The cause of Professor Muhammed Kah’s smiles was Uriel Technologies. The Latvia-based ICT firm with operations around the world had announced a pledge to equip the UTG with three WiFi base stations.
“A base station is the distributive equipment for Wi-Fi. We are donating three to the university to utilise it,” said Mr Chinedu L Okeke, director of Uriel’s regional office in Nigeria.
Speaking exclusively to The Standard after making the pledge, Mr Okeke explained: “Each of the three base stations has a capacity of one gigabyte. Three giga for a university is more than enough. It will give them better Internet coverage and showcase a smart school environment.”
Mr Okeke said Uriel Technologies will not stop at shipping the equipment but would also come in to transfer requisite skills to the university to efficiently operate the infrastructure.
The pledge came on the heels of Professor Kah’s proposition that telecom businesses should give back part of their profits to the community in the form of social services.
“The telecoms players do make a lot of money, it’s not a secret,” Professor Kah said, while sitting on a panel comprising Gambian ICT leaders who were giving to the summit a picture of The Gambia’s ICT landscape.
He enthused: “If our youths cannot have access to connectivity, if our youths don’t have the competencies, they will still remain retailers in the ICT space. For us to play a significant role in the ICT world, we have to set up companies and produce.
“So, what would it take for the four players in the [Gambia’s mobile] industry, to say ‘you know what, we know the future of our companies depend on these youths; there is one university, we will ensure that the university has adequate broadband connectivity’.
“Secondly, how do we ensure that the secondary schools have connectivity at zero cost to them because most of the youths that go to those institutions come from very poor backgrounds, but they are very brilliant?”
Professor Kah went on to rebuff the argument by the business community that his position was unrealistic in the face of the “harsh” tax regimes.
“I don’t buy the idea that taxes are high and they are not making returns,” he said, referring to telecom businesses.
“They are making lots of money. Majority of our citizens spend a huge chunk of their income consuming telecoms.
“So I want them to come and give back to the education infrastructure, let them give back to society, give back to the youths and they will get it later on.”
Prof Kah’s argument was greeted with aplomb. But it was the not until the following day that the news of glad tiding broke out to a round of applause and high-fives for Prof Kah.
“When Professor Kah made the plea, we looked at it and saw it from our mandate that students should have connectivity,” Mr Okeke told The Standard.
“This donation should enable a lot more of the students to have access to both content information and access more products on the web.
“It would also generate that needed environment for constant deployment and exposure to students to be able to develop capacity for the country.”
In his speech following Uriel’s pledge, Kah gave the summit a gist of ongoing initiatives aimed at transforming the University of The Gambia, while thanking Uriel for the gesture.
He said: “The UTG is building a 21st century campus. We just got funded for US$53 million for the construction of the first phase.
“You all are business folks. You know today, you cannot build a 21st century university without an ICT infrastructure at its core.
“A university today requires lots of ICT. Those of you out there with businesses, whether network or data, the UTG can be your truest business partner. The funds are already here.”
The Africa Innovation Digital Summit was held at Kairaba Beach Hotel. Organised by Extensia Ltd, a UK-based ICT group, the annual summit gathers politicians, policy-makers, investors, regulators, service providers and vendors from across Africa, offering networking and business engagement opportunities.
Author: Saikou Jammeh]]>