“Broadband penetration target of 30 per cent by 2018 presents the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, with opportunity to write his name in the annals of history, especially now it seems the ICT University agenda is in limbo”.
A group known as Broadband 2018 Coalition recently expresses their indifference to the slow implementation of the broadband policy target of 2018 and they are right.
Broadband has become pervasive, making it as relevant as other social amenities. Yes, the world as we know it is changing at a dizzying speed. Advances in Information and telecommunication technology (ICT) is a major cause in the changes businesses are all forced to adapt to or perish.
Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, in a keynote address delivered at the 2015 Hays Press-Enterprise lecture at the University of California, Riverside titled Journalism’s Big Move: What to Discard, Keep, and Acquire in Moving From Print to Web” highlighted the changes and disruption that are the hallmarks of the last 12 years:
- High-speed broadband became pervasive only in 2004, 2005, making possible the communications we take for granted today. It allowed photos to load fast and instant viewing of videos — and it allows mobile connection to the web.
- Google didn’t go public until 2004. Today, there are more than 3 billion searchesa day on Google.
- Facebook was founded in 2004. Now it has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.
- YouTube was founded in 2005. More than 1 billion people now visit YouTube each month.
- Twitter was founded in 2006. A half-billion tweets are sent every day
- Kindle was introduced in 2007. Three in10 Americans now read an e-book
- Apple introduced the iPhone in June, 2007. Today 2 billion people worldwide use smartphones.
- Instagram was founded in 2009.
- Whatsapp was founded in 2009 and last year was sold for $19 billion to Facebook.
- The iPad was introduced in January, 2010.
- Snapchat wasn’t launched until 2011. It’s now valued at $10 billion or more.
Baron concludes thus: “If this pace of change unnerves you, there is no consolation. Things will only get faster. And for those who resist the change rather than embrace it, there will be no forbearance or forgiveness. Their destiny is to be pushed aside and forgotten”.
It is very common for those in places of authority to quickly tell you that Nigeria is moving ahead with the pursuit of the broadband vision of 30 per cent penetration by 2018. In fact, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) puts the current penetration rate at 20.95 per cent from 14 per cent in 2016 and 10 per cent in 2014
The incremental growth presupposes that there have been more investments by operators. But, it appears, Broadband 2018 Coalition thinks otherwise.
Worried about the slow rollout of broadband infrastructure across Nigeria, the advocacy group, has called on the Federal Government to expedite the implementation of the country’s five year broadband plan that was developed and submitted by the presidential committee on broadband in 2013.
In a media chat on Monday in Lagos, technology expert and convener of the coalition, Engr. Danjuma Yusuf, affirmed that broadband has played an outsized role in transforming societies and economic opportunities across the world, facilitating education and knowledge dissemination, enabling trade and commerce and contributing to growing entrepreneurship across the world.
The expert and Technology advocate urged that the five-year National Broadband Plan (2013-2018) should be speedily and diligently implemented to spur economic growth and help Nigeria prepare for a post-oil economy without further delay.
Broadband is even more important to Nigeria
He reiterated the position of the Minister, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, Mr. Bolaji Akinremi, who had said that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is key to Nigeria’s quest towards attaining a sustainable development by 2030 when he delivered Nigeria’s statement on ‘ICT for Development’ at the UN General Assembly.
The statistics that queries NCC’s figure
Yusuf also noted that Nigeria has declined on the broadband adoption and internet use index: Affordability Drivers Index (ADI), ranking 13th place (out of 58 countries surveyed) from 12th place ranking Nigeria earned in the 2015-16 Index in the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4aI) 2017 report.
Danjuma expressed concern at this decline, reiterating the fact that every 10 per cent increase in broadband growth in developing countries, results in a commensurate increase of 1.3 per cent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and stressed the criticality now that Nigeria is trying to come out of a recession.
He raised concerns about the implementation status of the National Broadband Plan and wondering why the government has provided no updates on their plans.
The National Broadband plan was developed by a Presidential Committee chaired by the National Coordinator, A4AI Nigeria and former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe and Zenith Bank Chairman, Jim Ovia, supported by major Information Technology (IT) industry players from within and outside Nigeria.
Recently, the Federal Government secretly reconstituted Nigeria National Broadband Council, with only notable industry player on the council. It is rather ridiculous that the list, however did not have any telecommunications operator in the country or industry association such as Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) among others as members of the council.
This was as against the practice in the old council membership where telecommunications operators and representatives of ATCON, ALTON and others were members.
The present scenario raises doubt over the ability of the council to supervise effectively the implementation of the national broadband plan to achieve 30 per cent broadband penetrative by 2018 without the people that will implement the policy.
According to the chairman of ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, the critical industry players should be members of the council otherwise it will be more of an advisory council than implementation council. “The object of the council is to make things happen and it is operators that can make things happen, they are the ones that understand the challenges of the industry in terms of providing broadband services in the country”.
Adebayo who was a member of the defunct Council said that “If operators were not carried along there is the tendency that the council will loss vital information in the process of writing report for the implementation of the broadband plan. We as operators will cooperate with them to ensure that the objectives of the plan are realized, but, the ideal practice would have been to involve operators as members of the council just like the old council,” he said.
National Broadband council sees to the implementation of National Broadband plan; the council plays a supervisory role in the implementation of the plan. Although, the council does not implement, implementations are done by operators, various ministries as well as Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, we believe, should cease this golden opportunity to salvage the situation and at least focus on broadband now that it seems the ICT University agenda is in limbo.