By Emma Elebeke
Recently, the Telecom Answers Associates, a technical partner with the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC announced a business workshop on Broadband expansion program. The Business Workshop is expected to feature discussions on implementation modalities of the Program and also on topics such as Investment Opportunities in Infrastructure Extension; Content Development; Challenges of the Industry; Accessing Funding Opportunities as well as Operating Environment and Regulatory Requirements; amongst others. In this interview, the organizer of the programme, Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu shed more light on the essence of the workshop, which is to expand the reach of Broadband infrastructure in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Tell us what Broadband Expansion Programme is and what it intends to achieve?
It is an initiative that seeks to mobilise local players who are engaged in broadband solution businesses of any kind, for coordinated access to funding and capacity development with rapid spread of broadband Internet access in focus. It came as outcome of several conferences and summits which were held in the past few years on the subject of expanding the reach of broadband Internet access in Nigeria. It is conceived by our company, Telecom Answers Associates and we sought and got the collaboration of the NCC.
Now you have NCC’s support, what are the scope and modus operandi?
The programme is a process and not an event. Although there is a business workshop component of the process which is scheduled for March 5 – 7, the entire programme is conceived to be measurable over a period of about 36 months in the first instance. It will operate in a manner that those who choose to participate will decide. It is a process whose implementation modalities are neither sacrosanct nor cast in stone.
What percentage penetration are you looking at in the three years short term period?
The figures will emerge as we progress on the process. However, the process will be guided by indices such as the current national penetration percentage which hovers between five to six per cent and the fact that some stakeholder groups and individuals have canvassed achievement of 50 per cent penetration by 2015.
Why is the program limited to only industry players?
Because whatever has a scope must have a boundary.
What is the level of government/private participation?
Both the Ministry of Communication Technology and the Nigerian Communications Commission have endorsed the initiative as well thought out and they have given support in almost all manners that were sought. A steering committee is in place and will be expanded from time to time to ensure that the programme is not derailed.
What are the expected ripple effects on the economy?
Credible experts have estimated that a 10 per cent investment in broadband yields a 1.6 per cent growth in the GDP. The future of the entire economy is destined to depend very largely on broadband internet access resources and any initiative which promotes the frontiers of broadband Internet access is bound to uplift the economy of the country. This is just one initiative out of many that are being promoted by several efforts within the industry.
What are the expected challenges?
The usual business, infrastructure, and bureaucracy related vicissitudes. Initiatives like this are not new to our company and they are never immune to the stresses and strains that exist in our environment. In 1995, we reached a conclusion that the internet was a subject of the future for which the entire society had to be mobilized and we went ahead to promote it as such. In retrospect, the results were worth the effort and the process is still on-going. When we started, we did not know that THE CYBERSCHUUL would emerge to train and CyberschuulNews.com to inform. These include Industry Liberalization (1992) The Internet Applications (1995), Mobile Telephony (1999), Co-location and infrastructure sharing (2009) and WiMAX (2010) to mention a few.