Although there are about 90 million Internet users in Nigeria, a gap of over 53 per cent still exist in terms of nationwide connectivity.
This statistics manifested, when the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, delivered an inaugural lecture titled: “Getting out of the woods: Diversifying the Nigeria’s economy through telecommunications sector,” at Bayero University, Kano.
Already, over 200 communities that house of about 40 million Nigerians, have been discovered to still lack access to basic telephony services in the country.
Danbatta, while reiterating the need for the Federal Government to give priority attention to the ICT sector, said Nigeria’s active Internet connection stands at over 90 million, which is a 47.44 per cent penetration, even as Nigeria ranked number one in Africa and 10th globally.
He said telecommunications contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been robust rising from 8.85 per cent in the first quarter (Q1) of 2016 to 9.16 per cent same period in 2017, when it contributed N1.452trillion.
Despite the challenges faced by the sector, chief of which has been lack of infrastructure, Danbatta posited that telecommunications has been a major tool for economic and social transformation. These also include consumer surplus, reduction of the inequality between rural and urban dwellers, emergence of new services and industries, direct job creation, blurring boundaries of social identities, enhanced social interactions and many others.
Identifying telecoms as a critical national infrastructure, Danbatta said: “the NCC has commenced activities that would lead to the establishment of a ‘Telecommunications Critical Infrastructure Bill.’ When this bill is passed into law, government would designate telecoms infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure, which should enjoy priority protection in the country, as well as specify definite sanctions for wilful destruction of communications infrastructure.”
He said glaring access gaps exist in availability and usage of ICT infrastructure in various spheres of the economy, with distinctions in un-served areas: areas not served with ICT infrastructure; underserved areas: areas with insufficient ICT infrastructure and other sectors of the economy not maximising the potential of ICT infrastructure.
Danbatta, who called for more concentration on ICT, said the NCC, through the USPF, bridges access gaps by facilitating and extending broadband services to the underserved and un-served communities and groups via the Connectivity Programme.
The Connectivity Programme, he explained, comprises telecoms infrastructure projects that are implemented through a Public Private Partnership Model, which includes; Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs); Rural Broadband Initiative (RUBI), University Inter-Campus Connectivity (UnICC), and Backbone Transmission Infrastructure (BTRAIN).
To Danbatta, the telecommunications industry plays a crucial role in providing the requisite tools that support the diversification of the economy through improving the knowledge economy using ICT.
According to the NCC helmsman, the telecommunications sector has enhanced human capabilities in areas such as health, education, agriculture, finance, transportation, commerce and governance.