By ADEDEJI FAKOREDE
INFORMATION Technology Industry stakeholders at the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has unanimous in their views that deliberate efforts must be made to eliminate certain factors limiting the citizens’ broadband access and affordability.
A4AI brings together prominent players from private and public sectors and civil society to provide a unified approach and coordinated focus in addressing the shared goal of open, affordable access to the internet in the developing world.
Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu has said the Forum availed him the opportunity to hear the views of high ranked stakeholders in the industry on the best way to move the Communication industry forward especially with the aim to increase its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He agreed with the A4AI’s findings that to ensure broadband access and affordability, priority issues to address include infrastructure sharing and open access; spectrum and consumer awareness and pricing transparency.
Available statistics shows that while the sector has grown at an average of 34% per annum in the last 10 quarters, largely driven by the rapid expansion in telecommunications, following the deregulation of the sub-sector in 2001, the industry’s contribution to the GDP has moved from less than 0.5% in 2001 to six% in 2012 to 10% between 2013 and 2014 and currently around 11%.
However, the Minister called for proposals from the industry that will help the administration leapfrog the country’s 2013-2018 National Broadband Plan.
He said, “ The President Muhammadu Buhari led government plans to have more Nigerians get seamless access to broadband and the internet, and the National Broadband Plan 2013-2018 clearly articulates the importance of affordability in doing so.
He added “My team and I are committed to working with stakeholders in order to ensure that broadband and the internet are available at affordable rates to every Nigerians.”
The Minister who was full of praises for Dr. Mrs Omobola Johnson, his predecessor and pioneer Ministry of Communication Technology; and Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, former EVC of NCC, now chairperson and national coordinator of A4AI, respectively, for their efforts towards drafting the National Broadband Plan, commended the Group “for bringing this ideal to the fore, aiming for 30% penetration by the year 2018. It is my understanding that the implementation of this plan nationwide has been slow and fraught with multifarious challenges but I wish to assure you that change has come in this regard”.
He said, under his tenure the industry can be assured of transparency in areas such as spectrum licensing, government-industry players relationships, amongst others. Also speaking Dr. Mrs Omobola Johnson, chairperson of A4AI-Nigeria, said that attention has to shift from awareness to impact, as the prices of broadband services, though falling, still remains a huge barrier to adoption and usage.
She said that inter-agency collaborations and telcos colocation drives are part of critical steps that must be sustained to enhance investments in the broadband infrastructure.
Johnson also called on industry stakeholders to support Shittu in articulating progressive policies and regulations to boost the investments return on investments and Contributions to the GDP.
On his part, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, the national coordinator said that A4AI aims to increase the affordability of both mobile and fixed-line internet access, with a focus on achieving the UN Broadband Commission Target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5% average monthly income.
Ndukwe said that A4AI has regards education as key in driving the purpose as many African leaders are yet to understand the efficacy of the broadband in driving economic growth.
He added that forward-thinking personalities in the helm of affairs in government sphere, there will be greater impact on eliminating barriers to pervasive usage of broadband.
Nigeria recorded improved ranking in A4AI’s 2014 Affordability Report, giving it a rank of 11 out of 51 overall; it was ranked 19th in the year 2013.
However, Ndukwe said that Nigeria still lacks the massive subscriptions base that will lead to more “aggressive” investments and access.
To tackle this, he said, the Coalition members have formed three working groups to work on each priority issues.
He said that Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) as the world’s broadest technology sector coalition wants everyone, everywhere, to be able to access the life-changing power of the Internet affordably.
Our goal is to achieve the UN Broadband Commission target of entry-level broadband priced at less than 5% of monthly income, thereby enabling billions more people to come online.
“We know that affordability remains the primary obstacle to Internet access throughout the developing world. Experience shows that policy and regulatory reform are the best tools to unlock technological advances and dramatically reduce the cost to connect. Through a combination of advocacy, research and knowledge-sharing, A4AI drives policy change by seeking to create the conditions for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets”, he explained.