Mr Goodluck Igbinedion is the Managing Director of Edo State Information, Communications and Technology Agency (ICTA), the body responsible for the internet revolution in the state and migrating the conduct of government business from the analogue mode to internet based, in what is popularly known in Edo as E-Governance.
He is a qualified and certified Electrical Engineer, a product of Ibadan Polytechnic and holds a Post Graduate Decree in Project Management from the United Kingdom.
He comes with a vast experience in ICT world, spanning 18 years at 1.40-1.48, an online gas company, serving in different capacities, including Information Technology Manager, with responsibilities for Nigeria and West Africa region.
He later left the company to set up his own private business from where he was head hunted by Governor Godwin Obaseki to midwife his vision of Making Edo Great Again (MEGA) through ICT revolution, which today sets Edo State apart from others. It is on record that on September 1, 2023, the state government formally transited from paper-based operations to paperless operations.
He speaks on this stride which has earned Edo, both international and national, accolades and awards, as the only sub-national in Nigeria that is fully internet compliance
When did you officially join Edo State government?
I came in November 1, 2021 to be precise.
What was the mandate of the governor for your agency?
The mandate was very clear, although elastic because technology evolves, so you always have that flexibility. But I would like to summarise it to just few pillars.
The first of our mandate is to provide a scalable business continuity solution, so that government business will not go down at any point in time.
The second is to warehouse all government data in a central repository, in a secure environment and only given access to people that are authorised to have access to those data. We also have that element of it that we connect to the outside world, for small business enterprises to come and host their data with us.
We also have a mandate to automate our processes, today, Edo State has gone paperless; that’s the power of technology, that’s the power of automation. One of our mandates also is to train our staff on IT skill, both those in ICT department and all Edo State Government staff to ensure that they are computer literate, know about basic computer application usage in order for them to key into the e-governance dream.
Now, we also have the mandate to connect all our offices with fibre optics, today there is no government office that is not connected with fibre optics. All the MDAs are all connected with fibre optics.
How were you able to achieve the seamless internet based operation which now known as E-Governance in Edo Stat?
I would like to start by saying that the e-governance journey in Edo State is actually a one man dream. It’s a one man vision and the man is His Excellency, Mr Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, we are just an implementers of that vision.
His vision was that he wanted to be the last governor of Edo State that will sign a physical file. Now that is a statement of intent and it is very broad and detailed, so to go into this journey we have to put together a Technology Strategy plan which was done in the year 2020.
It’s a document that contain the gaps, we were able to bring out all the gaps that needed to be filled and to fill those gaps there are programmes and projects that needed to be implemented.
About 77 projects were highlighted in that document, so it’s not surprising that what we are doing today, we are not doing it out of a vacuum as they were meticulously planned. You need a fearless and courageous leader, like, His Excellency, to face the future, moving away from the norms in terms of the way government is being run in Nigeria, to take this noble path.
Looking at our data centre, we’re able to revamp our data centre because that is the custodian or the warehouse where all the government data is hosted and we are operating the data centre in the cloud form, in an enterprise format, so that we can also accommodate tech start-ups within the state.
Edo State is one of the states that has a very young, vibrant, energetic and smart youth population, so they are tech savvy. Therefore, we need to provide an enabling platform for them to actually unleash their technology know-how. So we are hosting their data for those ones that have data, for those ones that have solutions that they need to host instead of going to the AWS of this world, they can host it here in our data centre.
So, that is the heartbeat of the whole transformation, the data centre. Now what’s next is to say, how do we connect all our offices? I was amazed when I came down here two years ago to see that the type of technology we are using in our connectivity is actually one of the best in the world.
Where I was coming from, we have to go through satellite, satellite is much cheaper. It has a very large latency. Latency means the speed at which the signal passes, so I was impressed.
With this broadband life in Edo State, all the offices are connected with fibre optics; that means a lot. That means we have broadband presence in all our offices. So now we had to do what we call tech refresh, tech refresh in terms of technology over time the equipment start to degrade so the one we had before was actually out of life, we call it end of life.
We did an overall, a lot of money was spent on it and what that means is that we change all the active devices, all the cables by making everything brand new and that is why you can sit down in any government office today and you can do anything without actually stepping out of your office and the network will never blink because you are using a top notch equipment.
Before now, if there is a failure somewhere, you have to be running around to fix it, because you are working in the dark, but today right from where I’ m seated, from my phone I can check all my switches, all my routers, I can check data and I receive alert on my phone to know what is going on.
But how ease or difficult was it to move all your materials into the digital space?
That’s the power of technology. So from there, how do we now move our analogue into digital? So you have to convert whatever you have in analogue form to digital and that brought about the archiving system, that’s a document management system where you have to scan all your documents and put them in an archive and catalogue them in a format that it can be interrogated. So that was done, we scanned all the MDAs’ physical files and converted them to digital format and stored them in our data centre.
That must have been a lot of work to do?
Yes, a lot of work, actually it is in phases as we have phase one, two and three. We’ve done phases one and two, the phase three is to go to the local governments and replicate what we have done in the city centre.
Today you can sit down in your office and query the archive to get any form you want depending on the access level you have. Gone are those days when for a single file about three-four people will have a preview of what you are sending but today you are the only one allowed to see what you sending. So that brings a lot of security into our system and efficiency as well. All what I’ve been talking about is about e-governance, governing people, delivery service to the people using electronic platform.
What are some of the elements for the successful operation of this new E-Governance mode in Edo?
It contains a lot of things as you have to have the infrastructure on ground. But one key element of the entire E-Governance is the ERP, that’s Enterprise Resource Planning tools. That is the magic that automate all our physical processes, making them to be automated. So that ERP is called Edo Government.
It’s a customised proprietary to Edo State and I’m glad to tell you that Edo State is the first in the country that has deployed this.
In fact, last month we got an award in Abuja. Edo State was nominated and awarded as the Best ICT agency in the country. I was given a trade blazer award for distinguished award in recognition of my exemplary leadership in advancing digital governance.
Congratulation to the state and yourself for this hononur, but what is the implication for you and the state?
I wouldn’t have achieved this if not for the full support of my governor. He has been very supportive and like I tell my colleagues in other states that come to understudy us here, I pray for them to have a governor that is digitally inclined, that has the boldness and courage to lead.
That is the luck I have and I’m using it fully.
How many hours does it take to attend to a typical file given an instance from what you have designed in the system?
The E-Governance, EGOV has many advantages. You can work anywhere in the world. You can wake up in the middle of the night and still do your work. It does not have a time zone difference.
It’s always available, so it actually makes work and life balance at workplace. Now people can think about going on vacation, because you don’t have to carry files to your homes again.
The advantage is enormous. Now the speed of treating of file is just with the click of a button, that’s all, with the click of the button you are done, so it’s very fast. Normally, if you treat like 100 files in a day in the physical you can quadruple that in one hour under the E-Gov system.
How were you able to source for the workforce, train and equip them to achieve this instant success with your E-Gov and internet revolution?
There is no solution like this that survives anywhere in the world without private partnership, so you must have a good partner. The private sector works with us to ensure that this technology is watertight, it’s top notch, all the security features that’s needed are applied. Then we now go into adoption.
Changes is not easy, it’s normal that there will be some resistance. In Edo State we are very lucky because an average Edo man is enlightened, that’s one advantage and we also have our digital Head of service, the youngest, vibrant, eloquent, digital Head of service, Anthony Okungbowa Esq., who actually is championing the adoption and he ensures that everybody keys into His Excellency Directive.
He made sure that September 1st cut-off date was actually achieved. So you can imagine the amount of energy that we put in to go through all the MDA’s physically to bring them on board in terms of training, in term of giving them tools to work with.
That was the strategy, it was a strategy that worked for us. We also have a team called E-Gov Champions, these are civil servants, because we believe that civil servants can talk to themselves better. Based on His Excellency directive, we were able to pull out some smart civil servants that we call E-Gov Champions and these once actually helped us to drive it and it has been working for us.
What are some of the other mandates of your agency?
Edo State again has deployed what we call Digital Identity Card, so many states have tried in the past and they failed. Our approach is quite different, it’s quite technical and its fault proof.
We are rolling out what we call Residency Identification Number, this is a unique number that every resident and Edo citizen will have and you have that number from birth till death.
One way or the other you must have interaction with the government, so this is the number the government will need to use to identify you and we also use it as a wallet. For example, if the government wants to compensate or carry out social intervention, this will help to streamline that.
To make sure that government’s intervention gets to the right people and also we want to know who we have in the state, where they are and what they are doing in our state. That’s data and this helps us to collate the data, not for anything, but for government to be able to take precise decision in development and projects roll out. People have been coming to collect their cards, the cards are already out. So we are ramping up, making sure people know that it is existing and it’s for their own benefit. So you can trade with it because it has a wallet capability, it can be used for transactions.
The most interesting part for me now is the broadband penetration into Edo State today. I don’t know of any state that has gone as far as Edo State has gone in terms of fibre optic penetration. Now we have deployed fibre optics to all the 18 local government councils.
As I speak with you, four is already up and running. Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Iguobazuwa and Okada are already up and running and that is how in the next one or two weeks, all the local governments will be covered.
It’s a lot of work and you have to have a focused governor like our governor to actually face this, and what is that bringing on the table?
It is bringing innovation from our youths, you don’t need to come from Afuze to Benin to do your coding because what these youths need is just connectivity. They need this facility in their environment and from there they can do magic, they can develop solutions that address some of our problem in Edo State and that is the beauty of technology.
We have free Wi-Fi in some strategic locations, this free Wi-Fi is for the public to be able to tap into it, and we call it all inclusive E-Governance.
We started from Benin City but we are extending all the way, once the fibre is lit up then we start to deploy and that is just phase one.
In Phase two of it we are connecting 48 schools across the three senatorial districts, we have done all the paperwork, survey and everything is ready to go. Then there is the primary healthcare. Today health care is very important and there’s always shortage of doctors whether you like it or not, it’s the truth but how do we maximise?
There are technology that ensures that you are open to not only the doctors within your vicinity but the doctor anywhere in the world. So you don’t need to travel all the way from Igarra to Benin because you want to see a doctor, but with technology you can do E-Clinic.
Let’s say for example you have a son or daughter abroad and he or she knows that you need some medical attention he can connect you virtually with the doctor in the US or Indian and they will do their diagnosis remotely.
There’s a whole lot that His Excellency has done in the technology space.
Is this whole process funded by the state government alone or in conjunction with the private sector?
No, we have in the area of capacity development the World Bank supporting us, we have the Tech for Dev supporting us and many others. We have CSI Customer Relationship, they gave us some bandwidth without paying anything for it in some of our schools and other locations. It might not be in direct cash but they support us by just giving us the facility to use and they bear the cost.
Given the technology creative hub in the state, what is your level partnership with the tech environment that the governor talks about?
The tech hub that we have within our ecosystem has been connected because two things are very important in tech; you need power and you need connectivity. With Ossiomo getting to these locations and we also delivering the fibre optic I think we are good to go.
In terms of capacity development training, we have Decagon partnering with us, they are one of the world leading software development companies. The idea is to develop top notch software developers and sell them to the world. Some of them have graduated and are doing very well in their various places of work. You don’t need to travel to US to earn in dollars, they’re working right here and they are earning good salaries.
In what ways have all these impacted the economy of the state?
First of all, it is to let Edolites know that all the basic things they need to unleash their technological Know-how has been provided by governor. It is now for them to use them positively, that’s why we have free Wi-Fi in some locations across the state and that is why we are also providing the space for them in our data centre.
So that they can host their applications or their software, after going through all the checks that we need to check to make sure that there’s no compromise and there’s no litigation that is hiding somewhere.
We host them instead of them paying to AWS in dollars we can give them a pilot for six months for them to see then we can charge something little but you have to be an Edolite or a business in Edo.
Are the people aware of the availability of this service?
Yes, we need to do more publication, a lot of talk needs to be done on that. Awareness is required, you know seeing is believing. So I’m working with the Commissioner for Digital Economy, Technology and Science, who is very good in that space so the message is already going out and more will go out.
So where do they need to go to or do they need to come to your office to apply?
The world has gone digital, so the youth of these days actually are in love with their phones, so very soon we’re going to roll out our website, Edo State website and it’s top notch where everybody can go to get any information you want to get.
So they will be able to reach us. We can do every discussion once they are ready and we give them the link.
What is the plan to sustain this noble revolution beyond the life this administration?
One thing that is very necessary is sustainability. This is technology and most technology equipment has five years span. They may not die but they start to degrade, so there must be that provision to ensure that they are always refreshed.
In this part of the world maintenance is a challenge and you know everything government and solely government there is no total ownership and that kills projects. One of the key things is to ensure that there is a legal framework, solid legal framework to make sure that what is being done cannot be reverted overnight and even if it’s going to be reverted the people will fight back.
You have to institutionalise it, we had to put the technology ownership in the hands of the people and that is why in the local government deployment infrastructure is going to be co-owned by the local government and the state so that there will be security, visibility and accountability.
There must be a solid private partnership put in place because government doesn’t have business running business, so give it to the people that know how to do it best and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
I know people will say MoU again and that is the language the private people understand before they can put their money on the table. Once you sign the MoU, you can just go to bed and rest, the terms and condition will always be kept so it’s a whole lot.
How fulfilled are you given all that your agency has achieved under your watch?
Talking personally for myself, I feel fulfilled in the sense that when I got the call to come and serve my state, it has always been my father’s dream that one of his children will come back home because we were all born in the West.
I actually had to drop everything I was doing to come but at a point when the water was a bit rough, I kept asking myself, why did I come here?
But now I can see why I feel fulfilled being awarded the best ICT agency in Nigeria gladdens my heart. When I took over, I took over an ICT agency that was about to go through a rigorous exercise called transformation.
I want to use this opportunity to thank my team because they were strong, courageous, they stood by me throughout and were able to sustain the momentum before we started bringing in fresh people. So this award is for them, it’s for the people of Edo state and for my governor.
What message do you have for Edolites?
I want to say to Edo people you have a great opportunity, especially for the youths, an opportunity to unleash your technology know-how, an opportunity for you to channel those negative things they know us for into positive. You do not need to travel abroad to earn dollars as these tools, but to use this infrastructure that we put together for you to the fullness and God will bless you.