New era in local technology capacity

President-Goodluck-Jonathan-World Economic ForumPresident Jonathan Goodluck expects all education and research institutions to enlist as members of the NgREN. (Image source: World Economic Forum)The Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) built by a consortium of technology companies led by the Computer Warehouse Group (CWG Plc), was recently commissioned by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Jonathan Ebele Goodluck

The President was represented by the minister of state for education, Barr and supported by senator Uche Chukwumerije, senate committee chairman on education, honourable Aminu Suleiman, house committee chairman on education, Dr Omobola Johnson, honourable minister of communication technology, Dr Macjohn Nwaobiala, permanent secretary, federal ministry of education, senator Amadu Ali, chairman, NUC board and Julius A Okojie, OON, executive secretary, NUC and chairman, NgREN Board. 

In his speech delivered by the minister of state for education, the President remarked “As I join the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) in the celebration of this achievement in the establishment of the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN), I commend the individuals and groups that dedicated time and energy to make it a reality. Let me particularly appreciate the World Bank for its support to the NgREN project, the executive secretary of the NUC for championing its cause and the hardworking team of dedicated individuals from within the university system he put together to realize this dream.”

In continuing, the President made the following charge “government expects all education and research institutions to enlist as members of the NgREN and that the current low ranking of Nigerian universities in quality of teaching and research output will improve significantly within a short time as a result”. In conclusion, the President said “to ensure the broadband infrastructure and services already provided are maintained and improved upon for the use of all education and research institutions in Nigeria, I hereby approve and therefore direct the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to provide the necessary funds for this purpose”. 

An elated Dr Omobola Johnson in her remarks noted the major milestone in local technology advancement with a network of this magnitude wholly designed by Nigerians, built by Nigerians and managed by Nigerians. She specifically singled out CWG Plc, Resourcery Limited and Phase 3 Telecoms for commendation. 

According to Austin Okere, CEO of CWG Plc, “we have never been in doubt of local capacity to deliver major technology projects for government. We have matured in delivering projects of this scale, and are grateful to the NUC and World Bank for the opportunity to prove this with the timely delivery of the NgREN. We do look forward to the opportunity of extending this success in the next phases of the project”. Continuing, Okere said “it will be recalled that CWG Plc was named a World Economic Forum Global Growth Company at the 2014 WEF Africa. CWG was selected for this recognition based on our phenomenal growth, global corporate citizenship, executive leadership and impact on the competitive landscape of the ICT industry in Africa”.

The first phase of the project, under the Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) initiative covers the 27 Premier Federal Universities in Nigeria and more than one million students and staff. Their interconnection via a fully redundant broadband network was completed in record time, way ahead of the schedule set by the World Bank, co-sponsors of the project.

The NgREN currently delivers 155mbps (STM1) capacity to each university and connects to the Multiprotocol Layered Switch (MPLS) core network, which has a 10Gbps capacity, as well as 465mbps (3STM1) internet capacity, providing high definition telepresence capabilities for real-time collaboration, voice over internet protocol (VOIP), shared access to research content and joint experimentation projects.

The scope and complexity of the project, CWG assembled a consortium of partners including Airtel, Phase 3, Medallion and Cisco to work with her to build the highest level of redundancy, through a primary and backup fibre infrastructure in an active to active mode, along with a Network Management suit that enables the NgREN to effectively monitor the entire system.

The universities connected in this pioneer phase include; University of Lagos, National Open University, Federal University of Technology, Akure, University of Ilorin, University of Abuja, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Federal University of Petroleum Effurum, Federal University of Technology Minna, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, and the Michael Opara University of Agriculture, Umudike. Others are, the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna, University of Calabar, University of Jos, University of Port Harcourt, University of Uyo, Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, University of Ibadan, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi, Bayoro University, Kano, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Benin, University of Maiduguri and the University of Yola.

Future phases of the project shall include the deepening of research and education content through partnerships with global research and learning content providers and also expanding the network to include all universities, polytechnics and colleges of education nationwide.

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