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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boosting MDAs connectivity with PPP

The concept of public-private partnership (PPP) between Galaxy Backbone Plc and MainOne Cable is seen as good omen if it would trickle down to the populace, reports REMMY NWEKE.
Partnership has been severally described by experts to mean different things for different purposes. But according to free online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, “a partnership is an arrangement where entities and/or individuals agree to cooperate to advance their interests.

And for Galaxy Backbone Plc and MainOne Cable Company, who launched broadband access partnership recently in Abuja, both have common interest in providing connectivity for the nation’s public service, which by extension is for good of the populace because of its advantages.

Galaxy Backbone is a federal government-owned company whose primary mandate is the provision of ICT Infrastructure and other transversal services to Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Government.

Presently, the company has connected over 250 MDAs of the Federal Government to its network, with over 2,500 remote sites across the country and rolling out a metro-wide fibre optic network within the FCT, Abuja. Galaxy offers solutions that include: Broadband, Hosting, Remote office connectivity and a host of other related solutions.

While Main One Cable Company Limited claims the first in submarine cable offering with open access, wholesale broadband capacity in West Africa.

A wholly African-owned cable firm, Main One’s vision is to expand the much needed capacity on the African continent and reduce costs of broadband communications across the continent. The company says its vision has been realized with completion of a 7000km submarine cable system with capacity to transmit 1.92Tbps which was put into service on July 1, 2010 with initial landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

The Manager, Marketing Communication at Galaxy, Mr. Franklyn Ginger-Eke, said that the chief host at the event was the Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, while it attracted penultimate Thursday, Head of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government as well as head of Information Technology (IT) departments in aforementioned organisations.

Ginger-Eke also said at the event tagged “The Future Is Here” as other speakers include the Minister of National Planning Dr. Shamsudeen Usman and Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Prof. Afolabi Oladapo.

According to him, with the support of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, Galaxy has made significant progress in the provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services to over 3,000 locations nationwide, noting that the formal launch of the partnership between came with an exceptional broadband access to Nigerians.

Ginger-Eke equally said that the current wind of broadband revolution in Nigeria has set to move to the next level as Galaxy Backbone partners MainOne Cable for the delivery of what he described as “superior data and voice services to its customers,” which comes on the heels of a recent strategic agreement between the two firms to facilitate direct procurement of bandwidth capacity for the next 15 years.

He explained that in the deal, MainOne provides the backbone infrastructure which provides superior and reliable access to broadband communication services, whereas Galaxy Backbone Plc would deliver data, Internet, voice and video services to its customers via its integrated infrastructure platform, using 1-GOV.net.

Pointing out that with the commercial launch of MainOne services on July 1, this year, Galaxy Backbone and MainOne Cable took a decision to host an event in Abuja to formally announce the service partnership which is quite strategic for both brands, which he said, promises significant positive impact on the attainment of the ICT sectoral objectives and by extension the overarching goals of the Nigerian Vision 20: 2020 strategy.

In his address at the occasion, the Chief executive officer, Galaxy Backbone Plc, Mr. Gerald Ilukwe, said that his firm is really excited about the strategic partnership with Main One Cable because it is now better positioned to help the government achieve its ICT goals by delivering enhanced quality of data, internet, voice and video services.

He noted that Galaxy’s vision is to be the leading enabler of digital inclusion in Nigeria and across the continent, while its mission is to drive national development through the provision of pervasive ICT infrastructure and services to public institutions, underserved communities and other stakeholders.

According to him, Galaxy infrastructure is made up of state of the art Network Control Centre, Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) teleport facility and National Data Centre complex in Abuja with a redundant disaster recovery and business continuity site.

He stressed that presently, Galaxy is deploying network infrastructure assets including the National Information, Communications and Education Programme network (NICEP), National ICT Infrastructure Backbone (NICTIB) and a data center; a government data centre providing hosting, business continuity and disaster recovery services to government and other customers.

Also, the chief executive of MainOne, Ms Funke Opeke, said that through the deal, they have further extended the footprint upcountry which allows the parties to bring better-quality, reliable and affordable broadband communication to the Federal Government and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) within the region.

Main One, she said, has built a state-of-the-art Network Operations Centre matching the best international standards and comparable to its global counterparts. We have a strong management and technical team in place to ensure system reliability and constant availability backed by Service Level Agreements.

“Our systems are monitored 24 x 7 x 365 - every hour, every day, all year round to guarantee our customers minimum down time in service delivery,” she said, underscoring the fact that her company is accessible to all companies and organisation wishing to have an improved bandwidth under its platform.

Currently, she said, MTN Nigeria, Etisalat and Starcomms are already on MainOne and the primary vision of MainOne is to transform telecom consumerism with the mission to offer wholesale broadband capacity in West Africa, just as her firm is determined to contribute towards bridging digital divide by providing adequate capacity for effective communications including broadband services comprising data, video and voice on the continent.

Opeke outlined some of the milestones her company has made lately to include being the acclaimed first private submarine cable landing licenses in Nigeria and Ghana; first wholly African-owned, private funded, open access submarine cable in Africa with highest potential capacity to date of 4.96 terra bytes per second (Tbps) deployed on the West Coast of Africa, evolving with the project finance International: African Communications Deal of the Year 2009.

The Secretary to the Federal Government, Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed who was represented at the occasion by Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. Suleiman, warned Federal Government MDAs over defaulting in the guidelines for the procurement and implementation of bandwidth, network connectivity and other ICT procurement, saying that MDAs should be conscious of this fact, especially for the procurement and implementation of bandwidth, network connectivity and other, which mandated has been given to Galaxy Backbone Plc as the sole solution provider to the parastatals.

He also said that the directive still upholds in all MDAs and remains in effect and full compliance is required from all government MDAs, maintaining that Galaxy Backbone remains the custodian of this guideline, warning that defaulting MDAs may face sanctions.

SFG further said that the partnership between Galaxy and MainOne is consistent with the Mission and Mandate of the company, which is to securely and cost-effectively provide Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and services to the public sector and underserved communities where government is expected to intervene.

Describing the partnership as cost-saving, Yayale-Ahmed said, the Federal Government is to save in excess of 65 per cent from the broadband access partnership between Galaxy Backbone and MainOne Cable Company, noting that government saving is over previous charges on bandwidth.

“In the course of processing approval for this partnership, I understand that savings in excess of 65 per cent over previous charges will be accruing to the government,” he declared, stressing that Galaxy Backbone has shown diligent in utilizing cost saving mechanisms inherent in the procurement process, pointing out that this no doubt is in consonance with the government’s efforts at improving efficiency in the management of the available limited resources.

He anticipated that the deal has significant price reduction, which would contribute to bridging the Digital Divide to the benefit of dwellers in rural communities and boost access in educational institutions. Hence, he commended the management of Galaxy Backbone for this partnership, urging the company to seek avenues to partner with other organisations within and outside the public sector, in order to ensure that ICT becomes a critical contributor to national development and government transformation, just as he congratulated MainOne Cable Company for accepting to partner Galaxy Backbone.

“I call on both companies to ensure that their impact is manifested in all parts of the country and not just in Lagos and Abuja,” he said, emphasising that Galaxy Backbone is now in a better position to discharge its obligations as envisaged by the government.

“It’s relevant at this juncture for me to restate and revalidate that the circular containing guidelines for the procurement and implementation of bandwidth, network connectivity and other ICT infrastructure for the federal government ministries, departments and agencies by Galaxy Backbone still remains in effect and full compliance is required from all government MDAs to avoid sanctions,” he said.

Exploring his address to the occasion, the Head, Civil Service of the Federation, Prof. Oladapo Afolabi, said that MDAs are currently adding value even if not part of the whole of government reform agenda, just as the government is leaving no stone unturned in its effort to entrench e-government and e-governance in Nigeria.

Prof. Afolabi cited an instance, saying that MDAs are increasingly driven individually to implement projects to improve access to services, to re-engineer service to name a few, stating that the current initiative of Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPS) is positioned to address the malaise of ‘ghost worker’ syndrome.

“e-Payment is to improve transparency and financial accountability, e-Tax by the Federal Inland Revenue Services to improve tax collection and accountability, e-Procurement is to address procurement transparency, e-Passport of the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) and the identity verification services by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) among others.

The aforementioned efforts, he said, add value individually with the latest evolution of e-government founded on the rapidly growing connecting power of ICT to power electronically interaction with people and information virtually anytime and anywhere.

“This is the incontrovertible strength of broadband Internet,” he asserted, noting that evolutionary aspect of e-Government is the concept of the ‘Connected Government’ which is driven by the realization that the increased connecting power of ICT has enabled a shift in orientation from the vertical to the horizontal, from predominantly intra-agency interactions to increasingly inter-agency, cross-government interactions.

Afolabi described the horizontal connection of ICT as the emerging driver of fundamental changes in the way the business of government operates and the way governments provide services to, and interact with their citizens.

“The most recent developments include the rise of what are termed ‘web 2.0’ platforms offering new possibilities in mass collaboration and participation and social networking,” he said, highlighting that online platforms such as Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Wikipedia and YouTube are examples of web 2.0 in the private sector, pointing out that these platforms enable their users to easily generate, share, comment on and interact with digital content anywhere and anytime.

Connected government, he said, is now the dominant theme in e-government and cited the recent United Nations e-government survey.

ITRealms Online gathered that MainOne Cable invested a total of $240 million and the Federal Government has spent about $120 million on Galaxy Backbone since its inception in 2006.

There was also exhibition by both companies and their technical partners including Huawei and Cisco at the venue of the event.

With this, expectation is already high that public office in the country would continue to key-into this project and state governments too in replicating Galaxy example through collaboration, so as to really bridge the divide between the government and the governed and eventually enthroning e-governance across the country.

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