• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Broadband: FG assures bridging of infrastructure deficit

FG urges state governors to prioritise broadband penetration to boost GDP

The Federal Government on Wednesday assured that policy directions and regulatory measures are being put in place to facilitate increased access to the Internet by citizens across the country.

Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, and Umar Danbatta, executive vice-chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), gave the assurance in their presentations during the recently-concluded virtual African Internet Governance Forum 2021 (vAFIGF2021).

Pantami, who was represented at the forum by a director at NCC, who doubles as adviser to the minister on technical matters, Sahalu Junaidu, said the objective of the forum was to harness digital technology and innovation, transform societies and economies, and eradicate poverty for social and economic development in Africa.

The minister said with the challenges thrown up by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for internet services has increased dramatically. He called on African citizens to access the broadband/internet services to carry out their personal and official task more effectively and effectively.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the increased need to embrace the digital culture. So, as Africans, one of the ways by which we can respond to the challenge thrown by the pandemic is to accelerate our digital transformation,” he said.

Pantami explained that the digital transformation strategy for Africa should be established on key foundational pillars which include an enabling environment, policy regulation, digital infrastructure, digital skills and human capacity, as well as digital innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Read also: NCC sets new mobile International Termination Rate for voice services at N18.46

He said “critical sectors such as digital trade and financial services, digital government, digital education, digital health, and digital agriculture, are also underlining pillars of the transformation. The drivers of digital transformation include digital content and applications, digital identification, emerging technology, cyber security, privacy and personal data protection, as well as research and development.”

The minister recalled that Internet usage in sub-Saharan Africa is still not encouraging, according to report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank. However, the minister asserted that Nigeria, with its current over 140 million Internet users, has one of the largest subscriptions in the sub-region.

The minister said the various policies, including the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030), and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, are in place to address infrastructure challenges and enhance the country’s migration to a more robust digital economy, will also ensure that more citizens are able to have access to the Internet in the coming years.

He mentioned the recent successful auction of 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band for the scheduled deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) networks as another important policy and strategic step taken by the Nigerian government to boost broadband penetration in the country.

Meanwhile, Al- Hassan Haru, the director of new media and information security, NCC, who represented Danbatta at the forum, reiterated the commission’s commitment to ensuring broadband penetration through stimulating continuous roll-out of broadband infrastructure. He said the commission is well-positioned to drive government policy direction to tackle digital infrastructure deficit in the telecoms sector, as well as to explore necessary options to improve the nation’s digital ecosystem.

“The future is digital, and we should be committed to supporting and collaborating with African countries to maximise opportunities inherent in digital technologies. We should also be ready to avoid the pitfalls by instituting appropriate regulations as we are doing in NCC,” he added.