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Telcos, stakeholders rally government for post-COVID-19 support

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In recognition of the huge role the telecommunication sector is playing especially during this coronavirus pandemic, players and other stakeholders in the industry have rallied the Federal Government for support, post-COVID-19.
  
According to the telcos, government’s support has become critical if the industry must sustain the efforts of ensuring that remote and virtual services remain, prices become more affordable and infrastructure becomes more ubiquitous, as the economy shrugs off the pains of the pandemic.
   
Gathered virtually, yesterday, under the auspices of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), to discuss: “The Socio-Economic And Political Impact of COVID-19 on Telecom and ICT Sector in Nigeria,” the operators also urged the government to ensure right policy, protection for telecommunications infrastructure, access to funding for players.

   
Noting that the government has its own role to play, the players also called for greater collaboration among themselves.
    
In his opening address, ATCON President, Olusola Teniola, said it has become necessary to ensure effective regulation and development and building of local capacities for the speedy spread of telecom and ICT infrastructure facilities across the country.
  
Teniola also stressed the need to push for the buy-in of governments at all levels to encourage telecom and ICT infrastructure development in states, by encouraging rapid investment through incentives such as tax holiday and provision of special intervention funds for the sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
   
To the Managing Director of Rack Centre, Tunde Coker, the sector is capable of increasing its contributions from the current 14 per cent to 20 per cent in another two years, if government shifted focus away from oil and gives ICT a diversification priority.
   
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) VDT Communication, Biodun Omoniyi, said COVID-19 brought a huge responsibility on the sector, “and we didn’t fail. However, lots still need to be done post-pandemic. Collaborations among players and governments at all levels will be key.”

The Country Manager, Avanti, Jane Egerton-Idehen, made case for faster implementation of the New National Broadband Plan 2020 to 2025. She stressed the need for collaboration, especially between the sector and states governments that will further see to reduction of Right of Ways, as “COVID-19 has further stretched the some of the timing for some aspect of the plan to be realised.”
   
Contributing, the CEO, Nigeria Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Ltd., Abimbola Alale, noted that COVID-19 exposed the ills of the digital divide, “but the ICT sector rose to the occasion and bridged the gaps.”

  
Alale also canvassed collaboration among players in the sector, saying, as much as this has become imperative, operators must have a common front to achieve more, if the government hoped to diversify the economy.
  
The Director-General, NITDA, Kashif Abdullahi, argued that remote working has come to stay, as the use of technologies increased tremendously, adding that the tasks before government now is finding a way to sustain the tempo post-COVID-19, and ensure that ICT remains key to improving the economy.
   
On his part, Africa Public Policy Manager and Connectivity, Facebook, Fargani Tambeayuk, who spoke from London, said the pandemic has emphasized the need for collaboration and importance of infrastructure roll-out.
   
According to him, post-COVID-19 will require Nigeria having quality broadband infrastructure, which can be achieved through good policy, partnership and investments.


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