Omobola Johnson, the minister in charge of Nigeria’s communications technology ministry, says the government has initiated steps to increase broadband penetration to 20 percent by 2017, blaming the greed of certain government agencies for the current lack of access.
The minister made her remarks at a broadband forum put together by BusinessDay Conferences and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
She said the administration had set up a committee on broadband, with a mandate to increase penetration by 2017. Part of the reasons for the current low penetration, she said, was what she described as the exorbitant demands made by several government agencies of operators for the right to lay fibre cables.
“The situation where over seven ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government are demanding between 500 million naira to 1 billion naira from a single operator to grant permits for right of way to lay fibre optic cables, speaks volume of the imminent danger that such action could generate,” she said.
“What it means is that government is simply shooting itself on the foot, because such demands have over the years, stifled the growth of broadband in the country.”
She said concerted efforts are needed by the various government agencies to put more government services online. This, according to Johnson, would cause an increase in broadband demand throughout Nigeria.
“The government would partner more with the private sector to further boost broadband penetration in the country,” the minister said.
Delivering a paper on the theme: “Operational Challenges: Critical Success, Factors for an Operator in Broadband Investment”, the CEO of MainOne Cable Company Funke Opeke listed pricing and demand as two vital issues that the government needs to address if it is committed to achieving its desired 20 percent broadband target.
Other key factors needed she said are “skills acquisition among youths, affordability and availability of broadband, as well as the right broadband policies, together with the development of broadband content, were key elements that would further drive broadband penetration in the country. The right broadband policy would attract foreign investment that would further increase broadband penetration.”