The Federal government has charged the Presidential Broadband Committee to put in more energy in their assignment and ensure the realisation of the 70% broadband penetration target by 2023.
This is even as the government also charged the Committee to focus more attention on 4G and 3G networks to enable the country close the wide gap between the connected and unconnected areas, saying that the February 16th deadline for submission of the Committee’s report remains sacrosanct.
Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, gave the directive on Thursday during his routine visit to the Committee at the Annex Office of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC at Ambora, Abuja.
He urged the Committee to come up with an all- embracing recommendation that would guide government in taking concrete decision in addressing the challenges bedevilling the sector and as well enable her realise the broadband penetration target.
Pantami, who promised the Committee of government’s support said that the 70% target by the Committee was not ambitious as government actually targeted 100% by 2023.
‘’Our target is 2023 not 2025. You must be in another world to think that the 70% target by 2025 is ambitious, it is 2023 because for government 70% is not ambitious. ‘‘The actual target of Federal government is 100 percent by 2023.
However, this government will play certain role, which will not necessarily be one group of people, government will be playing significant role. That is why it is better you have a recommendation, if we want the target to be achieved.
‘‘Otherwise the realistic target of 70% by this time will make it more effective since government wants to achieve this target. There is no harm in coming with two solutions like that of broadband penetration and issue of 4G, which is also very important.
‘‘To me, it bothers more on 3G and 4G, for me emphasis should be more on 4G than 3G and 5G because 3G may disappear. Let us try to be objective and avoid unnecessary prolonging of time.
‘‘There are so many issues pending unresolved even before the inauguration of this committee which are still on board waiting to be resolved by your recommendations and I believe that most of the decisions to be taken are going to be guided by the recommendations of this committee.’’
‘‘Waste no time in your committee work so that we can look into your recommendation because we are going to be guided by what this committee submits.
“For me, time is not on our side. You must try to be objective and not allow personal opinion prevail on national interest. We should always wish well for our country.
‘‘That deadline of 16th of February will not be extended. That is why the Committee should know if there is need for additional days. You can extend your meetings because it requires sacrifice. We need to learn how to maximise our time.
In her remarks, Mrs. Funke Opeke, the Chairperson of the Committee, said that the Committee’s target is to attain total broadband coverage for all Nigerians and assured the Minister that they would work harder to meet the February 16th target for submission of the report.
‘‘We are aware that we have a lot of work to do both on demand and supply sides. We are conscious of where we are coming from and where we are going to. We are set out to achieve the primary areas of the plan.
‘‘The 16th February is Sunday but we are committed to meet the deadline within the week.’’ Opeke, who gave a report on 4G penetration in Q3 2019, informed the Minister that the network growth was slow due to the challenge of affordability of device and literacy rate in the country.
‘‘4G coverage in 2019 did grow by about 40%, uptake was slow because of affordability of devices and literacy rate. Some of the interventions need to be coordinated to drive result,’’ she explained.
It will be recalled that the Minister had on 16th December 2019 inaugurated the Presidential Broadband Committee with a mandate to submit its report on Nigeria 2020-2025 Broadband Plan by February 2020.
The inauguration followed the expiration of the previous 2012-2018 Broadband Plan in December 2018.