The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in collaboration with UK’s Digital Access Programme recently facilitated a technical conference on digital inclusion for underserved and unserved communities and Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs).
The essence of the conference was to bring the poor and excluded people into the digital economy, thereby reducing poverty and stimulate economic growth.
The UK has continued to place the development and adoption of digital inclusion at the very heart of its agenda to be a global force for good. It also recognises the power of the digital economy to deliver on the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).
The virtual conference in collaboration with all levels of government, private sector partners, civil society organisations, and the international development community, was the critical first step to promote the need for affordable, inclusive, safe and secure digital access for underserved or excluded populations,
A technical report presented at the conference by experts, focused on demand, supply and systematic issues, which currently hinder digital inclusion efforts. It also proffered detailed solutions to the issues raised from short, medium to long term.
Delivering the opening remarks, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria in Lagos, Ben Llewellyn-Jones said: “As our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, our focus is on supporting a sustainable and resilient recovery across Nigeria.
“Tech has the ability to help us tackle some of the greatest social challenges of our time, from protecting our environment and reducing carbon emissions, to transforming health systems, saving lives through diagnosing diseases earlier, to aiding economic inclusion by deepening access to underserved populations.”
According to the British Deputy High Commissioner, “To drive this growth, Nigeria needs a combination of increased access to faster and better-quality Internet connectivity infrastructure, an upskilled tech talent pool, a vibrant start-up ecosystem, access to investment and partnership opportunities both regionally and internationally.”
While delivering a keynote address titled ‘Optimising and Prioritising Digital Inclusion in the Face of Covid-19,’ the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isah Pantami said: “The federal government’s priority is developing strategy and policy to provide an enabling environment which supports the private sector to bridge the digital divide. We are supporting the growth of the sector, which contributed 14.70 per cent in to the GDP in the fourth quarter of 2020 and will continue to do so.
“On-behalf of President Buhari, I want to thank the UK government for their continued support for Nigeria’s digital sector including the development of the national broadband plan which has led to 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration in Nigeria since it was launched a year ago.”
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, also thanked the UK government’s Digital Access Programme for their support in championing digital inclusion in Nigeria.
Danbatta said: “Previously there were about 200 clusters where there are digital access gaps, this means that 40 million Nigerians do not have access to telecommunications or internet services.
“On the part of the NCC, we are working on cutting down these clusters. As of today, we have cut these clusters down to 114 and reduce the population size by 10 million.
“I appreciate the efforts of the UK government through their Digital Access Programme for coming up with this diagnostic study on identifying the gaps to access as they exist today.”
In his own contribution, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Head of Digital Development and Global SRO of the Digital Access Programme, Alessandra Lustrati said: “This project provides empirical evidence to demonstrate that despite progress made, a huge digital gap exists between unserved and underserved communities and PLWDs, on one hand, and the rest of the society, on the other hand but more importantly, it has also recommended possible solutions.”