By Emmanuel Elebeke
THREE days to the June 17 deadline for Nigeria Digital Switch Over, DSO, from analogue to digital communication, the possibility of Nigeria meeting the deadline appears very unrealistic.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has also admitted that.
He has expressed worry over technical challenges that may not allow the country to meet the dealine; the third in a row since Nigeria signed pact to join the digital broadcasting trend.
Part of challenges Mohammed disclosed to newsmen recently as hampering the realization of DSO is availability and cost of Set Top-Boxes, STBs. Nigeria was a Signatory to the Geneva 2006 (GE-06) Agreement for the Digitization of Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Shortly after the World Radio Conference of 2007.
Thereafter, the country set up a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) to advise the Government on the way forward and draw up the Road Map for the Transition. The committee submitted its report on June 20, 2009 with a Road Map that targeted a switch over by June 17, 2012.
Unfortunately, the Implementation Committee for the Transition could not be inaugurated until December 22, 2012. According to the minister, the committee called DigiTeam Nigeria was not empowered to carry out its responsibilities, leading to the first and second failure of Nigeria to meet the earlier deadlines set by ECOWAS.
The minister who spoke while playing host to the minister of communication from the Republic of Niger, Madam Sani Koubra Abdoulaye, and her entourage to Nigeria on Monday, said “even when you achieve a nationwide signal coverage, you cannot shut down the analogue transmitters until all the TV homes have access to STBs.”
He stated that government had subsidised STB acquisition in the roll-out plan, which is not sustainable for the larger population of the country, adding that government is currently exploring avenues to make the retail cost of STBs affordable to the general public without compromising the ECOWAS Minimum Standard.