By Emma Okonji
The Nigerian ICT Impact Forum, a gathering of chief executives and other stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, has identified existing gaps in digital connectivity between the digitally connected and unconnected Nigerians.
They equally proffered solutions on how best to bridge this gaps, which they described as potential risk to economic growth of Nigeria.
The stakeholders who spoke at the forum in Lagos, organised by ICT Watch Magazine recently, stressed the need for ICT infrastructure deployment that would drive down cost of service delivery and access to the internet.
In his paper presentation, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Special Duties Department at NCC, Mr. Babagana Gigima, said: “Providing connectivity to the unconnected who are usually classified as unserved or underserved, comes with its own set of challenges especially in developing countries like ours where other complementary infrastructure such as power, transmission and transport are non-existing or inadequate.
“We are aware of the challenges faced by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) even inside city centres where they are forced to deploy two power generating sets per Base Transceiver Station (BTS) to complement the erratic public power supply systems.”
In his keynote address, the Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who was represented by the Director, Ondo State Information Technology Agency, Olumbe Akinkugbe, said: “In the cities, connectivity may not be a serious problem, although the speed of connections can be unreliable in some places but the rural communities are grossly affected when it comes to connectivity and access to the information superhighway.
“The gap between the rural communities and the cities is very wide. There is a serious need to bridge this gap and this should be a major concern of all stakeholders like the government at the three tiers of government, Information Technology (IT) giants, telecommunication industries, among others.”
While listing some of the solutions to address the situation, Danbatta said NCC, as a matter of obligation, has been facilitating and promoting the provision of services to unserved and underserved areas.
“Our access gap study has identified 198 clusters of un-served areas, which translates to about 40 million unconnected Nigerians.
“With such population yet untapped, there is, therefore a business imperative to exploit this vast resource, Danbatta said.
This year alone, the NCC has committed to subsidising the deployment of 318 BTSs in various un-served and under-served locations through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) funding, Danbatta added.
Akeredolu, said in Ondo State, the government was making serious efforts to ensure that government processes are ICT driven.
“Presently all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are connected using fibre optics and radio connections.
“High speed broadband internet connectivity across all the organs of government has been put in place. The government has collaborated with reputable organisations to deploy ICT to the grass root.”
According to the governor, recently the state collaborated with America Tower Corporation (ATC) to establish the Digital Villages project, aimed at bringing technology to the rural dwellers across the state. It is targeted at school leavers and the unemployed graduates. Many youths have been trained on emerging technologies and other various Information Technology (IT) skills. Rural to urban migration has been reduced greatly.
“The state is supporting various telecommunication industries to obtain Right of Ways (RoWs) with ease and at a very low cost, thereby creating an enabling environment for telecoms to expand coverage across the state even to the rural communities of the state,” Akeredolu said.