From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

The World Bank on Tuesday urged Nigeria to increase its broadband penetration to provide internet access to people in rural and remote areas.

Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director, made the call while speaking on the sidelines of the maiden Economy Regional Conference held in Abuja.

The World Bank DG said there was great potential in Nigeria’s digital sector but emphasised the need for more corporations from states.

“The ministry also did talk about broadband penetration. It is important to make sure that no one is left behind especially poor families and those in remote rural areas. I think the key thing is, how do we make sure that every person, no matter where they are in Nigeria has that same access to the digital economy? Nigeria’s young population has tremendous potential but you have to ensure that there is equal access. In places like Lagos, and Abuja there is a lot of dynamism already but what the Minister has said is, getting that access out to the rural areas so that every child, every young person has that access. And I think the telecom sector, has been quite key to Nigeria’s resilience in the last three or two years,” Chaudhuri said.

“One, is for states to make it easy for private firms to lay the fibres, and invest. The second is digital skills which is making sure that young children especially the girl child has access to digital skills so that they can be able to contribute to areas of growth going forward.” He added.

Speaking, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, announced that by April every state would have federal government optic fibre cable installed.

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“As of today, we are providing federal government optic fibre cable to every state. As of today, we have them in nothing less than 34 states and by April this year, it will be available in each and every state.

Pantami further disclosed that the price of data in the country has in the last two years been reduced by 70 per cent despite the rising cost of production.

“In our Nigeria National Broadband plan, we have a target to reduce the price of 1 gigabyte from 1200 to 390 Naira but as of today, two years before the deadline, the current price of 1 gigabyte is 350. The reduction of more than 70 per cent. It is a huge achievement because the price of every other commodity increases. If you complain about diesel the ICT sector consumes more diesel than any other sector. We are affected by the cost of diesel, we are being affected by forex, but yet the price is coming down, why? Because we always work harder to ensure that we reduce the cost of production,” he said.

The minister said the Digital Conference, titled “Positioning West African Digital Economy for the Future”, was necessitated by the need for the various West African countries to converge and brainstorm on how to boost the continent’s economy using Information Communication Technology (ICT).

“If you look at our economic growth, it is lower than our population growth. There are situations where the population growth is higher than the economic growth then by implication if care is not taken, poverty will continue to increase within that population and in this context within the African continent.

“It is because of this we feel it is necessary to be proactive to organise the West African continent so that we can come together and see how we can complement each other to make sure that our sub-region is specific and our continent, in general, is very successful,” he stated.