By Emma Okonji
The chairperson of the newly inaugurated committee for the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020-2025), Ms. Funke Opeke has assured the federal government that her committee will put the interest of Nigeria first in executing the mandate given the committee.
Opeke, who is the Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Broadband Company, gave the assurance shortly after the inauguration of the new broadband committee in Abuja recently. She highlighted the importance of broadband plan and broadband policy implementation in today’s digital era.
She said: “Broadband to the digital economy is like electricity to the industrial world. We are foot soldiers to help put together this new plan to ensure it happens. The stakeholder is not us but those young Nigerians who have future ahead of them as they would be fully planted in the global digital economy.”
She immediately urged her committee members to put Nigeria’s interest ahead of personal interest in carrying out the mandate given to the broadband committee.
Opeke thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the setting up of the committee to address the issue of National Broadband Plan. She also noted that the President’s recent participation in e-Nigeria and the launching of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, clearly signal his commitment to the digital economy.
The federal government had in 2012, inaugurated the first committee on National Broadband Plan (2013-2018), co-chaired by the present Chairman of MTN Board of Directors, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe and the Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia. Although the 30 per cent broadband penetration proposed by the 2012 committee on National Broadband Plan was surpassed at the end of 2018, industry stakeholders had already proposed 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025, but the newly inaugurated broadband committee will have to decide whether the industry-proposed 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025 is achievable or not.
While inaugurating the new committee the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, said the Broadband plan (2013-2018) has expired and urged the committee to look at the target that has not been achieved and challenges that are affecting broadband penetration in the country. He directed them to also look into many more challenges that have not been stated previously and see how they can join hands and resolved them collectively.
“It is because of this that we have come up with this very important strategic committee that would work on our National Broadband Plan for 2020-2025,” Pantami said.
He urged the members of the committee to maintain objectivity in their discussion/deliberation and to rightly identify our national priority and preference. He admonished that there is nothing personal in the assignment but to honour the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
The minister advised the committee to look at the recently released report and investigation by Huawei and Alliance 4 Affordable Internet (A4IA) 2013-2018 review report to extract useful information that would help them.
In his remark, the representative of the British High Commissioner- Head of Prosperity and Competition, Mr. Harrison Guy, stated that Broadband penetration has huge potentials to transform the way services were rendered in health and education and noted that e-government delivers benefits across all sector of the society.
He said the United Kingdom is an active partner of Nigeria, as such is very more keen to support the country’s goals of increasing the broadband penetration rate between 65 and 66 per cent within the next five and six years. Harrison added that UK government would provide technical expertise to support the drafting of the new plan.
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta said Broadband infrastructure remained one of the top priority 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 that everything else will fall into place.