BROADBAND: A CATALYST FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
ABSTRACT
         Broadband technology is gradually conquering the world. It is now common to say that the world has gone broadband. The essence of this essay is to view broadband technology and national development with the purpose of eliciting a positive correlation. The researcher carefully defines the key terms in the topic; referencing recognized authorities. For the purpose of specificity, the researcher focuses on our home country Nigeria. A brief history of how Nigeria as a nation got entangled in the ‘broadband web’ and how the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and private sector is

responding to this development. Finally, the researcher discusses the ways in which broadband acts as catalyst to National Development, spawning across employment creation, banking, education, health, agriculture etc. citing our great country Nigeria.
KEYWORDS: Broadband, Catalyst, Development, National Development.
INTRODUCTION
“… For every ten percentage point increase in the penetrations of broadband services, there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage point.” Quiang: 2009.
         It is an irrefutable fact that we are in the period of Information Revolution. A period ‘saturated’ with radical Information-Communication Technology (ICT) development. The world has not just been reduced to a global village but is now at the fingertips of an Internet enabled device user. Nigeria is definitely not lagging behind among the League of Nations in the quest for ICT advancement. The logical question is what has driven this fast-track development? Is it broadband? This brings us to our topic: Broadband: A Catalyst to National Development.
DEFINITION OF TERMS:
          The term broadband has been defined by various authorities. According to (NCC:2007), broadband is a descriptive term for evolving digital technologies that provide consumers a signals switched facility offering integrated access to voice, high-speed data service, video-demand services and interactive delivery services.
          Whereas, Benat et al. views broadband as a type of Internet connection with a high-speed and high-capacity Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access. It is also able to transport multiple signals and types simultaneously.
          A catalyst, quoting from the Wiki-Mobile Dictionary is someone or something that encourages progress.
          According to the Oxfords Dictionary, development is the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc.
         From personal perspective, National Development is the aggregate growth of a country in all its economic sectors. That is, development at the highest level. However, Ask.com views National Development as the ability of a nation to improve the lives of its citizens.
BROADBAND IN NIGERIA- HOW DID WE GET HERE?
           The year 2001 would always remain green in the history of Nigeria’s telecommunications industry. It was the year the then President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the Global System of Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) in Nigeria. Prior to this, the Nigeria Telecommunications Industry was not faring well. Only few Nigerians, about 500,000 (Abiodun & Oreolu: 2010), made use of their services. This was due to its bureaucratic, inefficient and expensive nature.
          The ushering in of GSM re-enforced and re-focused the telecommunication industry. It encouraged healthy competition, crashing the monster called monopoly that existed in the sector. Today, a common petty trader at Gwagwalada can afford a mobile phone.
          Then came the Internet. The need for Internet access has increased over the years. This is because of customers’ demand to access social media platforms, online news and educational packages. According to the NCC’s 2008 estimate, there are over 23,982,200 Internet users in Nigeria.
          At the outset, the dial-up Internet access was used. It constituted the use of Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to create a connection with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) using telephone lines (Ariyo et al.:2014). This system is slow, and largely inefficient. Little wonder why it is now obsolete or rarely used. Now, Nigeria is now on the path of broadband network.
PLANS BY NIGERIA TO HARNESS BROADBAND
          Why broadband? This is the most common question asked by Nigerians. Frankly, the question should be; why not broadband? This is because broadband services has proven to be faster, cheaper and efficient. It comes with an extra baggage of promises. All Nigeria has to do is to tap from the Pierian Spring of economic well being and development.
          It was against this backdrop that the NCC declared 2008 as the ‘Year of Broadband’. It also laid out goals to achieve which includes: accessible infrastructure and services, faster access to Internet, widespread broadband availability that would stimulate demand for Internet services and increased usage, competition that would lower broadband costs and making broadband services to be a major catalyst for e-education, e-health, e-commerce, e-government and e-business application.
          The NCC backed up their stated goals with action by launching the Wire Nigeria (WIN) project and the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI).According to the organization’s 2007 press release, WIN’s objectives is to establish a nationwide fiber-optic transmission infrastructure across Nigeria. SABI aims at encouraging the private sector to build and manage wireless broadband services, first in the thirty-six state capitals and then in order cities and towns.
BROADBAND AS A CATALYST FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
“… For every ten percentage point increase in the penetrations of broadband services, there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage point.” Quiang: 2009.
“… In a typical developing country, a rise of ten mobile phones per one hundred person boosts GDP by 0.6 percentage points.”
The Economist: 2005
          These two statements solidifies the claim that there is a positive correlation between National Development and broadband telecommunications services. Before we jump into hasty conclusions, let us consider the ‘weight’ of our statement. This conclusion may create unrealistic expectation for the nation and drive dissatisfaction among users who are unable to see (direct) net benefits in usage.
          One thing that is sure is that connectivity to the Internet is a foundation stone of the modern society. It creates recognized economic and social benefits. High-speed broadband is no longer just cutting-edge technology, it has brought us to full-front of information revolution.
Nigeria as a country stands to gain a lot from broadband. To start with, it yields revenue for the government through the sales of spectrum allocation, issuance operating license and taxes paid by broadband telecommunications companies. This revenue would be utilized by the government in financing capital expenditure (construction of roads, schools, health centers and industries) and recurrent expenditure (maintenance of social amenities and payment of government expenditure). These would help to revitalize the economy, promoting economic activities.
           To add more cream to our salad, broadband telecommunications companies like MTN, GLO, ETISALAT and AIRTEL etc. acts as catalysts for National Development through their various cooperate social responsibility activities. These includes organizing entrepreneur workshops and seminars, computer literacy programs, equipping schools with teaching and learning materials, award of scholarships and bursaries, construction and maintenance of health centers, HIV/AIDS management and control, provision of basic social amenities, poverty alleviation programs etc.
Also, broadband helps in the creation of employment opportunities. Broadband telecommunications companies employ a significant part of the Nigerian labor force ranging from computer engineers and analysts, economists, accountants, civil and communication and civil engineers. In doing this, they relieve some amount of the unemployment heaved on government’s shoulders.
          In addition to this, broadband also stimulate employment indirectly. Nigerians now venture into businesses like recharge cards selling and printing, establishing cyber cafes, web designing, mobile applications programing and the sales of Internet modems. These are profitable ventures as there is a very high market demand for them. Day after day, employment opportunities are springing up; thanks to broadband.
          Furthermore, the introduction of the e-world to Nigeria. Broadband with its tested reliability, speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness is set to take Nigeria to the e-world. A world of speed and ease, where tasks matter the magnitude is accomplished lounging on the sofa.
          Let us start with e-commerce. Broadband Internet services has fostered great boom in e-commerce. This includes e-banking. Recent studies has shown that there is a strong online presence of commercial banks in Nigeria. Recently, customers can now access their bank accounts, make and receive payments using the bank’s official website or mobile application.
The banking sector is not the only sector taking the quantum leap to e-commerce; online shopping malls and retail outlets are also emerging. The Nigerian consumer only has to access various shopping websites like Jumia, Konga or OLX, order for a product and arrives at his doorsteps. This is more convenient and most times, cheaper.
          Again, e-education/learning. This is facilitated by broadband Internet packages. It provides an avenue for customers to download online textbooks, journals, materials and lecture videos. Broadband makes fun and cheaper. For example a mathematical economics textbook sold at four thousand naira could be downloaded for ten megabytes that is one hundred naira! Education is that sector of the economy that ensures the production of qualitative labor force and broadband is aiding this objective. With this pace, we may have e-schools in years to come.
          A healthy nation is a wealthy one. Broadband health packages ensures faster and efficient health delivery system. This includes providing customers with health and hygiene tips, online health insurance and access to hospitals, surgery bookings, drug prescription, First Aid and medical counseling. This has proven effective.    The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in its drug authentication code program is also enabled by broadband as it ensures both speedy Internet access and speedy sending and receiving of text messages.
          In addition to all this, e-governance. According to Wikipedia (the mobile encyclopedia), Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet. Without broadband and its enhanced Internet access, e-governance would be a marriage. Internet governance ensures the protection of intellectual property, taxation, privacy, trade, security, consumer protection and empowerment, the list is endless.
           Broadband also acts as a National Development catalyst through e-agric. Through this, farmers can access vital information about prevalent pests and diseases, contact Veterinary doctors, place order for agro-chemicals and farm machinery, contact their customers, access metrological services etc. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture uses this mobile services in its distribution of fertilizers and other farm inputs to farmers. This works by assigning codes to farmers and sending text messages to inform them when and where to collect these farm inputs.
           Improved security through e-surveillance. A popular newspaper cartoon section has something like this: smile every time you look up because satellites are taking pictures. However funny the cartoon was, it tries to elicit the truth that broadband has taken the world to the stage of e-surveillance. Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTV) placed at strategic positions are monitored by transmission through broadband. This would improve the security situation in Nigeria and as we know security ensures confidence in trade and investment.
          Finally, e-entertainment. The entertainment industry is one of the fastest growing industry in Nigeria. Nigerian home videos, music, comedy shows etc. are conquering both the domestic and international market. Broad has made ‘Naijatainment’ (Nigerian entertainment) affordable and available. Mobile applications like AfriNolly is used to download Nigerian movies. Various platforms like Naijaloaded, Music212, TooExclusive, Our Own Area, Ajebo, the list is endless.
NIGERIA, HAVE WE FULLY ARRIVED?
          According to Ariyo and Olaojoyatan (2013), Nigeria has the tenth highest number of internet users in the world (about 47,143,356). However, it is disappointing to note that although Nigerians are ‘hungry’ for broadband, Nigeria ranks 113th in the Global Information Technology Report and the Network Readiness Index in the year 2013. This points to the fact that much needs to be done by the government in ensuring that broadband achieves its stated goals.
          The challenges faced by broadband in Nigeria are high cost of procuring rights of way which ultimately results to high costs of leasing transmission infrastructure, dearth investment in fixed household broadband primarily because of the multi-faceted challenges facing operators which prompt the operators to concentrate on household broadband activities on the major cities, long delay in procuring for operation rights, multiple taxes and regulation, vandalism and epileptic electric power supply Ariyo and Olaojoyatan (2013).
CONCLUSION
           No matter how rosy broadband seems to be, much care should be taken. The choice of basic needs such as education, housing and health should not be jeopardize with broadband. Broadband should not be sought for its on sake have a derived demand (demanded as a National Development catalyst and not for its own sake). Just like Naom: 2003 would say, “we can’t eat megabytes.
          By the way, this essay was forwarded to the NCC’s email using a broadband enabled device. Let us calculate the transport fare from far off Nsukka to the NCC’s headquarters in Abuja. So, the change has started already.
ESSAY BY ILO INNOCENT CHIZARAM.
REFERENCES
Abiodun J. and Oreolu S. (2010) “Broadband for Nigeria (BB4NG).      Background Document.
Ariyo A. et al. (2014) Fiber Broadband Development in Nigeria: A Catalyst to Economic Growth and Development. Global Advanced Research Journal of Engineering, Technology and Innovation. Volume 3(5) pp.083-099.
Ariyo A. and Olaojoyetan M. (2013). The Poor State of Broadband in Nigeria: An Impediment to National Development and Globalization. Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. MCSER Publishing, Rome: Italy. Volume 2(12)pp.51-60.
Beñat Bilbao-Osorio, Soumitra D, Bruno L (2013). Growth and Jobs in a Hyper-connected World; The Global Information Technology Report 2013; by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). (2007).”Nigeria Marks Six Years of Telecoms Revolution.” Available at: http://www.ncc.gov.ng/index15e.htm.
Noam E. (2003). “Let Them Eat Megabytes”. Financial Times, November 26, 2003. Available at: http://www.citl.columbia.edu/elinoan/FT/11-25-03/megabits.htm.
Quiang C. (2009) “Broadband Infrastructure Investment in Stimulus Packages: Relevance for Developing Countries.” Unpublished. World Bank, Global ICT Department.
Telecom & IT Business(2009) “Nigeria: Far and Near the Line.” pp.14.
The Economist (2005). “Mobile Phones and Development: Calling an End to Poverty.” pp.53-54.
DICTIONARIES:
ASK.COM ONLINE DICTIONARY
OXFORDS ADVANCED LEARNERS DICTIONARY.
WIKI-MOBILE DICTIONARY

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