To achieve increased broadband penetration after the just ended 2013-2018 target, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, on Monday, inaugurated the Nigerian National Broadband Plan Committee for the development of the 2020-2025 target for Nigeria.
The 28-member committee chaired by the CEO, MainOne, Funke Opeke, was drawn from both public and private sectors.
It was unveiled in Abuja at a five-day technical retreat for the zero draft of the national broadband plan for 2020 to 2025.
Mr Pantami said the selection criteria were based on competence, integrity and professionalism and emphasised the importance of putting aside personal interest and upholding professionalism, integrity and objectivity in the discharge of the national assignment.
“Members of this important committee have been selected based on their competence, integrity, professionalism and many more,” he said. “That is why they are brought together to come and do this important assignment.”
“I want to encourage the committee to see to the interest of Nigeria as a priority. Whatever is deliberated upon should be only for Nigeria’s interest,” he said.
According to the minister, “the constitution of the committee was an effort to galvanise the growth of digital economy in consonance with the digital economic policy and strategy launched by President Muhammad Buhari earlier November, this year.”
He said on November 30, a letter of intent was signed with the UK government through the Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme, as part of efforts to draft the new National Broadband Plan “after little success was recorded on fixed broadband penetration in the 2013-2018 target.”
In 2016, Nigeria was projected to have a 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018 in its 2013-2018 National Broadband Plan but it exceeded the target and stood at 33.31 per cent at the end of June 2019.
According to data available on the website of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), prioritising mobile wireless broadband overshadowed efforts on increasing fixed broadband penetration which remains at 0.06 per cent in 2019.
Also, according to a report, the new broadband plan commenced almost a year after the previous plan ended ‘abysmally’ with billions of dollars in investment having been made by the government and private operators in the telecommunications sector.
Pantami also harped on the importance of increasing investment in fixed broadband penetration.
“Digital economy today is strategically dominating the world economy. According to Oxford Economics, the value of digital economy today is 11.5 trillion USD which is approximately 16 per cent of the world economy.
“According to world economic forum, by 2022, 60 per cent of the world economy will be digitalised. By 2030, almost 85 per cent of the world economy is going to be a digital economy because surely, digital economy is dominating the world.
“We cannot promote digital economy without broadband plan at our disposal. That is why we feel it is necessary after getting our national digital economic policy in place,” he said.
He said the government was working on an executive order to declare telecom infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructures.
He added that it had developed a framework to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country through the licensing of Infrastructure Companies (INFRACO).
“The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy under my watch is working hard to address the challenges of the telecommunications sector such as Right of Way (RoW), consideration of Telecom Infrastructures as Critical National Infrastructures among others,” he said.
On his part, the representative of the British High Commissioner in Nigeria, Guy Harrison, stressed the need for Nigeria to grow its digital economy as “world economy today is being driven by digital economy”.
“This is a very important sector. With communication technology taking the centre stage in the course, it has a huge potential to transform rapidly the nation’s economy from the heavily dominated oil economy,” he said.
Mr Harrison gave the assurance of the support of the United Kingdom government in helping Nigeria to galvanise growth in the sector though the partnership it entered into.
“We look forward to supporting Nigeria in her ambition in increasing broadband penetration by 2025,” he said.
The chairperson of the newly inaugurated committee, Opeke, also stressed the importance of increasing the broadband penetration to underserved and unserved areas in the county.
“The stakeholder is not us here in this room, it is the averaged young Nigerian person that has a future ahead which is implanted in the digital economy.
“The individual is not situated in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja; he is in the rural area who seeks access to internet.
“The internet access is one that should be afforded and available at all cost,” she said.
When concluded, the new National Broadband Plan is expected to reach a target of 65 to 66 per cent penetration from 2020 to 2025.