Tech Expert Urges FG To Incentivize Private Sector As Broadband Penetration Set To Hit 50%
Broadband penetration is set to hit 50 per cent in Nigeria before the end of the year 2023, which would mean better and faster internet access across the country.
This was detailed in the policy document of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025), where the federal government set a target of “50 per cent of eligible individuals with provision for physically challenged” for 2023.
Meanwhile, the FG hopes to hit 70 per cent broadband penetration by the year 2025.
Data from the Nigerian Communications Commission shows that broadband penetration has hit 48.20 per cent, with broadband subscriptions increasing to 92.01 million.
Since penetration fell from 41.61 per cent in January 2022 to 40.91 per cent in February 2022, it has seen a consistent rise.
It rose from 42.24 per cent in March 2022 to 47.36 per cent in December 2022 and further climbed to 48.20 per cent in January.
Broadband subscription has also risen from 80.68 million to 92.01 million, showing that more people are gaining access to internet service.
THE WHISTLER spoke to a tech expert, Benjamin Dada, who said that 50 per cent is a good step forward, adding that it represents the proverbial half bread, which is always better than none, but there has to be a focus on distribution.
“More needs to be done to reach people in the rural areas, because they are more likely to deploy this connectivity in the urban areas as opposed to the rural. This will just give those in the urban areas more options while leaving those in the rural areas still scrambling for below-par network service,” he said.
Dada however said considering Nigeria’s size and economy, as well as where we want to be as a nation, more needs to be done to increase broadband penetration.
“Using the World Wide average of broadband penetration, the worldwide average is 64.4 per cent so I will say getting to 50 per cent shows progress. However, considering our size and where we want to be as a nation, more needs to be done.
“Looking at other countries with advanced economies in Africa, they are all ahead of us in internet penetration, like right now South Africa is at 70 per cent penetration.
“So looking at other countries that we usually compare ourselves within Africa, so ideally we should be anywhere between 60 – 70 per cent. This will place us within the league of other developed economies, however, the question now is how long would it take us to get to 60 – 70 per cent?” he said.
Speaking on what could be done by the government to boost the broadband penetration, he said, “There are a few things they can do, one is to incentivize the private sector to provide internet access.
“If we break down the private sector into international and local players. For international players, the likes of Google and Facebook are international companies that are not your traditional telecommunication companies but they are making investments in Africa to boost internet access knowing that when they boost it more people will use their products and services.
“So, the government needs to figure out the right partnership with these companies who are looking to invest, or they could decide that they would rather work with local players,” he said.
He explained that looking at with regard to local players, the government needs to provide a sort of incentive or discount to encourage them to play their part in the sector.
“Now for local players, they could provide right-of-way for them, like discounts. By right-of-way, I mean a sort of incentive or a tax rebate to invite them to build more fibre cables, etc. because you have discounted the cost so that capital expenses are less.’
Dada added that from a private sector perspective, the government needs to figure out what manner of partnerships work best to make internet access affordable and accessible for Nigerians in the urban and rural areas.
“From a private sector point, a good example is Starlink. What Starlink has done is to make internet available in rural areas where it wouldn’t make sense for telecommunication companies to set up masts. So maybe the government should be thinking about what kind of buy-now-pay-later partnerships they can implement to make it more accessible to everyday Nigerians.
“Another important factor to consider in working with the private sector players is to look into how to partner with the private sector to bring internet to the rural areas and the less privileged. The reason why it’s even becoming a topic for the less privileged is that in some countries internet access is becoming a basic human right,” he said.