By Chinenye Anuforo, Lagos
The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, has disclosed that pervasive broadband penetration would deepen digital financial inclusion for Nigeria’s socio-economic transformation.
Danbatta, who disclosed this in Lagos at the 5th Annual Bullion Lecture Organised by the Centre for Financial Journalism, said that the NCC has been actively involved in the actualisation of the federal government’s financial inclusion target of 20 per cent exclusion or 80 per cent inclusion by the year 2020. However, a recent report by EFInA indicates that even though its data showed that more people have become financially included, the financial inclusion pace was, however, not matching the country’s population growth rate.
‘Therefore, to achieve an accelerated financial inclusion target that the country desires, even as the population grows, technology and more importantly, broadband, has to play a massive significant role.
‘And what I see technology doing in terms of Nigeria’s financial inclusion is actually to democratize access. In doing this, the NCC embarked on various regulatory initiatives that have continued to increase access to telephone lines and improve access to high-speed Internet or broadband. This is in line with the Commission’s mandate of ensuring universal access to telecoms services in the country consistent with the ITU’s goal of achieving digital inclusion, globally,’ he said.
According to him, foremost amongst these regulatory initiatives is the implementation of the Open Access Model for infrastructure deployment through the competitively selected Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) called the InfraCo Project: ‘The InfraCo initiative is expected to provide, at a minimum, broadband fibre and connectivity to every Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the Federation, totaling 774 fibre Points of Access (PoAs) with a minimum speed of 10 Gbps which will translate to, at least, 38,296km of Optic Fibre Cable (OFC) to the Transmission over the next years.”
He indicated that, so far, the Commission has licensed six of the seven InfraCos to implement this project and it is intended that the presence of fibre point of access in each LGA will not only spur development, lower cost of entry for telcos and bring about innovative services and applications, but also, improve the conditions of living in the rural, urban and semi-urban areas, especially with respect to access to financial services.
‘The InfraCo Project can be considered as the beginning of the “Next Level” journey towards achieving the 120,000km target of fibre connectivity set by the current administration. We have recently begun a process to strategically review the InfraCo framework and its funding options towards ensuring effective implementation of the national fibre project. When fully implemented, it will ensure robust and pervasive broadband infrastructure to drive availability, accessibility and affordability of financial services.’
The NCC, he said, also provided the requisite infrastructure, connectivity and capacity to interconnect four Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano in order to localise some of the internet traffic in Nigeria and encourage the creation, hosting and interchange of data within Nigeria. This has enabled the local hosting of companies like Google, Facebook, Vodacom, China Telecom, Akamai, Juniper Solutions etc. alongside all major Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Mobile Network Operators, Sub-Marine Cable Operators as well as major tier 1 to 3 Data Centers.
‘This has not only reduced cost, which is key to digital financial inclusion and conserved foreign exchange but also has drastically reduced latency. Thus ensuring the sustainability of digital financial services,’ the EVC said.