By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has said that it was targeting to cut the price of mobile data to less than N400 per gigabyte by 2025.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, said this while delivering a keynote address at a conference and exhibition of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in Abuja on Monday.
The programme was tagged National Strategic Mobilisation for the Actualisation of National Broadband Target of 70 per cent Conference and Exhibition themed, Realising the New Set Target of 70 per cent of Broadband Penetration.
Mr Pantami, who was represented by the Director of IT Infrastructure Solution Department, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr Usman Gambo Abdullahi, said broadband was the backbone of a digital economy.
He said that the event was aimed at x-raying the current level of broadband penetration, and consider areas of improvement, not only to achieve the 70 per cent broadband penetration but to exceed it.
“We are all aware that broadband supports the development of the digital economy and a focus on growing the national digital economy will also improve and diversify the nation’s traditional economy.
“The plan is carefully designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria. A minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas.
“With effective coverage available to at least 90 per cent of the population by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data as well as the penetration rate of 70 per cent by 2025,” he said.
He said it had been identified by industry experts that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration would increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of an economy by between 1.6 per cent and 4.6 per cent.
He recalled that as of July 2021, the broadband penetration was 39.79 per cent.
He added that the current evaluation of the broadband plan achievements so far revealed that as of the first quarter of 2022, broadband penetration stood at 42.27 per cent.
He said some of the challenges of broadband included multiple taxation and regulation, non-conformity with agreed Right-of-Way (RoW) charges, and difficulty in obtaining approvals and permits.
He said that burdensome taxes and levies were also some of the huge burdens on the industry and had stifled needed investment in telecommunication infrastructure.
He said that this steady increase was a result of relentless efforts made to address those challenges, but said the government was confident that the figure would continue to increase and surpass the set mid-term target of 50 per cent penetration by 2023.
“Our confidence in this is based on the strength of positive indices in 3G and 4G population coverage, which are presently at 83.65 per cent and 62.55 per cent respectively,” the minister said.
Mr Kashifu Inuwa, the Director-General of NITDA, in his paper, highlighted the agency’s contribution toward the demand of 70 per cent broadband penetration, which was NIRA free domain registration.
Mr Inuwa said this initiative sought to ensure collaboration between NIRA (.ng registry), NITDA and CAC toward getting more Nigerian businesses online by assigning a free .ng domain to every new business registered with CAC for the first two years.
He added that Digital Indigenous Language Contents was aimed at the development of digital content in local languages for citizen empowerment to leverage opportunities created by broadband, Digital Literacy Training and Awareness.
He said the goal of these initiatives was to develop or adopt an explicit Digital Literacy standard with coherent training and requisite certification for the duration of the plan.
“Our goal is to achieve at least one million developers with skills in various aspects of app development in the next 18 months.
“Our long-term objective is to champion the recalibration of the curriculum of institutions of higher learning, which remain the largest pipeline in the production of digital talent.
“It will ensure the implementation of the Nigeria e-Government Interoperability framework (Ne-GIF).
“The framework specifies concepts, principles, policies, recommendations, standards, and best practices for MDAs to work together towards cross-portfolio and seamless services delivery,” he said.
On his part, the President of ATCON, Mr Ikechukwu Nnamani, in his opening remarks, said that the event was an interactive session.
Mr Nnamani said this was something that would drive the country forward in a positive way and lead to development across all sectors of the economy.
“We are exploring and taking inventory of where we are in terms of the broadband target that has been set.
“We all know this is critical to the digital economy we are trying to build, which is why the broadband plan must be implemented and achieved,” he said.
The conference had panel sessions; the first session was on the state of broadband implementation in Nigeria.
The second session was on the Impact of Broadband Infrastructure on Over The Top (OTT) service providers, Fintech/e-commerce, equipment vendors, VAS providers, satellite operators, internet service providers, Manufacturers’ representatives, and Data Centre operators.