By Abbas Bolanle
Lagos. July 23, 2012.
The NgREN project is set to create broadband interconnectivity among all 36 Federal Universities, provide adequate internet bandwidth while ensuring connections to other Research Education Networks (RENs) as well as to develop critical human capacity, provide modern learning and collaboration content and tools and boost available power supply to data centres.
With the hope that the network will grow easily to encompass other research and education institutions across the country, the implementation procedures for the core network are based on the Science and Technology Education at the Post-Basic level (STEP-B)/World Bank guidelines as approved in the pertinent plan documents; Work Plan, Procurement Plan, Monitoring and Evaluation plan, Disbursement Plan, among others.
Project Manager STEP-B, NUC, Joshua Atah announced that, “there is a Project Implementation Team with the Secretariat provided by the NUC STEP-B office that reports to the STEP-B National Project Secretariat (NPS) and the World Bank. Latest strategic implementation and funding realities have necessitated additional reporting to the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology who has assumed oversight responsibility to ensure project implementation proceeds smoothly in subsequent phases that will connect additional member nodes.”
Adding that “Project implementation activities to be supported by funds from the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), will be executed according to extant FGN procurement guidelines”.
Since the last update in 2011, there been a series of progress from the ongoing project which as stated by NUC includes: the completion of the process of fund reallocation within the STEP-B project to ensure the availability of catalytic funds promised by the World Bank. This was achieved in December 2011.
Others include the formal approval by the World Bank, of the project implementation plan documents, was received on the 18th of January, 2012; the formal registration of NgREN as a corporate entity limited by guarantee by the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission, was achieved on the 20th of February 2012, following the signing of an MoU between the Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC) and the NUC.
The initial membership comprises the 36 Federal Universities in Nigeria and the NUC but membership is, and will remain, open to all education and research institutions in Nigeria, he adds.
Other stated development include, Between February and May, 2012, implementation planning meetings were held at the STEP-B NPS, the NUC, the Federal Ministries of Education and Communication Technology and the World Bank Country Office (including a video conference with US-based World Bank REN Consultants and the Managers of the Irish REN, HEAnet).
The meetings were to harmonise positions and to re-align project thrust with existing international best practice following extensive stakeholder consultations in-country in the past two years, according to the project update.
The allocated sum of $10 million by the World Bank through the STEP-B Project is to support recruitment of consultants, procurement of multimedia equipment, procurement and deployment of ring network, access network, bandwidth, international links, customization of space and acquisition of office equipment for the establishment of Network Management Center (NMC), and the training of core technical staff (in the first instance) as approved in the work and procurement plans, for NgREN Phase One, according to him.
Currently, Project and World Bank consultants are putting finishing touches to documents that will guide the procurement of goods and services for the establishment of the NgREN backbone, among others says Joshua.
According to him, the often painfully slow process of establishing NgREN that commenced with the drafting of a funding proposal by a small technical committee is in its last stages.
” We are now surely on the verge of joining the global community of RENs physically and will continue to count on the understanding and support of all stakeholders to net this all-important goal”, he adds.