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Meeting National Economic Targets: The Telecoms Industry Example

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One of the things considered a herculean task in a country like Nigeria is getting organisations and businesses to be able to meet and surpass their set goals and targets for sustainability.

The failure to meet such goals is not normally associated with improper planning by those saddled with the responsibility of achieving those targets but, sometimes, it’s as a result of challenges within the operating environment.

This, perhaps, explains why the Federal Government in 2017 issued the Executive Order 001 aimed at entrenching the ease of doing business principle across all sectors of the economy.

In the public sector, for instance, meeting national economic goals often remains largely elusive. Efforts of the implementing organisations in a sector’s value-chain are often hampered by a number of challenges. These may range from poor funding, chocking regulations and facile implementation of projects designed to achieve those goals, among others.

In the power sector, the task of achieving certain level of power generation targets for the country annually for optimum economic performance has remained a mirage. Similar ‘deadlocks’ are obtainable in many other sectors where sectoral targets set for national economy are not actualised.

It is against this backdrop that the record achievement of 30%  broadband penetration target  set by the Federal Government and which was spear-headed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and under the leadership of its Executive Vice Chairman , Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, a professor of telecommunications engendering, deserves an applause and  acknowledgment of all and sundry.

Broadband, or simply high-speed internet, has been described by the World Bank as having the potential to accelerate the growth of a country’s economy, especially in developing countries such as Nigeria.

To give an accent to this, the Nigerian government instituted a presidential committee that came up with a target to increase broadband penetration in Nigeria, from 6 per cent, where it was in 2013 to 30 per cent by end of December 2018.

Interestingly, Prof. Danbatta, an erudite engineer and astute administrator was appointed in 2015 as the EVC of NCC at a time broadband penetration was barely scratching 8%  threshold.

It said that on assuming office, Danbatta-led NCC management quickly put in place a strategic vision plan anchored on its 8-Point Agenda. Curiously, the need to facilitate broadband penetration tops the agenda and this was pursued vigorously by the Commission with close monitoring of implementation of each of the issues on the agenda.

Other issues on the auspicious agenda aimed at driving pervasive access to telecoms services and by extension, access to high-speed internet include  improving quality of service, optimising the usage and benefits of spectrum, promoting investment opportunity and ICT innovation, facilitating strategic partnership and collaboration, protecting telecoms consumers, promoting fair competition and inclusive growth; and ensuring operational efficiency and regulatory excellence.

With thorough implementation of the eight items on the agenda, all culminating in improved and wider service access, the Commission did not only meet the 30 per cent broadband target but also surpassed it by December, 2018.

In fact, according to industry figures reported in the media, broadband peaked at 31.48 per cent in December, 2018. It has since continued to grow higher as broadband penetration stood at 33 %.

But the question may be asked as to what the NCC’s meeting and surpassing of the broadband target by the end of last year mean for the country. Also, it is also agitates the mind to interrogate exactly the implication of the current steady growth in broadband penetration since beginning of this year.

It is important to put this in context. In Nigeria, most services in commerce, banking, agriculture, medicine, transportation, aviation and so on are becoming increasingly dependent on telecoms services, especially data/internet access. The cashless economy we are currently trying to entrench in Nigeria with the use different e-payment platforms such as the Automated Teller Machine (ATM), Point of Sales (PoS), web-based payments, and mobile payment etc., is riding on telecoms infrastructure.

Banking services are Internet/data-dependent. Years before now, cases of poor ATM malfunctioning, inefficient online-transactions and so on were pervasive. Today, however, with increase in broadband penetration, banking experiences are getting better. In the past, cases of downtime are regular experiences in the banking industry. But with robust and deeper high-speed Internet facilitated by the NCC, downtime has becoming significantly minimal.

Suffice it to say that telecoms and, more specifically, broadband service has become an essential backbone for all other sectors of the economy. The banking sector is only an example  of  how broadband access has helped to transform each sector of the economy with improved productivity and efficiency.

Yet as the internet speed and access have increased significantly in the country the cost is also bound to reduce as time goes on.

The latest report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) puts Nigeria, Egypt and Rwanda as the  three countries in Africa offering cheapest  tariffs. As at the end of 2018, A4AI ranked Nigeria as the second country after Egypt with the lowest Internet cost in Africa.

 

– Adunola, a public sector analyst, writes from Ibadan, Oyo State.

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