Gbolade Bankole, PMP and VDT Communications Limited
Number of Hours Pledged: 1,000
SDGs Supported: #4 Quality Education, # 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Summary: Students at the Federal University of Lafia and nearby Nasarawa State University, Keffi in Nigeria have long struggled to complete their assignments without reliable internet access. “To do their research, some were traveling to the Federal Capital Territory Abuja,” 43 miles (70 kilometers) away, says Gbolade Bankole, PMP, senior network engineer at VDT Communications Ltd.
That’s a big barrier to the kind of inclusive and equitable quality education promised in U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 4. And the issue of affordable, reliable, high-speed internet access isn’t limited to Nigeria’s students. Approximately 25 million people in the country don’t have access to basic phone service—much less the internet, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the nation’s telecom regulatory authority. And only 6.6 percent of the rural population has online access with “good” quality and functionality, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).
Looking to close the digital divide, Bankole and other PMI Hours for Impact volunteers came together to launch a project that would “provide the opportunity to touch lives and make an impact.” The team began pitching in to bring high-speed broadband access to students, as well as government institutions and locals through the Rural Broadband Initiative. Launched by the NCC and Universal Service Provision Fund in 2010, the project provides subsidies to operators to establish broadband services for rural and semi-urban areas across the country.
As volunteers began work at the Nasarawa site, their main challenge was finding a location for internet hotspots that could deliver coverage for the university, nearby government institutions and the state broadcasting station, Bankole says. But the team devised a clever solution: “We used the Google Earth app to help us analyze a technical site survey,” he explains. They leaned into innovation in other ways, too. For example, when the team couldn’t lease a particular building that fit its parameters, it constructed a purpose-built bungalow for the project in just two months.