Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC], is the digital right hand man of President Muhammadu Buhari, creating the platform for his Next Level Agenda. Riding on the mandate to connect Nigeria and create an information rich society, he has demonstrated strong capacity to provide the necessary digital impetus to the actualization of the economic diversification of the President.
The President needs strong technology backing in changing the course of the economy from oil and gas dependence and he can count on Danbatta as a key member of his team to provide this support. He has been a top team player of the President since his first term in office during which the commission positioned telecoms as baseline enabler for the realisation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020 of the government.
NCC initiated major initiatives, programmes and regulatory interventions with which it deepened access to telecommunications services – voice and data in Nigeria. These efforts exerted stimulatory impacts on key economic sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture, finance, transportation, commerce, governance, among others.
NCC’s provision of increased digital access to individuals, organisations and governments has helped to advance the pace of government’s economic agenda considerably. This is evidenced by the massive growth in the telecoms sector that Danbatta’s leadership has recorded over the past few years.
There is an unprecedented growth in subscribers’ base with the number of active mobile voice subscribers rising to over 189 million. A milestone has been attained in telecoms sector’s contribution to GDP at over 14 percent. Nigeria’s teledensity has increased to 99.16 percent while internet subscribers have increased from 128,365,704 to 136,203,231 under Danbatta’s watch.
Also, broadband penetration has increased from 38.49 percent to 39.90 percent on 3G and 4G networks. These developments have led to significant revenue inflow to government and attracted a lot of foreign direct investments into the telecom sector.
The high growth achieved in the telecoms sector has made life and work easier and better for Nigerians, powered job creation and produced data for planning and security management. These have direct bearing in enabling the President deliver his promise to Nigerians under the Next Level Agenda.
The President’s Next Level Agenda focuses essentially on improving security, accelerating economic growth and reducing poverty. It also involves taking the fight against corruption and corrupt practices to a finishing level. The target is to consolidate on the gains of his first-term economic transformation agenda and advancing the cause further.
Danbatta is ably behind the President to bring the lofty aspirations of his new agenda to reality. He is committed to ensuring that the telecoms sector becomes a veritable platform for economic and social development of Nigeria, particularly the diversification of the nation’s traditional economy.
To this effect, NCC has launched the New National Broadband Plan (2020-2025), which it said, would deliver data downloads across Nigeria at a minimum speed of 25mbps in urban areas and 10mbps in rural areas. Effective coverage of at least 90 percent of the population is expected by 2025 at a price of not more than N390 per 1GB of data.
The new plan encompasses the implementation of broadband connectivity, deployment of 4G across the country and development and implementation of a digital economy. This already addresses 3 of the 8 priorities that government assigned to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the parastatals under its purview, according to the minister Dr. Isa Ali Pantami.
Danbatta has positioned NCC’s InfraCo project as a vehicle to propel the attainment of the Next Level Agenda through accelerated increase in digital access across the nation. He understands that telecommunications has become an essential factor for measuring the level of socio-economic and political developments globally and he would not let Nigeria to be left behind the rest of the world.
The InfraCo project is a telecoms infrastructure development hunt. “Without pervasive infrastructure, the dream of rollout of 5G services will remain what it is, just a dream. As such, Nigeria has put in place the InfraCo project for this purpose”, Danbatta said.
The InfraCo project has public private partnership component and has succeeded in meeting a lot of identified clusters of access gaps in the country and thus reduced substantially the number of people living in the un-served and underserved areas.
His unrelenting effort in the development of telecoms infrastructure is therefore tailored to realising the President’s critical infrastructure development targets of roads, rail, power, and the internet under the Next Level Agenda.
The unprecedented growth recorded in the telecoms sector with a multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy has been the result of NCC’s sound regulatory intervention. Liberalisation of the sector ushered in different players leveraging different technologies to offer services. This opened the channels of e-commerce, e-banking, e-agriculture, e-healthy, e-transportation, e-education and more.
Danbatta is poised to do more in driving the next digital revolution to power the President’s Next Level Agenda. NCC has come up with a number of frameworks, regulations and guidelines designed to shape an enabling environment for future of telecommunications growth in Nigeria.
The strategy is to drive the digital frontier of broadband penetration to accelerate the transformation of Nigeria into a truly knowledge and digital economy. NCC’S boss is progressively creating an environment that will enable operators to deploy the newest technologies that can offer Nigerians improved service experience with greater efficiency.
Danbatta has in words and actions underscored the need for effective telecoms infrastructure without which the 5G technology cannot be deployed in Nigeria. The commission has therefore focused on the development of robust broadband infrastructure to support digitisation of the Nigerian economy and consequently the actualization of the President’s Next Level Agenda.
Danbatta has long begun a telecoms investment drive in order to accelerate the delivery of Next Level Agenda promises. In spite of the huge investment that have flowed into the sector in recent years a lot more is still needed to power the economy to the next level.
It takes a lot of capital-intensive infrastructure development for the telecoms sector to play its role as an enabler for other sectors of the economy. The infrastructure gap is precisely what Danbatta is doggedly striving to meet. To this extent, he has pressed for the various challenges inhibiting investment into the country’s telecoms sector to be addressed.
Danbatta has a firm promise to the President and to the nation and that is that the enabling environment to attract the needed investment to ensure efficiency of existing technologies and expand 5G deployment for consistent digital impetus to the realisation of the Next Level Agenda of the President will not fail.