By Innocent Odoh |
The United Kingdom (UK) Government has again demonstrated its support to Nigeria by collaborating with the federal government to achieve inclusive digital economic agenda to promote the growth of the Nigeria Tech ecosystem and close the digital divide in the country.
Following this collaboration, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the UK’s Digital Access Programme on Thursday, March 11, facilitated a ‘Technical Conference on Digital Inclusion for Underserved/Unserved Communities and Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs)’.
British deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria in Lagos, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, in his opening remarks said: “As our fight against the pandemic goes on, our focus is on supporting a sustainable and resilient recovery across Nigeria.
Jones said, “Tech has the ability to help us tackle some of the greatest social challenges of our time – from protecting our environment and reducing carbon emissions, to transforming health systems, saving lives through diagnosing diseases earlier, to aiding economic inclusion by deepening access to underserved populations.
“To drive this growth, Nigeria needs a combination of increased access to faster and better quality Internet connectivity infrastructure, an upskilled tech talent pool, a vibrant start-up ecosystem, access to investment and partnership opportunities both regionally and internationally.”
Delivering a keynote address entitled ‘Optimising and Prioritising Digital Inclusion In The Face of COVID-19’, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isah Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) said: “The federal government’s priority is developing strategy and policy to provide an enabling environment which supports the private sector to bridge the digital divide. We are supporting the growth of the sector which contributed 14.70 per cent in to the GDP in Q4 of 2020 and will continue to do so.
“On-behalf of President Buhari, I want to thank the UK Government for their continued support for Nigeria’s digital sector including the development of the national broadband plan which has led to 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration in Nigeria since it was launched a year ago.”
Reacting to the technical study, the executive vice chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, also thanked the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme for their support in championing digital inclusion in Nigeria:
“Previously there were about 200 clusters where there are digital access gaps, this means that 40 million Nigerians do not have access to telecommunications or internet services.
“On the part of the NCC, we are working on cutting down these clusters. As of today, we have cut these clusters down to 114 and reduce the population size by 10 million.
“I appreciate the efforts of the UK government through their Digital Access Programme on coming up with this diagnostic study on identifying the gaps to access as they exist today.”
The FCDO’s head of Digital Development and Global SRO of the Digital Access Programme, Alessandra Lustrati said: “This Project provides empirical evidence to demonstrate that despite progress made, a huge digital gap exists between unserved and underserved communities and PLWDs, on one hand, and the rest of the society, on the other hand but more importantly, it has also recommended possible solutions.
Lustrati said, “The project stresses the point that digital inclusion is now vital and urgent. We welcome the adoption of these recommendations as an important stepping stone in the creation of policy and the implementation of interventions to bridge the digital divide in Nigeria and we look forward to the implementation of these recommendations.”
The virtual conference was organised as a catalyst to aggregate views and develop quick-win strategies to resolve the issues of populations without access to digital; in order to bring poor and excluded people into the digital economy, reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth.
The UK has continued to place the development and adoption of digital inclusion at the very heart of its agenda to be a global force for good. The UK recognises the power of the digital economy to deliver on the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).