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Bandwidth Restrictions: How Govt’s Own Policy Is Undermining Digital Inclusion

Nigeria’s march towards digital inclusion may have started, but experts believe that it will take longer than expected to attain the goal, if some retrogressive policies of government are not urgently reversed.
Broadband cable

A case in point is the subsisting federal government’s policy and directive that bandwidth should no longer be a recognized item in Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ (MDA) budgets. 

This, no doubt has led to significant decrease in payment and demand for bandwidth services to the federal government’s ICT services provider, Galaxy Backbone. 

Over time, government took over the responsibility for providing bandwidth and other allied services centrally through Galaxy Backbone, which showed an incremental growth over the time. This expectedly resulted into improved service delivery and efficiency in governance. 

With the insufficient bandwidths and operational support, occasioned by the government policy somersault, sources from some MDAs have complained that they are experiencing dissatisfaction, inadequate coverage and frequent service failures. 

The stalemate, Vanguard Hi-Tech learnt has also negatively hampered the perception and the sharing of common services from Galaxy, a practice, experts say, has proven next to none in other countries. 

The Managing Director and Chief Executive of Galaxy BackBone, Mr. Yusuf Kazaure , believes that this concept has not helped the much needed adoption of ICTs by MDAs (e-Government) and the Federal government’s efforts to get government online, through automation of work processed and deployment of public services online. 

With this policy in place, he reasoned that there is lack of a proper policy framework for e-Government and the use of shared ICT services as a common practice globally. 

Lamenting the development, Kazaure said, “MDAs are reverting to pre-Galaxy era and seeking to proliferate ICT projects in silos, disparate infrastructure build-outs and duplicated ICT spending, with its consequences. 

Also lamenting the setback, the Galaxy boss, pointed out that the ongoing devaluation of the naira in the country is impacting negatively on the operation of the agency. As bandwidth, space segment and license/support costs are denominated in dollars, the operation cost is bound to increase. 

It is projected that by 2025, the volume of mobile devices and applications, smart devices, mobile internet, social media, big data/analytics users will run into billions and applications in millions globally. In 2005, only 100s of desktops for internet access, Lans and client/server users and 10s of the devices were available, while in 1985, when only mainframe computer was in vogue, few millions of people had access to computer and thousands of apps. 

According to Galaxy Backbone, about 400 MDAs are currently connected with shared service infrastructure and over 3,000 MDA sites connected. 

Similarly, the agency stated that over 405 km of fibre has so far been deployed in Abuja metro area and over 1722Mbps of internet provided for government institutions. 

If the focus behind the Federal Government’s new move is to lower the cost of governance, it may well be taking several steps backwards as experts say that investment in shared ICT infrastructure will not only lower cost of running government but will ensure faster service delivery, increased security and increased innovation. 

Research shows that deployment of a harmonised services can reduce cost of running government by 40 per cent. It also shows that MDAs that invest on centralized ICT infrastructure can anchor it spending on priority projects and manage common services in a more effective manner. 

Data sharing all over the world has proven to be a dependable platform for securing data protection in running public institution like government. In the modern knowledge economy, achieving data sovereignty and information security is possible in Nigeria if all segment of government is linked up in a shared service platform. Studies have also proven that harmonized services facilitates rapid impact in achieving e-government programmes, improved fiscal discipline, public reform programmes and get government services online and accessible to more citizens.

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