The Nigerian National Broadband Plan Committee for the Development of the 2020-2025 National Broadband Plan has been unveiled by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.
Pantami constituted a 28 members team chaired by the CEO of MainOne, Funke Opeke and Co-Chaired by former Executive Commissioner, NCC, Dr. Bashir Gwandu, while Engr. Ubale Maska is to serve as Secretary. They were tasked with the goal to establish the needed broadband that will meet the digital needs of the country in line with the world’s standard. The committee is expected to support the national digital economy and ensure that Nigeria attains 70% broadband target by 2025.
The new committee was set up due to the expiration of 2013/18 National Broadband Plan Committee last year.
It could be recalled that on November 30, Pantami signed a letter of intent with the UK government through the prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme, as part of efforts to draft the new National Broadband plan. That’s, after President Buhari has unveiled the National Policy for Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a digital Nigeria, on the 28 of November. The eight pillars of the National Broadband are: development regulation, digital literacy and skills, solid infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital services development and promotion, soft infrastructure, digital society and emerging technologies and indigenous content, development and promotion.
To achieve the needed result, the minister promised to involve industry stakeholders through the process of the draft that is expected to conclude at the end of March 2020. Already, the committee is made up of the members of the digital industry who were charged to work on the most significant among the eight pillars and ensure their work reflect on other pillars too.
The importance of increasing investment in fixed broadband was emphasized by the minister as he presented the committee, a fact the World Development Report 2016 acknowledged when it noted that a 10% increase in fixed broadband penetration results in an average increase of 3.19% capita GDP of a country.
“The work of this committee will go a long way in supporting national digital economy policy and strategy for the federal government. In addition, digital economy is strategically dominating the world economy,” he said.
It is predicted that by 2022, 60% of the world economy will be digitalized. And currently, the world digital economy is 11.5 trillion USD, according to Oxford economics. This figure is likely going to double in three years.
Pantami reminded the committee that Nigeria can’t be left behind while the rest of the world moves on digitally. “By 2030, almost 85% of the world economy is going to be digital economy because digital economy is dominating the world.
“You cannot develop and promote digital economy without broadband at your disposal or in your country, that is why we feel it necessary after getting our national broadband in place, we need to immediately see how we can come with another very important strategic committee to work on our national broadband plan so that all hands must be joined together to see how we can penetrate underserved and unserved areas in the country,” he said.
He also reminded the committee that their goal is not only to develop broadband that will meet the current and future needs of the country, but it is also to work toward the digital economic development of the country.
Responding to his admonition, the Chairman of the committee, Funke Opeke said the target of the committee is to achieve at least 65-70% broadband penetration across Nigeria.
“The minister has set the goal and I believe the NCC is in agreement. It is for us to look at what was done during the period of the last committee, look at what the issues and challenges are that still exist, and come up with a plan that allows us achieve the set objectives.
“I believe the objective is achievable with sincerity of purpose and with hard work for these are critical services and infrastructure that we need to bring to all Nigerians and we’re optimistic that we can accomplish that goal. There is work to be done on fixed infrastructure but the reality is, mobile technologies are also progressing quite fast to deliver very capable services to people.
“We see what is going on with 5G all over the world, so we will address both at the committee, but I believe our objective is not to favor one technology over another, but to figure out how we can get those critical services to many more Nigerians.”
While Nigerians are applauding the inauguration of the new committee, they are also expressing concern over the committee’s ability to get it right, considering what happened with the previous plan.
According to data from NCC, the previous plan ended with an abysmal result. The target was to achieve 80% penetration of 3G mobile wireless broadband by 2018 and the five-fold increase of broadband penetration, from the 2013 penetration of 6 to 30% by the end of 2018. While the 30% target was achieved, the five-fold increase was not. By prioritizing mobile wireless broadband, little was done about fixed broadband penetration which remains at 0.06 percent in 2019.
This is after billions of dollars have been invested by the government and stakeholders in the telecommunication industry. However, there is hope amidst fears that the committee, made up of mostly players in the telecommunication industry, will right the wrong this time.