There is new ray of hope in efforts by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to rev up incremental broadband deployment for available, accessible and affordable connectivity to telecoms consumer.
One of the five pillars of the Commission’s Strategic Blueprint is the “Infrastructure” component, which focuses on broadband accessibility, availability and affordability.
Speaking at the 13th annual Nigeria ICT Impact CEO Forum/Africa Digital Award in Lagos, the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC, of the NCC, Dr. Aminu Maida, noted that the theme of the summit, “Broadband Availability and Potentials of Data Revolution” presents yet another opportunity for the Commission as the regulator of the nation’s telecommunication sector, to share thoughts and ideas with industry stakeholders concerning the prospects and challenges confronting our march to achieving ubiquitous broadband connectivity across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Maida, said the Agency’s Strategic Plan is designed to drive a major part of the overall implementation of the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu.
The EVC said that the Commission’s focus in the next four years and beyond under the current administration aligns strictly with the vision for the digital economy, as envisioned in the Strategic Plan of the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani.
The Strategic Blueprint, unveiled in October 2023 has five pillars and prioritizes deployment of broadband infrastructure and digital empowerment of 3 million Nigerian youths, among others.
Other pillars of the Ministerial strategic plan are Knowledge; Policy; Innovation/Entrepreneurship and Capital; and Trade.
The EVC, reassured his commitment to fully support the target of the Ministry to boost Nigeria’s broadband penetration rate to 70 per cent by the end of 2025 in line with the NNBP 2020-2025, through the laying of 95,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables across the country.
“In the same vein, and in line with the vision of the Ministry, we are targeting the provision of coverage of, at least, 80 per cent of the country’s population, especially the underserved and unserved populations by the end of 2027; we also intend to secure between 300-500 per cent increase in broadband investment by the end of 2027; while we work to reduce the gap of unconnected Nigerians in rural areas from 61 per cent to less than 20 per cent by 2027.
“Other key targets in the Strategic Plan of the Ministry, which has adopted a clear-cut strategy to transform Nigeria’s digital economy sector and which the NCC is committed to, include the plan to deliver data download speed of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas by the end of 2025; achieve a 50 per cent improvement in quality of service (QoS) by 2024; 22 per cent increase in net GDP contribution by digital economy by 2027 as well as increase in investment into Nigeria’s telecommunications sector by 15 per recent year-on-year.” he said.
The Ministerial blueprint he went on to say also targets 70 per cent digital literacy by 2027; a capital increase raised by Nigerian tech startups by 50 per cent year-on-year from $1 billion/year in 2022 to $5 billion/year in 2027; and achieving 25 per cent domiciliation of local technology startups by 2027.
Other expectations are to accomplish for Nigeria, 60 per cent government data digitization by the end of 2026; the creation of 50,000 Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry jobs by 2026 while also ensuring the accomplishment of 22 per cent net GDP contribution by 2027, among others.
Maida, states that studies by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and sundry international organizations have indicated a correlation between having access to broadband and the growth of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It has been abundantly established that countries with a high density of broadband networks have higher GDP per capita for the citizens. This is because broadband access becomes a key economic index for improving and measuring the efficiency and productivity of the national workforce.
An ITU Global Connectivity Report 2022, which provides a detailed assessment of the current state of connectivity and presents solutions to meet this new imperative, notes that: “In the last 30 years, the number of Internet users surged from a few million to almost five billion. Yet, the potential remains untapped because one-third of humanity remains offline, and many users only enjoy basic connectivity.”
The ITU Report further notes that universal connectivity remains a distant prospect, as Internet penetration has reached 95 per cent of the population in only 13 countries as of 2022. The report also reveals that in Nigeria and other African countries, Fourth Generation (4G) coverage in urban areas is four times the coverage in rural areas. This is partly because commercial deployment of Internet access is not currently viable or seen as viable in these areas, due to high deployment cost and/or low user demand.
The EVC recalled that globally and more importantly in Nigeria, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of a major surge and acceleration in the uptake of broadband and the adoption of digital services by individuals and businesses, the digitalization of governmental services in Nigeria and across the world.
“Most hitherto face-to-face activities have automatically migrated online with an accompanying quest for digital literacy by many to be able to continue to carry out their daily personal and official activities through digital platforms.
With skit-makers and other content creators delivering humorous and entertaining social content on the internet, data consumption has also significantly increased among social media users.” he added.
He said that as the regulator of the nation’s highly dynamic telecommunication industry, the NCC, has, over the years, put several regulatory frameworks in place towards ensuring incremental broadband deployment for available, accessible and affordable connectivity to telecoms consumer.
According to him, Post-pandemic, the NCC, working with various stakeholders has continued to explore ways to sustain the growth of broadband networks to address identified digital gaps (demand and supply sides) highlighted by the pandemic and consider steps to overcome these challenges especially in terms of addressing the digital divide.
He also noted that through various policy directions, especially the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, the Nigerian government has set out ambitious targets accompanied by timelines that aim towards making broadband an enabler of economic growth across all sectors in Nigeria.
Maida, stressed, “Although limited access to high-speed service, lack of advanced IT skills, funding, inadequate infrastructure among several other factors have been identified as the major constraints slowing Nigeria’s internet economy, Nigeria has demonstrated commitment and passion, through various policy and regulatory frameworks, to ensure wider broadband coverage for the country. This is because the data revolution presents great potential and opportunity for the socio-economic development of Nigeria.”
He therefore reiterated the commitment of the Commission to supporting the strategic blueprint of our supervising Ministry and the Renewed Hope Agenda of the current administration by stimulating stronger broadband infrastructure that extends beyond connecting people but also focuses on economic empowerment and creating opportunity for inclusion.
The current administration expects that with improved access to quality and affordable broadband, and upgraded critical services, we would be able to work collaboratively to catalyze a digital transformation that impacts our entire population and to achieve this potential, the NCC will continue to ensure diligent implementation of our broadband strategy to ensure that everybody is carried along.
“As a Commission, we will also ensure effective management of our spectrum resources as pathways for the growth of new and emerging technologies, improvement of businesses and seamless access to government services.” as he called on stakeholders to join hands with the Commission as it discharges its regulatory mandate towards building robust and resilient broadband infrastructure that supports the potential of the growing data revolution to drive our collective prosperity in Nigeria.