Nigeria Inaugurates New National Broadband Plan Committee

Dr Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy
Dr Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, has inaugurated a 25-member National Broadband Plan (NBP) Committee in Abuja and unveiled its new five-year NBP aimed at boosting broadband penetration in the country from its present coverage of 37.8% to over 70% between the year 2020 and 2025.

The new National Broadband Plan Committee has Ms Funke Opeke, Managing Director/CEO of Main One Cable Company Limited, as Chairperson; Dr Bashir Gwandu as Co-Chairman; Engr. Ubale Maska, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as the Secretary to the Committee. Maska will be supported by four staff of the Ministry in the secretariat.

The inauguration of the new Committee is sequel to the launch, by President Muhammadu Buhari, of the National Policy for Digital Economy and Strategy 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.

The new NBP 2020 -2025 is a sequel to the first NBP 2013 – 2018. Dr Pantami said pervasive broadband penetration will certainly make Nigeria a truly digital economy.

The responsibility of the Committee is to develop a new National Broadband Plan that will be the guiding template for the development of this area of telecommunications. It is to take a critical look at where Nigeria is after reviewing the 2013-2018 phase and the status of penetration.

The Minister urged members to also examine the challenges with a view to proffering solutions thereto. He enjoined them to also look at the position of growing and emerging technologies among others. The new NBP has the collaboration and support of the United Kingdom (UK) Government.

The Minister urged 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, will address significantly one of the eight pillars and the remaining seven will also run as one of this all-important pillar.

Dr Pantami said: “The work of this Committee will go a very long way in supporting the national digital economic policy and strategy for the Federal Government because the digital economy is strategically dominating the world economy today,” adding, members of the Committee were selected based on their competence, integrity and professionalism.

Responding on behalf of the committee members, Ms. Opeke thanked the Minister for the opportunity to serve and said the target of the committee is to achieve at least 65-70% broadband penetration across Nigeria in the next five years, pointing out that the objective is technology neutrality for the right purpose.

She noted that the Minister has set the goal and she was sure the NCC is in agreement, saying “we will look at the work of the last Committee and what was done, the prospects, the challenges that are still there in order to come up with a plan to achieve the set objectives.”

Speaking further, she said “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 favour one technology over another but to figure out how we can get those critical services to many more Nigerians. So, we’ll be a mix of technologies….”

In his goodwill message, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta said Broadband Infrastructure remains 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 the adequate broadband infrastructure in place, Danbatta assured that everything else will fall into place. He said: ‘‘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.’’

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.

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 (NIGCOMSAT) Limited, Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), GSM Association among others.