President Buhari flags off national broadband plan, emergency call centre

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…Buhari orders government agencies to protect critical national infrastructure

By Ogaga Ariemu

As part of the effort to drive digital economy policy, President Muhammadu Buhari has flagged off Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, communications and digital Economy Complex, Federal Capital Territory Emergency Communication Centre, 112 National Emergency Toll free Number and Innovation and entrepreneurship training.

The President Buhari has ordered the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to work with all relevant government agencies to ensure full protection of critical national infrastructure.

The President issued the directive while unveiling the landmark projects under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy on Thursday in Abuja.

The President also urged mobile network operators to ensure full attainment of the targets set in the National Broadband Plan by giving special attention to un-served and underserved areas while deploying their services.

President Buhari expressed concern about the challenges faced by operators in the country, particularly vandalism of telecommunications equipment.

He assured the operators of government’s commitment to ensuring that all stakeholders have a conducive environment to ensure the successful implementation of the Broadband Plan, which seeks to boost broadband penetration as well as support the deployment of 4G across the country.

On the newly commissioned Emergency Communications Centre and Toll Free Number 112, the President explained that it further demonstrates his administration’s resolve to keep Nigerians safe.

‘’We have taken advantage of digital technologies to ensure that Nigerians in distress are only a dial away from the relevant emergency response institutions in the country.

‘’This will go a long way in supporting our efforts to improve the security of lives and property,’’ he said.

On the innovation and entrepreneurship training President Buhari explained that it is one of Federal Government’s key initiatives to empower innovators and entrepreneurs with skills required to thrive in the emerging digital economy.

‘’It is part of our efforts to ensure that our youths, women, unemployed graduates and people living with disabilities either become employers of labour or get a large number of well-paying jobs thereby contributing to the national drive of lifting Nigerians out of poverty,’’ he said.

Similarly, President Buhari declared that the newly commissioned Communications and Digital Economy Complex will provide a befitting coordinating centre for the new focus on the Nigerian Digital Economy.

‘’It signals the desire to intensify efforts towards ensuring that Nigeria becomes an active participant in the Global Digital Economy,’’ he said.

Earlier, the President acknowledged that the dwindling price of crude oil had adversely affected budgetary projections and increased the sense of urgency to diversify the economy.

He, however, expressed delight that the projects commissioned would enhance the development of the National Digital Economy and support efforts at diversifying the economy.

According to President Buhari ‘’ The Digital Economy will also support us in fighting corruption through digitalization and enabling government digital services.

‘’Digital technologies have become a useful platform for economic diversification. Having recognized the benefits of these technologies we have decided to adopt the Digital Economy paradigm early,’’ he said.

The President also commended the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Presidential Committee and all stakeholders who participated in the development of the National Broadband Plan, lauding the leadership of the Ministry for the high level of synergy amongst the parastatals under its supervision.

In his remarks, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami while appreciating the President for honouring the invitation stated that Broadband penetration is key to reviving the Nigerian economy.

Citing reports from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, the Minister said 10 per cent broadband penetration in any country will improve its GDP by at least 4.6 per cent.

He also stated that the Innovation and entrepreneurship training will provide requisite skills to young Nigerians to be employers of labour and pull out millions of Nigerians out of poverty.

He further expressed that with coronavirus spreading across the globe and more people living in isolation, the minister said the digital and information communication sector is providing alternatives for people to stay in touch and institutions to provide the needed basic life-saving services to the populace.

He disclosed, the Ministry is working to link the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to the call centre, in light of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the world.

On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta disclosed that the country’s broadband penetration had increased to 38.5 per cent.

‘’As at the time this government came into power in 2015, broadband penetration was only 6 per cent, however today Broadband penetration has now reached 38.5 per cent, ‘’ he said.

Danbatta explained that the Digital Complex building accommodates the office of the Minister, permanent secretary of the Ministry and four departments of the Commission.

He added that the 5-storey building with two basement floors sit on 8 hectares of land at the Mbora district, Abuja and is equipped with modern telecommunications facility, a crèche for nursing mothers, gymnasium, among others.

Similarly, The Director General, National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr Kashifu Abdullahi stated that the commissioned centre has centralised coordination control to link up emergency response agencies of the Federal Government through the 112 toll free emergency number.

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