We enjoin the Federal Government, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), telecommunications organisations, state governments, and other stakeholders to incorporate the recommendations of the United Nations (UN) Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development into the nation’s development agenda so that we do not miss the 2025 UN broadband target.
The Internet, it has now been universally accepted, is virtually a limitless platform for the dissemination and transmission of information and knowledge. Broadband simply facilitates, boosts its use, enabling voice, data, and images to flow through the worldwide web swiftly and seamlessly.
The Broadband Commission, inaugurated in 2010, is a formidable entity made up essentially of the durable International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the highly regarded United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Last week, it was the commission’s studied conclusion that at the end of this year, half of the world would be connected to the Internet and with access to broadband. It thus set a time table of 2025 to “connect the other half.”
To achieve that lofty goal, the commission suggested that a country should have a funded national plan for broadband. We urge the NCC to put its considerable influence to work on this matter, to get the Federal Government to set up such a fund if it has not done so. The world has come to terms with the Internet and broadband not as optional fun gadgets but as vital necessities, indeed, engines of development India’s Prime Minister, Narendro Modi, toured the world last year to, among other things, raise $12 billion to enable India extend broadband through rural India. It is, therefore, no miracle that where some countries are sinking deeper into poverty, India, in spite of its teeming population of 1.2 billion, is daily liberating some of its citizens from the clutches of poverty.
The UN Commission aptly observed that one of the greatest impediments to broadband access has been its cost. It, therefore, recommended that broadband be made more affordable. Its idea of acceptable affordability is what is called “1 for 2” which is shorthand for one gigabyte of data costing two per cent or less of the monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita. Although the NCC has boasted of Nigeria being among the four African countries that currently met the commission’s target for broadband penetration (others are Tunisia, Mauritius and Egypt), the “1 for 2” policy does not seem to us affordable and Nigerians continue to decry the high cost of data.
We urge the Federal Government, the NCC and relevant agencies not to miss the broadband targets. It is expected that by 2025 Nigeria would have recorded a 75 per cent broadband penetration. NCC says Nigeria has topped 30 per cent and would reach 70 per cent in 2024. In other words that target seems all but done.
But more targets are required to be reached: 60 per cent proficiency in digital skills; 40 per cent in digital finance; 50 per cent of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) must be connected; and gender equality must be assured. The last seems easier now than at earlier times. Nigerian women are able and willing to take their place today. These targets are clearly achievable. Indeed, the President of the Nigerian Association of Telecommunication Companies, Olusola Teniola, was quoted as saying that the capacity to attain the targets is here in the country.
The Internet and broadband are regarded as the harbingers of the fourth industrial revolution. We unwittingly let the first three pass us by. There would be no earthly or celestial reason not to join the train this time. Indeed, this seems a unique opportunity to enable us leap-frog decades of lethargy and ignorance.
Even the World Bank has testified that a 10 per cent increase in broadband automatically leads to 1.38 per cent in GDP growth. This is a great opportunity to expand access and opportunities for the rural populace, for women and others in need of economic empowerment. We need to invest in broadband.