Professor Umar Garba Danbatta
Professor Umar Garba Danbatta

How Danbatta aims to bring the fourth industrial revolution to Nigeria

NEWS DIGEST – Professor Umar Garba Danbatta is convinced that any sustainability the country attains in a post-oil economy will depend, to a great extent, on its ability to navigate the travails of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

President Buhari has repeatedly announced his administration’s willingness to diversify the country’s economy with increased emphasis on agriculture.

In his new year speech, the president spoke of “revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency.”

Danbatta, the executive vice-chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, believes the possibilities on wealth creation are enormous if the country were to ramp up its digital literacy programs and build the infrastructure that would accommodate 4IR.

“The fourth industrial revolution—4IR—brings with it the potential to connect billions of people to digital networks and dramatically improve the efficiency of organisations,” Danbatta said on Thursday, in a session on how to power the fourth industrial revolution in Nigeria.

In 2019, the NCC had been able to license seven infrastructure companies (InfraCos), one each in the six geo-political zones of the country plus Lagos state, a step it took to align the country with its digital vision. These licensing was part of a larger plan to increase broadband roll-out to allow more Nigerians access to good internet service.

“Internet connections in the country have reached 122 million, with over 63.5 million of this figure connected to broadband networks of 3G and 4G, which represents a 33.31 percent broadband penetration,” the NCC said of the direct consequence of the licenses in August 2019.

The broadband penetration now stands at 42.06%, according to data from February 2021, from 6% when the NCC began enhancing its physical infrastructure 5 years ago.

The increase in broadband penetration is consequent of an increase in fibre optics coverage from 47,000km to 54,725km and increasing the amount of base transceiver stations for deploying 3G and 4G services from 30,000 to 53,460.

Danbatta is moved to bridge the infrastructure deficit in the country. After states began to increase Right-of-way charges (levy paid to state government to allow TelCos install optic fibres that carry internet traffic), the NCC immediately warned it could affect the roll-out of broadband services.

In March, Danbatta persuaded state governors to emulate Anambra’s governor, Willie Obiano, in waiving the Right-of-Way charges ultimately.

“This for sure will unleash economic wellbeing tomorrow; turning our teaming youths to job creators instead of seekers, for those that choose to be innovators and entrepreneurs and millions of technology jobs for those that choose to seek white collar jobs,” he said.

Danbatta notes that access to internet will determine the fate of Nigeria’s digital programs and hopes to facilitate the digitalization of the country through digital literacy programs in tertiary institutions.

The Advanced Digital Awareness Program for Tertiary Institutions, ADAPTI, is one of such programmes. Through ADAPTI, the NCC had been able to supply tools for ICT development in over 300 institutions, as of 2019.