The Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, in effort to ensure that governmental functions remain uninterrupted in the wake of lockdown necessitated by COVID-19, has deployed telepresence facilities around Federal Government’s offices, using Galaxy backbone (GBB), a parastatal of the Ministry.
“The Honorable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), has earlier directed GBB to utilize its highly secure Government-wide Telepresence and Collaboration facilities, to ensure government functions continue while maintaining social distancing.
“They have complied by positioning their Telepresence and Collaboration facilities to ensure productivity, enhance security and reduce the cost of communication during this period,” a statement from the Spokesperson to the Minister, Mrs. Uwais Suleiman said.
So far, the teleconferencing terminals have been installed in over 120 Federal Government’s institutions, including the offices of the vice president, 26 ministers, 17 ministers of state, chief of staff to the president, secretary to the Government of the Federation and federal permanent secretary.
The statement noted that all relevant ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government, including the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) have been covered.
The statement also said that the terminals are secure with end to end encryption within GBB operated government networks. And that GBB has the capacity to provide both public and private sector organizations secure and reliable telepresence services from its State-of-the-Art Unified Communication Services (UCS) platform.
As part of efforts to ensure that the country is not totally grounded, the Ministry of Communication assured Nigerians of its readiness to deploy other means of technology to every essential government and private office running during this time of coronavirus lockdown.
“In this regard, Nigerians are to be rest assured that the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy will continue to use technology to ensure that there are no interruptions in crucial government meetings. Virtual meetings will go ahead with all relevant stakeholders in a secure and reliable manner as we collectively tackle this challenge to humanity,” the statement said.
The Ministry has in the past, set up the UCS to enable all relevant stakeholders to be up and doing as lockdown appears to be the best option in curbing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. The UCS offers virtual alternatives to physical meetings and will limit the chances of humans to contact, therefore limiting the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pantami has urged Nigerians to use this period of stay-at-home to empower themselves digitally, using the newly launched Digital Nigerian Programme.
President Buhari had on the 19th March inaugurated the programme that is designed to empower innovators and entrepreneurs with skills required to thrive in the emerging digital economy.
The statement issued by DR. Pantimi during the launch of the programme outlined many areas of digital learning that will not only economically empower entrepreneurs individually, but will also add to the economic growth of the country. According to him, the programme has been launched through the partnership of many reputable digital companies including IBM.
“The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is partnering with a number of institutions to enable Nigerians acquire cutting edge digital skills within the comfort of their homes.
“One of such partnerships is based on the MoU signed with IBM on the 16th of January, 2020. Through this partnership and as part of the IBM Digital Nation Africa Programme, the Ministry will be providing Nigerians with over 200+ hours of free learning & 85+ courses on key courses like: Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Cloud Computing.”
However, as Nigerians enroll en masse, the cost of data has remained a hindrance. Telcos and data service providers have been called upon to reduce the cost of data to enable those caught up in the lockdown to make digital use of the time.
The calls appear to have yielded no results as telecom operators can only offer free SMS to subscribers.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has called the attention of the general public to scam messages going round in the name of the Federal Government, asking people to register through a website for 20GB free data. The Commission placed a disclaimer on the message saying the Federal has made no such offers.
“Nigerian government, in collaboration with NCC, is offering all Nigerian citizens up to 20GB of data to stay at home and get up-to-date information in a bid to counter the spread of COVID-19,” the scam message reads, asking Nigerians to follow a link embedded on the message.
The NCC’s director of public affairs Dr. Henry Nkemadu refuted it and warned Nigerians to be wary of such messages.
“The general public should discountenance the falsehood which has gained traction by the rise in tempo of its circulation. The said website is a sham and a total deception to dupe Nigerians of their hard-earned money and to harness personal data for fraudulent purposes,” he warned.