Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson
By Amaka Eze
Having ubiquitous internet capacity and a national backbone that can provide critical ICT infrastructure has become as important as having adequate water and transportation in today’s globally-connected world.
The suggestion was made by the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, who spoke at the Nigerian Broadband Forum organised by the Nigerian Communications commission (NCC) recently in Lagos.
At the forum, which had a theme ‘Demand as Catalyst for Broadband Services in Nigeria’, Johnson stated that broadband, which has the potential to enable an entire new and significant industry, must be strategically handled like the mobile telephony for greater impact.
According to her, “The emerging trend in Information Communications Technology (ICT) across the globe shows broadband penetration to be yet the unconquered territory in the sector especially in most of the developing countries, thus the need for aggressive handling, to boost efficiency in public safety, government and citizen interaction, education and healthcare provision, as well as the overall organisation and dissemination of knowledge.
“Broadband and its universal access is becoming a significant indicator of development and competitiveness amongst nations. Empirical data tells us that every 10 per cent in access to broadband in every developing countries result in a commensurate 1.38 per cent increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“These compelling statistics should provide the impetus to meet broadband demand, and if the demand is not there, create that demand. Nigeria prides itself on a telecoms revolution that catapulted us from 400,000 subscribers to over 90 million subscribers today.
“We must deplore every strategy and essential ingredient used to achieve the success story of the penetration of mobile telephony as in the case of the delivery of broadband services in Nigeria,” she said.
On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who decried the low penetration of broadband in Africa and Nigeria in particular, said that the current figure of penetration could prevent the country from attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Stating that the availability of broadband remains infinitesimal in the country, despite the fact that consumption needs for ICT products are so vast, he said.
“Broadband penetration is estimated to be less than 2 per cent in Nigeria, while the average broadband penetration in Africa is estimated at about 4 per cent; this is worrisome if the country is to be among the knowledge economy by 2020.
“Thus, the commission hopes to make a regulatory to take technology to the larger segment of the Nigerian society by creating environment and incentives for private sector participation”, he added.
Juwah held that proper penetration of broadband in Nigeria will engender the growth of highly skilled workforce, engender global competence in industrial and service firms driven by ICT tools, as well as facilitation the growth of modern ICT driven education sector.
He said, “The commission through this forum, wants to reaffirm its commitment to broadband penetration in Nigeria, and dialogue on possible opportunities that can excite the market.
“The Commission’s initiative will entail developing a new broadband policy that would foster access to facility, and make appropriate regulatory intervention like the minister has said in order to address the present low broadband rate and make access to broadband cheaper and affordable.
“We will also continue to create an enabling environment for private sector participation and robust investment in the broadband ecosystem to fast-track penetration,” he said.