The Imperative of Broadband in Nigeria’s Remotest Villages

December 19, 2013

The Imperative of Broadband in Nigeria’s Remotest Villages

Speech delivered by:

Mr. Kayode Jegede, Special Adviser, Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Ekiti State

At the NCC Stakeholders’ Forum, Lagos. On Dec. 17, 2013

Protocols

Greetings.

I bring greetings from Governor Kayode Fayemi, who would have loved to be here but had other engagements that had been fixed before getting notice for this event.

Introduction of Ekiti State

For the benefit of those that have not had the opportunity of visiting or learning about Ekiti State, let me begin an introduction.

It is the most ethnically homogenous state in Nigeria. Every town has the suffix Ekiti after its name. This has been so since time immemorial; the suffix identified the town as being part of the Ekiti confederacy. We speak the same dialect of the Yoruba language, with only very slight variation from town to town.

Located in South Western Nigerian; bordered by Osun, Ondo, Kogi and Kwara States. We are at the northern edge of the Southwest Region. Most of the vegetation is tropical forest but the northern part of the state is savannah.

The name Ekiti is derived from the hilly and rocky terrain. It is an adaptation of the Yoruba word Okiti, which means mound or hill.  There are about 155 old towns and villages; not counting the farmsteads, many of which in recent times have become large communities needing infrastructure and utility services.

The traditional occupation of our people is farming. We took strongly to western education when it was introduced and gained the reputation of producing the highest number of academics in Nigeria. We still possess that natural love for education.

 

Obviously, I will address this subject of the imperatives of broadband in Nigeria from the perspective of my state, Ekiti. Indeed, we are not much different from most states in Nigeria. Most Nigerians live in rural areas and in planning for infrastructure and development we MUST understand their needs and plan for them. Most of our 155 towns in Ekiti are rural.

The government of Ekiti State has a vision of making poverty history. We know that one of the easiest means of achieving this is by creating a knowledge economy driven by ICT.

Broadband internet is an accelerator of economic and social development. It brings new opportunities to people. When the people in our villages have access to the affordable broadband Internet services their lives will definitely change for the better.

 

In the Ekiti State Digital Transformation Programme we have identified some specific citizens-facing services that will be enabled by broadband internet. Some of the services that broadband will make available to them are:

  1. Rural financial inclusion. Most of our towns and villages have no banks. We are looking at the framework of Agency banking to bring financial services closer to them. One key need we have is the electronic payment of social welfare benefit to indigent old people.  We pay N5,000 monthly to old indigent 65-year and older. Currently payment is done is cash with all the attendant risks and inconvenience.
  2. Community Information Centre. Where citizens can have access to many ICT services. Email, conference call with their children in diaspora, make emergency calls in cases of health, security and fire emergencies, ICT learning.
  3. Government services and participatory governance. Our people will not have to travel to the capital city to get information from government or to carry out basic transactions.
  4. E-Commerce. Our farmers can connect with buyers and sellers worldwide.
  5. Public Safety and Emergency Response. NCC has an on-going project in Ado-Ekiti. An Emergency Communication Centre. We are working with them to use the centre to trigger emergency services to our citizens. We are currently installing the first set of street security cameras in Ado-Ekiti. We hope to spread to other towns and villages later.
  6. E-Education. The world of online learning will be open to citizens. Today there are free websites where you can learn and become proficient in almost any subject.

Let me share with you two stories around education. The first one is about my 83 year old father in my village, Ilogbo-Ekiti. He completed his career and retired to the village without ever using a computer. Some years ago on a visit to his children in America he demanded for a laptop and got one. He returned home and painstakingly started teaching himself how to use the computer. Today he is quite good at it; he types his church meeting minutes and reports. I am amazed at the extent he has gone to get several modems to connect the very slow GPRS network in my village. He does research and prints out stuff from time to time to share with me. He represents the typical Ekiti person. Educated, knowledge-hungry and stubbornly independent.

The second story is about the e-School programme of the state. Two years ago, we launched a programme of putting one computer on every secondary school student’s desk. And also for their teachers. The government’s objectives in doing this are:

  1. Improve on the performance of exams (WAEC, NECO and JAMB e.t.c).
  2. Enhance knowledge transfer through the use of multimedia content.
  3. Create an enabling environment for a knowledge-driven economy.

So far we have distributed 30,000 laptops to students and 18,000 to teachers. Over the last month we held focus-group meetings with key users to enable us understand the strengthens and weaknesses of the programme and so design improvements. We discussed with students, teachers and principals separately. We got some interesting feedback we did not expect.

We were told that by giving laptops to students, we have broken the myth around the computer in the state. Many people had never seen one before and thought it was a mysterious and magical thing. But when students brought their laptops home, whole families hurdled around them to learn. Suddenly the minds of people of freed, they see new possibilities.

A student from a school Ilawe-Ekiti told us that he convinced his parents to buy him a modem. He started using his laptop to surf the internet.  We asked him to tell us something new he learnt. He said he had always wondered how the richest people in the world made their money. And he started telling us about Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, our own Dangote. I saw a young whose mind has been opened up to possibilities he did not know existed. Perhaps 30 years from now he will be the richest man in the world!

 

The Challenge before us all

So there is no doubt in our minds that the demand is there. Our people are hungry to connect to global information highway and become global citizens. We need to ask ourselves these critical questions.

Are we meeting the needs of our rural citizens across Nigeria?

Do they know what we are doing towards meeting their needs?

Federal, State, Local governments and service providers must work together, rise up to the challenge and provide the much needed broadband services to our citizens. It is no longer time to talk but time to act and act fast!

We are aware that the Ministry of Communication Technology, NCC, NITDA, NigComSat have various coordinated initiatives to bring broadband to all parts of Nigeria. We participated in some of the planning, we were one of the two states on the Presidential Broadband committee. We follow development in the news and through government to government contacts. We know they are working but are the citizens seeing desired outcomes fast enough? Please understand that I am not playing the blame game and I am not excluding myself nor my state. We all have roles to play to make it happen.

 

In closing I want to say that I am eager to see affordable broadband service in Ilogbo-Ekiti so that my father can enjoy his internet surfing better and so have a richer retirement. I want to see it in Ilawe-Ekiti so that the young student can continue to learn how to better himself, become an innovator and entrepreneur and join the ranks of the richest people in the world in the future.

Thank you.

Last modified: December 19, 2013

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