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Anambra Broadband Drive And The Soludo Megacity Goal

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo has never hidden his initiative to turn Anambra State into one megacity. The broadband installation is the grand way to go. Just last year, on March 30, Anambra State scored a remarkable feat by becoming the first state in Nigeria to bring together eminent stakeholders in a conference to singularly address the obstacles facing broadband deployment and expansion in the country.

The well-attended conference rallied stakeholders and investors to Anambra State’s readiness and willingness to expand broadband infrastructure for accelerated socioeconomic development of the State celebrated as “The Light of the Nation”.  

Anambra thus took pride of place as the first state in South-East Nigeria to implement the waiver of the per linear meter Right of Way (RoW) charges as opposed to the N145 per linear metre recommended by the National Economic Council.

The suave Chairman/Managing Director of Anambra State Physical Planning Board (ANSPPB), Barrister Chike F. Maduekwe masterfully organised the conference that attracted highbrow stakeholders such as the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami; the Government of the United Kingdom; Kaduna State Government; Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON); the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Government of Anambra State and its agencies like the coordinators ANSPPB and a companion frontline agency, the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA); the Greenfields Law; Crestsage Limited; Governments of other states in the South East Region; Facebook; Alliance for Affordable Internet; stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem; development enthusiasts and citizens; as well as journalists and other specialised communication professionals.

According to Barrister Maduekwe, “For purpose of clarity and better understanding, Broadband is like the expressway. It is the highway of information and communications. Just as the volume of goods an entity is able to move can determine its wealth, the volume and rate information (text, speech, sounds, static or motion images) can be transferred and received can shape prosperity. Broadband penetration (through laying of additional fibre or other wireless form of making broadband available) is similar to the expansion of express roads into the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. The availability of broadband, will enable people to access information they require to improve the quality of life lived, through participating in online economic activities, learning new skills, be more enlightened to participate in governance and for government to be able to provide public online services.”

The conference that had the theme “Facilitating Broadband Access Through a Favourable Right of Way Regime” came on the heels of the Federal Government’s launch of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020-2030, the New National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, and the appeal to states to take urgent and concrete steps to domesticate the Policy and Plan, as well as attendant regulatory instruments and programmes.

The Anambra State Broadband Stakeholders Conference (ASBSC) was organised as a sequel to two earlier study-based technical conferences birthed by a collaborative partnership among the UK Government (through its Prosperity Fund Digital Access Programme), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy (FMoCDE), and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The communiqué at the end of the ASBSC conference stated: “The overarching objective of the technical conferences was to rally stakeholders to address the hindrances to concrete and quantifiable expansion in broadband infrastructure since it had been established empirically and irrefutably that increase in functional broadband infrastructure correlates with increase in GDP.

One of the central obstacles to seamless expansion of broadband in Nigeria is Right of Way (RoW) charges, pegged at 145 Naira per linear metre by the National Economic Council. However, in a radical expression of commitment to development, in June 2020, the Government of Anambra State waived the charges for Right of Way (RoW) for fibre optic cable deployment in the State. By this conference, Anambra State becomes the first State in Nigeria to rally stakeholders for at a forum designed solely to address obstacles to broadband deployment and expansion.”

It was obvious to all that the Chairman/Managing Director of Anambra State Physical Planning Board (ANSPPB), Barrister Chike F. Maduekwe, has set a pedigree of the highest order.

A critical update of the broadband drive happened on July 31, 2022, with the Anambra State Unified Duct Infrastructure Project (ANSG UDIP) – an Open Access Model for High-Speed Broadband Delivery throughout Anambra State.

Through this initiative, Solutronworks Nigeria Limited proposes to build – at their own cost – a Unified Fibre Duct Infrastructure Project in Anambra State, using the Open Access Model that separates the ownership of the Physical Infrastructure, to wit, Specialised Ducts and Manholes, from the active Fibre services that will run through the underground duct network.

The landmark proposal seeks to build up to 2,000kilometers of underground ducting network throughout Anambra State. This will make possible the swift, State-wide implementation of High-speed, Fibre Optic Broadband services. The Open Access model of High-speed Broadband deployment proposes a “Dig Once” Policy, a policy that requires the trenching (digging), laying of ducts, and backfilling of all dug up trenches or paths, only once.

This deployment is done by a third-party entity – different from the TELCOS, INFRACOS and TOWERCOS.

This party plays a vital role in implementing or deploying the physical infrastructure of ducts, man holes and underground duct paths. This third-party entity will not play a part in the delivery of active fibre optic services (cables and other fibre termination equipment), that will pass through the underground network of ducts and manholes.

Several reasons are adduced for the implementation of the Open Access Model of High-speed Broadband services, such as: Standardization, Neutrality of Players, Security, Avoidance of Conflict of Interest, Basis for Fair Pricing for All Parties, and Independence.

This process will ensure multiform Infrastructural gains for Anambra State within six months to of year of implementation, including: Direct Job Creation, Contribution to GDP Growth, Emergence of New Services and Industries, Workforce Transformation, and Business Innovation.

The ICT sector cannot but be one of the largest employers. For example, in Australia, building and running the new super-fast National Broadband Network will support 25,000 jobs annually. In Nigeria, for each job in the high-tech industry, two additional jobs, on average, are created in other related sectors. By the end of 2022, the global tech market will grow by 22%, creating jobs, salaries and a widening range of services and products.  Anambra State can tap into this worldwide phenomenon and experience the exponential growth rates recorded by States like Lagos, two years after the launch of the Lagos Unified Duct Infrastructure Project in June, 2020.

A 10% increase in High-speed broadband penetration is associated with a 1.45% increase in GDP growth in emerging markets. The doubling of mobile data use caused by the increase in 4G connections boosts GDP per capita growth rate by 1% globally. The Internet accounts for 3.4% of overall GDP in some economies. Most of this effect is driven by e-commerce – people advertising and selling goods online. Through the increase in High-speed Broadband penetration, ease of doing business will be improved a great deal as Government establishments will gain directly from the improved digital economy. This will be assured by the inflow of Foreign Direct Investments to Anambra State.

Numerous public services have become available online and through mobile phones. The transition to cloud computing is one of the key trends for modernization. The government of Moldova, for example, is one of the first countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to shift its government IT infrastructure into the cloud and launch mobile and e-services for citizens and businesses. If Anambra State follows suit, it will embrace such cloud-based data infrastructure, and would be an outlier in the creation of Data Centre Opportunities in the Southeast. Fibre Optic communications through wired (fibre), and wireless (fibre radio) connections has enabled the emergence of a completely new sector: The APP Industry, supported by ICT. Incidentally, Google’s submarine Broadband cable touched land in Nigeria in the second quarter of 2022 and runs across Nigeria and 5 other African countries and connects them directly to Europe. This is a $1Billion investment that Anambra can tap into in the quest to achieve the State’s Digital Transformation. The investment focuses on enabling fast, affordable internet access for more Africans by plugging into already existing metro and last mile duct fiber to provide even more capacity. They intend to also support entrepreneurship and small businesses. Anambra can key into these strategic multinational partnerships.

New “microwork” platforms, developed by companies like oDesk, Amazon and Samasource, help to divide tasks into small components that can then be outsourced to contract workers. The contractors are often based in emerging economies. Microwork platforms allow entrepreneurs to significantly cut costs and get access to qualified workers. Anambra can become the hub of freelance work force that would see the provision of thousands of jobs for undergraduates and graduates alike. 

In OECD countries, more than 95% of the countries have an online presence. The Internet provides them with new ways of reaching out to customers and competing for market share. Over the past few years, social media has established itself as a powerful marketing tool. ICT tools employed within companies help to streamline business processes and improve efficiency.

A typical case study in the amount of funding received by Nigerian startups in 2021 shows that total of $1.37b (One Billion, Three Hundred and Seventy Million Dollars) was raised for Nigerian tech startups for the year 2021 and 95% of this amount was given to Lagos State Based tech startups. With the adoption of High-speed Broadband Opportunities for the youth and tech savvy individuals to develop Fintech Solutions and other solutions, commerce would be boosted in Anambra state. This would attract international Venture capitalists and angel investors to those startups, thereby providing much needed Foreign Direct Investment for the state.

Opportunities from deploying High-Speed Broadband Services cannot be gainsaid: Urban Internally generated revenue prospects through FTTX (where X means towers, homes, offices, schools, hospitals, Government areas of interest etc.) is phenomenal.

The Mobile network operators are interested in reducing their costs and will be more than willing to go into long term Right of Way Agreements with Anambra State. The fiber to the tower opportunity halves the power cost requirements of TELCOS or MNOs by almost half.

There is the added advantage of street lighting and other possible IPP power collaborations for green energy where these power cables can share the same trench with the fiber duct.

With 3rd party companies like Numerix and partners, Anambra State can achieve Off-grid energy independence at zero cost to the State for the CAPEX, and implement zero carbon power solutions either alongside or after the fiber deployment. Numerix and their partners can deploy bulk power (Up to 1,000MW/H), solar power Solutions that would light up Anambra, power government places of interest through prepaid solutions and so forth. This smart power solution can buttress upon the fiber optic infrastructure that would have been implemented for all of their generation, transmission and distribution requirements.

Immense Business Potential through FTTX (FIBER TO THE “X”, where “X” means Homes, Offices, Premises, Schools, Hospitals, Businesses, Hotels etc.) can be reaped bountifully.

This fiber connection is the fastest means of telecommunications known to the modern world. With fiber to homes, offices, and other premises individuals can have access to Triple Play Opportunities or Voice, video and data capabilities. Triple play means: Voice – homes can now make internet calls without using GSM; Video – They can have access to more than 1,500 channels via internet television and do not have to pay for cable TV; Data – All occupants of the same home or the premises can have access to truly unlimited data with full capacity. Even if there are up to 20 occupants in the home.

The FTTX for the IGR of Anambra accounts for: E-traffic- Anambra state can go into e-traffic implementation agreements with 3rd party entities to modernize their traffic systems and append electronic tickets to erring drivers at traffic stops and no parking zones etc.; E-security – Anambra state can enter into e-security implementation agreements with 3rd party entities for state wide CCTV security provision. This will greatly increase security preparedness and create jobs through on site installations by technicians and call center work opportunities for youths; E-learning – Anambra state owned schools can be provided with the latest learning management systems for state owned schools for both students and teachers to foster remote learning solutions and promote teacher remote training opportunities.

Through the Data Centres, Anambra State can collaborate with large data storage firms for the provision of data centers in Anambra State.

Work from home opportunities and new start-up business ventures for the State will flourish once the fibre broadband internet services are up and running.

This will attract FDI to Anambra State and will create jobs for thousands of youths through new web-based business opportunities and training of Ndi-Anambra on programming, coding and electronic transactions processes.

The Anambra Broadband initiative is truly an idea whose time has come. With a consummate driver such as Barrister Chike F. Maduekwe and the solution guru, Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, at the helm of affairs, there can be no stopping the Anambra Broadband Drive and the Megacity Goal.   

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