By Bashir Ibrahim Hassan
A combination of factors played out in the last two years to enhance the success of Nigeria’s journey in digital transformation. These factors include natural occurrences and the vision and industry of a number of people.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has traumatized the world’s population and ravaged economics at all levels, it has had its silver lining in the ways it has challenged human intellect, buttressing the truism in the adage that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Well, COVID-19 wasn’t the trigger of Zoom, the video/audio conferencing technology that has enlisted about 20 billion users since it was developed by Eric Yuan and came to blossom in 2020.
But Nigeria has been one country where its success story has been most eloquent, thanks to the vision of Muhammad Bello Abubakar, the Chief Executive of Nigeria’s Galaxy Backbone (GBB). When the Nigerian system in all its ramifications – economic, political and social – was on the verge of total collapse as a result of the lockdown compelled by the pandemic, Abubakar came to the nation’s recue by deploying his skills and those of his team at GBB to virtually get back to sessions of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings to take crucial decisions.
This is more remarkable considering that the man only assumed office in January 2020 as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy Backbone, Nigeria’s digital infrastructure and shared services provider, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. The professor of Petroleum Geosciences with over two decades of working experience spanning academia, oil and gas exploration research, development and innovation institutions is a veritable strategic thinker with strong leadership and management skills. He has an impressive exposure to global best practice in the field of energy.
He has been working assiduously to implement the two policy frameworks guiding the mandate of his agency — the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030) and Nigeria National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) launched in November 2019 and March 2020 respectively for the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy by Mr. President. The twin policies were coupled to accelerate growth and modernization of the Nigerian economy.
The two policies provided the framework for digital-led growth strategy for the Nigerian economy. GBB is currently preoccupied with operating an IT-based network that provides network connectivity to MDAs of government, saving government cost of maintenance and securing and protecting its data. Prof. Abubakar has an even more ambitious vision of taking the GBB to a higher level; the level where the GBB can be the primary enabler to all ICT providers in Nigeria and Africa, especially West Africa, in the long term.
The direction of where GBB is headed under Prof. can be discerned from the transformation that took root since he assumed office through re-branding the agency. The Gombe-born and alumnus of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, achieved this by establishing new departments that focused more sharply on implementing the mandate of the agency.
Three such departments stand out. First is the Research, Digital Innovation and Skills Department introduced to fast-track the research innovation and also skill aspects of the digital economy policy. This is in line with the 8 pillars of digital economy policy document. The second pillar of that policy addresses digital literacy and skills issues. Second one is the Enterprise Business Group, which focuses mainly on the private sector to make sure that they are provided the necessary platform that will make their turnover continue to strive better and of course generate handsome revenue for the Federal Government. Third one is National Policy, Strategic and Mandate Project Unit, which specifically looks at the policies and how to translate them into what GBB can offer by way of services.
The journey towards digitally transforming a nation goes way beyond the Infrastructure and application. What we have seen in Galaxy Backbone in the last couple of months has been a direct and intentional attempt at building the skills of people to ensure these Digital Infrastructure is managed properly, enhanced and consistently delivers on its promise which hinges more on people.
The Research, Digital Innovation & Skills Development Department is an outstanding development brought into Galaxy Backbone by the current Managing Director & Chief Executive, Professor Muhammad Bello Abubakar. It is a visionary attempt at ensuring that GBB attains its vision; ‘To be the leading enabler of digital inclusion in Africa’. Professor Abubakar identified that a deeper focus must be given to Research and Innovation if GBB can attain this desired height. The result of creating this department is gradually yielding measurable results as Galaxy Backbone recently published its first ever Training Brochure for the year in the history of the organization.
Training and Skills development both contribute towards Capacity development that is essential for digital transformation in any nation and in the context of Nigeria, strengthens Pillar two of the National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy for A Digital Nigeria being championed by the Honorable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami. This pillar speaks to the need to grow Digital Literacy and Skills amongst its citizens with the clear conviction that in this journey of developing a digital nation, people are the greatest asset so it’s important to develop a large pool of digitally literate and skilled citizens.
In the same vain, the creation of this first ever GBB Training Calendar addresses; Improved capability & capacity which is one of the six Pillars of Galaxy Backbone’s five year (2021 -2025) growth plan designed under the leadership of Prof. M.B. Abubakar. The designing of this training document is meant to ensure stakeholders, customers and young Nigerians looking at growing their digital skills are well equipped with technical & digital transformation tools that will help them contribute valuably to their organizations and by extension deepen the digital implementation development of the nation. Courses from, Cyber & Information Security, Mobile Applications Development, Network Connectivity & Infrastructure to Emerging Technologies, Business Process Management, Information Technology Systems & Networks, IT Architecture Management & Governance and a lot more have been put together by Galaxy Backbone and its team of Local & International Partners to ensure those trained by Galaxy Backbone receive the very best and are certified in their identified areas of specialty.
One of the most profound values GBB brings to these trainings as the digital Infrastructure & shared service provider to public and private organization is its hands on experience in these identified courses. So, real life scenarios will be shared during these trainings so that attendees are not just equipped theoretically, but get to have firsthand experience from Technical Experts who have implemented those services locally and internationally.
GBB is looking to partner with organizations and other training platforms to ensure Nigerians get the best of learning during these training activities. The team at GBB dedicated to this includes Experienced Network Engineers, Project Management Experts, IT Consultants & Technical Experts who have implemented high end projects and consulted at different levels. GBB has a world class Network Operations Centre, the only Uptime Certified Tier III Data Centre, in the Federal Capital Territory and for business continuity purposes, a Disaster Recovery Data Centre situated in Enugu. This entire Infrastructure is open to private and public corporations.
Hassan wrote in from Abuja
At the start of the year, Galaxy Backbone held its Annual Management Retreat in Gombe State and had the Honourable Minister of Communications & Digital Economy, challenge the leadership of GBB to be innovative, adopt long-term thinking and have a clear focus on being customer centric in its approach to business going forward. “I would like to encourage you to ensure that the customer is placed at the core of your business. If the customer is satisfied, you will win more business”; Dr. Pantami said.
Galaxy Backbone has continued to play a pivotal role in the evolution of Nigeria’s Digital Economy and would need the support of stakeholders from different levels of government. This was intensified when members of the Joint ICT Committees from the Senate and House of Representatives called for more funding for Galaxy Backbone to meet with its operations and expansion of its network so that it can favourably as an enabler within the public and private sector space.
The whole idea of a digitally transforming a nation goes way beyond the infrastructure and application. What we have seen in Galaxy Backbone in the last couple of months has been a direct and intentional attempt at building the skills of people to ensure this digital infrastructure is managed properly, enhanced and consistently delivers on its promise which hinges more on people.
Now, with the ongoing deployment of Fibre Optics across the nation and the building of more Datacenters across the six geopolitical zones of the country to expand its provision of cloud services under the National Information Communications Technology Infrastructure Backbone (NICTIB) Project, GBB is deepening broadband penetration and creating more opportunities to Small and Medium size businesses to take advantage of its platform in the provision of its services to their customers. As part of the expansion of its services, Galaxy Backbone is currently providing Network Connectivity, Colocation and Hosting services in the South South & South Eastern Regions where GBB has its Fibre cables. GBB currently has fibre deployment across 17 cities within 13 states in the country from Abuja all the way to Lagos. With the deployment of these services, organizations are trained on the proper use of the infrastructure to ensure maximum output. The 2nd phase of this fibre deployment will focus on the northern and South Western part of the country.
Digitalization of the economy has brought tremendous changes in the way we work, conduct business and socialize. From all indications, these changes are bound to positively impact the nation’s economy for a very long time.
Significant credit for leading the process goes to Muhammad Bello Abubakar, Chief Executive of GBB; for in the short period under which he has been saddled with running the GBB, Abubakar has become a household name as one of the best performing CEOs of parastatals in Nigeria. Also worthy of honourable mention is the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, himself the former Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to whom the GBB CEO remains copiously obliged as a mentor.
Indeed, although a public sector outfit with enormous social responsibilities, GBB has been positioned to generate revenue to the Federal Government. That is one vision of GBB that Abubakar makes no secret of.
Hassan wrote in from Abuja