Meeting the SDGs through Broadband Penetration
“With broadband access, we can revolutionize global access to education, health care, economic empowerment, and the delivery of critical human needs.”
Tae Yoo, 2014.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the broadband penetration in the country stands at 33%, exceeding the five-year broadband target of 30% that was set for 2018 by 3%. The term broadband refers to wide bandwidth data transmission, high-speed internet access that is faster than the traditional dial-up access. Broadband connects people to the Internet; it is a fast transmission link to the World-Wide Web and other digital resources. Broadband is available for different devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablets) and from many Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Source: Mobility Report June 2017, Ericsson.
The world around us is being affected by technologies in a spontaneous manner and the abilities of connected devices will continue to advance at lightning speed. These technologies enable ultra-broadband connectivity which in turn opens up all manner of service and application possibilities, from smart home installations, ultra-high definition video, multimedia business applications, e-health etc.
Studies on broadband penetration from the World Bank has shown that the economic impact of broadband is positive, and revealed that every 10% point increase in broadband penetration leads to a 1.38% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This implies that broadband is an unlimited technology capable of producing a long lasting effect at a certain threshold of penetration.
Internet broadband has been recognized by the United Nations and the World Bank as a very vital tool in elevating people out of poverty through job creation and other empowerment programmes, creating conducive environment for business to strive and advancing technological innovation as well as enabling developing countries to achieve the proposed Sustainable Development Goals.
To this effect, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010, consisting of more than 50 leaders cutting across government and industry establishments who are actively committed to assisting countries, UN experts and NGOs to fully leverage the huge potential of ICTs to drive national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure also has a target specifically aimed at deepening broadband access by significantly increasing access to information and communications technology and make strenuous efforts to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020. Challenges remain in achieving this but there have been noticeable progress in access to broadband services in developing countries.
Broadband, Agriculture and Food Security
Broadband have a wide range of positive impacts on agriculture. Farmers are provided access to timely and relevant updates on weather conditions, since the quality of crops and agricultural activities depend in large part on weather. Seamless internet access to websites that share best practices makes it possible for farmers to learn about farming management practices, online marketing options, availability of livestock and seed crops etc.
Similarly, Nigerian farmers using broadband can operate and monitor their equipment remotely, eliminating the need for regular farm visits by technicians. They can also monitor and reset greenhouse temperatures, humidity, and other settings remotely. All these amount to significant cost savings amidst improved performance. Broadband can serve as effective tools to promote nutrition including improving agriculture systems, bettering flexibility of food systems that could be affected by the economy or the climate.
Recently, a number of agri-tech start-ups have sprang up in Nigeria, in a bid to use a range of tools to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers and increase food production in the country. These start-ups have demonstrated that digital agriculture, powered by broadband technology is instrumental for not just lifting the farmers out of poverty but also key to ending food insecurity.
Broadband and Healthcare
Healthcare solutions can be improved through broadband availability. It offers the potential to improve healthcare outcomes while simultaneously controlling costs and extending the reach of the limited pool of healthcare professionals. Today’s patients in different locations communicate with their medical personnel through online platforms, but another trend has emerged whereby patients can engage in video consultations with their physicians. Broadband has piloted the ability of Patients to have face-to-face video chat with doctors at distant locations, thereby breaking distance barriers in healthcare delivery.
In the Kingdom of Jordan, broadband-powered technology has been employed to improve access to quality health care for its citizens, especially those living in rural areas. In 2011, they began the Jordan Healthcare Initiative in partnership with Cisco collaboration technologies using high-definition video to connect specialists at urban hospitals with patients at rural hospitals. More so, a mobile clinic began in 2013, providing breast cancer screenings for women in their communities without having to travel; using videos, networking and security technologies to enable the transfer of images and the collaboration between clinic technicians and specialists.
Broadband and Education
As opposed to traditional school systems that require face-to-face interactions between teachers and students, broadband makes it possible to deliver distance learning and the sharing of educational resources. There are lots of learning platforms that are structured to provide meaningful interactive, relevant learning experience. Even traditional teaching methods benefit from the access to materials and resources stored online. E-learning has become a commonplace as modern education is no longer restricted to sitting in the four walls of a classroom. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the wealth of the knowledge made available by the internet to research any subject matter pertaining to their interest of study.
Currently, knowledge seekers in developing countries can now access various courses from prestigious universities anywhere in the world through online platforms, even for free. Job seekers can improve their job prospects in other fields; the academia can gain inspiration and advice from resources available on the web. All these are made possible by access to broadband technology.
Boosting Broadband Penetration in Nigeria
Stakeholders at various levels have a critical role to play in the drive to have accessible broadband infrastructure across the country. Governments have necessary roles to play in removing many difficulties and obstacles that hinder faster broadband deployment. It is therefore imperative for policymakers to enact policies that will increase access to broadband infrastructure to both urban and rural populace. It is also necessary to enact policies and regulations that can stimulate the economic impact of mobile broadband technology by strengthening the capacity of the economy to fully absorb its benefits and make productive use of it as all-purpose Technology.
Elimination of multiple taxation and multiple regulations are also applicable to boost broadband penetration in the country. This would encourage private sector participation, as they are key players in driving the deployment of broadband technology in the country. Development of IT talents and investments in technology infrastructures would facilitate and expand access to broadband services and help accelerate the achievements of the Sustainable Goals. Access to internet connection for all now and in the years ahead is a very pertinent for sustainable and inclusive development as recognized in Agenda 2030.
The deployment of broadband technologies is vital for achieving the SDGs, considering the need for accelerated progress to fulfil the goals by 2030. Likewise, as they are usually inaccessible to relegated populations, it is a key challenge to ensure that everyone is carried along, as new innovations often aggravate existing divides in society between those who can benefit, and those who are left behind.