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Digital access key to economic devt –Pantami

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From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has emphasised the need for individuals and government to prioritise digital access for the sake of economic growth.

Pantami spoke at a one -day workshop organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in collaboration with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in Abuja on Tuesday.

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Speaking at the event titled:Roundtable and Technical Workshop, ‘Building Capabilities for Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Transformation in Nigeria, the minister urged governments and people to prioritise digital access and skills since they are essential for growth in both the economy and development.

“Digital access and connectivity have become a necessity, as they play an increasingly vital role in our everyday lives and have become key drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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“This reiterates the fact that digital connectivity, access and skills are no longer a luxury, but have become a necessity for human and economic development in both developed and developing countries. It is therefore important that governments, individuals and communities prioritise affordable access digital technologies.” He said 

He further noted that “to achieve this, there is need to promote universal access to digital infrastructure, enhance digital skills and address affordability and this is what we have done in Nigeria.” “For Nigeria, as part of our efforts to adequately position Nigerians as major participants in the growing global digital economy, we developed the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria.”

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“One of the implementation strategies of the Solid Infrastructure Pillar is the development of a Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP). 

“The Plan is designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria of a minimum 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90 per cent of the population by 2025, and the availability of 1GB of data at no more than 2 per cent of average monthly income. 

“As a result of these, we had an unprecedented growth is broadband penetration and a significant reduction in the cost of broadband access- broadband penetration has gone up from just a little over 30 per cent to 44.32 per cent, as at June 2022, while the cost of 1GB of data has crashed from N1,200 to N344.48.  “The implementation of the Plan will accelerate the penetration of affordable and quality broadband connectivity, thereby increasing digital access in Nigeria.”

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He also said that government recognises the enormity of the task of closing the digital access gaps. “The Federal Government understands that enormous private sector support, as well as support from International Organisations, are essential to enable us realise our lofty goals for Nigeria’s digital economy.

And this has informed our decision to partner with key international organisations like the ITU and FCDO.”

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According to him, “lack of access is as a result of challenges such as the cost of connectivity, lack of digitally skilled citizens and inadequate infrastructure, amongst others.”

In his remarks, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof. Umar Danbatta,  said that the Commission had reduced the 200 clusters where there are digital access gaps to 114, leading to the attendant reduction of more than 40 million Nigerians without access to telecommunications or internet services.to about 10 million.

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“The Commission is implementing policies and initiatives to close identified gaps.” 

“These initiatives includes the Advanced Digital Appreciation Programme for Tertiary Institutions (ADAPTI), that solely aims to bridge the digital divide existing in academia with the provision of computers and other ICT facilities to equip the lecturers and other experts in order to improve ICT skills and also to enrich the students.” 

“Digital Awareness Programme (DAP), is a special intervention programme to address the digital information knowledge gap in the country, especially among the teeming youthful population. On the last count, the DAP Project supports 229 Secondary Schools across the Six (6) Geopolitical Zones of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory.” He added 

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He enjoined all stakeholders to contribute positively to improve the sector. “All participants are enjoined to contribute freely and recommend measures that will further support Nigeria in meeting its connectivity target and develop a robust digital economy. We look forward to the outcome of your deliberations and expect feedbacks that will deepen the conversations on policies and initiatives for digital access and connectivity in Nigeria.”

The Regional Director for Africa, and Liaison Officer to United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, ITU,Ms Anne’Rachel Inne, said, “The event is organized to provide stakeholders an opportunity to reflect upon Nigeria’s digital transformation, the impact that initiatives aimed at contributing towards the country’s digital inclusion goals like the ITU-FCDO DAP partnership has in the country, and allow stakeholders to share their plans for future work to scale the impact in a joint effort.

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