Advocates for the Critical Infrastructure Act during the Eko-Konnect 2020 Users Conference

This Conference brings together practitioners in the research and education networking community, librarians, researchers, policymakers, and service providers from across Nigeria and the WACREN region.

Beginning with a special pre-conference “Repository Workshop and eduID Policy Meeting”, Eko-Konnect Users Conference is an annual conference, which ran from 27th through 30th January 2020. Eko-Konnect 2020 Users Conference

Eko-Konnect 2020 Users Conference

This year, the engagement focused on the theme “Development of a National Repository for Science and Humanities”, and it is intended to see a rollout of a new backbone network and the digital transformation of education in Nigeria for increased scholarly innovation and scientific output.

Some of the lead presenters include: Prof. Kazu Yamaji, Center Director, Research Center for Open Science and Data Platform, NII; Prof. Muhammad B. Abubakar, CEO, Galaxy Backbone Limited; Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, Chair, National Research Fund, TETFUND; Prof. Miho Funamori, Strategy Manager, Research Center for Open Science and Data Platform, NII; Prof. Charles Esimone, Vice-Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University; Nabil Ksibi, Engagement Lead, MEA/Partnership Liaison, EMEA, ORCID; Peter Gietz, CEO, DAASI International, Tübingen, Germany; Prof. Tunde Ope-Davies, Chair, Digital Humanities, University of Lagos; Muhammed Rudman, CEO, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN); Idowu Adegbilero-Iwari, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Elizade University; Ike Nnamani, CEO, Medallion Communications; Dr. Promise Ilo, Head Librarian, Covenant University, Ota; Dr. Cecile Coulibaly, Deputy Director, Scientific Commissions, UVCI, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Omo Oaiya, Chief Strategy Officer, WACREN; Felix Emeka Anyiam, Data Scientist, CHD, University of Port-Harcourt and Wole Abu, CEO, Pan African Towers.

The conference with a host of insightful content and presentation from lead speakers; among those was a presentation titled: “Overcoming the Last-mile Challenges in Rural Education Communities” by Mr. Wole Abu, CEO, Pan African Towers – a new telecommunications infrastructure and wireless service facilitator with a range of leading clients in the communications sector. 

Mr. Abu shared data about the 1000+ capacity towers across Nigeria, with over 300 hundred in Ghana and more to spread across Africa beginning with countries in the West African region. He stressed on the relevance of an indigenous high capacity data center in Nigeria that would make way for speedy internet connectivity, better control of data and ultimately more business growth. With better potentials to advance innovation in the area of IoT. 

In an interview after the session, Mr. Abu shared insights to challenges encountered by the Pan African Towers and network providers in the cause of offering network access services across Nigeria. 

“If you ask yourself, what is the importance of the internet? How is it benefiting you? How is it useful to businesses? How is it helping push our economy? You will begin to see how important it is. That is why at PAT, we are committed to improving access to internet connectivity. We are working as well to increase our tower capacities across the country, leveraging new cost-effective technology solutions as well.” He said. 

“But the challenges have been that, due to the history of our environment and record of exploitation by some foreigners or companies in some selected areas or region of the country, we experience a very big challenge especially in the security of our facilities and equipment. A host of them gets vandalized often because they think we are another foreign company coming to mount towers (and with the intention of exploiting them). When it is the other way round. We are continually pushing with various community-relation strategies to ensure we reduce this vandalization.” He added. 

He also stated that, although states like Lagos are already economically-balanced especially with the available infrastructure for things to thrive, with what is going on in the South-South, he thinks states like Edo is soon going to experience an economic rise. This is because the leaders are beginning to share a vision and he hopes it is replicated across other South-South regions.”

PAT is also partnering with Eko-Konnect, WACREN and ZikKonnect (in the South) in order to improve access to scholarly resources and research data on demand by allowing access to the installation of Raspberry Pi’s by academic institutions on any location of the PAT-owned towers.

With a hope to hit about 40,000 towers across Nigeria in the coming years, Mr. Abu also stated that it will, however, require about $136 Billion capital to bridge the infrastructure gap. He also called for more public-private collaborations, long term equity and debt funding, better policies and regulations and more attention to taxes, as well as the passing of the Critical Network Infrastructure Bill.

If you would recall, the Federal Government of Nigeria recently sponsored a bill before the National Assembly which when passed into law would ensure that Telecoms Infrastructure all around the country are protected and identified as an important national asset. 

The NCC as a major regulatory body on its own part has been making use of various avenues such as the Consumer Outreach Programme (COP), Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP) and its most recent project, a TV program titled “Telecom Today” to educate Nigerians as well as to create awareness about the dangers associated with vandalism of Telecom infrastructure and this is due to the fact that without these infrastructures, there will be no telecom services.

In Nigeria, the systems and structures that make up these infrastructures are often taken for granted to the point that certain state governments and government agencies move in with their agents to shut down BTS sites thereby causing disruptions to network services and in the process affecting Quality of Service (QoS) delivery in areas linked with those masts. This is excluding vandalism and theft by unknown individuals. 

The CEO of Pan African Towers also expressed optimism about the progress so far in the Telecoms sector and expressed satisfaction in initiatives like Eko-Konnect to engage key players and stakeholders so as to boast synergy in delivering a better Nigeria.

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About Author

Owen Shedrack is an entrepreneur and astute writer. He reports and contributes for TechCultureNG on start-ups, tech and ecosystem intelligence. He sits as founder, and Executive Director at “The Groth Innovation Centre” – a business incubator and innovation hub providing professional business support services for SMEs.

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