President Muhammadu Buhari has directed mobile network operators (MNOs) to ensure special attention is given to unserved and underserved areas when deploying telecom services in the process of implementing full attainment of the targets set in the new National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.
The President made the call on Thursday (19/03/2020) at the unveiling of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 20202025, the commissioning of the Communications and Digital Economy Complex, the commencement of the Digital, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Scheme, and the launching of the Abuja Emergency Communication Centre (ECC) and the National Emergency Toll-Free Number, 112.
President Buhari, who expressed concern about the challenges faced by operators in the country, particularly vandalism of telecommunications equipment, also directed the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to work with all relevant government agencies to ensure full protection of critical national infrastructure such as telecoms infrastructure.
He emphasised Federal Governments commitment to ensuring that all stakeholders have a conducive environment to ensure the successful implementation of the Broadband Plan, which seeks to boost broadband penetration as well as support the deployment of 4G across the country.
The President particularly commended efforts of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Presidential Committee and all other stakeholders, who participated in the development of the new National Broadband Plan, for coming up with new broadband target of 70 per cent penetration of broadband in the country by 2025.
Speaking further at the occasion, the President said the NCCs Communications and Digital Economy Complex will provide a befitting coordinating centre for the new focus on a digital Nigeria. He stated that the commissioning of the complex amplified governments desire to intensify efforts towards ensuring that Nigeria becomes an active participant in the Global Digital Economy.
He also said that the newly-commissioned ECC and Toll Free Number, 112, demonstrate his administrations resolve to keep Nigerians safe by taking advantage of digital technologies to ensure that Nigerians in distress are only a phone call away from the relevant emergency response institutions in the country to ensure their rescue.
The Emergency Communications Centres (ECC) will go a long way in supporting our efforts to improve the security of lives and property, the President said.
He also explained that the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training scheme, an initiative of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, is one of Federal Governments key initiatives to empower innovators and entrepreneurs with skills required to thrive in the emerging digital economy.
Buhari said the digital capacity-building initiative is part of his administrations efforts to ensure that our youths, women, unemployed graduates and people living with disabilities either become employers of labour or get a large number of well-paying jobs thereby incrementally contributing to the national drive of lifting many Nigerians out of poverty.
While stating that the dwindling price of crude oil had adversely affected budgetary projections and underscores the imperative of diversifying the economy, Buhari, however, expressed delight that the projects commissioned would enhance the development of the National Digital Economy and support efforts at diversifying the economy.
The Digital Economy will also support us in fighting corruption through digitalization and enabling government digital services. Digital technologies have become a useful platform for economic diversification. Having recognised the benefits of these technologies we have decided to adopt the Digital Economy paradigm early,” he said.
Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, emphasised the centrality of broadband penetration to reviving the Nigerian economy. He said it has been proven that 10 per cent broadband penetration in any country will improve its GDP by at least 4.6 per cent.
The Minister explained that with Coronavirus contagion spreading across the globe and more people living in isolation, the digital and information communication sector is providing alternatives for people to stay in touch and institutions to provide the needed basic life-saving services to the populace.
Also speaking, Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, said as at the time President Buharis administration came into power in 2015, broadband penetration was hovering between 4 and 6 per cent. However, broadband penetration has now reached 38.5 per cent.
Going down memory lane on the construction of the complex, Danbatta explained that as part of its desire to further develop the communications sector, the NCC set up the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) in 2005 and the NCC-DBI hostel and recreational facilities as part of its initiative to provide a conducive atmosphere for proposed students.
The facility was confirmed and ratified by the Federal Executive Council at its 45th meeting held on November 22, 2006. The NCC-DBI hostel and recreational facilities were abandoned before completion and were redesigned and modified by the NCC Management in 2018 from a hostel to an office complex; and was later renamed the Communications and Digital Economy Complex in line with current realities and policy direction of the government on digital Nigeria. The facility provides office accommodation to the Honourable Minister, Communications & Digital Economy and four full departments of the NCC, he said.
On the ECC, the EVC said NCC facilitated the establishment of 18 ECCs in 17 states of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in line with the Commissions mandate under section 107 of Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003.
This is to promote and enhance public safety through the use of a particular number designed as the universal safety and emergency assistance number for telephone services generally; and to encourage and facilitate the prompt deployment throughout Nigeria of seamless, ubiquitous and reliable end-to-end infrastructure for emergency communication needs, the EVC said.
The recognition of the significant role of NCCs ECC in enhancing security, resulted in the awards received by the Commission and its CEO in 2019. Consequently, the NCC has also been inducted into the Forum of Spokesperson of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA), as an eloquent testimony to its commitment to leveraging new technologies to address the nation’s numerous security concerns.