Deepening Broadband Connectivity Across Nigeria: NCC Gives Insight on Prospects, Challenges

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida, has underscored the significance of broadband connectivity to the growth of the country’s economy.

Dr Maida shared his thoughts on the subject in his keynote addresse at the 13th Annual Nigeria ICT Impact CEO Forum/Africa Digital Award in Lagos.

He noted that the digital revolution has transformed the operation of businesses and economies such that developing economies are now abreast with the trend leading to massive investments in information technology and wireless communications.

In his words, “Broadband or high-speed Internet access allows users to access the Internet and Internet-related services at significantly higher speeds than those available through “dial-up” services.

“The digital revolution has brought about to how businesses and economies operate. Most developing economies are now catching up with the trend and investing significantly in areas of information technology and wireless communications.

“Studies by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and sundry international organizations have indicated a correlation between having access to broadband and the growth of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“It has been abundantly established that countries with a high density of broadband networks have higher GDP per capita for the citizens. This is because broadband access becomes a key economic index for improving and measuring the efficiency and productivity of the national workforce.

“”An ITU Global Connectivity Report 2022, which provides a detailed assessment of the current state of connectivity and presents solutions to meet this new imperative, notes that:

“In the last 30 years, the number of Internet users surged from a few million to almost five billion. Yet, the potential remains untapped because one-third of humanity remains offline, and many users only enjoy basic connectivity.”

“The ITU Report further notes that universal connectivity remains a distant prospect, as Internet penetration has reached 95 per cent of the population in only 13 countries as of 2022.

“The report also reveals that in Nigeria and other African countries, Fourth Generation (4G) coverage in urban areas is four times the coverage in rural areas. This is partly because commercial deployment of Internet access is not currently viable or seen as viable in these areas, due to high deployment cost and/or low user demand.

Dr. Maida traced the root of the major increase in the use of digital technology by businesses and individuals to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to digitalization of governmental services in Nigeria and other countries of the world.

“Globally and more importantly in Nigeria, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of a major surge and acceleration in the uptake of broadband and the adoption of digital services by individuals and businesses, the digitalization of governmental services in Nigeria and across the world.

“Most hitherto face-to-face activities have automatically migrated online with an accompanying quest for digital literacy by many to be able to continue to carry out their daily personal and official activities through digital platforms.

“With skit-makers and other content creators delivering humorous and entertaining social content on the internet, data consumption has also significantly increased among social media users.” He said .

The NCC boss further gave insight into the agency’s regulatory trajectory, noting that it’s regulatory framework priotizes incremental broadband deployment for available, accessible and affordable connectivity to telecoms consumers.

He identified limited access to high-speed service, lack of advanced IT skills, funding and inadequate infrastructure among others as some of the changes.

“As the regulator of the nation’s highly dynamic telecommunication industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has, over the years, put several regulatory frameworks in place towards ensuring incremental broadband deployment for available, accessible and affordable connectivity to telecoms consumer.

“Post-pandemic, the NCC, working with various stakeholders has continued to explore ways to sustain the growth of broadband networks to address identified digital gaps (demand and supply sides) highlighted by the pandemic and consider steps to overcome these challenges especially in terms of addressing the digital divide.

“Through various policy directions, especially the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, the Nigerian government has set out ambitious targets accompanied by timelines that aim towards making broadband an enabler of economic growth across all sectors in Nigeria.

“Although limited access to high-speed service, lack of advanced IT skills, funding, inadequate infrastructure among several other factors have been identified as the major constraints slowing Nigeria’s internet economy…

” Nigeria has demonstrated commitment and passion, through various policy and regulatory frameworks, to ensure wider broadband coverage for the country. This is because the data revolution presents great potential and opportunity for the socio-economic development of Nigeria.”

Dr. Maida further disclosed NCC’s developmental plans for the coming years, which according to him, alligns with the current administration’s agenda for the industry.

“The Commission’s focus in the next four years and beyond under the current administration aligns strictly with the vision for the digital economy, as envisioned in the Strategic Plan of the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani.

“The Strategic Blueprint, unveiled in October 2023 has five pillars and prioritizes deployment of broadband infrastructure and digital empowerment of 3 million Nigerian youths, among others.

“One of the five pillars of the Strategic Blueprint is the “Infrastructure” component, which focuses on broadband accessibility, availability and affordability. Other pillars of the Ministerial strategic plan are Knowledge…

“Policy; Innovation/Entrepreneurship and Capital; and Trade. The Strategic Plan is designed to drive a major part of the overall implementation of the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu, GCFR.

“The NCC, under my leadership will support the target of the Ministry to boost Nigeria’s broadband penetration rate to 70 per cent by the end of 2025 in line with the NNBP 2020-2025, through the laying of 95,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables across the country.

“In the same vein, and in line with the vision of the Ministry, we are targeting the provision of coverage of, at least, 80 per cent of the country’s population, especially the underserved and unserved populations by the end of 2027; we also intend to secure between 300-500 per cent increase in broadband investment by the end of 2027…

“While we work to reduce the gap of unconnected Nigerians in rural areas from 61 per cent to less than 20 per cent by 2027.

“Other key targets in the Strategic Plan of the Ministry, which has adopted a clear-cut strategy to transform Nigeria’s digital economy sector and which the NCC is committed to, include the plan to deliver data download speed of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas by the end of 2025…

“Achieve a 50 per cent improvement in quality of service (QoS) by 2024; 22 per cent increase in net GDP contribution by digital economy by 2027 as well as increase in investment into Nigeria’s telecommunications sector by 15 per recent year-on-year.

“The Ministerial blueprint also targets 70 per cent digital literacy by 2027; a capital increase raised by Nigerian tech startups by 50 per cent year-on-year from $1 billion/year in 2022 to $5 billion/year in 2027; and achieving 25 per cent domiciliation of local technology startups by 2027.

“Other expectations are to accomplish for Nigeria, 60 per cent government data digitization by the end of 2026; the creation of 50,000 Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry jobs by 2026 while also ensuring the accomplishment of 22 per cent net GDP contribution by 2027, among others

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