The United Kingdom has restated its commitment to supporting the Federal Government in its inclusive digital economic agenda to promote the growth of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem and close the digital divide in the country.
The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, OBE, stated this on Thursday in Lagos during a virtual technical conference facilitated by the UK’s Digital Access Programme on Digital Inclusion for Underserved/Unserved Communities and Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs).
“As our fight against the pandemic goes on, our focus is on supporting a sustainable and resilient recovery across Nigeria,” he told participants at the conference.
Llewellyn-Jones added, “Tech has the ability to help us tackle some of the greatest social challenges of our time – from protecting our environment and reducing carbon emissions, to transforming health systems, saving lives through diagnosing diseases earlier, to aiding economic inclusion by deepening access to underserved populations.
“To drive this growth, Nigeria needs a combination of increased access to faster and better quality internet connectivity infrastructure, an upskilled tech talent pool, a vibrant start-up ecosystem, access to investment, and partnership opportunities both regionally and internationally.”
The UK envoy explained that the conference was organised as a catalyst to aggregate views and develop quick-win strategies to resolve the issues of populations without access to digital, in order to bring poor and excluded people into the digital economy, reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Pantami, who also attended the conference, delivered a keynote address titled ‘Optimising and Prioritising Digital Inclusion in the Face of COVID-19.’
According to him, the Federal Government’s priority is developing a strategy and policy to provide an enabling environment that supports the private sector to bridge the digital divide.
He noted that the government was supporting the growth of the sector which contributed 14.70 per cent to the GDP in Q4 of 2020 and would continue to do so.
“On behalf of President Buhari, I want to thank the UK Government for their continued support for Nigeria’s digital sector, including the development of the national broadband plan which has led to 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration in Nigeria since it was launched a year ago,” the minister said.
A technical report presented at the conference highlighted demand, supply and systematic issues that have hindered digital inclusion efforts.
The reports by experts also proffered detailed solutions to the issues raised from short, medium to long term.
Reacting to the technical study, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Communications Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta, also thanked the UK government’s Digital Access Programme for their support in championing digital inclusion in Nigeria.
The FCDO’s Head of Digital Development and Global SRO of the Digital Access Programme, Alessandra Lustrati, on her part, noted that the virtual conference in collaboration with all levels of government, private sector partners, civil society organisations, and the international development community, was the critical first step to promote the need for affordable, inclusive, safe and secure digital access for underserved or excluded populations
She said, “This project provides empirical evidence to demonstrate that despite progress made, a huge digital gap exists between unserved and underserved communities and PLWDs, on one hand, and the rest of the society, on the other hand, but more importantly, it has also recommended possible solutions.
“The project stresses the point that digital inclusion is now vital and urgent. We welcome the adoption of these recommendations as an important stepping stone in the creation of policy and the implementation of interventions to bridge the digital divide in Nigeria and we look forward to the implementation of these recommendations.”