ByÂ Â Prince Osuagwu
If there is any body who should not fail to buy into governor Godswill Akpabio, of Akwa Ibomâ€™s renewed call for a review of the revenue sharing formula, to favour the states, it is his cross River state counterpart Gov Liyel Imoke.
By all implications, Imoke wants to turn his cross River state into a hot bed of ICT activities and this isÂ no mean investment, requiring huge financial commitment.
At least with the activities going on in the state, Imoke may have expressed readiness to apply e-governance as a strategy to make a difference. For instance a few of the programmes flagged off by the new administration like the social safety net and primary healthcare are now set to run on the connectivity backbone of Galaxy backbone.
The initiative according to the state would rekindle hope of better life for the poor in Cross River state. Last week, the state government signed agreement with Galaxy Backbone for the provision of connectivity of the programmes.
Under the agreement, Galaxy Backbone is to provide connectivity between the central system and 164 remote stations for the implementation of the Stateâ€™s free healthcare programme for pregnant women and children under 5 years as well as the Stateâ€™s Conditional Cash Transfer programme for the poor.
The remote stations are made up of 146 primary and post primary health institutions across the state and 18 coordinators for the primary health information centres.
Expressing commitment to the agreement after the signing, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Galaxy Backbone Plc, Mr. Gerald Ilukwe said that the company was involved in the project because it reflected the mission of the company to drive national development through the provision of infrastructure for public institutions.
According to Ilukwe, â€œGalaxy is going to provide the connectivity between the central system and all the remote locations where the State Government intervention is taking place. So we are enabling them to deliver on their commitment to their own peopleâ€.
He assured that at the completion of the project, almost the entire state would have been covered by the connectivity, adding that the project would provide the platform for other programmes and services.
Ilukwe said â€œthe project is like a highway. When you have built a road, you do not build it for any particular vehicle. You build the road strong enough so that various vehicles providing various services for the people can ride on it. So for us this is the beginning of a long term partnership and we hope that even if we have to extend investments in our own initiative to make this partnership work better, you have my assurance that we will be willing and able to do that on very short noticeâ€.
He called on other states of the federation to emulate the example of Cross River State, arguing that it is not enough for states to say they have computerized their operations when such efforts do not impact on the people.
â€œFrom what we have seen, computerization is not an end in itself. A lot people say they have computerized without really impacting on the people. The model of the partnership between Galaxy and Cross River State is something that should be emulated. It starts with what is most important to the State and we will work with them to deliver itâ€, he said.
Meanwhile,Â Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Efiok Cobham earlier in his speech said the state embarked on the connectivity programme to ensure the success of its social welfare programmes targeted at the poor in the State.
He added that â€œas a Government we took a look at our situation in the State and we noticed that the social welfare component was virtually lacking in governance. That was why we introduced the free health care programme for women and children between 0 â€“ 5 years and the Conditional Cash Transfer which are pro-poor programmes.
â€œWith the launch of the programmes, it becomes imperative we sign this agreement because the entire management, registration and even the verification of the beneficiaries are to be sustained through our automated biometric system which calls for a collaboration with organizations like Galaxyâ€. He called on Galaxy Backbone to ensure the speedy completion of the connectivity, stressing that the State would not compromise quality which he described as the watchword of the State.
Special Adviser, Inform-ation Communication Technology (ICT), Mr. Odo Effiong, in an introductory remark, disclosed that the agreement covered three health programmes of the State which include free health care programme to pregnant women and children under five years, Conditional Cash Transfer and Primary Health Information System, adding that the agreement was necessary for the success of the programme because it is designed for the benefit of the less privileged.
Effiong explained that the exercise is a rigorously arranged system put in place as an on line, saying that Galaxy Backbone is in Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the Federal government to assist the public sector to ensure its services go to the actual sector earmarked to benefit.
According to Effiong, all the 146 Primary/Secondary Health Care Centres in the state have been connected and provided with services and facilities which he described as a pioneering programme introduced by governor Liyel Imoke to the people of Cross River with the hope to bring succor to the less privileged in the state.He noted that though the Free Health Care programme is an on-going exercise, about 130,000 people have registered across the state.