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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Transforming Damaturu with WiMAX

Features of the week:

Observers have described the Yobe State Integrated Technology Wireless access as the first of its kind in Nigeria. REMMY NWEKE who was there recently reports.

It was a very sunny Friday and of course travelling to northern Nigeria by any means of transportation is not an easy task and like was gathered later, touching ground at the destination could take as long as three hours using the air, that is, to get to the nearby airfield, the Maiduguri International Airport enroute Damaturu, capital city of Yobe State.

And given the businesses of the day, the trip has been conceptualised to last approximated eight hours, including one hour drive from the airport to the government house.

Of course, by the time the team arrived the Maiduguri airport, the protocol team was already waiting, thanks to the Executive Governor of Yobe State, Senator Mamman Bello Ali and the entourage led by the Minister of State for Information and Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki-Nakande and chairman, Zinox Technologies Limited, Dr. Leo-Stan Ekeh among the 15-man delegation.

One thing was however certain, the passion, for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and this time around the passion had its focus on commissioning of three key projects for the state powered by Zinox consortium; the launch of N317 million worth of Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) initiative; ICT Resource Centre and the Zinox computer ownership scheme for the civil servants, in what one of the beneficiaries informed our correspondent is 3-in-1 project and little wonder then it was named the Integrated Technology Wireless initiative.

For instance, ICT Resource Centre currently powered by over 50 Zinox brands of desktops, would soon give birth to another, which is expected to be bigger so as to accommodate about 200 Personal Computers (PCs), equally to be powered by Zinox for the training of top functionaries of the state on Information Technology.

While the WIMAX initiative would not only avail the state to have 24 by 7 Internet access, but would afford its citizenry the access to make free telephone calls among themselves within a given radius, especially in the capital city.

Whereas the Zinox computer ownership scheme is expected to boost penetration of PCs usage in the state with the compliment of full Zinox after sales services.

Just as 30 per cent discount awaits indigenes wishing to own Zinox brands of PCs and laptops, being dangled by the government.

The consortium:

The consortium for the integrated technology wireless Internet includes Zinox Technologies Limited and GAAT Investment Limited under Zinox Consortium.

Zinox prides itself as leading Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs) in the country, which in over sixth year, acclaims its birth to the urge to technologically position Nigeria’s competence largely on current scientific knowledge acquired, organised, developed, domesticated and put into use, thus an initiative to create an international information technology identity for the country.

Zinox is in a strong partnership between Stan Technologies of Nigeria, Mustek of South Africa, the No 1 IT company in South Africa and Alhena Ventures of France, even as Zinox introduced the Computerise Nigeria Project (CNP) on launch, a campaign, Dr. Ekeh said, is to take quality internationally certified and affordable computers to every offices, homes, and educational institutions in order to place Nigeria and Nigerians digitally ahead.

What to know about WiMAX:

WiMAX is the new wireless broadband with a range of up to 80 kilometres (km), with a bandwidth of up to 75 bits per second (bps). It is the successor to Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) and is a telecommunications technology aimed at providing wireless data over long distances in a variety of ways; from point-to-point links to full mobile cellular type access based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 802.16 standard, which is also called WirelessMAN, according to experts.

Technologically born-again state:

In his address to the occasion, Zinox chairman, Dr. Ekeh, accompanied by Managing Director, Zinox Technologies, Abuja, Mr. Amasike Emelonye, while congratulating Yobe State for the commissioning, described the state as the first technologically born-again state in the country in terms of wireless compliance.

He also said that Yobe is the current modern state on the continent and is yet to get any equal in the country, even as he enjoined other states in the federation to open up by partnering with the Zinox consortium so as to empower their citizenry with technology, especially with wireless communications.

“Other governors should open their states. What you’re witnessing here is the first in Nigeria and only just two weeks ago the city of California deployed WiMAX,” he asserted.

Commending the Yobe State government for believing in Zinox as its choice of technology partner, Dr. Ekeh enjoined the citizens to ensure optimal usage of the facilities, assuring of Zinox support services to keep the project alive 24 hours a day and seven days in a week.

He added that WiMAX would propel electronic governance in the state and its attendant values such as electronic learning and e-health to name a few, saying that Yobe, is far ahead and is the only best place that is investor friendly.

Dr. Ekeh expressed confident that Yobe indigenes would enjoy the deployment of WiMAX in the state and assured of his office determination to assist the state to develop its human capacity to knowledge capacity.

Zinox, he said, has finalised plans to open an office in Damaturu in order to draw its services nearer to the populace, mostly in the state, adding that it would open up employment opportunities for the indigenes.

Digital leap:

Special guest to the occasion and Minister of state for Information and Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande, portrayed the project as a major leap being spear-headed by the Yobe State government and lauded the leadership of Senator Bello Ali.

The minister also said that the project would galvanise the socio-economic status of Yobe and assured them of his ministry’s support especially in areas of manpower development and equipment of a school with 20 Zinox PCs.

His ministry, Nakande said, is ready to assist by training some of the state indigenes in its world-class Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) institute, the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) located at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

Alhaji Nakande noted that the weapon to survive at this era of ICT is knowledge and urged them to ensure adequate use, even as he solicited for the certifications of any certificate to be given to graduates at the resource centres.

He further urged citizens of Yobe to make good use of the facilities now in place and improve their life style, stressing that it does not belong to any single individual but the state in general.

The minister later commissioned the projects to the glory of God and good use of humanity as well as growth of Yobe State.

Connecting the ministries:

At the occasion, executive governor of Yobe State, Senator Bello Ali, who was accompanied by his deputy, Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam, said that the project is an integrated telephony access, stressing that all ministries would in no distance time be connected to the world of Internet.

He recalled that on assumption on May 29, this year, his administration resolved that there would not be any form of Tokunbo of anything to be owned by the state including ICT tools, hence they went to Zinox to ensure that what they want is what they got.

“That’s why we are partnering with Zinox. So its a promise fulfilled,” he declared, adding that Zinox stands out among equals and is internationally certified, even as the state workforce would be trained on ICT, beginning with the 30 per cent discount to desiring civil servants to encourage them to migrate to the new world order both in Personal Computers (PCs) and laptops.

To this extent, he said, that currently some of the state functionaries are undergoing training both at home and abroad to keep up to the kind of investment the government is making to ensure that Yobe remain the state to beat in the country when it comes to ICT deployment.

He reiterated the resolve of his government to continue in this direction, describing it as the right path in this era of ICT.

We have NCC license:

In a separate chat with newsmen after the launch, Senator Bello Ali, at the government house in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State, said that the state-owned WiMAX project, was licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC),

Although he did not disclose how much was paid for the license, Gov. Bello Ali noted that his administration would not be part of any illegality and the same applies to the Ministry of Information and Communications, hence the minister has the confidence to not only grace the occasion, but also accept to perform the commissioning physically.

He also said that the state has employed a Nigerian Information Technology (IT) professional with decades of experience to ensure that the project is managed as a private concern in order to be self sustained, but to a world-class standard.

As said by Gov. Bello Ali, sooner than later, he expected the managing entity of the WiMAX project for the state to be self reliant and generate enough revenue to move it beyond sustaining of its operations and payment of staff salaries adequately.

The era, he noted is over when indigenes of Yobe would go to other cities to get IT education from mushroom training centres, and tasked the managers to facilitate the standardization of tutorials and certificates to aid participants and youth in particular in securing jobs.

This, he said, would afford beneficiaries on graduation to value the certificates.

Digitally ahead …:

Champion Infotel recalls that Yobe State was created on August 27, 1991 by the then President Ibrahim Babangida’s administration from the former Borno State, and is touted as one of the largest states in terms of land area.

With this step of transforming the state technologically, observers said that Gov. Ali knows his onion and is digitally putting Yobe ahead of others.

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