If The Banks Support Us, We Should Be Able To Meet 50% Broadband Penetration

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Engr Muyiwa Ogungboye, MD/CEO, eStream Network, one of our TOP 20 CEO’s in ICT spoke on ways the country can experience affordable, accessible and available broadband penetration. Excerpts.

What is your position about broadband penetration in Nigeria?

Considering all the challenges that we have to face on a daily basis, according to a report from NCC, we are still a little above 30% penetration. We are not doing badly at all considering all the problems we face. Lack of constant electricity, theft, Forex, lack of locally manufactured equipment, high interest rate, high-cost training employees overseas and alteration in the ICT world is high.

When you put all these things together and you find out that we are about 30% penetration, you will know that it is not a bad thing. It looks low globally, but it is not a bad thing. I would say that we have come a long way and we can only do better. The NCC Executive Vice Chairman has given us a challenge. He set a target that we have to increase to 50%. So, all of us are running up and down to see how we can contribute to this big target.

It is a tough one. But we believe we can make it. It is a continuous battle provided the government is doing what it has to do. Regulators are doing what they have to do. We are also doing what we have to do and more importantly, the banks are supporting us, we should be able to meet the 50% penetration.

We have always compared Nigeria to the outside world. It is the wrong comparison. You would tell me that when you are in London or when you are in America, you got broadband for five dollars. Well, that is in the US. This is Nigeria. The indices are different from each other. The challenges they are facing in those countries are completely different from what we are facing.

Moreover, foreign countries have better services and can provide the service at a cheaper rate. If you put all these challenges together, I do not think we are doing badly, but I think that there is still a lot to be done.

When will it be possible for us to have accessible, available and affordable broadband internet?

The telecommunications business is a business where the infrastructure has no end. We have continued to invest. It is quite difficult to say that this is going to be the end. Even in the developed world, the service providers are still investing and they are still inventing. So, I will not put a mark, a date or a time to when we can have accessible and affordable broadband.

But we are in the right path. We need certain policies to get to the Promised Land. I would say that we have some policies. But in terms of innovation and services, that is endless. It is about innovation. Nine years ago, there was no Facebook but now there is Facebook. We do not know what would happen in the next three years.

Services have no end. It is how wide you can imagine things. Now, we are still battling with an infrastructure deficit. Most countries have passed the stage of infrastructure, but Nigeria, because of the role we play in Africa and the geographical location we have, we are too important for Africa. We are too important for the world. When you talk about Africa, you are talking about Nigeria. We are running so fast to meet up with the demand that the global world has put on us.

At the same time, we are trying to put the right infrastructure in place. We are trying to put services on top of the access we have. We are running two battles at the same time. So this is what makes it very though. That is why tough men are in this business. I said I will not put a particular time to when we can have affordable and accessible broadband. But it is not so far. It is not so far again because we have the listening ears of the government.

The Vice president is listening to our advocacy about the right of way, infrastructure, and other matters. We believe that attention is been given to our prayers. Our industry has contributed to the GDP of this country and without us, the innovation and the kind of trajectory that we are seeing in the banking industry, would not have been possible. So, we have supported the financial sector tremendously.

We have also increased the way business is being done. You do not have to drive all the way to Lagos Island to hold a meeting with another office. With a phone call, text or WhatsApp, you would hold your meeting. Businesses have been transformed.

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