The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector is critical for efficient governance and a key driver of national development. BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report examines how Galaxy Backbone is driving e-government progression in Nigeria
E-governance is a democratic practice that is gradually gaining universal acceptance and applicability. It refers to a governmental type aimed at achieving effective service delivery from government to citizens, moving governance from traditionalist bureaucratization to modernist participatory administration.
It is the use of technological communications devices, such as computers and the Internet, to provide public services to citizens and other persons in a country or region. E-government offers new opportunities for more direct and convenient citizen access to government and for government provision of services directly to citizens.
E-government abandons the cumbersome manual file system, which was long overdue, and embraces an electronic structure that is driven by modern technology that would make the nation’s public service competitive in a world that is largely dependent on Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
It brings citizens and businesses that are excluded from the digital ecosystem due to limited access to broadband and non-availability of adequate devices (mobile devices and computers) to fully utilise the internet.
Aside from improving transparency and accountability, experts say full implementation of the e-governance will save cost, lead to greater efficiency of institutions and support overall digital economy growth aspirations, and critical of all, reduce public sector corruption.
Similarly, the advent of COVID-19 has brought tremendous changes in the way we work, conduct business and socialize. These new changes are, from all indications, here to stay for a very long time, if not forever.
Significantly, the federal government has set a target of 2030 to achieve a paperless government system. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, who disclosed this, recalled that from 2019 to the end of 2021 the ministry had come up with 16 policies to drive the digital economy agenda which included policies on Virtual Engagements and e-Government.
He said, “By 2030, we hope to achieve a paperless government that will be driven by Blockchain technology and that can be used to achieve a lot.”
He said at the core of the e-governance master plan which the supervisory ministry committed to deliver is to improve transparency and accountability of public institutions. Transparency and accountability of government institutions is founded on open governance, a concept that underpins citizens’ right to access public information and participation as required by local laws and international conventions.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari and some governors recently endorsed a framework on the harmonisation of digital economy, e-governance initiatives at federal and state levels.
President Buhari, represented by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami alongside Imo, Lagos, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Edo states governors made this known at the inaugural meeting of the presidential Council on Digital Economy and e-government master plan in Abuja.
Pantami stated that there have been pockets of digital initiatives going on in the state levels which are not in alignment with the federal government’s digital economy initiatives.
He said that the digital economy cannot be implemented in silos, with FG bearing the responsibility, adding that states, sub-nationals have a significant role to play in ensuring the achievement of National Digital Economy and Policy Strategy (NDEPS).
He said, “Many states have good initiatives on digital economy, however there is a lack of harmonisation to their activities. Framework is going to be developed so that our sub-nationals will play their own role and FG will continue to provide intervention where necessary.
“There are issues that require engaging the sub nationals to look at decision making, implementation, coming up with frameworks, getting their input with regards to regulation and many more and that cannot be easily achieved. It is because of this, this council has been inaugurated, today is our first official meeting after the inauguration by Mr President.”
He further made a case for establishment of the Ministry of Digital Economy in states to cascade and implement activities at the national level.
One of the main drivers of the nation’s digital economy and e-governance master plan is the Galaxy Backbone (GBB). The organisation is saddled with the responsibility of providing high speed internet access to government Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and private organisations.
To achieve the objective of enhancing government-to-government and government-to-citizens operations in the midst of prevalent challenges, GBB led its Managing Director/Chief Executive, Professor Muhammad Bello Abubakar, has consistently engages MDAs and encourages them to fully adopt e-government platforms in their offices. The current leadership in Galaxy Backbone has taken it as its responsibility to continue to lead the conversation aimed at encouraging the adoption of digital services across MDAs.
Likewise, the government has invested in a state of the art Infrastructure, which includes a world class Tier III Integrated National Datacentre to ensure that the full weight of this e-government plan is actualized.
Galaxy Backbone has an active state of the art Tier III Datacentre with the latest infrastructure, computers, storage and the largest dedicated tech structure and network suitable for public and private consumption in Nigeria. It has also invested in laying fibre optics infrastructure across the country to ensure all citizens are connected to the government.
Since its establishment in 2006, Galaxy Backbone has been at the forefront of driving Nigeria’s vision of achieving e-government. Through the intervention of the federal government and a number of global partners, a lot of investment has been made in the area of enhancing and expanding its digital infrastructure.
Galaxy Backbone operates state-of-the-art Data centre infrastructure for the provision of secure and available Data centre services across the nation. The centre has over the years provided the hosting and colocation platform for software/applications and hardware services Ministries Departments and Agencies and the private sector to leverage on in deepening the adoption of e-Government and other internet-driven services in the country.
Similarly, one of the digital infrastructure that is enabling e-government in Nigeria is a world class National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone (NICTIB) operated by Galaxy Backbone. It is a cross-country optical fibre backbone covering a distance of 1484 km. The backbone spans 13 states across the South East, South South, North Central and South West of Nigeria with base stations installed in 22 cities.
The cities include; Abuja, Akwanga, Lafia, Makurdi, Ugbokolo, Enugu, Awka, Onitsha, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Eket, Uyo, Asaba, Benin, Ore, Ijebu Ode, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Yobe, and Plateau.
Services available on the infrastructure are internet bandwidth, clear channel, dark fiber, lastmile connectivity, video conferencing.The backbone currently has a monthly availability of 98%. Availability is expected to reach 99.9 at the end of phase 2.
Expectedly, one of the infrastructure that will drive Nigeria’s drive to achieving e-governance is soon to be launched Galaxy Backbone’s (GBB) Tier IV Datacentre. This is indeed a welcome development. Coming at a time when so much data is being generated across corporate organisations and industries at an alarming rate. Galaxy Backbone is spot on in aligning with Nigeria’s aspiration of being an active player in global ditigization. The Tier IV Datacentre will in no small measure enhance and deepen Nigeria’s e-government transition.
Inspecting the GBB Digital Services Infrastructure, the Pantami commended the agency for the step taken to design the centre in order to improve the total customer experience of its demanding clients that cut the public and private sectors. He declared that the new digital infrastructure will serve as a backup to the Uptime Institute Certified Tier III Data Centre in Abuja.
The new data centre infrastructure will provide secure and available data centre services across the nation and enhance online information required for seamless research and programming purposes. This is because the data centres, also known as supercomputers, have the capacity of storing enormous volumes of information.
Similarly, GBB was created for the benefit of public institutions and in fact other private sector establishments that would like to take advantage of its huge infrastructure across the nation. That is why, apart from growing its coverage of public institutions beyond the four walls of the Federal Capital Territory, the organization has in the last two years under the leadership of its Managing Director/Chief Executive, Professor Muhammad Bello Abubakar, given a renewed focus to the regional operations of the organization like never before. This is clearly because of his belief that Galaxy Backbone’s success is not restricted to a particular location, but across the 36 states of the country in the short to medium term.