By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. December 16, 2012: Key stakeholders in the ICT sector have agreed that the open access backbone should be assured by regulatory intervention and not necessarily by building new infrastructure.
The growth of broadband, seen as the next phase of growth in the Nigerian telecoms sector after voice, has been hampered by the absence of pervasive backbone infrastructure to encourage diffusion across the country.
The ICT gurus agreed on this option recently in Lagos, while addressing the general theme, “Broadband Nigeria: The Journey Ahead,” at the 2nd biennial Africa Digital Forum and Award (ADA) 2012 organised by ICT Watch Network.
Austin Okere, CEO, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) observes that the state of broadband in Nigeria is crying for help adding his voice to the pervasive industry concern that, “we have ample broadband capacity at the shore, but it’s not widely available to Nigerians.”
In a keynote at the event, Okere notes that the possible intervention to this is to have an open access backbone so as to enjoy seamless end-to-end connectivity in the country.
According to him, broadband in Nigeria should be such that there is a higher degree of penetration and be made available in all parts of the country such that it continues to impact on people’s lives.
He said there are more bottlenecks in the way because some states of the Federation are yet to be linked to the national backbone.
Major cities like Lagos are having a larger share of the broadband market while some other states are left out; he adds, noting that it is important for broadband services to be readily and fully available in all states of the country to ensure that the services are accessible to all Nigerians.
Okere explains that the success story for broadband in the country must be characterised by a market-driven competition through local investments. To sustain the growth and innovation in the sector, government must be willing to provide fiscal incentives through long-term loans facilitated through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).
Ernest Ndukwe, ex-Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), who chaired the forum, notes that, “many of the State Governors in Nigeria have not really embraced ICT in the states. That is why the issue of right- of-way has become a big problem for the sector.”
He advises the governors to liberate their people by giving them the tool of the modern age while adding that ICT should be placed on the front burner of the priority sectors of government.
According to him, the combination of digital technologies, computer and communication networks and associated human capacity and ingenuity, have been known to have delivered results in various critical applications and have even transformed the way people live today.
In his comment, Olawale Ige, former minister of Communications, advocates more investments in core access by building up spectrum where it can be utilised.
Also speaking at the forum, Lanre Ajayi, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) frowns at the way state governments are imposing taxes on telecoms operators saying that people should stop seeing the sector as a cash cow.
Ajayi advises that taxes should be based on the performance of each telecoms company.
During the award session, Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State, was awarded the ICT Governor of the Year; Olawale Ige, former minister of Communication, bagged the Life Time Achievement Award; Ernest Ndukwe, former EVC, the ICT Personality of the Year and Emmanuel Ekuwem, CEO, Teledom Group, was honoured with the title, Broadband Personality of Year.
Omatek Ventures bagged the Outstanding Company of the year, while Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) was awarded ICT Conglomerate of the Year.