Closing the broadband penetration gap – New Telegraph
Rural areas are disadvantaged in terms of broadband penetration not only in Nigeria but also in Africa as a continent. People living in rural areas make up the largest percentage of the underserved population. This is due to lack of technological knowledge, insufficient infrastructure to pilot the technology in rural areas, and affordability of the technology, among other factors. The situation, according to experts, has limited the sector’s revenue generation. ABOLAJI ADEBAYO explains how technology could be extended to the underserved population to bridge the gap
From the beginning of the deployment of information and communication technologies in Nigeria, part of the population was not covered and never benefited from the digital life. Some sections of the population do not have access to broadband internet service in parts of Nigeria and there has been intense pressure from the government through the telecommunications regulatory agency to make it more widely available to all citizens of the country, regardless of their location. Calls have been made for the government to formulate policies that would attract private finance to finance the expansion of broadband in the country.
In telecommunications, broadband is high-bandwidth data transmission, which carries multiple signals over a wide range of frequencies and Internet traffic types, which allow messages to be sent simultaneously, used in fast Internet connections, according to Wikipedia. The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) defines broadband internet as a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) (the time taken to receive data, such as loading a web page) and upload speed 3 Mbps (the speed at which data is sent from a small digital device to a larger server, for example, when backing up data to the cloud). The term broadband refers to high-speed Internet access. Broadband is important for rural health care providers who want to make meaningful use of electronic health records because many capabilities of health informatics, such as telehealth and electronic information exchange on health care, require broadband capability.
In Nigeria, there is a wide gap in broadband penetration as those who have access to the technology are very low compared to those who can access it. According to current statistics from NCC, around 58% of the population is still far from using the internet, either on their phones or other devices. According to NCC, 4G is only available to 37% of Nigerians as the country prepares to migrate to 5G.
Many factors are creating a gap in broadband penetration in Nigeria. Some of the factors include the inability of many Nigerians to afford the cost of internet and smartphone to access it. The cost of phones, energy and data is still too high for some populations. Lack of digital skills and literacy is a barrier to mobile internet usage in low- and middle-income countries as well as a key issue in developed countries. The remaining unconnected population is disproportionately illiterate or has low levels of literacy. Another factor creating gaps in broadband access in Nigeria, especially in rural areas, is insufficient infrastructure to drive the technology to remote areas. Telecom operators continued to complain about damage to their infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
Broadband providers can be local telephone companies or other providers of digital subscriber line (DSL) and fiber connections, a cable company for cable modem, a wireless or satellite company for wireless broadband. wire, or an electric utility for powerline broadband (BPL). Who to contact for broadband access depends on their needs and the technology available in their community. There is no controversy over the extent of underserved areas and population in Nigeria. A report states that around 81% of Nigerians lack access to meaningful internet connectivity.
As shown in the result of its recent research in selected countries in Africa, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) revealed that only 12.1% of the Nigerian population currently enjoys quality Internet services (Meaningful Connectivity). The research body, which explained that there is a significant connectivity gap of 81% in Nigeria, claimed that only 6.6% of the rural population and 16.4% of the urban population have good connectivity. internet service. Focusing on nine countries, namely Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, A4AI said that only 10% of the total population of the countries studied is significantly connected to the Internet. He said the number rose to 14% in urban areas and fell to just 5% in rural areas, adding that the share of people who are significantly connected varies widely across the nine countries surveyed. For example, he said Colombia; around one in four has significant connectivity (26.2%). In Rwanda, it is only one person in 166 (0.6%).
The broadband body informed that in the nine countries surveyed, rural areas lag behind their urban counterparts in terms of internet connectivity. On average, people in urban areas are twice as likely to be connected to the internet as people in rural areas, and the urban-rural gap in internet use is 70%. Low-income and elderly populations and those living in rural areas are disproportionately identified as constituting a higher percentage of those without broadband access. Independent research has shown that even many working class Nigerians do not have broadband services at home, while many schools and organizations lack broadband internet facilities.
Impact on economy
Research suggests that the social returns to broadband investment are significant. Increasing access to and use of broadband infrastructure in rural areas (and the conveniences, digital skills, online education and job-seeking opportunities that come with it) lead to higher property values, increased employment and population growth, higher rates of new business formation and lower unemployment rates, according to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond . Broadband expansion can also improve health and life outcomes, providing access to remote healthcare providers, online social networks and educational opportunities. A cost-benefit analysis of installing rural broadband in Indiana observed three- to four-fold returns on investment, not including cost savings to state and local governments on medical expenses and revenue additional taxes from increased income. The World Bank has estimated that a 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration can lead to a 1.2% increase in real GDP per capita growth in developed economies, while researchers put the figure between 0.9 and 1.5% for OECD countries.
Bridging the gap
Feeling the implication of the broadband penetration gap on the economy and particularly on the digital economy which aims to contribute more to the country’s GDP, the Executive Vice President of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) , Professor Umar Danbatta, assured that broadband would soon be brought to the underserved, saying that the Nigerian Broadband Plan (2020-2025) aims to bridge the gap. He said Nigeria’s grassroots communities and the country’s underserved population will not be left out of the national broadband plan when implementation materializes. Danbatta said Nigeria will achieve 90% broadband coverage through the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders. In addition to covering 90% of the country’s population by 2025, the plan also sets a speed target of at least 25 Mbps in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas, at a price not exceeding N390. per 1 GB of data (i.e. two percent of median income or 1 percent of minimum wage). He said that while the telecom regulator and the government will do everything to create an enabling and conducive environment, telecom operators will need to continue to invest in new infrastructure and capacity, think more innovatively, identify and design new business models. and enrich their knowledge from other partners, regions and industries. He said the Commission is aware of the infrastructure gaps in the country and therefore committed to driving the national digital economy down to the grassroots. “As a Commission, we are mandated to ensure the availability of universal access to telecommunications services regardless of circumstances and location to Nigerians and other users in Nigeria,” informing that voice communications benefit more than 100% penetration.
Barriers to expansion
The NCC boss said insufficient telecommunications infrastructure is hampering the ability to deliver the broadband penetration that Nigeria needs to boost access to services, enhance economic growth and development. He said: “Thus, the Commission is committed to ensuring inclusiveness by ensuring the provision of affordable and widespread access to the internet, as highlighted by the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations. “We are aware that until commensurate infrastructure is deployed in the country, the country may not achieve the required target for the desired economic development.” He said that the Commission remained committed to the implementation of various regulatory initiatives and programs, in collaboration with stakeholders in the telecommunications ecosystem. According to him, NCC seeks to address identified gaps and shortages in the country’s critical telecommunications infrastructure.
To make network operations sustainable for the population, government support is needed in the form of reducing policy and regulatory barriers to deployment and creating enabling environments for investment.