After the expiration of the National Broadband Plan 2013-2018, which was set up by the Goodluck Jonathan led federal government and elevated broadband penetration in Nigeria from meager 9 percent to over 30 percent as of this year, another National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, was yesterday initiated by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.
Inaugurating the 25- member committee that would be in charge of the plan in Abuja, Dr. Pantami said the need to boost broadband penetration from its present coverage of 37.8 percent to over 70 percent in the next five years, necessitated the new plan, adding that pervasive broadband penetration will certainly make Nigeria a truly digital economy.
The Minister explained that the Committee members will lay emphasis on the third pillar of the National Policy for Digital Economy and Strategy, which accommodates broadband and data centre, key components for economic growth and promotion of digital economy. The Committee’s work, according to him, will address significantly one of the eight pillars and the remaining seven will also run as one of this all-important pillar.
“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 the digital economy is strategically dominating the world economy today,” he said.
The National Policy for Digital Economy and Strategy 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 new NBP Committee has Ms. 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 (NCC) as 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 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 (UK) Government.
In her response, Chairman of the Committee, Ms. Funke Opeke, on behalf of the committee thanked the Minister for the opportunity to serve, stressing that the target of the committee is to achieve, at least, 65-70 percent 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. 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,” she said.
The MainOne boss noted that the objective of the National Broadband Plan 2020-2015 is achievable with sincerity of purpose and with hard work, emphasizing that broadband is a critical service that all Nigerians need.
Meanwhile, 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 (ITU) 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 health care, best quality education, even to generations unborn, ability to streamline transportation, meet up with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 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 Ms. Opeke, Gwandu and Maska, 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.