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Campaign mounts on special status for broadband

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By Emmanuel Elebeke
Discussions on how to get governments convinced and  buy into broadband project were bone of contention at the first Nigerian Broadband Stakeholders Forum held in Abuja last week.

L-R: Mr, Olusola Teniola, Chief Operating Officer, Phase3 Telecoms; Dr. John Dada, Chairman, The Broadband for Nigeria, and Commodore J.O Oluwole of the Nigerian Navy, at the BroadBand for Nigeria’s Stakeholders’ Forum in Abuja, last week.

The forum presented Nigeria the opportunity to make Nigeria’s MDG goals  and Vision 2020_20 a reality, while the final draft of the meeting will form the bedrock of the next crucial steps, aimed at  ensuring that the message get to the relevant  persons responsible for developing the policy that will make the plan a  reality.

The event was organized by the  Association of  Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in collaboration with Fatsuam, Foundation and  Nigeria ICT Forum, while the association for Progressive Communications (APC) provided the support funding.

It event attracted stakeholders in the industry, government personnel and other concerned stakeholders from other works  of life, who unianimously agreed that it is time for Nigeria to embrace broadband network by adopting as framework policy.

By so doing, they said  Nigerian economy will grow faster and compete with the rest of the world. To them, federal government need not waste time in  according broadband special priority by granting the drafted  framework accelerated attention. They also contended that the government needs to invest massively into the broadband network, because of the multiple benefits it can bring to Nigeria.

The participants reasoned that,  if government fails to give the desirable priority to the fibre network now, the consequences may be too much for the nation ti bear.

The stakeholder thereafter adopt a draft framework document for the Broadband for Nigeria Project, following some useful inputs and recommendations made on the document. The draft framework which was prepared by the organizers of the event is meant to be presented to the federal government for onward review and implementation.

Presenting the  framework to the public, national President, Association of Telecommunication Companies in Nigeria (ATCON), Engr. Titi Omo Ettu, after taking  the audience through the documents illuminated on the need for broadband network in Nigeria. He said though the nation had made some reasonable steps forward in terms of technology advancement, it still requires the deployment of broadband for the people to be fully empowered and mobilized. Contended that the country was not in need of good people but in need of good system to move forward.

Discussants at the occasion made some observations and contributions that captured the essence of what the Nigerian Government needed to do, to leapfrog from its present level of development in technology to the advanced stage.

The participants equally noted that Nigerian government at this incubating stage of the nation’s telecom industry, government  cannot afford to disappoint its citizens on provision of basic infrastructure, by denying its people the huge benefits broadband.

To the ATCON president, the issue should not be a question of choosing either Bread or Broadband, insisting that  Nigerians need both Bread and Broadband.

In his Keynote address, the Programme Director of Fantuam Foundation, Dr. John Dada the phenomenal growth in voice communication recorded by  Nigerian in the recent past had not been reflected in broadband connectivity, hence the need for the forum.

For this reason, he noted that the broadband access gap between Nigeria and the rest of the world, including some African countries was getting wider. It is this concern however, he said that catalyzed the Broadband for Nigeria (BB4NG) project.

He explained that the goal of the project was to mobilize civil society organizations and the private sector to advocate for immediate steps to make bandwidth more affordable in Nigeria by proposing that Nigeria develops a national Broadband Strategy in consultation with stakeholders. For him, the goal should be getting broadband for something, for some purpose, not just broadband for broadband sake.

It was equally  observed that beyond ensuring that the Broadband for Nigeria framework document, synergizes with ongoing and previous efforts of Government, it must be made explicit and clear to Government that broadband is the medium that is needed to ensure a successful, sustainable, and inclusive achievement of  its MDGs commitments and vision 2020_20.

Omo-Ettu who expressed delight for the successful hosting of the event, remarked that the occasion  presented them  the opportunity to make Nigeria’s MDG commitments and Vision 2020_20 a reality. The next crucial steps according to him is to ensure that the message reaches all the people who will be responsible in developing the policy that will make plan a reality.

Earlier in his remark, the chairmanship of occasion, Chief Operating Officer of Phase 3 Telecom, Mr. Olusola Teniola, said having broadband is a right and not a privilege to every Nigerian citizen, adding that broadband as a tool and enabler in the 21st century is needed by everyone, irrespective of his geographical  location or social status.

He called on the government to create enabling environment for the private sector to begin fell deployment of the infrastructure to all corners of the country, as according to him, such step apart from encouraging competition among operators,  would also drive price down and make the service available to all.

Temiola who deplored the two percent internet penetration in Nigeria called for rapid response to the situation, noting that the broadband when fully deployed in Nigeria, would not just enhance mobile network services in the country but also going to boost e-governance, e-banking, e-commerce among others benefits.

Chairman of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Hon Mohammed Bulama in a goodwill message, also lent his voice in support to the previous speakers, and insisted that government has no excuse not to invest into the digital age.

“We must invest in digital age and to me, government have a duty in providing basic infrastructure such as broadband to the people, which ICT is part of. We must bring our politicians on board because when we talk about broadband, we are talking about national development. So, if we want to move forward, we must be prepared to embrace broadband to make it happen,” he posited.

To the President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN) President, Jimson Olufuye, the major challenge facing the nation in making  broadband accessible to the people  is connectivity. But with this forum, he expressed optimism that the nation is fast in realizing its millennium goals. He charged the federal government to support the initiative by adopting the framework of the forum.

Executive Director, Development Information Network, Bankole Olubamise, described the forum as   timely and worthy of emulation by other stakeholders, as it would  set a  bench mark for ICT  development  for the broadband penetration campaign in the country. His belief was that for the nation to experience massive transformation in the nation’s economy, government need to sponsor broadband capacity so that the universities will be able to have access for research and training, through special fund.

For the participants, the message to government  is that: Broadband is the critical and efficient medium such as that is  needed for the timely delivery of MDGs, Vision 2020_20 and ICT4D. And in order to ensure that Nigeria’s MDG commitments and Vision 202020 reach their target audience in all the 774 Local Governments, it will require a substantial completion of  fixed Broadband infrastructure that gives optimum connectivity within the country and to the global internet.

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