As part of the Work Package 2 of the Supporting Community-led Approach to Addressing Digital Divide in Nigeria Project which the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) is implementing with support from Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) through Association for Progressive Communication (APC), today CITAD launched the First Nigerian School of Community Networks for Micro-organizations. The aim of the project is to connect the unconnected areas in Nigeria where conventional market players find it unprofitable to deploy their networks and the purpose of the School of Community Networks is to build capacity of community based organizations called the micro-organization who are working to deploy community networks in their communities to meet local communication need.
The first School, which holds at Stonehegde Hotel, Kaduna began with an opening ceremony where we have number of speakers gave goodwill messages to the participants. In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of CITAD gave the background of the project as well as a ran down of the activities the organization had been doing over the last two years, culminating with the School. The Executive Director Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) stated that over the last two years, CITAD had been working tirelessly to catalyze the emergence of community networks in Nigeria, given that there has been no policy to guide the growth and flourishing of the of Community networks, CITAD took step to engage with policy makers and regulators in the sector such as Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the ministry of communications as well as other relevant agencies to ensure that an appropriate policy is developed for Community Networks in the Country. He also stated that part of the objective of the School is to train champions with technical skills on how they can design, deploy and manage community networks. The school will hold in two phases, the phase one is an intensive physical one-week residential training which starts today, followed by four-month online training which is part of the phase two activities. While giving reports of the efforts CITAD has made to engage policy makers on the need for community network policy, the Director of CITAD called on both the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy Prof. Isah Pantami and the Management of NCC to honour their promises they made about setting up the processes to develop a national policy on community networks for the country. He said this urgent because at the moment more than 88 million of Nigerians remain unconnected and excluded from the benefits of digital technology.
The opening ceremony also received goodwill message from the Executive Director of Fanstuam Foundation Mrs. Comfort Kazanka, Mr. Olusola Taniola, National Coordinator of Alliance for Affordable Internet and Mrs. Edith Udeagu, the immediate past COO of Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) who expressed their gratitude for being part of the project as well as advising the participants to be good ambassador of their communities by applying the knowledge gain. In her goodwill message, Mrs. Kazanka urged that the School of Community Networks be turned into a either a institute for community networks or a specialized university. On his part Mr. Olusola Taniola said, his organization was ready to join hands with CITAD to push the advocacy for a national policy on community networks in the country. Mrs. Edith Udeagu who offered her Goodwill message on her personal capacity noted that “The National School of Community Networks provides this opportunity for all to learn and share knowledge. We thank CITAD, its CEO, Mr. YZ Ya’u and team and its partners for providing this opportunity for all and pray for its success. I say congratulations to CITAD. I congratulate its partners and contributors for their participation. In this country, we need to address the issues of digital divide. People in various communities face various challenges. We need to assist as much as possible to address these issues and give them the opportunities to better their lives”.
The keynote address was given by the Managing Director of Galaxy Backbone, represented by Mr. Abdulmalik Suleman, staff of the company. He stated that one of the objectives of Galaxy Backbone is to help in connecting the underserved communities. He commended CITAD for embarking on this project, noting that it was not an easy thing to do. He disclosed that Galaxy Backbone currently is implementing the second phase of the National Information Communication Infrastructure Backbone (NICTIB) which he said would provide access to backbone across the country. He welcomed communities to take advantage of this in their plans for their community networks. He also appreciated the effort of CITAD for setting up the School of Community Networks, which according to Galaxy Backbone is another important step will help strengthen the impact of shared internet experience and shared Network in our Nation. The opening session was chaired by Dr. Sana Mauz of the Department of Software Engineering, Bayero University, Kano. Dr. Muaz urged the participants to make the best use of this opportunity which is a crush programme to acquire critical telecommunication knowledge.
Shortly after the opening session the first technical session of the School began with a presentation on Spectrum and how Spectrum is Allocated as well as applying Spectrum by Dr. Abdulkari Yusuf of the NCC. The presentation explained to the participants what Spectrum was all about, how was allocated and how it is deployed and shared. Twenty-one youth leaders from different parts of the country are attending the school, which is proposed to run annually. Most of them were from underserved and unserved communities such as Pasepa, Laileyin Gwari, Tugan Ashere and Dakwa in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, rural Kafanchan in Kaduna State and Itas as well as Jamaare in Bauchi.
The Nigerian School of Community Networks is the first attempt in the country to build local skills and expertise for the organic development of grassroots telecommunitions infrastructure in the country. Community networks is a telecommunications infrastructure deployed and operated by a local group to meet their own communication needs and also a communications infrastructure, designed and erected to be managed for use by local communities. This communication needs can be voice, data, etc. and can be point of convergence for community to come together to address their common community problems.