‘Nigeria needs strategic partnership on broadband plan’

Stakeholders in Nigeria’s $70 billion telecommunications sector are worried about the slow implementation of the country’s National Broadband Plan (NBP 2013-2018).

They are worried that the benefits that should have been accruing to the economy, is being stalled by lack of proper direction.

The Broadband 2018 Coalition Group, a major stakeholder in the sector, yesterday, said Nigeria requires strategic partnerships between indigenously owned broadband companies and governments to actualise technology adoption leveraging the Yaba Innovation HeadQuarter (iHQ) blueprint.

The Yaba iHQ blueprint project saw Co-Creation Hub, Lagos State Government and MainOne come together to provide a haven for tech start-up companies around the axis.

Like the Broadband 2018 Coalition Group, industry stakeholders posited that the non-challant attitude been exhibited in the country towards enthroning a broadband regime posed grave danger for the economy, which aspires to be a force to reckon with in Africa by 2020.

Nigeria has all it takes to have pervasive broadband distribution across the country. The country currently has five submarine cables, which boast of 10+TBPS (Terabytes Per Second) bandwidth capacity.

While Africa is home to about 16 submarine cables system valued at over $20 billion, Nigeria alone has five, with current investments ranging between $1 billion to $7 billion.

Interestingly, the 2013-2018 NBP was an attempt to introduce new initiatives to address the importance of broadband towards attaining the country’s developmental goal Vision 20:2020 and increase fixed broadband penetration to 30 per cent and 80 per cent Internet connections across the country by 2018.

Though, there are over 90 million Internet connections, mostly through the narrowband, amounting to about 47 per cent of the World Bank estimated 180 million people in the country, about 53 per cent of Nigerians are still offline.

Instructively, some 205 communities, which house about 40 million Nigerians, have not had access to basic telephony service.

Part of the NBP 2013-2018 was to ensure that both underserved and unserved areas of the country are reached with broadband connections through fibre deployment, among others.

Unfortunately, successive governments have been unable to follow through on this plan since it was unveiled by the pioneer Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, who left office about 16 months into the plan

Worst still, experts opined that there have been lukewarm attitude in implementing the NBP.

Nigeria has experienced huge benefits from fixed broadband access. For instance, Yaba Innovation headquarter project is a project (between Co-Creation Hub, Lagos State Government and MainOne) that sought to provide a haven for tech start-up companies.

MainOne built over 30km fiber infrastructure in Yaba, because it was granted Right of Way (RoW) by the State Government, which has created Nigeria’s first commercially sustainable ecosystem, spurring employment opportunities with at least 20,000 direct and indirect jobs created, with a stimulation of new sectors including eCommerce, ePayment and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the revolutionisation of established sectors including Financial Services and Media as a result of cheaper, faster Internet connectivity. It is modelled after Silicon Valley. Yaba’s tech ecosystem has attracted the attention of global technology leaders including Facebook and Google CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai respectively.

Accordingly, having strategic partnerships between indigenously owned broadband companies and governments can help to accelerate penetration.

“This is why it has become highly important for the implementation of the National Broadband Policy now,” Broadband 2018 Coalition Group stated.

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