Envoy tasks government, MNOs on improved Internet services in Nigeria

The British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, Harriet Thompson, has said improved Internet access and services are crucial to developing Nigeria’s technology space.

As such, she said efforts must be aggregated by the authorities to ensure the Internet becomes ubiquitous in the country. 

Thompson, who said the United Kingdom (UK), has so much interest in Nigeria’s information and communications technology (ICT) development, noted that focusing on technology was good for both countries, especially towards driving economic growth and creating jobs.

Speaking in Lagos, yesterday, at the Nigeria Innovation Summit 2019, themed, “Accelerating Nigeria’s Economic Growth through Innovation,” Thompson said the UK through the Digital Access Programme, was supporting Internet connectivity expansion to un-served and underserved communities in Nigeria, to promote inclusive economic development.

According to her, where Internet access is good, accessible, and affordable, entrepreneurship thrives, employment is generated, and investment grows.

Already, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are working to bridge access gaps in the country.

The Guardian checks showed that Nigeria still has about 195 access gaps with about 40 million people still without access to basic telephony services.

The British envoy said it has become crucial to improve access in Nigeria, especially for economic advancements

She said: “Another of our programmes is Go-Global, where we take the best Nigerian tech start-ups to the UK, giving them opportunities to secure investments from Britain, mentorship, and business-related training.

“The programme encourages them to come back to Nigeria and share what they have learned so the benefits are spread. Nigerian start-ups that have benefited from this in the past include Innovation Corner, Social Lender, ThriveAgric, and others.

“The good news is that the 2020 edition of the programme has been approved and the process to select qualified start-ups will commence soon. The appetite of UK-based companies to do business in Africa is greater than ever.”

Meanwhile, the NCC has said that fresh investments are needed in Nigeria’s broadband segment to drive innovation and digitisation, and has become imperative if the country must be reckoned with globally, and also benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Speaking, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said it is instructive to note that for innovation to thrive towards accelerating economic growth, robust telecoms/broadband infrastructure upon which ICT innovations will ride, is a necessity. 

Danbatta, represented by the Director, Research and Development, Ephraim Nwokenneya, said fresh investments will play a major role in fostering new development, noting that already, through effective regulatory efforts, the Commission has been able to deepen connectivity in the country.

He disclosed that as at June 2019, Internet connections in the country have reached over 122 million, with over 63.5 million of this figure connected to broadband networks of 3G and 4G, which represents a 33.31 per cent broadband penetration.
Danbatta said the task before NCC now, which is in line with digitisation, is to more than double the penetration level in the next five years. “As we increase collaboration and partnership with necessary stakeholders toward making a new broadband target that may be set by the Federal Government a reality.”

“Last year, the country was able to attain and surpass its initial 30 per cent broadband penetration target set in its National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2013-2018 by December, 2018,” he added.
While collaboration is key, Danbatta noted that the race for infrastructure deployment is a global concern.
According to him, if the recent happenings across the globe including in the United States is checked, “we’ll find out that infrastructure is receiving attention at the highest level of government in developed economies and this is because any nation that wants to develop must do this in a digitally-enabled framework.
“In the same token and in order for Nigeria not to end up becoming an irrelevant economy, if we don’t address the issue of digital infrastructure, the NCC, in its wisdom, has put in place the INFRACO framework in order to address the problem of accessibility, availability and affordability, as well as engender innovations through granting of research grants to the academia. Hence, robust telecoms/broadband infrastructure is fundamental baseline to engender innovations that will help to drive economic growth in Nigeria,” he added.

Source: TheGaudian

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