Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami, on Thursday disclosed the Federal Government had earmarked N16, 703, 863,327 (about N16.71 billion) to provide broadband infrastructure unlimited to 18 selected higher institutions in the country.
The minister gave the hint during the launch of four key projects, namely broadband infrastructure for our installations of learning, broadband infrastructure for micro, small and medium enterprises, distribution of 6,000 e-pad tablets and unveiling of his book titled ‘Skills Rather Than Just Degrees’ in Abuja.
He said the beneficiary institutions under the Phase One of the broadband penetration initiative comprised three universities each from the six geopolitical zones, adding that each university will benefit broadband infrastructure unlimited of approximately N400 million.
Pantami also explained why the Federal Government was extending broadband connectivity to 20 markets as pilot scheme during the Phase One implementation of the project, pointing out that the move is aimed at providing support to Micro, Small And Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to boost their productivity and by implication, contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He stressed that any effort to develop Nigeria’s economy without bringing the MSMEs sub-sector into the equation will amount to efforts in futility.
Citing the World Bank 2022 Report which indicated that if governments globally can reach 75% of the world population with internet access the global GDP will surge by about $3 trillion yearly to justify his position, Pantami said that it was in realisation of this that the Federal Government is revving up the drive for improved broadband penetration in the country.
The minister expatiated: “Today we are launching projects to support broadband connectivity in Nigeria and this is an important part of the digital economy. In the world today, the digital economy is firmly entrenched to be a core driver of global growth. It is the single most important driver of innovation.
“Digital connectivity and expanding access to information play a role in enhancing the economy. For example, according to a 2019 Report, the World Bank estimates that an increase in the digitally connected people across the globe to 75% would result in an addition of up to US$2 trillion dollars per year to world GDP and a creation of about 140 million jobs. Similarly, a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation states that 80% of economic benefits in developing countries are as a result of the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and digital skills, while in developed countries, it is even higher at 90%.
“The new broadband plan seeks to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria at a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population and penetration rate of 70% by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data (2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage)”, he added.
Pantami also unveiled a book titled ‘Skills Rather Than Just Degrees’ authored by him, with a Foreword written by Brad Smith, President of Microsoft Corporation.
Speaking on the book, he said that the book focused on the importance of skills and its potential impact in addressing the problems of unemployability, unemployment and underemployment.
“I am very delighted to unveil my latest book and launch a number of our initiatives aimed at expanding broadband connectivity across Nigeria. Broadband connectivity and access are central to the expansion of our National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria and are in alignment with the mandate of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on job creation and economic diversification.
“I am passionate about the importance of skills and have been speaking about this at many events. This book is a research and productive work implementing the paradigm shift that I am advocating”, Pantami added
Several dignitaries that attended the event, including the Egypt’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Ihab Moustafa Awab; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Musa Bello; university vice chancellors, researchers and CEOs and directors of Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy agencies, commended the minister for writing the book, which they strongly noted would be helpful in tackling the problem of unemployment in Nigeria if the principles are adopted in public and private institutions nationwide.