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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Connectivity: Public power deficiency, bane of 'last mile'

The deficiency in the distribution of public power supply in the country has been described as the bane of the last miles connectivity in the country.

The term ‘last mile’ qualifies a communications defining the final stage of providing connectivity from a communications service provider to a customer, especially at the rural part of a given country and is a terminology most commonly used by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) experts.

Speaking at a one-day Distinguished Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Annual Lecture (DEEEAL) organised by a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), the president, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, said in his “Pathway to connecting the Last Man” paper that the most pressing issues threatening connectivity for the last man across most of the sub-sectors of ICT in the country is deficiency in public power supply.

He said that be it Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) providers, telecom service providers as well as trainers in the sector, public power deficiency is the topmost worrisome issue for them.

Specifically for ISPs, Omo-Ettu said apart from the poor public power supply, they have to contend with the high cost of bandwidth, dearth of technical and management skills.

The aforementioned frustration, he said, is being faced by VSAT providers and telecom network operators, he outlined ubiquity which is strength for the Global System for Mobile (GSM) operators, security and unfair taxation.

Additionally, Omo-Ettu said that some trainers in the ICT sector suffer from dearth of skills to tap from as well as lacking in training tools, which ordinarily could be overcome with adequate public power supply and when the few who knows their onions come together to synergize.

According to him, the bad news about Nigeria at 50 is that power sector denied liberalization till date.

“It’s our major setback,” he declared, stressing that a relative setback was the dissolution of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 1994, which stalled the march which started just 12 months earlier.

In addition, he noted that the greed and graft that made privatization of the national carrier, the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) plc an impossibility task, pointing out that some good initiatives like that of Wire Nigeria (WiN) and the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABi) as well as the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) were massively misunderstood, hence lost to poor communication.

Worried by the dysfunctional education system in the country, ATCON president recalled that the convener of the Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM), Mr. Daniel Elombah had lamented recently that his team had identified serious problems with the Nigerian education sector that were being ignored in the government education plan.

Omo-Ettu decried the penchant for Nigerian political office holders to educate their children abroad or in expensive private schools, saying that this does not augur well for the system, particularly the public schools.

He said that the curriculum of the educational institutions in the country fall short of synchronization with the needs of the business community of the 21st century.

“The increasing illiteracy rate in Nigeria and the high rate of drop outs in Nigerian primary and secondary schools,” he said, noting that in South-eastern Nigeria young boys drop out of school to trade and young girls drop out to marry.

Maintaining that the absence of the use of Information Technology in knowledge dissipation in our educational institutions in spite of a rapid growth in the IT industry worldwide, Nigeria inclusive.

Omo-Ettu lamented the inability of the Nigerian educational sector to tap into the resources and opportunities available via international bodies like the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) e-Africa Programme to name a few.

“The inability of the Nigerian educational sector to tap into the opportunities of rebates and discounts granted by multinationals like Microsoft for computer resources and obvious neglect of international cooperation within Africa and beyond to improve educational standards via exchange programmes for lecturers and students alike, have not been helpful,” he said.

He, therefore said that based on the above, it is hard to disagree with Daniel’s position, suggesting that it is time to address all these issues if the industry and, indeed, Nigeria is to achieve the objectives articulated here.

Moving forward, he said, there is need to keep the good among the professionals by improving the not-so-good and march-on.

“The point must be made, however, that it is not only the ICT industry that will put access at the disposal of every Nigerian. We also need, as have been visited above, the contributions of functional education, probity in public service, investment in research and development and, above all, the will to make it happen,” Omo-Ettu submitted.

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