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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bilbis applauds NCC, Pyramid partnership

Immediate past Minister of State for Information and Communication, Alhaji Ikra Aliyu Bilbis has applauded the partnership between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and internationally reputed research firm, Pyramid Research, in documentation of the impact of mobile communications on the socio-economic lives of the citizens.

This is coming as he declared that the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) was Federal Government’s major political response to addressing the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) needs of the citizens.

Speaking at the public presentation of the book in Abuja, last week, the former minister said that the journey to today’s reckoning began in 1999 when the democratic government decided to do something urgently about improving the telecommunications facility and therefore embarked on an aggressive sector reform programme.

This idea, he noted, was to improve the spread and use of modern Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) facilities to aid national development.

“That decision taken at the time and subsequently well executed, has led to the telecom revolution that we are all too familiar with today,” he declared.

As said by him, the sector has gloriously emerged from the back waters to become a reference point for positive growth and a major attraction for local and foreign direct investment.

The present administration, Bilbis said, is very proud of what has been achieved in the industry so far.

“The nation has moved from a position where only a privileged few had analogue mobile phones and a few private and government offices could have fixed line phones to the present reality where, even in the most of the remotest parts of the country, the ordinary man can connect to any part of the world,” he said.

Pointing out that the national subscriber figure has grown from of less than 0.5 million connected lines in 1999 to over 76 million connected lines.

Also, he said that the Federal Government is being proactive to ensure that it prepares for the next phase of development in the sector.

He recalled that recently, the ministry had set up a Committee to review the telecommunications policy currently in operation, stressing that the thinking is that only a timely review of the policy will prepare the nation for the kind of growth being envisaged for the future.

“Government is ever prepared to ensure that the policy environment is structured for competition and investment,” he said.

He emphasized that government is aware of the digital divide between developed and developing nations, and also aware of the divide which exists within countries, the digital divide between the cities and rural areas and between the young and the old.

This, Bilbis said, informed the policy of government to create the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), to take services to rural and under-served communities in the country.

“We just returned from Calabar, where we commissioned ICT facilities given to some schools under the USPF programmes. On a last count, 476 public schools and 133 tertiary institutions nationwide have benefited from the School Access Programme, SAP,” he said, while 218 Community Communications Centres (CCC) have been built to provide voice, Internet, training facilities and other services to unserved and under-served areas, while 40 Base Transceiver Stations, BTS, even as they are to enhance services in places where otherwise service would have been difficult or impossible.

For the government, Bilbis said it is a fundamental right for every Nigerian to have access to telecommunications services and modern ICT facilities.

“The USPF programme is a major political response to address the ICT needs of our teeming youths including those in remote areas,” he asserted.

Telecommunications, he noted, would always be a vital tool for general human development and access for all and always be the goal of the government.

“Achieving access for all has therefore become a cardinal programme of the Nigerian government,” he said, even as the ministry would continue to support and empower the NCC to achieve government’s communications goals and policy objectives.

One important use of this kind of documentation, he said, is for the government to know where it has gotten it right and focus on further improvement in that direction.

“The essence of government sector reform programme is not just to improve infrastructural facilities but primarily by so doing, improve living standards generally. There is no doubt the findings from this research work will assist and influence government in taking some more beneficial decisions for the good of the citizens of our great country,” he submitted.


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