• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Digitally excluded Nigerians drop from 40m to 15m

NCC refute report of N17bn deficit in 2021 budget

The number of digitally excluded Nigerians has dropped from 40 million to 15 million people as communities in the country without digital access nosedived from 217 to 112, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

This has been made possible by the construction of 250 kilometres of Backbone Transmission infrastructure (BTRAIN), 72 Rural Broadband Initiative (RUBI) projects, 1,334 School Knowledge Centres (SKCs), 192 community resource centres (CRCs), development and deployment of 218 of local content for E-Learning, and 74 information resource centres (E-Library).

Umar Danbatta, executive vice-chairman of NCC, who disclosed this emphasised that telecoms infrastructure deployment across rural communities in Nigeria was at the heart of every effort of the government towards ensuring the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

Nigeria already has about 40,000 unique transceiver stations and their characteristics as enablers of 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies make them unique. However, Danbatta said this figure was inadequate for a country with Nigeria’s size and population. The United Kingdom, with less population, according to him, has over 60,000 such stations.

To improve Nigeria’s broadband infrastructure, NCC has divided Nigeria into seven zones, consisting of the existing six constitutional geopolitical divisions, and Lagos constituting the seventh, considering the importance of Lagos as a strategic commercial and technological hub within the structure of Nigeria’s telecom ecosystem.

“The NCC has proceeded to license companies for each of the seven zones, to deploy broadband infrastructure that will ensure speed of up to 25 megabits per second in the rural areas. Each of the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria will have an initial access point of, at least, 10 megabits per second,” Danbatta said.

The vision of the Federal Government as explained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030), and the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) is being implemented.

Explaining the connection between these policies and NCC’s operations, Danbatta stated that the NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, streamlined in the Commission’s Strategic Vision Plan (2021-2025) to enhance operational and regulatory efficiency, is aligned with the Federal Government’s vision for an all-inclusive digital economy.

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Also, to demonstrate NCC’s readiness to race at the same tempo with the Federal Government as contained in the policy documents, Danbatta stated that the licensed companies, otherwise known as Infrastructure Companies (Infracos), have been directed to move to site to distribute broadband infrastructure to the hinterland.

Although there is timeframe for the implementation of these projects, including the building of specialised technology centres in the rural areas to enable stakeholders to harness huge benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the Commission expects the Infracos to demonstrate a creditable level of deployment in the cities and discharge the burden of proof of the existence of access points in LGAs in the next five months.

Otherwise, the commission may have “to take firm regulatory decisions” in the interest of the Nigerian people and start-ups, who have been waiting for the deployment of rural tech solutions to make contributions to the growth of the economy by exploring derivable benefits that accrue from a digitised economy.

According to Danbatta, one of the benefits of digital economy that NCC has collaborated with stakeholders to bring to fruition, is in the area of digital inclusion, where NCC has been collaborating with stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure the target of 80 percent digital inclusion is achieved within the timeframe.

“The importance of ‘Town-Gown’ collaboration cannot be overemphasized and as communities and universities confront the increasingly complex social and physical pressures, there is need for effective alignment between these two entities to maximize local resources, knowledge acquisition and efforts towards facilitating the deployment of ICT infrastructure to the rural communities,” Danbatta said.

The level of ICT adoption and usage in rural areas is low, compared to the rate of adoption in urban centres. This challenge, Danbatta attributed partly to the inadequacy of ICT infrastructure, cost of ICT infrastructure deployment, and electricity challenges.

Despite being Africa’s largest ICT market, and a dominant player in the sector, Nigeria still accounts for a sizable percentage of the 1 billion world population of unconnected people. However, NCC is driving the implementation of an ambitious infrastructure project to ensure that the unconnected population of the country is given the opportunity for digital inclusion. This explains NCC’s frontline role in driving improvement in communications infrastructure in the rural communities where the majority of the digitally-excluded segment of the population resides.

The foregoing, according to Danbatta, is the reason the Commission has partnered and collaborated with all relevant stakeholders, as well as explored cooperation through several discussions with both state and non-state actors to give expression to its commitment to strategic collaboration and partnership.

“The commission will continue to engage appropriate stakeholders and explore necessary uptakes towards improving all infrastructure that support the digital economy, particularly expansion projects in rural areas because rural infrastructure deployment is central to bridging the digital divide in Nigeria,” Danbatta said. The number of digitally included Nigerians has increased by 62.5 percent, with over 20 million people digitally included. This is one of the results of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) interventions to bridge the digital divide.

The decline in the number of excluded Nigerians follows the reduction in the number of communities without digital access from 217 to 112.