Dr Omobola Johnson, Nigeria’s ex-Minister of Communication Technology has told #TechPlus2016 in Lagos that information and communication technology (ICT) stakeholders must collaborate to realise the nation’s broadband targets.
The former Minister says that the technology sector to revisit the National Broadband Plan to maximise socio-economic benefits of high speed Internet service for Nigeria.
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]According to Dr Johnson, “ I think it’s a shame that has happened and I think that we really need to do whatever we can. The ICT sector is one sector that has grown very well over the last few years. I think in the area of diversification for all, the ICT is one that we should focus on because I see in terms of providing job for young people, in terms of providing what connectivity does. You know the statistics, 10% of broadband result in 1.3% increase in GDP.”[/quote]Former President Goodluck Jonathan some few years ago inaugurated the Presidential Committee on the National Broadband Strategy and Roadmap that outlined plans to promote diffusion of high-speed Internet services across Nigeria
Dr Johnson, who is also Chairperson for the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), in a presentation on Friday to #TechPlus2016 says governments, telecoms operators and other stakeholders in the sector need to speed up in regulating and actualising the National Broadband Plan of Nigeria.
This was one of the key highlights of the former Minister’s keynote address on ” Our Future in A Connected World” at #TechPlus2016, the largest technology event underway in Lagos.
“In terms of the telecoms development, we all know the roles that we have to play. I think the first thing is to agree on the goal. In the broadband plan, it was 30% by 2018 but given what has happened since 2013 with the UN declaring sustainable development goal of Internet for all by 2030, I think we need to come together again and look at that Broadband Plan and see how we can achieve this new goal of 100% connectivity by 2030”, Dr Johnson told the #TechPlus2016 forum.
According to her, “the coming together of the private sector and government in the implementation of the broadband plan, the broadband implementation committee for instance, needs to ensure that everything about broadband plan needs to be executed because it’s quite a comprehensive plan.”
She says that “some of the problems that existed in the past are still there. We need to go back. There are many things that investors want and the private sector. This is a lot of money that we need to put in place in terms of satellite, in terms of taxes on right of way and few things that are going to cost a lot of money that we need to attract more investors in the ICT sector.”
When asked by a journalist on her view about the current administration the former Minister says that, “I think the statistics unit tells it all. The NCC came out some weeks ago and announced that there has been a slow-down in growth in the telecoms sector for various reasons. There has been a slow-down in growth in the country overall. So, it is as expected that many of the other sectors will slow down.”
According to Dr Johnson, “ I think it’s a shame that has happened and I think that we really need to do whatever we can. The ICT sector is one sector that has grown very well over the last few years. I think in the area of diversification for all, the ICT is one that we should focus on because I see in terms of providing job for young people, in terms of providing what connectivity does. You know the statistics, 10% of broadband result in 1.3% increase in GDP.”
Speaking further, she says that “I think really focusing on this productivity issue, focusing on the content creation that actually employs young people in software development, in data analysis, all of those things, we need to go back and look at them again. But having heard the Senior Special Adviser to the Vice President’s speech this morning, there is a lot of work that is going on around that.”
The former Minister also says that “they just started another incubator in Abuja. I know the SSA is very much involved in some of the things we did in idea. So, things are going on, a lot of work we left behind is being implemented, but the point I made in the speech is that we need to accelerate and do it a lot quicker than we are doing it now and than we were doing it before. We just need to move a lot much faster.”
According to her, “connectivity growth in Africa is at a slow pace and considering the recent statistics by the NCC, this is also prominent in Nigeria. We can see the slowing down in growth in connectivity”, the A4AI chairperson adds lamenting the current low Internet connectivity in Africa compared to other developed economies.
She described it as a state of “digital divide” which is a situation where half of the world enjoys quick opportunity to the information and knowledge they get from the Internet, while the other half of the world will still be struggling to make basic Internet and mobile broadband available and affordable for its people.
This digital divide Dr Omobola says, “threatens to stunt our economic growth and hold back development. It denies information opportunities and voice to nearly one billion of Africans. This digital divide threatens to exasperate existence inequalities, women, rural dwellers and the poor.”
To accelerate Africa’s growth and development, she advises that “we must seize the opportunities presented by this digital revolution. Letting them pass us by is an opportunity cost we cannot afford. The inability to afford even a basic broadband connection remains one of the biggest obstacles to wider Internet access or use across Africa. In some African countries, basic broadband cost as much as 58% of monthly average income whereas in the U.S. or Europe, it’s just a fraction of monthly income.”
Dr Johnson says that to propel economic fortune of Nigeria and other developing economies on the African continent, efforts must be made to spread connectivity.
“Establishing connectivity and securing Africa’s future in the Internet connected world of today and tomorrow requires us to take a bold action and requires us to take that action now. The good news is that we already know what to do. We have known how to tackle this challenge”, she explains.
To set on that journey, she says that there are three clear steps that we need to take: the first one is to prioritize, the second one is to collaborate and the third is to create.
She says that her organisation, A4AI, has a Nigerian coalition and what they have been doing so far is to “bring together all the stakeholders, civil society, telecoms, government in a number of coalition stakeholders meeting.”
“We have been looking at different policies and advocating for certain things for instance, right of way. The cost of right of way is one thing we have advocated very strongly against in Nigeria. We are advocating very strongly against anything that will jeopardise or frustrate connectivity. That happens in every other country across the world”, Dr Johnson told the #TechPlus2016.