Fighting viruses with technology – The Nation Nigeria

Following the example of the Ekiti state government, the states of Plateau, Imo, Katsina and Kaduna have signed executive orders to face the right of passage (RoI) nightmare to deepen broadband penetration, reports LUCAS AJANAKU.

The importance of an affordable and ubiquitous broadband infrastructure cannot be overemphasized.

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The COVID-19 pandemic made this clear as people work and learn at home. Software developers are creating tools to improve digital contact tracking, fight the virus and save lives. Google and Apple announced a joint effort to allow the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and healthcare agencies reduce the spread of the virus. Singapore introduced TraceTogether, while South Korea is not left out. These are just a few. For Nigeria to join this initiative, broadband infrastructure is essential for connectivity.

But a myriad of challenges, such as right of way (RoW), multiple taxation / regulation and voluntary infrastructure vandalism, remained obstacles.

RoW operators were either denied or charged a ridiculously exorbitant fee, with some as high as N10,000 per linear meter of fiber cable instead of the N145 approved by the National Executive Council (NEC). In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for example, about a decade ago, no infrastructure was implemented due to the FCDA's refusal to grant approval.

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Such practices have been hostile to the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure for inclusive development.

According to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), there are about 32 million access failures across the country.

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The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami; CEO, NCC, Prof Garba Dambatta; The president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola and the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, recognized these challenges.

Regulatory interventions

Dambatta met with the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), led by the Governor of the State of Ekiti, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on many occasions to emphasize the need for states and the FCT to comply with the NEC decision due to the huge socioeconomic benefits that compliance would bring to states. He has also led his team to the National Assembly on many occasions to discuss the RoW issue and other challenges.

He developed a Regional Stakeholder Forum to discuss the RoW issue and others, such as multiple taxation, vandalism, theft of telecommunications equipment and indiscriminate shutdown of transceiver base stations (BTS) and how to deal with the issues and their negative implications. quality of service (QoS) for businesses and individuals and even web-based government operations. It also has national security implications, especially during emergencies, when people in an area of ​​a state cannot make calls to alert security agencies in your help, due to the fact that unauthorized people have closed BTS for their refusal to pay taxes / fees. unknown to the law.

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When Pantami came on board, Danbatta informed the minister about the RoW issue, which he described as "one of the biggest problems that slowed the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the state".

He added that this is contributing to low QoS in some locations and a lack of digital access in others.

The minister and the head of the NCC met with Fayemi earlier this year on the need to comply with the N145 RoW accusations.

They explained that allowing their states to have a robust broadband network would create more jobs, generate efficiency in the ways government and private companies are conducted, make their states invest destinations for local and foreign investors looking for areas where they could have prevented access. telecommunications services before citing commercial ventures there.

Ultimately, all of this will help the government achieve the main reason for exorbitantly charging operators. The availability of the infrastructure will help states to increase their internally generated revenue (IGR).

Ekiti, Kaduna, others take action

The regulatory agency's efforts paid off, as Fayemi took an important step to put his state on the right track.

To make the capital of knowledge and innovation in the country, he signed an Executive Order that reduces the RoI tariffs related to the installation of broadband or any other telecommunications infrastructure from N4.50 to N145 per linear meter.

Titled: Executive Order No. 007 of 2020, Right of Way over Telecommunications Infrastructure, part of the Order said: “Broadband connectivity in the State of Ekiti will increase the ability of the Ekiti State government to increase economic prosperity; attract new business; improve job growth; expand the reach of affordable, high-quality health services; enrich student learning with digital tools; and facilitate access to the digital market ".

Ekiti is the first state to comply with RoEC tariffs approved by NEC for broadband, making it the cheapest state for infrastructure development, as 1 km of cable will cost only N145,000 versus N4.5 million previously.

The Executive Order is part of the ongoing reforms in the Facility to Do Business project, inaugurated by the governor last year to improve the rates that will make the state an attractive destination for national and international investments in the next five years.

While the states of Plateau, Imo and Katsina fulfilled the N145 charges per linear meter of fiber defined by NEC in 2013 for RoW, Kaduna took an extra step. Governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai totally waived the payment of RoW for the implementation of the broadband / telecommunications infrastructure.

Industry stakeholders praised these steps, as they say it will help to narrow the widening digital divide in the country and ensure that the country benefits from the federal government's digital economy agenda, reducing governance costs and promoting digital transactions.

Akin Oyebode, special adviser to the governor of Investment, Trade and Innovation, said the decision would ensure that Ekiti reaches full broadband penetration by next year to attract new business, create jobs, improve access to healthcare and education digital quality and improve internal generation. recipe.

He added that it was also in line with the continued development of the Ekiti Knowledge Zone, designed to be the country's first service-based innovation park.

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