Broadband Access Is No Longer A Luxury, But A Necessity For Economic And Social Development – Kashifu Abdullahi

Broadband Access in Nigeria is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for economic and social development.

This was disclosed by the Director-General/CEO of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi while delivering a paper entitled “Aggregating the Potentials of the Sub-Sector to meet the New Broadband set Target of 70%” at ATCON Virtual Structured Engagement with key Stakeholders in the Nigerian Telecom & ICT Sector On The New National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 Thursday, March 25th, 2021.

He said that in terms of economic development, it offers unprecedented opportunities for economic growth by providing access to information, connecting people to business, and opening new markets.

“Broadband penetration is transforming the conventional economy and enabling innovation economy. In terms of human development, it impacts almost every aspect of life from education to health, it supports enterprise and entrepreneurship, and unlocks the digital economy which reduces extreme poverty and enhances social inclusion, Abdullahi said.

He further reiterated that the new broadband plan is aimed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria, with a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population and penetration rate of 70% by 2025, at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage).

“A study by Deloitte concludes that providing internet access to developing countries could boost productivity worldwide by 25%, generate $2.2 trillion in GDP, create 140 million new jobs, and lift 160 million people out of poverty. Hence, this suggests the significance and impact of realizing the 70% Broadband penetration in Nigeria to contribute in attaining such feats.

“Even though a lot has been achieved so far towards broadband penetration in Nigeria, the need for innovative models to bridge access gaps is vital. Investments in the telecommunications have been slow in underserved areas due to lack of demand which will have guarantee returns on investment, but with the rising demand for internet access and broadband services as well as the persistent efforts of our Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, towards providing an enabling policy for investment, new opportunities have been created for more investments in the telecommunications sector. At this point, I would like to share a short story about Mo Ibrahim’s experience in his stride to setting up a mobile phone company in Africa, from a book, The Prosperity paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty.

“The authors of “The Book” gave the story of how the Sudanese entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim employed what they referred to as “a market creating innovation” which identifies non-consumption in the area of mobile phone services in the late 1990s. They explain how, Mo Ibrahim started his mobile communications company (Celtel) in sub-Saharan Africa even though everyone laughed at him or told him his company would fail.

“Because Africa was then a place where most people see mobile phone as an expensive toy for rich people which common people like you and I will never imaging to have one. Mo Ibrahim identified an opportunity where there was none by realising the lack of means for the people in the cities to keep in touch with their love ones in the rural areas. He identified the need for mobile phone services and went ahead and invested in mobile telecommunications to close the gap.

“In just six years, Celtel built operations in thirteen African countries and gained 5.2 million customers. Celtel was successful, within short time its revenue reached $614 million and net profits were about 147 million. In 2005 when Mo Ibrahim decided to sell the company, he did so for a handsome $3.4 billion. The big take away from Mo Ibrahim’s story is that the telecommunications/stakeholders can improve the broadband penetration by identifying areas of non-consumption of internet services and create sustainable deployment models to achieve the target of 70% broadband penetration by 2025.

“This is possible, because, according to visual Capitalist, our world has changed fundamentally and so did the data that makes the world go round. COVID-19 has forced you and I to move nearly every aspect of our life from work to socialization online. Today, we relay so much on apps and Internet to work, educate, socialise and entertain ourselves, as a result in every minute consumers spend over $1mon the Internet, Amazon ships over 6,600 packages, Facebook users share more than 150,000 messages and upload over 140,000 photos, Zoom hosts more than 200,000 participants, Netflix users stream over 400,000 hours of video, YouTube users upload over 500 hours of video, Twitter gains over 300 new users and many more.

“At NITDA we are putting efforts to stimulate local demands that will further improve broadband penetration in Nigeria. We are implementing various initiatives aimed at facilitating the achievement of the target of 70% broadband penetration by 2025, some of these initiatives are:

i. Encouraging free domain registration for public institutionsand SMEs through Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NIRA).
ii. Facilitating Digital Literacy Training and Awareness, Digital content creation and indigenous language translation.
iii. Effective digitization of Government services (e-Government) as well as other e-services.
iv. Deployment of IT intervention projects that facilitate Digital Literacy and Skills development.
v. Development of Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and Nigerian e-Govt Interoperability framework (Ne-GIF).
vi. Funding capacity building & Innovation initiatives to facilitate digital jobs creation.
vii. Establishment of National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).
viii. Establishment of National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (NDIEC) among others.
He reminded ATCON about two powerful forces determined to disrupt its market.

“Elon Musk and Amazon are battling to put satellite Internet in your backyard. They are making internet-from-space race more interesting. Other contenders are OneWeb and longtime operator Telesat. They are seriously working on making fast, reliable internet service from any place on earth with a clear view of the sky no more miraculous than a cell signal from your tower.

Abdullahi thanked the ATCON leadership for organizing the Virtual event and the opportunity to share his thoughts with them.

He hoped that through the event, the buy-in of the various members of ATCON and other critical stakeholders would be leveraged upon to ensure and guarantee that the new Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 is adequately positioned to deliver its ultimate purposes for the generality of Nigerians in a faster and strategic manner.