The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy working with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) set an ambitious target when they projected that by 2025 Nigeria would have attained 70 per cent broadband penetration.
This target is striking because currently, broadband penetration stands at 37 per cent, consequently tasking the Ministry to more than double broadband penetration in the next five years.
As with all progressive policies and plans, there are those who conclude prematurely that things would not work or change.
The same goes for the pessimistic remarks made recently by a prominent member of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) who stated that the 2025 target was dead on arrival, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that policymakers have what it takes to achieve the target this time.
The 70 per cent penetration target is clearly achievable especially when we consider that even with lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Per Capita Income, Kenya and Rwanda have far more impressive broadband penetration figures than Nigeria.
Though both countries are smaller than Nigeria in landmass and population, with consistent policy implementation and a deep desire to gain the economic benefits of pervasive broadband, they have achieved high broadband uptake in both countries. At present, broadband penetration stands at circa 89 per cent and 70 per cent in Kenya and Rwanda respectively.
This is a clear indication of the broadband possibilities that lie ahead in Nigeria if only the right plans could be put in place. It is important to note that from about 425,000 analogue phone lines in 2001, less than two decades later, the country recorded over 180 million Mobile (GSM) lines in October 2019, according to NCC data.
The reason for this success is due to the policies put in place to encourage telecoms growth, which the market embraced to drive these developments. On this basis, it is therefore myopic to suggest that the same population with proficient hands at the helm, is incapable of meeting this new five-year broadband target.
It is also worthy to note that ALTON has representation on the National Broadband Plan Committee which has been tasked to deliver the plan to meet the 70 per cent target by the Government. The plan is a sequel to the first NBP 2013 – 2018. So, it is indeed curious on whose behalf and to what benefit these disparaging statements are being made.
The CEO of MainOne, Ms Funke Opeke, who has exhibited passion and demonstrated capacity for enabling a digital and connected West Africa, heads the Committee as the Chairperson.
Others on the team are Engineer Ubale Maska who is Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
He will serve as the Secretary to the Committee. Maska will be supported by four staff of the Ministry in the secretariat. The Committee also boasts membership from MTN, ATCON, ALTON, NCS and other distinguished experts.
As part of its mandate, the Committee is to take a critical look at where Nigeria stands in terms of broadband penetration with a view to accelerating progress. What is even more interesting is that the new NBP has the support of the United Kingdom (UK) Government and the Committee has set a target of Q1 2020 for release of the plan.
While speaking at the inauguration of the Committee, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami pointed out that “the work of the Committee will go a very long way in supporting the national digital economic policy and strategy for the Federal Government because digital economy is strategically dominating the World economy today.”
On her part, Ms Opeke who responded on behalf of the Committee thanked the Minister for the opportunity to serve and said the target of the Committee is to achieve at least 65-70 per cent broadband penetration across Nigeria in the next five years.
“The Minister has set the goal and I am sure the NCC is in agreement,” an obviously elated Ms Opeke said.
According to data gathered from the NCC, the telecoms industry’s contribution to GDP has maintained consistent growth in the past seven years growing from 7.7 per cent in 2002 to 11.39 per cent in Q2, 2019.
The industry can contribute much more considering that pervasive broadband will lead to quantum leaps in productivity and improvements in activities including security, transportation management, health care, job creation among others. The World Bank studies show that emerging countries can expect a growth of over 1.3 per cent in GDP for every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration.
[An award-winning data journalist, Ejiro is Manager, Communications Strategy & Research at Caritas PR]