The World Bank has tasked Nigeria to increase its broadband penetration to provide internet access to people in rural areas and remote places.
The World Bank Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri, made the call while speaking on the sidelines of the maiden Digital Economy Regional Conference on Tuesday in Abuja.
The two-day conference is with the theme: “Positioning West African Digital Economy for the Future”.
Chaudhuri said there was great potential in Nigeria’s digital sector, adding that there is a need for more reforms going forward.
“The ministry also did talk about broadband penetration. It is important to make sure that no one is left behind especially poor families mostly in rural areas.
“I think the key thing is, how do we make sure that every person, no matter where he is in Nigeria has that same access to the digital economy?
“Nigeria’s young population has tremendous potential but you have to ensure that there is equal access to broadband penetration.
“In places like Lagos and Abuja there is a lot of dynamism already but what the Minister has said is getting that access out to the rural areas so that every child and every young person has that access.
“I think the telecom sector has been quite key to Nigeria’s resilience in the last three years,” he said.
The world bank director also urged states to cooperate with the Federal Government and private sector to invest by laying fiber optics in the areas.
Chaudhiri said: “I urge states to cooperate with the Federal Government and make it easy for private firms to lay the fibers for investment.
“Second is digital skills especially for the girl child to have access to them so that they can be able to contribute to areas of growth going forward.”
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, while speaking, announced that by April this year, every state would have Federal Government’s optic fiber cable coverage.
Pantami further said that the price of data in the country had in the last two years been reduced by 70 percent in spite of the rising cost of production.
He said: ”As of today, we are providing Federal Government optic fiber cable to every state. We have them in nothing less than 34 states and by April this year, it will be available in each and every state.
“In Nigeria’s National Broadband plan, we have a target to reduce the price of 1 gigabyte from N1200 to N390 but as of today, two years before the deadline, the current price of 1 gigabyte is N350.
“The reduction of more than 70 percent is a huge achievement because the price of every other commodity increases.
“If you complain about diesel, the ICT sector consumes more diesel than any other sector.
“We are affected by the cost of diesel, we are being affected by forex, but yet the price is coming down, why? Because we always work harder to ensure that we reduce the cost of production.”
The minister said the Digital Conference was necessitated by the need for the various West African countries to converge and brainstorm on how to boost the continent’s economy using ICT.
“If you look at our economuc growth, it is lower than our population growth. There are situations where the population growth is higher than the economic growth.
“This by implication, if care is not taken, poverty will continue to increase within that population and in this context within the African continent.
“It is because of this we feel it is necessary to be proactive to organise the West African continent so that we can come together and see how we can complement each other.
“This is to make sure that our sub-region is specific and our continent, in general, is very successful,” Pantami said.