By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. August 10, 2012: The Federal Government has assured of the provision of subsidies or other forms of incentives to telecoms operators and service providers through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to extend ICT infrastructure into rural and underserved communities in Nigeria.
USPF is a special fund set up by the government under the National Communication Act 2003, designed to provide telecoms and ICT services to the deprived groups and communities in the country.
As part of its activities, the USPF Board on Thursday organized a stakeholder’s consultative forum to review its Strategic Management Plan (SMP) for rural ICT connectivity for the next five year (2013-2012).
Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, who is also the chairman of the USPF Board, told the forum that, “As we are aware, Nigeria Communication Act 2003 places significant responsibilities on the USPF. The fund must not only facilitate universal access to communication and application services but to also promote greater social and cultural development in the country.”
Johnson, represented by the Vice-Chairman, USPF Board, Peter Igoh, says the role of USPF role has never been more crucial as Nigeria is poised on the cusp on an internet and broadband revolution, adding that USPF programmes could give Nigeria the needed push to become a truly digitized nation.
While reviewing the stakeholder responses to the SMP, Secretary, USPF Board, Abdullahi Maikano notes that the goal of the SMP is to facilitate the availability of transmission infrastructure and connection to the national backbone in the Local Government Areas (LGAs) and ensure that those areas are covered with voice and data access network.
According to Maikano, the USPF shall sponsor or subsidise the development of local content and applications which will promote the use of ICT in the rural area.
He discloses that USPF is currently running a pilot programme in a few locations across the country, while noting that the lesson learnt from the pilot will be used to design a sustainable framework for deploying fibre on a larger scale in the country.
In his presentation, the Partner Management Consulting, KPMG, Joseph Tegbe, says that the mission of the SMP is to facilitate the achievement of the universal access of ICT and universal services through market based investment.
“In response to some of the challenges faced by the USPF in implementing the SMP 2007 – 2011, emphasis will be placed on carrying out the following key activities in the execution of the new SMP: holistic approach to project selection, engagement of stakeholders, qualification of minimum allowable subsidies, and subsidisation of operational cost, among other issues”, Tegbe says.
On the guiding principle for implementation of project, he adds that “all USPF projects shall be designed and implemented in manner which ensures equitable access to ICT services by vulnerable.”
Senior Manager, Management Consulting, KPMG, Yetunde Kanu, adds that the goals of the USPF based on the new SMP were to facilitate an enabling environment for ICT and promote universal access and service that would facilitate connectivity for development.
According to her, the SMP objective is to identify the market efficiency and access gaps and design incentives that would promote the roll-out of sustainable ICT services in rural, un-served and underserved area.