Good number of African countries, Nigeria inclusive, are seeking innovative ways to deliver voice and Internet services to rural communities.
Many have argued that telecommunications operators have what it takes to deploy these services in those areas. While that is true, issues abound- challenges are mountainous for them- from multiple taxes, dwindling fortunes, right of ways issues, insecurity to shortage of spectrum, the telcos are seemly overwhelmed.
Well, in Nigeria, the industry regulator- the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has conceived many plans to ensure the rural dwellers are served. One of such is the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) which guarantees that operators receive financial supports to deploy services in those areas.
Nevertheless, the issues persist as these hinterlands are perceived as ‘not revenue spot’ for the operators. But connecting the unconnected can unlock latent benefits for local populations, local businesses, entrepreneurs and service providers, stimulating growth and creating value. This requires a new thinking.
The economics of delivering such solutions have meant that creating a business case has proven to be a difficult challenge.
Today, the World Telecom Labs is changing the game with a unique, innovative solution that dramatically lowers the cost of connecting the unconnected.
The introduction of WTL’s rural connectivity solution, Vivada, is a flexible game-changer that makes such investments not only sustainable, but also profitable.
Essentially, Vivada enables the provision of services from multiple providers across a shared infrastructure, which enables more stakeholders to take part and reduces the total cost of ownership further.
It also disrupts traditional models, as it enables exactly the kind of collaborative, entrepreneurial approach that investment in rural infrastructure needs to unlock to reduce individual risk and to share more widely the benefits.
In a chat with TechEconomy.ng recently, the Manager, World Telecom Labs for West Africa, Rubin Rose spoke on this novel idea:
What is Vivada and the unique selling preposition?
“Vivada is simply Village, Voice and Data. We were trying to get a catchy word. We even have a Vivada website now. It was all the things we have been talking about- trying to reach out to these communities. We launching, we have been invited to different types of events; different from those we have been to in the last 20years.
We now go to healthcare events; few agricultural events, because there you got a consortium of farmers who possibly have the capital to be able to invest in such network, but the issue has also been about getting the spectrum.
Now, it appears we have a powerful way this could be realised. So, it is looking very relevant for the future”.
How sure are you about the adoption in Nigeria?
“We are lobbying regulators across Africa and Southern America to extend such goodwill to the public rather than strict regulation which implies high charges will be involved. So, when the licenses are extensively expensive it deters private operators from coming in. The goal is to achieve the coverage and not simply profit for the countries involved.
Vivada itself is a technical solution which will solve the communication issue across a range of protocols. On our website you will see a clearly defined ecosystem- there you will find power grid companies, water meter companies, solar companies; these are companies that have interests in this area.
Recently, I have been to couple of exhibitions where young guys have come out to say we developed this app- we can tell you what the weather is- if there is disease in this area or we can do a link to the commodity market, so that farmers should know what is the price of tomatoes today.
Should I harvest my yam this week or should I leave it till next week? So, the farmers need the information. If government gives them mobile phone, they should be able to source information to assist them.
Therefore, the information that should help the farmers so that we don’t see or hear about 70% of the crop get damaged every year or the middlemen going to the villages and buying the yam at very low price and selling at the market five times more than was sold to them. The farmers, therefore, need information on their palms.
The Vivada product is concentrating on getting the connectivity. The rest of these things already exist and can be added as desired”.