"Scaling Up Access to Cheaper Bandwidth in Nigeria," Remarks by Kole Shettima at a Workshop on ICT Development and Access to more Affordable Bandwidth for Universities, Research and Higher Educational Institutions
February 26, 2008 | Speech | Higher Education in Russia & Africa

It is my pleasure to be at this occasion of the workshop on “Strategies for ICT Development and Access to more Affordable Bandwidth for Universities, Research and Higher Educational Institutions”. The caliber of persons and institutions represented is encouraging: the Executive Secretary of the Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC), the Chairman of the Association of Vice Chancellors, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and those of the National Board on Technical Education (NBTE), the National Commission of Colleges of Education (NCCE) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Education Officer of the World Bank, Vice Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors and their ICT Directors.

At the MacArthur Foundation, we are excited that this workshop is organized by the CVC with technical support of the ICT Forum for Partnership Institutions and being hosted by the NUC. Both institutions are by the Foundation. The attendance by the NBTE, NCC and NCCE is the kind of collaboration we cherish.

Access to cheaper bandwidth by African institutions of higher learning is one of the major initiatives of the MacArthur Foundation and the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. In preparation for this initiative, the Partnership commissioned a study on bandwidth in Africa. The result was an eye opener: the average cost of bandwidth in Africa is at least ten times higher than in North America and Europe and can be up to 100 times more expensive for broadband connections. The cost variation within countries is equally also astonishing. For example, the University of Jos paid $20.83 per kbps per month while Bayero University Kano paid $10.00 kbps per month for 56/128/kbps. The irony is that both universities purchased from same source!

Fortunately, the Partnership has succeeded in negotiating for a cheaper bandwidth at the cost of $2.33 per kbps because of the economy of scale. Currently, t he Partnership is able to purchase bandwidth for 13 institutions in Africa. Institutions that are not supported by the Partnership are able to access cheaper bandwidth at the cost of $2.55 per kbps. There are more institutions that are not supported by the Partnership who benefit from access to cheaper bandwidth. In fact the University of Nigeria Nsukka purchases more bandwidth than any of the other institutions supported by the Foundations in Nigeria.

In the MacArthur Foundation we appreciate that our support is outstripped by the demand. Hence, we are supporting the NUC, CVC, the Federal Ministry of Education and the ICT Forum to bring to scale some of the innovations happening in the institutions we support. Specifically, we are looking at how the work we support in access to cheaper bandwidth, the creation of development office, bandwidth management and automation of library and bursary services could serve as models to be adapted by other institutions of learning. For example, even if the Foundation is not able to support the purchase of bandwidth for all the more than 600 research and teaching institutions, the reduction in the cost of bandwidth to $2.55 per kbps is significant contributions to these institutions.

Our hope is that this meeting will take the next step of considering the possibility of forming a bandwidth consortium of institutions of research and higher learning in Nigeria or of joining the existing consortium. The collective purchase of bandwidth will facilitate the formation of an NREN which is our ultimate goal.

My remarks will be incomplete without referring to two other opportunities provided by this workshop. One is the launching of the Nigeria Virtual Library which will be done by the Minister of Education and who will join us later. In the Foundation, we are delighted to support the NUC to purchase larger bandwidth to facilitate hosting of the virtual library. Secondly, a discussion on renewal energy: solar and wind are critical to the sustainability of all ICT-related activities we support in Nigeria.

Let me conclude by thanking the CVC for calling this meeting on access to cheaper bandwidth. I hope that we will soon meet in the near future to discuss the issues of development office and endowment in our institutions of higher learning and research centers, issues of importance to the Foundation.

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