To bridge digital gap in the country, stakeholders in the ICT sector have called on the Federal Government to invest in infrastructure that will provide free public Wi-Fi across the country.
The stakeholders, who gathered at the 2019 Nigeria ICT Impact CEO Forum (NIICF), themed: ‘Connecting the Unconnected,’ said private operators had made some investments in this regard, but their efforts would not be enough to cover all cities in the country.
Specifically, the Chief Executive Officer, Bitflux Communications, Mr Lekan Balogun, said the private sector could not bridge the digital gap in the country, hence, the need for government to also invest in infrastructure.
“The government has to invest in infrastructure to bridge existing gap. Yes, the private sector is investing, but it would be difficult for them to deploy infrastructure in rural areas because it would not make commercial sense. This is why the digital gap is getting wider and the gap will not be bridged until the government start investing in the needed infrastructure,” he said.
Other speakers at the forum noted that despite the existence of infrastructure companies, last mile connectivity would continue to be a challenge except government fund the infrastructure needed to take fibre to homes.
However, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it would subsidise the fund for deployment of 318 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) in unserved and underserved locations in the country this year.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who disclosed this at the NIICF, said that the subsidy, which would be through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), is to ensure the availability of connectivity to the unconnected.
Represented by Assistant Director, Special Duties, NCC, Babagana Digima, Danbatta said that connecting the unconnected was globally a huge task marked by various challenges, ranging from technical to business considerations.
According to him, the clear consensus on the part of governments and international organisations is that “everybody must be connected.’’
“Providing connectivity to the unconnected comes with its own set of challenges, especially in developing countries like ours, where other complementary infrastructure such as power, transmission and transport are non-existent or inadequate. “Indeed, we are aware of the challenges faced by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) even inside city centres where they are forced to deploy two power generating sets per Base Transceiver Station (BTS) to complement the erratic public power supply systems.
“Nonetheless, the NCC, as a matter of obligation, has been facilitating and promoting the provision of services to unserved and under-served areas,” he said.
Also speaking, the convener of the forum, TayoAdewusi, said that there was the need to examine the state of broadband in Nigeria. Adewusi said government should map out creative ways to ensure broadband penetration was accessible, available and affordable in all corners of the country.
He said that the forum offered a veritable platform for the regulators and players to come together and fashion out solutions to the issue of cyber-attack as it related to broadband penetration in Nigeria.
“We need to find a lasting solution so that we can all live in an environment that is devoid of cyber-attack,’’ Adewusi said.