Government to review national broadband plan in Q2

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Federal Government would begin the review of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), by April.

An official of the Communications Ministry, who preferred anonymity, confirmed this on Monday, making reference to the Nigeria ICT Roadmap 2017 to 2020.

According to him, the Ministry is keen on ensuring ubiquitous broadband in 2018 and beyond, “especially as 2018 is the broadband year. Nigeria is expected to meet 30 per cent broadband penetration by the end of this year. The Ministry is working on that and there are plans to meet with stakeholders on way forward.”

Nigeria’s broadband penetration, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is currently at 21 per cent, and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umaru Danbatta, is optimistic that the country can actually reach and surpass the target by ending of the year.

A check on the ICT Roadmap 2017 to 2020, revealed that works actually started in May 2017, and is expected to help Nigeria create two million jobs by April 2020, if the plan is followed religiously and implemented adequately.
In the areas of NBP, the review is expected to be completed in April, which should lead to other developments in the sector.

Against the backdrop that nothing seems to be happening as regards the implementation of the road map, the source simply said: “the plan is ongoing and if there is any need for a review, it will be carried out. But as we are speaking, the Ministry is moving with the plan.”

Already, there have been calls from different quarters of the industry for faster implementation of the broadband plan, which has five years 2013 to 2018 band.

An Advocacy Group, Broadband Coalition 2018 called on the Federal Government that the best time to implement the broadband policy, finalise permits to licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), and licensing of additional five is now.

The Group stressed that these processes will further embolden investments in Nigeria’s infrastructure roll-out, create jobs, improve productivity and drive economic growth.

“It has therefore, become imperative for the government to ensure the full implementation of the national broadband policy,” it stated.

At a forum in Lagos, late last year, the Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, a telecom expert and former Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, backed the call for the review and update the NBP.

Ndukwe, who urged the Ministry, said the review has become imperative for digital literacy initiatives and public access targeted at populations that are unconnected, especially women and girls in urban-poor/rural settlements.

Ndukwe, who is the current national coordinator, A4AI Coalition Nigeria, recommended the constitution of an apolitical committee that would be saddled with the responsibilities of updating the National Broadband Plan with activities that would pave the way for connecting the urban poor with those in the rural settlements.

He also spoke on the need to replicate efforts of the broadband plan to deliver fast, reliable and affordable Internet access by federating units of Nigeria, adding that the states and Local Governments must commit to take similar measures alongside the Federal Government for meaningful results.

In one of his interactions with journalists, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, expressed optimism that the country would surpass the 30 per cent penetration target this year.

According to him, “broadband is the enabler to technology development of any nation. The issue of broadband accessibility is the key to technology development. So government wants Nigerians to come together and ensure that broadband is accessible and affordable to all Nigerians. Government is encouraging private sector investment in broadband in order to make it accessible and affordable.”

He however explained that the existing broadband infrastructure in Nigeria would be improved to make broadband not only ubiquitous, but also accessible and affordable.

Giving some clues on how government plans to boost broadband growth in the country, Shittu said government has opened talks with Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) to collaborate with it in making broadband internet affordable to all Nigerians.