NIGF - Fostering Broadband Growth in Nigeria
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Nigeria Internet Governance Forum (NIGF), a renewed collaborative effort of internet stakeholders in the country to help provide a coordinated mechanism for domestic stakeholder's participations in the local, regional and global internet governance dialogues, has culminated into partnerships, coalitions and dialogues that redefine the nation's position at internet governance meetings.
The forum which held in Lagos, had as its objective: engaging multi-stakeholder's to harness productive ideas, best practices and experiences towards facilitating an all-inclusive framework for internet governance that will stimulate economic growth.
Recent figures released by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shows that Telecommunications Service Providers in Nigeria have connected over 63 million Nigerians to the internet since the liberalisation of the sector in 2001. Thus contributing significantly to the country's recently rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which ranks telecoms as the fourth largest contributor to the economy.
The Minister of Communication Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson made this known in Lagos at the NIGF2014.
The Minister who was represented by a Director in the Ministry, John Ayodele, noted that her Ministry was focused on facilitating universal access to communications infrastructure, promoting Information Technology (IT) in all sphere of life and promoting the development of the IT sector.
According to her, the Ministry wishes to continue to leverage on this success by ensuring that its 'Connect Nigeria' programme through which necessary infrastructure is to be put in place across the country is actualised.
She noted that this will ensure that broadband infrastructure gets to the nooks and crannies of the country.
"Furthermore, in our quest to extending the use of internet services to rural and underserved areas, as well as schools, Government agencies such as the NCC, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) will continue to provide facilities to Public Access Venues(PAVs) funded by Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) and NITDA," she said.
Also she noted that the Ministry's collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC), National Research and Education Network (NgREN), a World Bank sponsored project has reached advanced stages. The project is to provide connectivity to 27 Federal Universities in the first instance with plans to expand to others soon, she stressed.
"Our 'Getting Government Online' initiative is geared towards ensuring that government deploys technology as a mechanism to transforming the way government operates and enhance the effectiveness of service delivery for the benefits of its citizens," Johnson emphasised.
50% coverage In a related development, the Broadband Council is pushing for increased 3G coverage to 50 per cent of the Nigerian population by 2015.
This was contained in a recent statement by Efem Nkanga, Senior Assistant, Media to the Communications Technology Minister.
The Minister said this was one of the outcomes of the fourth Broadband Council meeting held in Lagos recently. The meeting coincided with the first year anniversary of the approval of the Broadband Plan by President GoodluckEbele Jonathan. In reviewing progress against the broadband plan so far, Council highlighted that it had been slower than anticipated, though Broadband penetration has gone up from 6 to 6.8 per cent since implementation commenced.
Nkanga noted that all members agreed that sustained efforts needed to be maintained to increase the penetration rate in accordance with the five year target of the Broadband Plan as full 3G rollout would lead to increased mobile broadband penetration for all.
"To support its push for full 3G rollout across the nation, an Access Gap Analysis of the coverage of the country has been completed by the USPF. The purpose of the Access Gap study by USPF is to ascertain/determine priority for un-served and underserved areas and direct appropriate investments to these areas.
She continued: "The USPF's soon to be published Access Gap Analysis shows large population clusters of 500,000 and more still requiring coverage. This significant work by the USPF has given real empirical data to the issue of which areas of the country have connectivity. The members of the council commended the work of the USPF in this area. This work would feed into prioritised areas for USP funds".
Cluster of smart states:
Nkanga said the council also extensively deliberated on progress made with the Smart States initiative and getting states to reduce or remove Right of Way (RoW) charges and other related fees. Five states have so far indicated interest in being Smart States. They are Gombe, Bayelsa, Ondo, Anambra and Katsina. Lagos and Cross Rivers states are already considered well on their way to being Smart City States.
Mrs. Johnson said the smart-states drive to engage governors and relevant authorities at the state and federal levels to address the issue of multiple taxes, will accelerate the roll out of critical infrastructure nationwide.
Lagos State Government had earlier signed an agreement with the Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies (ALTON) to reduce the cost of RoW from N3,000 to N500 per square meter, a significant reduction of 85 per cent.
The aim of the Smart States initiative is to ensure that effective measures are adopted to remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations across the nation. Previous research by the Ministry revealed that ROW charges, levies and taxes contributed about 70 per cent to the cost of rolling out infrastructure in several states.
Nkanga noted that a collaborative agreement between the Ministries of Communication Technology (including the NCC) and Environment (which includes NESREA) has been gazetted and is now in place to help ease bottlenecks concerning Base Transceiver Station deployment.
"A Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the roles and responsibilities of each department with respect to base station deployment and approvals of Environmental Impact Assessments necessary for effective service delivery in the telecom sector is now operational".
In addition, the timeline for the processing of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports will no longer exceed 90 days, another obstacle often highlighted by Operators, she emphasised.
The push by the Council for the release of more spectrum by the NFMC and NCC is yielding positive results. The Nigerian Communications Commission successfully auctioned the 2.3GHz spectrum band to Bitflux Communications in February this year. The auction is in line with the mandated timeline of the broadband plan. The release of complementary Infraco licenses will follow shortly. NFMC continues to work closely with the NBC and NCC with regards to digital dividends and the release of 2.5GHz and 2.6GHz planned for later this year.
Incumbent occupants of the spectrum have been engaged and a mode oftransition is being worked out.
The broadband council was inaugurated on the 16th of July, 2013 and is made up of 19 members chaired by the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Dr (Mrs) Omobola Johnson. The Council is charged with the responsibility of working on implementation modalities for the approved Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2013 - 2018.
Copyright Daily Independent. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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