NCC CEO, Eugene Juwah
By Emma Okonji
The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the implementation of the next phase of its five-year strategic management plan (SMP) will further deepen telecoms infrastructure deployment in the country.
USPF recently came up with a new SMP that would facilitate universal access to communications and applications services from 2013 to 2017.
At a recent stakeholders’ consultative forum organised by USPF Board in Lagos, it unfolded plans of the Fund to deepen Information and Communications Technology (ICT) penetration for the country in the next five years, beginning from 2013, and gave opportunity for stakeholders’ contribution of ideas that would be considered for the five-year plan.
USPF is an arm of NCC, saddled with the responsibility of providing funds for the rollout of ICT infrastructures in the country, especially in rural areas.
In 2007, the USPF Board developed a five-year strategic management plan to guide activities of the USPF from 2007 to 2011, which was developed in consultation with industry stakeholders, where it specified five key goals for providing universal access to voice and data services across Nigeria.
The expiration of the first strategic management plan in 2011, prompted the USPF Board to embark on another five-year plan to drive its operations and services delivery for the given period.
KPMG, a consulting firm to USPF, gave detailed information on how USPF would achieve the five-year strategy plan.
Senior Manager, Management Consulting for KPMG, Mrs. Retuned Kane, revealed that the fund would be coming out with three major programmes aimed at achieving the strategic management plan. They include Research Study and Survey, Awareness Creation, and Subsidy Incentives.
According to her, USPF would carry out a research study in rural and underserved communities to find out the difficulties they face with ICT penetration, with a view to finding a lasting solution to identified challenges. It would also create awareness campaign on the need to deepen broadband and ICT infrastructure penetration in underserved and unserved areas.
The essence, she said, was “to identify areas of market efficiency gap and access gap, and seek ways to close such gaps.”
Most stakeholders, who applauded the initiative, came up with useful suggestions.
Chief Executive of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, said he wanted USPF to consider the policies that will drive the development of local content, which he said, would boost ICT penetration in the country.
Publisher of Technology Times, Mr. Shina Badaru, called for proper audit of the of USPF activities and earlier projects and demanded explanation for the challenges faced with the Wire Nigeria (WIN) project, which seeks to provide fibre optic connectivity to every nook and crannies of the country.
Other suggestions from stakeholders, were the need to design solutions that would be used to engage youths that are involved in online fraud, as well as including youth empowerment in the five-year strategic plan.
Chairman of USPF, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, who is the Minister of Communication, said the forum would provide stakeholders with the opportunity to make inputs that would define the direction of the Fund’s activities over the next five years.
USPF Secretary, Mr. Abdullahi Maikano, while responding to questions and suggestions raised by stakeholders, assured Nigerians that the decision of the stakeholders’ forum would form part of the five-year plan.