The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday announced plans by the Federal Government to issue new licences to private broadband providers as a strategic move to deepen broadband penetration in the country.

Osinbajo, who made the disclosure during the inauguration of the Google for Nigeria in Lagos, said that the move would improve the digital space and opportunities for innovation and technological advancement in the country.

The Vice President expressed optimism that Nigeria was on the right path of technological advancement as the nation had the people and the talent, adding that the present administration does not only share the dream but also committed to unlock that potential.

According to him, technology is a great tool of development for individuals as well as the country as co-creators and collaborators to positively and dramatically change the course of human existence.

He explained: “Next week I will launch a climate innovation centre in partnership with the Enterprise Development Centre at the Lagos Business School, here in Lekki Village. All of these form part of our ICT road map in which the private sector is an important stakeholder.

“The challenge remains connectivity, extending broadband reach and making data cheaper. Our national broadband policy is the first step we are taking. And so through the Nigerian Communications Commission we are licensing a number of infrastructure companies who will invest in rolling out broad band infrastructure across Nigeria.

“I believe that we can extend broadband connectivity and reach significantly within a year or two and we will be partnering in whatever way we can with Google. And with Nigerian broadband providers like 21 Century Technologies, BCN, to quickly achieve the level of connectivity that is required to march the creative energy that is being released in our country on a daily basis.

“Our goal is to create a data-driven digital economy, one that will lead to the way not just in Africa but globally as well”, Osinbajo assured.

According to him, the country could connect people, grow businesses, influence good governance, and create better lives and a better country for the citizens and for the future through investments in and deployment of innovative technologies and solutions.

He said that the country was in many senses at an exciting moment in history because of what the young people were doing in innovation and their sheer energy and talent, adding that with such talents and creative skills the future the country is bright in outlook and is bound to be an exciting one for the youth and adults.

While assuring the youths of government’s support in their innovative drives to position the country at the leading edge of the global digital revolution order, Osinbajo commended Google for democratising the country’s digital space, urging that such innovations should be extended to many of the nation’s markets.

He observed that through Artificial Intelligence, the country was guaranteed more food and better healthcare, projecting further that every step being taken to make technology available would lead to a quantum leap in the Africa’s development and a major contribution to global stability and growth.

The Vice President described the inauguration of the Google station in the country as a very exciting event because of the company’s promise to provide access in several public spaces and energise the country’s markets with solar power, especially in Aba, Kano, Lagos and Ibadan.

He pointed out further that access to information, tools of education, business or commerce ensured that a lot of gaps of inequalities and exclusion would be bridged in the years ahead.

In her remarks, Google’s Country Director, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, noted that the African digital story was evolving and that the organisation planned to keep building products and programmes to accelerate growth in Nigeria and Africa.

While recalling that in 2017, the company had brought together Google’s global leadership with over 200 key stakeholders in the industry, she restated the commitment of the global company to develop the digital ecosystem and make its products more useful for Africans.

She said: “Most of Africa’s biggest challenges may not be solved by methods of the past; with machine learning and artificial intelligence these problems can be solved in a radically different way both faster and more cost effectively.

“For example, today with a smart phone and a camera and existing apps, it is possible to detect and prevent diseases, predict severe weather conditions, like droughts, and also address financial inclusion for the un-banked’’, Ehimuan-Chiazor added.

She hinted that the company would continue to strive towards Nigeria and Africa’s digital growth, with Nigeria currently having over 45 million mobile internet users as future growth would be driven by smart phones currently growing at 14 per cent annually.