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FG to boost Internet speeds in Ogun, Edo, others

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Nigeria is set to launch an initiative to boost broadband development and adoption in Edo, Ogun, Kwara, Katsina, Imo, Abia, Borno, and Nasarawa in the first quarter of 2024.

The initiative called the National Broadband Alliance for Nigeria is the brainchild of the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy and is aimed at solving low-fibre network rollout in the country.

The office of the minister, Dr ‘Bosun Tijani, disclosed this in a white paper titled, ‘Broadband Access for All: Introduction Deepening Nigeria’s National Backbone and Middle Mile Infrastructure.’

The white paper stated that individuals and communities face a growing barrier to navigating the interconnected landscape of today’s world without reliable and affordable Internet access and the resulting barriers from this limited Internet access range from economic to knowledge exchange barriers.

It highlighted that nations gain unprecedented benefits in speed, reliability, and future scaling when they build modern broadband infrastructures. Quoting the 2019 Broadband Plan, the country needs at least 120,000km of fibre optic cables to achieve its coverage goal.

However, laying these optic cables is besieged with many problems, it pointed out. It announced that the National Broadband Alliance for Nigeria is a multi-stakeholder collaboration aimed at solving this by spearheading a concerted effort to achieve universal broadband access across the nation.

Announcing the initiative, the paper read, “To tackle the low and non-consumption challenge and its resultant poor ROI in nationwide fibre network, the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital economy has initiated a National Broadband Alliance for Nigeria to foster collaboration for broadband development and adoption, as well as position Nigeria at the forefront of the global digital landscape.”

It continued, “Recognising the imperativeness of broadband in economic development, the alliance will bring together key stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, to collaboratively develop sustainable business model(s) for driving the adoption and consumption of Internet in key critical public institutions (schools, hospitals, government offices, libraries and markets etc.) across the nation.”

The office of the minister of communications noted that the alliance will also serve as a platform for government agencies, telecommunication companies, technology providers, and civil society organisations to coordinate efforts and share resources for nationwide expansion of broadband services.

It stated that NBAN would work closely with regulatory bodies to streamline processes and remove obstacles hindering the swift deployment of broadband networks in the country.

It said, “It will also drive digital inclusion and awareness to ensure the inclusion of all segments of society in the digital economy and benefit from the advantages of broadband connectivity.”

Commenting on rollout plan, it added, “The pilot of this initiative will kick off in 7 states of the country before the end of Q1 2024. The initial states are Edo, Ogun, Kwara, Katsina, Imo, Abia, Borno and Nasarawa. These initial states have been considered using their present broadband investment and management of fibre optic challenges in their respective states such as such as waiver of the Right of Way fee.”

In a tweet revealing the whitepaper on X titled, ‘Broadband Access for All,’ Tijani said, “A constant conversation in my time as Minister has been around the quality of internet services, so as I head out to @wef next week, I will be focusing on securing partnerships for 2 key initiatives to bridge the internet quality and access gap in Nigeria.

“To expand further on the first step towards this, I am sharing a whitepaper (Link here – that outlines our plan to build an alliance which plugs the non-consumption gap so we can guarantee affordable access for all, including rural and underserved parts of Nigeria.”

He noted that the ministry was working to strengthen the digital economy to be driven by connectivity and as highlighted earlier, this move is part of the ministry’s infrastructure pillar of its strategic blueprint.

According to the government, broadband refers to high-speed Internet connection. As of the end of August 2023, broadband penetration was 45.57 per cent based on data from the Nigerian Communications Commission. Nigeria’s target is to hit 50 per cent by the end of 2023 (data is yet to be released pertaining to this).

Recently, the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, told The PUNCH, “Increasing penetration is good news, it will reduce poverty and will level us up, digitally, with our counterparts in the world. Internet penetration will increase jobs, as well as ensure that our people are getting more and more empowered.”

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