The ICT Minister said states are a hindrance to ICT development
State governments through their obnoxious policies and demands have become a hindrance to the infrastructural development in the Information and Communication Technology sector, a minister has said.
The Information, Communication and Technology, ICT, Minister, Omobola Johnson, said on Monday at the Broadband Summit 2012, held in Lagos, that the demands by state and local governments on ICT infrastructure providers were unrealistic.
The Minister said more work has to be done to remove the obstacles and constraints that state governments put in the way to the deployment of these infrastructures. According to her, in some states, the providers have to contest with about 7 MDAs (Ministries, Departments, and Agencies) and Local Governments to procure permission to erect these base stations.
She said that in some state capitals, it could cost an infrastructure provider about N500 million to about N1 billion, to procure the right of way and “no right thinking infrastructure provider would invest in the deployment of these infrastructure if the situation persists.”
Broadband access, a necessity
Mrs. Johnson also said the nation’s pursuit for efficient, effective and accessible broadband access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
The Minister, who said the access to broadband is now an issue of priority, said “Today, broadband access has shown it can no longer be termed as a luxury, but a necessity.”
“Broadband makes it faster and more convenient to access or conduct online transactions and brings about innovation. Broadband is now crucial to every country’s social, economic and political development and growth and it is also critical in the realisation of the nation’s Development Growth,” she said.
She said most countries have now adopted broadband policies; plan or strategies, to enable them effectively compete globally.
“Nigeria’s path to broadband policy took into cognisance our local realities our local context,” she said.
According to her, the nation’s ICT sector has been burdened by various government institutions, agencies, departments and parastatals working on various policies, and acting independently of each other; leading to duplication of functions, divergent and conflicting policies, strategies, administration and legal framework.
“The best way to commence integration was to harmonise all these inspired policies and come up with a single ICT policy,” she said, adding that the policy was viewed holistically and that the National ICT policy has been presented to and approved in principle by the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC.
She added that on Tuesday, she made a presentation to FEC, which had the state governments’ represented, to address this pending issue and gave the assurance that it would be looked into.
National ICT policy
The main objective of the policy, according to the minister, is to “create a conducive environment for the rapid expansion of ICT networks and services that are accessible to all at reasonable costs and for the transformation of Nigeria into a knowledge-based economy.”
The draft also states that the paucity of ICT infrastructure in the county has greatly hindered the efficient and affordable ICT services to the citizens. Nigerian ICT policy is also meant to focus on the development of the national ICT backbone and Broadband infrastructure; infrastructure that will foster digital literacy and internet usage, affordable Universal Access to ICT and national physical infrastructure (including power).
“Internet and Broadband have been globally acknowledged as the foundation for transformation to the knowledge economy. Broadband has the potential of enabling new industries and changing how we educate our children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government and access, organise and dissect knowledge. Even though there are some initiatives aimed at deploying broadband in Nigeria, there is need to accelerate on-going efforts and introduce new initiatives. This is necessary for the actualisation of the developmental goals of 20:20:20” the draft states.
In August, the FEC approved in principle, the National ICT policy which stated that over 70 per cent of Nigerians reside in rural areas and most do not have access to advanced ICT services and that some Nigerians reside in urban areas that are unserved or underserved. Consequently, efforts should be made to ensure universal access and quality service through the nationwide development of ICT infrastructure and service especially broadband internet access and related facilities and applications.
Christian Roulfert of Accenture said Africa is lacking behind in Broadband penetration despite recorded success, as there is still a huge potential for growth, development and expansion.
“Imagine how much more we can grow. There is a strong correlation between broadband penetration and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Broadband drives GDP growth. It enhances social and civil engagement. It improves companies’ prospect and increases productivity,” he said.
According to him, most countries have some plans to drive broadband as the world is moving towards mobile.
Funke Opeke, Founder and CEO, Main One Cable Company, a communications service provider, said there still remain key challenges despite the success stories so far.
“There remains lots of issues with quality and speed of access. Structure, price and competition issues prohibit effective supply to consumers, by infrastructure owners” she said, urging that the government should work with the private sector to accelerate the rollout of broadband networks and to extend access to the low income consumers and the rural areas.
“Broadband is important, locally and globally, as it drives growth. Infrastructures exist but needs to be opened up. Power is a challenge. Policies need to be tailored to our environment to drive ubiquity. The Government must take the leadership role and collaborate with the organised private sector and academics,” she said.
The event which was themed “Opportunities in Nigeria’s Emerging National Broadband Policy” focused on the nation’s attempt to address her ICT challenges. It was attended by key industry stakeholders, the regulators and operators, sitting together to address the challenges facing the nation’s ICT sector and proffering solutions to address them to achieve a more vibrant, efficient and effective sector.
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