UK Partners Nigeria to Expand Digital Access to Underserved Communities

Rural Digital Payments

By Adedapo Adesanya

The United Kingdom has extended a helping hand to the federal government to collaborate on promoting and providing digital access to underprivileged communities in Nigeria.

This was made known in the Digital Access Programme, where representatives and stakeholders were hosted including the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Thursday.

Serving as the first Nigeria Technical Conference on the Right of Way (RoW), the event was held to further aggregate views from key stakeholders, towards the advancement of policy and regulatory reforms on ROW and issuance of planning permits for telecommunication masts and towers.

The virtual forum is one of the key deliverables of the UK’s Technical Assistance project on RoW, which was initiated in April 2020 to assess the existing strategy, charging regime and measure that against economic development indicators.

Funded and overseen by the Digital Access Programme, Greenfields Law, a leading telecom policy, law and regulation firm in Nigeria had engaged with key stakeholders and proposed effective solutions based on the evidence gathered, while taking into account international best practice.

Speaking at the event Ms Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, said; “Nigeria has seen great progress in the effort to provide inclusive digital access to millions of its citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, made the world rely more heavily on internet connectivity for access to basic necessities – health, education, work, shopping, convenience and other services. As such, substantial digital inequities have been revealed.

“The UK is keen to support the promotion of affordable, inclusive, safe and secure digital access for underserved or excluded populations, and this conference is a significant step to discuss the technical findings of our preliminary study, outcomes, lingering challenges and the way forward,” she said.

On his part, during his address, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami said, “I want to thank the UK Government for supporting the Nigeria digital economy agenda. Earlier the UK Government supported us in the development of the new national broadband plan through the Digital Access Programme.”

“Nigeria has in the past one year of my time as minister, added 10 per cent to the broadband penetration level in the country. RoW reforms are the key to unlocking Nigeria’s digital economy for inclusive digital growth and we have worked with the Nigerian Governors Forum to achieve some important results already. We will continue to champion this reforms on RoW and work on the challenges identified by the technical study,” Mr Pantami said.

Mr Umar Danbatta, the executive vice-chairman of the NCC, represented by Mr Adeleke Adewolu, the Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management (ECSM), thanked the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme for their support in championing reforms on RoW to deepen digital inclusion in Nigeria.

“The Technical Assistance on RoW reforms will assist in our quest for deepening broadband penetration in Nigeria. NCC is willing and ready to advance the reforms noted in the technical study and will collaborate with stakeholders to effect it in the short, medium and long term,” he said.

On the part of the convener, Mr Idongesit Udoh, the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme Adviser and country lead, commended state governments that have announced the reforms on ROW, saying that this project will help accelerate the roll-out of backbone connectivity infrastructure to underserved communities which is the key to unlocking Nigeria’s digital economy for inclusive, digitally-enabled growth, development and job creation for Nigerians.

“The Digital Access Programme is also working on other projects such as cybersecurity essentials upskilling for SMEs around the country and basic digital literacy to promote inclusive economic growth and development,” he said.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

more recommended stories

%d bloggers like this: