BY LINDA JACOBS, Lagos, Nigeria
The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and the Honourable Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Power, Goddy Jedy-Agba, along with other government officials today unveiled a Smart Meter Initiative tagged “The Lagos Smart Meter Hackathon 2020”.
The initiative is in furtherance of ongoing efforts to address the metering gap in Lagos and Nigeria through the Lagos State Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources, in collaboration with Eko Innovation Centre.
The unveiling which took place at a virtual press conference is widely applauded as a game changer as the Lagos state government will leverage the availability of bright local talents in Nigeria to develop and produce affordable smart electricity meters for consumers, and significantly reduce the revenue leakages in the sector and ultimately improve last-mile electricity supply.
Governor Sanwo-Olu in his remarks stated that the launch marks a significant milestone in the implementation plan of the state government towards improving access to electricity in the state and it is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 7 of the UN which aspires to drive universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.
He added that increased electricity access is one of the priority mandates of his administration given its significance in ultimately driving economic development of the State to enable it achieve the objective of making Lagos a 21st century Economy.
“This Lagos Smart Meter Initiative is an important way for the Lagos Government to demonstrate its commitment to improving electricity access and reliability for Lagosians. We believe that adequate metering of Lagosians and in turn Nigerians, would increase willingness to pay for electricity, improve productivity, and more importantly, continue to improve the living conditions of our people.”
“Now, as we launch the Lagos Smart Meter Hackathon 2020, we call on all relevant stakeholders – electricity sector players, technology experts, investors, regulators – to support this worthy cause as we strive to ensure sustainable electricity for all in Lagos,” he disclosed.
In his keynote address, Jedy-Agba explained that local design and production of affordable meters will be transformational for the industry and the economy at large and therefore urged all to support it.
“Lagos is an important state in Nigeria in terms of size, economy and resources. With a population of over 20million and the 5th highest GDP in Africa, Lagos is by far the biggest economy in Nigeria. Therefore, getting access to electricity right in Lagos is critical for access to electricity in the entire country.
“Electricity is an essential service, and we need to ensure that the benefits of smart meters flow to everyone. I call on all relevant stakeholders in the sector to support this innovative and impactful initiative– industry regulators, electricity sector players, technology experts, and fund providers.”
Similarly, the Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Olalere Odusote said the initiative is expected to provide access to affordable smart meters for Lagosians to improve electricity supply, monitoring, and trust between electricity providers and end users while preventing revenue leakage. It is also expected to drive innovation and creativity while generating new interest in young people for the sector.
“Over the years, despite significant investments and resolutions around power generation and distribution, there remains a huge metering gap of over 60% of electricity consumers in Lagos and Nigeria. This metering gap is what we are seeking to bridge through the Lagos Smart Meter Hackathon”.
“In line with the objectives of the Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu (BOS) Administration to make Lagos a 21st century economy, we have identified the need to intervene and support the facilitation of effective metering across the state, to ensure the provision of reliable electricity for Lagosians and Nigerians in the long-term,” he stated.
Doja Ekeruche, Advisory Board Member, Eko Innovation Centre explained that a call for application has been sent out to local talents in the tech community to submit their proposed hardware and software solutions using the guidelines stipulated on the Lagos Smart Meter website. All concepts will be assessed based on strict but transparent criteria to identify the most viable concepts proceeding to the next stage.
Furthermore, she highlighted that, “Judges with knowledge and expertise within power and tech ecosystem will review the entries and shortlist teams to proceed to the hackathon event. Final Winners of the Hackathon, in both the hardware and software categories, will win N7million. They will also be a part of the co-creation phase with other experts, and then proceed to the production and testing stage before the full commercialization of the smart meter”
Other participants at the event included the deputy governor of Lagos state, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat; Olatunbosun Alake, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Innovation and Technology; other Commissioners, Special Advisers and Heads of Parastatals from the Governor Sanwo-Olu administration; key representatives from the Energy and Technology Industry, journalists and other stakeholders.
NCC and the Ongoing Review of InfraCo Framework
Last week Thursday, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) disclosed that the Commission is in the process of reviewing the agreement establishing Broadband Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos).
Danbatta made this known in a presentation he made at the sectoral virtual forum organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON). The meeting focused on the need of Telecom and ICT Consumers in the Era of Covid-19 and Post Covid-19 Pandemic cum Digital Economy Era with a view to meeting the New Broadband Target of 70 per cent.
Its theme was: Meeting the Interests of Government, Consumers and Telecom and ICT Companies in the Era of Covid-19 and Post Covid-19 Pandemic for Digital Economy Development.
The sectoral forum converged regulators’ interests, to ensure a competitive telecom market and fast track development of the telecom and ICT industry; operator’s interests, to enable an environment for businesses and protection of investment in the sector; and consumer’s interests, a satisfaction in terms of quality of services, affordability access and connectivity; for digital economy development.
According to the EVC, the Commission is reviewing the InfraCo Framework as mandated by the new National Broadband Plan 2020-2025. He also disclosed that six InfraCos agreement processes are currently ongoing.
Open Access Model
The Danbatta-led NCC has been pursuing deepening broadband penetration to several unserved and underserved areas through its Open Access Model (OAM) project aimed extending access to digital services across the 774 local government councils through licensing of InfraCos.
In 2015, the Commission licenced two companies as Infracos. One for Lagos (Main One Cable Company) and the other for North Central (HIS Ltd) but the second company returned its licence. In 2018, NCC licenced additional five companies as InfraCos covering other geo-political zones to drive the deployment of broadband infrastructure.
The licencees include Raeana Nigeria Limited for the South-South Zone; O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for South-West Zone; Fleek Networks Limited for North-West Zone; Brinks Integrated Solutions for North-East Zone; MainOne Limited for Lagos Zone and Zinox Technologies Limited for the South-East Zone.
The remaining licence for North Central Zone is being processed, according to the Commission.
As a stimulus to encourage investors of InfraCo to roll out, NCC made provisions in the 2017 and 2018 budgets for subsidies to the InfraCo licensees and it is now working with the federal government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, to ensure disbursement of the counterpart funding to the licensed InfraCos upon attainment deployment milestones.
Under Prof Danbatta’s guidance, Nigeria’s broadband penetration rose from a mere 6.0 percent in 2015 to 40.14 per cent in May, 2020. Active Internet subscriptions also increased from 93 million to over 141 million currently during the period.
The number of active telephone subscribers also rose from 150 million in 2015 to 192.32 million in May 2020 with teledensity currently standing at 100.72 percent, following the rebasing the teledensity to 91 percent in March, 2019.
Broadband As Bedrock of Digital Economy
Meanwhile, speaking at the virtual forum The President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola stated that with Nigeria’s telecom sector is witnessing several important developments from President Muhammadu Buhari’s renaming of the ministry which supervises the telecoms and ICT sector to the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy back in October 23rd, 2019.
He said this is further expanding its mandate to capture the goals of digitalisation of the Nigerian economy in line with the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP), to the recently launched National Broadband Plan 2020 to 2025, the unveiling of a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), to the constitution of Implementation and Steering Committee for the plan, all these would empower Nigerians (consumers) to take advantage of the Nigerian digital economy.
He emphasised that interdependence and collaboration among the government, telecom and ICT companies and Nigerians are clearly necessary but each of separate stakeholder has limitations and potentials.
Effective Delivery of ICT Services
Teniola added that to attract further investment into the sector through consumerism and enactment of friendly policies and regulation by the government, the need for the forum couldn’t be overemphasised as the platform would provide for governments, consumers (corporate and personal) and telecommunications and ICT companies on how consumers can be better off in terms of effective delivery of telecoms and ICT services and products in Nigeria.
Chief executive officer, MainOne Cable Company, Funke Opeke, said, “In this digital age where broadband connectivity is the bedrock of a thriving digital and national economy, we need to focus on increasing access to broadband penetration beyond Lagos and Abuja for our shared economic prosperity, job creation and digital security.
“We will need to take advantage of the opportunities the digital economy provides if we are to create jobs for Nigerian youth in the not-too distant future,” Opeke, said while presenting a keynote speech at the Startup South Conference held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom recently with the theme “Unlocking the Next 60 Million: Making Broadband Accessible and Affordable.”
She said for Nigeria to make appreciable progress in job creation, the country needs to ensure that broadband penetrates all the villages, towns and cities in all the 744 local government areas of the nation.
In the opinion of Mr. Ayotunde Coker, chief executive officer, Rack Centre Limited, leading datacentre operator, “Right of Way (RoW) permit is still a big issue in Nigeria. There is a standardised RoW rate but it is not being implemented by some state governments. I would rather advise state governors to give incentives to telecom companies to come to their states to lay fibre because penetration of fibre brings reliable telecoms services to the people wherever they are. It brings in industries, the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) will increase significantly because fibre is there.
“RoW should be encouraged and telecom companies should be encouraged to invest in infrastructure. If you get infrastructure right then every other thing will work. You cannot have technology hubs such as Co-creation Hub and tech villages without the underlining factor of infrastructure. And they wouldn’t be feasible if the infrastructure was not in place at the right price,” Coker said.
Standard Chartered Goes Digital With Premium Banking
Standard Chartered Bank (Nigeria) has launched its Premium Banking segment in Nigeria designed to cater to the financial needs of the Emerging Affluent.
It provides a wide variety of services and solutions such as end-to-end digital onboarding, online investment options and seamless bills payment to clients.
In a release, the Bank stated that it caters to clients between the ages of 25 and 45 years old who are typically graduates, start-up entrepreneurs, SMEs, new working professionals and individuals who are technologically/digitally inclined requiring minimal personal contact.
Speaking on the offering, head of Retail Banking, David Idoru said, “It gives me great joy to announce the launch of our Premium Banking segment to our clients today. At Standard Chartered Bank, our Clients remain at the centre of everything that we do, which clearly shows in how we develop business segments, products for investments, the markets where we operate in, the entire process of how we deliver value to our clients through engagement platforms such as the SC Mobile app.
“As a Bank, we believe in building long term relationships with our clients and having the Premium Banking segment enables us to do so more strategically with our clients within this age bracket. This is one of the many ways we continue to demonstrate and reiterate to our clients that we are Here for good.’’
The Premium Segment addresses specific needs for its client’s such as buying a first home, starting a family, children education funds, travel and lifestyle improvement with access to dedicated premium executives for banking related queries and Investment advisors for Investment related queries.
Idoru added, “We are focused on driving Digital banking across all segments from a convenience perspective which makes delivering value to our clients easier, faster, secured and a lot more efficient. This basically means that our clients including our Premium Banking clients can start and end their journey of subscribing to any of our investment products strictly on their mobile devices and this has changed how we deliver value and investment products to our clients.
Standard Chartered Bank announced the launch of its Digital Bank in Nigeria in December 2019 with the SC Mobile 2.0 app. The Digital Bank offers savings accounts, current accounts, fixed deposits with the option of joint accounts along with Lending and Wealth Management solutions.
Union Bank, Awarri Launch Next Robotics Legend Initiative
Union Bank, through its education platform Edu360, has announced its partnership with Awarri, a pan-African technology company, to launch The Next Robotics Legend initiative, a programme designed to train students in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics, and ignite a world of possibilities.
This first-of-its-kind robotics training and competition for students aged 11 to 16 is being organised as part of the Bank’s efforts to boost education in Nigeria through Edu360. The initiative will focus on identifying and nurturing young potential inventors and creators who will receive necessary training to solve some of the challenges plaguing the Nigerian society.
During the entry period from August 7th to 21st, 2020, entries will be accepted on the Edu360 website, from parents and guardians of interested children within this age bracket.
The top 25 entries will be shortlisted to participate in the intensive three-month training programme and each of the participants will receive a tablet with preloaded information; a MekaMon, a robot which offers an unparalleled education experience in advanced robotics as well as access to seasoned tutors for the programme duration.
The bank in a statement said at the end of the free training programme, participants will be required to identify a need in their community, and apply the skills learnt to proffer a solution. The student with the best solution will be admitted for a mentorship program with Awarri, the advanced AI and robotics company owned by Silas Adekunle – top international robotics engineer renowned for creating the world’s first intelligent gaming robot.
Speaking on the Bank’s partnership with Awarri, the Head, Corporate Communications and Marketing at Union Bank, Ogochukwu Ekezie- Ekaidem said “Edu360 is excited to work with Awarri on this initiative because this links three areas that we are passionate about – Education, Innovation and Talent Development. Our focus on these three areas stems from the realisation that they are crucial in driving development and sustainable impact in Nigeria. We are focused on collaborations and partnerships that will boost the development of education and shape a better, and sustainable future.”
To ensure the sustenance of the initiative, Edu360 will partner with four secondary schools by providing robotics toolkits and training for their teachers to enable them include robotics in their curriculum.
Union Bank said it remains committed to supporting initiatives that will deliver a more sustainable future for generations to come. Edu360 was established by Union Bank in 2018 as a platform to drive much-needed reform within the Education sector and rapidly accelerate access, quality and learning outcomes for Nigerian children and youth.
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