Of Cross River And The Creation Of A Smart State by ONYEDIKA AGBEDO

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, Columnists, National News, Opinion

by crossriverwatch admin

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Globally, cities that pioneer the switch to smart ways of living have a huge potential to harvest benefits such as saving money due to lower energy consumption, boosting employment from rolling out new innovative technologies, stimulating entrepreneurship through new business opportunities, cleaner air and a higher quality of life.

However, the innovative integration of different technologies that make cities and communities ‘smart’ requires the commitment and close collaboration of local authorities, citizens, industry (e.g. energy, construction, transport and ICT) financial institutions and academia.

Recent and ongoing developments in Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State, show clearly that the city is set to become Nigeria’s first smart city. The administration of Senator Liyel Imoke is gradually but assuredly forging collaboration of local authorities, citizens, energy industry, construction, transport, tourism, sports, financial institutions and academia that will turn Calabar and by extension Cross River State into a smart environment for residents and visitors alike.

Smart Businesses

One of the global benchmarks for a smart community is the kind of industry it attracts. A smart city inherently attracts smart businesses. The decision of General Electric (GE) to establish a new manufacturing and assembly facility in Calabar confirms the city’s status as emerging smart community. This U.S. company will spend a whopping $1 billion (N158 billion) in the city.

The deal, which comprises $250 million capital expenditure and over $800 million incremental spending on local sourcing of goods and services, will create 2,300 jobs and make Calabar the regional hub for GE’s services in Africa.
Also, it is not an accident that Ebony Life TV, the brainchild of dynamic African talk show star, Mo Abudu, chose Calabar as its base. The TV channel debuted on DStv on July 1, 2013. The TV Station transmits from the Tinapa Studio in Calabar.

In 2011, East Horizon Gas Company Limited, a subsidiary of Oando, commissioned a 128km gas pipeline’s city gate facility in Calabar. The pipeline has a 100 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscf/d) capacity and currently supplies 22 mmscf/d to its foundation customer, United Cement Company (UNICEM). The gas fuels UNICEM’s 2.5 million metric tons per annum Cement Plant located in Mfamosing. EHGC will leverage the pipeline to build a distribution network that will supply natural gas to other interested off-takers in the Calabar area.

The natural gas pipeline project will guarantee the business community in Calabar affordable energy as well as place the city on the path of industrial development.

Calabar Broadband Project

Efficient broadband telecommunications infrastructure is another global benchmark for a smart city. Apparently aware of the importance of efficient broadband in the journey to turn Calabar into a smarter city, the state government recently signed a concession agreement with MTN Nigeria to provide 115km of telecommunications cable duct infrastructure for Calabar spanning from Tinapa to Anantigha.

Upon completion in nine months, this system would provide full broadband infrastructure access for all Calabar residents, thus making Calabar the most wired Nigerian city in terms of coverage. Besides, the broadband access will also significantly improve the quality of voice services in Calabar, making video upload and download over wired and wireless channels a reality.

This project is another innovative and bold initiative of the administration of Senator Liyel Imoke and it is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the state government and MTN. It is privately funded and will cost approximately N1.1 billion naira to implement.

The infrastructure will include the installation of three telecommunication cable ducts and 96 core fibre optic cables for each partner. The infrastructure will be managed by the state government and MTN, and would enable other service providers and network/broadband users to approach either party for leasing. In addition to this infrastructure, MTN would site an additional 99 base stations in the city to improve wireless services in 2013. The number of base stations would be repeated in 2014 and 2015.

It would also support the development of various third party services enabled by broadband such as city-wide wireless fidelity (wifi), access to various government services, electronic ticketing, smart transport, smart education, smart health, e-tourism and creation of Nigeria’s first smart city.

Speaking at the signing ceremony recently, General Manager Legal, MTN, Mrs. Oghenerume Rotimi stated that MTN is excited at the partnership and the opportunities such partnership presents to deliver socio-economic transformation to the State. The initiative, according to her, is part of MTN’s plan to establish a fibre optic network across Nigeria. She commended Senator Imoke for his vision and dynamic administration while stating that the PPP initiative represents best practice in the provision of services to the people of the Cross River State.

Special Adviser on Communication Technology Development to Governor Imoke, Mr. Odo Effiong said telecommunications was now an essential utility secondary only to water, transportation, and power. He said that broadband infrastructure had been identified as critical to socio-economic development, and that “broadband is to the information economy what electricity is to the industrial economy.”

He stated that studies show that a 10 per cent increase in broadband in a developing economy resulted in a growth of 1.38 per cent of GDP.

He went on to say that the initiative was an important component of the Governor’s socio-economic development plan and Calabar is becoming the regional business and investment destination of choice. According to him, with the completion of this infrastructure “Calabar is set to become Nigeria’s first smart city.”

Tinapa Knowledge City

The broadband project is the third of three major collaborative smart projects that Cross River is currently pursuing including the SmartGov.CRSG and Tinapa Knowledge City (TKC), which represents investment of about N2.5 billion in the state.

Governor Imoke recently inaugurated the Tinapa Information Communication Technology (ICT) hub and TKC in Calabar. Speaking shortly after commissioning the phase one of the ICT flagship project, which will serve as one-stop ICT solution centre in sub-Saharan Africa, Imoke contended that TKC as a PPP will provide seamless opportunity to the nation’s business environment for sustainable economic development and job creation.

The Secretary General, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr. Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu disclosed that the centre will have a 250-seat capacity for different kinds of training, an incubator and industrial pavilion that will house about 25 companies, software engineering institute and a software development centre.

Mba-Uzoukwu disclosed that the second phase of the centre with cutting edge infrastructure will be commissioned in three months and is expected to roll out a 300-seat call centre, data centre, 2,400 seat training auditorium, digital library, software testing laboratory and virtual offices supported by hi-speed internet broadband.

He maintained that effort has been made to ensure that teachers at all levels of institutions of learning in the state are adequately trained in the programme to ensure knowledge drift to every community across the state with the provision of a laboratory attached to all teachers on completion of their training exercise to realise the vision of becoming an ICT hub.

Meanwhile, Effiong said the project when fully completed would employ over 25,000 youths over the next five years excluding spin-ups. He added that the state is ready to harness the potential of the technology park to transform its economy and country at large. To deepen the ICT hub’s offerings, the Federal Government and Cross River State government recently launched the South-South region’s incubation centre at TKN in Calabar named Technology Development Entrepreneurship Acceleration (IDEA). This is the first in the South-South geopolitical zone.

Imoke described the centre as a vision shared between the state and the Federal Government, which will play a pivotal role in a system that will encourage youths to display their capabilities and potentials. While appreciating IDEA’s stakeholders, who are component of the TKC, Imoke explained that the completion of the first phase of the facility would turn around the economy since it is not oil-driven.

According to him, “this will stimulate service and technology-driven economy as well as rapid growth of the nation because it will provide young men and women the capacity and intellect to compete globally because their creative minds have made them what they are.”

Smartgov.CRSG

Cross River State Government has built several social service infrastructures on a smart card through its ICT company, Smartgov.CRSG, to empower the indigenes and residents of the state. Its objective is to improve accountability in governance, simplify access to social services and create a robust social safety net for indigenes of the state.

Smartgov.CRSG infrastructure allows the state government to leverage its investments in technology, automate its ministries, departments and agencies, identify all citizens and residents, track and monitor usage of social services, enhance internally-generated revenue and automate disbursements and payments by government. The infrastructure also comprises citizen’s information system, e-payment gateway and smartcard management system.

Through Smartgov.CRSG, the state government is implementing a social benefit administration, statewide health information management system, statewide health insurance management system and IT-driven hospital management system and human resource management as well as payroll processing system.

MySmartCityCard is issued to the citizens under the Smartgov.CRSG initiative and contains card holders’ details, which is used to provide access to healthcare, pension, transportation, educational bursaries, social amenities and social benefits for the youths and the aged promptly through automated payments system.

MySmartCityCard enables card holders in the state to pay taxes and levies conveniently from the comfort of their homes and offices using multiple channels such as ATMs, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals and the Web.
Institute of Technology and Management (ITM)

For the state to produce smart labour force to drive the new economy, the state government has commenced the construction of Institute of Technology and Management in Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area of the state. ITM is established in partnership with Highbury College, Portsmouth, United Kingdom and it would commence academic programmes on October 2013.

According to Imoke, ITM would run a demand-driven curriculum that would ensure that at least 90 per cent of its graduates secure employment.

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2 commentsOn Of Cross River And The Creation Of A Smart State by ONYEDIKA AGBEDO

  • Good one there, Nigeria needs leaders that have vission of a smart soceity.

  • Jonathan Ugbal Abegim

    All ideas stated above are BRILLANT but the first is creating some problems In Calabar South LGA as taps have not been rushing in some homes due to the ”Broadband” cable-laying

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