Abuja – Nigeria ranks 115 out of 144 countries on the global competitiveness index polled to underscore the relevance of quality science andtTechnology infrastructure in economic development.

Prof. Julius Okojie, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja at the opening of a three-day National Stakeholders Meeting on the Nigeria Research and Education Network (NgREN).

He said it was disheartening to note that with more than 100 Research and Education Networks (RENs) globally, Nigeria had yet to commission a Research and Education Network “and ranks 112 in terms of network readiness behind smaller African countries’’.

“Many countries that are not as endowed as Nigeria or have been grappling with more internal challenges have thriving RENs.

“Examples include Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Somalia, etc, etc,’’ Okojie said.

He said the countries were sharing huge research data, pooled bandwidth, as well as video, audio and data communication on their RENs.

The NUC executive secretary said the countries had also benefited from collaborations with other countries through international leased lines on submarine cables.

“That is why we should see our population size, geographical spread and diversity in other respects as basis for the utilisation of innovative approaches to solving our challenges.’’

He listed the challenges to include access, availability and quality of education “without which we cannot guarantee the attainment of Vision 20: 2020, not to talk of transforming the economy.

Okojie said the NUC would continue to make efforts toward ensuring the development of education in the country, hence its support for the establishment of a REN.

In her address, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, said a broadband inter connectivity and Internet access for Nigerian research institutions would create a new operating environment and impact positively on the attitudes of both teachers and learners.

“Consequently, this will raise the performance levels of learners and create the needed foundation for initialising science and technology innovation necessary for driving Nigeria’s development.’’

Rufa’i expressed optimism that the NgREN would put the country firmly on the path to producing quality and relevant research for accelerated development.

She said the NUC was expected to put in place a management team and a secretariat for the running of NgREN, while the ministry would be responsible for payment of entitlements and mobilisation of funds.

Also speaking, Prof. Lawan Bichi, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Petroleum, Effurun, Delta, said the establishment of NgREN was coming at a time when cyber security had become a global issue that require urgent attention by stakeholders.

Bichi said the implementation of an effective REN would help in addressing challenges in the university system such as the existence of more than 17,000 e-journals in NUC’s e-library that were being under utilised.

“We have rich material resources that never get online,’’ he added.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NgREN is designed to provide world class networking infrastructure for use in research and education. (NAN)

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