OrderPaperToday – The minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, has revealed that digital inclusion and broadband penetration from its present coverage of 37.8 percent to over 70 percent in the next five years is the basis for the new National Broadband Plan (NBP):2020-2025.

Speaking at the inauguration of a 25- member NBP committee in Abuja yesterday, Pantami noted that pervasive broadband penetration will make Nigeria a truly digital economy.

 

The new NBP 2020-2025, which has the collaboration and support of the United Kingdom (UK) Government, follows the first NBP 2013-2018.

 

The new NBP Committee has Funke Opeke, Managing Director/CEO of Main One Cable Company Limited, as chairperson, with Bashir Gwandu as co-chairman. Ubale Maska, the executive commissioner, Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the secretary to the Committee. Maska will be supported by four staff of the ministry in the secretariat.

 

The 25-member committee also has representatives from the academia, NCC, Galaxy Backbone, MTN, Google, Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Defence Space Administration, National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), GSM Association, among others.

 

The mandate of the Committee is to develop a new National Broadband Plan that will be the guiding template for the development of telecommunications. The committee will critically examine where the country is after painstaking review of the 2013-2018 phase and the status of penetration now. They will also look at the position of growing and emerging technologies among others.

 

The inauguration of the new committee is sequel 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.

 

In his remarks, the minister urged the committee members to focus on the third pillar of the National Policy which accommodates broadband and data centre, key components for economic growth and promotion of digital economy.

 

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. “In all these, Nigeria comes first.”

 

Responding, the chairperson of the Committee, Funke Opeke, thanked the minister for the opportunity to serve and declared that the target of the committee is to achieve, at least, 65-70 percent broadband penetration across Nigeria in the next five years, stressing that the objective is technology neutrality for the right purpose.

 

According to Opeke, “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.”

 

Meanwhile, the executive vice chairman of NCC, Umar Garba Danbatta, in his goodwill message, observed that broadband infrastructure remains one of the top priorities of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to ensure people around the world have access to equitable and affordable broadband, wherever they are and whatever the circumstances they are in.

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Damilola Zebulun Adeniran
Damilola is a multiple award-winning Writer, Researcher, and Community/Sustainable Development Practitioner. His interests and experience span across media, academics, human capital development, and strategic planning. Damilola is a Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellow. He is the first Nigerian in history to win the blog4dev writing contest organised by the World Bank Group. Also, Damilola's written work on violent extremism and sustainable peace in Nigeria won a PeaceWriteNow prize, presented by the Embassy of Ireland in June, 2018. His works have been published in Nigeria and the United States of America, in English and in French. Damilola has also attended important meetings within and outside the African continent including the 2019 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C, USA and the West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA) Marketplace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He was also a special guest on a panel discussion titled “How creative industry can help to stem fragility,” which was held at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C, USA. Furthermore, Damilola was selected as a Champion of Advocacy against extreme poverty and preventable diseases by ONE Campaign in May, 2019. An alumnus of the prestigious Lagos Business School and Federal University of Technology Akure, Damilola Adeniran represents Nigeria in the Youth Transforming Africa Program.

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