By Emma Okonji
Unsatisfied with the implementation process of Nigerian National Broadband Plan, which has a five year longevity period, the federal government has said it will review the plan by the end of 2018, when its longevity period will elapse.
Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who made the disclosure in an interview with THISDAY in Lagos, said the review would be necessary in order to finetune its contents, in line with global technology trends. He also said timeframe would be considered in achieving certain parameters in the reviewed broadband plan, in order to speed up broadband penetration in the country.
“We have a broadband plan that is designed to make broadband available to all Nigerians. The broadband plan is a five year plan from 2013 to 2018, but hopefully it will be reviewed by the end of next year. By next year we will review the broadband plan and come up with new plan that will catchup with modern technology trends,” Shittu told THISDAY.
Analysing the plan further, the minister said the target of 30 per cent broadband penetration as enshrined in the plan was even a low target for Nigeria, considering the clamour for ubiquitous broadband access by Nigerians.
He however expressed optimism that the country would surpass the 30 per cent penetration target, given the current statistics, which he said, showed some significant growth level in the country’s broadband penetration.
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,” Shittu assured Nigerians.
He however explained that the existing broadband infrastructure in the country 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.
Shittu added: “This government had long considered it that it has no business in business. All that the government needs do is to provide the enabling environment for ICT-led industry businesses to thrive. We have been having some financial interventions through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Government is also getting funding from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and other agencies to support various government projects, which include broadband penetration.”
The federal government, through the Ministry of Communications Technology, had in 2012, set up a presidential committee on national broadband plan, with the former Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe as Chairman of the committee and the Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia as co-Chairman.
The committee, which submitted its report timely enough, was applauded for a thorough job done, but Nigerians have not been pleased with the actions of those who were supposed to drive the implementation process of the broadband plan, while blaming the slow broadband penetration on the poor implementation process of the broadband plan.
Worried about the implementation process, the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body of all computer professionals in the country, had earlier called on the federal government to expedite the full implementation of the country’s five year broadband plan.
President of NCS, Prof. Adesola Aderounmu, who called for diligent implementation of the plan, emphasised the need for the immediate enactment of a critical National Infrastructure Bill, which he said, would help deepen broadband penetration, spur economic growth and attain national safety and security.