The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently announced that the sum of $732 million will be released over a period of four years to improve Nigeria’s broadband penetration.
According to the chief executive officer of NCC, Umar Danbatta, the allocation will be used to obtain an additional 30,000 kilometers of fiber that will be spread across the 774 local governments in the country.
By 2024 when the project is expected to be complete, the total length of fiber across the nation will be 71,000 kilometers. This is projected to increase Nigeria’s broadband penetration from 38% to 65%.
From the introduction of internet to Nigeria in 1991 through limited e-mail services to this recent development, broadband in Nigeria has endured a daunting journey. In July 1995, the Computer Science Department of Yaba College of technology became the first institution to house an internet service in Nigeria when the Regional Information Network for Africa (RINAF) commenced internet services there.
In 1996, the NCC eventually agreed to commence issuance of licences to internet service providers (ISP) in Nigeria. By January 1997, Linkserve Limited began commercial distribution of internet service, signaling the introduction of internet to the Nigerian public. As at 2000, there were only about 79,000 internet users out of a population of 122.5 million.
But broadband, which facilitates highspeed internet connection was a much later introduction which became necessary as internet service evolved. As at 2013 when the government of president Goodluck Jonathan initiated the National Broadband Plan, Nigeria could only boast of about 4-5% broadband penetration. Then Nigeria had just over 65 million internet users while the US had 268 million.
The National Broadband Plan proved to be key in developing the country’s broadband infrastructure as it aimed for a five-fold increase in broadband penetration by the end of 2017. This target was generally considered to be met because by the end of 2017, the country enjoyed a penetration of 22%.
By 2018, Nigeria’s broadband penetration has increased by 8% as it clocked 31.5% as the year ended. In June 2019, the penetration rose to 33.3%. According to the NCC, the figure currently stands at 38%.
A new target of 71% has been set for the broadband penetration for 2021. Speaking on the importance of increased penetration in the country, Danbatta noted that by 2022, 60% of the world’s economy will be digitalised. By 2030, almost 85 per cent of the world economy is going to be digital. Nigeria needs to develop its capacity to meet that demand.
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