By Prince Osuagwu
For the Chief Executive Officer of Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation CTO, Dr Ekwow-Spio Garbrah, a major challenge facing the development of ICT in the commonwealth is that despite major advances, well over 70 percent of Commonwealth developing countries, especially the rural communities were still not connected to the information super-highway.. Garbrah said this situation has cut the developing nations out of the major chunk of world communications and global market benefits.
He disclosed this on the second day of the Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF organized stakeholders consultative forum in Yola, Adamawa state. The consultative forum according to USPF is a template designed to ascertain the connectivity needs of the rural people and how to partner with them in solving the problems.
Speaking on Financing models for rural connectivity: Examples from around the world, Garbrah said that CTO was focusing on rural segments for special investments even as it has launched Commonwealth African Rural Cnnectivity initiative, COMARCI, which focuses on major ICT constraints and challenges in the 18 African commonwealth countries.
He however disclosed that a total of $308.6 million has been spent by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Commonwealth Africa for investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector development in the last five years.
He said the expenditure was through its Global ICTs Department (GICT) on the continent, which has benefited countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and several other nations.
He said Nigeria led the pack with $135m through MTN Nigeria, followed by Ghana via Areba with $40m and Cameroonâ€™s Orange network receiving $13.6m, while multi-nation beneficiaries came through Celtel, now Zain, between 1994 and 2008.
He also explained that the $135 million for Nigeria were made up of investments spread across the 15m equal investment, 35 million for loan, $50m was for standby loan, â€œto upgrade the existing network and roll_out additional infrastructure in high_congestion areas.â€
Commending the USPF on the consultative forum, he said that if the benefits of the forum were fully explored, it would bring investments that can see Nigeria take up $10 billion from the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, estimated at $60 billion new investments in African ICTs.
The USPF forum, which started Wednesday at the Lamido Zubairu Education Centre in Yola, stirred up ICT consciousness in the rural Adamawa and other adjoining states that make up the North-East geo-political zone of the country.
The interest to join the connected world moved the participants who made passionate request and pleas, calling communities in the semi-urban and rural areas to form co-operatives to access opportunities offered by the USPF in embarking on the projects to ensure itsÂ sustainability .
The participants called for the establishment of a platform that will enable farmers in semi urban and rural areas access ICT facilities that would enable them get inputs and marketing of their products using the internet.
They also called for aÂ local contact solutions platform group for the North-East that will constitute various heads of the co-operative societies, where issues and problems relating to projects can be channeled to the USPF
They demanded a speedy completion ofÂ various outstanding USPF projects as highlighted by the USPF official, since most parts of the country have benefited from the projects such as school access projects, community communication centres, among other projects the USPF was carrying out.