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Connectivity: NCC moves to reduce infrastructure gap in rural areas

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it will reduce the gap of unconnected Nigerians in rural areas from 61 per cent to 20 per cent by 2027.

The Executive Vice Chairman of  NCC, Mr  Aminu Maida, said this during the Sixth Edition of  the Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFO) in Lagos, on Wednesday.

The event had the theme:  “Accelerating Collective Prosperity through Technical Efficiency”.

Maida was represented by Head of Policy Competition and Economic Analysis Department,  Freda Bruce-Bennett.

He said the commission planned  to achieve the objective through smart infrastructure sharing and optimisation, innovative licences and rural intervention.

The executive vice chairman said that NCC would also implement smart policies to reduce the infrastructure gap in the rural areas.

On building a more prosperous and inclusive economy, Maida said : “NCC will implement more policies to increase Nigeria’s tech talent pool.

“We will create a supportive environment for innovation, ensure robust infrastructure, unlock investment in critical sectors and stimulate economic growth.”

In his presentation, Mr Tola Yusuf, Founding Partner, INFRATEL Africa said weak digital application ecosystem, lack of funding, low smartphones penetration and difficult fiber deployment were some of the challenges plaguing rural connectivity.

Yusuf said others were digital infrastructure gap, development obstacles, need for more digital skills, mismatch between tech and slow digital transformation.

He also noted that 70 per cent of rural connectivity was  dominated by foreign exchange.

Yusuf said that to solve these challenges, there must be a balance between accessibility and affordability.

”We need to go to the grassroots, understand the challenges and know how to tackle them.

”The government needs to implement the right policies, funding, grants, taxes and subsidy to solve the issues on ground.

”Also, telcos need to partner more, instead of seeing each other as competitors. Local community engagement, grassroot initiative and  collaboration are also very necessary, ” he said.

Yusuf added that as stakeholders, it was time to start exploring workable solutions.

He stressed the need for telcos to initiate cheap packages for those at the grassroot.

The Convener of the event, Mr Omobayo Azeez, said the aim was to create a midpoint dialogue platform for digital economy stakeholders across both the public and private divides.

He noted that it was also aimed at  brainstorming, exchanging  perspectives, clearing grey areas and harmonising thoughts regarding the industry.