by Nkechi Isaac,
The diversification of the Nigeria economy has become imperative in the face of dwindling revenue from the oil sector.
Stakeholders in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector posits that the sector provides a veritable option for diversifying the nation’s economy because it has the added advantage of being able to improve efficiency and enhance productivity in all the other sectors of the economy.
Speaking during the first Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4A1) –Nigerian Coalition meeting held in Abuja, the minister of communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, stressed the federal government’s commitment in diversifying the nation’s economy by promoting growth and profitability through ICT.
“Government is committed to diversifying the country’s economy by leveraging on ICT and taking steps to revitalise the ICT sector and re-strategise the ICT ecosystem that would further identify policy benefits, business opportunities, technology solutions, share best practices and form strategic relationships that would drive the country’s ICT and telecom industry in this period of economic meltdown to profitability and growth,” he said.
The minister promised that the ministry would partner with the alliance to promote access to affordable internet for all Nigerians.
Shittu noted that the ministry and A4AI share a common goal of making the internet universally affordable for all who want to use.
According to him, “The goal is quantified in a measure of having one Gigabyte of bandwidth that will not cost more than two per cent of a person’s monthly income.”
Shittu stated that the meeting was a follow-up to the sector’s scorecard that is expected to come out with a common position on how to have an improved synergy amongst the various stakeholders for the effective implementation of the ICT strategic roadmap and broadband implementation in 2017, adding that it would also serve as an opportunity to have a general overview of the economy and to discuss the framework for the full implementation of the national broadband plan, its key priorities and deliverables.
In his opening remarks, the national coordinator of A4AI, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, lauded activities of the ministry, saying the MoU signed by the ministry and the alliance in 2013 enabled them to accomplish some of the plans and objectives of the MoU which are offering support to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on regulation regarding data price floor, supports developing new spectrum trading good practices, mobilised support against communication service tax, hosted capacity building meetings on infrastructure sharing amongst others, adding that the platform plans to do more to promote ICT development in the nation.
In her remarks, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, ICT program officer, Ms Folake Olagunju Oyelola, commended the synergy between the ministry and A4A1, saying it was in line with the ECOWAS commission’s vision of creating a borderless West Africa and to ensure that the benefits of technology reaches all its citizens.
Folake said the ECOWAS Supplementary Act on universal access and service required member states to have a strategy for financing the deployment of basic communication services to the remote areas, including internet access at an affordable price.
Prior to the meeting, the permanent secretary of the ministry of communications, Sonny Echono, assured the alliance of the ministry’s readiness to renew the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) the ministry signed with it in 2013.
Receiving a delegation led by Ndukwe, during a courtesy on the permanent secretary, he noted that efforts were made during the past three years in the area of providing access to affordable internet since the MoU was signed, adding that more needed to be done in order to achieve affordable broadband access that would service all Nigerians and also address issues hindering affordability.
“This will include certain policies and initiatives that would bring about easy access to affordable internet which would cut across all genders and sectors that would add value to our economy as well, hence the need for the renewal of the MoU,” he stated.
Earlier in his address, Ndukwe, thanked the permanent secretary on behalf of his team for granting them audience and agreeing to renew the MoU, promising to come up with a proposal for its renewal soonest.
Ndukwe said that the coalition’s meeting was to brain storm on the challenges in advancing access to affordable broadband services for all Nigerians and also to review Nigeria’s gender scorecard on the World Web Foundation’s recent Women’s Rights Online Study on the digital gender gaps amongst others.