

On the relevance of the profession to the nation, Mr. Nnona underscored the fact that it’s an area that should not be taken with a casual approach because over 80 per cent of job vacancies in national dailies are asking for sales people, business development and marketing executives.

“If 80 per cent of vacancies are in business development and personal selling, then it has to be an area that should not be taken with casual approach, that is what we are saying and that is how this whole programme started,” Nnona said.

In his keynote address to the occasion, Sales and Distribution Executive at MTN, Mr. Mike Ikpoki, noted that sales executives should know their products, markets and understand customers as well as businesses and what makes them strive.

The Head, Human Capital, InterSwtich, Ms Adora Ikwuemesi who spoke on “The place of coaching and mentoring in building your professional selling career,” said at a time where experienced professionals are vastly outnumbered by up and coming personnel, getting a good start with coaching and mentoring would give any sales career a boost.

She pointed out that great coaches provide an employee with advice and guidance intended to help or develop skills, improving performance and enhance the quality of one’s career.


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EDP offers 20 scholarships to IT compliant accountants

Lagos-based EDP Tecknowledge Education Center (TCI) in collaboration with its foreign technical partners has finalized plans to offer 20 scholarships to Information Technology (IT) compliant accountants in the country.

Disclosing this at the just concluded Accountants’ Technology Conference at Ojodu-Berger, near Lagos, the Managing Consultant of EDP Audit & Security Associates, organizers of the convention, Mr. Chris Ekeigwe, said the scholarships would motivate interest in IT compliance among professional accountants, who are also members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

According to him, this is expected to draw attention to the technology needs of the profession and help chartered accountants plan their future within the digital economy.

Announcing the development, Ekeigwe said, no less than 20 accountants will benefit from the scholarship aimed at bridging technology gap in the nation’s accounting profession.

He also said the initiative was designed to support the ICAN technology initiative and called on all members of ICAN in the country to see this as a challenge on how small entities could contribute to the current pursuit of technology competence for accountants.

The scholarship, he pointed out would be consummated at EDP Center’s audit and accounting technology laboratories (test beds) where the scholarship beneficiaries will undergo hands-on training on all accounting and auditing relevant technologies including Auditing and Assurance Services (ACL) audit software, accounting software, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERPs), networking technologies, database and web technologies, operating systems and systems audit methodologies.

The essence of the initiative, he maintained is to give potential participants empowering technology skills that would make them world-class manpower with global competitiveness, explaining that the scholarship valued N1,200,000 million per person, covers tuition, course documentation and access to computer laboratories stressing that its not restricted to those who had attended the TCI at EDP Center before now.

Candidates, he noted would be involved in field works on client engagements as part of the training, adding that depending on opportunities, some candidates would only get the limited scholarship valued at N600,000.

Further, Ekeigwe said TCI would be the most important initiative in the accounting profession in the near future.

ICT, he said, has presented enthusiasts with challenges that most people have difficulties coping with technology evolution as well as quality service and public trust, describing it as a knowing-doing gap that has become embarrassment.

“The Knowing-Doing Gap is a humiliating phenomenon. It is main reason why many professional accountants are incapable of optimizing their potential to prosperity in the emerging digital society. We must close this gap now or risk being relegated to obscurity in the digital society,” he asserted.


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