Minister Inaugurates Committee on New Five-year National Broadband Plan

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Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami

Emma Okonji

The federal government, through the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, has inaugurated a committee on the new National Broadband Plan (2020-2025).

According to the minister, “The need to boost broadband penetration from its present coverage of 37.8 per cent to over 70 per cent in the next five years is the pedestal for the new National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025).”

While inaugurating the 25 member Broadband Plan Committee in Abuja yesterday, Pantami said pervasive broadband penetration would certainly make Nigeria a truly digital economy.

The new NBP 2020-2025 is sequel to the first NBP 2013–2018. The new NBP Committee has the Managing Director/CEO of Main One Cable Company Limited, Ms. Funke Opeke, as its Chairperson, with Dr. Bashir Gwandu as co-Chairman. The Executive Commissioner, Technical Services of the Nigerian Communications Commissions, Ubale Maska, will serve as the Secretary to the Committee, and he will be supported by four staff members of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in the secretariat.

The Committee is to develop a new National Broadband Plan that will be the guiding template for the development of ‘this important area of telecommunications’.

Pantami said: “The Committee is to take a critical look at the painstaking review of the 2013 to 2018 phase and the status of penetration now. The members are enjoined to also examine the challenges with a view to proffering solutions thereto. They should also look at the position of growing and emerging technologies among others.”

The new NBP has the collaboration and support of the United Kingdom Government. The inauguration of this new Committee is a follow up to the launch of the National Policy for Digital Economy and Strategy by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2019.

“The Policy has eight pillars among which are Developmental Regulation, Digital Literacy and Skills, Solid Infrastructure, Service Infrastructure, Digital Services Development and Production, Digital Society Emerging Technologies and Indigenous Content Development,” he added.

The minister told the Committee members to lay emphasis on the third pillar of the national policy which accommodates broadband and data centre; key components for economic growth, and promotion of digital economy.

The Committee’s work, he explained, would address significantly one of the eight pillars, while the remaining seven will also run as one of this all important pillar.

“The work of the Committee will go a very long way in supporting the national digital economic policy and strategy of the federal government because digital economy is strategically dominating the world economy today. Members of the Committee were selected based on their competence, integrity and professionalism,” Pantami said.

Ms. Opeke, who responded on behalf of the Committee, thanked the minister for the opportunity to serve, saying the target of the Committee is to achieve at least 65 to 70 per cent broadband penetration across Nigeria in the next five years, and added that the objective is technology neutrality for the right purpose.

“The Minister has set the goal, and I am sure the NCC is in agreement,” Ms. Opeke added, saying: “We will look at the work of the last Committee and what was done, the prospects, the current challenges in order to come up with a plan to achieve the set objectives.”

Earlier in his goodwill message, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said broadband infrastructure remained one of the top priorities of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to ensure people around the world have access to equitable and affordable broadband, wherever they are and whatever the circumstances they are in.

With adequate broadband infrastructure in place, Danbatta assured Nigerians that everything else will fall into place. ‘‘This will help the ability to deliver healthcare, best quality education even to generations unborn, ability to streamline transportation, meet up with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ability to transform the economy into a digital one,” Danbatta said.

He pledged the commitment of the board and management of NCC, especially in the area of driving the infrastructure that will ensure that critical mass of ICT adoption in use will in time increase the level of broadband penetration in the country.

Besides, Ms. Opeke, Gwandu and Maska, the 25-member Committee also has representatives from the academia, NCC, Galaxy Backbone, MTN , Google, NiRA, Defence Space Administration, National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), GSM Association among others.