The need to boost broadband penetration from its present coverage of 37.8 per cent to over 70 per cent in the next five years is the pedestal for the new National Broadband Plan:2020-2025, according to Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.
Besides this, the Minister said, pervasive broadband penetration will certainly make Nigeria a truly digital economy.
He spoke on Tuesday at the inauguration of a 25-member committee in Abuja.
The new NBP 2020-2025 is sequel to the first NBP 2013-2018.
The new NBP Committee has Funke Opeke, Managing Director/CEO of Main One Cable Company Limited, as Chairperson, with Dr. Bashir Gwandu as Co-Chairman.
Engr. Ubale Maska, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission, is the Secretary to the Committee.
Maska will be supported by four staff of the Ministry in the secretariat.
The Committee is to develop a new National Broadband Plan that will be the guiding template for the development of this very important area of telecommunications.
The Committee is to take a critical look at where the country is after a painstaking review of the 2013-2018 phase and the status of penetration now.
The members are enjoined to also examine the challenges with a view to proffering solutions thereto.
They should also look at the position of growing and emerging technologies among others.
The new NBP has the collaboration and support of the United Kingdom Government.
The inauguration of the new Committee was a follow-up to the launch of the National Policy for Digital Economy and Strategy by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2019.
The Policy has eight pillars, among which are Developmental Regulation, Digital Literacy and Skills, Solid Infrastructure, Service Infrastructure, Digital Services Development and Production, Digital Society, Emerging Technologies and Indigenous Content Development.
The Minister told the Committee members to lay emphasis on the third pillar of the National Policy, which accommodates broadband and data centre, key components for economic growth and promotion of digital economy.
The Committee’s work, Pantami explained, will address significantly one of the eight pillars and the remaining seven will also run as one of this all-important pillar.
He said: “The work of this Committee will go a very long way in supporting the national digital economic policy and strategy for the Federal Government because digital economy is strategically dominating the world economy today.”
According to Pantami, members of the Committee were selected based on their competence, integrity and professionalism, adding: “In all these, Nigeria comes first.”
Opeke, who responded on behalf of the committee, thanked the Minister for the opportunity to serve and said the target of the committee is to achieve at least 65 per cent to 70 per cent broadband penetration across Nigeria in the next five years, adding that the objective is technology neutrality for the right purpose.
“The Minister has set the goal and I am sure the NCC is in agreement,” Opeke said, adding: “We will look at the work of the last Committee and what was done, the prospects, the challenges that are still there in order to come up with a plan to achieve the set objectives.
“I believe the objective is achievable with sincerity of purpose and with hard work for these are critical services and infrastructure that we need to bring to all Nigerians and we’re optimistic that we can accomplish that goal.
“There is work to be done on fixed infrastructure but the reality is mobile technologies are also progressing quite fast to deliver very capable services to people.
“We see what is going on with 5G all over the world, so we will address both at the Committee but I believe our objective is not to favour one technology over another but to figure out how we can get those critical services to many more Nigerians.
“So, we’ll be a mix of technologies but the objective is not to favour one technology over another or to be prescriptive but the right technology for the right purpose, the most competitive technology that enables us to deliver services to all Nigerians.”
Earlier in his goodwill message, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said broadband infrastructure remains one of the top priorities of the International Telecommunications Union to ensure people around the world have access to equitable and affordable broadband, wherever they are and whatever the circumstances they are in.
With adequate broadband infrastructure in place, Danbatta assured that everything else will fall into place.
“The ability to deliver healthcare, best quality education even to generations unborn, ability to streamline transportation, meet up with Sustainable Development Goals and the ability to transform the economy into a digital one,” he said, pledging the commitment of the Board and Management of NCC, especially in the area of driving the infrastructure that will ensure that critical mass of ICT adoption in use will in time increase the level of broadband penetration in the country.
Besides Opeke, Gwandu and Maska, the 25-member Committee also has representatives from the academia, NCC, Galaxy Backbone, MTN, Google, Nigeria Internet Registration Association, Defence Space Administration, National Financial Intelligence Unit, National Information Technology Development Agency, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, Nigeria Computer Society and GSM Association, among others.