Some information communication technology (ICT) experts have called on the federal government to collaborate with the private sector in order to provide more support for the ICT industry, if the country must achieve its digital economy initiatives. The experts made the call at the sixth edition of the 2020 Information Communications Technology and Telecommunications Expo (ICTEL 2020), organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), which ended yesterday.

One of the keynote speakers at the two-day virtual conference and CEO of MainOne Broadband company, Ms. Funke Opeke, stressed the need for government to collaborate with the ICT industry and provide more support for start-ups, whom she said had been impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the globe.

“The global pandemic impacted negatively on start-ups and most of them were forced to close business. There is so much work to be done to achieve digital economy drive, and Nigeria must move beyond the level of over-dependency on oil revenue.

“Government must therefore collaborate with the private sector to achieve this. The support will enable startups put up more strategies to boost their operational plans,” Opeke said.

Opeke, who explained that 20 per cent of the Nigerian population had been forced to work from home, said: “There has been a big shift towards online activities, as a result of the influence of digital economy. So the majority of Nigerians that are outside the 20 per cent population are actually left out and there is need for inclusiveness to give digital access to Nigerians that do not have access to digital economy.

“To achieve this, there must be digital connectivity to enable the digital economy initiative, in terms of connecting to digital devices. Some cities in Nigeria have 4G connections but most times citizens do not have full access to the 4G network.”

“The National Broadband Plan 2025 committee, which I co-Chair, has a target of 70 per cent broadband penetration with 4G services around the country at a download speed of 25 megabytes per second in urban areas and 10 megabytes per second in rural areas by 2025. “But when we look at international statistics on download speeds and compare them with the download speeds in Nigeria today, we discovered that our average is still four megabytes per second range, which is a wide gap to the projected broadband target.

“So we have a lot of work to do to expand our fiber infrastructure across our cities to increase 4G coverage in order to provide more capacity that will enable us have broadband access, and this calls for collaboration on the part of government,” Opeke said.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, who declared the conference open, said globally, digital revolution was changing lives and societies with unprecedented speed, delivering immense opportunities as well as associated challenges. Citing the World Economic Forum, which predicted that over 60 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), will be digitalised by 2020, saying that over the next decade, digital platforms would be used for large scale prediction.

Pantami added: “Government will continue to come up with economic policy and strategy that will enhance the National Broadband Plan, which seeks to achieve 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025.

“Government will continue to align the digital transformation goals with the country’s economic needs. The new normal arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, makes it compulsory for Nigeria, like other developing nations to rise up to the challenges in a bid to occupy her place in the global digital economy initiative.”

In her presentation, the President of LCCI, Mrs. Toki Mabogunje, said: “As nations face dwindling growth, deployment of technology is key to economic recovery and sustainability. ICT has become the backbone of business, government, and personal lives, and the automation has made businesses to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly.”

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