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CTO Forum seeks easy broadband access for all

By Emeka Aginam & Emma Elebeke

Participants at the just concluded   2013 edition of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization, CTO,  forum  held in Abuja have among other things resolved to develop, adopt  and implement policies and establish regulatory environment that would encourage investments in affordable, safe and equitable broadband.

The event entitled: Innovation Through Broadband, offered participants critical updates and insights into infrastructure, security, and application challenges.

Six key topics discussed at the forum were: future networks; internet security and cyber security; social media; data management; broadband as an enabler for women and youth empowerment.

Concerned with the persisting wide gaps in global internet access, particularly broadband access including gender gaps, the forum which was hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, on behalf of the Nigerian Government further agreed to promote local initiatives and innovation to advance entrepreneurship.

Future networks, infrastructure development and enabling business,  Internet Security and Cybersecurity, developing protocol and ensuring resilience, among others were issues discussed at   CTO  2013 forum  which  was  hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC,  on behalf of the Nige

Sponsored by Google, Huawei, MTN Dimension Data, 4A1, Etisalat, Facebook, MaianOne, Vodacom, Phase telecom, Galaxy Backbone, Coolink, Helios Towers among others , the forum believed that with right policies and infrastructure put in place in countries of Commonwealth, broadband challenges would be surmounted..

Harmonization of national regulatory frameworks

Also concerned  with the persisting gaps in global broadband affordability, the forum comprising  IT Ministers, senior officials, regulators, universal service fund administrators, operators and vendors  resolved to be committed to work with regional and international organizations to ensure continued harmonization of national regulatory frameworks.

Recognizing that universal affordable broadband access will be best achieved through forward looking policies, facilitating regulations and innovative partnerships, the CTO forum agreed to facilitate research for solutions and applications on the adoption and use of the internet to unleash the transformational power of broadband.

Bridge the gender gap

While the Secretary General of CTO Prof. Tim Unwin assured to support countries in the Commonwealth on best practice in broadband plans and action, the forum resolved to create particular broadband services and applications for women in order to bridge the gender gap and  actively promote the use of specific of broadband services and applications to support youth.

Moral agenda

Meanwhile, the Communications Technology Minister, Mrs. Omobola Johnson earlier in her closing remarks urged the forum to grab with both hands the issue of the “moral agenda” that has been graphically laid out for everybody over these past few days. “We have heard from the actual creators of the Internet and can appreciate how much this tool has progressed from being a “good to have“novelty to a “must have” necessity if we are to address our developmental challenges” she said.

ITU,  CTO,  key to formulating policies

According to the Minister, organizations like the ITU and CTO will also be key to formulating policies and helping bring well-placed pressure to bear on the globally popular applications and Internet services that will ultimately benefit the most from the high speed access that we want our citizens and their customers to have.

Affordable broadband for digital economy

For the excited Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, broadband must be affordable and available for all may for digital economy.

While thanking IT Ministers Directors of other Commonwealth countries for their commitment for finding time to attend the capacity building event appealed to the governments to support broadband initiatives of countries in the Commonwealth, saying that Nigerian broadband plans should be a model for other countries.

Multi-stakeholder’s approach needed

Although many countries across the Commonwealth region have their broadband plans to tackle last mile challenge, participants at the forum  said that unless multi-stakeholder’s approach was adopted to drive broadband by governments across the region , accelerated broadband infrastructure development  may be farfetched.

With ‘Innovation through broadband’ as year’s theme speakers after speaker   at the international capacity building event noted that it was time  for countries in the region   to move from talking to action as time was already running out.

Time to begin work:

At the event that offered opportunity for both public and private sectors to discover how suitable partnerships can hasten ICT development for the benefit of all, including the marginalized across the world, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Arc. Mohammed Namadi Sambo earlier his opening remarks told the gathering it was time to begin work.

The Vice President who was represented by the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Mobolaji Johnson said that broadband development in Nigeria requires public private partnership engagement for digital economy.

Open access model

In his welcome remarks, the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah said that t government has studied different models and has adopted the open access model where government would provide major infrastructure and rent out to licensed operators to make it easier for penetration.

“We are in full realization of the impact of broadband to the overall development of the economy in terms of stimulation of business activities, providing support for other economy, providing living and governance, nd improving relations between Nigeria and other nations with fellow Commonwealth countries.

“The good news is that government, at the highest level in Nigeria, has adopted broadband as a platform to leverage and improve on the gains already made in the telecoms sector. The national broadband development plan 2013 – 2018 produced by the Presidential broadband committee provided  a realistic 80% penetration in its road map for broadband development in Nigeria”  the NCC EVC  explained.

The CT Minister also in her welcome address said that with Nigerian Broadband plan,  the country would be among the countries in the world that will use broadband for economic growth.

nications infrastructure gap existed  in the country.

Although the number of base stations in Nigeria has increased exponentially since the inception of GSM from 116 in 2001 to about 21,000 by 2010, the pace of growth, the Minister said   has however slowed even as some existing base stations have been decommissioned as a result of terror attacks, theft and vandalisation.


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