Sunday, September 16, 2012

abandoned multi million naira IT Centers

In 2007, Federal Government, through its National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), announced the Rural Information Technology Centers (RITC) project, the objective of which, the Government said, was to provide Internet access to underserved communities.


Most of the RITC's were opened across the country in 2008, costing massive amounts of money. One of such multi-million sunk Rural Information Technology Centers, located in Jahun Local Government area of Jigawa State, has suffered such neglect that its expensive equipment is gathering dust and becoming rusty.

The multi-million Naira center, which was commissioned in 2008, has become a major hideout for miscreants in the area who turned the center into a haven for carrying out heinous plans. Residents say the C-Band Internet facility planted in the center only functioned on the day it was commissioned.

According to the residents, none of the equipment, including the expensive solar power instrument installed in the center, functioned afterwards, although the NITDA has continued to boast of it in newspapers and its official bulletins as part of its living achievements.

Adeniran Muiz, a graduate of Yaba College of Technology who was in the community when he was called up for his National Youth Service Corps, said that most of the computers and the UPS in the center failed to come up when he accessed the center. Muiz suggested that the failure of the equipment has been caused by long years of neglect, and expressed disappointment at the infrastructural neglect by the government and its agency.

"Initially, I felt members of the community did not understand the value of the center because of their perceived level of unawareness but when I began to interact with the youths and some concerned literate elders, I realized that I had maintained a very wrong position about the whole situation", said Muiz, a university graduate.

Muiz said he was surprised at the eagerness and level of awareness of the people of the Jahun community after he engaged them in discussion regarding the benefits of the long abandoned and rusting Information Technology center in their community. He said that instead, the youths of the community lectured him on the function of the neglected Information Technology center, stating that it had died off for lack of maintenance. They also drew his attention to the failure of the installed solar system to supply power, and the fact that the Internet facility had no subscription.

Despite all that, the people of Jahun Community took it upon themselves to revive the center, with the help of Muiz, who was then serving in the area and the technical, expert knowledge support of other well-meaning people.

Muiz's account indicates how the aspiration of the community people helped them revive the moribund IT Center.

"With donations from concerned individuals in the community and subvention from Jahun Local Government Authorities, I was able to connect the center to electricity, get a brand new lister generator, repair the Internet facilities and computer systems and I subscribed for Internet services from Galaxy Networks in Dutse, Jigawa State. In a nutshell, that marked a turning point for an already dead RITC in Jahun. Not only was it brought back to life but was also wearing a better look and ready to admit interested students", Muiz said.

In what marks an imminent return to inactivity of the center, however, the IT center which has a capacity to admit about 90 students suffers poor management and funding. Those who volunteer or donate funds for the management of the center have begun to reduce in number. Also, the NYSC member who coordinated the revival of the center said he has completed his Youth Service in the community and was returning to Lagos.

The agency that set up the place, NITDA, has failed to show up to ensure continuous and productive management of the center. Even when contacted about how the center is fairing, no response came, which suggests a complete lack of interest from the agency on a center it set up using huge amounts of money. The agency failed to show the will to maintain and use the centers set up in all the locations where it did to benefit the people of host communities.

Complained one of the volunteers managing the center, "The Internet service is quite expensive to run due to the nature of the C-Band subscription. By and by, the subscription we made a couple of months ago will expire and there is currently no hope for continual subscription as the community seems to have been overstressed already by the financial burden of sustaining the center. In addition, the solar facility at the center is faulty. Consequently, the center runs solely on diesel since the government cannot provide stable power for its citizens."

He said that a series of letters were sent to the Director General of NITDA, Professor Cleopas Anganye, to seek his assistance in repairing the faulty solar facility and in subscribing for at least one year of Internet service, but with no response from him.

“It is, however, disheartening, heart-rending, and worrisome that nothing was heard from them. Due to the respect I have for the DG coupled with his numerous years of proven integrity and professionalism, I would only want to believe that the letters were not delivered to his office", he said.

The RITC in Jahun is not the only place set up by the NITDA that has gulped millions of Naira, only to be abandoned by the government.

"Within Jigawa State alone, I know of at least two other centers that are not functional and [have been] abandoned by the Agency since the inception of the projects,” Muiz observed. “ There is one abandoned in Aujara town in Jahun LGA and another one Zareku town in Miga LGA that I personally know of."
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