Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Experts flay USPF over CCCs

Nigerian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts have flayed the conditions outlined by the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) for the setting up of about 109 Community Communications Centres (CCCs).

ITRealms Online recalls that USPF was established in pursuance of Chapter VII, Part IV of the Communications Act of 2003, by the Federal Government of Nigeria to facilitate the rapid achievement of national policy goals for universal access to telecommunications, information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Thus the Fund seeks to promote the objectives in rural and underserved areas of Nigeria based on the contribution to the national economic and social development through enhancing the universal accessibility and availability of telecommunications and ICT infrastructures and services.

Also, USPF, under the supervision of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), facilitates the provision of access to ICT services within a reasonable distance to all persons in the country and provides infrastructural development to rural and underserved areas in a non-discriminatory manner that promotes technological innovation and competition in ICT services delivery respectively.

This is in addition to ensuring that effective utilization of funds to leverage investments in rural communications supports the establishment of efficient, self-sustaining, market-oriented businesses, which will continue to expand access to ICTs on their own initiative, requiring the minimum amounts of short and long-term Fund support possible as well as the use of ICT to promote greater social equity and inclusion for all the people of Nigeria.

But reacting to the latest invitation on Request for Proposals (RFP) by the fund for CCCs, some of the Nigerian IT professionals criticized USPF for some certain clauses in the downloable RFP form which include: “Proponents are required to liaise with reputable ICT Companies such as CISCO Academy, Microsoft and UNDP to obtain materials on course contents to enhance the quality of the training to be provided in the CCCs.”

As lamented by some of them, they found the above clause disturbing, doubting however what it got to offer ICT penetration, integration and usability in a Nigerian rural community?

“No wonder we are not advancing because we tie our development to foreign contents. Easily we run out of ideas,” one of the key professionals declared.

For him, it was exciting to learn about the proposal in the first instance, but he was disgusted immediately on sighting that condition.

“I was going to participate but when I read the above, I lost interest,” he decried.
Although USPF and its parent organization, the NCC, also have some sympathizers who canvassed that the country has something to learn from the developed countries of the world as outlined in the RFP.

They argued that the Cisco curriculum, for instance, is desirable because it meets the world class standards that Nigeria as a nation aspire to, and the Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum, is free, available and relevant.

Pointing out that it is by being exposed to these world class ideas that Nigeria and her citizens could find ways to excel beyond those ideas.

“We do not need to reinvent the wheel, but we do need, as we evolve, to adapt it to our situation and circumstances,” one of the experts who identified himself as Alhaji Ajijola said.

While not holding brief for NCC, he also said that the above mentioned curricula are the perfect set of solutions, adding that NCC when compared to most Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA’s) has attempted to proffer some solutions.

“It has taken a position, it has made decisions upon which we can improve, bottom-line it is moving,” he said.

Ajijola pointed out that there are several MDA’s that have become so paralyzed with incompetence that they “cannot, have not and will not be able to even make an attempt at doing something constructive.”

According to USPF, the request for proposals is for the establishment of community communications centres (CCCs) in 109 unserved/underserved locations nationwide and has been attracting a good number of downloads running into hundreds since its upload last Tuesday.

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