Digital Access, Connectivity Crucial For Economic Growth – Pantami 

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L-R: The regional director for Africa, International Telecommunication Union, Anne-Rachel Inne; Executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta; Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, and First secretary head of prosperity, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, British Deputy High Commission Lagos, Kris Camponi, at the opening of ITU-FCDO roundtable and technical workshop in Abuja.

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami has reiterated the role of digital access and connectivity in the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). 

Pantami stated this at the opening ceremony of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)’s roundtable and technical workshop on Building Capabilities for Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Transformation in Nigeria held in Abuja.

The industry’s contribution hit 17.92 per cent in the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, as it continued its impressive trajectory.  

The minister who gave the figure said “the percentage is unprecedented and this is just the contribution of information communication technology (ICT) to our GDP without calculating digital service”. 

According to the minister, digital access and connectivity have become a necessity, as they play an increasingly vital role in our everyday lives and have become key drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The minister assured his audience – including representatives of ITU, FCDO and other international agencies, embassies, as well as the executive vice chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta – that “the Federal Government understands that enormous private sector and international organisations’ support are essential to enable us to realise our lofty goals for Nigeria’s digital economy and this has informed our decision to partner with key international organisations such as the ITU and FCDO. 

“The digital age is upon us and all relevant stakeholders must be prepared for the enormous but inevitable change that will occur,” he said.

Pantami assured that the Federal Government’s committed to the development of the digital economy, with a promise that “the Nigerian government will ensure that all critical infrastructure is made available for the facilitation of digital connectivity, transformation and, ultimately, the realisation of a robust digital economy”.

Speaking at the event, Danbatta stressed that the Federal Government’s policies in the communication and digital economy sector are already yielding positive results, including a reduction in the access gap, improved digital financial inclusion and a steadily increasing contribution to the GDP.

Danbatta disclosed that the sector has remained the most resilient in the country while stressing that the commission recognised the need to do more in strengthening the telecommunication sector and improving internet penetration.

“As of the end of 2021, the estimated population of people living in the underserved areas declined from 31.16 million in 2019 to 28.87 million in 2021, and the access gaps reduced from 227 to 114,” he said.

Danbatta assured that the commission will not rest on its oars in supporting Internet penetration and improvement of services but is prepared to support internet penetrations and digital skills to give concrete expressions to policies and initiatives to close identified gaps.

“The commission is quite conscious of the need to do more and considers this Roundtable as another opportunity to gather feedback as well as expert opinions of participants. Therefore, all participants are enjoined to contribute freely and recommend measures that will further support Nigeria in meeting its connectivity target and developing a robust digital economy. We look forward to the outcome of your deliberations and expect feedbacks that will deepen the conversations on policies and initiatives for digital access and connectivity in Nigeria,” the EVC urged participants.

The regional director for Africa and liaison officer, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, ITU, Ms. Anne’Rachel Inne, said: “The event is organised to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to reflect upon Nigeria’s digital transformation, the impact that initiatives aimed at contributing towards the country’s digital inclusion goals – like the ITU-FCDO DAP partnership has in the country – and allow stakeholders to share their plans for future work to scale the impact in a joint effort.”

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