Given the current 21 per cent broadband penetration in the country, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has called for increased penetration of broadband across the nooks and crannies of the country, insisting that ubiquitous broadband will not only boost broadband penetration, but will also reduce ICT import dependence.
Danbatta who made the remark in Lagos during the finals of the National Innovation Changemaker Challenge, organised by the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), said: "Our resolve at the NCC, and the collective efforts of industry stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria achieves and indeed surpasses the National Broadband Plan target of 30 per cent penetration by 2018, is yielding results with above 21 per cent penetration already achieved.
He added: "This is a sync with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) policy objectives on telecommunications/ICT to encourage rapid ICT penetration among all socioeconomic levels and increase broadband penetration, as well as to promote and encourage local production of ICT hard and software, so as to reduce import dependence and generate foreign exchange by exporting to the regional and continental markets."
Represented by the Head of Strategy and Corporate Performance at USPF, Mr. Kelechi Nwankwo, Danbatta explained that the ERGP acknowledges that ICT and digital technology have the potential to ramp up employment, transform labour productivity and create new economic sectors.
Danbatta was of the view that should Nigeria surpass the 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018, it will create ubiquitous broadband availability across the country that will enhance innovation in such a way that technology solutions that could address immediate challenges, reduce importation of technology solutions and turn around the fortunes of the country, could be developed locally in Nigeria.
President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr. James Emadoye, at a recent technology event in Lagos, expressed his worries that Nigeria was losing so much to software importation and called on government to revisit its policy on patronage of local software, which clearly stated that all government agencies must first consider local software and patronise it, in order to encourage local software growth in Nigeria.
The Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Pantami also expressed concern about the heavy dependence on imported ICT products into the country, and explained that so much money had been lost to ICT importation.
According to Pantami, over N720 billion is estimated to be leaving Nigeria's economy annually through the importation of IT equipment, solutions and services.
The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) had recently released statistics, declaring that 90 per cent of IT products and services being used in the banking industry, for instance, are foreign while local vendors are left un-patronised.
Worried about the situation, industry stakeholder have insisted that government must protect the technology industry, by formulating and implementing polices that will encourage local patronage of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions that are developed locally in the county.
But Danbatta is of the view that increasing broadband penetration will reduce cost of bandwidth, increase access to the internet and make local innovators to become more innovative in the development of local solutions that will address the collective needs of individuals and organisations.