By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu
Governments of the five Southeastern States must begin to invest in digital infrastructure to boost the chances of effective digital adoption and open up myriads of tech opportunities in the region.
The Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Anambra State ICT Agency, Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, made the call when he appeared as a keynote speaker at last month’s conference of the International Igbo Professionals for Development, IIPD.
The conference with the theme, ”Aku Ruo Ulo, Ala Igbo Arise”, aimed to reawaken a sense of urgency among Igbos to work together to rebuild the Igbo Land across all tenets – governance, economic development, politics, infrastructure, tourism, education, health care and so forth.
In his presentation, Agbata observed that the absence of hi-speed fibre internet in major cities across the Southeast Region had mitigated the various opportunities in the technology industry that Igbo young people could latch on to, unleash their potentials.
According to him, considering the perception of Igbos on how they were being treated in the country, technology presented a viable option they could explore to create a viable regional economy that leveraged technology all over.
This, he noted, was why the Anambra State Governor had taken initiatives to encourage broadband companies to come into the state, which include removal of Right of Way (RoW) for them, as well as laying of fibre ducts across the state.
‘The Southeast governors need to begin to explore the capabilities of technology to advance the region’s economy, to liberalize innovation by making hi-speed fibre internet available.
‘Igbo Governors must begin to exemplify excellence to inspire the younger generation in the tech area.
‘The region must begin to push the right awareness and advocacy about the region to discourage the dominant negative stories about the region in the digital space.
‘The thing about tech is that when you start, you can’t hold but when it materializes, the dividends are huge and massive.
‘If all states can emulate and replicate what Anambra has been doing, there would have been a lot of activities going on in the tech area in the region which will set Igbo Land on a fast lane towards effective tech adoption,’ Agbata said.
He revealed that the first phase of the fibre ducts laying in 200 kilometers in Awka would be completed by November and targeted hi-speed fibre internet in government offices.
‘We are now enabling the possibility of a fibre company being based in the Southeast.
‘This is to empower civil servants who are critical in the work government is doing. From there, we will upscale to the rest of the population in the next two to three years, where we want to cover up to 2000 kilometers,’ he said.
CFA, who spoke on the prospects of technology for the technology, said to fully explore the potentials of technology in developing the Southeast, there must be a collaborative approach from government and the stakeholders.
According to him, ‘Many of us clamour for change but do not want to take the pains. If we want to grow our homeland, it is important to grow our technology base.
‘Technology cannot solve all our problems but it can solve a lot of our problems.’
Speaking of the accomplishments of Governor Chukwuma Soludo in the area of digitizing processes in the state governance, CFA revealed that what the State ICT Agency, which he heads, did, was to bring the innovation and intentions of the staff into driving the already-crafted vision of the governor of ”Everything Technology and Technology Everywhere”.
‘We have developed a lot of products and services for the public sector, including automating the budgeting system, advancing telemedicine in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, introduction of GIS services in land management systems, where Certificates of Occupancy, C of O, can now be gotten in two or three weeks as against the initial 6 months lag and the goal is to get it to less than a week.
‘With the leadership, we have ensured that Anambra is now the first in terms of ease of doing business in the Southeast and South-South because of the digital transformation initiatives introduced by the state governor. The government is also launching an Open Government Platform that will allow citizens to follow government projects and programmes.
‘There is also the ICT Policy that we have developed which is the first of its kind in the Southeast and South-South Regions and when the governor gives his imprimatur to it, it will help streamline activities in the ICT sector in Anambra. We are hoping to get the collaboration of the diasporan experts in the final development of the State ICT Policy,’ Agbata disclosed.
The Anambra ICT boss who acknowledged that the State ICT Agency recognized the premium the diasporan community placed on trust and credibility, assured that the agency was committed through transparent operations to restoring the people’s trust in public institutions.
‘We are open to partnerships with the diaspora community to begin to diversify aspects of tech for the benefit of Ala Igbo.
‘We have run solutions with tertiary institutions that had yielded in the Anambra E-ID cards for the public servants in the state and the successful implementation speaks to how seriously the agency takes Mr Governor’s stance on accountability and transparency seriously,’ he concluded.