Google advises government on 2018 broadband target

Google said it will begin offering media groups an artificial intelligence tool designed to stamp out incendiary comments on their websites.<br />PHOTO: AFP

As minister proposes low interest communication banks

To meet the 2018 National Broadband Plan (NBP), which seeks to achieve 30 per cent penetration and 80 per cent growth in Internet activities in Nigeria, the Federal Government would need to achieve three things before the end of 2017.
These, according to search giant, Google, include bridging the infrastructure gap in the country; stimulating online demand and ensuring increase in capacity building among Nigerians.
When the NBP is fully implemented, services would improve greatly in the country because the broadband is a faster medium to get access to the Internet as compared to the dial-up. It is faster in terms of data transfer, upload and download, and the connectivity is much better with files, images, and data are transmitted much faster.

The plan comes, as government mulls the establishment of communication banks, where the interest rate will be very low to enable private sector investors have funds at very low interest rates.
Indeed, there has been a snail speed development around the implementation of the broadband plan, with both the Ministry of Communications and the Nigerian Communications (NCC) appearing to be lukewarm about the entire process. This is coupled with various infrastructural challenges militating against ubiquitous Internet access in the country.
In an interview with The Guardian, on Monday, Country Manager, Google Nigeria, Juliet Ehimuan, said the broadband plan highlighted and proffered practical solutions to challenges confronting operators in the quest of enthroning ubiquitous broadband services in the country.
Ehimuan said government must work around the challenges of high cost of procuring the Right of Ways (RoW); double taxation, and vandalism to ensure deeper penetration of Internet in the country.
According to her, more efforts should be geared towards developing the various aspects of the plan as fast as possible.
For effects, the Google, which was part of the committee that developed the Broadband Plan, also argued that “there is need to have a robust infrastructure, an enabling environment, which includes efficient power system.”
Government being that largest consumer, Ehimuan said, must stimulate demand by digitalising its services, “that will definitely impact greatly on the NBP. It will play a very huge role in catalysing the industry because government is a good influencer.”
She advised government to equally, as a matter of urgency, build capacity among Nigerians before the set date, stressing that government in all these must play a higher role for the plan to materialise.   
According to her, Google is already building capacity with the Digital Skills for Africa programme, where it has successfully trained 500,000 Nigerians and one million across the continent. “But in a country of about 180 million, how huge is 500,000 or one million? That is why government is at the centre of enthroning an efficient broadband regime.”
In a telephone interview with The Guardian, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, insisted that government is committed to meeting the target as enshrined in the NBP.
Shittu said government is working on it, stressing that in the 2017 budget, “we have a number of proposals, which we adequately believe will energise our drive for broadband penetration.”
The minister informed that the Ministry will “be proposing for the government to establish communication banks, where the interest rate will be very low to enable private sector investors have funds at very low interest rates.”

Noting that some sectors already had such facilities, Shittu argued that the ICT sector equally deserved one, as it “is a very promising one for investors, where when you invest, you will definitely get bountiful rewards. The market is in Nigeria and there would be investible funds at much lower interest rate.”

Furthermore, he said the Ministry is inviting lots of foreign investors to bring in their money to the sector so as to be able to collaborate with Nigerians towards achieving those goals.
“We believe that in another six months we would have attained more percentage. Right now, we have about 20 per cent penetration. We recently visited Kenya and Rwanda to see how they were able to achieve much more broadband penetration in their countries. What baffled me most was that they don’t have as much resources as we have in this country.
Shittu further said that government is also building lots of private centres where there will be free WIFI connectivity; and a number of polytechnics are also being connected.
He added that a number of technological hubs will also be coming up this year, stressing that the ministry is already working on the modalities to get things done appropriately in that regard.


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